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Call your Rep today to ban CIA from helping terrorists shoot down planes

We’re hearing from Congressional staff that when the House considers the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA], there will be an amendment to explicitly bar the transfer of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles – “manpads” – to Syrian rebels.

Even the Israeli government thinks that sending these weapons to Syria is a bad idea that would increase the danger of terrorism against civilian aircraft.

Transfer of these weapons to Syria by the U.S. would be a blatant violation of international law; but it’s the fact that the transfer of these weapons would increase the risk of terrorism against civilian aircraft that is most likely to get Congress to prohibit the transfer.

Your Representative has been identified as crucial to the success of this effort. Can you help us recruit your Representative as an ally?

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Representative’s office. When you reach the office, say:

I urge you to support Congressional efforts to block the transfer of manpads to Syrian rebels. If transferred to Syria, these weapons are likely to fall into the hands of terrorists who will use them against civilian aircraft. I urge you to support an amendment on the NDAA to prohibit the transfer of these weapons.

When you’ve made your call, report the results using the form below.

U.S. Anti-Tank Rockets in Syria: Did Congress Approve?

 Reuters reports (emphasis mine):

Online videos show Syrian rebels using what appear to be U.S. anti-tank rockets, weapons experts say, the first significant American-built armaments in the country's civil war. ...

Schiff-Jones Drone Transparency Bill Call-In

A new documentary reveals that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have been carried out by regular U.S. Air Force personnel. Former U.S. drone pilot Brandon Bryant says:

"... the lie is that it's always been the air force that has flown those missions. The CIA might be the customer but the air force has always flown it. A CIA label is just an excuse to not have to give up any information. That is all it has ever been."

Members of the House can do something very simple to address this. They can co-sponsor the Schiff-Jones bill, which would require the government to report on who is being killed by drone strikes.

Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121, ask to be connected to your Representative’s office, and say:

I’m calling to ask Rep. ____ to co-sponsor H.R.4372, the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act. This bipartisan bill would require the government to report on who is being killed by U.S. drone strikes, including how many civilians. The American people have the right to know what is being done in our name. You can co-sponsor the bill by contacting Rep. Adam Schiff’s office or Rep. Walter Jones’ office.

Maryland: Bill Defunding Universities With Ties To Israel Boycotters Dies In Committee

Maryland:
Bill Defunding Universities With Ties To Israel Boycotters Dies In Committee
Watered Down Condemnation Appears In Maryland State Budget Bill
  

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Statement from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on US anti-BDS legislation

[This statement is now posted on the website of the Maryland coalition, "Keep Free Speech in the Free State." A direct link is here. A press release is here.]

Statement from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on 2 April 2014

US EFFORTS TO CURB FREEDOM OF SPEECH ON ISRAEL AND PALESTINE, OF GRAVE CONCERN

I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international non-violent movement that seeks to force the Israeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.

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Call Your Rep TODAY To Stop US From Blocking Medicines For Iranians

A few weeks ago, we sent out an action alert about a letter being circulated by Rep. Jim Moran in the House calling on the White House to take necessary steps to ensure that medicine imports are not impeded by US sanctions. Despite trade in medicines being protect by both US and international law, and the granting of exemptions and licenses for medicines and other humanitarian goods, US sanctions are still contributing to a medicine shortage in Iran.

The letter closes at the end of the day Wednesday, so call your Rep today!

Call your Rep at 1-855-686-6927 and say

I urge you to sign Rep. Jim Moran's letter urging the White House to take necessary action to ensure U.S. sanctions do not block medicine, food, and licensed humanitarian goods from reaching the Iranian people.

Here are some additional talking points:

- Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians with treatable illnesses have suffered unnecessarily and unjustly because of medicine shortages created in part by US sanctions even though trade is medicines is supposed to be protected by both US and international law.
- Congress has exempted medicine, food, and humanitarian goods from sanctions, and the Administration has issued licenses for these goods. However, there are few non-sanctioned financial channels available and many banks have been unwilling to facilitate humanitarian transactions due to sanctions.

Report your call using the form below.

Illinois ACLU statement against SJR 59, Illinois anti-boycott resolution

The following statement was issued by the Illinois ACLU against SJR 59, State Sen. Silverstein's resolution condemning academic boycotts.

Update: the statement is now posted on the Illinois ACLU website here.

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To: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Re: Senate Joint Resolution 59
Date: 3/25/14

The ACLU of Illinois opposes Senate Joint Resolution 59, a resolution that calls upon all Illinois college and university presidents to publicly condemn academic boycotts.

A boycott is an important and powerful form of protected expressive association protected by the First Amendment. Speech and nonviolent picketing in support of a boycott encompasses the practice of people sharing common views banding together to achieve a common end, a practice deeply embedded in the American political process. By this collective effort, individuals can make their views known when, individually, their voices would be faint or lost. In emphasizing the importance of the freedom of association in guaranteeing the right of people to make their voices heard on public issues, the U.S. Supreme Court has noted that effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982).

There is no basis in law or policy to exempt academic institutions from boycotts. Would Illinois support a resolution guarding Bob Jones University from a boycott when, in the 1970’s because of its interpretation of Biblical principles regarding interracial dating, Bob Jones University completely excluded black applicants? We expect not.

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CPC CO-CHAIRS CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON DRONES: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE A PRIORITY

The following is a press release from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2014
Press Contacts:
Adam Sarvana (Grijalva) – (202) 225-2435
Mike Casca (Ellison) – (202) 225-4755

CPC CO-CHAIRS CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON DRONES: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE A PRIORITY

WASHINGTON — Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) released the following statement after a vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the use of drones:

“Today’s vote at the United Nations reinforces the need for greater oversight of the U.S. drone program. Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate.

“Our national security would be stronger with international standards regarding the use of drones. No country has a monopoly on armed drone technology. As of 2011, 76 nations had drone technology of some kind. It is clearly in our interest to help establish the norms and rules that will govern the use of drones by all nations in the future.

“Similarly, it’s important to ensure that the American people and our allies understand the legal justification and on-the-ground impact of our drone policy. The current lack of transparency harms our relationships with other countries and erodes our ability to collaborate on key global security issues.

Boycott & Sanction John "Vladimir" Brennan for Violations of International Law

The Obama Administration has established a new precedent by implementing sanctions against Russian officials for violations of international law in the wake of Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea. So we thought: let's get civil society organizations in the United States and around the world to invoke this precedent in calling U.S. officials to account for the U.S.'s own violations of international law!

John Brennan, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, is playing a central role in shielding the agency from accountability to international law on three key issues: the CIA's use of torture during the Bush Administration; the CIA’s use of drone strikes; and the CIA’s arming of Syria rebels, which the Obama Administration has acknowledged is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty under international law, [1] just as Russia’s actions in Crimea violate Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law.

Join us in calling for boycott and sanctions on John Brennan until the CIA takes concrete steps to comply with international law by signing our petition at MoveOn:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/boycott-brennan

Here is the petition text:

John Brennan, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, should be subject to boycott and sanctions for the CIA's failure to comply with U.S. and international law. John Brennan should not receive any award, honor, or recognition until the CIA takes concrete, minimal steps to transparently comply with U.S. and international law, including:

- supporting declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture and the CIA's internal “Panetta review” on the CIA's use of torture;

QR codes for Illinois, New York, Maryland petitions against anti-boycott free speech legislation

Note: this memo is primarily aimed at tech-savvy kids, not at old fogie technophobe Luddites. If you are a technophobe, move along, nothing to see here.

Background: the world has changed, right? We do online petitions now. It's more efficient on both sides of the interaction - easier to pass, easier to sign; you don't have to mess around with re-copying or trying to read people's illegible handwriting (speaking as a top offender of illegible handwriting); if you sign on your own device, you probably have your own information already saved in your browser, which makes signing go tschik-tschok, as they say in Hebrew.

OK, but we still want to pass petitions at events. Does that mean we have to go back to pen and paper?

You know how when you ride the Amtrak, and sometimes on planes, they use QR codes, so you don't need a paper ticket. You just hold up your smart phone showing your electronic ticket with the QR code on it and the conductor/airline employee uses a QR reader to capture the information from your electronic ticket's QR code.

We can use this technology for online petitions too. You generate a QR code for the website that has the petition on it, you point a smart phone (or laptop's) camera at it, and after the image is captured, the smartphone jumps to the URL of the petition site, where you can sign the petition on your smartphone.

The smartphone or laptop has to have a QR reader installed. But you can easily download QR readers for free. Just go to the app store on your device, search for "QR reader", and choose one of many free options. On my iPhone, I have installed the free QRReader app.

So, with that background concluded, here is the ask. I'm going to try to get signers on the Illinois anti-anti-boycott petition at Rabbi Brant Rosen's talk tonight at UIUC, using a QR code that Just Foreign Policy has generated for the petition's website.

Two ways you can help me test: