CPJ: “In times of war, Pentagon reserves right to treat journalists like spies”

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

“In times of war, Pentagon reserves right to treat journalists like spies” – Committee to Protect Journalists:

The Pentagon has produced its first Department of Defense-wide Law of War Manual and the results are not encouraging for journalists who, the documents states, may be treated as “unprivileged belligerents.” But the manual’s justification for categorizing journalists this way is not based on any specific case, law or treaty. Instead, the relevant passages have footnotes referring to either other parts of the document or matters not germane to this legal assertion. And the language used to attempt to justify this categorization is weak at best.
[…]
At 1,180 pages long and with 6,196 footnotes, the manual includes vague and contradictory language about when and how the category of “unprivileged belligerents” might be applied to journalists. It ignores the most relevant cases where the U.S. military detained war correspondents and accused them of being — using the term coined by Pentagon officials in the 2000s — “unlawful combatants,” without producing evidence or bringing even one accused journalist to trial. The manual mentions international human rights treaties and declarations, but ignores the most important one, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which deals most clearly with the right to free expression and the press.
[…]
The manual devotes attention to “classes of persons” who “do not fit neatly within the dichotomy” between combatants and civilians, and replaces the term “unlawful combatants,” which U.S. officials used to refer to terrorist suspects held under extra-legal circumstances in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks, with “unprivileged belligerent.”

“Unprivileged” means the suspect is not entitled to the rights afforded to prisoners of war under international law and can instead be held as a criminal suspect in a category that includes suspected spies, saboteurs, and guerrillas.

Read the full report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Pell Grants made available for prisoners

Of the 700,000 prisoners who are released each year, more than 40% will be pack in prison within three years. Each prisoner costs the taxpayer $35,00-40,000 each year. You don’t need to know very much math to know that this isn’t a good deal for the United States — not to mention the loss of human potential of those stuck on a path of cyclical prison visits.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has decided to do something about it. Duncan’s plan encourages colleges and universities to offer classes in prisons by providing prisoners Pell Grants of $6,000 to pay for the classes. The plan is only a 5-year experiment to gather data on the outcomes of prisoners who participate in the program.

A Rand Corp. study estimates that every dollar spent on prison education saves the US taxpayer $5 and notes that when a prisoner takes a college course, they are 16% less likely to return to prison.

Of course, not everyone agrees with providing Pell Grants to prisoners, which is why 20 years ago, Congress voted to cut off access to the grants to state and federal prisoners.

So, for now, Secretary Duncan’s efforts remain a small-scale experiment, but he remains hopeful:

“We think this is a small, small investment that will pay extraordinary dividends. Not just financially. But in terms of making our streets and our community safer.”

 

AP: US-backed Syrian rebels flee HQ after clash with Nusra Front

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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AP / Lebanon Daily Star: US-backed rebel group flees north Syria HQ after clash with Nusra:

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said members of the Division 30 faction fled to a nearby area controlled by a Syrian Kurdish militia. Abu al-Hassan Marea, a Syrian activist who is currently in Turkey near the Syrian border, confirmed Saturday that Division 30 fighters have withdrawn from their headquarters.

Abdurrahman and Marea said Division 30 had less than 60 fighters and that on Friday alone the group lost five fighters and 18 others were wounded.
[…]
On Friday night the Nusra Front said it attacked Division 30 and abducted some of its members because they were trained by the CIA and vowed in a statement to cut off “the arms” of the American government in Syria.

A U.S. military official seemed to deny any American connection to Division 30, saying on Friday that no member of a U.S.-backed rebel faction had been abducted.

 
Despite the denial of connection, the U.S. military appeared to have responded directly to the situation as it unfolded, according to CNN, based on a policy implemented days earlier:

Syrian rebels backed by the United States will now have air cover if they come under attack after President Barack Obama signed off on the decision, a senior administration official confirms to CNN on Sunday.
[…]
This comes after the United States conducted airstrikes last week to protect two groups after they came under attack: U.S.-trained rebels and the U.S.-affiliated rebels of the 30th division.

U.S. aircraft came in after the attack on a compound where members of the New Syria Force, which is the U.S.-trained-and-equipped rebel group, were located as well members of the 30th division.

 


Previously from AFD on these topics:

Free Syrian Arms: The fall of the CIA’s Harakat Hazm force against Nusra Front
Will the U.S. become the Syrian rebels’ air force?
FT: “Syria rebels sceptical about Turkey’s plan to tackle IS”
U.S. agrees to clear a “safe zone” in northern Syria

AFD Micron #5

Systemic racism doesn’t mean white men in suits having secret meetings to decide how racism happens. The murder of Sam DuBose was clearly unpremeditated and spontaneous. It’s also clearly related to the overwhelming dehumanization of black people throughout American history, the normalization of immediately using violence to deal with them, police forces that are willing to cover for each other, and so on; snap decisions made with the weight of enough racist psychology behind them don’t demand conspiracy theories.

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MA legislature blocks Gov. Baker’s painful education cuts

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Last week the State Senate voted to restore much of the education funding to the Massachusetts State budget, including: $5.25 million to the University of Massachusetts, $217,000 for Quinsiggamond Community College, and, perhaps most importantly, $17.6 million in kindergarten grants. The House followed along the same lines.

By July 30, lawmakers had restored 60% of Governor Baker’s $162 million budget cuts (via line-item veto) to the $38.1 billion Massachusetts budget originally sent to his desk. As to be expected in Massachusetts, a state consistently ranked as having one of the country’s best public education systems, it was the cuts to education that drew the most attention and ire.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg (D) spoke strongly about the need to keep funding for education:

“If we’re serious about closing the income inequality gap, expanding educational opportunities for working families must be an important priority. By overriding the governor’s ill-advised education vetoes, we’re helping middle-class kids get the tools they will need to prosper in a demanding and competitive economy.”

 
Governor Baker, who ran and won his seat as Governor as a moderate Republican in a deeply blue state, has been evasive when it comes to his true opinion of early childhood education. While running for governor, he insisted:

“We need to make sure there’s a runway here between pre-k into strong elementary and middle school and high school education.”

 
However, as a candidate, he refused to pledge to shrink the waiting list of 17,000 low-income students hoping to get a spot in a subsidized pre-kindergarten program.

As governor, Baker has frequently pointed to the cost of pre-Kindergarten programs, but vetoed a program to establish best practices for cost-control in pre-K programs. Baker also frequently sites a Brookings Institute study, which notes the disappearance of benefits of a pre-K program by the third grade if students are in under-preforming schools. This seems like a thin defense for cutting pre-K programs, but an important reason to figure out how to improve pre-K programs.

Governor Baker points out that the $17.6 million of kindergarten grants he planned to cut was part of a program originally intended to help school districts establish full-day kindergartens and with 90% of MA towns now providing full-day kindergarten, the grants no longer fulfill their original purpose. Many school leaders say their kindergarten programs rely on this funding and if it is to disappear, it should do so gradually, not all at once, leaving school districts in the lurch.

The cut of these kindergarten grants was overridden unanimously in both the House by a vote of 155-0 and the Senate by a vote of 38-0.

The truth is that Baker governs a state where 73% of residents support early childhood education and 53% would support raising taxes to support it. With polls like this one, it is easy to see that Baker’s values may not match up with the state he is governing. It is hard to believe that short-sighted budget cuts like this one will not come back to haunt him.

Buhari: Anti-corruption help better than foreign aid, for Nigeria

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Nigeria Pulse — “Buhari: President says Nigeria doesn’t need foreign aid”:

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the United States to help Nigeria by plugging all the loopholes that had been used by government officials to steal the country’s assets rather than help with foreign aids.

According to Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Publicity, “Buhari did not go to the US with a begging bowl. We don’t need foreign aid, he told everyone, so long as the world powers can help us plug all the loopholes that had been used to steal our assets.”

 
A novel approach, maybe; I don’t know how extensively this suggestion of substituting banking reform for development aid has been pitched before. And it’s quite correct that the West’s blind eye toward revenue embezzlement and asset theft schemes (using Western companies and finance networks) is a major scourge on African development in general:

Hundreds of Western multinational firms involved in concession trading in Africa are registered in traditional tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Or they are associated with shell companies registered in the United Kingdom, or are directed via financial entities in Switzerland and the United States.
[…]
If the most powerful industrial countries take steps to curb tax evasion and the use of opaque holding companies by multinational resource extraction firms and by their African business partners (often in government positions) it would do much to benefit African citizens.
[…]
Court actions in France and U.S. Senate investigations have brought to light vast luxury investments held in France and the U.S. in the names of some African leaders and members of their families.

More importantly, Western governments could start to force banking institutions to implement existing “know your customer” rules. These would compel African leaders to demonstrate how they obtained their fortunes and on what basis the cash is rightly their own.

 
But I fear Buhari’s appeal is unlikely to be effective on a significant scale, given how little we’ve done against tax avoidance, accounting games, and financial network loopholes that severely hurt us too (albeit at a smaller proportion). If we won’t fix something for ourselves, the odds are sadly even lower that we will fix it anyone else — even for Africa’s largest economy.

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