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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald studies, "Obama's New NSA Proposal And Democratic Partisan Hackery."

Uri Avnery observes it's, "A Hundred Years Later."

Glen Ford calls, "Obama: Putin-Baiter And Preventive Detainer."

Pepe Escobar explores, "Russian Sanctions As War And Farce."

Jim Hightower shows, "The Symbolism Of One Adjunct Professor's Death."

David Swanson outs, "The War Activists."

James Donahue finds in, "Cannabis: Splitting Compounds Doesn't Work."

John Nichols announces, "An 87 Percent Vote For A $15-An-Hour Wage."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "Recalled To Life."

Greg Palast finally comes clean in his part of the Exxon Valdez cover up in, "25 Years After Exxon Valdez, BP Was The Hidden Culprit."

Paul Krugman examines, "Wealth Over Work."

Frank Scott returns with, "Alleged Problems: Real Solutions."

Amy Goodman concludes, "Barack Obama: The Least Transparent President In History."

Michigan's Attorney general Bill Schuette wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich dares to tell, "The Real Truth About ObamaCare."

John Pilger says nothing has changed, "Australia Is Again Stealing Its Indigenous Children."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Putin Announces Historic G-1 Summit," but first, Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Hooray I Awake From Yesterday!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons , with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Adam Zyglis, Elaine Thompson, Pierre Pouliquin, Herbal Mission.Org, Peace Products.Org, Wrangler News, Shutterstock, Flickr, Parker Brothers, A.P., First Look.Org, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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Hooray! I Awake From Yesterday!
Alive but the war is here to stay!
By Ernest Stewart

Hooray I awake from yesterday, alive but the war is here to stay! ~~~ Jimi Hendrix

"The devil is in the details, when it comes to the National Security Agency's unique ability to twist and distort the English language, the devil tends to wrap his horns around every word." ~~~ Trevor Timm ~ The Guardian

"Shortly after a two-week trial, the district court issued its opinion and order declaring that 2.7 million voters did not have a single rational reason among them when they passed the Michigan Marriage Amendment. Given the monumental impact the district court's order would have on the institution of marriage in Michigan, especially amidst a national debate on the issue, a stay should be considered immediately." ~~~ Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette

"He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity & enjoying life's pleasures...breathes, but does not live." ~~~ Sanskrit Proverb

Barry was off to Europe this week with a two fold strategy. First, to reassert America as the world-dominant player by bringing NATO to heel, and second, to restart the cold war with Russia and their allies. Yes, there was the nuclear conference; but that will change nothing, and was held merely for show.

Apparently, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq both running down to peace, we, that is to say, our military industrial complex, needs a fresh infusion of cash or it, like NATO, may seem to be a thing of the past. And since there's way too much money to line the pockets of the 1% and bribes to be had by the members of Con-gress, it's war as usual if Barry can drag the EU along with him into a new one! You may recall they got almost 50 years out of the last cold war!

Unfortunately for Barry and the one per cent, he's no longer seen by Europe as the wunderkind, but just another in a long line of American tin pot dictators; and all that Barry got was lip service to keep up the appearances of a strong alliance -- got to keep that Russian gas flowing in or Europe freezes!

The main result of all of this is we're building more liquid gas ports to ship all of that fracking juice overseas, which in turn will cause more fracking wells to be built -- which will pollute more of our air and ground water for decades to come. Yippie!

In Other News

I see that both the President and the House have dueling reform proposals for the reform of the NSA's powers to watch our every move. Trouble is, neither one really gets the NSA out of our private affairs! Obama's bright idea, according to an unnamed senior White House official is:
"The Obama administration is proposing to end the NSA's mass collection of phone records by instead requesting them from phone companies on an individual, court-approved basis. The companies would not be required to retain records longer than they already do."
That's good as far as it goes, as it keeps phone records out of the NSA's hands and to get them the NSA would have to get a court order to see them; gone are the bulk collections by the NSA. Trouble is, it only concerns phone calls, and does nothing to keep the NSA from collecting every key stroke of your internet postings or your emails, etc. just phone records.

Of course, the House bill doesn't even do that, and the language they used could be easily twisted to allow the NSA to do more snooping than they already do. Mike Rogers R/Michigan, the NSA's number one stooge in the House, is, as always, selling us out to his masters in the NSA. Here's an example.

Given an advance copy of the House proposal, the Guardian's Trevor Timm notes that the law effectively expands NSA's surveillance power. "The devil is in the details," he writes, adding that "when it comes to the National Security Agency's unique ability to twist and distort the English language, the devil tends to wrap his horns around every word."

Timm explains:
"A judge would reportedly not have to approve the collection beforehand, and the language suggests the government could obtain the phone records on citizens at least two "hops" away from the suspect -- meaning if you talked to someone who talked to a suspect, your records could be searched by the NSA. Coupled with the expanded "foreign power" language, this kind of law coming out of Congress could, arguably, allow the NSA to analyze more data of innocent Americans than it could before."
Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, adds:
"The House committee proposal uses reform momentum as a pretext for expanding government power. The bill's modest improvements to the phone records program are not worth demolishing the important judicial role in overseeing these programs."
There is a third proposal being overlooked by much of the media. An existing bill-the "USA Freedom Act" by Judiciary Committee chairs Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner-does much of what Obama proposed and more. They say:
"Instead of paltry legislation, we urge the Administration to simply decide that it will stop misusing section 215 of the Patriot Act and section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333 and whatever else it is secretly relying on to stop mass spying."
I expect nothing to come out of this except a minor window dressing and the NSA will continue to spy on us full steam ahead!

And Finally

Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, said U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman last Friday, striking down a law that was widely embraced by some voters a decade ago -- the latest in a series of similar decisions across the country.

But unlike cases in other states, the judge did not suspend his decision while the Michigan attorney general pursues an appeal. That means clerks could start issuing licenses unless a higher court intervened. They did, and a few hundred folks got married until the 6th US Circuit court of appeals said wait a minute. In a 2-1 decision Tuesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals extended its stay on U.S. District Judge Robert Friedman's historic ruling, turning back Michigan's constitutional ban on gay marriage until the state’s appeal is heard.

Friedman released his 31-page ruling exactly two weeks after a trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children. The challenge was brought by two Detroit-area nurses originally seeking to overturn Michigan's ban on joint adoptions by gay couples. You may recall that law came about after several Christian groups got it on the ballot. I found it interesting that the white vote was against it by a small margin, while the black vote was about 95% in favor of it. That seemed very strange to me that the blacks having been denied equal rights for hundreds of years would vote to keep equal rights away from other groups. I mean, WTF?

Of course, Michigan's Rethuglican attorney general, Bill Schuette immediately said he'd appeal judge Friedman's ruling. So you know what I did, huh? If you thought I wrote Bill a note questioning his sanity you may stay after class and clean the erasers! Here's what I wrote...
Hey Bill,

I see that you're against equal rights for gay folks. Why? Bill you need to read the Bill of Rights. One would have thought to be the Attorney General that would've been a requirement for the office?

Here's section one of the 14th amendment for your perusal. Please pay close attention to the second sentence so you don't waste my tax dollars in any frivolous appeals.

Amendment XIV


Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Just two more questions for my many Michigan readers, Bill. If, in your opinion, gay folks don't have equal rights, what other groups don't have them either? How about black folks, or poor folks, or perhaps women? And how do you think your stand will effect your chances of being reelected?

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues and Alibis Magazine
As always if I get a reply I will publish it in a future edition. If you would like to add your thoughts to this ruling you can write Bill at this addy: Therefore Bill Schuette wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

As far as fundraising goes, this year is turning out to be a disaster! Fundraising in the first quarter has always been slow going at best; but even more so this year. In a "normal" year we would have raised about 17% to 18% of our yearly operating costs, this year, it's barely 2%. Needless to say, if this trend continues we'll be gone come June's first group of bills, not to mention July's group and October's bills.

Thanks to our sponsorships I'll be able to continue by writing weekly essays instead of editorials; but most of the rest of the magazine will be gone; and if my sponsors want more than just me, then I'll be gone too, except in various other magazines scattered through out the blogosphere.

Ergo, if you enjoy your weekly Issues & Alibis and would hate to see it disappear as so many other liberal sites have done, then please send us whatever you can, as often as you can and we'll continue to fight the forces of darkness for you!


12-17-1926 ~ 03-22-2014
Thanks for the film!

08-21-1943 ~ 03-25-2014
Thanks for the thoughts!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2014 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 13 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Visit the Magazine's page on Facebook and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

Obama's New NSA Proposal And Democratic Partisan Hackery
By Glenn Greenwald

I vividly recall the first time I realized just how mindlessly and uncritically supportive of President Obama many Democrats were willing to be. In April, 2009, two federal courts, in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, ruled that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) required the Pentagon to disclose dozens of graphic photos it possessed showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration announced that, rather than contest or appeal those rulings, they would comply with the court orders and release all the photos. The ACLU praised that decision: "the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency."

This decision instantly turned into a major political controversy. Bush-era neocons, led by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney, excoriated Obama, arguing that release of the photos would endanger American troops and depict the US in a negative light; Cheney expressly accused Obama of "siding with the terrorists" by acquiescing to the ruling. By contrast, Democrats defended Obama on the ground that the disclosures were necessary for transparency and the rule of law, and they attacked the neocons for wanting to corruptly hide evidence of America's war crimes. I don't think there was a single Democratic official, pundit, writer, or blogger who criticized Obama for that decision.

But then - just two weeks later - Obama completely reversed himself, announcing that he would do everything possible to block the court order and prevent it from taking effect. ABC News described Obama's decision as "a complete 180." More amazingly still, Obama adopted the exact arguments that Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney were making over the prior two weeks to attack him specifically and transparency generally: to justify his desire to suppress this evidence, Obama said that "the most direct consequence of releasing the [photos], I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger."

Now, obviously, the people who had been defending Obama's original pro-transparency position (which included the ACLU, human rights groups, and civil liberties writers including me) changed course and criticized him. That's what rational people, by definition, do: if a political official takes a position you agree with, then you support him, but when he does a 180-degree reversal and takes the exact position that you've been disagreeing with, then you oppose him. That's just basic. Thus, those of us who originally defended Obama's decision to release the photos turned into critics once he took the opposite position - the one we disagreed with all along - and announced that he would try to suppress the photos.

But that's not what large numbers of Democrats did. Many of them first sided with Obama when his administration originally announced he'd release the photos. But then, with equal vigor, they also sided with Obama when - a mere two weeks later - he took the exact opposition position, the very anti-transparency view these Democrats had been attacking all along when voiced by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney.

At least for me, back then, that was astonishing to watch. It's one thing to strongly suspect that people are simply adopting whatever views their party's leader takes. But this was like the perfect laboratory experiment to prove that: Obama literally took exact opposition positions in a heated debate within a three week period and many Democrats defended him when he was on one side of the debate and then again when he switched to the other side.

When Democrats were defending Obama's decision to suppress the photos, I kept asking whether there was a single one of them - just one - who had criticized Obama two weeks earlier when his administration announced they'd released the photos. After all, if they really believed (as they were now claiming) that suppressing the photos was the right thing to do because their release would endanger the troops, shouldn't they have been objecting when Obama two weeks earlier said he'd release them?

I never found one Democrat defending Obama's photo suppression who had criticized him earlier when he said he'd release them. That's when I fully internalized that many Democrats literally had no actual political beliefs other than we support Obama in everything that he does, even when he takes precisely opposite positions in a three week period (most amazingly of all, Obama ultimately succeeded in suppressing the photos - which still have never been seen - not by successfully appealing the court order, but by supporting and then signing into law an amendment to the 40-year old FOIA - sponsored by Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham - that simply exempted the photos from the law).

We're now about to have a similar lab experiment, this time in the context of the NSA. The New York Times' Charlie Savage reported last night that Obama "is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency's once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that - if approved by Congress - would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year." In sum, "the NSA would end its systematic collection of data about Americans' calling habits."

This proposal differs in significant respects from the incredibly vague and cosmetic "reforms" Obama suggested in his highly touted NSA speech in January. Although bereft of details, it was widely assumed that Obama's January proposal would not end the bulk data collection program at all, but rather simply shift it to the telecoms, by simultaneously requiring that the telecoms keep all calling records for 5 years (the amount of time the NSA now keeps those records) and make them available to the government on demand. But under Obama's latest proposal, the telecoms "would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would" (the law currently requires 18 month retention) and "the NSA could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order."

As always with Obama, it remains to be seen whether his words will be followed by any real corresponding actions. That he claims to support a bill does not mean he will actually try to have Congress enact it. The details, still unknown, matter a great deal. And even if this did end the domestic bulk collection spying program, it would leave undisturbed the vast bulk of the NSA's collect-it-all system of suspicionless spying.

Nonetheless, this clearly constitutes an attempt by Obama to depict himself as trying to end the NSA's domestic bulk surveillance program, which was the first program we reported with Snowden documents. I agree with the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, who told the New York Times: "We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the NSA's bulk collection of call records should end."

This new proposal would not, as some have tried to suggest, simply shift the program to telecoms. Telecoms - obviously - already have their customers' phone records, and the key to any proposal is that it not expand the length of time they are required to retain those records (though telecoms only have their specific customers' records, which means that - unlike the current NSA program - no one party would hold a comprehensive data base of all calls). As reported by Savage, Obama's proposal does nothing to change how long telecoms keep these records ("the administration considered and rejected imposing a mandate on phone companies that they hold on to their customers' calling records for a period longer than the 18 months that federal regulations already generally require"). That's why, if enacted as he's proposing it, Obama's plan could actually end the NSA's bulk collection program.

That puts hard-core Obama loyalists and pro-NSA Democrats - the ones that populate MSNBC - in an extremely difficult position. They have spent the last 10 months defending the NSA (i.e., defending Obama) by insisting that the NSA metadata program is both reasonable and necessary to Keep Us Safe. But now Obama claims he wants to end that very same program. So what will they do?

If they had even an iota of integrity or intellectual honesty, they would instantly and aggressively condemn Obama. After all, he's now claiming to want to end a program that they have been arguing for months is vital in Keeping Us Safe. Wouldn't every rational person, by definition, criticize a political leader who wants to abolish a program that they believe is necessary to stop terrorism and preserve national security?

But that's not what will happen. After spending months praising the NSA for responsibly overseeing this critical program, they will now hail Obama for trying to end it. When he secretly bulk collects the calling data on all Americans, it shows he's a pragmatic and strong leader who Keeps Us Safe; when he tries to end the very same program, it shows he's flexible and devoted to our civil liberties - just as he was right to release the torture photos and also right to suppress them. The Leader is right when he does X, and he's equally right when he does Not X. That's the defining attribute of the mindset of a partisan hack, an authoritarian, and the standard MSNBC host.

As for the substantive reform, the fact that the President is now compelled to pose as an advocate for abolishing this program - the one he and his supporters have spent 10 months hailing - is as potent a vindication of Edward Snowden's acts and the reporting he enabled. First, a federal court found the program unconstitutional. Then, one of the President's own panels rejected the NSA's claim that it was necessary in stopping terrorism, while another explicitly found the program illegal. And now the President himself depicts himself as trying to end it. Whatever test exists for determining whether "unauthorized" disclosures of classified information are justified, Snowden's revelations pass the test with ease. That President Obama now proclaims the need to end a domestic spying program that would still be a secret in the absence of Snowden's whistleblowing proves that quite compellingly.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth book, No Place to Hide, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world, will be released in April 2014. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn's column was featured at Guardian US and Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book"How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

A Hundred Years Later
By Uri Avnery

THERE IS an old Chinese curse that says: "May you live in historic times!" (If there isn't, there should be.)

This week was a historic time. The Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Russia annexed it.

A dangerous situation. No one knows how it will develop.

AFTER MY last article about the Ukrainian crisis, I was flooded with passionate e-mail messages.

Some were outraged by one or two sentences that could be construed as justifying Russian actions. How could I excuse the former KGB apparatchik, the new Hitler, the leader who was building a new Soviet empire by destroying and subjugating neighboring countries?

Others were outraged, with the same passion, by my supposed support for the fascist gangs which have come to power in Kiev, the anti-Semites in Nazi uniforms, and the American imperialists who use them for their own sinister purposes.

I am a bit bewildered by the strength of feeling on both sides. The Cold War, it seems, is not over. It just took a nap. Yesterday's warriors are again rallying to their flags, ready to do battle.

Sorry, I can't get passionate about this side or that. Both, it seems to me, have some justice on their side. Many of the battle cries are bogus.

THOSE WHO rage against the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation and compare it to Hitler's "Anschluss" of Austria may be right in some sense.

I remember the newsreels of ecstatic Austrians welcoming the soldiers of the Fuhrer, who was, after all, an Austrian himself. There can be no doubt that most Austrians welcomed the "return to the fatherland."

That seems to be the case now in the Crimea. For a long time the peninsula had been a part of Russia. Then, in 1954, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself, presented the Crimea as a gift to Ukraine. It was mostly a symbolic gesture, since both Russia and Ukraine belonged to the same Soviet state and were subject to the same oppression.

But the main point is that the people of the Crimea were not consulted. There was no referendum. The majority of the population is Russian, and undoubtedly wishes now to return to Russia. It expressed this wish in a referendum that, on the whole, seems to be quite authentic. So the annexation may be justified.

Vladimir Putin himself brought up the precedent of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia not so long ago. This may be a bit cynical, since Russia strenuously objected to this secession at the time. All the Russian arguments then are now contradicted by Putin himself.

If we leave out cynicism, hypocrisy and great power politics for a moment, and stick to simple moral principles, then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. A sizable national minority, living in its homeland, has a right to secede from a state it does not like.

For this reason I supported the independence of Kosovo and believe that the same principle applies now to Catalonia and Scotland, Tibet and Chechnya.

There is always a way to prevent secession without using brute force: to create conditions that make the minority want to stay in the majority state. Generous economic, political and cultural policies can achieve this. But for that you need the wisdom of farsighted leaders, and that is a rare commodity everywhere. BY THE same token, Ukrainians can be understood when they kick out a president who wants to bring them into the Russian orbit against their will. His golden bathroom appliances are beside the point.

Another question is what role the fascists play in the process. There are contradictory reports, but Israeli reporters on the scene testify to their conspicuous presence in the center of Kiev.

The problem has confronted us since the Tunisian Spring: in many of the "spring" countries the uprisings bring to the fore elements that are worse than the tyrants they want to displace. The revolutions are started by idealists who are unable to unite and set up an effective regime, and then are taken over by intolerant fanatics, who are better fighters and better organizers.

That is the secret of the survival of the abominable Bashar al-Assad. Few people want Syria to fall into the hands of a Taliban-like Islamic tyranny. That is also the fate of Egypt: the liberal democrats started the revolution but lost the democratic elections to a religious party, which was in a haste to impose its creed on the people. They were overthrown by a military dictatorship that is worse than the regime which the original revolution overthrew.

The emergence of the neo-Nazis in Kiev is worrying, even if Putin uses their presence for his own purposes. If they are supported by the West, overtly or covertly, that is disturbing.

EQUALLY WORRYING is the uncertainty about Putin's intentions.

In many of the countries surrounding Russia there live large numbers of Russians, who went to live there in Soviet times. Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and other countries have large Russian minorities, and even majorities, who yearn to be annexed to the motherland.

No one really knows Putin. How far will he go? Can he control his ambitions? Will he be carried away by his successes and the lack of wise policies in Western capitals?

Addressing his parliament about the annexation of the Crimea, he seemed restrained, but there was no mistaking the imperial trimmings of the event. He would not be the first leader in history who overestimated his successes and underrated the power of his opponents.,p. And on the other side - is there enough wisdom in Washington and the other Western capitals to produce the right mixture of firmness and restraint to prevent an uncontrollable slide into war?

IN THREE months the world will "celebrate" the hundredth anniversary of the shot in Sarajevo - the shot that ignited a worldwide conflagration.

It may be helpful to recount again the chain of events that caused one of the most destructive wars in human history, a war that consumed millions upon millions of human lives and destroyed an entire way of life.

The shot that started it all was quite accidental. The assassin, a Serb nationalist, failed in his first attempt to kill a quite insignificant Austrian archduke. But after he had already given up, he came across his intended victim again, by chance, and shot him dead.

The incompetent Austrian politicians and their senile emperor saw an easy opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of their country and presented little Serbia with an ultimatum. What could they lose?

Except that Serbia was the protege of Russia. In order to deter the Austrians, the Czar and his equally incompetent ministers and generals ordered a general mobilization of their vast army. They were quite unaware of the fact that this made war unavoidable, because...

The German Reich, which had come into being only 43 years earlier, lived in deadly fear of a "war on two fronts". Located in the middle of Europe, squeezed between two great military powers, France and Russia, it drew up a plan to forestall this eventuality. The plan changed every year in the wake of military exercises, but in essence it was based on the premise that one enemy had to be crushed before the other enemy had time to join the battle.

The plan in place in 1914 was to crush France before the cumbersome Russian mobilization could be completed. So when the Czar announced his mobilization, the German army invaded Belgium and reached the outskirts of Paris in a few weeks. They almost succeeded in defeating France before the Russians were ready.

(25 years later, Hitler solved the same problem in a different way. He signed a sham treaty with Stalin, finished France off and then attacked Russia.)

In 1914, Great Britain, shocked by the invasion of Belgium, hastened to the aid of its French ally. Italy, Japan, and others joined the fray. So did the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine. World War I was underway.

Who wanted this terrible war? Nobody. Who took a cool-headed decision to start it? Nobody. Of course, many national and international interests were involved, but none so important as to justify such a catastrophe.

No, it was a war nobody wanted or even envisioned. The flower of European youth was destroyed by the sheer stupidity of the contemporary politicians, followed by the colossal stupidity of the generals.

And in the end, a peace treaty was concocted that made another world war practically inevitable. Only after another awful world war did the politicians come to their senses and make another fratricidal war in Western Europe unthinkable.

A hundred years after it all started, it is well to remember.

CAN ANYTHING like this happen again? Can an unintended chain of foolish acts lead to another catastrophe? Can one thing lead to another in a way that incompetent leaders are unable to stop?

I hope not. After all, during these hundred years, some lessons have been learned and absorbed.

Or not?
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama: Putin-Baiter And Preventive Detainer
By Glen Ford

Barack Obama is one smooth operator, relentlessly expanding on the fascist domestic and international infrastructure bequeathed him by George W. Bush, the cartoon cowboy imperialist. As we described him in 2012, Obama is truly the "more effective evil" - a president who routinely commits the most brazen aggressions under the lawless doctrine of "humanitarian" intervention, and who has utterly trashed due process and the rule of law on the domestic front. If you want to see fascism built right, get a Black Harvard man to do it - and watch the internal resistance crumble.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn a line against further NATO incursions and coups at his southern border - a move that most of Earth's inhabitants undoubtedly applaud, given that polls have long confirmed that the U.S. is seen as the number one threat to peace in the world - U.S. public opinion reverts effortlessly to Cold War mode. Obama will have no problem gaining near-unanimous congressional support for the widest range of escalations against Moscow - from sanctions to natural gas wars to preparations for the shooting kind - while the ridiculous U.S. pseudo-Left, personified by Jon Stewart, of the Daily Show, snarks an historically-reversed narrative of post-1991 history in which Russia is constantly moving westward towards the English Channel.

The president lowered himself to Stewart's level (or was it the other way around?), baiting the Russians as less than manly. "Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness," said the fracking PR-man-in-chief. Obama issued his juvenile insults against the world's other paramount nuclear power at, of all places, a summit on nuclear security in The Hague, Netherlands. Tens of millions of eyes must have rolled among the U.S.'s southern neighbors when Obama said, "we generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them."

Tell that to Haiti (1994, 2004), Cuba (1961), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Dominican Republic (1965) - neighborly nations directly invaded by U.S. troops; and to the people of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Colombia, who lost tens or hundreds of thousands at the hands of U.S. surrogates; and to the citizens of Chile and the rest of South America, virtually every country of which was taken over by militaries backed by the United States. And, we are only talking about the post-World War Two era! As we write, Obama pursues George Bush's policy of regime change in Venezuela, while the people still suffer under the heirs to the military coup he backed in Honduras, in 2009.

The list gets much, much longer if one includes the rest of the world as "neighbors" of the U.S. Certainly, the Americans behave as if everyone else's internal affairs are subject to Washington's approval - a negation of international law and the real meaning of Obama's humanitarian military intervention doctrine, or R2P, Responsibility to Protect. Under the First Black President, U.S. non-recognition of international law has effectively achieved bipartisan acceptance. Indeed, much of what pretended to be an anti-war movement under Obama's Republican predecessor is now in thrall of "humanitarian" warfare.

If it were really true that the fate of the world rests with anti-war constituencies and other resisters inside the Belly of the Beast, as many peace activists used to claim, then the world would likely be doomed. The American polity is not effectively defending its own liberties. President Obama has pulled off what George W. Bush did not even attempt: he has established, through the Congress and the courts, preventive detention without trial as the law of the land, effectively nullifying due process. Having stripped citizens of their legal protections, he now bargains with Congress on the uses of the NSA spy machinery that is already capable of monitoring literally every American - plus unknown proportions of the rest of the world.

Obama says he wants to limit telephone monitoring to two "hops" removed from the phone number targeted as suspicious, in order to "minimize" the State's intrusion on the people's privacy. In fact, one court order allowing two "hops" would quite easily bring ten thousand telephone numbers under NSA surveillance, as U.S. District Judge Richard Leon figured out before rendering a decision against the NSA. The judge postulated that each of the 100 phone numbers called by the suspect - or "seed" - phone (the first "hop") had called or gotten calls from at least 100 other numbers over five years (the second "hop"), totaling 10,000. A third "hop" would ensnare a total of one million phones.

Judge Leon's assumptions are very conservative. If the national security state targets any effective political activist, they would reap far more than 100 numbers on both the first and second "hops" - probably enough to effectively map the bulk of the political activity among, say, peace groups. A third hop would round up multiples of millions, including the barely committed and folks with no interest in politics of any kind. One court order + one suspect number + three hops = everybody remotely involved in anti-war activity.

It turns out that the NSA has for years been allowed to search up to three hops away from the suspect phone. They have undoubtedly already mapped every potentially left-leaning or ethnically suspect (Black) U.S. human network, having assembled millions of names and numbers.

If George Bush or any Republican were president, leftists of all stripes would realize the clock is ticking - that they must radically alter the direction of the U.S. state, or be interned by it. However, the smooth fascist, Barak Obama, is in charge, and there is little sense of urgency on the Left.

Which is another reason that we say Obama is the more effective evil.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Russian Sanctions As War And Farce
By Pepe Escobar

"If we come to a minefield, our infantry attacks exactly as if it was not there." ~~~ Marshal Georgy Zhukov

Let's start with the serious stuff. As Russia's Federation Council ratifies a treaty with Crimea, concluding the formal annexation, Ukraine signs the political chapters of an association agreement with the European Union (EU). The signing of the full EU agreement will only happen later in 2014.

These are the facts on the ground. Now let's turn to comedy hour - also known as the sanctions war.,p. The oh-so democratic EU has punished the democratic Crimea referendum by sanctioning 33 Russians and Crimeans with asset freezes and travel bans, according to that Magritte-style walking fiction, European Council President Van Rompuy. The EU also canceled the EU-Russia summit in Sochi on June 3. And the vast, Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the European Commission (EC) has taken time out from subsidizing European cows to prepare for "possible economic sanctions," according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The EU is irretrievably split on what to do. Whatever it does, Moscow's capacity to make the EU badly hurt is stronger. There may be another meek set of sanctions next week, as Merkel advertised. But that's it.

European poodle action mirrors His Master's Voice - as in US President Barack Obama solemnly imposing, by executive order, further sanctions on "senior officials of the Russian government." Other US targets are private businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Only exceptionalist logic legally allows sanctions on private individuals deemed responsible for political steps taken by the country they live in. International lawyers should have thought about sanctioning the entire US population for the Bush-Cheney junta's disaster.

Well over 60% of Americans and Europeans are against a New Cold War against Russia. Putin's approval rating in Russia is around 75% - and arguably similar all across the developing world. Still, no one will lose money betting on the juvenile amateurism of the Obama administration. As if they and selected European minions could intimidate Moscow with some cosmetic "message". The American sanction religion, imposed with a conquistador/slave owner fury, did destroy Iraq for years - and was supposed to destroy Iran as well. But Russia is not Iraq or Iran.

I love a man in sanction uniform

Sanctioned Russians are not exactly quaking in their made-in-London brogues. After all, the practical impact of these sanctions is exactly zero. And most people targeted have minimal direct links with the US.

The original American list included Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin and presidential aide Vladislav Surkov. They laughed it off, loudly - adding it felt like a badge of honor. The expanded list includes key Putin advisers and even some of his friends.

Obama, Iran-style, sanctioned the Bank of Russia - a minor player (less than US$10 billion in assets; compare it with giant Sberbank at $528 billion). But Bank of Russia is used by some Gazprom subsidiaries for some low-key deals - even as Gazprom owns its own bank, GazpromBank. The "message" here is that Washington is watching Gazprom.

Chief of Presidential Administration Sergei Ivanov is a key adviser on Ukraine and a top negotiator with the US, the EU and NATO. The - counterproductive - "message" implied here is that Moscow and Washington are not talking anything substantial in the immediate future. So much for the West's "diplomatic efforts."

Then there's Yuri Kovalchuk, a board member of the Bank of Russia, a key business adviser and - allegedly, no conclusive evidence - Putin's personal banker. The message here is of the "I'm gonna git you sucka" kind.

Finally, among the notables, there's Gennady Timchenko, who has absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine. He's an energy deal operator, controlling oil and natural gas trading firm Gunvor. In this case, the "message" is that the US will target Russia's energy deals. Message void, because the EU - which needs Gazprom badly - is not inclined to sanction Timchenko.

Other sanctioned include the head of the Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov, Chief of Military Intelligence Igor Sergun and Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin.

They are all part of the Russia-US team involved in the Northern Distribution Network - the long, across-Central Asia highway that will allow NATO to flee Afghanistan. A swift Moscow counter-attack would be to leave the Americans and Europeans hanging dry - or to close the NDN altogether.

I want to be sanction-free

Moscow, predictably, struck back. The Russian Foreign Ministry has "repeatedly" stressed that using sanctions is a "double-edged thing" and it will have a "boomerang" effect against the US.

Already barred from entering Russia is a nasty bunch including the senile John McCain, plus Robert Menendez, Daniel Coats, Mary Landrieu, Harry Reid, John Boehner and Obama advisers such as the cosmic mediocrity Ben Rhodes. Vicky "F**k the EU" Nuland has not made the list - yet.

Moscow is playing it cool because it may choose among a staggering array of counterpunches. It enjoys the support of the BRICS group of emerging powers, the non-aligned movement (NAM) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Composing with the US, Moscow agreed to impose sanctions on Iran, and is a key player in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations. If the sanction comedy goes on, Moscow has already announced it will play hardball with the P5+1, will cease to sanction Iran, and may even, finally, weaponize Tehran with jewels of the S-400 variety.

Moscow - the number one oil and gas exporter on the planet - can also play further hardball with Europe's dependency on Gazprom; clinically target US companies working in Russia; speed up the BRICS-coordinated escape from the US dollar, as in a new international payment system in a basket of currencies for the BRICS as well as other emerging markets; and even activate the ultimate economic nuclear bomb - which is to accept payment for Russian oil and gas in ruble, yuan, euros or gold, thus delivering a terminal blow to the petrodollar.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be the end of the comedy hour.
(c) 2014 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Margaret Mary Vojtko

The Symbolism Of One Adjunct Professor's Death

Margaret Mary Vojtko's died last summer at age 83 - and her death has turned her name into an emotional rallying cry for adjunct college teachers who're seeking justice from their schools.

Vojko taught French classes for 25 years at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, earning high marks from her students. Their praise helped make up for Duquesne's poor pay. Like most teachers there, Margaret Mary was part of the adjunct faculty - a group with few rights, so schools like Duquesne can take advantage of them. And, they do.

As with other adjuncts, Professor Vojtko was unsalaried, instead paid a low rate for each course she taught. This provided no reliable annual income, for she was never told until just before a semester began whether she'd be teaching three classes, one... or none. Even in good years with full teaching loads, her pay was below $25,000 - with zero benefits.

Margret Mary's last year was certainly not a good one. Duquesne had cut her to one class per semester, reducing her income to under $10,000. Also, her cancer returned, piling huge medical bills on her back. With no savings or university pension, she'd become so pauperized that she couldn't pay her electric bill, effectively making her homeless that winter. Her stress level was off the charts, yet she never missed a day of class. Until last spring, that is, when Duquesne fired her.

In August Margaret Mary Vojtko was found sprawled on her front yard, having suffered a massive heart attack. This proud professional educator died penniless, jobless... and literally heartbroken, having been thrown away by the university that had used her for 25 years.

To Duquesne officials, Margaret Mary was "just an adjunct." But to adjuncts everywhere, she's become an emblem - both of their plight and of their fight for labor rights.
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The War Activists
By David Swanson

War activists, like peace activists, push for an agenda. We don't think of them as activists because they rotate in and out of government positions, receive huge amounts of funding, have access to big media, and get meetings with top officials just by asking -- without having to generate a protest first.

They also display great contempt for the public and openly discuss ways to manipulate people through fear and nationalism -- further shifting their image away from that of popular organizers. But war activists are not journalists, not researchers, not academics. They don't inform or educate. They advocate. They just advocate for something that most of the time, and increasingly, nobody wants.

William Kristol and Robert Kagan and their organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative, stand out as exemplary war activists. They've modified their tone slightly since the days of the Project for the New American Century, an earlier war activist organization. They talk less about oil and more about human rights. But they insist on U.S. domination of the world. They find any success by anyone else in the world a threat to the United States. And they demand an ever larger and more frequently used military, even if world domination can be achieved without it. War, for these war activists, is an end in itself. As was much more common in the 19th century, these agitators believe war brings strength and glory, builds character, and makes a nation a Super Power.

Kristol recently lamented U.S. public opposition to war. He does have cause for concern. The U.S. public is sick of wars, outraged by those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and insistent that new ones not be begun. In September, missile strikes into Syria were successfully opposed by public resistance. In February, a new bill to impose sanctions on Iran and commit the United States to joining in any Israeli-Iranian war was blocked by public pressure. The country and the world are turning against the drone wars.

The next logical step after ending wars and preventing wars would be to begin dismantling the infrastructure that generates pressure for wars. This hasn't happened yet. During every NCAA basketball game the announcers thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 nations. Weapons sales are soaring. New nukes are being developed. NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia. But the possibility of change is in the air. A new peace activist group at has begun pushing for war's abolition.

Here's Kristol panicking:

"A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that's needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only 5 years after the end of the Vietnam war, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican detente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan's stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War."
Here's Kagan, who has worked for Hillary Clinton and whose wife Victoria Nuland has just been stirring up trouble in the Ukraine as Assistant Secretary of State. This is from an article by Kagan much admired by President Barack Obama:
"As Yan Xuetong recently noted, 'military strength underpins hegemony.' Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America's relative military capacity -- at least not yet."
This pair is something of a good-cop/bad-cop team. Kristol bashes Obama for being a wimp and not fighting enough wars. Kagan reassures Obama that he can be master of the universe if he'll only build up the military a bit more and maybe fight a couple more wars here and there.

The response from some Obama supporters has been to point out that their hero has been fighting lots of wars and killing lots of people, thank you very much. The response from some peace activists is to play to people's selfishness with cries to bring the war dollars home. But humanitarian warriors are right to care about the world, even if they're only pretending or badly misguided about how to help. It's OK to oppose wars both because they kill huge numbers of poor people far from our shores and because we could have used the money for schools and trains. But it's important to add that for a small fraction of U.S. military spending we could ensure that the whole world had food and clean water and medicine. We could be the most beloved nation. I know that's not the status the war activists are after. In fact, when people begin to grasp that possibility, war activism will be finished for good.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Cannabis: Splitting Compounds Doesn't Work
By James Donahue

The battle over legalizing marijuana may continue for years because of one simple reason. Pharmaceutical companies have been unable to find a single compound in the plant that offers effective healing benefits without including all the rest of them.

This discovery was made by distinguished Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam after 50 years of studying the plant we commonly call marijuana.

It was in 1963 that Mechoulam determined the structure of cannabidiol, an important component of the plant. The following year he became the first person to isolate delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or the psychoactive component we know as THC. Since then Mechoulam and his team have identified over 480 natural components in the cannabis plant. Of these, 66 have been classified as cannabinoids.

Mechoulam published a paper in 1999 that described what he called "the entourage effect." What he and his team have discovered is that all of the compounds in the cannabis plant appear to work together to bring about the medical benefits found in marijuana. This is why the drug Marinol, a pure synthetic THC produced by pharmaceutical companies in the 1980s, was ineffective.

The State of Louisiana recently banned the sale of synthetic cannabinoids after reports that the compounds have caused dangerous toxin reactions for scores of users.

Mechoulam's work, which was only recently made public in a CNN special report, supports the use of the whole cannabis plant for medical purposes. The active ingredients, found mostly in the buds of the plant, appear to have amazing beneficial results when used by patients suffering from a wide variety of ailments.

When consumed either with food or smoked, various studies claim that marijuana has been shown to be a powerful pain reliever, it impairs some cancer growth, treats glaucoma, relaxes muscles, reduces neurological impairment, treats ADD and ADHD, treats multiple sclerosis, relieves the effects of Crohn's Disease, cures epilepsy, appears to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's Disease, and relieves PMS.

In addition, the plant, which grows quickly and on almost any soil condition, has been used to make fine quality paper, textiles, is a source for making bio-degradable plastic, fuels, solvents, lubricants and even building materials. In the days of sailing ships, farmers grew hemp for the manufacture of high quality rope.

The only reason marijuana is listed by the government as a formula one drug is because the substance THC offers a sense of euphoria when first consumed. This effect has never been found to be physically harmful although it may impair the patient's ability to drive a car or operate heavy machinery. If anything, the drug provides a sense of well-being.

The "political" reason for prohibiting public use of marijuana appears to be financial. The pharmaceutical companies have not found a way to make a product from the plant that works as well as just consuming portions of the plant. Thus there is no profit in allowing people to grow marijuana in their own back yards. And it has so many healing benefits allowing the free use of "pot" threatens the sale of numerous other drugs that people must get a doctor's perscription to buy.
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

The fight for a $15 minimum wage spans from Seattle to Chicago.

An 87 Percent Vote For A $15-An-Hour Wage
By John Nichols

Political insiders and prognosticators at the national level were, barely a year ago, casting doubts on the question of whether proposing a great big hike in the federal minimum wage was smart politics. While President Obama had proposed a $9-an-hour wage, Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Congressman George Miller, D-California, broke the double-digit barrier with a $10.10-an-hour proposal. But there was still skepticism about whether raising wages for the hardest-pressed American workers was a winning issue.

Polls have since confirmed that Americans from across the political and ideological spectrum are overwhelmingly in favor of a substantial increase in the minimum wage. And election results are now confirming the sentiment.

Even as they re-elected Governor Chris Christie last fall, New Jersey voters gave landslide support to a measure that not only raised the state minimum wage to $8.25 an hour but indexed future increases to keep up with inflation. On the same day, voters in Sea-Tac, Washington, approved a $15 hourly wage, while voters in Seattle elected socialist Kshama Sawant on a "Fight for $15" platform.

Now comes a powerful signal from Chicago.

When voters in the city went to the polls to cast ballots in Tuesday's statewide and local primary elections, thousands of them faced an economic question: Would they support a $15-an-hour minimum wage for large employers in the city?

The results were overwhelming. With 100 of the 103 precincts where the issue was on the ballot reporting, 87 percent of voters were backing the $15-an-hour wage. Just 13 percent voted against the advisory referendum. That huge level of support will strengthen the hand of activists who are encouraging the city council to consider a major wage hike.

The Chicago vote illustrates a phenomenon that is being seen in many of the nation's largest-and most expensive-urban areas.

"With inequality at record levels, more workers relying on public assistance just to afford the basics, and the federal minimum wage stalled at just $7.25, more and more cities are responding with higher minimum wages at the local level," says Paul Sonn, general counsel for the National Employment Law Project. "We're seeing this especially in high cost regions where the state-wide minimum wage just isn't enough."

According to NELP:

A growing number of localities across the country have already enacted minimum wages significantly above the federal and state level in an effort to address the impact of low-wage job growth and growing inequality throughout the post-recession recovery. Cities and counties that have enacted higher minimum wages in recent years include San Francisco ($10.74 per hour), Santa Fe ($10.66 per hour), San Jose ($10.15 per hour), Washington, DC ($11.50 by 2016), Montgomery County, MD ($11.50 by 2017), Prince George's County, MD ($11.50 by 2017), and SeaTac, WA ($15 for certain occupations).

In addition to Chicago, other cities that are pursuing higher minimum wages currently include Seattle ($15 per hour), San Francisco ($15 per hour), New York City; San Diego; Oakland; Portland, Maine; and Las Cruces, New Mexico, among others.

The Chicago vote also offers an insight into why Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has been making the minimum-wage issue central to his re-election run. Quinn is a Democrat who has a long history of working on issues of concern to low-wage workers and the communities where they live. But he also knows a winning issue.

Quinn told the crowd at his Tuesday night victory rally, "There is a principle as old as the Bible: If you work hard. If you're working 40 hours a week, and if you're doing your job, you should not have to live in poverty. You should get a decent wage. We believe in that and we're going to make it happen."

At the same time, Quinn's campaign began airing a fresh television ad ripping Republican nominee Bruce Rauner on the issue. A wealthy venture capitalist, who recently quipped that he was not just part of the 1 percent but "probably [the] 0.1 percent," Rauner financed much of his own primary campaign with contributions estimated at $6 million. Yet in the new Quinn ad he is seen proclaiming, "I am adamantly, adamantly against raising the minimum wage." Rauner, whose GOP primary win was a narrow one, has been all over the place on the wage issue. He said early in the campaign that he would lower the state minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to the national rate of $7.25 an hour. Reports that one of the wealthiest men in the state was promising to cut wages for working Illinoisans did not go over well, and Rauner then suggested he might support raising the state rate if economic conditions were favorable.

Quinn has been far clearer when it comes to discussing wages-saying he favors an increase to at least $10 an hour this year-and the broader issue of economic inequality.

"I believe in everyday people. I think a governor has to have a heart," the governor declared on primary night. "I may not have nine mansions. I have one house. I'm not a billionaire. Never will be. I'm not part of the 1 percent and never will be there. I'm not even part of the 0.1 percent. But I'll tell you this. As long as I'm governor I'm going to fight hard for the 99.9 percent."
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Recalled To Life
By Chris Hedges

I am sitting in the Red Oak Diner outside Princeton, N.J., with Christine Pagano and her friend Jeannette. They have just finished attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a small room in a strip mall behind us. Many who were at the meeting struggle to make rent or car payments. Those with jobs worry about being laid off. Some live in terror that creditors, or the state, will electronically empty their meager bank accounts for debts they owe. Some fear outstanding warrants will land them in jail. One small tremor and the fragile stability they have achieved will crumble to dust. During AA sessions they admit there are times when they want to blunt the pain again, at least for a moment, by getting drunk or high. And when the meetings are over, everyone stands up, holds hands and says the Lord's Prayer.

The rain is lashing the window next to our booth. The diner is nearly empty. Trucks on Route 206 roar past, their headlights a blur in the rainstorm. Pagano, 31, has worked all day in a deli and bakery. She was up at 6:30 a.m. Her hands are cupped around a glass of unsweetened ice tea. Her dark, auburn hair is pulled up in a neat bun. Her eyes are carefully lined with mascara.

Her drug use began when she was a 16-year-old in high school, after a classmate confessed to the school guidance counselor that she had had sex with Pagano's stepfather. Her mother's marriage, and with it whatever stability it provided in Pagano's life, imploded. The story about the classmate and Pagano's stepfather became public in her rural community in northern New Jersey. She felt humiliated. She began to snort heroin. She dropped out of school and worked to feed her habit. She got into a drug treatment program in 2007. She got sober. She lived in a group house in Brick, N.J., where all the residents promised not to use drugs or alcohol. She met a man who had just gotten out of prison and was also in recovery. They set out to make a life together.

She worked in a diner and got a cosmetology certificate. She and her boyfriend rented a house and bought a car. She became pregnant. After she gave birth she stayed home with her son.

"I was a new mom," she says. "I had no idea what I was doing. I was really overwhelmed. I don't remember ever really thinking about using or drinking, but I was never all right. I was never really OK with who I was. I always felt not good enough. And even as a mom, with ... this beautiful child, I never felt OK. I use to bite my nails all the time. I was very anxiety-ridden."

She and her boyfriend went regularly to meetings for those in recovery from addiction. They stayed clean for four years.

"I remember the day that my son's father and I decided it would be OK that we had a drink," she says. "And it was like totally normal. We were in our house in Sussex. Our neighbor came over and she didn't know I was in recovery. And I never bothered to tell her. And she had a bottle of wine in her hand. And we barbecued and I drank a glass of wine. ... And I did not want to drink any more. I was still pretty coherent enough that I didn't want to be drunk, because of my son."

She thinks her boyfriend, who was working for a tree service company and was a member of the electricians union, was secretly taking the opiate Oxycontin. He suggested they go "doctor shopping" to get pills to sell. Her boyfriend's family had a history of addictions. His father had died in the jail on Riker's Island in New York. His sister was a heroin addict and a prostitute who worked for a well-known New Jersey pimp called "Prince" who drove a Rolls-Royce and a white Cadillac with flashy rims and white carpeting. "He would walk into this bar in Jersey City called Ringside," Pagano says. "He would go, 'The champ is here.' "

She and her boyfriend started taking pills together. A month later they switched to heroin. It was cheaper. She snorted it for a week, and then her boyfriend shot her up with heroin. It was her first time with a needle.

"He called his sister and his sister told us where we could get heroin," she says. "And she lived in the heart of Jersey City. So we went down there and in the beginning we were selling the pills to support the heroin habit. And then our heroin habit got too big for the money. This was the first time my son's father told me that I should go out on the street with his sister."

She accompanied her boyfriend's sister, known by the street name "Baby" on Jersey City's Tonnelle Avenue, Route 1 and Route 9, where there is a string of cheap motels. Pagano, who is white, wore a short, shimmering gold skirt and adopted the name "Gucci." Prostitutes on Tonnelle Avenue, which is close to the Holland Tunnel, connecting Jersey City and Manhattan, made $50 for oral sex and $100 for vaginal intercourse, "but if it goes any longer than 10 minutes you're charging them more." An hour cost $250 and a full night cost $1,500. To the Wall Street traders, business executives and bankers who are the area prostitutes' main customers, money never seemed to be an issue. Their wallets were stuffed with cash. On her first night Pagano hailed men headed home to the suburbs from New York City but then burst into tears or fought them off once she was inside the cars.

"I think the first night I actually never went through with it, but I ended up making money because I was a sobbing mess in these cars and guys just gave me money," she says. "Most of them had a lot of money 'cause they were coming from the city. So then my son's father got the idea that if I couldn't do it I would ... make them get a room, act like I was gonna do it-and he would kick the door in-and rob them. We did that a couple time until I couldn't keep track of who I was robbing. And the last time I went to do it I had already robbed the guy [on an earlier night] and he started beating me up in the room."

It took her two weeks to begin having sex with the "tricks." She slowly began to build a regular clientele and mastered the survival skills that come with walking the street.

"A couple times I got to stay in this really nice suite that overlooked Newark Airport," she said. "Some of them had a lot of money."

She would buy heroin after a night's work-she and her boyfriend together had a $500-a-day habit-from a dealer named "Kiss."

"Kiss would come out no matter when I called 'cause he knew he was getting his $500 from me," she says. She would drive home, often around 4:30 in the morning, and shoot up with her boyfriend. Her relationship with him deteriorated into that of "drug partners" and little else. They fought frequently, something they had not done while sober.

"He would throw it in my face a lot," she says of her prostitution, "but he had no problem doing my drugs. We were no longer parents. We were no longer anything."

But she still had her son, Liam.

"There were times where Kristen [Baby] would go out and I would sit in the car with my son," she says. "I would have him out in my car on Tonnelle Avenue. I thought I was a good mom 'cause I would wait in the car. She would go out and she would come back and wait in the car for me to come back with money."

She began to leave Liam with his father at night while she worked the streets.

Cops, she said, were regular customers, although most refused to pay. Some threatened to arrest her if she did not give them unpaid sex.

"The first time I ever got raped actually was by a cop in Elizabeth," she says. "He wanted to 'trick off,' which is normal for cops."

"They would get you in the car because they would act like they were arresting you," she says, "and then once they got you in the car they would tell you, 'Oh well, if you blow me I'll let you go.' And you get smart after a while. I mean after a while I would let them take me to jail because they can't-what are they gonna say? There's nothing on videotape. What are they gonna say? They can't. It takes you a while to learn this type of stuff."

"We were in the back of the police car," she says of her first rape. "He had paid me. Then he punched me in the face and he took the money back. He pulled out his gun and told me I was gonna do whatever he told me to do. He stuck his gun up my vagina. He told me he was gonna pull the trigger if I didn't do what he said. He wanted to treat me like a piece of shit. Ya know, he called me a bunch of names. He made me call myself a bunch of names-a dirty prostitute. At one point he made me say that I had AIDS. Yeah."

"The only cop I remember his name from down there was a Jersey City cop, we called him Barney, I don't know his real name," she says. "He looked like Barney [Rubble, the cartoon character]. He was my first prostitution arrest. And the only reason he arrested me was that I was standing next to Kristen. And she was known. When they brought us in it was her 39th prostitution arrest. They [police officers] were clapping when they brought her in. Everybody knew who she was."

On a good night Pagano made $600 to $700. On a bad night she made $100. "I made the best money in snow and rain," she says.

Some customers wanted to indulge in fetishes. "I've put diapers on guys," she says. Others wanted to put on makeup and women's clothes.

She often injected herself with heroin or smoked crack as soon as she and a client got into a hotel room. "A lot of them would do it [take drugs] with you," she says. "A lot of them pay you to get their drugs for them."

She learned to immediately open the glove compartment to get the name and address of the driver when she entered a vehicle. She made more money by threatening to call the customer's wife.

She also learned what to avoid. "In Jersey City there's a street when you go down Tonnelle Avenue," she says. "I think it's called Industrial Way [probably Industrial Drive]. It's industrial parks. You never, ever, ever want to go down there. And you always knew you were in trouble if you got in a car with a guy and he started driving that way. I've jumped out of many cars. 'Cause as soon as you saw you were driving down that street, you knew you were gonna get raped."

She endured for nine months. She begged her boyfriend to help her get off the streets. He decided to rob a bank. He entered a bank in Jersey City in June 2010 with a backpack and a note that said he had a bomb. He did not cover his face. He took $578 from a teller.

"I was driving on the Turnpike from our house down to Jersey City and I saw a big sign 'FBI wanted' with a picture of my son's father," she says. "And I pulled over on the side of the road and lost my mind."

He was arrested a month later when the FBI, the state police and U.S. marshals kicked down the door of their house at 5:30 in the morning. He is now serving a nine-year sentence in the maximum-security federal prison at Lewisburg, Pa.

"That's when I really went off the deep end," Pagano says. "I gave up on everything."

She sent her son to live with her mother, who is a teacher. She moved in for a while with her boyfriend's sister, Baby, in Jersey City. She eventually became homeless, sleeping in an abandoned flower shop. Her drug use soared. She would be awake for six or seven days at a time. She had as many as 20 clients a day. Finally, nearly broken, she got back into rehab. She became sober again. She met a man in the program. He relapsed two weeks later and went to jail. She began drinking heavily with the mother of her baby's father.

"We were in Atlantic City one night, me and his mom," she says. "We were out all night long at some grimy bar. Some guy offered me 'dog food.' And I said, 'What the hell is dog food?' I had never heard a lot of terms before. It was heroin. I was drunk. I followed him. I got the heroin. It progresses very quickly."

She started taking the bus from Williamstown, N.J., where she was living, to Atlantic City to "trick" and buy drugs. She got arrested. When she got out of jail she decided to go to Camden. Camden was where many Atlantic City pushers got their drugs. Heroin costs $10 a bag in Camden and $6 a bag in Jersey City, but the Camden heroin was far more potent and provided a much longer high. And Camden was only 20 minutes from where she was living.

Camden is among the country's poorest and most crime-ridden cities. The loss of its manufacturing base has seen its population shrink from 120,000 in the 1950s to less than 80,000 today. Whole blocks lie abandoned. There are an estimated 1,500 derelict buildings. The roofs of many empty row houses, gas stations, stores and warehouses have collapsed. Basements in derelict buildings are flooded. Copper wiring, metal doors, radiators and piping have been ripped out by scavengers who sell the materials to the huge scrap yard along the Delaware River. Some 175 open-air drug markets exist in the city. Hookers, often white addicts, congregate on street corners and near the main exit ramp of the multilane highway that cuts through the heart of Camden.

The first time Pagano took the bus to Camden, she walked up to the first person she saw upon her arrival at Walter Rand Transportation Center and said: "Where do you sell your ass around here?" She was told to go to Broadway. She never went home. Camden, however, was not Jersey City or Atlantic City. Her clients were not wealthy businessmen or Wall Street managers, but fellow addicts. She could not make the same kind of money. There were women on the street who would give oral sex for as little as $5.

"They'd suck your dick for a hit of crack," she says. "Camden was like nothing I had ever seen before. The poverty is so bad. People rob you for $5, literally for $5. They would pull a gun on you for no money. I would get out of cars, I would walk five feet up the road and get held up. And they would take all my money. The first time it happened to me I cried an hour. You degrade yourself. You get out of the car. And some guy pulls a gun on you."

She scaled down her charges, eventually giving oral sex for $20. And she found that her clients refused to let her use condoms.

"I gave up on everything at that point, I wanted to die," she says. "I didn't care anymore. All the guilt and the shame and leaving my son, not talking to my son, not talking to my family."

She met a man named E-frie who had just finished an 18-year prison sentence. He gave her drugs in return for sex. He drank heavily and smoked marijuana. He taunted her for being a junkie and frequently beat her, once pushing her down a flight of stairs.

"I was still living on the streets," she says. "I was living everywhere. Abandoned buildings. Most of my stuff was hidden all over downtown Camden. I would dig holes and bury stuff in backyards."

She gently fingers a ring dangling from her necklace.

"My mother gave this to me from my son," she says. "I never take it off my neck. It's a mother-and-son ring. It's made it through everything with me. Someone ripped my necklace off one time. I flipped out. It was the only thing that made me feel like I had my son with me. I found the ring after someone ripped it off. I used to wear it on my hand. But I would get nervous that someone would rob me over a ring. I would dig holes and bury it. I would bury it with my money."

She put her profile on an Internet site to solicit clients. By then she had been raped as many as 20 times.

"The last time was the most brutal," she says. "It was on Pine Street near the Off Broadway [Lounge]. There's weeds on the side. I never took tricks off the street. They had to be in cars. But I was sick. I was tired."

A man on the street had offered her $20 for oral sex. But once they were in the weeds he pulled out a knife. He told her if she screamed he would kill her. When she offered some resistance he stabbed her. "He was trying to stab me in my vagina," she says. He stabbed her thigh. "It's kind of bad because I actually never ended up doing anything about it. It ended up turning into a big infection."

"I had seen this episode of Oprah years ago and this girl had been raped-her survival skills kicked in and what she did was tell the guy that he didn't have to do that to her, that he could do better," she says. "I got outta him that he and his girlfriend had gotten into a fight and that she wouldn't have sex with him and that somebody was gonna have sex with him that night. He made me hold his phone that had porn on it. He never really pulled his pants all the way down. And at this point I'm bleeding pretty badly. I'm lying on glass outside of this bar. I had like little bits of glass in my back. I remember being really scared. Then it just got to the point where I was just numb. I asked him if he could stop at one point so I could smoke a cigarette. He let me. I got him to put the knife down because I was being good and listening to him. He stabbed the knife in the dirt. He said, 'Just so you know I can pick it up at any point.' I think in his head he thought that I was scared enough. In my head I was trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get outta there. And it occurred to me one of the things he kept asking me to do was lick his butt. And he was getting off on this. The last time he turned around and asked me to do this I pushed him. I had myself set up to get up." She ran naked into the street. The commotion attracted the police. A passerby gave her his shirt to cover up. At 5 feet 5 inches tall she weighed only 86 pounds. Her skin was gray. Her feet were so swollen she was wearing size 12 men's slippers.

She would last four more weeks on the streets, until a private investigator hired by her mother found her in September 2012. He called her mother and handed the phone to Pagano. "I told her to leave me the fuck alone, just let me die," she says. "And she told me that she was not going to let me die out there. She said, 'You will not be sleeping on the streets of Camden tonight.' "

Because Pagano had a raft of outstanding warrants the investigator took her to jail, but her physical condition was so bad the jail refused to accept her. She was hospitalized for two weeks. She went into a methadone program that cost her mother $20,000.

"I was so hurt and so broken," she says. "I was in shock. When it all wore off I would wake up at night screaming, sweating, I had peed myself a couple times in the middle of the night. I still have nightmares. A lot of it goes back to that last rape. A lot of it has to do with E-frie."

"I live in a shitty little apartment, at 31 years old, with a roommate, who used to be sober and is now a stripper," she says. "I have a crappy car. I will never have a prestigious job. I've never been more happy in my life."

This summer she will regain custody of her son.

She tells me about her new boyfriend, Jose. She speaks his name as if the fact of Jose is a miracle.

"He knows everything there is to ever know about me and has never judged me, never," she says. "If I'm in a funk, he says, 'Just go to the 5:30 meeting,' " referring to a daily Alcoholics Anonymous session. "He doesn't even know what the 5:30 AA meeting is."

"I struggle with God," she says. "I have to believe that I haven't been put through this to give up. And there's been a lot of times when I wanted to do just that. I sat through Camden County jail [on an old warrant] sober. I was looking at all the same people I used to be out on the street with-being called Gucci again."

"I think the one thing I am most grateful for is that I am scared today," she says. "I'm scared of the law. I never was. I'm scared to lose what little I have. Not the material things-but I look at my son now. I remember the day that I had him and thinking this was it. And looking back I think I thought that this was gonna fix me. But it didn't. And I learned that nothing is going to fix me. Liam's not going to fix me. Those [AA] meetings are not going to fix me. They're going to help. Jeannette's going to help. All these people in my life are going to help. But the only person that can fix me is me. And that's a hard pill to swallow when you've done nothing your whole life but fuck it up. And one of the biggest things I still can't get over is that even when I'm doing something right, I still feel like I'm doing something wrong. I always have that feeling that it's not good enough. That I'm not good enough. And now here I am at 31. I have a huge criminal record. I have horrible credit. I lost a house. I lost a car. It amazes me that my mother still looks at me knowing what I've done-and she doesn't look at me any differently. And [when I go wrong] she'll be the first to tell you, 'That's not my daughter, that's what my daughter does when she's not thinking straight.' "

Liam, 5, recently learned where his dad is. Before, when he asked, Pagano had answered by saying only, "Your dad loves you very much." But eventually she had to tell him the truth. The boy cried for more than an hour. He asked his mother to play a game in which she is a cop who arrests him so he can go to prison and talk to his father. It is a game they play often.

"He's going to be 11 when [his father] gets out," she says. "Liam wants to know if he's going to be in his life. I can't give him an answer. It's really sad that for $578 [the father is] sitting in prison for nine years. I'm not condoning what he did. He did it. He's guilty, but nine years?"

"The system is set up for us to fail," she says. "Ten years from now I'm still just going to be a number. I'm always going to have an SBI [State Bureau of Identification] number. I'm always going to have mug shots all over the Internet. Liam's father is going to be out when he's 42 years old. And what the fuck is he going to do? And they expect people not to go back. What's he going to do? I realize everyone's got a choice, but the state won't even help me. They're not going to help him. I'm not saying people shouldn't pay for what they do. Most people don't change. I'm not going to say that they do. But some change. I fight everyday to be a better person. I fight to fit into society."

The manager of the diner comes over to tell us he is closing in 15 minutes. He looks at Pagano. He sees she is distraught. "Take your time," he says gently. We are drinking coffee, pouring in little containers of creamer and stirring it too long.

"I never thought this would be my story," Pagano says. "You couldn't have told me this. Now I cry a lot. I'm very compassionate. I never used to be. They used to call me the ice queen."

She pauses and looks down at the table, trying to recover her composure. "I look in the mirror. Half the time I still see that girl again," she says, referring to her former self. "The other half of the time I see me."

We leave the diner, darting through the rain to our cars.

The poor in America usually get only one chance. Then it is over. Those who were on the street with Pagano in Camden will most likely never have a private investigator rescue them, or have a mother pay for their drug rehabilitation. Most will live, suffer and die within the space of a few squalid city blocks. No jobs. No hope. No help. No way out. They blunt their despair through alcohol or drugs. And if they do get out, as did Pagano, they carry the chains of their past wrapped in long coils around them. Employers do not want them. Landlords will not rent them an apartment. Real estate agents will not deal with them if they seek to buy a house. Banks and credit card companies will not give them credit. They never have enough money. They probably never will. They live one step away from hell. And they know what hell feels like. This is how the bankers, bond traders and financial speculators, the ones with the packed wallets, the ones with the fancy cars and the multimillion-dollar homes in New Jersey's suburbs of Mendham, Chatham and Short Hills, the ones who paid Christine Pagano for sex during their nightly journeys to their homes and wives, want it. The hell of the poor is their paradise.
(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

25 Years After Exxon Valdez, BP Was The Hidden Culprit
By Greg Palast

Two decades ago I was the investigator for the legal team that sold you the bullshit that a drunken captain was the principal cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the oil tanker crackup that poisoned over a thousand miles of Alaska's coastline 25 years ago on March 24, 1989.

The truth is far uglier, and the real culprit-British Petroleum, now BP-got away without a scratch to its reputation or to its pocketbook.

And because BP's willful negligence, prevarications and fraud in the Exxon Valdez spill cost the company nothing, its disdain for the law, for the environment and for the safety of its workers was repeated in the Gulf of Mexico with deadly consequences, resulting, two decades later, in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Just this month, the Obama administration authorized BP to return to drilling in the Gulf.

It would be worth the time of our ever-trusting regulators to take a look at my Exxon Valdez BP files. They would see a decades-long pattern of BP's lies, bribes and cover-ups that led, inexorably, to the Deepwater Horizon blowout-and that continue today within BP's worldwide oil operations.

Here is a sample from my files on BP from the original Exxon Valdez fraud and racketeering investigation:

Fraud No. 1: The Emergency Sucker Boat fraud

Containing an oil spill-preventing spilled crude from spreading to the shore-is not rocket science.

As the principal owner of the Alaska Pipeline and Terminal, BP, not Exxon, was designated by law to prevent oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez from hitting the beach. It was BP's disastrous failures, more than Exxon's, that allowed the oil to devastate Alaska's coast.

To contain a spill all you need are rubbers and suckers. It works like this:

If a tanker, oil rig or pipe bursts open, you surround it with a giant rubber skirt known as "boom." Then you suck the oil out through vacuum hoses on board special "containment" ships. The containment ship, which lays out the boom and skimmer hoses, is the firetruck of oil spills. You simply don't let tankers out of port unless a containment ship is ready to roll. It's against the law.

But the law has never meant much to BP.

In May 1977, as the first tankers left Valdez, BP executives promised the state of Alaska that no tanker would leave port unless there were two containment barges at the ready and loaded with boom, with one placed near Bligh Island.

In fact, on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez ran aground, right at Bligh Island, the containment barge was far away in Valdez, locked in a dry dock, its boom and hoses under Alaskan ice. As a result, by the time the emergency oil spill vessel got to the stricken ship, the oil slick was a hundred miles in circumference and beyond control.

Two decades later, I watched fireboats uselessly spraying the burning oil on the Deepwater Horizon. Once again there were no BP skimmer barges, no boom surrounding the rig. Just as in Alaska, the promised spill containment operation was a con. By the time the Navy set out 400 miles of rubber boom days later, the slick was already as big as Cuba and slathering the Gulf shores.

Recently, Chevron and other big oil giants, now drilling the Gulf, have printed a series of full-page ads in papers across America touting their new state-of-the-art oil spill containment operations. Hey, thanks. But these are the same vessels BP and its fellow Gulf drillers promised before the Deepwater Horizon blew apart.

Fraud No. 2: Ghost Crews

There's no sense having a firetruck without firemen. And so, years before the Exxon Valdez grounding, Alyeska, the oil company consortium headed by BP, promised the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Congress, under oath, that the oil shipper would employ a trained and equipped crew around the clock to jump from helicopters, if needed, to contain an oil spill. My clients, the Chugach Natives of Alaska, agreed to give up ownership of the land under the Port of Valdez to the oil companies in return for those jobs.

The night the Exxon Valdez grounded, Chugach Natives watched from the beach at nearby Tatitlek Village as the tanker headed into the reef. They could have prevented the disaster-but they were helpless: BP had fired them.

In my team's investigation for the Chugach, we discovered that, to save money, BP's Alyeska simply drew up lists of nonexistent emergency spill response workers or wrote down names of untrained, unequipped dockworkers: an imaginary crew to man phantom emergency ships.

Fraud No. 3: Phantom Equipment

And the rubber boom? That was a phantom as well. BP's Alyeska had promised that too, in writing. The equipment was supposed to be placed along the tanker route including Bligh Island-exactly the spot where the Exxon Valdez grounded.

And so, it was no surprise to me that 21 years later in the Gulf there were neither skimmers nor boom at the site of the Deepwater Horizon. The equipment was there, as in Alaska, only on paper.

Indeed, part of BP's Gulf Coast response plan was a photocopy of the Alaska plan, including ways to wash down Arctic seals.

Cover-Up, Threats and Bribery

Did BP's top executives and partners know of the ghost response teams and phantom equipment ruse? Yes, we have the documents and insiders' testimony. Just three examples from my bulging file cabinet:

In a confidential letter dated April 19, 1984, Capt. James Woodle, BP's commander of the port at Valdez, warned that "due to a reduction in manning, age of equipment, limited training and lack of personnel, serious doubt exists that [we] would be able to contain and clean up effectively a medium or large size oil spill."

In response, BP threatened him with a file on his marital infidelities (fabricated), fired him, then forced him to destroy his files.

Ten months before the Exxon Valdez spill, BP's Alyeska chief, Theo Polasek, told a secret meeting of the top executives of the Alaska group oil companies (including BP, Exxon and ConocoPhillips) that containing an oil spill "at the mid-point of Prince William Sound [is] not possible with present equipment." But no change was made. Polasek was denied the funds needed to protect the mid-Sound-exactly where the tanker grounded.

In September 1984, before the Exxon Valdez disaster, BP's shipping broker, Charles Hamel, was so concerned at what he saw as an immediate danger in Alaska that he flew by Concorde to London to warn BP's chiefs of the looming emergency. In response, BP hired ex-CIA operatives to tap Hamel's phone and intercept his mail. BP's black ops team even ran a toy truck with a microphone into the air vents of a building where he was speaking with a congressman. (Ultimately, BP's spooks were captured by a team of Navy SEALs.)

BP Gets Off Cheap

The team of attorneys representing the Natives and fishermen whose lives were destroyed by the tanker spill chose to hold back the true and ugly story of systematic fraud and penny-pinching negligence by BP and its partners. We focused instead on the simpler story of human frailty and error-"drunken skipper hits reef."

We didn't have a choice: Oil company chiefs had told our clients-Natives who were out of cash, isolated and desperate-that they wouldn't get a dime unless we agreed not to use the "f-word": fraud. Exxon would withhold payment for 20 years.

We buried the fraud charges-yet Exxon still didn't pay for 22 years. By that time, a third of the Natives and fishermen in the lawsuit were dead.

And BP? Who said crime doesn't pay? BP walked away with a nominal payment to Alaska's Natives, fishermen and towns of $125 million-100 percent of it covered by insurance.

And that's what led, years later, to the incineration of 11 men on the Deepwater Horizon and 600 miles of Gulf coastline still poisoned today.

BP and other oil companies have a clear motive for these safety games: skimmer barges, crews, equipment and operations cost billions of dollars a year worldwide to man and maintain. It's cheaper to lie, cover up and buy the favor of politicians and regulators.

In London, BP executives told me on camera of their systematic bribery of presidents and their minions in the new Caspian Sea oil states. (Bribery charges against one bagman were dropped when in 2010 the National Security Agency acknowledged that it had authorized the bribes.)

But it's not just "over there" that BP spreads its largesse. BP's original sweetheart oil leases in the Gulf and the light hand of regulators were doubtless the result of favors-monetary and sexual-that the company lavished on U.S. regulatory agents at the Minerals Management Service, an agency that President Obama shuttered in response to the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

There's also the monetary and political love laid upon America's powerful. Although a foreign company, BP's chief in Alaska, Bob Malone, became a co-chairman and fundraiser for George W. Bush's election campaign.

Polluted Shores, Polluted Politics

In 2010 for the U.K.'s Channel 4 Television, I returned to Alaska with filmmaker Richard Rowley. In the quiet rivulets of the islands within Prince William Sound, we picked up gobs of oil with the telltale chemical markers of the Exxon Valdez. Then we flew to the Gulf Coast with Alaskan oil spill biologist Rick Steiner-and found miles and miles of BP's oil oozing under beaches the company and the Obama administration had already declared clean.

Yet just last week, BP was awarded more tracts to drill in the Gulf even as its onetime vice president for Gulf exploration, David Rainey, stands trial on felony charges of obstruction of Congress.

It is clear that neither BP, its partners nor this administration can be trusted to safely punch more miles-deep holes in the Gulf of Mexico. As long as oil companies can pad their bottom line by scoffing at the law, as long as they can cheaply pollute the political process, the next disaster is not a matter of if, but when.
(c) 2014 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

Wealth Over Work
By Paul Krugman

It seems safe to say that "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year - and maybe of the decade. Mr. Piketty, arguably the world's leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we're on the way back to "patrimonial capitalism," in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent.

To be sure, Mr. Piketty concedes that we aren't there yet. So far, the rise of America's 1 percent has mainly been driven by executive salaries and bonuses rather than income from investments, let alone inherited wealth. But six of the 10 wealthiest Americans are already heirs rather than self-made entrepreneurs, and the children of today's economic elite start from a position of immense privilege. As Mr. Piketty notes, "the risk of a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism."

Indeed. And if you want to feel even less optimistic, consider what many U.S. politicians are up to. America's nascent oligarchy may not yet be fully formed - but one of our two main political parties already seems committed to defending the oligarchy's interests.

Despite the frantic efforts of some Republicans to pretend otherwise, most people realize that today's G.O.P. favors the interests of the rich over those of ordinary families. I suspect, however, that fewer people realize the extent to which the party favors returns on wealth over wages and salaries. And the dominance of income from capital, which can be inherited, over wages - the dominance of wealth over work - is what patrimonial capitalism is all about.

To see what I'm talking about, start with actual policies and policy proposals. It's generally understood that George W. Bush did all he could to cut taxes on the very affluent, that the middle-class cuts he included were essentially political loss leaders. It's less well understood that the biggest breaks went not to people paid high salaries but to coupon-clippers and heirs to large estates. True, the top tax bracket on earned income fell from 39.6 to 35 percent. But the top rate on dividends fell from 39.6 percent (because they were taxed as ordinary income) to 15 percent - and the estate tax was completely eliminated.

Some of these cuts were reversed under President Obama, but the point is that the great tax-cut push of the Bush years was mainly about reducing taxes on unearned income. And when Republicans retook one house of Congress, they promptly came up with a plan - Representative Paul Ryan's "road map" - calling for the elimination of taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains and estates. Under this plan, someone living solely off inherited wealth would have owed no federal taxes at all.

This tilt of policy toward the interests of wealth has been mirrored by a tilt in rhetoric; Republicans often seem so intent on exalting "job creators" that they forget to mention American workers. In 2012 Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, famously commemorated Labor Day with a Twitter post honoring business owners. More recently, Mr. Cantor reportedly reminded colleagues at a G.O.P. retreat that most Americans work for other people, which is at least one reason attempts to make a big issue out of Mr. Obama's supposed denigration of businesspeople fell flat. (Another reason was that Mr. Obama did no such thing.)

In fact, not only don't most Americans own businesses, but business income, and income from capital in general, is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. In 1979 the top 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income; by 2007 the same group was getting 43 percent of business income, and 75 percent of capital gains. Yet this small elite gets all of the G.O.P.'s love, and most of its policy attention.

Why is this happening? Well, bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence - and not just through campaign contributions. Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.

As I've already suggested, the results can sometimes seem comical. The important point to remember, however, is that the people inside the bubble have a lot of power, which they wield on behalf of their patrons. And the drift toward oligarchy continues.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The American people are free to do exactly what they are told."
~~~ Ward Churchill

Alleged Problems: Real Solutions
By Frank Scott

There are more than 300 million people in the USA. 492 of them are billionaires. That represents roughly 16 millionths of 1%. In decimal form that's .0000016, or as a fraction, 16 over 1 million. This is not the 1% the Occupy Movement imprinted on (some of) the national consciousness. Even an innumerate person can understand that represents a teeny, tiny, microscopic portion of our supposedly democratic, equal opportunity, propaganda spouting world's most deadly military killing machine in history.

But hey, we're a free enterprise system, right? Those less than 500 of us are brilliant, industrious, hard working people who've earned every penny of that money by getting up early and getting off to the foundry, office, factory, school, hospital and sundry other places where people work, while the rest of us - roughly 99.9999984% - are loutish chumps (except for a small professional elite who were smart enough to become servants to that 16/millionth) who, if we work much harder, regularly attend religious services and even more regularly take good drugs, can also hope to join them up at that fractional faction of a factional fraction at the top. Someday. Sure.

It's in the Constitution. Or the Declaration. Or the bible? Well, maybe a comic book?

Meanwhile, at the other extreme of our population, far more people, actually tens of thousands, live in and on the street. They sleep in shelters, which put them up for the night if they are lucky enough to get in, and put them out in the morning. Or they sleep in cars, doorways, under bridges and on park benches, if there is no room at the inn - oops - shelter. But not to worry, theirs is not complete despair, abject misery or living death by comparison to the opulence enjoyed by the top fraction and its servant class.

Our bottom dwelling humans who absorb the most extreme loss that ultimately benefits upper level private profits can avail themselves of free food dispensaries at least once a day. And free health clinics and hospital emergency rooms when their economically and elements weakened state brings on illness or disease. And if they drop dead in the street and are not claimed by relatives, they are guaranteed publicly financed burial in Potter's Fields. That's after their bodies have been used to train future doctors and nurses, assuming the ravages of their lives haven't reduced them to former human but now garbage offering no useful parts or organs as tools for medical education.

We also have tens of millions of pet dogs and cats which live in warmth and comfort, are often loved as members of our human families, are very well fed and have health care from thousands of pet clinics staffed by educated veterinarians, including oncologists. This in a nation where some die in the street and no one even knows they had cancer until their unclaimed bodies are used for medical experiments.

Those may seem uncommon extremes of the social order but they are factual and not the healthiest sign for a nation and culture in which many still believe that we are superior to others, and if not a master race of chosen people, at least an exceptionally wonderful place to have a family, raise a dog, tap a phone or aim a drone. Given that and the fact that the overwhelming majority of what is called the scientific community warns us that our treatment of the planet's human and other resources is bringing us closer to a failure and possible breakdown of society previously inconceivable, what would you say we should be most concerned about?

What happened at Downton Abbey? The outcome of the NCAA March Madness? The chances that Miley Somebody's twerky tongue will grow a foot longer? That Pussy Riot will move to America and host next year's Academy Awards? Nope, nothing that important. Guess?

Putin, and Russia's attempt to take over the globe and make us all eat evil black bread!

You'd think as much if you read, watch, listen to and especially believe what you're told by our nation's corporate ministry of disinformation, which has been beating the drums of war for years now but most recently over this alleged renewed threat from Russia. And where is the evil Cossack saber poised to strike at the burgers, fries, Fox TV and PBS series we so love, cherish and would die for?

Right on our very borders at the Ukraine!

Well, though it actually borders on Russia and parts of it like the Crimea have actually been in Russia and millions of its population identify with and speak Russian, you might think it was in downtown Dallas or uptown New York for the way it has been treated by our sometimes telegenically attractive brain dead media mind managers and their pinheaded mentors in our Hollywood-for-ugly-people Government.

This would be laughable if not hysterically so, but for the fact that what passes for leadership, like the president, secretary of state, a wannabe president, and half wit critics of those dim bulbs because they aren't warlike enough, dominate what passes for discussion on an issue that could lead to even greater stress on a failing system, if not a blunder into a war that might just bring on collapse that much sooner.

There has never have been a better time to totally disregard corporate media and to be extremely careful about what passes for its "alternative." Study a map of the world and also look at the material reality of the USA that's neglected by those who tell us about it rather than allowing us to experience it. Learn to respect your neighbors and turn anger at those who allegedly represent you but are owned and operated exclusively for the benefit of that top minuscule minority and their servants. Demand and create social transformation before these people and their system destroys us all. Hurry.

You can call that process democracy, revolution, or lunch. The substance is what matters, not the label.
(c) 2014 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears online at the blog Legalienate.

Barack Obama: The Least Transparent President In History
By Amy Goodman

"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government." So wrote President Barack Obama, back on Jan. 29, 2009, just days into his presidency. "Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." Now, six years into the Obama administration, his promise of "a new era of open Government" seems just another grand promise, cynically broken.

As the news industry observed its annual "Sunshine Week" in mid-March, The Associated Press reported that "[m]ore often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]." The AP report continued, "The government's efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office."

This comes as no surprise to Ryan Shapiro, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who just filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency, seeking public records pertaining to the U.S. role in the 1962 arrest of Nelson Mandela, which would land him in prison for 27 years. When his FOIA requests on Mandela were denied, he sued. "I'm pursuing these records," he explained to me, "mostly because I'm interested in knowing why the U.S. intelligence community viewed Mandela as a threat to American security and what role the U.S. intelligence community played in thwarting Mandela's struggle for racial justice and democracy in South Africa."

Shapiro filed a FOIA request with the NSA, seeking details on the arrest of Mandela over 50 years ago. The NSA wrote in reply, "To the extent that you are seeking intelligence information on Nelson Mandela, we have determined that the fact of the existence or non-existence of the materials you request is a currently and properly classified matter." Half a century later?

Shapiro also is seeking information on Mandela's placement on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008, which was years after he had served as South Africa's first democratically elected president, years after he had won not only the Nobel Peace Prize, but the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. I asked Shapiro why he was chasing down all these documents. "The answer," he replied, "has to do with this blinkered understanding of national security, this myopic understanding that places crass military alliances and corporate profits over human rights and civil liberties."

Shapiro has an interesting history, and a personal stake in the government labeling activists "terrorists." In 2002, Shapiro engaged in an act of civil disobedience, infiltrating a farm where ducks are raised for the production of foie gras, exposing what he calls "horrific conditions which are the absolute norm on factory farms." He said he and other activists "openly rescued, or stole, animals from a factory farm, made a movie about it. I did it as an act of civil disobedience, but it's a real crime ... I did 40 hours of community service, and that was it." Since that time, state after state has passed so-called Ag-Gag laws, which equate some animal-rights activism with terrorism, and which can include incredibly harsh prison sentences.

He says his dissertation in progress, titled "Bodies at War: Animals, the Freedom of Science, and National Security in the United States," looks "at the use of the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to marginalize animal protectionists from the late 19th century to the present." Shapiro is seeking a wealth of public documents to answer the question. He has close to 700 FOIA requests before the FBI, seeking 350,000 documents, leading the Justice Department to call him its "most prolific" requester. The FBI has labeled part of his dissertation a threat to national security.

In 2008, when campaigning, Barack Obama was often touted as a constitutional-law professor. As such, we can assume he studied writings of one of that document's authors, James Madison, the fourth president of the U.S., considered the "Father of the Bill of Rights." Madison wrote, in 1822, "A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both." With Edward Snowden's revelations of massive NSA spying and surveillance, and the administration's abysmal record on transparency, President Obama has tragically moved well beyond farce.
(c) 2014 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Dead Letter Office...

Bill gives the corpo-rat salute

Heil Obama,

Dear Generalbundesanwalt Schuette,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your demand to keep gay folks from having equal rights, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-24-2014. We salute you Herr Schuette, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Real Truth About ObamaCare
By Robert Reich

Despite the worst roll-out conceivable, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working. With less than two weeks remaining before the March 31 deadline for coverage this year, five million people have already signed up. After decades of rising percentages of Americans' lacking health insurance, the uninsured rate has dropped to its lowest levels since 2008.

Meanwhile, the rise in health care costs has slowed drastically. No one knows exactly why, but the new law may well be contributing to this slowdown by reducing Medicare overpayments to medical providers and private insurers, and creating incentives for hospitals and doctors to improve quality of care.

But a lot about the Affordable Care Act needs fixing - especially the widespread misinformation that continues to surround it. For example, a majority of business owners with fewer than 50 workers still think they're required to offer insurance or pay a penalty. In fact, the law applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees who work more than 30 hours a week. And many companies with fewer than 25 workers still don't realize that if they offer plans they can qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Many individuals remain confused and frightened. Forty-one percent of Americans who are still uninsured say they plan to remain that way. They believe it will be cheaper to pay a penalty than buy insurance. Many of these people are unaware of the subsidies available to them. Sign-ups have been particularly disappointing among Hispanics.

Some of this confusion has been deliberately sown by outside groups that, in the wake of the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, have been free to spend large amounts of money to undermine the law. For example, Gov. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, told Fox News that the Affordable Care Act was "the biggest job killer ever," citing a Florida company with 20 employees that expected to go out of business because it couldn't afford coverage.

None of this is beyond repair, though. As more Americans sign up and see the benefits, others will take note and do the same.

The biggest problem on the horizon that may be beyond repair - because it reflects a core feature of the law - is the public's understandable reluctance to be forced to buy insurance from private, for-profit insurers that aren't under enough competitive pressure to keep premiums low.

But even here, remedies could evolve. States might use their state-run exchanges to funnel so many applicants to a single, low-cost insurer that the insurer becomes, in effect, a single payer. Vermont is already moving in this direction. In this way, the Affordable Care Act could become a back door to a single-payer system - every conservative's worst nightmare.
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

Sorry day: Honor the stolen generation.

Australia Is Again Stealing Its Indigenous Children
By John Pilger

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because (as an Australian Aborigine) you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again." A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognized abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous Stolen Generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed-race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children were given to institutions as cheap or slave labor; many were abused.

Described by a chief protector of Aborigines as "breeding out the color," the policy was known as assimilation. It was influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis. In 1997, a landmark report, "Bringing Them Home," disclosed that as many 50,000 children and their mothers had endured "the humiliation, the degradation and sheer brutality of the act of forced separation ... the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state." The report called this genocide.

Assimilation remains Australian government policy in all but name. Euphemisms such as "reconciliation" and "Stronger Futures" cover similar social engineering and an enduring, insidious racism in the political elite, the bureaucracy and wider Australian society. When in 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for the Stolen Generation, he added: "I want to be blunt about this. There will be no compensation." The Sydney Morning Herald congratulated Rudd on a "shrewd maneuver" that "cleared away a piece of political wreckage that responds to some of its supporters' emotional needs, but changes nothing."

Today, the theft of Aboriginal children - including babies taken from the birth table - is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. As of June last year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children had been "removed." This is five times the number when "Bringing Them Home" was written. More than a third of all removed children are Aboriginal - from 3% of the population. At the present rate, this mass removal of Aboriginal children will result in a stolen generation of more than 3,300 children in the Northern Territory alone.

Pat (not her real name) is the mother whose anguish was secretly recorded on a phone as four Department of Child Services officials, and six police officers, descended on her home. On the tape an official claims they have come only for an "assessment." But two of the police officers, who knew Pat, told her they saw no risk to her child and warned her to "get out of here quick." Pat fled, cradling her infant, but the one-year-old was eventually seized without her knowing why. The next morning a police officer returned to apologize to her and said her baby should never have been taken away. Pat has no idea where her son is.

Once, she was "invited" by officials to bring her children to "neutral" offices to discuss a "care plan." The doors were locked and officials seized the children, with one of the youngest dragging on a police officer's gun belt. Many indigenous mothers are unaware of their legal rights. A secretive Children's Court has become notorious for rubber-stamping removals.

Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy in towns a short flight from Sydney is as low as 37. Dickensian diseases are rife; Australia is the only developed country not to have eradicated trachoma, which blinds Aboriginal children.

Pat has both complied with and struggled bravely against a punitive bureaucracy that can remove children on hearsay. She has twice been acquitted of false charges, including "kidnapping" her own children. A psychologist has described her as a capable and good mother.

Josie Crawshaw, the former director of a respected families' support organization in Darwin, told me, "In remote areas, officials will go in with a plane in the early hours and fly the child thousands of kilometers from their community. There'll be no explanation, no support, and the child may be gone forever."

In 2012, Coordinator-General of Remote Services for the Northern Territory Olga Havnen was sacked when she revealed that almost $80 million was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children, compared with only $500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families. She told me, "The primary reasons for removing children are welfare issues directly related to poverty and inequality. The impact on families is just horrendous because if they are not reunited within six months, it's likely they won't see each other again. If South Africa was doing this, there'd be an international outcry."

She and others with long experience I have interviewed have echoed the "Bringing them Home" report, which described an official "attitude" in Australia that regarded all Aboriginal people as "morally deficient." A Department of Families and Community Services spokesman said that the majority of removed indigenous children in New South Wales were placed with indigenous caregivers. According to indigenous support networks, this is a smokescreen; it does not mean families and it is control by divisiveness that is the bureaucracy's real achievement.

I met a group of Aboriginal grandmothers, all survivors of the first stolen generation, all now with stolen grandchildren. "We live in a state of fear, again," they said. David Shoebridge, a State Greens MP, told me, "The truth is, there is a market among whites for these kids, especially babies."

The New South Wales parliament is soon to debate legislation that introduces forced adoption and "guardianship." Children under two will be liable - without the mother's consent - if "removed" for more than six months. For many Aboriginal mothers like Pat, it can take six months merely to make contact with their children. "It's setting up Aboriginal families to fail," said Shoebridge.

I asked Josie Crawshaw why. "The willful ignorance in Australia about its first people has now become the kind of intolerance that gets to the point where you can smash an entire group of humanity and there is no fuss."
(c) 2014 John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film- maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Fitzsimmons ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Putin Announces Historic G-1 Summit
By Andy Borowitz

MOSCOW (The Borowitz Report) - Russian President Vladimir Putin made history today by scheduling the first-ever summit of the newly formed group of nations called the G-1.

The summit, which Putin has set for June in Sochi, is expected to be attended by the G-1 member nation Russia.

Putin pronounced himself delighted by Russia's attendance, telling reporters, "It is an auspicious start for the G-1 to have the participation of all its member nations."

In addition to what he called "a free exchange of ideas on issues of importance to the G-1," the summit is expected to elect the first president of the G-1, a position for which Putin is widely considered the frontrunner.

Putin denied he was a candidate for the post, but added, "It's an honor just to be in the mix."
(c) 2014 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 12 (c) 03/28/2014

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