The Witch Hunt Against Assange Is Turning into an Extremely Dangerous Assault on Journalism Itself

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/news/149252/the_witch_hunt_against_assange_is_turning_into_an_extremely_dangerous_assault_on_journalism_itself

The Obama admin’s reported plan to indict Julian Assange strikes at the heart of investigative journalism on national security scandals.

By Robert Parry

December 17, 2010

Whatever the unusual aspects of the case, the Obama administration’s reported plan to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for conspiring with Army Pvt. Bradley Manning to obtain U.S. secrets  strikes at the heart of investigative journalism on national security scandals.

That’s because the process for reporters obtaining classified information about crimes of state most often involves a journalist persuading some government official to break the law either by turning over classified documents or at least by talking about the secret information. There is almost always some level of “conspiracy” between reporter and source.

Contrary to what some outsiders might believe, it’s actually quite uncommon for sensitive material to simply arrive “over the transom” unsolicited. Indeed, during three decades of reporting on these kinds of stories, I can only recall a few secret documents arriving that way to me.

In most cases, I played some role – either large or small – in locating the classified information or convincing some government official to divulge some secrets. More often than not, I was the instigator of these “conspiracies.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news/149252/the_witch_hunt_against_assange_is_turning_into_an_extremely_dangerous_assault_on_journalism_itself

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‘A new type of business McCarthyism’ hunts WikiLeaks, site founder says

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/a-type-business-mccarthyism-hunts-wikileaks-site-founder/

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, December 18th, 2010 — 6:59 pm

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denounced “business McCarthyism” in the United States after the Bank of America halted all transactions to the website Saturday.

The Australian, who was spending his second full day on bail, vowed the whistle-blowing site would carry on releasing controversial leaked US diplomatic cables as he insisted his life was under threat.

Bank of America, the largest US bank, halted all transactions for WikiLeaks, joining other institutions that have refused to process payments for the website since it started to publish the documents last month.

“Bank of America joins in the actions previously announced by MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others and will not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for WikiLeaks,” it said in a statement.

“This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/a-type-business-mccarthyism-hunts-wikileaks-site-founder/

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Corporate America’s Plan to Loot Our Pensions Is the Latest Battle in Decades-Long Assault on the Middle Class

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/149226/corporate_america%27s_plan_to_loot_our_pensions_is_the_latest_battle_in_decades-long_assault_on_the_middle_class_/

While the safety net is being withered by attrition, record corporate profits are deemed off-limits for discussion about closing the budget gap.

By Arun Gupta

December 18, 2010

The severe economic crisis, now in its fourth year, is being used to batter the remnants of the social welfare state. Having decimated aid to the poor over the last 30 years, especially in the United States, the economic and political elite are now intent on strangling middle-class benefits, namely state-provided pensions, health care and education.

The initial neoliberal assault under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher reorganized the capitalist economy and hammered private-sector unions into submission. This was accomplished by putting labor back into competition with itself by off-shoring industrial production, through deregulation and with frontal assaults on labor rights, organizing and solidarity.

Similarly, the current attack is a two-pronged effort to reorganize state social services, either by eliminating or privatizing them, and decimate public-sector unions whose workers provide those services. While the safety net is being withered by attrition, police and spying agencies are getting more powers and funding, and the wealth of the super-rich and record corporate profits are deemed off-limits to taxation to close any government budget gap.

Simply put, the elderly are superfluous to capitalism. With high rates of joblessness the “new norm,” more and more people are being made disposable. This leads to an efficient if brutal logic: cutting old-age income and health care will make it easier to scrap old, useless workers. In fact, this reality is already coming to pass. One study published in 2008 found that over a 16-year period life expectancy had declined for many poor American women — precisely those who are disproportionately represented among the elderly heavily dependent on Social Security and Medicare.

Continue reading at:   http://www.alternet.org/economy/149226/corporate_america%27s_plan_to_loot_our_pensions_is_the_latest_battle_in_decades-long_assault_on_the_middle_class_/

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Treating Violence Against Sex Workers as a Hate Crime

I stumbled across RH Reality Check the other day and realized it is an important site that dares talk about issues that are rarely touched upon in the middle class feminist/lgbt “communities” like violence against sex workers. I’ve added a link to the Blog Roll.

From RH Reality Check: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/12/16/draft-treating-violence-against-workershate-crime-liverpool

By Rosie Campbell and Shelly Stoops

December 16, 2010 – 6:40pm

Over the last decade sex work projects, the police and other agencies in Liverpool (United Kingdom) have been addressing violence against sex workers, encouraging reporting and taking crimes committed against sex workers seriously. In recent years Armistead Street, a sex work outreach and support project in Liverpool, has worked with Merseyside Police to continue to build on this legacy. This partnership has led to unprecedented increases in the number of street sex workers reporting crimes committed against them to the police, the number of active investigations of such crimes, and the numbers of people being charged, brought before the courts and convicted of crimes. Key to this success is the practice in Liverpool of treating crimes against sex workers as hate crime.

Liverpool is a city in the North West of England. The majority of women involved in street sex work in the city experience problematic drug use, with high levels (over 90 percent) of heroin and crack cocaine use. They also experience social exclusion including homelessness. Research in the city, and frontline project work, has for over a decade reported high levels of violence against street sex workers, 80 percent of them reporting they have experienced violence in the course of their work. These studies showed there was noticeable under-reporting of incidents to the police. The key reasons identified for not reporting were: sex workers believing they would not be taken seriously or would not be treated with respect by the police; a lack of trust in the police; poor previous experience with law enforcement; fear of revenge from attackers; fear of arrest for soliciting; anxiety about court cases and fear that involvement in sex work would become public.

Groundbreaking Move

Liverpool has had more than its share of tragic loss of lives amongst sex workers in the UK, with eight women who were involved in street sex work murdered since 1990, of which five cases remain unsolved. The most recent murder of Anne Marie Foy in September 2005 led to a debate in the city about how to manage street sex work, resulting in strong support to address violence against street-based sex workers. During the murder investigation, Merseyside Police acknowledged that relationships with agencies and sex workers were ad hoc, that there were difficulties contacting and maintaining contact with vital witnesses, and that there was a continued lack of trust in the police amongst sex workers.

In a groundbreaking move in late 2006 Merseyside Police agreed a policy that all crimes against sex workers be treated as hate crime. They were the first, and at the time of writing, the only force in the UK to do so. In this country, the hate crime model has been developed for dealing primarily with racially motivated and homophobic crime. In policing policy, if a reported crime is classified as a hate crime, it will receive an enhanced response with more attention and police resources being allocated to it. The hate crime approach implicitly recognises that violence against sex workers is shaped by discrimination and attitudes of hostility and prejudice.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/12/16/draft-treating-violence-against-workershate-crime-liverpool

Stigma and Violence Against Transgender Sex Workers

From RH Reality Check: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/12/16/stigma-exclusion-violence-against-trans-workers

By Khartini Slamah and Sam Winter and Kemal Ordek

December 16, 2010 – 5:50pm

This article is part of a series published by RH Reality Check in partnership with the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) to commemorate the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, December 17th, 2010. It is excerpted from Research For Sex Work 12, published 17 December 2010 by the NSWP, an organization that upholds the voice of sex workers globally and connects regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers. Download the full journal, with eight more articles about sex work and violence, for free at nswp.orgSee all articles in this series here.

Andrea is in her early twenties. She comes from a poor family in the provinces of a Southeast Asian country. Unlike most women, she has a male birth certificate. She is a transgender woman.

Andrea has felt female as long as she can remember, and began living a female life as soon as she could. For this she was insulted by neighbours, teased by teachers and classmates at school, beaten up and raped by a bunch of young boys one night, and eventually beaten and disowned by her father. She dropped out of school, left home and migrated to the city, to stay with an older transwoman from her home town who, it turned out, was a transgender sex worker working the streets. Andrea didn’t much like the idea of sex work, but without education or connections was unable to get a job. Being ‘trans’ worked against her. No one wanted to employ her, even as a waitress or shop assistant. She turned to the ‘entertainment’ sector. Unable to get a job as a bar dancer or hostess, and barred from nightclubs and discos (all because she is trans), she too began to work on the streets. She has done it for five years, earning money for food and lodging, and a little extra for hormones and new silicon injections for her hips and breasts.

Andrea’s story is one of many thousands of transwomen worldwide (especially those like Andrea who are rural, less educated and socially isolated) who turn to sex work, not as the most attractive of a range of job options, but as the sole viable option for survival. Doubly stigmatised as transsexuals and as sex workers, pushed into street work, they become victims of abuse and violence perpetrated by bystanders, customers, their own ‘sisters,’ and (sadly) even by those who should be protecting them – the police.

As Andrea soon found out, competition on the streets is tough. There are too many trans sex workers and too few customers. Increasingly, her competitors are younger and more attractive. There have been fights over customers. Bystanders often abuse her verbally. Customers sometimes refuse to pay, angrily claiming they did not know she is trans. She has been beaten a few times. She knows others have been murdered. Nowadays, in order to avoid violence, she makes clear to every man who approaches her that she is transgender, even if that loses her customers.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/12/16/stigma-exclusion-violence-against-trans-workers

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Bradley Manning’s health deteriorating in jail, supporters say

From The Guardian UK: http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/view.m?id=15&gid=world/2010/dec/16/bradley-manning-health-deteriorating&cat=most-read

Heather Brooke

The Guardian, Thu 16 Dec 2010

The intelligence analyst suspected of leaking US diplomatic cables is being held in solitary confinement

As Julian Assange emerged from his nine-day imprisonment, there were renewed concerns about the physical and psychological health of Bradley Manning, the former US intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the diplomatic cables at the centre of the storm.
Manning, who was arrested seven months ago, is being held at a military base in Virginia and faces a court martial and up to 52 years in prison for his alleged role in copying the cables.
His friends and supporters also claim they have been the target of extra-judicial harassment, intimidation and outright bribery by US government agents.
According to David House, a computer researcher from Boston who visits Manning twice a month, he is starting to deteriorate. “Over the last few weeks I have noticed a steady decline in his mental and physical wellbeing,” he said. “His prolonged confinement in a solitary holding cell is unquestionably taking its toll on his intellect; his inability to exercise due to [prison] regulations has affected his physical appearance in a manner that suggests physical weakness.”
Manning, House added, was no longer the characteristically brilliant man he had been, despite efforts to keep him intellectually engaged. He also disputed the authorities’ claims that Manning was being kept in solitary for his own good.
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Will Cutting Taxes for the Rich Really Create Jobs?

From PR Watch: http://www.prwatch.org/node/9828

Submitted by Brendan Fischer on December 18, 2010 – 3:44pm

The White House and many Congressional Democrats recently caved to Republicans in a deal extending all of the Bush tax cuts for two years in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. The deal reverses stated opposition by many Democrats to an extension of tax cuts for the top income bracket, with 25% of the savings from the deal going to benefit the richest 1% of Americans. While Democrats who supported the bill claimed to do so begrudgingly, the plan has many avid supporters who justify its lopsided benefits by insisting that tax cuts for the rich and for businesses create jobs and benefit the economy. This is a big myth.

Looking at raw statistics, it is easy to see that there is hardly any correlation between reducing personal income tax rates for the wealthy and employment levels. The marginal tax rate for the wealthiest members of society hovered above 90% for the twenty years between 1944 and 1963, with unemployment during this period as low as 1.2% and a high of 6.8%. From 1965 to 1981, taxes for the upper income bracket were lowered to 70%, with unemployment as low as 3.6% and as high as 7.7%; from 1982 to 1986, the wealthy were taxed at 50%, with unemployment only reaching a low of 7% and a high of 9.7%. Taxes continued dropping through the 1980s and 1990s, with the top tax rate dropping to 31% in 1992, but with very little positive impact on job growth. In 1993, unemployment was at 6.9%, the tax rate for the wealthiest increased to 39.6%, and unemployment actually decreased to 4% by 2000. From 2003 through today, thanks to the Bush tax cuts, the rich have been taxed at 35%, and unemployment is now approaching 10%. 

Jobs are Created by Consumer Demand, Not by Increasing the “Supply” of Disposable Income for the Rich

Republicans have pushed for extending Bush’s tax cuts on the rich based on the logically appealing premise that “government doesn’t create jobs, private business creates jobs; therefore, if we reduce taxes on businesses and the upper income brackets they will have more to spend on creating jobs.” Many Republican candidates ran on this platform, and recently, “bipartisan” deficit reduction recommendations from both the Bowles-Simpson and Rivkin-Domenici commissions have arguably advocated for reducing taxes for the wealthy and corporations, and increasing taxes on low- and middle- income Americans. Whlie the degree of the cuts depends on whether we look at marginal or average tax rates, and the baseline tax rate used in the assessment, its regressive tax margins appear to rest on the “less taxes on the rich equal more jobs” assumption.)

The idea that wealthy people and corporations create more jobs when paying less in taxes is a claim that has superficial appeal, premised on the idea that, because businesses employ workers, they would employ more workers if they had more money. However, this simple calculus fails to acknowledge that employment is driven by consumer demand, not the amount of money in an executive’s pocket or on a business’ balance sheet. A business or entrepeneur will not use profits to add more workers unless there is consumer or business demand for their product or service.

Continue reading at:   http://www.prwatch.org/node/9828