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May 22, 2017

Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike as Trump Visits Israel

 

As Donald Trump arrives in Israel, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are participating in a hunger strike to protest their mistreatment. On April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, approximately 1,500 prisoners began refusing food, ingesting only salt water. That amounts to about a quarter of all Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.

Their demands include increased visitation rights with humane treatment of family visitors; installation of a public telephone to communicate with families; and an end to medical negligence, solitary confinement and administrative detention.

Many of the striking prisoners have been taken to the hospital after their health deteriorated, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs reported.

Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian activist who called for the hunger strike, wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”Read more

May 18, 2017

Did Trump Commit High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has responded to the crescendo of outrage by appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” as well as any other matters within the scope of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulation on special counsel appointments.

“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Rosenstein stated.Read more

May 6, 2017

Jeff Sessions’ Department of Injustice

Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons.

Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.”Read more

April 27, 2017

Gorsuch Is Already Channeling Scalia on Life-or-Death Decisions

Just days after stealing Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch is channeling Antonin Scalia. On April 20, the newly minted associate justice cast his first ballot. Gorsuch provided the fifth vote that allowed Arkansas to execute a likely innocent man.

Casting the Deciding Vote for Death

For 24 years, Ledell Lee maintained his innocence, and requested a DNA test that might have proven it. But five members of the high court, including Gorsuch, denied Lee’s request because Arkansas’s supply of midazolam, required for Lee’s lethal injection, was fast approaching its expiration date.

“In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random,” Justice Stephen Breyer penned in dissent.

The New York Times editorial board wrote, “Neil Gorsuch held the power of life and death in his hands…. His choice led to Ledell Lee’s execution, and gave the nation an early, and troubling, look into the mind-set of the high court’s newest member.”Read more

April 11, 2017

Trump Adds Insult to Injury in Syria

With 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each armed with over 1,000 pounds of explosives, Donald Trump went from scoundrel-in-chief to national hero, virtually overnight. The corporate media, the neoconservatives and most of Congress hailed Trump as strong and presidential for lobbing bombs into Syria, reportedly killing seven civilians and wounding nine.

“The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable,” wrote Glenn Greenwald. This sends Trump a frightening message: bombing makes you popular.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. The use of chemical weapons is illegal, immoral and intolerable. If it was an intentional attack, it constitutes a war crime. Anyone responsible for the horrific April 4 events in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed over 80 people, including at least 20 women and 30 children, should be brought to justice. But Trump’s bombing of Syria, a sovereign nation, was illegal, under both U.S. and international law.Read more

April 7, 2017

Donald Trump’s War Crimes

Just two and a half months into his presidency, Donald Trump has already distinguished himself as a war criminal. His administration is killing unusually large numbers of civilians, in violation of US and international law.

Killing Civilians in Record Numbers

The Trump administration began to kill civilians over inaugural weekend, with two drone strikes in Yemen that claimed 10 lives. One drone struck three people on a motorcycle. The other hit seven people riding in a car. Neither Trump nor Defense Secretary James Mattis admits to having approved the strikes. It is not clear who authorized them.

One week after his inauguration, Trump bemoaned the death of a US Navy Seal in a botched raid he personally ordered in southern Yemen. Trump made no mention of the 30 people, including at least 10 women and children, killed by the US bombers. The attack badly damaged a health facility, a school and a mosque.

Over the past month, the US-led coalition has killed an inordinate number of civilians.

“Almost 1,000 non-combatant deaths have already been alleged from coalition actions across Iraq and Syria in March — a record claim,” according to Airwars, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that monitors civilian casualties from airstrikes in the Middle East. “These reported casualty levels are comparable with some of the worst periods of Russian activity in Syria.”Read more

March 30, 2017

Israel Hits Back Against Boycott

On March 19, Israeli tax officials arrested Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Omar and his wife Safa, an Israeli citizen, were detained for 16 hours and have been subjected to daily interrogation sessions.

Barghouti’s arrest is indirect evidence of the growing strength of the BDS movement, a worldwide non-violent challenge to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, a protest campaign that the Israeli government has identified as an existential threat to Israel.

Israel is particularly sensitive in light of the new United Nations report concluding that it has established an “apartheid regime” and recommending that national governments support BDS activities to challenge Israel’s illegal system of oppression of the Palestinians. The report was co-authored by Richard Falk, an international law expert and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We will defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.”Read more

March 27, 2017

Neil Gorsuch and the Deconstruction of the Administrative State

When Donald Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee in February, he identified two priorities of the administration: the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and deregulation.

It turns out that elevating Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and achieving deregulation are inextricably linked.Read more

March 23, 2017

Gorsuch Would Use “Originalism” to Affirm Right-Wing Agenda

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch says he’s an “originalist.” The late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch called “a lion of the law,” also championed originalism. Justice Clarence Thomas now stands alone on the high court as a self-proclaimed originalist.

Largely discredited by courts and legal scholars, originalism is ultimately a way to reach a right-wing result under the guise of following the original intent of the authors of the Constitution.Read more

March 17, 2017

Evaluate New Muslim Ban in Light of International Law

After a federal district court judge and a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Trump’s Executive Order (EO) instituting a travel ban was likely illegal, the president suspended it and issued a new EO on March 6, 2017.

On March 15, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order in Hawaii v. Trump et al., halting the operation of the new EO nationwide. US District Judge Derrick K. Watson found that plaintiffs met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim, that irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued, and that the balance of the equities and public interest counsel in favor of granting the requested relief.

When the case is heard on the merits, the legality of the new EO, which categorically suspends immigration from six Muslim majority countries to the United States, should be assessed in light of US treaty and customary international law, according to an amicus brief filed in the case.Read more