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Eugene's Journal
Eugene's Journal
June 20, 2019

Nuclear weapons: experts alarmed by new Pentagon 'war-fighting' doctrine

Source: The Guardian

Nuclear weapons: experts alarmed by new Pentagon 'war-fighting' doctrine

US joint chiefs of staff posted then removed paper that suggests nuclear weapons could ‘create conditions for decisive results’

Julian Borger in Washington
Wed 19 Jun 2019 19.21 BST Last modified on Wed 19 Jun 2019 19.50 BST

The Pentagon believes using nuclear weapons could “create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability”, according to a new nuclear doctrine adopted by the US joint chiefs of staff last week.

The document, entitled Nuclear Operations, was published on 11 June, and was the first such doctrine paper for 14 years. Arms control experts say it marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war – which they believe is a highly dangerous mindset.

“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” the joint chiefs’ document says. “Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

At the start of a chapter on nuclear planning and targeting, the document quotes a cold war theorist, Herman Kahn, as saying: “My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained.”

Kahn was a controversial figure. He argued that a nuclear war could be “winnable” and is reported to have provided part of the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr Strangelove.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/19/nuclear-weapons-pentagon-us-military-doctrine

June 20, 2019

US joins four rogue countries seen as likely forces for bad, poll finds

Source: The Guardian

US joins four rogue countries seen as likely forces for bad, poll finds

Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran and the US are also seen as less likely to use their influence for good than they were 10 years ago

Patrick Wintour diplomatic editor
Thu 20 Jun 2019 00.00 BST Last modified on Thu 20 Jun 2019 00.25 BST

The United States has joined Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran in a rogue’s gallery of countries perceived as likely to use their influence for bad. All five countries are also seen as less likely to use their influence for good than they were 10 years ago.

The findings showing that Canada, Germany and the UN are seen as mostly likely to use their international influence for good. The findings are being published to accompany a major speech by the former British foreign secretary David Miliband who argues that international relations are now governed by a new age of impunity in which war crimes and attacks on humanitarian workers are typically left unpunished.

Miliband, currently president of the International Rescue Committee, will argue that a long retreat of liberal democracy has ushered in a new divide in which some states abide by the rules ushered in after the second world war, and other states regard such international law as “for suckers”.

He will say “the image of President Putin and Crown Prince bin Salman exchanging a high five at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last November epitomised the new order, with domestic opponents dead and foreign policy interests pursued outside international law”.

The poll was conducted amongst 17,000 adults around the world conducted by Ipsos Mori in 24 countries on behalf of Policy Institute at Kings College London.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/19/us-russia-saudi-arabia-israel-iran-forces-for-bad-poll-finds

June 19, 2019

Murder of James Reeb: NPR Identifies 4th Attacker In Civil Rights-Era Cold Case

Source: NPR

NPR Identifies 4th Attacker In Civil Rights-Era Cold Case

June 18, 2019 12:00 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

An NPR investigation has uncovered new evidence in a prominent unsolved murder case from the civil rights era, including the identity of an attacker who admitted his involvement but was never charged.

The murder of Boston minister James Reeb in 1965 drew national attention at the time and spurred passage of the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed the Jim Crow voting practices that had disenfranchised millions of black Americans.

The case remains officially unsolved. Three men charged in 1965 with attacking Reeb and two other ministers on a street corner in Selma, Ala., were acquitted by an all-white jury.

But a four-year NPR investigation, led by Alabama-based reporters Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace, found an eyewitness to the attack who has never spoken publicly about what she saw. She said the three men acquitted in the case — Elmer Cook, William Stanley Hoggle and Namon O'Neal "Duck" Hoggle — were, in fact, the men who attacked Reeb.

That witness, Frances Bowden, also described the participation of another man, William Portwood. In an exclusive interview with NPR, Portwood confirmed his participation in the 1965 assault.


Read more: https://www.npr.org/2019/06/18/733401736/npr-identifies-fourth-attacker-in-civil-rights-era-cold-case

William Portwood, who died less than two weeks after NPR confirmed his involvement in the 1965 murder of Boston minister James Reeb, poses for a photograph in front of his home in Selma, Ala.
Chip Brantley/NPR

June 18, 2019

Spravato: The controversial ketamine-like drug that Trump is pushing on veterans

Source: Center for Public Integrity and the Guardian

The controversial ketamine-like drug that Trump is pushing on veterans

The president has touted the drug’s benefits and offered to help a senior Veterans Affairs official negotiate the purchase of the drug

Peter Cary of the Center for Public Integrity
Tue 18 Jun 2019 07.00 BST Last modified on Tue 18 Jun 2019 12.59 BST

Personal interest from Donald Trump appears to have put a controversial anti-depressant on a fast track at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that shoved aside usual protocols, even though experts inside and outside the government have serious concerns the drug is effective and say it may be dangerous.

Sources inside the Department of Veterans Affairs say staffers were essentially told by a senior official to drop everything in March and accelerate the drug’s availability because the president had expressed enthusiasm for the drug, Spravato, as a possible treatment for depressed veterans.

Questions have also been raised about a trio of Trump friends who have been working on veterans issues and interacting with Johnson & Johnson regarding programs for troubled vets.

In the midst of a rapidly convened series of VA meetings early that month, another official said the president wanted the VA to buy “truckloads” of the drug, according to sources. Trump also touted the drug’s benefits to the veterans affairs secretary, Robert Wilkie, in a White House meeting just last week, offering to help negotiate the VA’s purchase of the drug, according to Bloomberg.

A key VA panel, the so-called formulary committee, is meeting this week to decide if Spravato, whose formal name is esketamine, will be added to the list of drugs that must be available to VA pharmacies. A vote is expected on Wednesday, though a final decision may take longer. Esketamine is a derivative of ketamine, which has been used to treat depression, and has been abused as a party drug.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/17/spravato-ketamine-like-drug-that-experts-doubt-and-trump-is-pushing-on-veterans


See also: Trump's raves put drug for vets on fast track, but experts aren’t sure it work (Center for Public Integrity)

The anti-depressant drug Spravato is delivered via a nasal inhaler. The drug can produce serious side effects, such as disconnection from surroundings, sedation, dizziness, and high blood pressure, and patients must stay in their doctor’s office for two hours after treatment. (Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson)
June 17, 2019

How does a $50 million charter scam work? Here's what happened in California (before 11 people were

Original report: Inside the Charter School Empire Prosecutors Say Scammed California for $80M (Voice of San Diego)


Source: Washington Post

How does a $50 million charter scam work? Here’s what happened in California (before 11 people were indicted).

By Valerie Strauss
June 17 at 11:41 AM

Late last month, San Diego officials indicted 11 people in what they described as a charter scam that defrauded the state of California of more than $50 million in education funds.

The indictment details a scheme in which an Australian man and his business partner in Southern California opened 19 charter schools throughout the state and then took the public funding the schools received to operate and used it instead for real estate and other ventures.

This post explains the scam that the 235-page indictment spells out in detail. This is long but worth the time to read to get an understanding of how easy it is, because of lax charter sector laws in some states, to defraud the public.

California, which has more charter schools and more charter school students than any other state, now has one of the most lax charter laws in the country, allowing these schools to operate with little if any accountability or transparency to the public.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/06/17/how-does-million-charter-scam-work-heres-what-happened-california-before-people-were-indicted


District Attorney Summer Stephan discusses the indictment of several people tied to an alleged scam involving the charter school management company A3. / Image courtesy of NBC San Diego

Source: Voice of San Diego

Inside the Charter School Empire Prosecutors Say Scammed California for $80M

The indictment against the leaders of A3 Education lays out a complex organizational structure with two top leaders and several lieutenants who led the charge to enroll thousands of summer school students, who did not actually take classes. Several superintendents, knowingly or not, helped fuel the network’s growth. And untold coaches, students and parents were roped in to help boost enrollment.

Will Huntsberry
June 12, 2019

Sean McManus and Jason Schrock created an online charter school empire that covered more than half the state of California, according to prosecutors and investigators for an outside charter school organization.

From the port of entry at San Ysidro up to Los Angeles, past the cliffs of Big Sur all the way to Santa Cruz; east through Raisin City, past the giant sequoias of Sierra National Forest, and down into the flat and quiet of Death Valley; south again to the Mexican border; and back to the coast – a person could travel unbroken through 20 counties that made up the lower half of their empire. An outpost of 14 counties encompassing Sonoma and Sacramento sits further north.

From this vast swath of territory, McManus and Schrock absorbed mind-blowing profits. Take just some of their 2016 tax returns: Their nonprofit charter management company A3 brought in $14.2 million in revenue. It spent only $3.6 million. Of the money it spent, $855,796 went to McManus and Schrock’s salaries. They appeared to be the only two employees, according to the tax return.

The profits climbed even higher in the months that followed, according to an indictment filed by prosecutors. A3 Education and other companies controlled by McManus and Schrock ultimately brought in more than $80 million, prosecutors say.

Nothing in the law stops a nonprofit charter management company from operating on wide profit margins or paying its officers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But the company’s “profits” aren’t ever supposed to make it into personal bank accounts. To get them there requires shady accounting. Prosecutors say McManus and Schrock extracted roughly $8 million into bank accounts and personal charities and bought a $1.6 million house for joint use in San Juan Capistrano.


Read more: https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/inside-the-charter-school-empire-prosecutors-say-scammed-california-for-80m/
June 16, 2019

Intelligence Experts Question Iran Video: 'U.S. Track Record on Ginning up Evidence for War is Not G

Source: Newsweek



The black and white surveillance video is exceedingly grainy. It shows what U.S. military officials say is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp patrol boat bobbing alongside the Kokuka Courageous, one of the two tankers damaged by explosions Thursday in the Gulf of Oman that the Trump administration blamed squarely on Iran.

In the 1:39-minute video, released late Thursday by the U.S. Central Command, several crew members aboard the Gashti-class patrol boat appear to be removing an object from the hull of the tanker before the boat then backs up and motors away. The video is far too fuzzy to discern what the object is. But according to the U.S. military officials, the Iranian crew members removed one of their own unexploded limpet mines to hide evidence of their involvement in the explosions. The officials said several Iranian patrol boats had rushed to the Kokuka Courageous to rescue crew members who had abandoned ship in rafts and told the Iranians about the unexploded mine.

The video was released a few hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a statement: "It is the assessment of the U.S. government that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today."

Pompeo said the assessment was based on "the intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication."

But independent intelligence experts say the video provides no proof whatsoever of Iran's alleged responsibility for the attacks, a charge Iran denies. That's not to say Iran did not carry out the attacks, these experts hasten to add, noting that as the Trump administration tightens economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Tehran has ample reason to carry out such hard-to-trace terrorism against tankers, if only to raise the price of the dwindling amount of oil Iran is selling these days. But amid the rising tensions in the Middle East, these experts say, there are numerous other players in the region with compelling motivations to carry out such attacks.


Read more: https://www.newsweek.com/intelligence-experts-question-iran-video-us-track-record-ginning-evidence-war-not-good-1444169

June 15, 2019

Trump's order to slash number of science advisory boards blasted by critics as 'nonsensical'

Source: NBC News

Trump's order to slash number of science advisory boards blasted by critics as 'nonsensical'

"It's no longer death by a thousand cuts. It's taking a knife to the jugular,” one science advocate said of the order to eliminate a third of the advisory boards.

June 15, 2019, 4:11 PM EDT
By Phil McCausland

President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Friday to cut the number of government advisory committees by a third across all federal agencies, a move that the White House said is long overdue and necessary to ensure good stewardship of taxpayers' money.

But critics said it is the Trump administration’s latest effort to undermine science-based and fact-supported decision-making.

“This is another example of how disconnected the Trump administration is from the needs of the American people and how to protect them from harm," said Mustafa Ali, who resigned in 2017 as the senior adviser for environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Experts on the advisory committees, which were formalized under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 1972, give the executive branch input on issues ranging from high-level nuclear waste disposal, the depletion of atmospheric ozone, AIDS, drug addiction, school improvement and housing.


Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/trump-s-order-slash-number-science-advisory-boards-blasted-critics-n1017921

June 15, 2019

Dangerous skin bleaching has become a public health crisis. Corporate marketing lies behind it.

Source: Washington Post

Dangerous skin bleaching has become a public health crisis. Corporate marketing lies behind it.

As a result, when African nations ban bleaching products, the bans will probably backfire

By Ramya M. Vijaya June 15 at 7:00 AM

In the past several years, multinational corporations have heavily marketed the idea that lighter skin leads to more prosperity. As a result, dangerous skin bleaching has become a public health crisis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In response, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) recently passed a resolution recommending a regional ban on cosmetics with hydroquinone, a skin-bleaching agent — a ban that looks likely to pass. Several countries, including Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa and Sudan, have also banned bleaching cosmetics in recent months.

Despite these warnings and bans, the skin-whitening industry has experienced phenomenal growth in parts of Asia and Africa in recent years. A WHO report found that nearly 77 percent of Nigerian women reported using skin-lightening products regularly. In India, 61 percent of the skin-care market consisted of skin-lightening products. Analysts project still more growth in years to come. However, in my research on the cosmetic industry’s global colorism marketing, I found that banning bleaching agents is counterproductive and might exacerbate the crisis, as I explain below.

Market research shows continued, exponential growth in the global market for skin-whitening products. One forecast projects the industry to reach about $24 billion in value by 2027. Another puts the figure at $31.2 billion by the year 2024. Multinational brands Unilever, Beiersdorf and L’Oreal are the three dominant players in this industry globally. In India and Nigeria, the two country case studies in my chapter in the book “Race in the Marketplace,” Unilever and Beiersdorf have the largest market shares respectively. The dominance of multinational corporations in the industry is creating a new dynamic in colorism, the preference for lighter skin tones even among nonwhite majority populations. Their marketing is amplifying colonial-era associations of power and privilege with white skin already embedded in parts of Asia and Africa.

Attempting to cash in on a growing, aspirational middle-class consumer base in these regions, companies use advertising to link lighter skin with perceptions of not just beauty but also socioeconomic mobility.

In the early 2000s, Unilever began airing what became a notorious commercial for its Fair and Lovely whitening cream on Indian television. ...


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/15/dangerous-skin-bleaching-has-become-public-health-crisis-corporate-marketing-lies-behind-it/
June 15, 2019

U.S., others object to U.N. counterterrorism chief visit to China's Xinjiang

Source: Reuters


U.S., others object to U.N. counterterrorism chief visit to China's Xinjiang

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States and other western countries have objected to a visit by the United Nations counterterrorism chief to China’s remote Xinjiang, where U.N. experts say some one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centers.

Vladimir Voronkov, a veteran Russian diplomat who heads the U.N. Counterterrorism Office, is in China at the invitation of Beijing and is due to visit Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, according to an email sent by his office to countries that raised concerns.

Diplomats said that along with the United States several other countries, including Britain, also complained.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan spoke with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday “to convey deep concerns” about Voronkov’s trip because “Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not.”

“The Deputy Secretary expressed that such a visit is highly inappropriate in view of the unprecedented repression campaign underway in Xinjiang against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.


Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un/u-s-others-object-to-u-n-counterterrorism-chief-visit-to-chinas-xinjiang-idUSKCN1TF2NW
June 14, 2019

Sara Netanyahu pleads guilty in illegal meals case as corruption probes loom over husband

Source: CNN

Sara Netanyahu pleads guilty in illegal meals case as corruption probes loom over husband

By Oren Liebermann, CNN
Updated 0847 GMT (1647 HKT) June 13, 2019

Jerusalem (CNN) — Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed to a plea deal on Wednesday morning in a case concerning illegally ordered meals at the Prime Minister's residence, according to a statement released by Israel's Justice Ministry.

Sara Netanyahu, who was initially charged with fraud one year ago, agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of taking unfair advantage of a mistake, the Justice Ministry statement said. She will also pay 55,000 shekels (approximately $15,300) -- 45,000 shekels back to the state, and 10,000 shekels in the form of a fine.

A spokesman for Israel's first lady had no comment.

According to an amended indictment sheet, the case involved the ordering of catered meals delivered to the residence worth a total of 175,000 shekels (just under $50,000).


Read more: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/12/middleeast/sara-netanyahu-plea-deal-israel-meals-intl/index.html

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