In Public Challenge to Obama, Family of Drone Victim Asks: ‘What is the Value of an Innocent Life?’

Seeking official apology, Faisal bin Ali Jaber says, ‘Imagine that your loved one was wrongly killed by the U.S. government. Imagine they would not even admit their role in the death of your family members.’

The family of two U.S. drone victims is refusing to keep their pain silent as they seek an official apology by U.S. President Barack Obama for the deaths of their kin.

In a CNN op-ed published on Friday, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni civil engineer, issued a public challenge to the U.S. leader—who recently made public statements about the deaths of two westerners killed by U.S. drone strikes, but has refused to acknowledge Yemeni civilian casualties.

“What is the value of a human life?” Jaber asks.

In the column, Jaber describes how following the August 2012 strike that killed Waleed and Salem bin Ali Jaber, the family had to identify them “from their clothes and scraps of matted hair.”

And how in the wake of the strike, while the family awaited an official apology, they were instead presented with “$100,000 in sequentially-marked U.S. dollars in a plastic bag.”

Jaber writes: “A Yemeni security service official was given the unpleasant task of handing this over. I looked him in the eye and asked how this was acceptable, and whether he would admit the money came from America. He shrugged and said: ‘Can’t tell you. Take the money.'”

“The secret payment to my family represents a fraction of the cost of the operation that killed them,” he continues. “This seems to be the Obama administration’s cold calculation: Yemeni lives are cheap. They cost the President no political or moral capital.”

In contrast to the experience of Jaber and other relatives of innocent Yemenis killed by the U.S. drone war, in April, Obama publicly acknowledged that a U.S. counterterrorism operation had killed an American, Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto. The lawsuit follows another failed court challenge in Germany in which Jaber’s family sought to prosecute the home of Ramstein Air Base for its role in “facilitating American covert drone strikes in Yemen.”

“Like a lot of Americans, my family and I watched the President’s speech at home,” Jaber writes. “But while many praised him for his forthrightness, we do not share that view. His speech shocked us. No, it was worse: his speech broke our hearts. 

“As I watched,” he continues, “I thought of my dead relatives, names that so far as I know have never crossed the President’s lips: Waleed and Salem bin Ali Jaber.”

On Monday, Jaber filed a suit asking a Washington D.C. district court to issue a declaration that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful. He is seeking no monetary compensation.

“Imagine that your loved one was wrongly killed by the U.S. government, and the White House would not apologize. Imagine they would not even admit their role in the death of your family members,” Jaber concludes. “We simply want the truth and an apology. We will not rest until it is ours.”

 

Source: In Public Challenge to Obama, Family of Drone Victim Asks: ‘What is the Value of an Innocent Life?’

Leaked Text Shows Big Pharma Bullies Using TPP To Undermine Global Health

Watchdog groups says ‘leak is just the latest glaring example of why fast-tracking the TPP would undermine the health of Americans’

by: Deirdre Fulton

Bolstering long-held criticisms from public interest groups, newly leaked sections of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) show how Big Pharma is employing “an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism” to increase profits at the expense of global health.

The TPP’s “Healthcare Annex”—which seeks to regulate government policies around medicines and medical devices—would give big pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine while crippling public healthcare programs around the world and “tying the hands” of the U.S. Congress in its ability to pursue Medicare reform and lower drug costs. 

“The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.”
—Julian Assange, WikiLeaks
In a scathing analysis of the leaked text, which waspublished Wednesday by WikiLeaks, Australian public health expert Deborah Gleeson declares:

The purported aim of the Annex is to facilitate ‘high-quality healthcare’ but the Annex does nothing to achieve this. It is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry. Nor does this do anything to promote “free trade”: rather it tightly specifies the operation of countries’ schemes for subsidizing pharmaceuticals and medical devices with the aim of providing greater disclosure, more avenues for pharmaceutical industry influence and greater opportunities for industry contestation of pharmaceutical decision making.

The inclusion of the global economy Annex in the TPP serves no useful public interest purpose. It sets a terrible precedent for using regional trade deals to tamper with other countries’ health systems and could circumscribe the options available to developing countries seeking to introduce pharmaceutical coverage programs in future.

The TPP, currently being negotiated behind closed doors, would link the United States with Pacific Rim countries from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia into a new regimen of so-called “free trade” rules that would cover 40 percent of the global economy.

“The leak is just the latest glaring example of why fast-tracking the TPP would undermine the health of Americans and the other countries and cost our government more, all to the benefit of pharma’s profits.”
— Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

President Barack Obama is trying to gain Fast Track approval from the U.S. House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, having already obtained it from the Senate, which would grant him increased power to push the TPP and other mammoth trade pacts through Congress.

Public health groups have long been part of the coalition of TPP opponents, charging that it would undermine efforts to ensure access to affordable, life-saving medicines in both the United States and abroad.

Wednesday’s leak appears to bolster those claims.

According to the New York Times, which obtained the Healthcare Annex in collaboration with WikiLeaks, the document provides pharmaceutical companies with “new opportunities to challenge the decisions of trading partners on which drugs they will offer their citizens through government health care programs and the rates at which they will reimburse drug sellers.”

The Times continues:

A version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership annex that leaked in 2011 made explicit reference to “competitive market-derived prices,” promising drug companies the chance to appeal rates deemed insufficient. Those are gone, “a victory for the non-U.S. partners to some extent,” Ms. Gleeson, the Australian expert, said.

But Pacific accord negotiators do appear ready to grant pharmaceutical and medical device makers more power to influence participating governments. The 12 countries involved, and any others that might join later, would have to disclose rules and guidelines for deciding which medical products would be made available through government programs and at what rate providers would be reimbursed.

Drug companies and medical device makers would have to be given “timely opportunities to provide comments at relevant points in the decision-making process.” And governments would have to offer a review process “that may be invoked at the request of an applicant directly affected” by the decisions of national health care authorities.

Watchdogs say such provisions could give Big Pharma more influence over Medicare, particularly as regards pharmaceutical and medical device procurement and reimbursement.

In a fact sheet (pdf) distributed in response to the revelations, Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program said the text raises critical questions such as:

Could companies use the Annex to compel Medicare to cover expensive products without a corresponding benefit to public health? Medicare reimbursement is limited to products that are “reasonable and necessary” for treatment. But the TPP “recognize[s] the value” of pharmaceutical products or medical devices through the “operation of competitive markets” or their “objectively demonstrated therapeutic significance,” regardless of whether there are effective, affordable alternatives.

Furthermore, noted Peter Maybarduk, director of the Global Access to Medicines Program: “This leak reveals that the Obama administration, acting at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, has subjected Medicare to a series of procedural rules, negotiated in secret, that would limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans—and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today.”

As the Times reports, pharmaceutical firms and their trade associations have filed by far more lobbying disclosure forms on TPP negotiations than any other industry, according to the watchdog Sunlight Foundation.

Of course, concern over the TPP’s implications for healthcare policy wasn’t limited to U.S. stakeholders. The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Trade and healthcare experts are deeply concerned that the TPP agreement has the potential to undermine Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and other similar health programs such as that administered by New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency.  

They say TPP countries will face a much greater risk that big pharmaceutical companies will contest government decisions relating to the listing or otherwise of medicines for reimbursement and engage in expensive litigation, with the result that consumers will pay more while corporate profits will be protected.  

“The annex highlights the great influence of Big Pharma in the debate over the TPP,” Australian National University law professor Matthew Rimmer told the newspaper. “Big pharmaceutical companies will use procedural rules to bully countries in the Pacific Rim to roll back their public health regimes.”

TPP opponents said Wednesday’s revelations offer just one more reason for lawmakers to demand increased transparency and oppose Fast Track legislation.

“The leak is just the latest glaring example of why fast-tracking the TPP would undermine the health of Americans and the other countries and cost our government more, all to the benefit of pharma’s profits,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange urged readers to consider the latest leak in a broader context.

In a statement released alongside the leaked text, Assange said, “It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest.”

He continued: “The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.”

Source: Leaked Text Shows Big Pharma Bullies Using TPP To Undermine Global Health | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Police Attack On Black Children At Pool Party Sparks Outrage, Calls to Mobilize

Brutal assault captured on film nationally derided as racist and inhumane

by: Sarah Lazare

From what we have seen on the video, the treatment is inhumane and especially since we are talking about teenagers,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP. (Photo: Lee Coursey/flickr/cc)A police officer’s brutal assault on black and brown teens attending a Friday pool party in the majority-white town of McKinney, Texas has sparked nationwide outrage and local plans for a March for Justice under the call, “We won’t stand idly by while children are terrorized in the street.”

“We are gathering to do a peaceful demonstration and standing in solidarity to show that we are a community and we stand together,” Keyaira Saunders Alexander of the Texas-based civil rights organization Next Generation Action Network told Common Dreams, explaining that the march is slated to take place Monday at 6:30 PM. “We want justice for those teens that were affected.”

The incident was captured in an approximately seven-minute video clip that went viral over the weekend, racking up nearly five million views on YouTube. The footage shows white police officer and patrol supervisor Eric Casebolt outside the Craig Ranch North Community Pool aggressively chasing and detaining teenagers—most black, all people of color, and none appearing to pose a threat—while slinging insults and curse words at them.

At one point, officer Casebolt proceeds to violently throw an African-American girl in a swimsuit, reportedly 14 years old, to the ground as she cries for her mother. When other teenagers of color attempt to aid the distraught child, the officer draws his gun on them, prompting them to flee. The officer then pins down the young girl by placing his knees on her back and pressing her face into the ground.

The white youth watching the incident can be seen being left completely alone by the police. White 15-year-old Brandon Brooks, who recorded the video, told Buzzfeed, “Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic. [The cop] didn’t even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible.”

The following footage of the incident may be disturbing to the viewer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R46-XTqXkzE

 

The McKinney Police Department claimed in a statement released Sunday, “The initial call came in as a disturbance involving multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave.”

But this official version of events appears to be crumbling.

Black teenager Tatiana Rose, a Craig Ranch neighborhood resident, said she and her family members hosted the pool party and cookout, which was disrupted when one of the white pool-goers began hurling racial slurs at youth and telling them to “go back to Section 8 housing.” Her account, which was reiterated by teens who spoke to Buzzfeed, was posted to YouTube on Sunday:

 

No matter the official justification, civil rights advocates charge that the video unambiguously shows police targeting black and brown children with excessive force. “From what we have seen on the video, the treatment is inhumane and especially since we are talking about teenagers,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP. “These are our children.”

The incident is garnering broad condemnation amid a growing nation-wide movement against institutional racism and police killings under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.”

Some who are active in this movement say that the McKinney incident, in particular, highlights the ways in which police violence specifically targets black women and girls. “[I]t is the young girl, forced by her hair to the ground as she screamed for her mother, that chilled me the most,” wrote Kirsten West Savali in The Root.

As Yoni Appelbaum pointed out in an Atlantic article published Monday, the violence must be evaluated as part of broader U.S. history, in which pools have been key “battlefields” for desegregation, with many choosing to make pools private rather than racially integrate them. “Whatever took place in McKinney on Friday, it occurred against this backdrop of the privatization of once-public facilities, giving residents the expectation of control over who sunbathes or doggie-paddles alongside them,” wrote Appelbaum.

Furthermore, Appelbaum notes that McKinney itself has a troubling history of racial segregation: In 2009, the city settled a lawsuit that charged it with “illegal racial steering” by blocking Section 8 housing in the more affluent, white part of town.

Many have argued that the fact that some white neighborhood residents have no problem with the police response, and are even thanking police for Friday’s assault, underscores the deep racism that pervades the community.

The police department, for its part, said the video “raised concerns that are being investigated by the McKinney Police Department,” and announced that officer Casebolt has been placed on temporary administrative leave. The mayor of McKinney, Brian Loughmiller, stated that he was “disturbed” by the incident.

But Alexander emphasized to Common Dreams that the racism that black children—and all youth of color—face extends far beyond this one video. “We hope the world is able to see, we are coming together and speaking out,” she said. “We need social change.”

Source: Police Attack On Black Children At Pool Party Sparks Outrage, Calls to Mobilize | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community