Turkey Blocks Twitter, YouTube, Scores of Websites After Prosecutor’s Killing

Twitter and YouTube are blocked once again in Turkey as of today, April 6, following the mass circulation of photos of a hostage crisis that ended with the death of a government prosecutor. According to Hurriyet Daily News, authorities have also blocked 166 websites that posted the photos.

Although Facebook was initially blocked for the same reason, the block was lifted after the company complied with Turkish officials’ orders to remove the offending images.

After a near-nationwide power cut on the morning of March 31, photos of public prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun pointed to his head began circulating on Twitter. Kiraz was taken hostage by leftist militants in an Istanbul courthouse and held for several hours in a crisis that ended late that night with the deaths of two of Kiraz’s captors and Kiraz himself, following an intervention by special police forces.

Kiraz had become a high-profile figure after being assigned to the case of Berkin Elvan, the teenage boy who died after being hit in the head by a teargas canister fired by police during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. President Erdogan (then Prime Minister) expressed no remorse for the boy’s death and dared to suggest that the teen, who had not participated in the protests, may have been working with a terrorist organization.

Kiraz was the fourth prosecutor to take on the Elvan case, but some say he was the first who took steps towards identifying those responsible for the killing. Despite Kiraz’s death, all government representatives including the President Erdogan hailed the police officers involved in the operation and described the operation as “successful”.

Just hours after Kiraz was kidnapped, images of Kiraz being held at gunpoint began circulating on Twitter. Allegedly taken by his captors, the photos were originally sent from an account that was suspended shortly after the photos appeared. The next day, April 1, 13 media outlets were banned from attending the prosecutor’s funeral, reportedly because they had published the photos. On the day of the incident, television news networks were forced by authorities to cease live reporting from outside the courthouse.

Turkish netizens are not shocked by this rash of censorship – after all, this happened before. In the run-up to the March elections in 2014, authorities blocked major social media platforms following the online circulation of audio recordings that purportedly featured the then-Prime Minister discussing with his son Bilal how the two should hide millions of dollars in cash. His inner circle was also affected – the leaked tapes pointed towards widespread corruption among AKP party members, friends, and CEOs. To dampen public unrest and reduce scrutiny, authorities opted to block YouTube and Twitter.

On April 2, a criminal investigation was launched against seven Turkish newspapers for publishing the controversial photographs. And as of today, Turkish Internet users are once again unable to access websites and platforms critical for news and information-sharing.

Written by

Arzu Geybullayeva

@arzugeybulla

via Turkey Blocks Twitter, YouTube, Scores of Websites After Prosecutor’s Killing · Global Voices.

A Simple Plan to Cut Military Waste and Reallocate Funds to Programs that Actually Benefit Americans

© Josh Sager – April 2015

The United States Defense Department has grown so large that it has become the military equivalent to a hoarder’s apartment—bloated, filled with pointless waste, and always growing larger and more cluttered. As such, I propose a set of targeted transfers from military bloat to alternative programs that will have a much more positive impact on the USA and the world as a whole.

In FY15, the US military received $628 billion in funding. This absolutely dwarfs the military funding of any other nation on the planet. In fact, the USA military receives over three times more funding than the 2nd place nation (China), and more than the combined funding of the 2nd through 9th largest militaries combined.

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I propose re-allocating 20% of the military budget, equaling $125.6 billion per year (2015 dollars), to fund three high-impact social welfare programs. These cuts would be called extreme and dangerous by the right, but the simple facts are that our military would remain overwhelmingly powerful after these cuts and our personal security would be completely unharmed. Limited audits of DOD spending have indicated massive fraud and abuse in the military, including nearly $1.1 trillion in contractor fraud from 2001 to 2011 ($101 billion per year).

Here is a short description of these three programs:

First, I would spend $30 billion annually to completely eliminate extreme hunger, for the entire world. While it may initially appear to some that this is a low cost estimate, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Department produced the estimate with input from numerous experts in their fields.

global hunger 2014

This program would serve three primary purposes:

  • It would alleviate a massive amount of pain in developing nations (never mind the food-insecure in the USA). Starvation kills 3.1 million children every year and is a significant impediment to the development of a society.
  • It would mitigate a lot of anti-US fervor abroad. Populations that are used to being bombed by the USA will instead be given aid that saves lives rather than ends them. From a purely efficiency-focused standpoint, the tens of billions of dollars a year to eliminate starvation and cultivate pro-American sentiments are a lot more valuable than developing new weapons systems that only serve to radicalize populations against our nations.
  • Food insecurity destabilizes nations and results in chaos that acts a breeding ground for radicalism. The civil unrest in Libya, Syria, and Egypt was partially precipitated by food shortages that were poorly handled by the government—this stirred up anger which was capitalized upon by extremist groups that promised solutions.

Second, I would spend $20 billion annually to virtually eliminate homelessness in the United States (an estimated price calculated by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness). This cost would actually decrease over time, as homelessness is expensive for the state (ex. incarcerations, assistance programs, medical care, etc.) and the initial investment of these billions would prime the system to reduce costs elsewhere in the future.

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Shamefully, the 2013 Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress concluded that there are approximately 58,000 homeless veterans in the USA (over 12% of the total homeless population), many of whom suffer from untreated medical or psychological conditions stemming from their service. Eliminating homelessness in the USA would serve these veterans, along with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fallen through the cracks to land on the street. It would reduce crime and overall medical costs for society, while freeing up time and effort that could be spent addressing other problems.

Third, I would spend $62.6 billion dollars annually to completely eliminate tuition at all public universities, effectively instituting a system of universal and free higher education.

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Free college tuition reduces the burdens of obtaining an education and provides an alternative to expensive private institutions. While it isn’t a cure-all—there are issues with educational inflation and a glut of less-useful liberal arts majors (ex. art history)—access to a free college education has been shown to be beneficial in nations where it is implemented (ex. Israel).

Education is vitally important to every nation, and promoting a well-educated populace will improve our nation’s competitive advantage on the world stage. If we want developments in science and technology to stay in the USA, we must ensure that there are enough high-skilled workers available.

In total, eliminating severe global hunger, ending homelessness in the USA, and giving every American access to a free public higher education would cost us approximately $112.6 billion of the $125.6 billion saved by cutting the military. I can see no rational argument against such a re-allocation, but have little faith that it would be possible given our current political climate.

Put simply, the defense industry makes billions every year through the war machine, and some of that money is funneled back to the politicians who create the budgets. These bribes ensure that our government keeps shoveling our money into the pockets of the military industrial complex and starting no-win interventions abroad (ex. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). That said, this is one issue where people of principle on the left and right can agree on, as nobody likes military waste, and almost everybody would prefer to fund programs that have the greatest benefits for the American people over those that are far less effective.

Legalizing Marijuana Now More Popular Than All Political Candidates

 

Written by: John Vibes

April 7, 2014

(AntiMedia) It is no secret that Americans are losing faith in the US political system. With the potential of a choice between a Clinton and a Bush in 2016, it is likely that even more people will stop participating.

Now that there have been states where people have been allowed to vote for the legalization of marijuana, that topic has actually become more popular than the candidates themselves.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in March, in the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, marijuana is far more popular than all the major political candidates. The survey found that over 80% of people in all states supported medical marijuana, with over 50% also supporting full legalized recreational marijuana.

Meanwhile, all of the major political candidates have the approval of less than 50% of the people polled.

“In some ways marijuana policy is the perfect issue for a presidential campaign. It has far reaching consequences that both parties have reason to engage,” John Hudak of the Brookings Institution told the Washington Post, in response to the poll.

Prohibition of any kind should be opposed for the reasons I have laid out in the past. However, marijuana is of specific immediate importance because of its ability to heal sick people and create environmentally friendly industrial products. It is also one of the safest drugs known to our species.

A recent Gallup poll found that major political parties in the United States are seeing their lowest popularity levels in recent memory.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans fall well below 50% in terms of approval, with 39% viewing the Democratic party favorable and 37% viewing the Republican party favorable.

John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.

via Legalizing Marijuana Now More Popular Than All Political Candidates. (AntiMedia)

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley