According to sources in the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel is making preparations to welcome Hosni Mubarak into exile after Saudi Arabia rejected overtures.
War is hell, but for Hollywood it has been a Godsend, providing the perfect dramatic setting against which courageous heroes win the hearts and minds of the movie going public.
The Pentagon recognises the power of these celluloid dreams and encourages Hollywood to create heroic myths; to rewrite history to suit its own strategy and as a recruiting tool to provide a steady flow of willing young patriots for its wars.
The Pentagon calls the shots
Producer: Diana Ferraro
Hollywood: Chronicler of the war
Producer: Tim Tate
What does Hollywood get out of this ‘deal with the devil’? Access to billions of dollars worth of military kit, from helicopters to aircraft carriers, enabling filmmakers to make bigger and more spectacular battle scenes, which in turn generate more box office revenue. Providing they accept the Pentagon’s advice, even toe the party line and show the US military in a positive light.
So is it a case of art imitating life, or a sinister force using art to influence life and death – and the public perception of both?
Empire will examine Hollywood, the Pentagon, and war.
Joining us as guests: Oliver Stone, the eight times Academy Award-winning filmmaker; Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker; and Christopher Hedges, an author and the former Middle East bureau chief of the New York Times.
Our interviewees this week are: Phil Strub, US Department of Defense Film Liaison Unit; Julian Barnes, Pentagon correspondent, LA Times; David Robb, the author of Operation Hollywood; Prof Klaus Dodds, the author of Screening Terror; Matthew Alford, the author of Reel Power; Prof Melani McAlister, the author of Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East.
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Given the sensationalism in mainstream US news media coverage of alleged sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden, it’s no surprise that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation is being left uncovered.
In early November, Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and to improve conditions in maximum security prisons, as the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.
Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries in calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people facing death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968, when America’s death row population numbered just 517, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.
Other countries critical of the US posture on the death penalty – practiced by the federal government and 35 states – included Australia (the birthplace of Assange), France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Vatican.
The caustic onslaught in the U.S. against Assange for leaking sensitive documents, where attackers include members of Congress – some even calling for Assange’s death, either extrajudicially or after a trial–is ironic, coming so close to December 10th, the annual international observance of Human Rights Day.
That observance commemorates the UN’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
One clause in that Declaration provides people worldwide with the right to receive and impart information “through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The American assaults on Assange extend beyond the White House and Capitol Hill. Amazon, under pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), removed WikiLeaks from its computer servers, while MasterCard, PayPal and Visa have halted payments to WikiLeaks from donors supportive of work of that entity, almost certainly after receiving pressure from the US government.
While US officials attending that human rights review held in Switzerland proudly pointed to such continuing rights progress in America as the election of a black President and his selection of a Hispanic female US Supreme Court Justice, fifty-six countries including staunch US allies offered 228 recommendations for improving human rights in the nation that touts itself as the world’s leader in protecting the rights of all.
Those recommendations involved a wide range of issues, ranging from attacking poverty among Native Americans to addressing abuses impacting immigrants and closing the infamous Guantanamo prison. However, most of the recommendations presented at that human rights review centered on concerns about deprivations and disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Belgium and Switzerland, for example, called on America to stop sentencing teens to life in prison. Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of life-sentenced teens, with over 300 currently languishing in the state’s prisons.
Haiti called for ending the discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum sentences and Thailand called for addressing sexual violence inside U.S. prisons, where homosexual rapes far exceed heterosexual rapes outside prison walls.
France urged the U.S. to study the racial disparities evident in the application of the death penalty. African-Americans comprise 41.43 percent of the people on death rows across America – a figure more than twice the percentage of America’s black population.
The United Kingdom expressed concerns about damning evidence that the death penalty could sometimes be administered in a discriminatory manner.
Respected Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz recently wrote a commentary expressing his concerns about Kevin Cooper, a black California death row inmate facing execution for slaughtering four members of a white family in 1983, despite the troubling reality that the lone survivor told police the murders were white.
Facts now establish that police destroyed blood-stained clothing evidence supplied by the girlfriend of one (white) man police never investigated, and that the prosecution’s forensic witnesses falsified evidence against Cooper.
Dershowitz stated that the facts “do not add up” in the murder conviction of Cooper. He has asked outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant Cooper clemency. America’s largest death row is in California, which has 697 persons facing execution.
U.S. representatives responding to their international critics stated that despite legitimate debate on the propriety of the death penalty, as a matter of law at the federal level and in 35 states, “that punishment is permitted,” according to the draft report issued by the UN Human Rights Council.
While the America’s governmental scheme makes it structurally difficult for the federal government to outright ban states from conducting executions, the federal government could end its own use of the death penalty for federal crimes. The U.S. government death row holds nearly 70 persons.
One U.S. death-row inmate – Pennsylvania’s ‘Death Row Journalist’ Mumia Abu-Jamal – received mention by name in one recommendation. Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most well-known of 25,000-plus under death sentence worldwide, observes the macabre anniversary of spending 29-years inside a death-row prison cell on December 9th.
Cuba called on the U.S. to “end the unjust incarceration of political prisoners including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Ample evidence supports international claims that Native American leader Peltier, repeatedly denied parole, and ex-Black Panther Abu-Jamal, are unjustly incarcerated for deaths involving law enforcement officers.
The issue of political prisoners in the US is a subject generating interest internationally, yet it is an issue largely ignored by Americans, said Efia Nwangaza, a lawyer who attended that UN human rights review session held in Geneva, Switzerland.
“There are over 75 political prisoners in the US, most of them former Black Panther or Black Liberation Army people,” said Nwangaza, a Philadelphia native now living in South Carolina, who helped prepare documentation on US political prisoners for that UN review.
“We’ve made progress through an admission by omission, with the US not denying it has political prisoners.”
In addition to criticisms about death penalty policies in the U.S., nations around the world raised concerns about racial profiling practices in America against blacks, Latinos and persons perceived as Muslim, inclusive of U.S. citizens, immigrants and visitors.
U.S. representatives, responding to criticisms about racial profiling, “assured delegations” that America condemns racial and ethnic profiling in all forms,” according to the Human Rights Council’s report.
Ironically, even as U.S. representatives offered their assurances, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a class-action lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department for racial profiling in that city where the U.S. Constitution was drafted and approved.
That lawsuit involves the police practice called ‘stop-&-frisk’ – where police detain and search persons. This practice in Philadelphia impacted 253,333 persons in 2009 – a 148-percent increase over 2005 – with 72.2 percent of those subjected being blacks, who comprise 44 percent of that city’s population, according to the lawsuit.
This dragnet-style policing only produced arrests in 8.4 percent of the ‘stops,’ with the majority of those arrests being for “interactions following the initial stop” like disorderly conduct and resisting arrest – i.e. alleged crimes that most likely resulted from legitimate objections to being stopped without cause.
One of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit is State Representative Jewell Williams, a veteran of 20-years in law enforcement work, who was roughed up by Philadelphia police in March 2009 while inquiring about a police stop of two 65-year-old black men during an encounter around the corner from Williams’ house.
Exposing a paradox in America’s race-based policing, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the city’s Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (named in the ACLU lawsuit) are both black, but they back their Stop-&-Frisk policy, downplaying its demonstrable racially-disproportionate impact.
“Mayor Nutter repeatedly promised that this policy [Stop-&-Frisk] would be carried out in a way that respected the Constitution,” said Mary Catherine Roper, an ACLU-Pa staff attorney. “But instead of stopping people suspected of criminal activity, the police appear to be stopping people because of race.”
Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street told ThisCantBeHappening! recently that the excessive Stop-&-Frisk practices are actually counter-productive to effective crime fighting because the practices alienate citizens that police need to assist them in crime fighting.
Linn Washington Jr. is a columnist for This Can’t Be Happening!.
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Despite high expectation for Barack Obama, the US president has not convinced Israel to cease settlement construction.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been both a major concern of American diplomacy since 1967 and the arena of persistent failure.
There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker. As a result of its palpable partiality towards Israel, America has lost all credibility in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.
The so-called peace process has been all process and no peace. Peace talks that go nowhere slowly provide Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its expansionist agenda on the West Bank.
The asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians is so great that only a third party can bridge the gap. In plain language, this means leaning on Israel to end the occupation and to permit the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In theory America is committed to a two-state solution to the conflict but in practise it has done very little to push Israel into such a settlement. It is not that America lacks the means to bring pressure to bear on Israel. On the contrary, Israel is crucially, and almost exclusively, dependent on America for military, diplomatic, and financial support.
America’s financial support amounts to three billion dollars a year. So the leverage is there. The real problem is that American leaders are either unable or unwilling to exercise this leverage in order to promote a just settlement of this tragic conflict.
The most depressing aspect of the situation is that despite its proven inability to make progress on the Palestinian track, America continues to cling to its monopoly over the peace process. In the aftermath of the June 1967 War, America arrogated to itself a near-monopoly over the diplomacy surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict.
During the Cold War, the main purpose of American diplomacy was to exclude the Soviet Union, the ally of radical Arab states, from the quest for peace in the Middle East. After the end of the Cold war, America continued to marginalise Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The UN has the authority as well as a duty to regulate this conflict because it is a threat to international peace and security. But the Americans undermined its efforts and routinely used their veto on the Security Council to defeat resolutions that were critical of Israel.
American contempt towards the UN reached a new height during the two Republican administrations of George W. Bush. The attitude of the neoconservatives is illustrated by the following conversation between a senior UN official and a venerable Republican Senator. The official asked “Why are you Americans so hostile to the UN? Is it ignorance or is it indifference?” And the Senator allegedly replied: “I don’t know and I don’t care!”
Barack Obama’s election was widely expected to usher in a more even-handed policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Cairo speech of June 4 2009, Obama stated that the bond with Israel is unbreakable but he also expressed deep empathy for the Palestinians and wanted there to be no doubt that: “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own”.
Obama is an inspiring orator. However, to use an American phrase, he has talked the talk but he has not walked the walk. The rhetoric has changed but in practical terms there has been more continuity than change. Partiality towards Israel remains the order of the day and it vitiates the possibility of a genuinely even-handed policy.
To be fair to Obama, he recognised at the outset that Jewish settlements on the West Bank are the main obstacle to progress. He admitted, in effect, that there can be a peace process but no peace if Israel continues the colonisation of the West Bank. At his first meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on May 18 2008, Obama insisted on a complete settlement freeze.
A week later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained: “The President wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions… That is our position…And we intend to press that point”. The position was admirably clear but she and the president failed to press the point. They backed down.
The direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched by Secretary Clinton in Washington on September 2 are the best that could be expected after this and subsequent climb-downs. But these talks are an exercise in futility.
There is an Arabic saying that something that starts crooked, remains crooked. These peace talks started in a crooked way because they did not meet the most fundamental Palestinian requirement: a complete freeze on settlement activity.
All that Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to was a partial settlement freeze for a period of ten months. The ban did not apply to the 3,000 housing units that had already been approved or to East Jerusalem, which Israel had illegally annexed following the June 1967 Six-Day War.
When the ban expired on September 27, Netanyahu refused to extend it. Shirking his responsibility as prime minister, he simply called on the settlers to exercise restraint. A more vacuous statement is difficult to imagine. Predictably, as the Israeli media has reported, the bulldozers are back at work in the Jewish settlements near Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron.
The conclusion is inescapable: Netanyahu is not a genuine partner for the Palestinians on the road to peace. Land-grabbing and peace-making simply do not go together and Netanyahu has opted for the former.
Netanyahu is like a man who, while negotiating the division of a pizza, continues to eat it.
The American position is pusillanimous and feeble. Instead of taking a firm position on the side of the Palestinians and pressing the point of principle, they press the weaker party to make more and more concessions. Under these conditions, the prospects of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are close to zero.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel, only more illegal settlements, and consequently more strife, more violence, more bloodshed, and ultimately another war.
Ref: Al Jazeera
Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso). This article first appeared on the University of Oxford, Department of Politics and International Relations Blog.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
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“For 17 years they [Palestinians] negotiated with the Israeli government during settlement construction … ”
– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 1 October 2010
The United States-brokered peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas are in suspended animation.
Abbas is deciding whether to continue to partake in them despite the expiration of a 10-month moratorium on new Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. Although his inclination appears not to do so, he also believes the opinion of Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Libya this Friday is first worth taking.
It is remarkable that those representing the Palestinian people would waiver in the slightest about quitting the talks in the face of ongoing land seizure. If this is not a red line, what is? It suggests a leadership which has not only failed to stand for the basic rights of its people, but a further reminder of Abbas’ illegitimacy as a spokesperson for those rights.
Two incontrovertible, overlooked facts:
The presence of even a single Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem is illegal. Articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, reaffirmed by numerous United Nations resolutions and the principles of the U.N. Charter, prohibit an occupying power from transferring its population into forcibly acquired territory.
Second, Abbas’ presidential term ended on Jan. 9, 2009. In the absence of elections, the Palestine Liberation Organization—of which Abbas’ Fatah faction is the largest party—extended his tenure indefinitely (a move not recognized by Hamas, the decisive winner of the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections). His authority as PA president is therefore in question.
But could Israel find a better “partner” with whom to conduct peace talks than Abbas? His protestations against Israel’s December 2008 onslaught of Gaza were noticeably muted. The PA also endorsed a recent vote by the U.N. Human Rights Council postponing action on the Goldstone Report which alleged Israeli war crimes in the conflict.
Maysa Zorob of the Palestinian rights group Al-Haq characterized the resolution as “a betrayal of victims’ rights” and the PA’s support of shelving it reflective of “a lack of genuine commitment to justice.”
The price of clinging to power and remaining in the good graces of the U.S. State Department has been forsaking Gaza. The Israeli government seized on this, bolstering Abbas’ stature by pretending they had found a trusted negotiating partner—all while the quiet annexation of land continued.
But it is hard to solely blame Abbas. As Netanyahu stated, Israel has mastered the art of entering empty dialogue with Palestinians as new East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements are built.
Five hundred thousand settlers in 120 West Bank settlements and counting; the expropriation of territory and expulsion of Palestinians is rendering a one-state, two-state or any-state solution moot.
“Everyone knows that measured and restrained building in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank and Jerusalem] in the coming year will have no influence on the peace map,” Netanyahu said.
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, when no map remains. The “measured” and “restrained” qualifiers used to describe robust, relentless settlement activity are typical of the doublespeak employed by Israeli prime ministers.
As Abbas seeks outside opinion, consults Arab foreign ministers and holds cabinet sessions to decide the wisdom of pulling out of talks, Palestine is being whittled away … as the PA whittles away time.
Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.
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Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse.
In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.
I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, moral degradation is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority.
And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls.
This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people.
US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime.
In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”
US Rep. Rogers said that America’s wars are being undermined by “a culture of disclosure” and that this “serious and growing problem” could only be stopped by the execution of Manning.
If Rep. Rogers is representative of Michigan, then Michigan is a state that we don’t need.
The US government, a font of imperial hubris, does not believe that any act it commits, no matter how vile, can possibly be a war crime. One million dead Iraqis, a ruined country, and four million displaced Iraqis are all justified, because the “threatened” US Superpower had to protect itself from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that the US government knew for a fact were not in Iraq and could not have been a threat to the US if they were in Iraq.
When other countries attempt to enforce the international laws that the Americans established in order to execute Germans defeated in World War II, the US government goes to work and blocks the attempt. A year ago on October 8, the Spanish Senate, obeying its American master, limited Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction in order to sink a legitimate war crimes case brought against George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, Tony Blair,and Gordon Brown.
The West includes Israel, and there the horror stories are 60 years long. Moreover, if you mention any of them you are declared to be an anti-semite. I only mention them in order to prove that I am not anti-American, anti-British, and anti-NATO, but am simply against war crimes. It was the distinguished Zionist Jewish Judge, Goldstone, who produced the UN report indicating that Israel committed war crimes when it attacked the civilian population and civilian infrastructure of Gaza. For his efforts, Israel declared the Zionist Goldstone to be “a self-hating Jew,” and the US Congress, on instruction from the Israel Lobby, voted to disregard the Goldstone Report to the UN.
As the Israeli official said, we are only doing to the Palestinians what the Americans did to the American Indians.
The Israeli army uses female soldiers to sit before video screens and to fire by remote control machine guns from towers to murder Palestinians who come to tend their fields within 1500 meters of the inclosed perimeter of Ghetto Gaza. There is no indication that these Israeli women are bothered by gunning down young children and old people who come to tend to their fields.
If the crimes were limited to war and the theft of lands, perhaps we could say it is a case of jingoism sidetracking traditional morality, otherwise still in effect.
Alas, the collapse of morality is too widespread. Some sports teams now have a win-at-all-cost attitude that involves plans to injure the star players of the opposing teams. To avoid all these controversies, let’s go to Formula One racing where 200 mph speeds are routine.
Prior to 1988, 22 years ago, track deaths were due to driver error, car failure, and poorly designed tracks compromised with safety hazards. World Champion Jackie Stewart did much to improve the safety of tracks, both for drivers and spectators. But in 1988 everything changed. Top driver Ayrton Senna nudged another top driver Alain Prost toward a pit wall at 190 mph. According to AutoWeek (August 30, 2010), nothing like this had been seen before. “Officials did not punish Senna’s move that day in Portugal, and so a significant shift in racing began.” What the great racing driver Stirling Moss called “dirty driving” became the norm.
Nigel Roebuck in AutoWeek reports that in 1996 World Champion Damon Hill said that Senna’s win-at-all-cost tactic “was responsible for fundamental change in the ethics of the sport.” Drivers began using “terrorist tactics on the track.” Damon Hill said that “the views that I’d gleaned from being around my dad [twice world champion Graham Hill] and people like him, I soon had to abandon,” because you realized that no penalty was forthcoming against the guy who tried to kill you in order that he could win.
When asked about the ethics of modern Formula One racing, American World Champion Phil Hill said: “Doing that sort of stuff in my day was just unthinkable. For one thing, we believed certain tactics were unacceptable.”
In today’s Western moral climate, driving another talented driver into the wall at 200 mph is just part of winning. Michael Schumacher, born in January 1969, is a seven times World Champion, an unequaled record. On August 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, AutoWeek Reports that Schumacher tried to drive his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, into the wall at 200 mph speeds.
Confronted with his attempted act of murder, Schumacher said: “This is Formula One. Everyone knows I don’t give presents.”
Neither does the US government, nor state and local governments, nor the UK government, nor the EU.
The deformation of the police, which many Americans, in their untutored existence as naive believers in “law and order,” still think are “on their side,” has taken on new dimensions with the police militarized to fight “terrorists” and “domestic extremists.”
The police have been off the leash since the civilian police boards were nixed by the conservatives. Kids as young as 6 years old have been handcuffed and carted off to jail for school infractions that may or may not have occurred. So have moms with a car full of children (see, for example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AaSLERx0VM ).
Anyone who googles videos of US police gratuitous brutality will call up tens of thousands of examples, and this is after laws that make filming police brutality a felony. A year or two ago such a search would call up hundreds of thousands of videos.
In one of the most recent of the numerous daily acts of gratuitous police abuse of citizens, an 84-year-old man had his neck broken because he objected to a night time towing of his car. The goon cop body-slammed the 84-year old and broke his neck. The Orlando, Florida, police department says that the old man was a “threat” to the well-armed much younger police goon, because the old man clenched his fist.
Americans will be the first people sent straight to Hell while thinking that they are the salt of the earth. The Americans have even devised a title for themselves to rival that of the Israelis’ self-designation as “God’s Chosen People.” The Americans call themselves “the indispensable people.”
Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com
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