Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chik-fil-A cow's head is missing; owner offers reward

This is something that our family is really attached to, the owner claimed to WOWT. Well, obviously not any longer.
     According to Forbes:
Chick-fil-A, the corporate parent, has been sued [as of 2007] at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination, according to records in U.S. District Courts. Aziz Latif, a former Chick-fil-A restaurant manager in Houston, sued the company in 2002 after Latif, a Muslim, says he was fired a day after he didn’t participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000. The suit was settled on undisclosed terms.
Chik-fil-A leads the fast food industry with a per-store sales average of $3,157,900 compared to second-place McDonalds' $2,600,000. This is even more impressive when one considers that, unlike McDonalds, Chik-fil-A restaurants are not open on Sundays.
(Tipped by reader Karen)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Here's John Lennon in 1966 sarcastically telling L.A. reporters that Eleanor Rigby was a song about "two queers"

Reporter: I'd like to direct this question toward Mssrs. Lennon and McCartney. In a recent article, Time Magazine put down pop music and they referred to "Day Tripper" as being about a prostitute and "Norwegian Wood" as being about a lesbian. Now I just wanted to know what your intent was when you wrote it and what your feeling is about the Time Magazine criticism of the music that is being written today.
Paul McCartney: We just try to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, that's all.

Reporter: May I ask about the song "Eleanor Rigby?" What was the motivation or inspiration for that?
John Lennon: "Two queers."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

IA Rep. Steve King: no need to be concerned about racial profiling in Ferguson because protesters all have the same 'continental origin'

Unreleased Robin Williams film, Boulevard, is about a devoted husband confronting life on the down low

IMDB describes the film, Boulevard, screened last Spring at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, as: "A devoted husband in a marriage of convenience is forced to confront his secret life."
      When Williams passed, the film had yet to be picked up by a distributor.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Statement of Washington Post on arrest of its reporter in Ferguson, Missouri

Wesley Lowrey (l.), of the Washington Post, and Ryan J. Reilly, of the Huffington Post, who described his arrest here.
Today, violence again broke out in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, Saturday by a policeman who authorities have so far refused to identify. Hacker group Anonymous has vowed to do so.
     Johnson's friend, Dorian Johnson, said Brown was shot multiple times. Police aren't saying how many rounds were emptied into Brown.
     Earlier tonight, a SWAT team burst into a Ferguson McDonalds used as an informal hangout for journalists to prepare and file stories via the restaurant's WiFi. Wesley Lowrey, of the Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, of the Huffington Post, both were arrested. MSNBC interviewed Reilly here and Lowery here.

      Wesley has briefed us on what occurred, and there was absolutely no justification for his arrest.
      He was illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers. Then he followed officers’ instructions to leave a McDonald’s — and after contradictory instructions on how to exit, he was slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.
      After being placed in a holding cell, he was released with no charges and no explanation. He was denied information about the names and badge numbers of those who arrested him.
      We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK. We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gay Star Trek nerd's marriage proposal with secret celebrity surprise

Nerds are still nerds no matter their sexual orientation. Even if they're clever enough to enlist the support of a movie star in their entreaty.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Three firms busted for down-low PR deceptions: Burson-Marsteller, DCI Group and Condé Nast's Strategic Partnerships division

ONE: From Slate, on the Astroturf shenanigans of Burson-Marsteller to improve the Washington Redskins image:
     You may have noticed ads on the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated websites for a new site that wants to set the record straight on the Washington NFL team’s offensive nickname. That site, which was registered on June 30, touts the nickname’s storied history, various polls that reflect its popularity, and claims that it’s really, truly not offensive to Native Americans...
     The About Us page indicates that it is “a growing online community of passionate Washington [NFL team] fans and others who support the team’s use of its name and logo.” A Washington team spokesman told the local ABC affiliate WJLA that “they know of the site and totally support their effort,” sounding surprised and delighted by this online campaign.
     A graphic at the top of the nickname-defending website, though, indicates that it’s “sponsored by” the team’s alumni...
     Jamie Zoch of Dot Weekly noted that the firm has hand-registered several sites with very similar names in recent days. (The registrant name for the nickname-defending site itself is listed as “PERFECT PRIVACY, LLC.” Perfect Privacy is a service that allows you to buy a Web domain without releasing any of your personal information.) A Google site search of the nickname website also reveals a login page that is “Powered by Burson Site Factory.” And a search of the site’s source code reveals a link to http://www.burson.acsitefactory.com. That Burson page shares an IP address ( with the nickname website.
TWO: The other day David Pakman exposed Crystal High as a covert stooge for DCI, a PR firm with clients known to be in opposition to Net Neutrality: Verizon and cable companies front, Broadband for America. This was the second time DCI had tried to fool Pakman. High has also been busted as a comment troll trying to undermine articles defending Net Neutrality by author Lee Fang:
     On the pages of VICE and an investigative website I help manage called Republic Report, I've covered the net neutrality debate—whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be able to create internet fast and slow lanes, or if, instead, all content should be treated equally. A writer and attorney named Kristal High has been attacking me in the comment section throughout the year.
      For a story about how civil rights groups with funding from Comcast and other telecom companies wrote a letter to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) supporting the agency’s proposal to gut net neutrality, High showed up in the comment section to call me "paternalistic." After I published a story last week about how a Comcast-affiliated African American news outlet decided to delete a story I wrote about net neutrality upon being contacted by an advocacy group tied to the telecom industry, High appeared in the comment section once again to troll me. She claimed that I am wrong to be critical of the FCC's plan and that I have been wasting my time by focusing on the "lobbying dollars" spent in the debate.

THREE: Last week, Condé Nast's Strategic Partnerships division tried to bribe two authors highly critical of the food industry into participating in an "exciting video series" on the "topics of food, food chains and sustainability" — sponsored by GMO and pesticide vendor Monsanto — by not mentioning Monsanto in the emailed pitch (only in attachments) and by telling them that a CBS reporter would be the production's host when in fact Mo Rocca never agreed to do that.

TN primary: Knoxville voters send 'Don't Say Gay' state legislator Stacey Campfield packing, in a landslide, but Chattanooga voters defeat LGBT rights in referendum

Knoxville, TN state representative Stacey Campfield lost his reelection bid to a cardiac surgeon in the state's Republican primary voting last night. From Fox17 in Knoxville:
     With 16 percent of precincts reporting, Richard Briggs had 10,657 votes, or 68 percent, compared with Campfield's 4,143 votes, or 26 percent.
     The primary was expected to be tough for Campfield, a highly visible lawmaker who often drew attention and sometimes ridicule for his polarizing comments, as well as sponsoring contentious bills on social issues.
     They included one ridiculed as the "Don't Say Gay" bill and another that would cut welfare.
     Most recently, he made national news when he compared the federal health care law to the forced transportation of Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust in a blog post.

     In Chattanooga, voters rejected a domestic partnership ordinance:
     Chattanooga's domestic partnership ordinance was defeated by voters in a citywide referendum. The City Council passed the ordinance last November, but it was quickly challenged by a conservative political action committee to get it on the August ballot.
     Yes Chattanooga called the referendum's outcome was "deeply disappointing."
     The mayor's statement, last night at 10:30 pm, Via WRCB:
“I have no doubt Chattanoogans value fairness and equality, and I am proud of the volunteers who spent nights and weekends to ensure our employees are treated equally. The City of Chattanooga’s non-discrimination ordinance was repealed tonight, but I want every City employee to know one thing -- your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community.  Regardless of the results tonight, my Administration will continue to hire and promote the best people who provide excellent service to our constituents." 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Michael Fassbender was just interviewed about something

AKSARBENT, which can't remember anything at all about the clip below except the quotation from Oscar Wilde about masks, was once informed that it was not a good candidate for hypnotism. Ha!

Stephen Colbert says five-year-old Apparently kid reporter could replace Sean Hannity

Vin Diesel channels Mrs. Miller in impromptu cover of Sam Smith's Stay With Me

Well, the falsetto verses, anyway.

Here's the just-released poster of Creighton Prep grad Andrew Rannells in his new Broadway drag role

Rannells, original lead of Broadway smash Book of Mormon, Elijah in HBO's Girls and Bryan in NBC's inexplicably-cancelled The New Normal, will take over the lead from Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwick and the Angry Inch.
     Rannells has played this role before. In fact, he won best actor and actress in a musical at the B. Iden Payne Awards in September 2002 for his turn as Hedwig at the Zachary Scott Theater Center in Austin, Texas.

     Rannells grew up in Omaha's Hanscom Park neighborhood and acted with Indie Rock sensation Connor Oberst in a children's theatre production of Peter Pan, in which Oberst played one of the Darling kids and Rannells played a pirate. (AKSARBENT isn't opining, it's just reporting.)
     Rannells also played a stripper in the 2012 film Bachelorette, but don't tell any of the priests at Creighton, ok? This is just between you and AKSARBENT.

Russian, angry at Obama over sanctions, teaches America a lesson by destroying his iPhone and iPad

AKSARBENT can't understand a word he's saying but Buzzfeed says his introductory rant (before the fun starts at about 2:41) includes a vow never to travel to the U.S. or step foot in an American establishment again, not even McDonalds.
     Then he makes an off-camera offering to the sink of a bottle of Coke. Then he commences the destruction of an iPhone. Amazingly, dude hits Steve Jobs' pride and joy with a very substantial hammer five times, then five times more, then twice more before the smartphone's lights go out.
     Can't beat the one-two punch of Corning Gorilla Glass and Chinese workmanship, can you?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Subway riders push car off track enough to free trapped man

Some very robust windows, we'd say.

(Via JoeMyGod)

Omaha's zoo ranked best in world by Trip Adviser based on reviews by its users

This does not surprise AKSARBENT; the Reader's Digest called the Henry Doorly Zoo the best in America six years ago.
     People who visit Omaha's zoo from out of town are generally stunned to discover the world's second-largest free-flight aviary and the world's biggest desert exhibit (inside the world's largest glazed geodesic dome) and America's largest indoor rainforest and America's biggest cat complex and the largest zoo aquarium in the world — all in one place.
     You can see it via a choice of tram, miniature railroad or Skyfari treetop chairlift.
     The Henry Doorly Zoo also has an innovative "Kingdoms of the Night" exhibit in which day and night cycles are artificially reversed to show nocturnal activity patterns. The nocturnal exhibit (yeah, it's the world's biggest) has a canyon, a wet cave, a dry bat cave and the world’s largest indoor swamp.
     For those who have the time, there's also Pachyderm Hill, the Insect and Butterfly pavilion, the separate gorilla and orangutan exhibits and an IMAX Theatre.
     TripAdvisor's complete ranking of hundreds of zoos is here.
Henry Doorly Zoo's desert exhibit, largest on earth, competes
with the zoo's world-class cat complex, aquarium*, rain forest,
aviary and nocturnal exhibits — all either largest in the world
or in America. Just reading the zoo's Wiki entry will make
your eyes glaze.
*The aquarium is the largest inside a zoo, not considered to be
an independent attraction.
1. Henry Doorly Zoo (Nebraska)
2. San Diego Zoo (California)
3. Loro Parque (Spain)
4. St. Louis Zoo (Missouri)
5. Singapore Zoo (Singapore)
6. Chester Zoo (United Kingdom)
7. Prague Zoo (Czech Republic)
8. Tiergarten Schoenbrunn—Zoo Vienna (Austria)
9. Bioparc Valencia (Spain)
10. Gramado Zoo (Brazil)

Guardian's datablog not buying Gay Times drug/sex survey quoted by BBC Newsbeat, Huffington Post, PinkNews and others

Above: Gay sex and drug use by German cops in Freefall, now streaming on Netflix

The Guardian sneered at the headline's conclusions, referring to "the bone­-shattering dog-bites-man banality of the top line — people have sex when drunk" before getting down to the business of taking apart the survey's numbers, which the newspaper regarded as highly suspect relative to other surveys.
The survey’s conclusion is clear: gay and bisexual men are incorrigible, unrepentant alcoholic, drug-snorting sex dreadnoughts, who wouldn’t be seen dead getting it on without a line of something typically found in a rock star’s dressing room.
      The survey has a fundamental problem, which is that, unlike most professionally-conducted surveys and research, its participants were self-selecting. It was hosted online, advertised to Gay Times readers online, and pitched specifically as a ‘drugs survey’. This can have a big effect on who answers the survey, both in terms of who hears about it, and who feels that it’s relevant to them and so worth taking the time to respond to.
     By way of illustration, a 20-something party animal living in London who uses Twitter, frequents the Vauxhall scene and is comfortable using recreational drugs is both more likely to hear about and more likely to answer the survey than a middle-aged gay man living in the countryside with a dodgy internet connection.
     This may sound quite minor, but we can start to see how this may have a large effect on the results when we compare it to previous research efforts. Similar data can be found not only in a 2012 survey carried out by Stonewall (which had a much larger sample of nearly 7,000), but also in recently published figures from the authoritative Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). Both sets of figures suggest GT has considerably overestimated drug use.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Apparently WNEP gave five-year old redhead Noah its mic to recap Wayne County fair rides

"I don't watch the news because I'm a kid... Grandpa just gives me the remote, I have to watch the PowerBall." Kid is five and already has a photobombing groupie.

(Via Towleroad)

Bill Kelly: When Omaha cops put the drag in dragnet

We totally stole Bill Kelly's headline for his look back at Johnny 5-0 in his NET blog, Courts and Cops, because what could you write that is better?
     It seems during the spring of 1920 police heard several complaints about “the degenerate who has been terrorizing roadside lovers.” It’s not spelled out , but a reader assumes Omaha had a prowling “peeping tom” or what present day law enforcement officials characterize as “a perv.” The Douglas County Sheriff assigned two deputies to the case, Charles T. Johnson and James “Jimmie” Lindsay.
     From the World-Herald story:
They did admit kissing "a time or two." Both men blushed when they admitted it. "We didn't see the degenerate," they said. "But we certainly carried our part through."
     Nowadays, the Omaha World-Herald doesn't have to settle for titillating staged photos of sexual shenanigans decoys — it actually publishes TMZ-style video (curiously missing the Omaha World-Herald logo, though) of an actual drag event...
(Tipped by reader Tom)

Monday, August 4, 2014

State Dept. "appalled" at Israel's latest civilian killings in Gaza but Reps. Lee Terry, Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith just voted to give Israel an extra $225 million of your taxes anyway

From NBC's Richard Engel.
     ...There have been more Israeli airstrikes. One of those strikes caused yet another tragedy. Un officials say Israel fired on a suspected Palestinian militant on a motorcycle just as passed in front of a UN school full of 3,000 Palestinians taking shelter. At least 10 civilians were killed.
     Robert Turner, director of the UN program in Gaza, is stunned Israel chose to attack so close to the school.
     Engel: Do you think Israel should have waited a few more seconds, a few more minutes until he was further away from this location?
     Turner: Why, if this is a moving target and you're tracking him, why there? Why there, right at the gate of a shelter? The location of which you've been given 33 times.
     ...The U.S. State Department said it was "appalled" by today's "disgraceful shelling" outside the school.
Hours after an IDF attack on a UN-operated school killed 20 civilians last week, the US announced it would resupply Israeli military with new ammunition to further their campaign on the war-ravaged city. Days later, the House overwhelmingly approved an emergency measure giving Israel $225 million more for the country's Iron Dome missile system.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guardian: Israel eavesdropped on Sec'y of State Kerry during failed Gaza peace overture

The Guardian says Der Speigel has revealed that Israel monitored Sec'y Kerry's cell phone conversations last year during peace talks with Palestinians and Arab states. Also,
     In May, Newsweek reported “unrivalled and unseemly” Israeli espionage in the US under cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts. Israeli officials called the report false and malicious.
     Kerry made several publicly reported comments during the talks that frayed his relationship with Jerusalem. He warned that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if it did not reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, prompting protests by Israeli and US politicians. Kerry apologised. 

Oxford's Out of the Blue cover of Shakira's Hips Don't Lie goes viral

Oxford University's a capella group Out of the Blue has released a charity cover of Shakira's Hips Don't Lie, which has quickly racked up millions of views. AKSARBENT is usually indifferent to such stuff, but we can't stop listening to this. It's hypnotizing.

(Via JoeMyGod reader Lama)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Here's Ricky Nelson in his bedroom back in the 1950s keeping James Burton up past his bedtime

Rick Nelson is mostly looking at his guitar frets. James Burton is mostly looking at Ricky, which is totally what AKSARBENT would have done.
      Nelson had Burton before Elvis, who had to wait until Burton's employment with the teen idol and his TV family paterfamilias ended before hiring Burton for his band.
     By the way, James Burton's 75th birthday bash will be held three weeks from now. Anyone can attend. Go here for details.

Below: James Burton in Omaha in 1977:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Formerly supportive, Joe Scarborough turns on Israel after rising of civilian casualities: United States of America 'cannot be associated with this'

Via Politico:
     Scarborough described himself as having a record as one of Israel’s biggest supporters, saying, “I’ve always been a 100 percent supporter of Israel. The joke in Congress was anytime I wanted a key to the city of Tel Aviv, I could, you know, get a gold-plated one.”
     But on Thursday he warned that the mounting civilian death toll was not just tragic for the Palestinians, but harmful both to Israel and the U.S.
     “The United States of America — we cannot be associated with this if this continues. This is so bad, not only for the Israeli people, but for us,” Scarborough said.
     (Also on POLITICO: 10 Israeli media attacks on Kerrry)

UN relief official breaks down after latest Israeli bombing of school

From the YouTube description:
UN Official Breaks Down Crying Live on Air
For Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which has numerous facilities in Gaza, it's all too much. This is the sixth time UNRWA sites have been hit during Israel's current campaign.

Russell Brand: Sean Hannity — that's where the terrorism's coming from!

Below: Sean Hannity tried to strike back at Russell Brand, but ended up having to answer pointed questions from Geraldo Rivera about his simplistic, Israel-can-do-no-wrong view of Middle-Eastern politics.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The New Yorker on the collective punishment
of Gaza civilians

...It’s worth listening carefully when Netanyahu speaks [in Hebrew] to the Israeli people. What is going on in Palestine today is not really about Hamas. It is not about rockets. It is not about “human shields” or terrorism or tunnels. It is about Israel’s permanent control over Palestinian land and Palestinian lives. That is what Netanyahu is really saying, and that is what he now admits he has “always” talked about. It is about an unswerving, decades-long Israeli policy of denying Palestine self-determination, freedom, and sovereignty.
     What Israel is doing in Gaza now is collective punishment. It is punishment for Gaza’s refusal to be a docile ghetto. It is punishment for the gall of Palestinians in unifying, and of Hamas and other factions in responding to Israel’s siege and its provocations with resistance, armed or otherwise, after Israel repeatedly reacted to unarmed protest with crushing force. Despite years of ceasefires and truces, the siege of Gaza has never been lifted...

100 Spanish celebrities, including three Oscar winners, sign actor Javier Bardem's letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza

From the Hollywood Reporter:
     Oscar winners Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Pedro Almodovar, have denounced Israel's incursion into Gaza.
     In an open letter referenced by Europa Press and other Spanish media, they described Israel's actions as "genocide."
     They also called on the European Union to "condemn the bombing by land, sea and air against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip."
     In the open letter, they demanded a cease-fire by the Israeli military and urged Israel to "lift the blockade, which the Gaza Strip has suffered for more than a decade."
     The letter also said: "Gaza is living through horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea and air. Palestinians' homes are being destroyed, they are being denied water, electricity [and] free movement to their hospitals, schools and fields while the international community does nothing."
     Others who signed the letter include directors Montxo Armendariz and Benito Zambrano; actors Lola Herrera, Eduardo Noriega and Rosa Maria Sarda; and musicians Amaral and Nacho Campillo.
     Below is Bardem in "Before Night Falls" playing gay Cuban writer Reynaldo Arenas. Bardem's performance in that film won him the first Best Actor nomination by a Spanish national in Hollywood history. He lost, but later won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in No Country for Old Men.

Signatory Eduardo Noriega starred, with Argentinian actor Leonard Sbaraglia, in an AKSARBENT favorite, Plata Quemada (Burnt Money), a huge hit in South America.

Pro-Netanyahu Israeli mob celebrates killing of Gaza kids by chanting 'Next Child To Get Hit Is Yours'

(Note: to see all AKSARBENT's posts on the intensifying crisis in Gaza,
click "Gaza" at the bottom of this post, after the word "Labels:)

     This is the government that is getting $3.1 billion of your taxes each and every year, courtesy of, among others, Rep. Lee Terry (402-397-9944, 202-225-4155, @LeeTerryNE on twitter)  and and Rep. Adrian Smith (308-384-3900, 308-633-6333, 202-225-0207, @RepAdrianSmith on twitter).
     From the YouTube description of the video, shot by a disgusted Israeli:
Video from the extreme-right demonstration in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. The demonstration was held across the square from a much bigger pro-peace demonstration that took place at the same time.
     Nevertheless, 87% of Israelis in a recent poll apparently want Israel to keep bombing Gaza back into the stone age.
     Another of the chants: "There's no school tomorrow, there's no children left in Gaza! Oleh! Oleh!" Well, maybe it's catchier in Hebrew.
     You can watch the video here. Click "CC" then "Translate Captions" then select "English", then restart the video.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ACLU's new report, With Liberty to Monitor All:
How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy

Always watching: last week's AKSARBENT post about the silent protest by many Omahans
of Israel's latest attack on civilians in Gaza has already attracted the attention of the F.B.I.

Here's the ACLU press release:
(Washington, DC) – Large-scale US surveillance is seriously hampering US-based journalists and lawyers in their work, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report released today. Surveillance is undermining media freedom and the right to counsel, and ultimately obstructing the American people’s ability to hold their government to account, the groups said.
     The 120-page report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” is based on extensive interviews with dozens of journalists, lawyers, and senior US government officials. It documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions. The report finds that government surveillance and secrecy are undermining press freedom, the public’s right to information, and the right to counsel, all human rights essential to a healthy democracy.
     “The work of journalists and lawyers is central to our democracy,” said report author Alex Sinha, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. “When their work suffers, so do we."

The Impact of Surveillance on Journalism
     The report is drawn from interviews with some 50 journalists covering intelligence, national security, and law enforcement for outlets including the New York Times, the Associated Press, ABC, and NPR.
The US has long held itself out as a global leader on media freedom. However, journalists interviewed for the report are finding that surveillance is harming their ability to report on matters of great public concern.
Surveillance has magnified existing concerns among journalists and their sources over the administration’s crackdown on leaks. The crackdown includes new restrictions on contact between intelligence officials and the media, an increase in leak prosecutions, and the Insider Threat Program, which requires federal officials to report one another for “suspicious” behavior that might betray an intention to leak information.
     Journalists interviewed for the report said that surveillance intimidates sources, making them more hesitant to discuss even unclassified issues of public concern. The sources fear they could lose their security clearances, be fired, or – in the worst case – come under criminal investigation.
     “People are increasingly scared to talk about anything,” observed one Pulitzer Prize winner, including unclassified matters that are of legitimate public concern.
     Many journalists described adopting elaborate techniques in an environment of tremendous uncertainty in an effort to protect evidence of their interaction with sources. The techniques ranged from using encryption and air-gapped computers (which stay completely isolated from unsecured networks, including the Internet), to communicating with sources through disposable “burner” phones, to abandoning electronic communications altogether. Those cumbersome new techniques are slowing down reporters in their pursuit of increasingly skittish sources, resulting in less information reaching the public.
This situation has a direct effect on the public’s ability to obtain important information about government activities, and on the ability of the media to serve as a check on government, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found.
     Journalists expressed concern that, rather than being treated as essential checks on government and partners in ensuring a healthy democratic debate, they may be viewed as suspect for doing their jobs. One prominent journalist summed up what many seemed to be feeling: “I don’t want the government to force me to act like a spy. I’m not a spy; I’m a journalist.”

The Impact of Surveillance on the Practice of Law
     For lawyers, large-scale surveillance has created concerns about their ability to meet their professional responsibilities to maintain confidentiality of information related to their clients. Failure to meet those responsibilities can result in discipline through professional organizations, or even lawsuits.
Lawyers also rely on the free exchange of information with their clients to build trust and develop legal strategy. Concerns over government surveillance are making it harder for attorneys – especially, but not exclusively, defense attorneys – to build trust with their clients or protect their legal strategies. Both problems corrode the ability of lawyers to represent their clients effectively.
     As with the journalists, lawyers increasingly feel pressure to adopt strategies to avoid leaving a digital trail that could be monitored. Some use burner phones, others seek out technologies designed to provide security, and still others reported traveling more for in-person meetings. Like journalists, some feel frustrated, and even offended, that they are in this situation. “I’ll be damned if I have to start acting like a drug dealer in order to protect my client’s confidentiality,” said one.
     The result of the anxieties over confidentiality is the erosion of the right to counsel, a pillar of procedural justice under human rights law and the US Constitution, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found.
     The US has an obligation to protect national security, and under human rights standards, it may engage in surveillance to that end, but only to the extent that surveillance is lawful, necessary, and proportionate, and the least intrusive means to protect against tangible threats to national security. Many existing surveillance programs are indiscriminate or overbroad, and threaten freedom of expression, the right to counsel, and the public’s ability to hold its government to account. Programs allowing surveillance of non-US persons offer even fewer protections. The US should reform its surveillance programs to ensure that they are targeted and legitimate, increase transparency around national security and surveillance matters, and take steps for better protection of whistleblowers and the media, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU said.
     “The US holds itself out as a model of freedom and democracy, but its own surveillance programs are threatening the values it claims to represent,” Sinha said. “The US should genuinely confront the fact that its massive surveillance programs are damaging many critically important rights.”

Gazan whose brother bled to death while mocked by Israeli soldiers says PM Benjamin Netanyahu's phrase, 'telegenically dead' makes him want to throw up

To see the video from which the transcript below was made, go to Democracy Now's website.
Here is the preliminary transcript in its entirety:
Five years ago Palestinian student Amer Shurrab lost his two brothers in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Last week, Shurrab learned four of his cousins in Gaza had been killed in Israel’s latest offensive. In January 2009, Amer’s father and brothers were fleeing their village when the vehicle they were driving in came under Israeli fire. Twenty-eight-year-old Kassab died in a hail of bullets trying to flee the vehicle. Amer’s other brother, 18-year-old Ibrahim, survived the initial attack, but Israeli troops refused to allow an ambulance to reach him until 20 hours later. By then, it was too late. Ibrahim had bled to death in front of his father. A graduate student at Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, Amer Shurrab has been recounting the story of his brothers and other Palestinians at college campuses and community gatherings across the United States. "Israel is deliberately targeting civilians from the day one of this attack," he says. "They have been bombing houses, wiping entire families to try to scare people into submission."
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by Amer Shurrab, a Palestinian graduate student from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. He’s studying at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. He has just learned that four of his cousins have died in Khan Younis. We last spoke to him five years ago. It was shortly after he lost his two brothers during Israel’s assault on Gaza known as Operation Cast Lead. In 2009, January, his dad and two brothers were fleeing their village when their vehicle came under Israeli fire. His brother, 28-year-old Kassab, died in a hail of bullets trying to flee the vehicle. His other brother, Ibrahim, 18 years old, survived the initial attack, but Israeli troops refused to allow an ambulance to reach him and his father until 20 hours later. By then, it was too late. Ibrahim had bled to death in front of his father. Amer Shurrab has been recounting the story of his brothers and other Palestinians at college campuses and community gatherings across the United States. And it was just recently that he learned about his cousins in Khan Younis.
We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, I’m sorry under such sad circumstances. My condolences to you and your family, Amer. Can you talk about what you’ve just learned?
AMER SHURRAB: Thank you, Amy, for having me again, and I wish next time we meet will be under better circumstances. So, last week, actually, last Tuesday, I got news from Gaza via a friend that my cousin, Mohammed Tayseer, was killed. He was targeted by one of those drones that Sharif was talking about. He was visiting some friends. He left their house at 1:00 a.m., started walking home, and on the walk home he was directly targeted by a drone. A couple hours later, actually, the house of the friends that he was visiting was bombed by the Israeli Air Force, and it killed two and injured several other people. His dad—because those friends are their neighbors, his dad went to visit—ran to the house of the neighbors, the friends, to help evacuate the wounded, in fear of the house being bombed again. And the dad was looking for Mohammed, his eldest son, his 22-year-old eldest son, and was looking for him to help. A couple hours later, once light started coming out, people saw a body on the street that they realized was Mohammed’s.
AMY GOODMAN: How old was Mohammed?
AMER SHURRAB: Twenty-two.
AMY GOODMAN: How old was Tayseer?
AMER SHURRAB: Tayseer is in his fifties, 55 now.
AMY GOODMAN: And you had two other cousins.
AMER SHURRAB: Three cousins, three brothers, three second cousins, they—was Wednesday—their house in the Sheikh Nasser region in Khan Younis was bombed by the Israeli Air Forces. A four-story house was flattened to the ground. Initial news that there were three people killed and several wounded. Then we got news later that no one was hurt. And then, the next morning, Thursday morning, they extracted the body of Iyad. And then, the next morning, during the 12-hour ceasefire, they had more time to dig through the rubble and found two more bodies of his brothers, two of his brothers. And they were all recently married. They, all three of them, got married either last year or the year before.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, we last talked in 2009. You had just graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont.
AMY GOODMAN: This was the period of Operation Cast Lead, as the Israeli military called, when more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed. Describe what happened to your brothers and your dad.
AMER SHURRAB: Well, Amy, my dad and brothers were in our farm in the Fukhari region, and they were driving home during the ceasefire, the humanitarian lull that Israel announced, and they waited ’til the middle of that ceasefire. They were driving home. They drove for about half a kilometer or kilometer. They faced a tank on the side of the road. They were waved through by the tank. And then, once they drove a couple hundred meters past it, Israeli soldiers stationed in a civilian house—they occupied a civilian house and took at least 11 residents as hostages in that house—they opened fire on them indisriminately.
AMY GOODMAN: On your father and two brothers, the car.
AMER SHURRAB: On the—yes. My dad was hit while driving. They hit a wall. The car came to a halt. They ordered them to get out of the car. Kassab was in the passenger seat, got out. He was shot. Later, we realized he had 18 bullets across his chest, his stomach and his arms. My dad got out, and he ducked by the car. My brother Ibrahim, who was in the back seat, got out, and he was also shot in his left leg. And then he—initially, they wouldn’t allow my dad or Ibrahim to call an ambulance or even to check on Kassab’s body. They had no idea what happened to him. That was around 1:00 p.m.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it was just feet away.
AMER SHURRAB: Yeah, few feet away. Yeah, few feet, like on the other side of the car, basically. And they wouldn’t let him check on them. My dad only confirmed Kassab’s death about five hours later, after sunset, when he saw cats nibbling on his body. He challenged the soldiers’ orders not to move, challenged the rounds they fired around him, checked on Kassab, realized he was dead and covered his face with his jacket and crawled back next to Ibrahim. They were pinned next to the car for over—about 24 hours. Ibrahim passed away. Shooting happened around 1:00 p.m. Ibrahim passed away around midnight. Ambulances were not allowed through, until—
AMY GOODMAN: How do you know this?
AMER SHURRAB: My dad wrote an account of that ordeal, of that whole story, from his hospital bed. He wrote it the day after, and over two days, because he wanted to remember it, he wanted it memorized. When I first reached him over his cellphone, once he got to the hospital, he told me, "Tell people what happened to us. Tell them what happened to us. Your brothers don’t deserve this. Everyone needs to know about this."
AMY GOODMAN: Your uncle had tried to get an ambulance?
AMY GOODMAN: How did he know anything was going on?
AMER SHURRAB: Later, they allowed my dad to use his cellphone, and he called my uncle. And my uncle reached the area with an ambulance. They would not allow them through. And it’s not only my uncle. My dad was on phone calls throughout the night to local press, to international media, to local, international human rights organizations, to Israeli human rights organizations. He was talking with everyone—and in vain. Throughout that night, once I got the news, we were talking everyone. We reached members of the Israeli Knesset. We tried to contact the Obama transition team. We contacted everyone. People in all five continents were making calls trying to reach people to get them help. But it was in vain. It wasn’t until 7:00 a.m. the next day, the 17th—they were shot on the 16th. On 7:00 a.m.—
AMY GOODMAN: This was January.
AMER SHURRAB: Yes, 2009—7:00 a.m., we got a word through a member of the Knesset, a Palestinian member of the Knesset that we reached, that the Israeli army would allow an ambulance to go in, but only at noon, when the humanitarian ceasefire would start for the next day. And the soldiers were watching them all that time. They refused to give them a band-aid. They refused to give them anything to stop the bleeding. They refused to give them a sip of water, a blanket. Nothing. My brother Ibrahim was shivering next to my dad, and they wouldn’t do anything other than curse at them, laugh at them and watch them suffer. Later on, we found that they left graffiti on the wall of the house that said, "Kahane was right."
AMY GOODMAN: Referring to?
AMER SHURRAB: Meir Kahane, the extremist Israeli rabbi who called for the killing or transfer of all Arabs and Palestinians from Palestine and Israel to other nations, to make Israel a purely Jewish state.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last week, saying that Hamas is intentionally endangering Palestinian civilians in hopes that the gruesome images will turn the international community against Israel.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: All civilian casualties are unintended by us, but actually intended by Hamas. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can, because somebody said they use—I mean, it’s gruesome. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want—the more dead, the better.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Your response to this, Amer?
AMER SHURRAB: Well, first of all, I want to jump on that phrase "telegenically dead." I hear that phrase, and I really want to throw up. This is just despicable description of dead children, women. That’s what you call them? Instead of saying "condolences," instead of saying "we are sorry," you say "telegenically dead"? This is extremely offensive, to start with.
And then, to Prime Minister Netanyahu—Prime Minister Netanyahu and all the Israeli spokespersons, in Arabic, in English, in Hebrew, in every language, they say they use precision bombs. They say they use smart weapons, and they pinpoint their attacks. And several Israeli spokespeople said every attack has hit its intended target. And now we know what are the intended targets. It’s children. It’s families. It’s women. An Israeli reserve general said, "We are going to kill their families so they learn not to come back again." An Israeli professor at Bar-Ilan University said, "Kill them, kill their kids, rape their women, kill their children, so that they learn." An Israeli member of the Knesset, who is a member of the ruling coalition, has wrote a posting on Facebook, that received several thousand likes, calling for the extermination of Palestinians, killing all their kids, killing the mothers who give birth to those "snakes."
So, what Israel says—we know that Israel uses—repeatedly has used the claim that Palestinians use human shields. That claim has been discredited over and over and over again, by the Goldstone Report, by the U.N., by all respectable human rights organizations. On the contrary, there is plenty of proof, plenty of evidence, that Israel uses Palestinians as human shields, as I know it personally in the case of my family and my brothers, where they were occupying a house, holding the local residents as human shields. UNICEF, about three months ago, issued a report documenting Israel’s use of children as human shields. That was corroborated recently by a report for, I believe, the U.N. initiative for children, that also documented Israel’s use of human shields. So, Israel is deliberately targeting civilians. It’s from the day one of this attack. They have been bombing houses, wiping entire families, to try to scare people into submission.
AMY GOODMAN: The Knesset member that you referred to, Ayelet Shaked—
AMY GOODMAN: —with the Jewish Home party, who wrote that on her Facebook page, saying that the killings should include the mothers of the martyrs, saying that they should go, as should the physical homes in which they raise the snakes, saying because they give birth to the little snakes. Here you are in the United States. How are you dealing with all of what has happened in not only the last few weeks, but, of course, because your two brothers were killed in 2009? You went to Middlebury College. We saw you just after that, at Operation Cast Lead. Now you’re in California at Monterey, a graduate student.
AMER SHURRAB: Well, there are two facets to it. On one side, the U.S. government is a full partner in the murder of Palestinians, including my brothers. The United States provides over $3 billion of direct military aid to Israel annually. The Congress has just approved or in the process of approving an additional $600 million in military aid to Israel. They tagged onto the bill, the immigration bill for dealing with undocumented children—they tagged on about $225 million in additional aid for the Iron Dome in Israel. And the U.S. provides blank backing to Israel in the U.N., in the Security Council, everywhere, although we know sometimes it goes against the U.S.’s stances. Israel, just today, rejected the American initiative for ceasefire, and Secretary Kerry retracted and said, "Oh, we never offered them an initiative." Secretary Kerry, have some courage. Have some integrity. You had a hot-mic moment that showed what you really felt about it. How about you show it and say it in a scheduled meeting as opposed to a hot-mic moment?
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, for those who aren’t familiar with that moment in the Fox studio.
AMER SHURRAB: Secretary Kerry, when he was appearing—I believe last Sunday, when he was appearing on the different Sunday shows, he was on Fox preparing to appear their Sunday morning show—
AMY GOODMAN: Actually, we have a clip of that, so this was one of the comments he made on this round of the network talk shows to publicly defend Israel’s assault on Gaza, but in a private phone call that was caught on camera in between commercial breaks, Kerry appeared to speak sarcastically about the massive civilian toll in the attacks. He was speaking to an aide on his speaker phone on his cellphone.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.
AIDE: Right, it’s escalating significantly, and it just underscores the need for a ceasefire.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We’ve got to get over there.
AIDE: Yup, yup.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Thank you, John. I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.
AMY GOODMAN: That was John Kerry in Fox’s studio. That’s not on the air, although they recorded it and then played it for him on Fox to respond to.
AMER SHURRAB: And then he tried to backtrack the comment, and then he went to Israel and repeated the same talking points about Israel having the right to defend itself. Yes, Israel does have the right to defend itself, as does every nation and every people, including the Palestinian people, who have been under occupation since 1967. And we, in Gaza, have been living under a terrible siege since 2007, but we don’t hear Secretary Kerry talk about this, at least not in public.
AMY GOODMAN: What does that siege mean to you in daily life?
AMER SHURRAB: That siege and blockade of Gaza that has been implemented by Israel against Gaza Strip since 2007, that has been at its strictest form, but Gaza has been suffering from one degree or another of siege since the occupation in 1967. But that siege, what it means, it shuts down all of Gaza’s borders and crossings, most of them with Israel, with only one with Egypt that’s also shut down by the Egyptian authorities; Israeli warships and boats in the sea, and airplanes and drones in the sky. That means they ration everything that comes in and out, from food to medicine, to pens and papers and pencils, construction material, gas, natural gas, potato chips, cardamom, chocolate. And it’s all for security concerns. I know people who have died because the chemotherapy they required for their cancer treatment was not allowed in, people who have died because spare parts for a dialysis machine they required for their kidney condition were not allowed in. I know people who have lost very lucrative and full scholarships in some top universities because they were not allowed out. I know people—ambulances that couldn’t come to retrieve victims because they didn’t have gas.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to the Israeli military saying they’re moving into Gaza to destroy the maze of tunnels because they’re used to smuggle in weapons?
AMER SHURRAB: The tunnels have been used, until recently, until they have been practically fully destroyed by the Egyptian authorities—they have been used primarily as a commercial avenue. It has been used as a venue for trade, getting goods in and out of Gaza, or primarily into Gaza, and allowing people to get in and out of Gaza. My brother—for instance, my brother’s in-laws managed—two years ago, they managed to go to Gaza for the first time in over 30 years through one of the tunnels. That’s the only way, if all the official crossings are closed, if the Israeli government wants to put the Palestinians on a diet. An Israeli government official said, "We are going to put the Palestinians on a diet." They were allowing—Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization, revealed that. And they were calculating, cynically calculating, 2,000 calories per day per person of food to be allowed in, so people do not starve but just barely survive. The tunnels came and helped change some of that. The tunnels were primarily used, as I said, to let people in and out and to get everything in, from cars to gas, to construction materials. After the so-called Operation Cast Lead, tens of thousands of houses were destroyed.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think—do you believe that the Israeli military is bombing Gaza because of Hamas and the other groups firing thousands of rockets into Israel?
AMER SHURRAB: Well, Amy, over the past two years, there have been virtually no rockets coming out of Gaza, and Israel continued to siege Gaza and blockade Gaza. And that siege is a form of slow death. People are saying we can either die quickly now, or we die slowly through the siege and the blockade. If I’m a father and I cannot get a life-saving medicine for my kid because of that siege, how am I going to feel? What am I going to do? There were no rockets before 2001; Israel continued to occupy Gaza. There were no rockets in the ’90s and the ’80s; Israel continued to occupy Gaza and kill Palestinians.
AMY GOODMAN: Amer, we’re going to have to leave it there. We are going to turn in a moment to the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, speaking to us from Haifa. My condolences again to you and your family. And I want to thank you very much for being with us, I’m so sorry under these circumstances.
AMER SHURRAB: Thank you so much, Amy, for the wonderful work you do every day.
AMY GOODMAN: Amer Shurrab is a graduate student at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in California. He graduated from Middlebury College. He is from Khan Younis in Gaza. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a moment.