America’s New Slavery: Black Men in Prison

The U.S. leads the world: it has the highest fraction of population in prison, 0.7% vs a world median of roughly 0.1%. With 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. hosts upward of 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. It imprisons more people per capita than any other country on earth. In 1980, there were about 220 people incarcerated for every 100.000 Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to 731. No other country even approaches that. The U.S. incarceration rate has roughly quintupled since the early 1970s. About 2 million Americans currently live behind bars. States like California now spend more on locking people up than on funding higher education.

The following article by Charlene Muhahmed fleshes out the statistics.  It is an important issue, for all of us, white black and brown.

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent-

(FinalCall.com) – A new American slave trade is booming, warn prison activists, following the release of a report that again outlines outrageous numbers of young Black men in prison and increasing numbers of adults undergoing incarceration. That slave trade is connected to money states spend to keep people locked up, profits made through cheap prison labor and for-profit prisons, excessive charges inmates and families may pay for everything from tube socks to phone calls, and lucrative cross country shipping of inmates to relieve overcrowding and rent cells in faraway states and counties.

Advocates note that the constitution’s 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery in the United States, but provided an exception—in cases where persons have been “duly convicted” in the United States and territory it controls, slavery or involuntary servitude can be reimposed as a punishment, they add. The majority of prisoners are Black and Latino, though they are minorities in terms of their numbers in the population.

According to “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” published by the Pew Center on the States, one in nine Black men between the ages of 20-34 are incarcerated compared to one in 30 other men of the same age. Like the overall adult ratio, one in 100 Black women in their mid-to-late 30s is imprisoned.

“Everyone is feeding off of our down-trodden condition to feed their capitalism, greed and lust for money. They are buying prison stock on the market and this is why they want to silence the restorative voice of Minister Louis Farrakhan, because he is repairing those who fill and would support the prison system as slaves,” said Student Minister Abdullah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam Prison Ministry.

The report states that the rising trend stems from more than a parallel increase in crime or surge in the population at large, but it is driven by policies that put more criminals in prison, extending their stay through measures like California’s Three Strikes Law.

Atty. Barbara Ratliff, a L.A.-based reparations activist, said the prison industrial complex’s extension of the slave plantation plays out in a pattern of behavior that Black people must study in order to survive. “I’m not talking about behavior of the individual incarcerate, but the pattern of treatment that digs into institutional racism. Corporate profit from prisons is no different than how slave owners received benefit from their labor, and that impact remained even after slavery. For instance, freed Blacks were arrested and put on chain gangs for their labor which continued to benefit slave owners, so this is no accident,” she said.

Inmates produce items or perform services for almost every major industry. They sew clothes, fight fires and build furniture, but they are paid little or no wages, somewhere between five cents and almost $2.

Phone companies charge high amounts for collect calls and inmate care packages can no longer be sent from families directly. Inmates must purchase products from companies to be sent in, which feeds capitalism, activists charge.

Although the costs of prisons is skyrocketing and consuming state budgets, money continues to be spent to push more Black youth into prison, activists assert. Many education and prison advocates charge there is a plot to populate U.S. prisons based on the dumbing down of America’s youth. Figures show those most likely to be incarcerated and to return generally have the lowest level of education. The report said, “While states don’t necessarily choose between higher education and corrections, a dollar spent in one area is unavailable for another.”

U.S. spending on prisons last year topped $49 billion, compared to $12 billion in 1987. California spent $8.8 billion on prisons last year and 13 states spend more than $1 billion a year on corrections.

Data from the National Association of State Budget Officers indicates:

• Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware spent as much or more on corrections than on higher education;

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Alaska spent 77 cents on corrections;

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Georgia spent 50 cents on corrections;

• On the average, all 50 states spent 60 cents on corrections for every dollar spent on higher education; and

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Minnesota spent 17 cents on corrections.

Between 1985 and 2005, Texas’ prison population alone jumped by 300 percent.

“All we have to do is follow the logic to see this connection between prisons and enslavement. When you look at prison costs and they say it cost $45,000 to house one prisoner, where does that break down? There’s only three square meals a day. The prisoners make their clothes and bedding in sewing factories and about 90 percent of the items they use in the prisons,” said Nathaniel Ali of the National Association of Brothers and Sisters In and Out of Prison (NABSIO).

He believes the majority of prison costs support guard unions and pay enormous base and overtime salaries of prison guards and other staff.

“They receive these exorbitant wages regardless of their education and training. You don’t have an I.Q.; all you have to have is the ability to be brutal” to command these wages through this new slave system, he said.

Mr. Ali said the public school system has become the feeder to prisons and their slave populations by increasing the heavy presence of school police and sheriffs on middle school campuses and penalties students face for often trivial offenses, other activists added.

Prison watch groups note corporate-owned prisons feed job-starved communities where businesses have disappeared. By incarcerating so many people, America deals with warehousing them and not finding out why they are incarcerated in the first place, advocates said.

“The fact is, it’s a business and a readily accessible, ‘free’ workforce removes prisons’ incentive to rehabilitate, especially those that are owned by corporations,” Atty. Ratliff said.

Laini Coffee, a self-described “unity activist” said, “At current trend, we could very well see the number of so-called free Blacks rival to the same number of those that are incarcerated. The answer is simple: Unity.”

An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America

Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 01:57 PM PST

I meet you all the time. You hate Obama. You hate gay people. You hate black people, immigrants, Muslims, labor unions, women who want the right to make choices concerning their bodies, you hate em all. You hate being called racist. You hate being called a bigot. Maybe if you talked about creating jobs more than you talk about why you hate gay people we wouldn’t call you bigots. Maybe if you talked about black people without automatically assuming they are on food stamps while demanding their birth certificates we wouldn’t call you racist. You hate socialism and social justice. You hate regulations and taxes and spending and the Government. You hate.

Image Hosting by PictureTrail.com      You like war. You like torture. You like Jesus. I don’t know how in the hell any of that is compatible, but no one ever accused you haters of being over-committed to ideological consistency. You like people who look like you or at least hate most of the things that you hate. You hate everything else.

Now, I know you profess to love our country and the founding fathers (unless you are reminded that they believed in the separation of church and state), but I need to remind you that America is NOT what Fox News says it is. America is a melting pot, it always has been. We are a multi-cultural amalgamation of all kinds of people, and yet you still demonize everyone who is not a rich, white, heterosexual christian male or his submissive and obedient wife.

You hate liberals, moderates, hell, anyone who disagrees with Conservative dogma as espoused by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. You hate em.

Well, here are the facts, Jack. If you hate the Government then you are unqualified to manage it. If you hate gay people more than you love America than you should take your own advice and get the hell out. There are several countries that are openly hostile to gay people, but they are full of brown people and you don’t like them much either from what I understand. It looks like you are screwed, but that’s not what I am here to tell you.

 Now that you have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at President Obama and it still hasn’t worked you are panicking. Obama’s approval ratings are still near 50% despite your best efforts to undermine the economy and America’s recovery at every step you can. You tried to hold the American economy hostage to force America into default on its’ debts, debts that YOU rang up under Bush, so you could blame it on Obama and it failed. You’ve used the filibuster more than any other Congress ever, going so far as to vote against providing health care access to 9/11 first responders. You remember 9/11, don’t you, it’s that thing you used to lie us into a war in Iraq, and then when Obama killed Bin Laden and ended the war in Iraq you told people that he hates America and wants the troops to fail. You monsters. You hate Obama with a passion, despite the fact that he is a tax cutting, deficit reducing war President who undermines civil rights and delivers corporate friendly watered down reforms that benefit special interests just like a Republican. You call him a Kenyan. You call him a socialist. You dance with your hatred singing it proudly in the rain like it was a 1950’s musical.

Frankly, you disgust me. Your hatred nauseates me. Your bigotry offends me. Your racism revolts me.

Dear haters, I am openly questioning your patriotism.

I think you hate gays, Obama, black people, poor people, all of us, women, atheists and agnostics, Latinos, Muslims, Liberals, all of us, I think you hate every one who isn’t exactly like you, and I think you hate us more than you love your country.

I think you hate gay soldiers more than you want America to win its wars.

I don’t even think you want America to win wars, you just want America to have wars, never ending wars and the war profiteering it generates. You love that kind of spending, you love spending on faith based initiatives and abstinence based sex education (George Carlin would have loved that one), you love spending on subsidies for profitable oil corporations, you spend like drunken sailors when you are in the White House, but if it is a Democrat then suddenly you cheer when America doesn’t get the Olympics because it might make the black President look bad. But oooh you love your country, you say, and you want it back. Well listen here skippy, it isn’t your country, you don’t own it, it is our country, and America is NOT the religiously extremist Foxbots who hate science, elitist professors and having a vibrant and meaningful sex life with someone we love if Rick Santorum doesn’t approve of it. Rick Santorum isn’t running for America’s fucking high school dance chaperone, he should probably just shut the hell up about sex, but he can’t because he has nothing else to run on.

Republicans can NOT win on the issues. They’ve got NOTHING. All they have is a divide and conquer class war that pits ignorant racist and bigoted people against the rest of us in a meaningless battle of wedge issues and the already proven to fail George W. Bush agenda again of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, privatization and war profiteering and nothing else, so all they can do is blame black people, gays the government, anybody and everyone else for their own failings. The party of personal responsibility, my ass.

But they love multi-national corporations, just ask a gay hating and racist religious extremist if they think Corporations are people and they will gladly agree, but if you ask them if gay people are people they aren’t so sure.

Dear haters, you are the cruel, heartless misinformed assholes who would sell America out to Haliburton in a heartbeat, you would rather pay ZERO taxes than you would see a newly born baby get access to quality health care, you cheer when we discuss denying health care to young people with preventable diseases, and you boo when we discuss the First Ladies plan to cut back on childhood obesity. You are a cross to carry and a flag to wrap yourself in away from being the people who Sinclair Lewis warned us about, but I guarantee that if Fox News told you to dress that way you would, because you are the same blind, ignorant and closed minded dunces who drove this country into a civil war years ago because you are bound to the notion that some men are more equal than others. In short, the reason I proudly wear my union army hat is because of seditious sell outs like you who constantly fuck over working class Americans so a foreign entrepreneur like Rupert Murdoch can get a bigger tax break. If corporations are people, they are neither American patriots nor capable of love. Just like you.

So stop wearing your hate with pride. Stop celebrating your anti-science, anti-math ignorance. Stop using code words to mask your bigotry like “family values”, especially when you hate my family and when you stand on the same stage as a guy who has had three marriages or if you share a seat in the Senate with a guy who cheated on his wife with hookers while wearing diapers. You should be ashamed. I know that you are just doing this to motivate your misinformed hate cult base because if they actually knew that your ideas will make them poorer than they are now, they would never vote for you. You are doing your best to impoverish your countrymen so rich people can get bigger tax breaks and you can keep on delivering corporate welfare to the special interests who have bribed you, and I am disgusted by the way you gleefully parade your hatred with aplomb. I don’t think you do love America. At least, not as much as you hate everyone in America who isn’t exactly like you.

You should think about that, and maybe get some help.

And for the record, I do not hate you. I am embarrassed by you and nauseated by your cruel and thoughtless behavior and your all consuming greed, but I do not hate you. I forgive you and I hope you can change someday, but I don’t hate you. You have enough hate in you for the rest of us as it is.

Muslim Terrorist pleads guilty to plotting to kill President Obama

Mon, 2012-02-13 08:41 AM

Ulugbek Kodirov

A 22-year-old Uzbek national pleaded guilty in federal court on Feb. 10 to trying to kill the president and to supporting an Uzbek terror group.

Ulugbek Kodirov, who has been in the U.S. since overstaying a student visa in 2009, pleaded guilty to charges of threatening to kill President Obama, possession of an illegal weapon and supporting the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is a U.S.-designated terror group.

Kodirov’s plea comes as several other Uzbeks have either been designated as global terrorists or have been arrested on terror charges in the U.S. In late January, federal agents arrested Jamshid Muhtorov, 35, at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on charges of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is a designated foreign terrorist organization. Three days later, the U.S. State Department designated brothers Yassin and Monir Chouka and Mevlut Kar as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, saying the Chouka brothers were fighters, recruiters, facilitators and propagandists for the IMU, while Kar is a facilitator and recruiter for the IJU.

Kodirov had been indicted by a federal grand jury on the presidential threat and terror charges in July 2011 after he tried to obtain an automatic weapon to kill the president in a federal undercover operation that had been spurred by confidential informants.

Federal prosecutors praised the Birmingham, AL Muslim community for helping law enforcement identify and arrest Kodirov. Kodirov was “self radicalized” and had viewed Islamist Web sites and had sought out “like-minded” individuals, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said after the plea.

In his plea, Kodirov admitted he had been in communication with an individual whom he believed to be a member of the IMU and interpreted the conversations to mean that he should kill President Obama. Court documents also said Kodirov showed jihadist Web sites and videos on his computer to another individual and told that person that he wanted to assist others in jihad overseas.

Kodirov admitted to having lengthy conversations last July with another unidentified individual about his desire to kill President Obama and ways to carry out an assassination. That individual, said court documents, traveled to Birmingham, AL to meet Kodirov and introduced him to an undercover agent, from whom Kodirov intended to obtain weapons he would use to kill the president.

The three men met on July 13, 2011, at a motel in Leeds, AL, said the documents. During the meeting, the undercover agent offered a fully-automatic Sendra Corporation Model M15-A1 machine gun, a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight and four disassembled hand grenades and asked Kodirov if he would like to use any of them to “carry out his plan to kill the President.”  Kodirov chose the machine gun and the hand grenades and left the meeting with the weapons. Agents arrested Kodirov before he left the motel.

Kodirov had entered the U.S. on a student visa in June 2009, but it was revoked on April 1, 2010, when he failed to enroll in school. After that, he was living unlawfully in the country and was holed up in an extended-stay motel in Pelham, AL, at the time of his arrest.

He faces maximum prison sentences of 15 years on the terrorism charge, five years on the charge of threatening the president and 10 years on the charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

 The FBI, ATF, HSI and Secret Service investigated the case.

“Today, Ulugbek Kodirov became the first person to be convicted of providing material support to terrorist activity in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. “Kodirov was apprehended during an undercover operation in which he was attempting to obtain weapons and explosives that he intended to use to kill the President of the United States. Effective action by law enforcement protected our community and potentially our country,” she said.

“I also want to express my appreciation to the Muslim community of Birmingham, which was instrumental in helping law enforcement shut down this threat,” Vance said.

 

 

Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information

 First Published on :

 

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.

February 12, 2012  |  
 
 
 Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today’s progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to “rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order” and “emphasise the maintenance of the status quo”. Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won’t drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics“. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”.

Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today“. The Republican party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to what he calls the “low-information voter”, or the “misinformation voter”. While most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base”.

The madness hasn’t gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.

These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires’ feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord MoncktonLord Lawson or thinktanks funded by ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It’s turkeys all the way down.

George Monbiot is the author Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Read more of his writings at Monbiot.com.

 
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Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal


Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

Under a Palestinian flag, Palestinians of all factions called for unity at a rally in February in Ramallah in the West Bank.

By ETHAN BRONNER and ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: April 27, 2011

JERUSALEM — The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah andHamas, announced Wednesday that they were putting aside years of bitter rivalry to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East.

Multimedia
Khaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency

Moussa Abu Marzouk, representing Hamas, left, and Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah on Wednesday at a news conference in Cairo, where they announced a deal to create a unity government.

Readers’ Comments

“It is time for the Palestinian people to reject the corrupt and useless leaders who have used violence and strife to insure their positions. It is also time for Israel to reject the extreme factions of their government.”

Jack, Illinois

The deal, brokered in secret talks by the caretaker Egyptian government, was announced at a news conference in Cairo where the two negotiators referred to each side as brothers and declared a new chapter in the Palestinian struggle for independence, hobbled in recent years by the split between the Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza.

It was the first tangible sign that the upheaval across the Arab world, especially the Egyptian revolution, was having an impact on the Palestinians, who have been losing faith in American-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel and seem now to be turning more to fellow Arabs. But the years of bitterness will not be easily overcome, and both sides warned of potential obstacles ahead.

Israel, feeling increasingly surrounded by unfriendly forces, denounced the unity deal as dooming future peace talks since Hamas seeks its destruction. “The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahudeclared in a televised statement. The Obama administration warned that Hamas was a terrorist organization unfit for peacemaking.

The deal brings with it the risk of alienating the Western support that the Palestinian Authority has enjoyed. Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator, said that Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in the West Bank who is despised by Hamas, would not be part of the interim government. It is partly because of Mr. Fayyad, and the trust he inspires in Washington, that hundreds of millions of dollars are provided annually to the Palestinian Authority by Congress. Without that aid, the Palestinian Authority would face great difficulties.

The announcement was sure to fuel a debate on whether Mr. Netanyahu had done enough in his two years in power to forge a deal with the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr. Fayyad, widely considered the most moderate leaders the Palestinians have ever had.

The deal also highlighted Egypt’s evolving foreign policy, its increasing regional influence and the challenges that posed for Israel. The new Egyptian government pursued Palestinian negotiations aggressively; has recognized the Muslim Brotherhood, which has deep ties to Hamas; and is reconsidering a natural gas deal with Israel.

Relations between Fatah, the mainstream secularist movement led by Mr. Abbas, and Hamas, the Islamic militant group, have deteriorated since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. They ruptured a year later when Hamas seized full control of Gaza, the coastal enclave, after a brief factional war, routing Fatah forces there and limiting the influence of Mr. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority to the West Bank.

A desire for unity has been one goal that ordinary Palestinians in both areas have consistently said they sought. Until now it has proved elusive and leaders of the two factions have spoken of each other in vicious terms and jailed each other’s activists.

But with the Palestinians seeking international recognition of statehood at the United Nations by September, Mr. Abbas has repeatedly said that unity must be restored for a credible case to be made. Other recent developments also played a role.

As Mr. Ahmad said after the news conference in Cairo: “The changes in the Arab region and the political upheaval contributed to reducing the pressure on the Palestinian factions, and by pressure I mean the negative kind of pressure.” He said that he was referring to “the changing rules of the game in the region.”

Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that the Palestinian Authority’s failure to reach an agreement with Israel and the anger following an American veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement construction in February encouraged Fatah to come to an agreement with Hamas. The Islamic group, he said, was motivated to get closer to Fatah by regional changes, especially the protests in Syria, where Hamas’s politburo is based. If PresidentBashar al-Assad of Syria were to fall, Hamas might no longer be able to use Syria as a base or enjoy the protection, money and arms the country has extended.

“We have ended a painful period in the history of the Palestinian people where Palestinian division had prevailed,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a representative of Hamas who negotiated the deal, said at the Cairo news conference. “We gave the occupation a great opportunity to expand the settlements because of this division. Today we turn this page and open a new page.”

When he spoke at the news conference, Mr. Ahmad of Fatah recalled the chants of young Palestinian demonstrators mimicking the Tunisian and Egyptian chants: “The people want to bring down the regime.”

“To all the Palestinian youth who went out saying, ‘The people want to end the division’ and ‘The people want to end the occupation,’ we say what you demanded was achieved today,” he said, adding that the period of division had taught both sides “a hard lesson in confronting the occupation.”

He said that Israeli officials had warned Mr. Abbas not to collaborate with Hamas but that “he did not heed the warning, and he responded, ‘Yes, we want Hamas.’ ”

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has negotiated for a two-state solution with Israel, whereas Hamas says Israel has no right to exist and continues to fire rockets at Israeli towns.

The Palestinian negotiators offered few details of the proposed transitional unity government, saying that it would be composed of neutral professionals and that the leaders of each side would work out details. All the Palestinian factions are to meet next week to sign the agreement.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, told Al Jazeera Television from Cairo the sides had agreed to changes in the interim leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a tribunal for elections and a date for the elections. The P.L.O. excludes Hamas, which has long sought entry.

Hamas and Fatah will together nominate members of the technocratic government and a 12-judge election tribunal. He also said that an agreement was reached to set up an oversight committee to regulate security.

In November, officials from the two movements met in Damascus but failed to reach an agreement because of differences on security. It seemed likely that Fatah security forces, which work closely with the Israeli Army, would continue to rule in the West Bank, and that Hamas security would continue in Gaza with a tacit agreement not to arrest each other’s activists.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down soon after they started last September when an Israeli moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements expired. The international powers have been working to get the sides to resume negotiations, and Mr. Netanyahu has recently been considering making an offer to the Palestinian Authority to try to pre-empt a United Nations vote. He is due to address a joint session of Congress in a month.

But with this latest shift in Palestinian politics, Mr. Netanyahu may also shift tactics. “I think the very idea of the reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, and leads one to wonder whether Hamas will take control over Judea and Samaria, as it did over Gaza,” he said in his statement, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu instructed the Israeli security establishment to take all necessary measures to ensure the enforcement of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza amid reports of plans for another international flotilla. Mr. Netanyahu met with his senior ministers and security officials and said that diplomatic efforts should continue to prevent the flotilla from setting out.

David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo, and Fares Akram from Gaza.

“I was in love with the idea of Obama.”


Urgent! The White House announced that in a big speech tomorrow, President Obama will do what no Republican President has been able to do: Put Medicare and Medicaid on the table for potential cuts.

Many former Obama volunteers, donors, and voters are deeply disappointed. A Democratic Congressman said on MSNBC last night that Obama needs to “act like a Democrat.”

Will you sign this urgent pledge, which we’ll deliver to the Obama campaign?

“President Obama: If you cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits for me, my parents, my grandparents, or families like mine, don’t ask for a penny of my money or an hour of my time in 2012. I’m going to focus on electing bold progressive candidates — not Democrats who help Republicans make harmful cuts.” Click here to sign.

Below are some amazing notes from Obama volunteers who worked passionately for the President in 2008.

Many people still want to believe in President Obama. But the White House needs to understand that their actions now will have real consequences for 2012. The level of grassroots enthusiasm will be determined by whether the President fights for bold progressive change — and takes cuts that hurt grandparents, the disabled, and kids firmly off the table.

The White House will absolutely be watching the progress of this petition. And we’ll deliver the pledge signatures to the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

Please sign today — then, pass it to others who worked to elect President Obama in 2008.

 


NOTES FROM ACROSS THE NATION:

Susan Carpenter, Obama volunteer from Ohio:

“Like many volunteers on his campaign, I was in love with the idea of Obama. I haven’t given up on him quite yet, but I’m mustering the energy to work on the resistance. He needs to know who we are.”

John Rotolo, Obama volunteer from Florida:

“I’m almost too heartsick to comment…I’m at a loss.”

Barbara Louise Jean, Obama volunteer from Nevada:

“It’s ludicrous to cut Medicare for seniors when Wall Street created this mess without being held accountable. At 69, I’ll be in financial trouble if Medicare benefits are lowered.”

Joelle Barnes, Obama volunteer from Pennsylvania:

“This is like a knife through my heart! This is a Republican thing!”

Suzanne Fair, Obama volunteer from Maryland:

“I know he has to compromise sometimes, but it seems that he is caving to the Republicans far too often. We elected him for real change and I would like to see him stand strong against the corporate rich.”

Margaret Copi, Obama donor from California:

“I contributed more to Obama’s campaign than I have to anything else in my life, but no more dollars from me and definitely not a moment of volunteer time, unless he makes huge shifts and starts to fight for the peoples’ interest.”

Frankie Perdue, Obama volunteer from Colorado:

“I do not think that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security should be on the negotiating table at all. Have the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”

Deborah Finn, Obama volunteer from North Carolina:

“This is wrong! We did not elect Obama to have him make cuts in valuable, important programs. He needs to stand up to the Republicans. And he needs to speak to the American people about why it is morally wrong to cut the programs.”

Michaele Bonenberger, Obama volunteer from South Dakota:

“This does not sound at all like the Barak Obama that I worked so hard to get elected in 2008.”

Dotty Hopkins, Obama volunteer from California:

“It makes it hard to gin up enthusiasm for 2012. More like hold your nose and vote again! As a former Obama volunteer, I’m already worrying about my lack of desire to do any campaigning and I’m on our County Central Committee for heaven’s sake.”

The White House needs to hear your voice — sign our pledge today. Then pass it on to others.



President Obama: Born in the U.S.A.

It seems crazy that people, some people, anyway, still cling to the belief or possibly the hope, that President Obama is not a citizen born in the U.S.

A poll of Republicans recently indicated that 40% of them were “unsure” about whether or not the president was born in Hawaii.

Here are the facts, reprinted for our reader’s knowledge and to put the issue to rest, so that we can go on to the more important question of how we are going to unite the majority of Americans in their own self interest when the de facto rulers of the country prefer to see us divided. Michael

More photos and documentation on:  http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html

The truth about Obama’s birth certificate.
Summary
In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document’s authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake.”

We beg to differ. FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as “supporting documents” to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

Update, Nov. 1: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31 that Obama was born in Honolulu.
Analysis
Update Nov. 1: The Associated Press quoted Chiyome Fukino as saying that both she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama’s original birth certificate.

Fukino also was quoted by several other news organizations. The Honolulu Advertiser quoted Fukino as saying the agency had been bombarded by requests, and that the registrar of statistics had even been called in at home in the middle of the night.
Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 1 2008: “This has gotten ridiculous,” state health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said yesterday. “There are plenty of other, important things to focus on, like the economy, taxes, energy.” . . . Will this be enough to quiet the doubters? “I hope so,” Fukino said. “We need to get some work done.”
Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”

Since we first wrote about Obama’s birth certificate on June 16, speculation on his citizenship has continued apace. Some claim that Obama posted a fake birth certificate to his Web page. That charge leaped from the blogosphere to the mainstream media earlier this week when Jerome Corsi, author of a book attacking Obama, repeated the claim in an Aug. 15 interview with Steve Doocy on Fox News.
Corsi: Well, what would be really helpful is if Senator Obama would release primary documents like his birth certificate. The campaign has a false, fake birth certificate posted on their website. How is anybody supposed to really piece together his life?

Doocy: What do you mean they have a “false birth certificate” on their Web site?

Corsi: The original birth certificate of Obama has never been released, and the campaign refuses to release it.

Doocy: Well, couldn’t it just be a State of Hawaii-produced duplicate?

Corsi: No, it’s a — there’s been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it’s been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop. It’s a fake document that’s on the Web site right now, and the original birth certificate the campaign refuses to produce.

Corsi isn’t the only skeptic claiming that the document is a forgery. Among the most frequent objections we saw on forums, blogs and e-mails are:
The birth certificate doesn’t have a raised seal.
It isn’t signed.
No creases from folding are evident in the scanned version.
In the zoomed-in view, there’s a strange halo around the letters.
The certificate number is blacked out.
The date bleeding through from the back seems to say “2007,” but the document wasn’t released until 2008.
The document is a “certification of birth,” not a “certificate of birth.”
Recently FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.

The Obama birth certificate, held by FactCheck writer Joe Miller

Alvin T. Onaka’s signature stamp

The raised seal

Blowup of text

You can click on the photos to get full-size versions, which haven’t been edited in any way, except that some have been rotated 90 degrees for viewing purposes.

The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport: “your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.” The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above.

The document is a “certification of birth,” also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

The scan released by the campaign shows halos around the black text, making it look (to some) as though the text might have been pasted on top of an image of security paper. But the document itself has no such halos, nor do the close-up photos we took of it. We conclude that the halo seen in the image produced by the campaign is a digital artifact from the scanning process.

We asked the Obama campaign about the date stamp and the blacked-out certificate number. The certificate is stamped June 2007, because that’s when Hawaii officials produced it for the campaign, which requested that document and “all the records we could get our hands on” according to spokesperson Shauna Daly. The campaign didn’t release its copy until 2008, after speculation began to appear on the Internet questioning Obama’s citizenship. The campaign then rushed to release the document, and the rush is responsible for the blacked-out certificate number. Says Shauna: “[We] couldn’t get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we’ve found out it’s pretty irrelevant for the outside world.” The document we looked at did have a certificate number; it is 151 1961 – 010641.

Blowup of certificate number
Some of the conspiracy theories that have circulated about Obama are quite imaginative. One conservative blogger suggested that the campaign might have obtained a valid Hawaii birth certificate, soaked it in solvent, then reprinted it with Obama’s information. Of course, this anonymous blogger didn’t have access to the actual document and presents this as just one possible “scenario” without any evidence that such a thing actually happened or is even feasible.

We also note that so far none of those questioning the authenticity of the document have produced a shred of evidence that the information on it is incorrect. Instead, some speculate that somehow, maybe, he was born in another country and doesn’t meet the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a “natural-born citizen.”

We think our colleagues at PolitiFact.com, who also dug into some of these loopy theories put it pretty well: “It is possible that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible. But step back and look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over.”

In fact, the conspiracy would need to be even deeper than our colleagues realized. In late July, a researcher looking to dig up dirt on Obama instead found a birth announcement that had been published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961:

Obama’s birth announcement

The announcement was posted by a pro-Hillary Clinton blogger who grudgingly concluded that Obama “likely” was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu.

Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.

Update, August 26: We received responses to some of our questions from the Hawaii Department of Health. They couldn’t tell us anything about their security paper, but they did answer another frequently-raised question: why is Obama’s father’s race listed as “African”? Kurt Tsue at the DOH told us that father’s race and mother’s race are supplied by the parents, and that “we accept what the parents self identify themselves to be.” We consider it reasonable to believe that Barack Obama, Sr., would have thought of and reported himself as “African.” It’s certainly not the slam dunk some readers have made it out to be.

When we asked about the security borders, which look different from some other examples of Hawaii certifications of live birth, Kurt said “The borders are generated each time a certified copy is printed. A citation located on the bottom left hand corner of the certificate indicates which date the form was revised.” He also confirmed that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for “all reasonable purposes.”

–by Jess Henig, with Joe Miller
Sources
United States Department of State. “Application for a U.S. Passport.” Accessed 20 Aug. 2008.

State of Hawaii Department of Health. “Request for Certified Copy of Birth Record.” Accessed 20 Aug. 2008.

Hollyfield, Amy. “Obama’s Birth Certificate: Final Chapter.” Politifact.com. 27 Jun. 2008.

The Associated Press. “State declares Obama birth certificate genuine” 31 Oct 2008.

Nakaso, Dan. “Obama’s certificate of birth OK, state says; Health director issues voucher in response to ‘ridiculous’ barrage” Honolulu Advertiser 1 Nov 2008.

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