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Notes from the US


Ex vice-president Cheney’s former oil company, Halliburton, pleaded guilty in late September to destroying evidence after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A former Halliburton manager also faces a new charge of destroying computer simulations after the blast. The fine? US$200,000 (£125,000).


The House of Representatives has passed sweeping cuts to the nation’s food stamp programme. Funding to feed the hungry will be reduced by US$40 (£25) billion over 10 years and new work requirements will be made… Nearly four million people will now go without food stamps starting next year; three million each year thereafter.

The partial shutdown of government in the United States that began on 1st October seems to be based entirely on dogma: the right wing (the Tea Party) of the Republican party objects to the ‘socialist’ tinge of ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act.

They needn’t worry, though, as many of the most needy are already also excluded from the new law. The new healthcare law will still leave out two-thirds of the nation’s poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of low-wage workers who do not have insurance without health care. For those who live in the 26 states which are controlled by Republicans Medicaid was an option, but it too has been scaled back. Indeed the necessary large-scale expansion of Medicaid has been rejected: the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid provision earlier this year. The result is that up to seven million poor and needy are now also ineligible for Medicaid.

Among the first things to be shut down were most provisions for the poor and needy, drug safety inspection and the work of the (admittedly largely ineffective) Environmental Protection Agency.


The NYPD’s (New York Police Department) ‘Demographics Unit’ secretly infiltrates Muslim student groups, sends informants into mosques, eavesdrops on conversations in restaurants, barber shops and gyms, and has built a huge database of information. The CIA itself is officially barred from domestic spying. Yet it worked with the NYPD on this project. Muslim organisations, including a dozen mosques, have been called ‘terrorist groups’. Now we know the number is much higher, covering at least 50 such groups. As a result of such a classification, the NYPD can now carry out what they call ‘Terrorism Enterprise Investigations’.

Since 11th September 2001, the spy program has been intrusive. And even the NYPD itself has admitted that the Demographics Unit has failed to promote a single terrorism investigation or yield a single lead. The spying included listening in on and provoking conversations by the Muslim ‘targets’ around the president’s state of the union address, drones, foreign policy, American civil liberties. The resulting data ends up in police files because the NYPD “needs to know” how these communities are thinking.

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