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Sacked army whistleblower branded ‘security risk’ over David Kelly inquest campaign

A whistleblowing doctor sacked by the military was viewed as a security risk because of...
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Video: FMR UK Minister Norman Baker “David Kelly Was Murdered & Tony Blair Should...

Please Support The Show – http://richieallen.co.uk/ https://www.facebook.com/therichieallenshow http://www.youtube.com/RichieAllenShowMedia Tune in at ... Via Youtube

The Murder of Dr. David Kelly. “A Symbol of the Blackness of the Tony...

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The Political Assassination of Dr. David Kelly: The Post Mortem Reports

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Ten Years Ago: The Death of Dr. David Kelly. Murdered on the Orders of...

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The “Unnatural Death” of David Kelly, Ten Years On: A Spectacular Failure of Political...

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Ten Years Ago: The Political Assasination of Dr. David Kelly

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Dr. David Kelly was writing expose

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Talk Nation Radio: Kathy Kelly: Fog of War Is Not the Problem

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New York police attack students protesting ex-CIA chief David Petraeus

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The ‘Unnatural’ Death of Dr Kelly: The Forensic Pathology — The Subversion of Due...

Andrew Watt ended his article with the post-mortem examination being carried out by Dr Nicholas Hunt on the evening the body was found 18...

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to Replace Napolitano?

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Mark Kelly Asks Wayne LaPierre to Listen to His Membership on Background Checks

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A Successor to David Attenborough?

A Successor to David Attenborough?

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Posted on Feb 1, 2013
AP/Dan Peled

Sir David Attenborough.

The impending retirement of longtime BBC science personality David Attenborough is prompting discussion over who could replace him in presenting the mysteries and delights of the natural world to the public.

Attenborough nominated fellow Brit and physics professor turned presenter Brian Cox, who declared himself “lost for words” at the compliment. Other suggested candidates include naturalist and photographer Chris Packham, documentary cameraman Simon King, wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan and entomologist and author George McGavin.

TV producer and naturalist Stephen Moss credits the nature of broadcasting during the early decades of Attenborough’s career with making possible a rounded and respected personality like the one he became.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

“In my view it’s very simple,” says the TV producer and naturalist Stephen Moss. “There’s no successor to David Attenborough, because it’s impossible. When he started there was one channel, and for most of his career there were only three. So you could be ‘David Attenborough’, and command huge audiences. He’s the last survivor of that.”

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‘I feared I’d end up dead in the woods like Dr Kelly’

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Alabama teenager faces prison for plot to blow up high school

(Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)

(Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)

A 17-year old Alabama teen was arrested for allegedly planning to bomb his high school using homemade explosives. The boy wrote about his planned ‘terrorist attack’ in a journal that a teacher found left behind in a classroom.

Derek Shrout, a student at Russell County High School, used bomb-making information that he found on the Internet to construct a device that Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor says was “a step or two away from being ready to explode.”

Shrout had prepared his bombs using several dozen small tobacco cans and two large cans, which he drilled holes into and filled with pellets. Investigators did not find black powder, butane and fuses, which are necessary to complete the explosives. But Taylor knew what he was doing: in his journal, the teen correctly outlined the necessary steps to complete the deadly grenades.

The teenager apparently had sketched out two large cans labeled “Fat Boy” and “Little Man,” the code names of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

“It would have been serious,” Taylor said in an interview with the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer.

The teen’s plot was foiled when a teacher found his journal left behind in her class, in which he outlined the plan for his attack. The teacher came across the plans while searching for a name in the journal.

“The teacher could have just discarded the journal but didn’t,” Taylor said. The book was given to a school administrator, who eventually handed it to the sheriff’s office. Shrout was immediately arrested and is now facing a felony charge for attempted assault.

While detained and interrogated, the teen denied that he was planning out a terrorist attack, claiming that his journal was simply a work of fiction. The earliest entries were written down just three days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 26 people dead.

Shrout’s plot has been called a hate crime, since the teen self-identified as a white supremacist and “has a lot of pent up anger toward blacks,” Taylor says.

Senior class president David Kelly told WTVM-TV that the boy frequently gave Nazi salutes at the school and made other students feel uncomfortable.

“In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he’d have this big old group of friends and they’d go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff,” he said.

Shrout isn’t the first high school student to plan out a bomb attack in recent time. In 2011, 16-year-old Hared Cono of Tampa, Florida plotted to bomb his high school after being expelled. Investigators discovered a minute-to-minute attack plan mapped out in the boy’s bedroom.

While the two students had different motives behind their plots, the most recent case sheds further light on the issue of violence and mental health in the US, which have been fiercely debated in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. Many of America’s mass murderers are described as quiet, lonely individuals, which Charles A. Williams, a Drexel University psychology professor, finds troubling.

“The more isolated they are, the more socially castigated they are, the more they’re cut off, they start to stew and their evil and sinister thoughts metastasize in their minds like a cancer” he said after the foiled plot in Tampa, Fl. “The signs were all there. It was textbook.”

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Cabinet Office ordered to release secret memos on Iraq dossier

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It’s official: Blair’s government set out to deceive us

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As Democratic Voters Shift Left, ‘Liberal Media’ Keep Shifting Right

In the past few years, the Democratic Party’s rank and file has shifted left on major issues. From healthcare to legalization of drugs to...

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China Solar Project Behind Bundy Ranch Grab

Originally posted at Before It's News by Susan Duclos

 

The plot thickens as the expression goes and empirical evidence is showing that the whole Bundy Ranch "Range War" comes down to a plan to force the Bundy family off their property as an offset to build a solar plant. This plan involves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Chinese, who are behind not only the solar project, but the methods being used to force the Bundy family off their property.

 

Starting with the methods being used in the case of the Bundy Ranch - China is known for violent "forced evictions" which is the practice of "involuntary land requisitions from the citizenry," with no compensation and done generally to make room for development projects.

 

In the People's Republic of China all land is public land, owned by the party.

 

Compare that with Nevada where 91.1 percent of the land is considered "federal" property, as reported in 2003 by the GSA’s Federal Real Property Profile. (Source)

 

• 64,589,139.3 acres of Nevada’s 70,264,320 total acres are federal. Those federal acres comprise an area that is larger than the total acres in each of 42 states.

 

The comaprison of what is happening at the Bundy Ranch and what happens in China has also been noted by Republican state Rep. Kelly Townsend who told Las Vegas Review-Journal "Watching that video last night created a visceral reaction in me. It sounds dramatic, but it reminded me of Tiananmen Square. I don’t recognize my country at this point."


Of course it does, the US is now using China's playbook.


In the first video below we find out from Mike Adams that in the 1990s, there was a congressional mandate to survey the land, coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences) the same time frame that the Bureau of Land Management decided the Bundy Ranch could no longer allow their cattle to graze on lands that have been used by their family since before the BLM even existed.

 

It is claimed this is all about fees Cliven Bundy has refused to pay, but the fact is he shouldn't have to pay for something he already has preemptive rights to.

 

It is noteworthy that the Bundy Ranch has prescriptive grazing and water rights because Cliven Bundy's family was there first, which ties into why reports about the BLM destroying their 100 year-old water tanks is critical to the events we are watching play out. As Ammon Bundy made crystal clear when speaking with David Knight from the Alex Jones show, the grazing and foraging rights are directly tied to those water rights.

 

THE SMOKING GUN

 

A BLM document conveniently deleted from the BLM.gov website, but not before it was captured, provides smoking gun evidence that all actions taken against Cliven Bundy and his family, under the guise of saving the desert tortoise, stem from the governments desire to force the Bundy family off their land in order to create a solar plant for the Chinese.

 

The document is titled "Cattle Trespass Impacts," and directly states that the Bundy land “impacts” solar development, more specifically the construction of “utility-scale solar power generation facilities” on “public lands.” (Source





Another BLM report entitled Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone (BLM Technical Note 444) reveals that Bundy’s land in question is within the “Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone and surrounding area” which is part of a broad U.S. Department of Energy program for “Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States” on land “managed” by BLM.

In yet another "coincidence" Harry Reid, whose spokesperson recently said "Senator Reid hopes the trespassing cattle are rounded up safely so the issue can be resolved," is in to this up to is eyeballs, as his former senior adviser is the director of the Bureau of Land Management.


This issue has national attention now, thanks to the alternative media forcing the MSM to report the events occurring now with the Bundy family, the militias there to protect the family from the BLM, the violence already seen, including throwing a pregnant woman to the ground, tasing Bundy's son, and using K-9s against those supporting the Cliven Bundy and stealing the Bundy cattle.

 

Here is the bottom line: Just like in China, where the government takes property without due process and persecutes people who want to believe something, the Chinese are now using their cash and influence with politicians in other countries to get what they want.

 

BLM agents have a choice before them now....... either continue along the same vein they have been and risk starting a civil war all for the sake of China, using the same means the Chinese have been using of "forced evictions," or side with Americans and protect the last rancher standing in Bunkerville, Nevada.


 













The Israeli spy and Palestinian peace talks

Al-Jazeera - 3 April 2014

US using Jonathan Pollard as a bargaining chip raises the stakes in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations

Reports that Washington was offering to free Israel’s most notorious spy, Jonathan Pollard, as part of an unorthodox prisoner exchange has provoked feverish excitement in Israel.

US security officials have always objected to releasing Pollard early, after he was jailed 29 years ago for passing thousands of classified documents to Israel while serving in US naval intelligence. Pollard is eligible for a parole hearing next year.

The move appeared to be the sweetener in a last-ditch effort by US President Barack Obama’s administration to prevent the demise of current peace talks on April 29. Washington wants to persuade Israel and the Palestinian leadership to extend the negotiations timetable till at least the end of the year.

Neve Gordon, an Israeli political scientist at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, said the Israeli right had turned Pollard into a “powerful symbol”.

“The right asks: How can we leave Pollard rotting in prison – and not just any prison, a US prison? Most Israelis feel Pollard has been in jail too long and suffered too much. It feels like a horrendous act of vindictiveness by the US.”

Pollard, an American Jew, was given Israeli citizenship in 1995 and his role as a spy officially was confirmed by Israel three years later. Requests for clemency have been rejected by previous US administrations.

The Obama administration was said to be considering freeing Pollard in return for Israel’s agreement to carry out a promised release of 26 Palestinian prisoners due last weekend.

After Israel failed to deliver, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas applied to the United Nations this week to become a signatory of 15 international conventions, apparently reviving the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The US deal, it is reported, would also require Israel to release hundreds more Palestinian prisoners and implement a temporary freeze on settlement building.

Buying time

The possibility of Pollard being used as a bargaining chip has upset many commentators. A New York Times editorial called the move “lamentable“, while The Washington Post wondered why the US was the one “offering its own concessions” to keep the two sides talking.

Yossi Alpher, a political analyst and former adviser to Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister during the Camp David peace talks in 2000, said Obama’s chief concern was keeping the negotiations going.

“This deal has been put together not to advance a two-state solution but to buy time, to keep a ‘non-process’ rolling a few months more so that the Obama administration can get past the elections.”

Although the reports that Pollard might soon be handed over were welcomed in Israel, analysts warned there was a danger it could rub salt into a still-festering wound. Writing in Haaretz newspaper, Anshel Pfeffer noted: “A national carnival around the liberated spy will cause new damage to the relationship with Washington.”

Alpher concurred, saying the right had turned Pollard into a “martyr”. “They have presented him as a persecuted Jew, suggesting that it is Israel’s duty to save him.”

Pollard appealed unsuccessfully to the Israeli Supreme Court in 2005 to have himself recognised as a “prisoner of Zion“, a title that more usually refers to Jews who were imprisoned by the Soviet Union to prevent them from emigrating to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been closely identified with the campaign to win Pollard’s release. Although recent Israeli prime ministers have quietly lobbied Washington on Pollard’s behalf, Netanyahu became the first to risk incurring the White House’s ire by making a public call for clemency in early 2011.

He also raised the matter with the White House in 2010 during an earlier round of peace talks, proposing a continuation of a partial settlement freeze in return for Pollard’s release. On that occasion, talks broke down.

In a sign of the consensus over Pollard, 106 of the 120 legislators in Israel’s parliament signed an appeal to Obama last December urging him to release the spy as a “humanitarian gesture“. Those not signing were mostly Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset.

At that time, Israel’s Channel 10 TV station quoted an unnamed White House source saying Obama’s view was that “Pollard committed a very serious crime, and he has no intention of releasing him”.

Strong obligations

During Pollard’s plea bargain before he was sentenced in 1987, it emerged that he had been paid at least $50,000 by Israeli handlers for information. Pollard told the court he had passed on “360 cubic feet” of documents over a 17-month period, reportedly to South Africa and Pakistan as well as Israel.

The information is believed to have included the location of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s headquarters in Tunisia, which Israel bombed in 1985, killing 35 people, and reports on Soviet arms shipments to Arab states. He is also reported to have revealed details of how the US operated its intelligence-gathering satellites.

According to US media reports, some of the classified documents may have found their way to the Soviet Union, probably in exchange for the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel.

Netanyahu’s support for Pollard had won popular backing, said Alpher, because most Israelis felt a strong obligation to Pollard, even if it meant antagonising the US. “It’s deep in the Israeli culture not to leave behind someone who is wounded or captive, whatever the circumstances.”

But the right, he added, had gone further, creating the impression that he is “being held in unreasonable conditions, that he is being singled out by the US”. There was, he added, an implication that the American treatment of Pollard was driven by “anti-semitism”.

That served the right’s cause, he said, justifying their refusal to make territorial and political concessions in peace talks.

Pfeffer noted that while in prison, Pollard had adopted the hardline positions of the Israeli extreme right. His thinking, Pfeffer said, had been affected by what he called a stream of visits by “far-right Israeli politicians and settler rabbis”.

In 2009, Pollard was reported to have opposed a prisoner deal to free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in Gaza for five years by Hamas. He suggested Israel instead made a list of Hamas prisoners in its jails so that it could “kill one of them every day until they release Gilad”.

The Pollard campaign has been bolstered among the Israeli public by the publication late last year of documents, originally leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, that the US had spied on its closest allies, including Israel. Israelis sensed a double standard from Washington, said Neve Gordon.

Political pawns

Gordon added that Netanyahu would benefit from Pollard’s release. “Pollard has come to represent for Israelis a sense of our own powerlessness, even with our friend the US. If Netanyahu manages to get him freed, it will strengthen his political position.”

The biggest carrot that might keep the Palestinians at the talks, meanwhile, would be a promise from Israel to release the Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is widely seen as Abbas’ heir apparent.

Last week’s cancelled prisoner release was always likely to be contentious for Israel, because it included 14 members of Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Alpher said the arrangement put a question mark over who the 14 prisoners owed their allegiance to – Israel or Abbas? “That plays straight into the hands of people like [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman, who says Israeli Arabs are not loyal and cannot be trusted.”

Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organisation based in Ramallah, warned it was difficult to trust Israel in such deals.

It noted that, as part of a 2011 prisoner exchange for Shalit, Israel agreed to release a first batch of 477 Palestinians in October that year. Over the next two months, the organisation documented some 470 new arrests across the West Bank.

Gavan Kelly, a spokesman for Addameer, said: “Israel gives with one hand and takes with the other. On this occasion too, Israel can agree to free Palestinians and then make more arrests or re-arrest those it releases.”

According to Addameer, 5,000 political prisoners are in Israeli jails, including more than 130 who have never been charged.

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The Truth about the Criminal Bloodbath in Iraq Can’t Be ‘Countered’ Indefinitely

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Spring Days of Action to End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance, Global Militarization

Today we issue an international call for Spring Days of Action – 2014, a coordinated campaign in April and May to:

          End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization

The campaign will focus on drone bases, drone research facilities and test sites and drone manufacturers.

The campaign will provide information on:

1. The suffering of tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza who are under drone attack, documenting the killing, the wounding and the devastating impact of constant drone surveillance on community life.

2. How attack and surveillance drones have become a key element in a massive wave of surveillance, clandestine military attacks and militarization generated by the United States to protect a global system of manufacture and oil and mineral exploitation that is creating unemployment and poverty, accelerating the waste of nonrenewable resources and contributing to environmental destruction and global warming.

In addition to cases in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, we will examine President Obama's "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific, where the United States has already sold and deployed drones in the vanguard of a shift of 60% of its military forces to try to control China and to enforce the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We will show, among other things, how this surge of "pivot" forces, greatly enabled by drones, and supported by the US military-industrial complex, will hit every American community with even deeper cuts in the already fragile social programs on which people rely for survival.  In short, we will connect drones and militarization with "austerity" in America.

3. How drone attacks have effectively destroyed international and domestic legal protection of the rights to life, privacy, freedom of assembly and free speech and have opened the way for new levels of surveillance and repression around the world, and how, in the United States, increasing drone surveillance, added to surveillance by the National Security Agency and police, provides a new weapon to repress black, Hispanic, immigrant and low-income communities and to intimidate Americans who are increasingly unsettled by lack of jobs, economic inequality, corporate control of politics and the prospect of endless war.

We will discuss how the United States government and corporations conspire secretly to monitor US citizens and particularly how the Administration is accelerating drone surveillance operations and surveillance inside the United States with the same disregard for transparency and law that it applies to other countries, all with the cooperation of the Congress.

The campaign will encourage activists around the world to win passage of local laws that prohibit weaponized drones and drone surveillance from being used in their communities as well as seeking national laws to bar the use of weaponized drones and drone surveillance.

The campaign will draw attention to the call for a ban on weaponized drones by RootsAction.org that has generated a petition with over 80,000 signers

http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6180

and to efforts by the Granny Peace Brigade (New York City), KnowDrones.org and others to achieve an international ban on both weaponized drones and drone surveillance.

The campaign will also urge participation in the World Beyond War movement.

The following individuals and organizations endorse this Call:

Lyn Adamson – Co-chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

Dennis Apel – Guadalupe Catholic Worker, California

Judy Bello – Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars

Medea Benjamin – Code Pink

Leah Bolger – Former National President, Veterans for Peace

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

Sung-Hee Choi – Gangjeong Village International Team, Jeju, Korea

Chelsea C. Faria – Graduate student, Yale  Divinity School; Promoting Enduring Peace

Sandy Fessler – Rochester (NY) Against War

Joy First

Bruce K. Gagnon - Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Holly Gwinn Graham – Singer/songwriter, Olympia, WA.

Regina Hagen - Darmstaedter Friedensforum, Germany

Kathy Kelly – Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Malachy Kilbride

Marilyn Levin and Joe Lombardo – Co-Coordinators, United National Antiwar Coalition

Tamara Lorincz – Halifax Peace Coalition, Canada

Nick Mottern – KnowDrones.org

Agneta Norberg – Swedish Peace Council

Pepperwolf – Director, Women Against Military Madness

Lindis Percy, Coordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases  CAAB UK

Mathias Quackenbush – San Francisco, CA

Lisa Savage – Code Pink, State of Maine

Janice Sevre-Duszynska

Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck- Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen, Germany

Cindy Sheehan

Lucia Wilkes Smith – Convener, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – Ground Military Drones Committee

David Soumis – Veterans for Peace; No Drones Wisconsin

Debra Sweet – World Can’t Wait

David Swanson - WarisACrime.org

Brian Terrell – Voices for Creative Nonviolence

United National Antiwar Coalition

Veterans for Peace 

Dave Webb – Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK)

Curt Wechsler – Fire John Yoo! (a project of World Can’t Wait) – San Francisco, CA

Paki Wieland, Northampton (MA) Committee to Stop War(s)

Loring Wirbel – Citizens for Peace in Space (Colorado Springs, CO)

Women Against Military Madness

Ann Wright – Retired US Army colonel and former diplomat

Leila Zand - Fellowship of Reconciliation

 

Add your name by emailing it to email: [email protected] and watch for updates at http://KnowDrones.org

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Sandy Hook One Year After

By James F. Tracy

As the nation approaches the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, mainstream media are predictably excluding from their tragedy porn any substantive analysis of the idiosyncratic, misleading, and in some cases flagrantly propagandistic reportage of the event that might call the official story into question.

As with a majority of scandals and coverups over the past several decades where powerful interests are implicated, American journalism has become more and more complicit if not actively involved in delivering dubious information that establishes a dominant narrative, while thereafter failing to vigorously interrogate and amend faulty coverage that leads to vast public misconceptions.

The assassination of JFK, the falsely-reported Tonkin Gulf incident that sparked the costly Vietnam War, and the similarly questionable events of 9/11 that have together brought the US to the present national and geopolitical impasse all come to mind. One is left to ponder how the behavior of a wholly government-controlled media system would differ from our corporate-run consciousness industry that routinely and shamelessly showboats its First Amendment protections.

The consequences of such a communication breakdown are vast, with countless lives and entire nations having been undermined and destroyed. Moreover, the “first drafts of history” become plagued by myth and distortion that eventually cohere as collective memory, thus robbing a people of their self-determination, nullifying their humanity, and ensuring that the cycle repeats interminably.

Those rationally dissenting from the official record and who occupy positions to alter public opinion are usually written off by establishment-controlled media outlets as “conspiracy theorists,” “wackos,” and so on. If such individuals cannot be neutralized through defamation or blackmail, and if they possess information or occupy positions where they are capable of posing a serious and immediate threat to official fictions and thus the power structure itself, they are prone to becoming oddly “suicidal,” (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), or are simply killed outright (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, and here and here).

What else won’t we see in the corporate media’s series of heart-tugging memorials devoted to the anniversary of Sandy Hook? The two most recent and obvious indications that the event itself is at the very least a coverup include, first, the wholly unreported story of the Obama administration’s $2.5 million payout (read: bribe) to state and local law enforcement agencies directly involved in responding to the incident, and second, what is by almost any measure the entirely illegal destruction of pertinent evidence in the demolition of the crime scene itself.

Empowered by the internet as their primary means of communication, a broad array of independent researchers have conduced an impromptu “truth commission” that together calls the Sandy Hook narrative presented by corporate news media into serious question. For those with eyes to see and the ability to think critically they have also shamed the mainstream journalists directly involved in (mis)representing the event to the American public.

Yet without a genuinely independent investigation of the incident apart from the oversight and influence of the [Governor Dannel] Malloy and Obama administrations, the broader public will likely never know what actually took place on December 14, 2012 in Newtown Connecticut. As has too often been the case throughout the last half century, the prospects are high that yet another “big lie” has again taken root in the ever-malleable and somnambulent public mind.

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ENDING ALL WAR: An Idea Whose Time Has Come — For Our Children and...

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Maintaining Iran Sanctions


Maintaining Iran Sanctions

by Stephen Lendman

AIPAC wants them stiffened. More on that below. Congressional Democrats and Republicans want tougher ones.

Senator Mark Kirk (R. IL) said:

"Given Iran’s continued refusal to halt its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the Senate should immediately move forward with a new round of economic sanctions targeting all remaining Iranian government revenue and reserves."

Senator Mark Rubio (R. FL) added:

"Tehran has broken its word far too many times to be trusted. Due to its complete disregard for previous international agreements, we must take a firm stand in all negotiations regarding the nuclear capabilities Iran is permitted to retain."

Six Democrat and four Republican senators insist Iran halt all uranium enrichment. On October 11, they wrote Obama demanding it.

They lied saying Iran's program "threatens regional stability and international security." They falsely claimed it harms "US national security interests."

They reject Iran's legitimate right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. They demand tougher sanctions for noncompliance.

Signatories include:

Robert Menendez (D. NJ - Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman)

Lindsey Graham (R. SC)

Charles E. Schumer (D. NY - aka the senator from AIPAC)

Roy Blunt (R. MO)

Patty Murray (D. WA)

John McCain (R. AZ)

Barbara A. Mikulski (D. MD)

Kelly Ayotte (R. NH)

Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D. PA)

Christopher A. Coons (D. DE)

In July, House legislation overwhelmingly passed (400 - 20). It targeted Iran's mining and construction sectors. It called for banning Iranian oil sales by 2015.

Similar Senate legislation is expected. It may be tougher. It may prohibit international investments in more economic sectors.

It may block Iran's foreign accounts entirely. It may restrict Obama's ability to unilaterally waive requirements for allies and key trading partners.

Israel demands tougher than ever harshness. So does AIPAC. Don't expect Obama to object. Throughout his tenure, he supported multiple new sanctions rounds.

His deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said Washington isn't looking to ease sanctions "at the front end" of nuclear talks.

"Before we could pursue sanctions relief, we'd have to see concrete steps by the Iranians to get at the state of their nuclear program," he said.

The White House wants "flexibility." It's code language for unconditional surrender to US demands. 

Washington wants what no country would accept. It wants Iran abandoning its legitimate rights.

For nearly 35 years, Tehran refused to do so. Don't expect surrender now. Rhodes added:

Whatever Iran does or doesn't agree to, it "doesn’t mean that Congress won't consider new sanctions." 

"It means that as they do, they should take into account the progress we're making on diplomacy, and that we need to have some flexibility to pursue an agreement."

Obama on the one hand sounds conciliatory. On the other, he says all options remain on the table. Washington won't let Iran acquire nuclear weapons, he stresses. No evidence whatever suggests it seeks them.

On November 7 and 8, more P5+1 talks are scheduled in Geneva. A previous article discussed Iran's sincere outreach. It deserves a reciprocal response. 

For nearly 35 years, it never got one. It's hard imagining this time is different. Previous articles explained why. Iran's peaceful nuclear program is red herring cover for regime change.

Washington tolerates no sovereign independent governments. It wants pro-Western puppet ones replacing them. 

It overthrows governments to establish them. It wages wars when other strategies don't work. 

Iran's been targeted for decades. One day war may follow. Haaretz misled its readers. It headlined "Iran may be one month from nuclear bomb."

It cited US Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) misinformation. It's done so other times before. David Albright heads ISIS. He lacks credibility.

He impersonates a nuclear expert. He's a former pseudo-UN weapons investigator. Iraq chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter called him a "nuclear expert who never was."

His "track record (reveals) half-baked analyses derived from questionable sources...He breathes false legitimacy into these factually challenged stories by" claiming fake credentials.

He founded ISIS. He serves as president. He's funded to lie. He shuns truth. He fronts for power, privilege, and war profiteers. He lacks scientific expertise. He pretends otherwise. 

He's part of Washington's anti-Iranian agenda. He reports what administration officials want to hear. In Iraq, he played the same role. He's a pro-imperial opportunist. 

Earlier he lied saying Iran can to produce five nuclear bombs. He implied doing so could be imminent. All nations operating commercial nuclear reactors produce enough fissionable material for bomb-making. 

Only a handful do it. Iran isn't one of them. Nothing suggests otherwise. Albright's up to his old tricks. He claims Tehran can build a bomb in about a month.

He falsely claimed it has weapons-grade uranium. He called its capabilities at or around "breakout time."

It's the amount of time needed to convert enough uranium to weapons-grade, he said. Iran's close to crossing the threshold, he claims. 

It can have a bomb within one to 1.6 months, he stresses. He does so with no credible evidence. His previous accusations proved false. This one is fabricated like earlier ones.

His role is demonizing Iran. It's generating fear. "Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation," he said.

Talks "should result it:

  • lengthening the breakout times;

  • shortening the time to detect breakout; and

  • gaining assurance that a secret centrifuge plant is unlikely to be built or finished."

Goals can be achieved in a number of ways, he added. All options involve significantly reducing Iranian centrifuges.

He urged P5+1 negotiators to act against breakout time. He wants measures taken to prevent a so-called "secret centrifuge plant" from being built or completed.

Iran long ago showed its program is peaceful. No evidence suggests otherwise. Not according to Albright. He wants Tehran forced to go further to prove its good intentions. 

On Thursday, a senior Iranian parliamentarian said Tehran stopped enriching uranium to 20%. Enough is available for medical purposes.

On October 27, IAEA head Yukiya Amano and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi will meet in Vienna.

It's IAEA headquarters. A statement said "(t)he meeting will provide an opportunity to exchange views on the way forward." No further details were provided.

An AIPAC October 23 editorial implied that Iran's nuclear program advances toward weapons capability. No evidence whatever suggests it.

"The United States cannot afford to accept Iran's rhetorical overtures while ignoring its actions," said AIPAC. It demands Tehran "freeze(s) its program in place."

If it agrees, "the international community could freeze sanctions at current levels. If, however, Iran fails to do so, sanctions must be increased."

"(N)egotiations are much more likely to succeed if the United States maintains a military option that Tehran believes is credible and viable."

"(W)ithout verifiable evidence that Iran's nuclear progress has stopped, we must increase the sanctions against the Iranian government and pressure the regime to change course."

It bears repeating. Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. World powers know it. Claiming otherwise is red herring cover for long sought regime change.

Israel wants a regional challenger eliminated. Washington wants global dominance. At issue is Iran's sovereign independence. 

If it had no nuclear program, another pretext would falsely claim an existential threat. None whatever exists. 

On October 23, the Washington Post headlined "Rift widens on Iranian nuclear deal as Israel, Arabs warn against allowing enrichment."

Netanyahu remains adamant. "Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn’t have centrifuges for enrichment."

"(A) partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal."

John Kerry said any agreement must include strict curbs and aggressive monitoring. America will "pursue a diplomatic initiative but with eyes wide open," he stressed.

Iran long ago proved its good intentions. It's not enough. Kerry demands more, adding:

"We are adamant that words are no substitute for actions. We will need to know that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear -  undeniably clear, fail-safe to the world - that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful program."

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states joined Israel in demanding Iran entirely suspend its legitimate nuclear enrichment. The only fail safe solution is its complete dismantlement, they say.

Iran has an estimated 11 ton nuclear fuel stockpile. It's low-enriched uranium. It entirely for commercial reactor operations and medical purposes. 

No military program exists. None is planned. None is wanted. World leaders know it. They falsely suggest otherwise.

Ray Takeyh is a former State Department official/National Security Council staffer. He taught at the National War College. He's a Council on Foreign Relations member.

He's written extensively on Iran and Middle East issues. He's very much hard right. On October 14, he headlined a Washington Post op-ed "The world must tell Iran: No more half-steps," saying:

"Despite its softened rhetoric, the new Iranian regime can be expected to continue asserting its nuclear 'rights' and to press its advantages in a contested Middle East."

"This is a government that will seek to negotiate a settlement of the nuclear issue by testing the limits of the great powers' prohibitions."

"Washington need not accede to such Iranian conceptions." America and its allies negotiate from a "strong position." They can use "the threat of additional sanctions and Israeli military force."

It's time "for the great powers to have a maximalist approach. It is too late for more Iranian half-steps and half-measures."

Tehran must "be compelled to make irreversible concessions that permanently degrade its ability to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program at a more convenient time. Anything less would be a lost opportunity."

International affairs Professor Flynt Leverett calls Takeyh the major media's "long-time 'go to' (if also perennially mistaken) Iran expert." 

He remarked how ideologically similar he is with "the most hegemonically-minded Israeli prime minister in recent memory." He's one among other so-called experts fronting for Israeli policy.

Sheldon Adelson is a gaming tycoon multi-billionaire. He's one of America's richest. He's ideologically over-the-top. 

He's militantly hard right. He bankrolled Newt Gingrich's failed 2012 Republican presidential candidacy bid.

He advocates nuking Iran. He wants an atom bomb detonated in an Iranian desert area. He wants it "serv(ing) as a shot across the bow." 

"Then you say, 'See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So we mean business.' "

Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INNS) late October conference headlined "Iran at a crossroads." It featured a rogue's gallery of speakers. They included:

  • INSS Director Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin;

  • former Mossad head Major General (ret.) Meir Dagan;

  • Major General (ret.) Amos Gilad;

  • pro-Israeli front group Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Mehdi Khalaji; and

  • Brookings Institution's Robert Einhorn.

Gilad's views were typical of others expressed. Iran won't forgo its bid for nuclear weapons, he said. "Will the Iranians disarm? I think not. They will say they have the right to enrich."

The only difference between Ahmadinejad and Rohani is Iran's new president is a sophisticated "marketing man," he said. 

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei opposition to nuclear weapons is "spin to divert international attention from Iran's bid to gain nuclear military know-how." 

"His fatwa is a lie. (Iranians) are developing infrastructure which will allow them to leap forward quickly."

"All Iran is doing at the moment is trying to get out of the noose. We must not allow them to fool us as they have done so far."

"The difference between Israel and the others is that we cannot afford to be mistaken about the Iranian threat. Even one mistake is impossible."

On November 7 and 8, P5+1 talks resume in Geneva. Iran faces three unacceptable choices: 

  • the impossible task of proving a negative; 

  • abandoning important parts of its legitimate nuclear program; and/or

  • acceding entirely to Washington's unreasonable demands.

Iran's program fully complies with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty provisions. It has every right to pursue it. Don't expect Washington to agree.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/maintaining-iran-sanctions/

Truthdigger of the Week: Russell Brand

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Truthdigger of the Week: Russell Brand

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Billionaire Mayor Wins Genesis Prize


Billionaire Mayor Wins Genesis Prize

by Stephen Lendman

Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ranks 13th among Forbes magazine's global billionaires. He's America's 10th richest. 

He's worth an estimated $31 billion. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Charles and David Koch, as well as four Walton family members alone best him.

On October 21, he was awarded the first Genesis Prize. The Israeli government, Jewish Agency for Israel, and Genesis Philanthropy Group launched it.

It's awarded "to individuals who have achieved international recognition in their professional field, the worlds of science and the arts."

It's for "exceptional people whose values and achievements will inspire the next generations of Jews."

"The objective of the Genesis Prize is to emphasize across the Jewish community and the world at large the importance of Jewish values to the fulfillment of human potential and to the betterment of the world."

A Monday New York news conference announced the award.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present it to Bloomberg in Jerusalem next May. Organizers call it the Jewish Nobel Prize. Recipients receive $1 million. 

For Bloomberg it's pocket change. He issued a statement saying:

"Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy."

Most New York residents feel otherwise. Throughout nearly 12 years in office, he spurned them. He served wealth and power interests. 

He won't be missed. Nor will New York Times editors' endorsements. Ahead of his 2009 reelection, they headlined "For Mayor of New York City," saying:

He "ma(de) the unpredictable city of New York work astonishingly well." Hitler and Mussolini once earned praise for keeping trains running on time.

Times editors ignore public need. They're beholden to the same wealth and power interests as Bloomberg.

He "has has been a first-rate steady hand during unsteady times," they said. His "foresight easily earned another four years."

"His plans suit the times." He favors "helping working-class and middle-class residents."

"Public education is better over all…Crime is down...We enthusiastically endorse (him) for re-election." 

Times editors earlier called him "one of the greatest mayors in New York City history." 

Bloomberg's tenure was polar opposite. He won election the old-fashioned way. 

He bought it. He spent millions. He outspent challengers multiples over. He flooded the airwaves with campaign ads. 

He drowned out opposition voices. He used the power of deep pockets to win. He's Wall Street's man. It's where his working career began.

He worked for Salomon Brothers. In 1973, he became a general partner. He headed equity trading. He earned millions. 

In 1981, he used them to launch Innovative Market Systems. In 1987, he renamed it Bloomberg LP. Thereafter, he established Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Message, and Bloomberg Tradebook.

He has his own radio network. WBBR AM New York is its flagship station. 

Since January 2002, he's been New York mayor. He's stepping down. He's ineligible for another term.

His record in office has been deplorable. Among America's 25 largest cities, New York unemployment is among the highest.

Most city workers lack pensions. Many earn sub-subsistence wages. Poverty is extremely high. It's risen annually under his tenure. 

Census figures rank New York sixth poorest among America's 20 largest cities. Over two-thirds of New Yorkers can't afford a home.

City homelessness is at record levels. It more than doubled since Bloomberg took office. It includes numbers sleeping in public shelters.

It excludes countless thousands on city streets. Many more rely on overcrowded substandard apartments. Others live with family or friends.

New York has a housing crisis. Rental prices are extremely high. Low cost alternatives are in short supply. Demand way exceeds what's available.

What's ongoing reflects New York's unprecedented social polarization. It worsened steadily under Bloomberg.

New York's top 20% most well off earn 40 times more than the bottom one-fifth. It's top 1% earns infinitely more.

Last winter Bloomberg lied saying "nobody's sleeping on (New York City) streets." Anyone on them late at night or using public transportation knows better.

Homelessness plagues New York. It's at epidemic levels. It worsens annually. Little is done to address it.

Since crisis conditions erupted in 2008, Coalition for the Homeless figures show well over 100,000 men, women and children used city shelters. 

Perhaps that many or more slept on streets, relied on family, or made due best they could. Record numbers are expected this winter. Main Street economic conditions are worse than ever.

City budget balancing harmed ordinary New Yorkers. Onerous tax burdens were imposed. Over $1 billion in public worker concessions were demanded.

Massive layoffs affected thousand of teachers, hundreds of firefighters and many other city workers. Dozens of senior centers and day care ones were closed.

Public wages were frozen or minimally increased. Benefits were cut. At the same time, Wall Street got generous ones on top of trillions of dollars of federal bailout largesse. 

Bloomberg strongly opposed extending a so-called "millionaires tax." Eliminating it cost the state and city billions of dollars. 

Rich residents got cuts. Other New Yorkers got increases. Bloomberg implemented numerous financial sector tax giveaways.

Crisis conditions affected ordinary New Yorkers. They still do. Rich ones never had things better. Since 2009, their wealth increased exponentially. 

Bloomberg added billions to his own. High-net worth individuals across America benefitted hugely. New York represents their epicenter. 

It wreaks of wealth and privilege. It stands in stark contrast to millions of ordinary city residents struggling daily to get by. They're increasingly on their own out of luck. 

Bloomberg largely ignored them. He bragged about breaking a city school bus worker strike. For the first time in decades, he privatized its operations. 

He excluded an Employee Protection Provisions (EPP) clause. For over half a century, it protected worker jobs and wages. Profiteers are free to ignore it.

He waged war on public education. He wants it made another profit center. He wants city children cheated. He wants them denied opportunities he had growing up.

He endorsed Bush's No Child Left Behind and Obama's Race to the Top. Both prioritize privatization. They feature drastic cost-cutting. 

Dozens of New York schools were closed. Low-income neighborhoods were targeted.

Student testing is mandated. It requires teaching to tests at the expense of learning. Teacher evaluations depend on scores. Job retention's contingent on raising them.

In September 2011, Occupy Wall Street was launched. It emerged in New York's Zucotti Park. It's located in Wall Street's financial district. 

Bloomberg waged war to destroy it. City police were ruthless. Peaceful protesters were attacked. Beatings and arrests followed.

Bloomberg accused protesters of "tak(ing) jobs away from people working in this city. They're trying to take away the tax base we have."

"(I)f you focus for example on driving the banks out of New York City, you know those are our jobs."

"You can't have it both ways. If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people."

Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly intensified longstanding NYPD stop and frisk practices. Doing so is flagrantly racist. Blacks and Latinos are targeted.

Hundreds of thousands of law abiding residents are persecuted.  According to New York's ACLU, mostly minority "New Yorkers (were) subjected to police stops and interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002."

On August 12, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the practice unconstitutional. Equal protection under the law is fundamental, she said. It's mandated for everyone.

Bloomberg responded angrily. He denounced Scheindlin's ruling. He accused her of deliberately not giving New York "a fair trial." 

He wrongfully claims stop and frisk works. He lied saying it enhances public safety. He arrogantly said "(y)ou're not going to see any change in tactics overnight."

He appealed. He wants unconstitutional practices continued. He reflects the worst of rogue leadership. Next May he'll be honored for "exceptional values and achievements." 

Apparently they include making money the old-fashioned way, waging class warfare, targeting First Amendment rights, and enforcing racist harshness. Millions of ordinary New Yorkers understand best.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/billionaire-mayor-wins-genesis-prize/

DEA: Law and Science Unto Itself

In an empty, muted family court, with armed guards at its doors, D.C. Superior Court Judge J. William Ryan released a discovery order revealing that the DEA’s analysts are producing false marijuana test reports resulting in wrongful convictions[1].  By critiquing DEA chemist Heather Hartshorn’s reports and testimony through the prism of the 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on forensic tests,[2] Ryan showed that her marijuana report mirrored the NAS’s example of a totally deficient  report. Their example read: “Results: The green-brown plant material in item 1 was identified as marijuana.”[3] Hartshorn’s report read: “Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana.”[4]

A number of state courts have “held that the [prosecution] should provide more than the bare test results and reports to the defendant in discovery under similar [expert notice] rules.”[5]  For instance, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina has ruled that a defendant charged with selling heroin was entitled to the state laboratory analyst’s “laboratory protocols, incidences of false positive test results, quality control and quality assurance, and proficiency tests.” [6]

The Supreme Court in Jackson v. Virginia has ruled that reports such as Hartshorn’s, based on non-specific, screening tests are not worth the paper they’re printed on because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the presence of marijuana in a seized substance.[7]  Hartshorn herself admitted she used non-specific, screening tests yet testified erroneously that they positively confirmed the presence of marijuana.[8]

Ryan also disclosed that Hartshorn’s report lacked adequate details and data to allow a review of her work by an independent defense analyst to see whether she used valid, reliable tests and applied them correctly.[9] This was a significant failing as the NAS report concluded that many forensic tests “are not based on a body of knowledge that recognizes the underlying limitations of the scientific principles and methodologies for problem solving and discovery (Hartshorn claimed there were no limitations) [and] are not informed by scientific knowledge, or are not developed within the culture of science.”

According to Dr. Vedoster Ingram, a 29-year-veteran of the DEA, this was typical of the DEA. “As reports are normally presented, an official report of analysis is introduced into the court records for litigation without significant explanation.”[10] Reviewable data for Hartshorn’s tests should have included microphotographs of the suspected marijuana sample, highlighting the relevant morphological characteristics; photographs of the Duquenois-Levine (D-L) color chemical test results, including side-by-side contemporaneous images of the suspected marijuana and actual marijuana standard for proper comparison; and photographs or photocopies of the Thin Layered Chromatography (TLC) plate with the measured values and observed colors recorded contemporaneously with the testing.

The NAS report said that such reports were unacceptable and should lead to dismissals of charges.[11] In fact, much of Hartshorn’s report was indecipherable with abbreviations known only to herself. She dismissed this concern by stating that: “It’s not our policy to keep [reviewable data]; it’s not needed.” [12]

Reviewability and reproducibility are at the heart of verification and the scientific method. Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court declared that: “Something doesn’t become ‘scientific knowledge’ just because it’s uttered by a scientist nor can an expert’s self-serving assertions that his conclusions were ‘derived by the scientific method’ be deemed conclusive, else the Supreme Court’s opinion could have ended with footnote 2. As we read the Supreme Court’s teaching in Daubert, therefore, though we are largely untrained in science and certainly no match for any of the witnesses whose testimony we are reviewing, it is our responsibility to determine whether those experts’ proposed testimony amounts to ‘scientific knowledge,’ constitutes ‘good science,’ and was ‘derived by the scientific method.’[13]

Judge Kozinski’s Ninth Circuit opinion noted further that a gate keeping court must decide in part whether “ ‘… scientists have derived their findings through the scientific method or whether their testimony is based on scientifically valid principles….’ (Daubert, 43F. 3d at 1316). In its gate keeping role, the court should view reliability as follows: ‘this means that the expert’s bald assurance of validity is not enough. Rather, the party presenting the expert must show that the expert’s findings are based on sound science, and this will require some objective, independent validation of the expert’s methodology.’”[14] – i.e., review and reproduction of test findings.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland has ruled that: “Access to laboratory information generally is significant for another reason. The validity of testing procedures and principles is assessed in the scientific community by publishing the data in peer review journals …. [P]ublication of a laboratory’s work product and data used in [scientific] analysis, as well as independent replication and validation studies, are essential prerequisites to reliability.”[15] Replication and validation of Hartshorn’s findings were impossible since she presented no supporting data.

For independent reviewability, replication, and validation, lab reports should contain sufficient information to evaluate case notes and interpret the data as well as procedures, standards, blanks, observations, and  test results. Supporting documentation should include charts, graphs, and spectra generated during an analysis. [16]  Since Hartshorn provided none of these details, her reports could not be checked out and proved nothing, least of all that the suspected sample was marijuana.

The DEA founded and presently chairs Scientific Working Group on the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) which provides minimum standards for  scientifically sound  lab and testing procedures. According to SWGDRUG:

Laboratories shall have documented policies establishing protocols for technical and administrative review.

Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures.

Laboratories shall have in place protocols for the sampling of evidence.

Laboratories shall monitor the analytical processes using appropriate controls and traceable standards.

Laboratories shall have and follow documented guidelines for the acceptance and interpretation of data.

Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Section 11.

When analysts determine the identity of a drug in a sample, they shall ensure that the result relates to the right submission. This is best established by the use of at least two appropriate techniques based on different principles and two independent samplings.

Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose. For qualitative analysis (identifying drugs), the parameters that need to be checked are selectivity, limit or detection and reproducibility.

Minimum acceptability criteria should be described along with the means for demonstrating compliance.

Validation documentation is required. Laboratories adopting methods validated elsewhere should verify their methods and establish their own limits of detection and reproducibility.

Documentation shall contain sufficient information to allow a peer to evaluate case notes and interpret the data.

Analytical documentation should include documentation including charts, graphs, and spectra generated during analysis.

Laboratories shall perform proficiency testing in order to verify the laboratory’s performance. [17]

Hartshorn was asked whether she followed DEA protocols or at least the guidelines of SWGDRUG.  “[T]hey aren’t laws, and so, as of right now, that is not our policy,”[18] she casually responded. In other words, the DEA does not follow its own regulatory body. Even worse, the “DEA does not have such guidance set forth in one particular document type or ‘protocol’ that would provide instruction on how one is to test cocaine or marijuana. . . There are no mandatory methods, and the forensic chemists are afforded considerable discretion in determining which testing methods and instruments to use.”[19] This according to Harshorn’s lab director, James Malone, who testified that the DEA has no protocol or standard methodology and does not validate its drug tests; calibrate its testing instrumentation right before testing; or run contemporaneous scientific controls to prevent and detect contamination.[20]

Judge: For marijuana in this case, for example, there is no calibration? 

James Malone: There is not. . .  So we’re not running a positive control on the Duquenois-Levine (marijuana test) on a daily basis.

Prosecutor: Now with regard to standard methodologies, DEA has a standard methodology on how to do examinations?

JM: No, we don’t.

P: So for qualitative analysis, the actual identification of a drug, you don’t have such (validation) studies, as you understood her (defense expert) to mean, correct?

JM: Correct. . . Identification – (validation) studies related to identification are not generally – there are no requirements for that. (SWGDRUG: “Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose.”[21])

According to SWGDRUG Recommendations at Part IV.A.6.1.1 (“Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures”); id at Part IV.A.6.1.6 (“Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Part IV B Validation”); id, at Part IV.B.IA (“All methods shall be validated or verified to demonstrate that they will perform in the normal operational environment when used by individuals expected to utilize the methods on casework”); id at Part IV.B.1.5 (“The entire validation/verification process shall be documented and the documentation shall be retained. Documentation shall include … personnel involved, dates, observations from the process, analytical data, a statement of conclusions and/or recommendations, authorization approval signature”).”

In short, the DEA is not engaged in scientific testing; a conviction machine. Voodoo science as someone commented. It also means that the DEA labs are, in fact, unaccredited because they received their accreditation on the basis that they follow strict protocols and SOPs, determine error rates and test limitations, validate its tests, and run positive and negative controls.

What really set off Ryan, however, was Hartshorn’s testimony that the DEA’s marijuana tests as well as her testing are infallible.  She claimed a zero percent (0%) error rate with the tests and her testing.[22] “Ridiculous on its face,”[23] said Ryan.  “Ms. Hartshorn makes a bold statement in her testimony in which she asserted that the three tests performed in these cases are infallible in their combined ability to conclusively identify marijuana,” wrote defense expert Heather Harris. “She was unable to offer any scientific studies to confirm this assertion, which is a scientific impossibility.”[24]  The NAS report concluded that “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”[25]

Infallibility claims fly in the face of the fact that uncertainty enters testing in many ways, and each life stage of the evidence is susceptible to error. Contamination or misidentification can occur during the collection of the evidence. Analytical methods have practical and technical limitations. Reference standards and controls may fail quality control checks. Laboratory analysts who oversee the entire analytical process may make mistakes. Transcription errors can occur. In short, contrary to Hartshorn’s testimony, there is a panoply of errors that can occur. The three tests she used were: a microscopic examination, a presumptive color test named Duquenois-Levine (D-L), and Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). None of these tests provide a specific identification to the exclusion of all other possible substances, and each of these tests has an associated degree of uncertainty or error rate.

With the microscopic exam, DEA analysts look for so-called cystolith hairs which occur on marijuana plants. But many other plant species unrelated to marijuana have cystolith hairs. Thus, a false positive (error) is possible with this examination.  Also according to the NAS report, the microscopic exam can only be done properly by a qualified botanist.[26] The DEA does not employ botanists.

George Nakamura, who is not a botanist, established use of the microscopic exam as a marijuana test. He examined 600 plants and found 80 with cystolith hairs. He then subjected the 80 “similar” plants to the D-L test, and only marijuana passed the entire test.[27]  However there was an elementary scientific flaw in Nakamura’s procedure for which reason his report should not have been published, let alone adopted as a protocol. His plant population sample was woefully inadequate since there are 200 –500, 000 plants he did not examine, and there are at least 24 species of plants with cystolith hairs. Nakamura himself admitted that there were some 30,000 plants which he did not examine.

Nakamura also claimed that the D-L was confirmatory of, and, specific to, marijuana, i. e. identified it to the exclusion of all other substances and did not render false positives. In fact, with the D-L test, false positives are expected based on the analytical mechanism of color tests. Color tests are screening tests that look at molecular groups rather than the specific molecule as a whole. Many unrelated molecules share common molecular groups, so any substance containing the target molecular group would give a positive response. In other words, the D-L test solely identifies the group of chemicals to which marijuana belongs. And there are other chemicals in that group which could give a positive D-L response, i.e., a false positive. Moreover, Nakamura himself reported that there were 25 substances that had been shown to cause false positives with the D-L test. So his claim was contrary to chemical facts and scientific demonstrations, and, again, should not have been published.

The D-L test is actually a combination of two individual tests. With the Duquenois test, a petroleum ether or chloroform extract of the plant extract is added to an ethanolic solution of vanillin and acetaldehyde, followed by addition of concentrated hydrochloric acid. Marijuana gives a deep blue-violet color. With the Levine modification, the blue-violet test mixture obtained in the Duquenois test is shaken with chloroform. With marijuana, the blue-violet color is transferred into the chloroform layer. However, at least 50 legal substances have been shown to give the same color reactions.

As early as 1938, the French pharmacist Pierre Duquenois, who developed the Duquenois test, found that it was not specific and gave false positives.[28] Yet, he reported that the test was specific.[29]  Although he claimed it was specific, he worked to modify the original test into the D-L test to eliminate false positives –  which as noted above was impossible given the nature of the D-L test. As he should have known in advance, the D-L test was no better and rendered false positives. Still, he reported that the D-L test was specific. Duquenois’s lie was repeated in 1972 by John Thornton and George Nakamura who falsely claimed that the D-L test was specific and in conjunction with a microscopic exam was a confirmatory, identification test.[30] Their study is still the protocol for marijuana identification in crime labs throughout the country even though it was false and rebutted by Fullerton and Kurzman and Whitehurst.

With regard to TLC, its ability to identify a substance, which in this case is not marijuana but rather its active ingredient THC, is limited by the number of distinguishable responses possible. TLC is a method of separation, not of identification. “It is prone to confusion because of the appearance of unrecognized peaks or spots on a chromatograph, particularly when an analyst is dealing with a wide variety of biological samples from a number of sources.”[31] The TLC test as generally performed for marijuana evidence has 100 distinct measurable values and 2 to 3 distinguishable colors. This allows for the distinct identification of at most 300 compounds without taking into account the possibility of compounds that will behave the same as the target molecule, THC.  In other words, a positive TLC test could indicate any one of some 300 compounds in addition to THC.

When these three tests are performed in sequence, the uncertainty of the final result is the sum of the uncertainties attributable to each test. In this case, where each of the tests can produce errors, the uncertainty can be great.  Moreover, a main concern with this sequence of testing is that the D-L and TLC tests produce results that are heavily dependent on the analyst’s subjective interpretation of the colors produced. What’s dark blue to one analyst, is purple to another. At a minimum, a standard reference material (a sample of known marijuana) should be tested along with the evidence sample as a comparison sample. The DEA does not do this. In addition, without the proper determination of the variability of positive results, the final identification is still simply the analyst’s subjective opinion.

Confirmation bias is also a concern with this sequence of testing. This is the tendency of an analyst to interpret analytical information in a way that confirms his/her preconceptions about an item of evidence as well as the results of the previous test. In a sequence of testing that relies entirely upon an analyst’s interpretation of test results, this is a likely source of error.

Hartshorn admitted that separately each of the tests is a screening test that renders false positives, i.e. errors. But miraculously when they are conducted in concert, they are error-free as is the analyst. In direct contradiction of Hartshorn’s claims of infallibility was a study done at her own lab which found false positives and a very high 20% error rate.[32] And every independent scientific study has found an error rate and false positives with these tests. For instance, a comprehensive series of studies in 1974 involving no fewer than 14 scientists and two attorneys concluded, in part, as follows.[33]

The probability of error in using screening tests for forensic identification is particularly great with marijuana because:

1. Screening tests are not specific;

2. Many common plants are confused with marijuana by “users” and law officers alike;

3. Inexpertly collected plant samples are not necessarily homogenous, i. e., only a single plant; and

4. The flowering plants include some 200,000 – 500,000 species besides marijuana.

As many as 20% (An Army study found 30%.) of the samples presumed to be marijuana and submitted to forensic laboratories have been found in recent years not to be Cannabis. “If BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, predecessor to DEA) files are any indication, many. . . marijuana users are getting ‘high’ on parsely, alfalfa, or some other weed.” Common plants which have been confused with marijuana include tobacco, catnip, parsley, oregano, tea and other substances – sometimes laced with various chemicals.

Inexpertly collected plant samples commonly contain some extraneous plant materials – a weed grabbed by mistake, a plant which looked like the others, etc. The forensic analyst then needs to be concerned with one plant passing one screening test, and a contaminant passing another. (Furthermore, it’s not possible to determine if ground-up plant samples are from the same species. To avoid a misidentification, the analyst should assume the sample is adulterated or contaminated.) Because of this factor, and the common presence of added chemicals, the specificity of marijuana screening tests, even when used in combination, is no greater than the specificity of the most specific single test.

Because Hartshorne’s testimony raised serious concerns about her qualifications and “integrity” as well as a “flaw” in her testing, Ryan ordered that the prosecution produce all information verifying that the three tests in combination were infallible.[34] What Ryan apparently did not realize was that Hartshorn was repeating unsupported infallibility claims made by DEA lab directors since at least 1999. For instance, on April 9, 1999, Joseph P. Bono, director of the DEA’s Mid-Atlantic Laboratory submitted a sworn affidavit to the courts that all DEA analyses and tests are “incapable of producing a false positive. . . In other words, even if the test results are inaccurate, the results will not indicate the presence of a controlled substance when none is present in the unknown sample. Even if the instruments used in the testing are not properly calibrated, if no controlled substance is present in the exhibit, then no controlled substance will be identified . . . even when an instrument is not functioning properly, it will not identify cocaine, or any other controlled substance, as being present in a sample, unless that controlled substance is actually present.”[35]

Bono’s successor at this lab, Richard Fox, was more specific in his sworn affidavit which stated, in part, that:

“There is no other plant material that will give a positive result for all three tests. . . Neither the analyst in this case, nor any other DEA analyst, has ever misidentified marijuana. . . As such, the uncertainty measurement associated with the conclusions reached by the analyst resulting in the identification of marijuana is zero.[36]

Fox’s successor, James Malone, who is also Hartshorn’s supervisor who has signed off on her reports, has testified, in part, as follows in another marijuana case in D.C.

Prosecutor: To your knowledge, while you’ve been at the lab, has the laboratory ever misidentified a controlled substance?

James Malone: No.

P: And when you say – what are you basing that on?

JM: On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory. We have not misidentified anything.

P: Are you aware of anything which shows that a mis-calibrated system or chromatographer in this case, but any system that was not calibrated correctly would create a false positive for cocaine or a controlled substance?

JM: No

P: Have you ever seen it in the lab? 

JM: Have I ever seen what?

P: A false positive from a mis-calibrated system.

JM: No.

Judge: But Mr. Chawla’s position was, can it ever – can a mis-calibrated machine ever give a false positive?

JM:  No. A mis-calibrated machine isn’t going to give you a positive cocaine if there’s not cocaine.

Judge: Why not?

JM: It just wouldn’t. . .

P: More specifically, if the reagent isn’t working, is it going to show that the substance isn’t marijuana? In other words, if the reagent isn’t working, what’s the result of the Duquenois-Levine going to be?

JM: It’s going to be negative.

P: Would I get a positive out of a Duquenois-Levine test? If I used a reagent that wasn’t working anymore and tried to run a Duquenois-Levine with that reagent, what would happen?

JM: You wouldn’t get a false positive, no.

P: With regard to identification techniques, is there any – do you have any reason to believe that a mis-calibrated or non-calibrated device would result in a false positive?

JM: No, I don’t.[37]

Malone’s testimony makes clear that he is basing his infallibility claim on ipse dixit evidence as were Bono and Fox who have never presented data to support their unheard of assertions.

Decades before their infallibility claims, several high courts including the U.S. Supreme Court found that the tests did not prove the presence of marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled in 1973 that: “An expert opinion that the substance is probably marijuana (based on a microscopic examination, D-L test and TLC) is not sufficient to meet the burden of proving the identity of the substance beyond a reasonable doubt. . . If this were a possession case, the tests would be insufficient. . . It is quite true that the tests used by Mr. Michael Rehburg, a chemist and witness for the prosecution, were not specific for marijuana. . . . He admitted, . . .  these tests were not specific for marijuana.”[38]

In 1979, a trial judge in North Carolina found that the D-L test was “not specific for marijuana” and had “no scientific acceptance as a reliable and accurate means of identifying the controlled substance marijuana.”[39] This finding was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals as well as the North Carolina Supreme Court which found that: “The determination that the test used was not scientifically acceptable because it was not specific for marijuana was amply supported by the facts. . . The trial court’s ruling that the results of the tests conducted on green vegetable matter by using the Duquenois-Levine color test in the Sirchie drug kit were inadmissible in evidence was supported by the court’s findings that the test is not scientifically accepted, reliable or accurate and that the test is not specific for marijuana because it reportedly also gives a positive reaction for some brands of coffee and aspirin. . . . The conclusion to exclude the test results is amply supported by these findings of fact . . . and the test results were properly suppressed . . .”[40]

Also in 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jackson v Virginia ruled that nonspecific tests could not be the basis for advancing a prosecution or a conviction because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.[41]

Ultimately, Judge Ryan concluded that “such claims of infallibility belie one of the most basic tenets of science: that some degree of error is inherent in every scientific test, process, or analysis. . .While explaining that each of these tests used alone is presumptive, as distinct from confirmatory, Ms. Hartshorn nonetheless maintained their infallibility when used in concert. With the designation that these tests are merely presumptive, the DEA chemist acknowledged that there is some degree of inherent error calculable with respect to each of these tests when they are performed in isolation. That there is some distinct and additional degree of error calculable with respect to this analyst’s performance of each test is also without question.”[42]

It is clear from Judge Ryan’s remarks that he would have denied admission of the test results as evidence as well as Hartshorn’s testimony at trial, and this would have resulted in a withdrawal of the charges. He did not do so because defense counsel did not request it. Since Kurzman’s study and others occurred before this case as well as applicable court decisions such as Jackson, Daubert and Kumho Tire, defense counsel should have requested an evidentiary hearing for challenging the tests and sufficiency of evidence. Their failure to do so amounted to ineffective counsel.

This is exactly what U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner concluded in a similar case wherein the defense counsel did not request an evidentiary hearing to challenge the forensic evidence. This is seen if one simply substitutes “marijuana” in her following remarks. “Under the ‘prevailing professional norms,’ reasonably competent counsel should have moved for a Daubert/Kumho Tire hearing before trial on all the expert testimony — a) on the [marijuana] laboratory analysis based on the investigator’s failure to use a comparison or control sample and not test beyond the generic finding of [“Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana”]; b) on the [marijuana] evidence, highlighting problems with proficiency testing and emphasizing the limited scope of the testimony; and, c) on the expert cause-and-origin testimony, when the expert’s proposed testimony was scientifically flawed. If counsel had requested such a hearing, there is more than a ‘reasonable probability’ that it would have been granted, that the laboratory analysis and the [marijuana] evidence would have been excluded, or severely limited, at the very least. . . .  As the Court held in Daubert, some testimony may be so problematic that the usual trial techniques are just not enough to prevent a jury from giving it far more credence than it deserves. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596-97. The testimony should not reach the jury at all. (This was absolutely true with Judge Ryan’s case.) Here, the scientific literature cast doubt on the significance of the [marijuana tests] and even raised concerns about . . . “proficiency” testing, concerns counsel never raised. . . just what the law and literature caution against”[43]

It is instructive to compare the two cases in detail because like Judge Ryan, Judge Gertner also critiqued the government’s evidence and experts through the prism of the NAS report. Gertner pointed out that it was significant that by 2006, a number of articles in legal journals and cases had cast a critical eye on the scientific reliability of arson evidence, methodologies, and techniques. Because of this, competent counsel should have been aware that defendants had been convicted and sentenced on the basis of flawed arson evidence and taken appropriate steps to litigate the issues using all the tools available including challenging the tests and requesting an evidentiary hearing.

The same was even more true of marijuana evidence by the time of Judge Ryan’s case.  The marijuana tests had been scientifically established as unreliable and inaccurate, and previous court decisions had excluded admission of the marijuana test results as evidence.

Gertner found that there was ineffective counsel because the defense attorneys did not move for a Daubert hearing prior to trial on any expert issue. They did not seek exclusion of any of the proposed expert testimony or move for its limitation. They did not argue that the expert testimony failed to meet the minimal threshold for reliability of scientific evidence and should not have been admitted at all. They did not alert the Court to the ways in which the government’s investigation undermined their very ability to present a defense.

The same was true with the case of Judge Ryan who called Hartshorn’s testimony “[R]idiculous on its face” and lacking in “integrity.”

In addition, Gertner argued that it was crucial to try to exclude expert testimony before trial because “a certain patina attaches to an expert’s testimony unlike any other witness; this is ‘science,’ a professional’s judgment, the jury may think, and give more credence to the testimony than it may deserve. United States v. Hines, 55 F. Supp. 2d 62, 64 (D. Mass. 1999); see also Michigan Millers Mut. Ins. Corp. v. Benfield, 140 F.3d 915, 920 (11th Cir. 1998) (‘The use of ‘science’ to explain how something occurred has the potential to carry great weight with a jury, explaining both why counsel might seek to couch an expert witness’s testimony in terms of science, as well as why the trial judge plays an important role as the gate-keeper in monitoring the evidentiary reliability of such testimony.’).”[44]

This again was even more true with Judge Ryan’s case because DEA chemists were poised to testify that the marijuana tests as well as their testing were infallible, and that no DEA analyst had ever misidentified marijuana. In fact, defense counsel in Judge Ryan’s case had been involved in previous marijuana case wherein DEA analysts had claimed infallibility under oath. All the more reason why they should have sought to exclude the evidence.

For its part, the DEA was ethically and scientifically bound to suspend Hartshorn and Malone and investigate all their previous marijuana cases. In fact, Hartshorn and Malone were subsequently both witnesses in another discovery hearing in the same court room opposed by the same defense counsel who again had not requested an evidentiary hearing to challenge the same marijuana tests. This hearing was presided over by Judge Florence Y. Pan who had read Judge Ryan’s order.[45] Heather Harris, who was highly praised by Judge Ryan, was the defense expert in this hearing as well. With no justification, Pan found Hartshorn and Malone to be credible as opposed to Harris even though Malone claimed infallibility without any proof. “On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory,” he said, “We have not misidentified anything.” He also said that “a mis-calibrated instrument would never cause a false positive result.” Asked why by Pan, he replied:  “It just wouldn’t.”[46]

As we saw, Malone further testified that the DEA has no protocols or standard operating procedures and does not validate its tests or run sufficient numbers of controls.[47]  He threw in that the Analysis of Drugs Manual and the Analytical Sufficiency Document  are “the closest thing the DEA has to standard operating procedures for the chemists.”[48] Again, no problem for Pan even though Malone said these documents were “DEA proprietary,”[49] and SWGDRUG and scientific practice require protocols, test validations, and controls. Malone claimed there were published studies validating the tests, but this is not true.

Harris disagreed with Malone on all accounts.  No problem for Pan who decreed that: “To the extent the testimony of the witnesses conflicts, however, the Court credits the testimony of Mr. Malone. . . the Court found the testimony of Mr. Malone to be extremely credible and persuasive [and was] impressed by Mr. Malone’s candor, expertise, and professional demeanor. . . His testimony was very clear and logical, and the Court found him to be forthright.”[50] Pan did not mention the lack of scientific data or explanations for Malone’s testimony or that it showed the DEA was at odds with SWGDRUG requirements and scientific practice.

In short, there were more than enough scientific studies and favorable case law before Judge Pan’s case, not to mention Judge Ryan’s order, to justify requesting an evidentiary hearing in an attempt to deny admission of the test results as evidence. Defense counsel also had a highly qualified expert to confirm that the tests results did not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the DEA’s proffered evidence and testimony were false.

As Judge Gertner observed: “If the lawyers do not tee up the issue, the evidence will be introduced without objection.”[51] This is exactly what happens in nearly all marijuana cases. Defense attorneys do not challenge the tests or the sufficiency of the evidence. In 2010, 853, 839 people were arrested on marijuana charges, and you can count on one hand the number of defense attorneys who challenged the tests or even the subjective opinions of arresting police officers.

This failure on the part of defense attorneys is particularly irresponsible because claims of infallibility can be to the advantage of a defendant as they undermine the admissibility of marijuana test results and the credibility of a prosecutor’s expert witnesses. Before a trial, a defense attorney can request an evidentiary hearing wherein he or she can examine the qualifications of the prosecution’s forensic analysts, the laboratory, and the nature and manner of the testing procedures used in identifying the drug the defendant was charged with possessing or selling. If this examination reveals deficiencies or inadequacies, the attorney can challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence and seek a dismissal.  Dr. Bruce Stein et al have reported that: “Based on our survey, such a challenge would be warranted in many cases.”[52]

The possibilities of these challenges was seen in a recent case in Michigan in 2010.   Defense attorney Michael Nichols obtained a pre-trial evidentiary hearing and cross examined Michigan State Police lab analyst Jerome Waldron who testified that in more than 6,000 cases, he had never encountered a false positive, and that the marijuana tests had an error rate of zero. Nichols then entered a motion to exclude Waldron’s testimony from trial as well as use of the test results as evidence, citing scientific articles, prior court decisions, and Waldron’s lack of credibility. Even before the judge rendered his decision, the prosecutor withdrew the charges.[53]

If lab conditions or procedures do not conform to scientific guidelines and principles or court rulings such as Daubert, the defense attorney can motion to exclude the test results as well as testimony from the analyst at trial. Below is a list of such requests which have led to pre-trial dismissals of marijuana charges because they revealed deficiencies in the lab.

1. Evidence collection forms or logs (description of evidence, packaging, identification of specimens, identification of individuals collecting samples, sample collection procedures.

2. Chain-of-custody records (field-to-lab transfers, and all transfers of evidence and associated analytical samples within the laboratory).

3. Laboratory receiving records (records documenting the date, time and condition of receipt of the evidence in question; laboratory-assigned identifiers; storage location).

4. Laboratory procedures for subsampling (collection of analytical aliquots) and contamination control.

5. Copies of technical procedures in effect at the time the subject testing was performed (often termed Standard Operating Procedures, or SOP’s) for each procedure used during sample screening and confirmation, including; sample preparation, sample analysis, data reporting, and instrument operation.

6. Copies of the two bracketing controlled substance proficiency results for each analyst and technician responsible for preparation or analysis of subject specimens, including raw data and reported results, target values and acceptance ranges, performance scores, and all related correspondence.

7. Copies of traceability documentation for standards and reference materials used during analysis, including unique identifications, origins, dates of preparation and use, composition and concentration of prepared materials, certifications or traceability records from suppliers, assigned shelf lives and storage conditions.

8. Sample preparation records, including dates and conditions of preparation, responsible analyst, procedural reference, purity, concentration and origins of solvents, reagents, and control materials prepared and used, samples processed concurrently, extract volume.

9. Copies of bench notes, log books, and any other records pertaining to case samples or instruments; records documenting observations, notations, or measurements regarding case testing.

10. Instrument run log with identification of all standards, reference materials, sample blanks, rinses, and controls analyzed during the day/shift with subject samples (as appropriate: run sequence, origins, times of analysis and aborted run sequences).

11. Record of instrument operating conditions and criteria for variables, including as appropriate: Gas chromatograph column, instrument file identification, tuning criteria, instrument performance check (e.g., ion abundance criteria), initial calibration, continuing calibration checks, calibration verification.

12. Record of instrument maintenance status and activities for instruments used in subject testing, documenting routine and as-needed maintenance activities in the weeks surrounding subject testing.

13. Raw data for the complete measurement sequence (opening and closing quality control included) that includes the subject samples.  For GC-MS analysis, this would include: areas and retention times, injection volumes, dilution factors, chromatograms and mass spectra.  As prepared and as determined values for all quality control samples.

14. A description of the library used for spectral matches for the purpose of qualitative identification of controlled substances, including source(s) and number of reference spectra.

15. Copy of records documenting computation of illicit drug laboratory’s theoretical production yield, including the basis for the computation, and the algorithm used, as appropriate.

16. Procedure(s) for operation and calibration checks of analytical balances used to weigh controlled substances

17. Results of calibration checks and documentation of mass traceability for gravimetric determinations.

18. Results of contamination control surveys for trace level analytes relevant to test methods at the time of analysis, including sampling design and analytical procedures.

19. Records and results of internal reviews of subject data.

20.  Method validation records documenting the laboratory’s performance characteristics for qualitative identification and quantitative determinations of the controlled substance, to include data documenting specificity, accuracy, precision, linearity, and method detection limits.

21. Copy of the laboratory’s Quality Manual in effect at the time the subject samples were tested as well as the laboratory’s most recent Quality Manual (however named; the document that describes the laboratory’s quality objects and policies).

22. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB application for accreditation, and most recent Annual Accreditation Review Report, as appropriate.

23. Statement of qualifications of each analyst and/or technician responsible for processing case samples to include all names, locations and jurisdictions of cases in which these personnel testified concerning the same substances found in the present case.

24. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB on-site inspection report, as appropriate, as well as any reports of on-site inspections by any other testing laboratory audit organization.

25.  Copy of internal audit reports generated during the period subject samples were tested..

26.  List of capital instrumentation in the laboratory at the time subject testing was performed, including manufacturer, model number, and major accessories.

27. Production throughput data for the drug testing section: numbers of tests performed per month or per year, and the number of Full Time Equivalent personnel in the drug testing section of the laboratory.[54]

Marijuana field tests also have specific requirements that are seldom observed by the police. For instance, the field tests used by police officers have expiration dates because the chemicals and reagents in the tubes deteriorate over time and as a result of heat or cold. Before going to a hearing or trial, a defense attorney can find out exactly what brand of field test kit was used with his/her client. This can be done through a public records request and sometimes by simply asking the prosecutor. The defense attorney can then purchase the exact same kit online. In court, the defense attorney can show the judge that the test has an expiration date after which the test would be inaccurate. If the police officer did not check the expiration date before using the test, then the test results should be assumed to be invalid. Under the law, any tests or equipment that are not in good working order produce results that are inadmissible as evidence. If the police officer cannot attest to the expiration date or whether the test was used after its expiration date, the drug charges should be dismissed. Some search warrants are based on positive kit results and may be ruled invalid if the police officer did not know the expiration date of the kit. This should also result in a dismissal of charges.

Even if the field test has not expired, the test does not prove the presence of marijuana in a seized substance because it is a presumptive or screening test only. Information accompanying the kits indicate this fact. For instance, the carton containing one commonly used NIK field test states that it is: “A specially formulated reagent system for the presumptive identification of Marijuana.”  In other words, the company itself is saying that the test does not prove the presence of marijuana. It is further stated that: “The results of a single test may or may not yield a valid result. . . There is no existing chemical reagent test, adaptable to field use that will continually eliminate the occurrence of an occasional invalid test results [sic]. A complete forensic laboratory would be required to qualitatively identify an unknown suspect substance.”[55]  A defense attorney can show this to a judge or jury and explain what it means. Therefore, if the only evidence is positive results from a field test, the charges should be dismissed or the defendant acquitted.

Recently, defense attorneys in Colorado did challenge the DEA’s test results and blocked their admission as evidence including results from Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis, the gold standard of drug testing. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger of Colorado ruled on April 21, 2011 that based on DEA information and the testimony of DEA chemist Anthea Chan, the prosecution failed to show the existence of reliable, accurate testing being reliably applied that proved the presence of amphetamines. She therefore denied admission of the test results as evidence at trial.[56]

The hearing, known as a Rule 702 (of the Federal Rules of Evidence) Hearing, provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a DEA lab. It was meant to determine whether their testing conformed to Rule 702 requirements for scientifically sound testing. Rule 702 requirements are all but identical to Daubert requirements. Krieger’s first task was to determine whether Chan had correctly tested according to DEA protocols and SOPs. Chan testified that she followed no protocols or SOPs and, in fact, was not aware of any protocols or SOPs.[57] These facts alone, said Krieger, were enough to deny admission of the test results as evidence because it was impossible to determine whether Chan reliably applied reliable tests.

Krieger did, not, however, rule at this point because she wanted her ruling to encompass  defense expert Janine Arvizu’s findings. Arvizu attempted to reconstruct the practices, protocols, and results relevant to Chan’s qualitative and quantitative test conclusions and whether they adhered to quality requirements and universally accepted standards designed to ensure the quality and reliability of tests, specifically, what’s known as ISO 17025 standards. However, as was the case in Washington, only a very limited amount of laboratory discoverable material was made available making it impossible to determine or evaluate the laboratory’s technical requirements or quality controls during the subject testing.

“That’s exactly the position the Court finds itself in,” noted Judge Krieger, “because it does not have evidence as to the protocol that was used, the reliability of the protocol compared to other labs, or whether Ms. Chan complied with the protocol in a reliable fashion.”[58]

Arvizu was, however, able to determine that Chan’s testing in particular was unreliable and inaccurate. Chan first used the Marquis chemical color test as a screening test, and the suspected substance turned orange/brown suggesting it was amphetamines.  But the test was unreliable and meaningless because she did not use a color chart with which to compare her results. As she herself testified: “I believe it’s the same as you saying something is blue and me saying it’s light blue. It’s subjective.”[59] Subjective tests are unreliable by definition.

Her next test was a GC/MS analysis.  Chan first ran a “blank” or negative control to check for contamination. The test consisted of putting the suspected amphetamines into a solution and then placing this solution onto the machine. But she first put the solution alone onto the machine, to see whether it would register positive. It did, meaning the machine was contaminated.[60] As Arvizu testified: “When quality control samples fail, the run should be terminated and the failure should be investigated and corrective action taken before unknown sample are tested.”[61] Inexplicably, Chan continued the testing with the contaminated machine.

Actually, even before beginning her test, Chan should have also run a positive control by placing a known quantity of amphetamines, known as a standard, on the machine to calibrate it and see whether it was working properly. DEA analysts are required under ASCLD/LAB and ISO 17025 guidelines to run standards immediately before testing. Chan said she was not familiar with these guidelines and was not required to do so. Chan’s superior Shana Irby, who approved her testing, also testified that it is not required to run contemporaneous standards, and that it suffices if the machine has been checked ten months prior.[62] She claimed to have never seen any protocol requiring the running of contemporaneous standards, and that “as soon as I walk up to an instrument, I know – I generally know if it’s working or not.”[63] She also claimed it was not necessary to check beforehand whether the standard had disintegrated because “[M]ethamphetamine to my knowledge does not degrade.”[64] This is false, and these standards come with an expiration date beyond which they are not useable.

DEA labs are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board ((ASCLD/LAB) under the international criteria detailed in ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and the 2006 ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Accreditation certifies that the management and technical operations of the laboratory comply with the program requirements, including any corrective action that was required during any of audits. (Details regarding the accreditation program may be obtained from www.ascld-lab.org.) In other words, DEA labs are accredited on the basis that they ascribe to ISO/IEC 17025 and ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Arvizu said the DEA adheres to neither, and is, therefore, de facto, unaccredited.

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Posted on Mar 23, 2013
El Bibliomata (CC BY 2.0)

The job of corporate news pundits is to appear to say true and important things without attaching those views to themselves or their employers—to phrase every claim in the contingent form—writes Thomas Frank in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Frank’s latest “Easy Chair” column begins with a comment overheard during a conversation about austerity on NPR. “[H]istory just argues incredibly strongly against it,” David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, said. Frank agrees with the point—“Austerity is a bad idea”—but why cast history as a thing that argues, he asks? That’s to turn history into a member of the commentariat, a smug class of self-described experts that appears daily on CNN, FOX and MSNBC, where it professes “bright ideas” while wearing “solid midtone ties.”

Frank was a high school debater in the early 1980s. “We talked that way all the time,” he writes. “Arguments were what allowed us to keep score,” but they were a game—“a game for teenagers. … The point wasn’t for an individual debater to believe any particular argument and win the room over with the radiance of his faith; it was for him to be able to argue anything. Insincerity was essential.”

“For the commentator class,” he says, “the usage has a similar distancing effect. It’s a kind of shortcut to objectivity, and suggests that the pundit in question doesn’t actually believe something—oh heavens no—but is merely reporting that the belief might be held by someone, somewhere. So when Nina Easton appears on Fox News and says … that ‘one could argue that Barack Obama’s smartest political move was putting Hillary Clinton in his Cabinet so that she wasn’t outside with Bill Clinton causing mischief,’ she isn’t actually asserting this as the truth. She’s only reporting that one might assert this, were one so inclined.”

Modifying “argue” with “could” or “would,” as Easton did, “distances the wise person even further from the forbidden stuff of opinion.” In law and politics, such talk strikes the contemporary listener as normal. But when taken up by a celebrated contemporary novelist, it’s a different story. Junot Diaz recently used the convention while describing a character in one of his stories: “What we’re left with is a character who, for the first time in his life, I would argue, is capable of being in a normal relationship.”

Frank is awed by this. “Here we seem to be witnessing a deliberate and extraordinary divorce of speaker from subject. After all, who knows the development and the mental state of Díaz’s character better than Díaz himself? He labored over this short-story collection for sixteen years. Surely he can indulge in a little straight talk about his own creation without carefully leaving himself a rhetorical escape hatch.”

That Diaz, an artist, would assume the pundit’s habit of muddying a statement is discouraging to those who view artists as precious defenders of truth. Some want to inform their audiences that they’re in the “presence of a professional.” And professionals “don’t simply assert things but instead argue for them,” or “contend” that they “would” argue for them “in high minded settings like legal briefs and scholarly journals.” That is how, in America, enlightened people are supposed to speak. And that is how those who wish to be well regarded by members of the prevailing legal, media and political class cultivate and maintain their superiority to the rest of us, Frank posits.

“[W]e have seen enough to understand that the goal of the pundit cliché is to define and defend the class position of the pundit, to distinguish between the exalted them and the vast, sweating world of not-them,” he writes. “One part of this specialized vocabulary points toward elitism, the other toward blaring pseudopopulism, but if examined closely, both parts give away the game. This lingo is the jittery patter of a would-be democratic aristocracy, utterly incapable of introspection and yet better than the rest of us in every way.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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Celebrated Scientist Renounces National Academy and War

Celebrated Scientist Renounces National Academy and War

Posted on Mar 21, 2013
lubrio (CC BY 2.0)

Members of the Yanomami give a cultural demonstration in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2011.

Last month, University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins resigned from the National Academy of Sciences to protest the election to the group of Napoleon Chagnon, a peer whose specious arguments in favor of a natural human tendency toward violence have helped militarize the discipline and legitimize wars of aggression.

Saint Martin’s University anthropology professor David Price writes in CounterPunch that Chagnon descended into infamy in the eyes of many of his colleagues when he published a best-selling and widely influential ethnography that described the Yanomami of Brazil (whom he observed during fieldwork in the 1960s and ’70s) as “the fierce people.” He did this, he says, because of the high levels of violence he witnessed within the group and against neighboring tribes. Chagnon put his observations forward as evidence that humans are innately violent, in what he claimed (erroneously, as many anthropologists contend) to be their natural state.

Chagnon’s conclusions have been criticized as being the result of bad scientific practice. Anthropologist Jon Marks, on his blog Anthropomics, recently described Chagnon as an “incompetent anthropologist.” He clarified as follows:

Let me be clear about my use of the word “incompetent”.  His methods for collecting, analyzing and interpreting his data are outside the range of acceptable anthropological practices.  Yes, he saw the Yanomamo doing nasty things.  But when he concluded from his observations that the Yanomamo are innately and primordially “fierce”  he lost his anthropological credibility, because he had not demonstrated any such thing.   He has a right to his views, as creationists and racists have a right to theirs, but the evidence does not support the conclusion, which makes it scientifically incompetent.

Throughout his career, Sahlins has worked to demonstrate that culture can motivate people in ways that have nothing to do with biology. This puts him at direct odds with Chagnon, whose controversial and broadly contested view is that biology is the prime driver of social behavior. Sahlins’ response to the academy’s granting one of its few limited seats to Chagnon echoes Marks’:

By the evidence of his own writings as well as the testimony of others, including Amazonian peoples and professional scholars of the region, Chagnon has done serious harm to the indigenous communities among whom he did research.  At the same time, his “scientific” claims about human evolution and the genetic selection for male violence–as in the notorious study he published in 1988 in Science–have proven to be shallow and baseless, much to the discredit of the anthropological discipline. At best, his election to the NAS was a large moral and intellectual blunder on the part of members of the Academy. So much so that my own participation in the Academy has become an embarrassment.

Another reason for his resignation, he added, was a moral objection to the academy’s increasing role in research that facilitates the United States’ general posture of war:

Nor do I wish to be a party to the aid, comfort, and support the NAS is giving to social science research on improving the combat performance of the US military, given the toll that military has taken on the blood, treasure, and happiness of American people, and the suffering it has imposed on other peoples in the unnecessary wars of this century.  I believe that the NAS, if it involves itself at all in related research, should be studying how to promote peace, not how to make war.”

Scientists worldwide have risen to support Sahlins’ principled stance. Professor Eduardo Viveiros de Castro of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro told Sahlins and others in an email that Chagnon is “an enemy of Amazonian Indians,” and thanked “Prof. Sahlins for his courageous and firm position in support of the Yanomami and of anthropological science.”

The controversy raises an issue that has plagued the scientific community since its clear emergence in the Enlightenment: How can people of conscience keep science from becoming a pawn for power?

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

David H. Price at CounterPunch:

We are left to wonder what is to become of science, whether practiced with a capital (at times blind) “S” or a lower case inquisitive variety, when those questioning some its practices, misapplications and outcomes are increasingly marginalized, while those whose findings align with our broader cultural values of warfare are embraced.  The NAS’s rallying around such a divisive figure as Chagnon, demonizing his critics, claiming they are attacking not his practices and theories, but science itself damages the credibility of these scientists.  It is unfortunate that the National Academy of Sciences has backed itself into this corner.

The dynamics of such divisiveness are not unique to this small segment of the scientific community. In his 1966 essay on, “The Destruction of Conscience in Vietnam,” Sahlins argued that to continue wage the war, America had to destroy its own conscience—that facing those destroyed by our actions was too much for the nation to otherwise bare, writing: “Conscience must be destroyed: it has to end at the barrel of a gun, it cannot extend to the bullet.  So all peripheral rationales fade into the background.  It becomes a war of transcendent purpose, and in such a war all efforts on the side of Good are virtuous, and all deaths unfortunate necessary.  The end justifies the means.”

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Get Corporations Out of Education: An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

(Note from the Answer Sheet's Valerie Strauss: A coalition of teachers from public and private schools — including the school that Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended as a child and where President Obama’s daughters were enrolled before they moved to Washington — are releasing an open letter to Duncan expressing concerns about department policies that they say promote the overuse of standardized tests. Among the signees are teachers from the Ariel Community Academy, a public school that was founded by a team of people that included Duncan.)Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (AP file)

Dear Mr. Duncan,

As primary, secondary, and university educators who are passionate about the importance of a liberal arts education in building and maintaining a democratic society, we are very concerned with the impact of standardized testing on humanities curricula. The widespread trend of teaching to the test is undermining primary and secondary education. Social studies, history, the fine arts, the study of literatures and languages, drama and music; these and other subjects not assessed in the standardized tests of “No Child Left Behind” are subjects that are themselves being left behind as administrators pressure teachers to raise narrowly conceived test scores in a few core areas.

We seek to build respect for the democratic process, critical thinking skills, writing skills, and understanding that is not accurately measured in multiple-choice tests.  (see the Fair Test website for a review of the literature: http://www.fairtest.org/k-12/high%20stakes). While we see the Common Core Curriculum as a step in the right direction, we steadfastly reject attempts pushed by testing companies to devise standardized assessments to measure progress in reading, writing, and speaking. Nor do we believe that computer programs currently being developed by major assessment corporations, or any form of outsourcing of essay assessments, are viable solutions.

Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

Instead of relying on standardized tests, we believe that the best way to pursue higher standards in reading, writing, and speaking skills is to develop standardized and widely accepted rubrics for assessment and allow teachers to assess their students with these rubrics.

We are very concerned with the extent to which current educational policies have embraced what John Dewey would call “instrumental rationality” in seeking solutions that can be statistically measured. We are currently seeing a national backlash against such measurements from parents, teachers, and administrators. These statistical measures merely confirm the very real social gaps between the haves and the have-nots in American education.  (For a review of the literature see http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/reardon%20whither%20opportunity%20-%20chapter%205.pdf).

University administrators have known for some time that high SAT scores correlate closely with socioeconomic class. Students who do well on them may succeed more frequently in college than those who do not, but this correlation may be telling us more about the test than about the students. Secondary teachers often see students who are terrific at taking tests, but who choose to avoid tasks requiring difficult thinking.

University educators want students who can write, research, and think: students who are open minded, passionate, and curious. These qualities are snuffed out under the drive for high scores on standardized multiple-choice tests under “No Child Left Behind."

Secondary educators want to prepare students for the challenges that they will face at colleges and universities. This is difficult to do when an overemphasis on discrete item standardized testing prevents them from engaging their students in the meaningful work that best prepares them for the next level.

We know that your office is bombarded with lobbyists from major testing companies, textbook companies, and big donors with big money who seek to shape education reform. State Boards of Education are faced with similar pressures. We feel strongly that big money is far too invested in the current debate, and we are concerned that their influence is determining much of what passes for “reform.” Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

We invite further discussion at your convenience. A delegation from among the signees below will be happy to meet you for hoops and a discussion.

Sincerely yours,

New Trier High School:
Lindsey Arado
Mike Baeb
Kerry Brennan
Ian Duell
David Hjelmgren
Tim Kajfez
Tom Kucharski
Debbie Johnson
Todd Maxman
Dean Pinos
John O’Connor
Alex Zilka

 Northern Illinois University:
Jerome D. Bowers, History Dept.

 University of Illinois-Chicago:
Robert Johnston, History Dept.

 Concord Review:
Will Fitzhugh, Editor and Publisher

 The Report Card:
William Korach, Editor and Publisher

 University of Chicago Laboratory Schools:
Luicija Ambrosini
Allen Ambrosini
Suzanne Baum
Charles Branham
Wayne Brasler
Brad Brickner
David Derbes
Steve Granzyk
Lee Gustafson
Paul Horton
Chris Janus
Bob Kass
Mark Krewatch
Andrea Martonffy
Lisa Miller
Rachel Nielsen
Diane Puklin, Emeritus
Susan Shapiro
Kelly Storm
Brian Wildeman

Ariel Community Academy
Allie Griffin
Shirley Knox
Jake Sklarsky
Willis Niederfrank

 Chicago Teachers Union

Get Corporations Out of Education: An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

(Note from the Answer Sheet's Valerie Strauss: A coalition of teachers from public and private schools — including the school that Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended as a child and where President Obama’s daughters were enrolled before they moved to Washington — are releasing an open letter to Duncan expressing concerns about department policies that they say promote the overuse of standardized tests. Among the signees are teachers from the Ariel Community Academy, a public school that was founded by a team of people that included Duncan.)Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (AP file)

Dear Mr. Duncan,

As primary, secondary, and university educators who are passionate about the importance of a liberal arts education in building and maintaining a democratic society, we are very concerned with the impact of standardized testing on humanities curricula. The widespread trend of teaching to the test is undermining primary and secondary education. Social studies, history, the fine arts, the study of literatures and languages, drama and music; these and other subjects not assessed in the standardized tests of “No Child Left Behind” are subjects that are themselves being left behind as administrators pressure teachers to raise narrowly conceived test scores in a few core areas.

We seek to build respect for the democratic process, critical thinking skills, writing skills, and understanding that is not accurately measured in multiple-choice tests.  (see the Fair Test website for a review of the literature: http://www.fairtest.org/k-12/high%20stakes). While we see the Common Core Curriculum as a step in the right direction, we steadfastly reject attempts pushed by testing companies to devise standardized assessments to measure progress in reading, writing, and speaking. Nor do we believe that computer programs currently being developed by major assessment corporations, or any form of outsourcing of essay assessments, are viable solutions.

Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

Instead of relying on standardized tests, we believe that the best way to pursue higher standards in reading, writing, and speaking skills is to develop standardized and widely accepted rubrics for assessment and allow teachers to assess their students with these rubrics.

We are very concerned with the extent to which current educational policies have embraced what John Dewey would call “instrumental rationality” in seeking solutions that can be statistically measured. We are currently seeing a national backlash against such measurements from parents, teachers, and administrators. These statistical measures merely confirm the very real social gaps between the haves and the have-nots in American education.  (For a review of the literature see http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/reardon%20whither%20opportunity%20-%20chapter%205.pdf).

University administrators have known for some time that high SAT scores correlate closely with socioeconomic class. Students who do well on them may succeed more frequently in college than those who do not, but this correlation may be telling us more about the test than about the students. Secondary teachers often see students who are terrific at taking tests, but who choose to avoid tasks requiring difficult thinking.

University educators want students who can write, research, and think: students who are open minded, passionate, and curious. These qualities are snuffed out under the drive for high scores on standardized multiple-choice tests under “No Child Left Behind."

Secondary educators want to prepare students for the challenges that they will face at colleges and universities. This is difficult to do when an overemphasis on discrete item standardized testing prevents them from engaging their students in the meaningful work that best prepares them for the next level.

We know that your office is bombarded with lobbyists from major testing companies, textbook companies, and big donors with big money who seek to shape education reform. State Boards of Education are faced with similar pressures. We feel strongly that big money is far too invested in the current debate, and we are concerned that their influence is determining much of what passes for “reform.” Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

We invite further discussion at your convenience. A delegation from among the signees below will be happy to meet you for hoops and a discussion.

Sincerely yours,

New Trier High School:
Lindsey Arado
Mike Baeb
Kerry Brennan
Ian Duell
David Hjelmgren
Tim Kajfez
Tom Kucharski
Debbie Johnson
Todd Maxman
Dean Pinos
John O’Connor
Alex Zilka

 Northern Illinois University:
Jerome D. Bowers, History Dept.

 University of Illinois-Chicago:
Robert Johnston, History Dept.

 Concord Review:
Will Fitzhugh, Editor and Publisher

 The Report Card:
William Korach, Editor and Publisher

 University of Chicago Laboratory Schools:
Luicija Ambrosini
Allen Ambrosini
Suzanne Baum
Charles Branham
Wayne Brasler
Brad Brickner
David Derbes
Steve Granzyk
Lee Gustafson
Paul Horton
Chris Janus
Bob Kass
Mark Krewatch
Andrea Martonffy
Lisa Miller
Rachel Nielsen
Diane Puklin, Emeritus
Susan Shapiro
Kelly Storm
Brian Wildeman

Ariel Community Academy
Allie Griffin
Shirley Knox
Jake Sklarsky
Willis Niederfrank

 Chicago Teachers Union

Soybean Farmer Takes Monsanto to Supreme Court

Soybean Farmer Takes Monsanto to Supreme Court

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Posted on Feb 9, 2013
jster91 (CC BY 2.0)

Soybean crops.

A single 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer in rural southwestern Indiana is taking on the multibillion dollar agricultural giant Monsanto over the issue of who controls the rights to seeds planted in the ground.

When confronted with the David vs. Goliath nature of his battle, Vernon Hugh Bowman told The Guardian: “I really don’t consider it as David and Goliath. I don’t think of it in those terms. I think of it in terms of right and wrong.”

In the next few weeks, legal teams representing Bowman and Monsanto will face off in front of the U.S. supreme court. The dispute pertains to Monsanto’s “aggressive protection” of a proprietary soybean it calls Roundup Ready. The bean has been genetically engineered to resist its Roundup herbicide and the product’s generic equivalents.

The company maintains that when farmers like Bowman plant Monsanto’s seeds, they are obligated to harvest only the resulting crop and not use any of it for planting the following year. The arrangement means that farmers have to buy new Monsanto seeds each year.

“[D]espite the vast sums of money involved in modern farming, it is ironically Bowman’s own lack of cash that has seen the case end up at the supreme court,” Paul Harris reports at The Guardian. “Monsanto has a long record of reaching settlements with commercially pressured farmers it targets for patent infringements. But when the firm sued Bowman, he was already bankrupt after an unrelated land deal went wrong. Thus, he had little to lose. ‘I made up my mind to fight it until I could not fight it anymore,’ he said. ‘I thought: I am not going to play dead.’”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

[F]armers are able to buy excess soybeans from local grain elevators, many of which are likely to be Roundup Ready due to the huge dominance Monsanto has in the market. Indeed in Indiana it is believed more than 90% of soybeans for sale as “commodity seeds” could be such beans, each containing the genes Monsanto developed.

Bowman, who has farmed the same stretch of land for most of the past four decades and grew up on a farm, ended up on Monsanto’s radar for using such seeds – bought from a local grain elevator, rather than Monsanto – for year after year and replanting part of each crop. He did not do so for his main crop of soybeans, but rather for a smaller “second late season planting” usually planted on a field that had just been harvested for wheat. “We have always had the right to go to an elevator, buy some ‘junk grain’ and use it for seed if you desire,” Bowman said.

To put it mildly, Monsanto disagrees. The firm insists that it maintains patent rights on its genetically modified seeds even if sold by a third party with no restrictions put on its use – even if the seeds are actually only descendants of the original Monsanto seeds. To that end it sued Bowman, eventually winning a legal settlement of some $84,456 (£53,500) against him for infringing the firm’s patent rights. Monsanto says that if it allowed Bowman to keep replanting his seeds it would undermine its business model, endangering the expensive research that it uses to produce advanced agricultural products.

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Activist Heavyweights Convene Against NDAA

Activist Heavyweights Convene Against NDAA

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Posted on Feb 8, 2013
StopNDAA

After a court hearing over the 2012 NDAA in Manhattan on Wednesday, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges appeared on a panel of activists who are suing the Obama administration over its attempt to claim the right to indefinitely hold U.S. citizens in military detention.

The group convened to discuss the state of the lawsuit. Joining Hedges were these co-plaintiffs: Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg; Revolution Truth Executive Director Tangerine Bolen; journalist and U.S Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien; and Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal. They were joined by legal counsel Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran.

For a second panel on the “broader context of the case,” Hedges, Ellsberg and Bolen remained and were joined by filmmaker Michael Moore, NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, an attorney for CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou and a director of the Government Accountability Project.

Natasha Lennard of Salon.com and Matt Sledge of The Huffington Post moderated the discussion, which was organized by StopNDAA.

Joe Friendly:

Said Carl Mayer: “In broad terms, the stakes I think are very high, because what our case comes down to is, are we going to have a civil justice system in the United States, or a military justice system? The civil justice system is something that’s ingrained in the Constitution and was always very important in combating tyranny and building a democratic society. And what the NDAA is trying to impose is a system of military justice that allows the military to police the streets of America, to detain U.S. citizens, to detain residents in the United States, in military prisons. And I say that probably the most frightening aspect of the NDAA is that it allows for detention, quote, ‘until the end of hostilities.’ We’re now, by my count, at day 4,163 of this war, which is an open-ended war against al-Qaida, the Taliban, and now it’s defined as ‘associated forces’ in the NDAA.”

Said Chris Hedges: “The drone wars … the NDAA … the FISA Amendment Act … what they’re attempting to do is legally justify what they’re already doing. They have argued that under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force they have the right to assassinate American citizens. I have read that act innumerable times … and none of us find that in the act. That is, to be generous, a radical interpretation of the AUMF. And so what they’re seeking to do is legally justify, in the same way that [Bush assistant attorney general John] Yoo was attempting to legally justify torture, they’re essentially looking for kind of legal cover. … It’s all a part of this very rapid descent into a frightening form of corporate totalitarianism.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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TYT: NRA’s LaPierre Makes Fox News Look Reasonable

From Cenk's crew over at The Young Turks, it's a pretty sad day when someone manages to make one of the talking heads over at Fox look rational, but that's exactly what we got from wingnut NRA head Wayne LaPierre this weekend on Fox News Sunday. I was listening to Randi Rhodes this Monday and she made some of the same points about the DMV and the "bureaucratic nightmare" that LaPierre was complaining about during his interview with Wallace.

Here's more from TYT's You Tube channel and warning for the clip above, it's not safe for work: NRA's LaPierre Makes Fox News Look Reasonable:

"On Fox News Sunday, following the segment featuring Mark Kelly, Chris Wallace interviewed National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre about various issues surrounding gun control — ranging from background checks to mental health concerns to armed security at schools. Pressing LaPierre on his arguments, Wallace challenged him on some of his opposition to gun control.

Wallace began with background checks, citing the 1.7 million people who've been denied because of the checks — but LaPierre argued that most of those people weren't prosecuted, and we can't say they "were stopped from getting a gun at all."*

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News. There, he argued that universal checks and registries would only be a "bureaucratic nightmare." No word on if Lapierre has ever been to the DMV or any other government regulating office. Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show), Michael Shure (Current TV Political Correspondent), and Brian Unger (How the States Got Their Shapes) discuss.

Santa Clausifying Martin Luther King, Jr.

Santa Clausifying Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Posted on Feb 1, 2013
King statue
Kelly Branan

By David Sirota

Every year, right around the time between Martin Luther King Day and the beginning of Black History Month, the effort to distort Dr. King’s life and legacy seems to intensify. Some years, we see conservatives preposterously assert that if Dr. King were alive today, he would join today’s neo-confederate Republican Party. Other years, it is deception via omission—we see replays of Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, but do not see any of his speeches about war and poverty.
     
Princeton professor Cornel West accurately labels all this the “Santa Clausification” of Dr. King, and if you have ever heard or read a snippet of King’s 1967 Riverside Church speech, you will understand how apt the label is. You will also understand why this year’s most grotesque attempt to Santa Clausify Dr. King’s life is at once abhorrent and yet somewhat encouraging.
     
As The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald first reported, the United States Air Force’s Global Strike Command last week posted an online essay saying that Dr. King would cheer on soldiers “ensuring the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense.” Further, claimed the Air Force, “maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team ... is a fitting tribute to Dr. King.”
     
At the same time, the U.S. Marines commemorated Martin Luther King Day by tweeting out a famous King line—“a man who won’t die for something is not fit to live”—in a not-so-subtle attempt to depict him as a war supporter. That was a follow-up to a 2011 article posted on the Defense Department’s website with the headline: “King Might Understand Today’s Wars, Pentagon Lawyer Says.”
     
That gets us to the special relevance of the Riverside Church speech—the one that the Santa Clausifying Pentagon so obviously wants suppressed.
     
In that oratory, America’s most famous preacher of nonviolence deplored “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He argued that militarism is not the way to protect America and decried “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government.” And he insisted that “there is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”
     
Comparing the Pentagon’s historical revisionism with King’s words, Greenwald says: “The U.S. military is actually publicly claiming that the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner and steadfast critic of U.S. imperialism would be an admirer of its massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, its global assassination programs and its covert use of violence in multiple countries around the world, including where no wars are declared. Merely to describe this agitprop is to illustrate its repulsiveness.”
     
He’s absolutely right, but in that repulsiveness there is a promising revelation from a political system in which lies signal desperation.
     
In this particular case, the Pentagon’s willingness to so boldly lie about Dr. King betrays its desperation to reverse accelerating public opinion trends. Specifically, Pentagon spinmeisters seem to realize that, according to polls, more Americans are raising King-like questions about our government’s profligate defense spending and its attempts to preference militarism over other priorities.
     
This suggests that for all the propaganda attempting to Santa Clausify Dr. King and make us forget what he was all about, we may, in fact, be starting to honor Dr. King’s legacy.
     
That’s no excuse for the propaganda, of course—but it is a promising sign that we may actually be closer than ever to realizing Dr. King’s dream.

David Sirota is the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” Email him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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Cardinal Relieved of Duties Amid Catholic Church Scandal Exposure

Cardinal Relieved of Duties Amid Catholic Church Scandal Exposure

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Posted on Feb 1, 2013
AP/Reed Saxon

Cardinal Roger Mahony in 2007.

Finally, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has removed Cardinal Roger Mahony, a top clergyman linked to efforts to conceal child abuse, “as it released thousands [of] files [on] priests accused of molesting children,” The Guardian reports.

The 12,000 pages of files were made public more than a week after church records pertaining to 14 priests were released as part of another civil suit revealing that church officials worked to hide the abuse from law enforcement as late as 1987.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said after relieving Mahony, his predecessor, of all public and administrative duties. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez said in a statement.

“There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” he said.

Mahony’s former top aide, Thomas Curry, stepped down from his position as bishop of Santa Barbara as well.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The documents showed that Mahony, 76, and Curry, 70, both worked to send priests accused of abuse out of the state to shield them from scrutiny.

A spokesman for a victims’ support group said that the removal of Mahony and Curry was long overdue and a small step after the church spent years fighting to protect them.

“Hand-slapping Mahony is a nearly meaningless gesture,” said David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “When he had real power, and abused it horribly, he should have been demoted or disciplined by the church hierarchy, in Rome and in the US. But not a single Catholic cleric anywhere had the courage to even denounce him. Shame on them,” he said.

Mahony and Curry also tried to keep priests sent away to a church-run paedophile treatment centre from later revealing their misconduct to private therapists who would be obliged to report the crimes to police, the documents showed.

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Mehdi’s Morning Memo: The Great Train Rebellion

The ten things you need to know on Monday 28 January 2013...

THE GREAT TRAIN REBELLION

First, there were the Euro-rebels. Then the gay-marriage rebels. Now, it's the train-spotting rebels. David Cameron, it seems, can't stop picking fights with his backbenchers.

The Times splashes on the Tories' "high speed rebellion":

"David Cameron faces a grassroots Tory rebellion after he unveils plans today to drive the fastest railway in Europe through the party’s heartlands to Manchester and Leeds.

"The Times can reveal that a blueprint for the £33 billion High Speed 2 line, to be published this morning, will" - among other things - "pledge to create 100,00 jobs, including 10,000 during construction". Hmm, they had me at "100,000 jobs".

This could be the moment that former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan - leader of parliament's Nimby brigade, whose Amersham and Chesham seat is on the route and has described it as "the wrong railway in the wrong place at the wrong time and for such a high cost" - takes revenge on the PM for sacking her from the cabinet last year. Dave may come to regret giving Cheryl the boot while swilling a glass of red wine...

Note: Apologies for the lack of a Morning Memo yesterday. I was out of the country, at a conference. Normal Sunday service will resume next weekend.

2) DAVE VS ADAM

Perhaps Cheryl Gillan will have to get in line. Yesterday, a new challenger appeared on the scene: (backbench) Conservative MP for Windsor, Adam Afriyie. (Adam who?)

The Independent's Andy McSmith reports:

"The debate began after three Tory-supporting Sunday newspapers reported a 'well-organised' campaign to secure the leadership for Mr Afriyie, who was a frontbench spokesman for the Conservatives in opposition but was excluded from the Government.

"... Mr Afriyie said he almost choked on his breakfast cereal when he read the reports. He told Sky News: 'I will never stand against David Cameron. I am 100 per cent supportive of David Cameron... There is no truth to any of it. We are working very hard to keep David Cameron secure, to make sure there is not a vacancy.'

"However, he also said he and his allies had talked about 'the long-term future of the party,' indicating that he sees himself as a candidate in a post-2015 leadership contest if the Tories lose the general election.

"The promise not to stand against Mr Cameron is actually meaningless, because the rules of the Conservative Party, revised after the fall of Margaret Thatcher, do not permit a direct challenge to a Tory Prime Minister, who must be felled by a vote of no confidence before an election can be held to choose a successor."

The Telegraph reveals, on its front page, that "a handful of former ministers who were sacked by Mr Cameron in the reshuffle have been working for weeks, trying to cement support for Mr Afriyie if the Tories lose the likely May 2015 election".

The paper's leader concludes: "The silly season appears to have started early this year."

Indeed.

3) LIB DEMS FOREVER

"England does not love coalitions," Benjamin Disraeli famously remarked. This morning's Independent has this as one of its front-page headlines: "Prepare for an era of coalitions, say Lib Dems."

The paper's Andrew Grice has interviewed the Tories' favourite Lib Dem minister, David Laws, and reports:

"Liberal Democrat leaders want all three main parties to draw up a slimline manifesto for an era of 'coalition politics' as well as an 'age of austerity' at the 2015 general election.

"In an interview with The Independent, David Laws, who heads the Liberal Democrats' manifesto group, said: 'We have to learn the lesson of tuition fees.'"

The Indy also notes how party leader Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme yesterday that the Lib Dems would be up for joining a coalition with Labour if the latter beat the Conservatives at the next election.

Is the country ready for its own version of Germany's Free Democrats - i.e. a third party that is permanently in government via ever-changing coalitions?

4) DON'T COME TO BRITAIN. IT SUCKS HERE.

This is my favourite story of the day - from the Guardian's front page:

"Please don't come to Britain – it rains and the jobs are scarce and low-paid. Ministers are considering launching a negative advertising campaign in Bulgaria and Romania to persuade potential immigrants to stay away from the UK.

"The plan, which would focus on the downsides of British life, is one of a range of potential measures to stem immigration to Britain next year when curbs imposed on both country's citizens living and working in the UK will expire.

"A report over the weekend quoted one minister saying that such a negative advert would 'correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold'."

Well, of course, they're not. We're on the verge of a triple-dip recession, with real wages falling and child poverty on the rise. Thanks, in part, to policies backed by that unnamed, anonymous minister.

But, take a step back, what kind of government is so obsessed with 'cracking down' on immigration that it's willing to consider doing down the country's international image in order to keep migrants out? You could not make it up.

To be fair, the FT reports: "Downing Street played down any such campaign yesterday, with one aide dismissing the idea as 'kite flying'."

5) DON'T FORGET MALI

Hats off to the Indy and the Guardian for keeping news the conflict in Mali on their front pages.

The Independent's splash headline reads: "Revealed: how French raid killed 12 Malian villagers."

The paper reports:

"A father last night described the moment a French attack helicopter bombed his town in Mali, killing his wife and at least three children from another family. Amadou Jallo, 57, lost his wife, Aminata, in the attack on Konna, in which 12 civilians died and 15 more were injured."

Meanwhile, the Guardian's Luke Harding reports:

"Just two weeks after intervening in Mali, French troops, together with the Malian army, have wrested back control of most of the north of the country from Islamist rebels.

But, he adds:

"... despite these swift successes, it is uncertain whether France's giddy military advance will deliver any kind of lasting peace. So far the 'war' in Mali has involved little fighting. Instead Islamist rebels have simply melted back into the civilian population, or disappeared."

Hmm. Sounds like Afghanistan circa late 2001.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video: "Six dogs. One Dish. One incredibly cute trick."

6) ERIC PICKLES VS 'CHEATING' COUNCILS

The Telegraph splashes on the "minister at war over 'cheating' councils":

"Councils are treating local residents 'with contempt' and will be cheating taxpayers if they increase local taxes without public backing, the Local Government Secretary warns.

"In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Eric Pickles says he will introduce new laws to stop councils abusing the system by hitting householders with stealth tax rises next year.

"Mr Pickles, who describes some councils as 'cheating their taxpayers', discloses that only about a third have so far signed up for a national council tax freeze, with dozens more threatening to defy government calls for restraint amid the ongoing economic turmoil."

Perhaps, just perhaps, if the coalition hadn't frontloaded their cuts to local government budgets, councils wouldn't need to raise council tax.

7) VOTE TORY, GET NO HOLIDAYS?

From the Guardian:

"David Cameron will use EU reforms to repatriate and weaken workers' rights, Frances O'Grady, the new leader of the Trades Union Congress will warn on Monday.

"Speaking at a conference in Madrid she will say that, if the prime minister gets his way, employees across Europe may no longer receive health and safety protection, equal treatment as part-time workers and women, or paid holidays."

8) NO NEED TO SMELL THE COFFEE

The papers this morning are all ove the so-called 'spat' between the government and Starbucks. The Express reports:

"Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps yesterday denied that the Tories had 'singled out' coffee giant Starbucks over how much tax it paid.

"His comments follow claims that the US firm had threatened to stop investing in Britain after Prime Minister David Cameron urged business last week to 'wake up and smell the coffee' about public anger over tax avoidance.

"It was seen as a dig at Starbucks, which has paid no corporation tax in the last three years and only £8.6million in 14 years in Britain."

9) 'DIVERSITY CRISIS'

The Guardian's splash is a self-professed 'exclusive':

"Police forces should be made to positively discriminate in favour of black and ethnic minority officers in the face of a growing diversity crisis, according to one of the country's leading chief constables.

"The radical proposal – which would mean a change in the law – from Sir Peter Fahy, of Greater Manchester, comes in the face of what he said was an embarrassing paucity of black and minority ethnic officers (BME) at the top of British policing."

I'm all for more diversity, and even - as a last resort - positive discrimination, but Fahy's rather odd comments about more BME officers helping with "undercover surveillance" won't go down that well with BME communities...

10) BARACK AND HILLARY SITTING IN A TREE...

It's not often you see the president of the United States sit down for a joint interview alongside his secretary of state.

From the Guardian:

"Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton coyly batted away questions over any White House succession plan during a mutually appreciative interview on Sunday...

"'You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago, and you're talking about the elections four years from now,' offered Obama.

"Clinton likewise gave an answer that could be interpreted any number of ways: 'Obviously the president and I care deeply about what's going to happen for our country in the future. And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year,' she said."

Obama declared, with Clinton at his side: "I'm going to miss her." Awww - to think it was only five years ago that they were tearing strips out of each other in public as they tried to destroy each other's political careers.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 35
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 7

That would give Labour a majority of 78.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@TomHarrisMP If Cameron fails to win a majority in 2015, then obviously *someone* will take over. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a conspiracy.

@BevanJa Is it possible for newspapers to suggest a black politician may be a future party leader without a crude comparison to Obama?

@DanHannanMEP Does Nick Clegg lack all self-awareness? A referendum on AV was critical, but a referendum on the EU is a distraction?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe."

Gavin Kelly, writing in the Guardian, says: "Could the Tories' plan for re-election in 2015 cost just 10p?"

David Blunkett, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "Coalition's constituency boundary reforms are a complete mess and an insult to voters."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Sunday Morning Bobblehead Thread


The Rachel Maddow Show -- November 22, 2012

Guess who is going to be wrong on the Sunday shows again? That's right, Mr. Perennial John McCain. There is a truly unique sense of "failing up" that takes place within the Beltway and the Sunday shows that I don't think you could find anywhere else. If you or I in our job was as consistently wrong as John McCain has been, we would be on the unemployment rolls. But there is literally no way for a Republican or conservative to be so wrong, so out of touch that he or she will not be invited back to sit on the Sunday shows panels, especially someone like McCain. I suspect that he has a staffer whose sole purpose is to keep in touch with bookers for all the news outlets and offer his availability week after week.

And bookers, lazy little buggers that they are, don't want to work to find different and maybe better voices.

And hosts, as compromised as they are, don't want to make their golfing buddies or the guy they just sat next to at a fundraiser the night before, feel dismissed or ignored.

And executive producers, as cognizant as they are of the interests of their parent company, aren't invested in informing viewers or framing issues that follow the concerns of anyone outside the Beltway.

And so we are left with yet another Sunday with John McCain being wrong. And Paul Ryan being wrong, and Marsha Blackburn being wrong, and Newt Gingrich, being so very wrong. Thanks, Beltway media.

ABC's "This Week" -- Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and John McCain, R-Ariz. Panel: ABC News' George Will; Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile; NPR "Morning Edition" host Steve Inskeep; and New Republic owner and publisher Chris Hughes. Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter and producer Mark Boal and Atlantic national correspondent Mark Bowden, best-selling author of "Blackhawk Down."

NBC's "Meet the Press" -- Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Panel: Incoming President of the Heritage Foundation, former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC); President and CEO of the NAACP Ben Jealous; Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward; NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell; and NBC News Special Correspondent Ted Koppel.

NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" -- Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent; Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent; Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post; Chris Frates, National Journal.

CBS' "Face the Nation" -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Romney Senior Adviser Kevin Madden and Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.

MSNBC's "UP with Chris Hayes" -- Ambassador Swanee Hunt, the former ambassador to Austria, now the Elizabeth Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; Robin Wright, joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center, author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World;” Horace Campbell, professor of African politics, African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University, author of “Pan Africanism, Pan Africanists, and African Liberation in the 21st Century;” Joshua Trevino, vice president of external public relations at the Texas Public Policy Foundation; Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, author of “Ending the Iraq War;” Adam Serwer, reporter and blogger for Mother Jones.

"Melissa Harris-Perry" -- Guest list not released.

CNN's "State of the Union" -- Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal; former CIA Director Michael Hayden; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca); Govs. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., and Scott Walker, R-Wis.; Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah; former Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez.

CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" -- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, King Abdullah II of Jordan.

CNN's "Reliable Sources" -- Bob Costas; Newsweek/Daily Beast's David Frum, Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page; Washington Post’s “Reliable Source” columnist Amy Argetsinger.

"Fox News Sunday" -- Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally; retired Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council. Panel: Brit Hume, Fox News Senior Political Analyst; Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times; Kimberley Strassel, The Wall Street Journal; Juan Williams, Fox News Contributor.

So, what's catching your eye this morning?

Obama’s Dirty Wars Exposed at Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah—As President Barack Obama prepared to be sworn in for his second term as the 44th president of the United States, two courageous journalists premiered a documentary at the annual Sundance Film Festival. “Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield” reaffirms the critical role played by independent journalists like the film’s director, Rick Rowley, and its narrator and central figure, Jeremy Scahill. The increasing pace of U.S. drone strikes, and the Obama administration’s reliance on shadowy special forces to conduct military raids beyond the reach of oversight and accountability, were summarily missed over the inaugural weekend by a U.S. press corps obsessed with first lady Michelle Obama’s new bangs. “Dirty Wars,” along with Scahill’s forthcoming book of the same title, is on target to break that silence ... with a bang that matters.

Scahill and Rowley, no strangers to war zones, ventured beyond Kabul, Afghanistan, south to Gardez, in Paktia province, a region dense with armed Taliban and their allies in the Haqqani network, to investigate one of the thousands of night raids that typically go unreported.

Scahill told me: “In Gardez, U.S. special operations forces had intelligence that a Taliban cell was having some sort of a meeting to prepare a suicide bomber. And they raid the house in the middle of the night, and they end up killing five people, including three women, two of whom were pregnant, and ... Mohammed Daoud, a senior Afghan police commander who had been trained by the U.S.”

Scahill and Rowley went to the heart of the story, to hear from people who live at the target end of U.S. foreign policy. In Gardez, they interviewed survivors of that violent raid on the night of Feb. 12, 2010. After watching his brother and his wife, his sister and his niece killed by U.S. special forces, Mohammed Sabir was handcuffed on the ground. He watched, helpless, as the U.S. soldiers dug the bullets out of his wife’s corpse with a knife. He and the other surviving men were then flown off by helicopter to another province.

Sabir recounted his ordeal for Rowley’s camera: “My hands and clothes were caked with blood. They didn’t give us water to wash the blood away. The American interrogators had beards and didn’t wear uniforms. They had big muscles and would fly into sudden rages. By the time I got home, all our dead had already been buried. Only my father and my brother were left at home. I didn’t want to live anymore. I wanted to wear a suicide jacket and blow myself up among the Americans. But my brother and my father wouldn’t let me. I wanted a jihad against the Americans."

Before leaving, Scahill and Rowley made copies of videos from the cellphones of survivors. One demonstrated that it was not a Taliban meeting, but a lively celebration of the birth of a child that the raid interrupted. Rowley described another video: “You can hear voices come over it, and they’re American-accented voices speaking about piecing together their version of the night’s killings, getting their story straight. You hear them trying to concoct a story about how this was something other than a massacre.”

The film shows an image captured in Gardez, by photographer Jeremy Kelly, sometime after the massacre. It showed a U.S. admiral named McRaven, surrounded by Afghan soldiers, offering a sheep as a traditional gesture seeking forgiveness for the massacre. The cover-up had failed.

William McRaven headed the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. Following the thread of JSOC, painstakingly probing scarcely reported night raids, traveling from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia, Scahill’s reporting, along with Rowley’s incredible camerawork, constructs for the first time a true, comprehensive picture of JSOC and Commander in Chief Obama’s not-so-brave new world.

The Inauguration Day drone strike in Yemen was the fourth in as many days, along with a similar increase in strikes in Pakistan. The Washington Post reported that Obama has a “playbook” that details when drone strikes are authorized, but it reportedly exempts those conducted by the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Inauguration Day, Obama officially nominated John Brennan, a strong advocate for the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that many call torture, and architect of the drone program, to head the CIA.

With the film “Dirty Wars,” co-written with David Riker and directed by Rowley, Jeremy Scahill is pulling back the curtain on JSOC, which has lately exploded into the public eye with the torture-endorsing movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the killing of Osama bin Laden. When “Dirty Wars” comes to a theater near you, see it. Sadly, it proves the theater of war is everywhere, or, as its subtitle puts it: “The World Is a Battlefield.” As Scahill told me, “You’re going to see a very different reality, and you’re going to see the hellscape that has been built by a decade of covert war.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2012 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: The London Speech

The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 23rd January 2013...

1) THE LONDON SPEECH

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it's David Cameron's long-awaited, much-anticipated, repeatedly-delayed, 'tantric' speech on Britain's relationship with the European Union. You only need to know two words to understand the main message: "in" and "out".

From the Times splash:

"Voters will have the chance to leave the European Union before the end of 2017, David Cameron will pledge today as he sets Britain on course for a momentous referendum.

"The Prime Minister will commit himself to winning an 'in-out' vote even if the campaign puts him at odds with much of his party or even if the EU remains largely unreformed. But he will seek to give the referendum unstoppable momentum by publishing a draft Bill before 2015 and setting a deadline of November 2017 before which it must be held.

"'It is time for the British people to have their say,' he will declare."

The prime minister is on his feet right now at Bloomberg's HQ in the City of London telling his audience why they shouldn't vote Ukip. Well, not quite.

But to pretend this speech is anything other than an attempt to head off Nigel Farage's gang, and see off the internal threat to his leadership from his eurosceptic backbenchers, is either naive or disingenuous. Remember: Cameron never wanted - or planned - to give this speech and, thanks to a combination of Al Qaeda and Angela Merkel, had to keep putting it off.

To be fair, though, as the Guardian's Patrick Wintour acknowledges: "The prime minister's call for an in-out referendum is a moment of truth for a pragmatic man assumed to be instinctively opposed to political risk."

The morning papers almost all lead on the PM's 'London speech' (why didn't he just go to Bruges and be done with it? Bloomberg? Ed Balls beat him to it in 2010):

"You will get an in or out vote on Europe" (Daily Mail)

"Cameron to pledge an 'in-out' vote on Europe" (Financial Times)

"Cameron: I'll hold an in-out vote on Europe" (Telegraph)

"Cameron pledges in-out referendum on Europe" (Times)

"In or out? PM pledges EU exit vote by 2017" (Independent)

You can read full coverage and analysis of Cameron's EU address at www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/politics

2) BIBI'S BACK

From the BBC:

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to form 'as broad a government as possible' after his alliance won a narrow election victory.

"His right-wing Likud-Beitenu bloc will have 31 seats in parliament - a sharp drop from 42, exit polls suggest.

"In a major surprise, the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party came second with a predicted 18-19 seats, with Labour next on 17.

"Analysts now predict weeks of political horse-trading to form a new cabinet."

Here are my own two predictions: 1) Bibi will continue to pay no attention to the so-called 'peace process' with the Palestinians, who were barely mentioned in this Israeli election campaign. 2) Bibi will continue to fear-monger about Iran in order try and divert attention away from Israel's ongoing (and illegal) settlement programme in the occupied West Bank.

3) BACK TO THE FUTURE

From the Financial Times:

"A-level grades could be awarded solely on marks for examinations taken and coursework submitted at the end of two years of study, as they once were, under proposals to be unveiled today by the government.

"In a letter to Ofqual, the qualifications regulator, Michael Gove, the education secretary, has said the 'primary purpose of A-levels is to prepare students for degree-level study' and that he wanted to 'restore' the reputation of the A-level with changes to its structure.

"... Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary, said the government 'is all about turning the clock back. This plan would narrow the options for young people.'"

Meanwhile, the Mirror reports that nearly 100 groups, including the National Theatre, say the Tory-led Coalition is "pushing through [its GCSE] reforms too fast".

4) THE KING'S SPEECH

Watch out, Mark Carney! From the Guardian:

"Sir Mervyn King last night launched a thinly disguised attack on his successor as Bank of England governor, deriding proposals to ditch the central bank's inflation target in favour of a growth target based as 'wishful thinking'.

"King warned that policies designed to meet a growth target - a strategy backed by the incoming governor, Mark Carney - was unrealistic and for 'dreamers', signalling a rift with the man due to take over in Threadneedle Street in the summer after being lured by George Osborne from his post as Canada's central bank chief.

"... King told an audience in Belfast: 'To drop the objective of low inflation would be to forget a lesson from our postwar history... So a long-run target of 2% inflation should be an essential part of our macroeconomic framework.'"

Is Merv perhaps miffed because the 2% inflation target is something that he came up with, as chief economist at the bank, in the 1990s?

5) CAMPAIGNING LIKE IT'S 2005

From the Guardian:

"A coalition of 100 UK development charities and faith groups will today launch a campaign to lobby David Cameron to use Britain's presidency of the G8 to leverage action on ending global hunger. The If campaign is the largest coalition of its kind since Make Poverty History in 2005, the last time Britain held the G8 presidency. This time, organisers are seeking more radical change. Although pegged around hunger and malnutrition, the campaign focuses more on the underlying causes of hunger, such as 'land grabs', tax avoidance and a lack of transparency over investments in poor countries."

Tax avoidance and land grabs? Progressives will be pleased.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of Hollywood actor James Franco's unintentionally hilarious poem on Obama inauguration.

6) GOING, GOING, GONG

The war between ministers and civil servants moves onto a new front. From the Independent:

"Ministers are to be given the power to 'fast-track' nominations for knighthoods and other awards as part of plans to radically shake up Britain's ancient honours system.

"Under proposals, discussed by the Cabinet, ministers would be able to circumvent Civil Service vetting procedures and recommend candidates for awards directly to the independent Honours Committee.

"... The move is facing resistance from some senior officials, who fear it will politicise the honours system and insist that ministers must follow the same procedures as charities and members of the public who want to nominate individuals for awards."

7) BLACKLISTED?

From the Times:

"Trade union officials helped to blacklist their own members from working on some of the most prestigious construction projects of the past 20 years, The Times has learnt.

"The names and personal details of workers deemed 'perennial troublemakers' by unions including Ucatt, the construction union, and Amicus, now part of Unite, were fed to a database run by a secretive vetting company set up and financed by several of Britain's biggest builders.

"In a Commons debate this afternoon, Labour is expected to call for an investigation into allegations that publicly funded construction projects, including the Olympics and Crossrail, consulted the... blacklist."

8) LIAR, LIAR, BENEFITS ON FIRE

The demonisation of welfare claimants continues apace. From the Metro:

"A lie detector test will be used by a council to see if benefits claimants are telling the truth, it emerged yesterday.

"The method called 'voice risk analysis' has been introduced to check details that people have provided about their claims.

"... But numerous academic studies have cast doubt on the accuracy of lie detectors with some claiming they are little better than chance."

The Guardian reports that a Conservative councillor, Fiona Ferguson, has quit the council after claiming that using voice risk analysis wouldn't help the council pursue fraud and would be "extremely damaging to our reputation". Let's hope so...

9) STRIVERS VS SHIRKERS, PART 44

From the Independent:

"A Treasury minister has warned the Conservative Party not to divide the British people into "shirkers and strivers" as it defends the squeeze on the welfare budget.

"Greg Clark, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, appeared to distance himself from the more hardline approach of George Osborne...

"Writing on the ConservativeHome website, he said there is nothing wrong with being a "striver", but argued that not everyone wants to be one... 'Not being a striver doesn't make you a shirker - it's simply a matter of working to live, not living to work.'"

10) BEYONCE'S BLUFF

"Oh, say could you see Beyoncé was just miming," reads the headline on the front of today's Times, which broke the story yesterday of how the first pop star in US inauguration history to be invited to sing the national anthem was, believe it or not, lip-syncing:

"It was the most celebrated rendition of America’s national anthem in a generation, but Beyoncé had left nothing to chance... Unbeknownst to millions of viewers, however, The Times has learned that the perfect note had been struck in advance: in a recording studio on the eve of Inauguration Day."

Uh oh. Then again, as my US colleagues over at HuffPost Hill tweeted last night: "Can't believe someone lip synched... AT THE FAKE INAUGURATION."

(On a side note, Kelly Clarkson's representative was quick to point out that her client "sang live as always". Oooohh...)

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"The fact is that ours is not just an island story – it is also a continental story." David Cameron's throws a bone to the dwindling band of British europhiles during his eurosceptic speech at Bloomberg this morning.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 31
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 10

That would give Labour a majority of 110.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@chrisshipitv Farage on #EUspeech: the genie is out of the bottle. Once the "out" word is out there - it's going to be difficult to put it back in

@rafaelbehr So, the big speech, eh. Looks like Cam buying security for himself now in exchange for certain Tory split c.2017

@AliAbunimah Did you hear the scandal about how Beyoncé ordered the extrajudicial murders of Americans and others? Oh wait, sorry, that was Obama.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Fear of the grey vote has turned politicians into cowards."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Obama is far better at hope than at audacity."

Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "French intervention in Mali will fuel terrorism, but the west's buildup in Africa is also driven by the struggle for resources."


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US Markets Closed On Fifth Anniversary Of Jerome Kerviel Day

To some, today is Martin Luther King day and as a result the US markets are closed, especially since today is also the day when Obama celebrates his second inauguration with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor at his side (hopefully not on the taxpayers' dime). To others, January 21 is nothing more than the anniversary of the real beginning of the end, when five years ago a little known SocGen trader named Jerome Kerviel could no longer hide his massive futures positions and was forced to unwind them, sending global indices plunging resulting in the biggest single day drop in the Dax (-7.2%), and punking the Fed into an unannounced 75 bps cut. Luckily, today such cataclysmic unwinds are impossible as the market is priced perfectly efficiently, without central bank intervention, price transparency is ubiquitous and the Volcker rule has made prop trading by banks, funded by Fed reserves (which are nothing more than the monetization of excess budget deficits) and excess deposits, impossible.

Sarcasm aside, and hoping nobody will blow up forcing the Fed to cut rates by another 75 bps as a precaution to keeping markets float, as Deustche Bank summarizes we can expect a rather eventful calendar ahead for global macro despite the shortened trading week in the US. In Asia the much anticipated Bank of Japan 2-day meeting will conclude tomorrow where markets are expecting the central bank to embark on a more aggressive easing programme that could include inflation targeting. These hopes are somewhat dampened by the weekend comments from the government’s economic advisor Mr Hamada who said that the BoJ may need to slow the pace of easing if the effect on inflation and Yen “goes too far”. Overnight the Nikkei is about 1% lower while the JPY is off its 2.5 year low at 89.53 against the USD as we type.

In Europe, we have the Eurogroup/ECOFIN meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday sees the start of the five-day World Economic Forum in Davos where global leaders from Ms Merkel to Mr Dimon are set to speak/interact under the official theme of “Resilient Dynamism”. The same day will also see the IMF publish its updated outlook on the global economy. The Washington based group slashed its 2013 global GDP forecast to 3.6% from 3.9% in October so it’ll be interesting to see where they go from there. On the data front, flash PMIs from Europe, China and the US on Thursday will be the week’s highlights. The US earnings season shifts up a gear with 84 S&P 500 companies expected to report this week. Apple’s results on Wednesday will be a prime focus as market consensus is looking for its first year-on-year earnings decline since 2003. On that note, we also include our oft-updated earnings beat/miss tracker below as well as a recap of the stats for previous reporting season. The current earnings season is tracking rather well relative to the previous one.

Before we get to all that let’s recap the Asian session overnight. Equities are mixed despite the stronger finish to the US session on Friday. Gains in equities are being paced by the Hang Seng (+0.05%) and Shanghai Comp (+0.16%), while the KOSPI (-0.1%) is lagging but there aren’t too many catalysts in what has been a light session in terms of data. In credit markets, Asian bonds are quoted slightly tighter amidst better new issue performance and the Australian and Asian IG indices are marked flat to 1bp tighter.

It was a rather quiet weekend in terms of news flow, but one of the more interesting developments was the outcome of state elections in Lower Saxony on Sunday where the centre-left coalition scored what was described by the Spiegel as an “upset” victory. Early exit polls suggested that Angela Merkel’s CDU and its allies, the FDP, would manage to cling on to a one-seat majority, but that turned later in the evening after preliminary results gave the “red-green” alliance of the opposition SPD and Greens Party a total of 69 seats in the state parliament, against 68 for the CDU-FDP. Perhaps the silver lining for Merkel is that her allies, the FDP, polled much stronger than expected, after previously being in danger of falling below the 5% support threshold needed to retain seats in the state parliament.

The FDP ended up winning almost 10% of votes, however most of the gains came at the expense of Merkel’s CDU.

In other headlines, Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann reiterated his opposition to the ECB’s OMT program. Weidmann added that it was “wrong and dangerous” to think of the ECB as the only able “crisis manager”. The IMF warned that the EU will need to come up with an additional EU10bn in funds for Greece even if the current programme stays on track, in a 260 page report issued on Friday (FT). In the UK, PM David Cameron’s office is expected to announce a date for his highly anticipated speech on the future of the UK’s relations with  the EU this week.

Briefly recapping the US session on Friday, the S&P500 rallied from the early lows to close moderately higher (+0.34%). Gains were broad-based with nine out of 10 industry sectors posting gains. The sole laggard was the tech sector (-0.36%) which was weighed by a  mixed result from Intel (-6.3%) which reported weak sales in the PC market and disappointed with its Q1 outlook. On the earnings front we had encouraging news as Morgan Stanley and GE both beat top and bottom line expectations. More broadly, the catalyst for the  midday turnaround in risk sentiment was a report that House Republicans are considering extending the US debt ceiling by three months in a bill to be considered next week. According to the Washington Post, the move is a retreat from earlier GOP demand that a debt  ceiling increase is matched by spending cuts. However in exchange for the concession, Republicans are expected to demand that a longer-term budget is passed by both houses of Congress by April 15th. The move was described as a means of forcing the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass a budget, which it hasn’t done in about four years. Over the weekend, Democrat Senator Charles Schumer responded that the Senate was working on a budget anyway which will include an overhaul to the tax code that is intended to raise  significant revenue over the next decade (NY Times).

Last but not least previewing the data calendar for the week we’ll have the German ZEW survey on Tuesday, Japanese trade data on Thursday, German IFO and Japanese inflation both on Friday. US existing and new home sales are out this Tuesday and Friday,  respectively. BoE minutes are out on Wednesday followed by the UK's advance Q4 GDP estimate on Friday.

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