[8/16/17/ EFF] It’s August. In the United States, that means members of Congress will be swinging back home to their home districts to check in with their state-side staffers, hit some fundraisers, and maybe host a few public events.
You can meet them. Constituents can request meetings with members of Congress while they are home this August by contacting their local congressional offices. If you coordinate a meeting request with a few local allies, you’ll likely be able to meet with staffers, and you may even be able to meet with your member of Congress herself.
Meetings like this matter—a lot. When members hear repeatedly from multiple constituents about overlapping concerns, those views can influence how they vote on policy issues, especially if they think those concerns will animate controversy that might complicate their careers. With so many issues vital to digital rights looming in the congressional calendar, this August is a critical time for Internet users to pressure Congress to do the right thing on mass surveillance, net neutrality, and rules that insulate platforms for liability based on content written by users.
Here are some of the key issues to bring up this August, whether in meetings with your Members of Congress, or when writing for public audiences:
Ending mass surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act
At the end of the year, a key provision of U.S. surveillance law is set to expire, Section 702. This is the law underpinning the NSA’s mass surveillance of Internet communications—including content—of foreign persons outside the United States, who of course communicate with Americans. Thanks to the Snowden revelations, we now know that millions of Americans are impacted by this surveillance (the exact number of which the government refuses to disclose) and Congress must vote to either reauthorize the law, or allow it to expire as scheduled. We know Congress will take this up in the next few months, so now is the ideal time to deliver a simple message: this surveillance is unconstitutional and unacceptable, and Congress should allow this dangerous provision to expire unless it first enacts significant reforms to curtail mass surveillance powers. Above all, Congress should resist attempts to make this provision of law permanent by insisting that any potential re-authorization include a five-year sunset.
Defending protections that enable free expression on the Internet
There’s a dangerous new threat in Congress to your right to free speech and expression online, and it’s already gained the support of a frightening number of lawmakers. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693) wouldn’t help punish sex traffickers. What it would do is drastically weaken 47 U.S.C. § 230 (commonly known as “CDA 230” or simply “Section 230”), one of the most important laws protecting free expression online. It would expose startups that run online services to the risk of overwhelming criminal and civil liability for the actions of their users. Sex trafficking is a serious problem, and Congress should be applauded for turning its attention to it, but this bill is not the solution. We support a clear message to Congress: don’t support SESTA or any other attempt to weaken protections for online speech under Section 230. If you run or work in a business that relies on Section 230 protections, then explain to your members of Congress how SESTA would threaten your job.
Defending net neutrality rules that preserve equal opportunity online
A few months ago, incoming Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai announced his plans to eliminate the clear, enforceable protections for net neutrality that the Commission had implemented in 2015. People have filed a record-breaking 18 million comments with the FCC, the majority of them opposing the Commission’s plan to roll back protections for net neutrality (and it’s not too late to submit your own). Now, Congress is planning a hearing on the issue in September.
Members of Congress must hear from their constituents that net neutrality protections are essential for our right to communicate and organize online. Without the FCC’s light-touch rules protecting net neutrality, corporate and other dominant voices would be able to pay for fast lanes, leaving competing startups, whistleblowers, or people with minority views without access to a fair playing field.
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Tell your Member of Congress why a free, open, and content-neutral Internet matters to you and your community. Finally, if you can visit Washington in September, sign up to join the fly-in day to defend net neutrality.
Source Article from http://govtslaves.info/congress-home-pay-members-visit/
Seven member of the Syrian White Helmets rescue group were shot dead by unknown gunmen on Saturday, sparking a manhunt and deep suspicions in the rebel-controlled province of Idlib.
The men were killed in their operations centre in the village of Sarmin at dawn on Saturday. Two of their vehicles as well as several of their distinctive white helmets were stolen, the group said.
Many White Helmet volunteers have been killed in airstrikes during the six year Syrian war but opposition activists said it was the first time that members had been shot dead like this.
Photographs from the scene showed the volunteers’ bodies lying across the floor of the centre and blood splashed over the logo of the White Helmets group. All had been shot execution-style at close range.
“The heart is saddened, there are tears in our eyes for you departure,” said Raed al-Saleh, the founder of the White Helmets. “May God strengthen us and make us patient for facing this tragedy.”
One of the men killed was Mohammed Abu Kifah, who appeared in a widely-shared video last year where he wept with emotion after rescuing a baby girl from the rubble of a bombed-out building.
The White Helmets have been lauded by Western countries for saving civilian lives in opposition areas in Syria and in 2016 they narrowly missed out on winning the Nobel Peace prize.
But the group also operates in areas controlled by jihadists and supporters of the Assad regime regularly accuse them of allying with terrorists.
Idlib province is now mainly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an Islamist rebel group that is dominated by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.
Activists in Idlib said they were baffled by the killings but did not think that HTS was responsible. The group has not targeted White Helmets in the past.
One theory was that agents of the Assad regime had killed the men to create suspicion and distrust between rival rebel groups.
HTS recently fought an open battle against Ahrar al-Sham, another prominent rebel group, and there is lingering distrust in Idlib as a result.
“The ones who did this are clever. They want to make conflicts worse between the rebel groups and show that there is no security and no safety in the opposition areas,” said Abdulkafe al-Hamdo, an English teacher in Idlib.
Another theory is that the killings were the work of a criminal gang, who wanted to steal equipment from the White Helmets centre. Two vans were taken from the centre as well as several motorcycles and some walkie-talkie equipment.
One of the vans was later found burned out on the edge of a field several miles from the centre.
The White Helmets centre is close to several other houses in the village of Sarmin but neighbours said they had not heard any gunfire during the night. That raises the possibility the White Helmets were killed with silenced weapons.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has released videos in the past showing its fighters using guns equipped with silencers. The Assad regime also has access to silencers through its allies in Russia and Syria.
Mr al-Hamdo said members of the group had last been seen on Whatsapp at around 1am, suggesting they were killed sometime after that.
Gareth Bayley, Britain’s special representative for Syria, condemned the killings.
HTS has a network of checkpoints around Idlib province and activists said they hoped that the group’s fighters would be able to catch the killers.
Idlib is one of the last major opposition strongholds in Syria and faces intense bombardment by the Assad regime and its Russian allies.
Many of the fighters and civilians the opposition areas of Aleppo fled to Idlib after the city fell in late 2016.
Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/seven-members-syria-apos-white-130042290.html
In a Facebook post on Friday, the Austrian pop singer explained to her fans that she decided to stay home out of solidarity with the members of Basalt, an alternative rock trio, the members of which “were unsuccessful in their visa application to enter the UK.”
The group, currently based in Vienna, was founded in February last year by Amjad Khaboura, Noor Eli Khoury and Almonther Alshoufi, all ethnic Syrians.
“With a lot of disappointment for not being able to perform there because [of] the refusal of our visas, we wish everyone performing, visiting, and organizing the festival a great evening!” the group wrote on its official Facebook page, praising Wurst and organizers for voicing support.
The festival said in statement that although the group would not be able to present its show live to the festival-goers, the concert would still feature their act by including a specially-filmed introduction and performance.
The organizers said they still hope Wurst and Basalt will make it to Edinburgh this year or “at some point in the future.”
So far it is not clear what prompted the UK Home Office to turn down the musicians’ visa applications. The artists themselves appear to be in the dark about the British authorities’ motives.
“We just kept asking ‘why?’ How can this be allowed to happen? We were disappointed, saddened and totally heartbroken.” Alshoufi, a former engineering student who took up music career in Austria, told the Times.
Ironically, the ‘Rise like a Phoenix’ singer and the Syrian newcomers were initially supposed to perform as part of the festival’s ‘New European Songbook’ program, touted as “unique collaborations between established European musicians and artists recently arrived in the continent.”
Shutting doors before Syrian musicians has cast a shadow over the reputation of the festival that sought to present itself as platform where different cultures and backgrounds intertwine, the director of Edinburgh International Festival, Fergus Linehan, lamented.
“The symbolism [of the visa denial] is awful… It’s particularly frustrating because of the whole point of the concert,” Linehan told AFP, adding that he had extended “open invitation” to the artists meaning they be welcome at any future installment of the festival.
While the UK admission rules are famously tough, there is a provision facilitating access to the country for artists, performing at certain festivals, included by the Home Office in the so-called list of ‘permit-free festivals’.
The Edinburgh International Festival, with its over-70-year history, is one of them.
However, while the musicians filed their visa application based on that very provision, according to AFP, they still did not succeed.
The rigidity of the UK immigration police, which poses a stark contract to more relaxed EU approach, has raised a few eyebrows before. In March, the UK immigration authorities reportedly denied a visa application to a female Pakistani politician because she was single. Her relationship status and the fact that she did not have any dependents reportedly was enough for the UK Visas and Immigration to conclude that the woman was unlikely to return back home from a Green parties congress.
UK Prime Minster Theresa May has been known for her tough stance on migration from the period when she was Britain’s home secretary. Among one of her most controversial endeavors of that time is an advertising campaign encouraging illegal migrants to contact a helpline on how to leave the UK, which was deemed a total failure. She also proposed the term refugee to be narrowed, drawing the ire of human rights organizations.
In March this year, the Home Office unveiled new instructions that envision a review every five years if the country an asylum seeker originally fled is still unsafe to return.
WASHINGTON — Five transgender people serving in the United States military sued President Trump and top Pentagon officials on Wednesday, asking that transgender troops be allowed to stay in the military.
The lawsuit was filed in response to Mr. Trump’s ban abruptly announcedlast month on Twitter.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit under pseudonyms — “Jane Doe” Nos. 1-5 — in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The case was organized by two rights groups, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD.
Other rights groups — like Lambda, Outserve and the American Civil Liberties Union — have also said they are preparing lawsuits but are holding off until the Trump administration takes a step to put the ban into effect, such as issuing formal guidance to the military or beginning the process of changing military rules.
But Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he believed the case was already ripe for a lawsuit because active transgender service members — such as those deciding whether to re-enlist — were already being harmed by the uncertainty created by Mr. Trump’s statements on Twitter.
“It is critical to act now because the harms are happening now,” Mr. Minter said. “These service members deserve to know where they stand.”
A 2014 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, estimated that about 8,800 transgender people were serving on active duty, with thousands more in the National Guard and reserve; a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation estimated that there were about 2,450 such active-duty troops.
In 2016, the Obama administration, after extensive study, lifted a prior ban on transgender troops. That permitted transgender members currently serving to come out openly; openly transgender people are set to be allowed to join the military starting next year.
But on July 26, without warning, Mr. Trump stated on Twitter that the government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” The announcement caught the military off guard, and there was no plan for what to do about those now serving openly.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to Mr. Trump’s Twitter statements by saying the current policy about who was allowed to serve had not changed and would remain in placeuntil the White House sent the Defense Department new rules and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, issued new guidelines.
“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” General Dunford said in a letter to the military service chiefs.
On Aug. 4, The Blade, a newspaper for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, reported, citing unnamed sources, that a policy guidance for reinstating the ban had been approved by the White House counsel’s office and by Mr. Trump and was expected to be delivered to Mr. Mattis.
Mr. Minter said that based on that report, “We wanted to move as quickly as possible to nip that in the bud.” The lawsuit’s complaint stated that “upon information and belief, the White House turned that decision into official guidance, approved by the White House counsel’s office, to be communicated to the Department of Defense.”
Still, as of Wednesday, the White House had yet to send any specific policy directive to the Pentagon, said Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a military spokesman. He said General Dunford’s statement from two weeks ago remained in effect.
“There is no change,” he said. “We are still waiting for more guidance from the White House.”
The lawsuit complaint argued that banning transgender people from serving in the military would be unconstitutional discrimination, violating their rights to equal protection and due process. It also argued that the Pentagon could not end people’s military careers for coming out openly as transgender because they did so in relying on the Pentagon itself saying they would be permitted to serve.
Colonel Haverstick said the military was “aware of the lawsuit; however, we are not able to comment due to the pending litigation.”
Other rights groups preparing similar legal challenges said on Wednesday that they were still holding off. Among them are both Outserve and Lambda, which have said they are recruiting plaintiffs for a joint lawsuit when the matter is ripe, a legal term meaning the facts of a case have developed enough for a decision.
“We have not yet filed suit, although we stand ready to do so,” Jon Davidson, the Lambda legal director, said on Wednesday. “We have been awaiting confirmation that the White House has transmitted a final guidance, directive or other instructions to the Department of Defense, which, to the best of our knowledge, has not yet occurred.”
James D. Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, said that his group was also holding back, but noted that it had sent a letter to the White House asking it to preserve all documents related to the matter in anticipation of future litigation.
Even if the administration has not yet transformed Mr. Trump’s Twitter announcement into policy, it remains possible that it will do so by the time a judge has to decide whether the new lawsuit is ripe for adjudication or should be dismissed, experts said.
Regardless, Mr. Minter expressed confidence that the suit had not been filed too quickly. He noted that defending against the case would force the White House to talk about the status of plans to reinstate the ban, and he argued that there was “no downside” to a strategy of moving ahead now.
“I don’t think we will get dismissed on ripeness because people are being harmed now,” he said. “But if we do, we will be right back as soon as there is any additional movement.”
The most obnoxious segment of Netflix’s Chelsea airing on August 4th involved two liberal California Democrats and the glimpse they give into the minds of the far left in the early days of the Trump presidency.
The episode titled “Let’s Keep Moving Forward” spotlighted Rep. Ted Lieu (show host Chelsea Handler’s congressman) and Rep. Eric Swalwell. Handler asked them about how Republicans in Congress are handling the Trump presidency and Lieu said, “Eric and I would love to be able to tape-record Republican members of Congress on the House floor and play them publicly, but we can’t do that. What they say privately is very different than what they say publicly.”
The topics of North Korea, immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, impeachment and Russian sanctions were covered. The issue of North Korea opened the conversation. With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson open to the possibility of talks with that country’s madman dictator, Swalwell said, “We don’t have friends right now. The President is alienating our friends, and that makes us, I think, less safe, with an unfocused President.” Both Swalwell and Lieu sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Lieu said, “There is no strategy with the Trump administration.”
On immigration and the new guidelines put forth by the administration last week, Lieu said, “It’s a really stupid policy. It feels like we are going back 100 years.” Chelsea responded with a line that made me laugh, though she was being serious – “It feels like he’s a revisionist.” Oh, boy. Sounds like Chelsea learned a new word for her political conversations. “It’s a SAT test at the border,” said Swalwell. Because of the requirements of speaking English and being able to support themselves Swalwell deduced, “Make America Great Again I think really means ‘Make America White Again.’” How predictable, right?
When Handler turned the focus to Attorney General Sessions, Swalwell was eager to jump in. “He has to go. He wasn’t forthcoming. Some people think the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but he wasn’t forthcoming with the Senate. He was part of James Comey’s firing. We can’t have a lack of trust for the top cop. I think this is an opportunity for the Senate to put someone in there who’s gonna start putting real checks and balances on the President.”
Lieu, however, prefers Sessions stays in place because it’s all about Special Counsel Mueller. He said, “I have a slightly different view. Jeff Sessions has racist views. He also committed slight perjury before Congress. But he’s the only person right now standing between Donald Trump and Special Counsel Mueller. So, in this bizarre world we live in I am deeply conflicted and I think it might be better to have Jeff Sessions there so that Donald Trump can’t fire Special Counsel Mueller.” Did you get all that? Lieu calls Sessions a racist and claims he perjured himself slightly before Congress. What, exactly, is “slight perjury”?
Now fully into a liberal’s alternative universe, Chelsea turns to impeachment. Both of these men sit on the House Judiciary Committee. Lieu said that since Articles of Impeachment have been filed, the committee needs to open its investigation and get the show on the road. No crimes were cited for justification of impeachment, mind you, but apparently Chelsea thinks lying is an impeachable offense. She asked, “Why isn’t it illegal to lie repeatedly on camera?” (Well, Chelsea, that would put you out of a job and in jail.) “Why is the President of the United States allowed to lie to the American people? Why is that not against the law?” she continued. Lieu assured her that the American people were wising up to the lies of Trump and quoted Abe Lincoln to do so – “Public sentiment is everything,” he said. “The president gets to lie but the public sees that happening.” Swalwell piped in, “When his lies start to obstruct our investigations, that is a problem.” Again, no examples of any high crimes or misdemeanors from the President.
And, finally, on sanctions against Russia, Lieu said, “We [Congress] were imposing our will on him.” “Babysitting him,” agreed Chelsea. “That’s right,” said Lieu. “Basically, we’re saying, ‘We do not trust you, Donald Trump, on doing the right thing with Russia.’”
I’ll leave you with this truly cringe-worthy birthday greeting Chelsea delivers to Barack Obama. Talk about revisionist!
So, there you have it. Another episode of Handler’s show and her Trump-hating guests. I can only imagine the outrage if a Republican congressman had said he would love to tape-record Democrats on the House floor to show their contempt for Democratic leadership. In the bubble of the far left, though, anything goes as long as it’s against a duly elected Republican President of the United States.
Leave it to CNN to humanize MS-13 gang members, while finding a way to bash President Trump.
According to CNN, “MS-13 members say Trump’s policy and rhetoric serves as a recruitment tool. Activists say Trump is emboldening the gang, making immigrants vulnerable.”
Very fake news CNN “reports”:
The first time members of the MS-13 street gang attacked Margarita’s teenage son in suburban New York, they beat him with a baseball bat.
The young man had immigrated from El Salvador three months earlier to join his mother in Nassau County, Long Island. The gang had harassed him in El Salvador because he refused to join them. Now, in his new home, they were upping the stakes.
The second time, they attacked the 19-year-old as he was on his way to work. They slashed him in the stomach with a machete, the gang’s weapon of choice. He survived and has been in hiding for the last few weeks, but his mother is terrified.
“I think it’s worse (in the US) because over there they hadn’t tried to kill him. But here they have,” said the woman, who is undocumented and asked to be called only “Margarita” for her safety. She witnessed the first attack on her son, on the street outside their home, and says she’s too afraid to go to the police for fear of deportation.
The violent gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, originated decades ago among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles and has since built a criminal network that extends across the US, with thriving pockets in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and here on Long Island, just an hour or so east of New York City. It’s estimated to have 10,000 members nationwide.
During his speech in Long Island, NY, President Trump will reportedly call for an additional 10,000 ICE agents to raid illegal immigrants and round up MS-13 gang members.
The Blaze reports:
As part of his administration’s effort to crack down on illegal immigration, President Donald Trump is asking Congress for an additional 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as well as more immigration judges to rule on deportation cases.
The Hill reported that Trump is set to give a law enforcement and immigration policy speech on Friday in Long Island, N.Y., that will focus on defeating the violent El Salvadoran MS-13 gang, notorious for drug and human trafficking.
According to an unnamed top U.S. official, The Hill said, Trump’s speech will focus on affirming the administration’s support for law enforcement agencies both big and small. The speech will also tackle illegal immigration, which the Trump administration believes is the primary source of MS-13 recruitment.
“Migration is the principal factor that is responsible for MS-13,” the official said, adding that Trump wanted to “demonstrate humanitarian consequences of failing to enforce immigration laws.”
MS-13 thrived under the Obama administration. The vicious gang was growing right under the nose of the previous administration and little to nothing was done about it. According to whistleblowers, Obama officials purposely did little to combat MS-13 or to keep them out of the United States.
Washington Times reports:
The Obama administration knowingly let in at least 16 admitted MS-13 gang members who arrived at the U.S. as illegal immigrant teenagers in 2014, a top senator said Wednesday, citing internal documents that showed the teens were shipped to juvenile homes throughout the country.
Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said a whistleblower turned over Customs and Border Protection documents from 2014 detailing the 16 people who were caught crossing the border.
“CBP apprehended them, knew they were MS-13 gang members, and they processed and disbursed them into our communities,” Mr. Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said.
The gang members were part of the surge of UAC, or “unaccompanied alien children,” as the government labels them, who overwhelmed the Obama administration in 2014, leaving Homeland Security struggling to staunch the flow from Central America.
Officials at the time said the children should be treated as refugees fleeing horrific conditions back home — though security analysts said the children were prime recruiting territory for gangs already in the U.S.
CNN Glorifies MS-13 Gang Members, Gets Them to Bash POTUS in New Video,
- Trump finally fires White House rat Reince Priebus
- Reebok Slams Trump in New Ad, Decides Conservative Dollars Are No Longer Wanted
- Trump’s Energy Policies Result in Lower Prices at the Pump and Inflation Dropping to 1.6%
- Alisyn Camerota Complains she’s Exhausted from Reporting on Trump-Russia
- Texas to Force Trump’s Hand on “Dreamer” Amnesty
Source Article from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheEuropeanUnionTimes/~3/770KwAwFLCI/
[7/28/17/ ELANA TOLEDO] More than 30 percent of people in El Salvador favor the torture and execution of gang members, a new study by the Jesuit Central American University found. Many of them also agree with the idea of police foregoing due process to do so.
The study, titled “Legitimacy and Public Trust of the Police in El Salvador,” gathered data from an opinion survey, in which more than 40 percent of the adult population said they “would approve the use of torture to deal with members of organized crime.”
More than 34 percent of Salvadorians would “approve executions without due process” and 17.2 percent would” consent to the practice of social cleansing,” according to the report, whose contributors also included the University Institute of Public Opinion and the American Kimberly Green Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
The report also said that around 17 percent of the adult population in El Salvador — approximately 318,808 people — has witnessed at least one execution of a gang member without due process from law enforcement.
The study also showed 7.5 percent of Salvadorians “have observed one member of the PNC commit a crime” and 27.2 percent have observed them “hit another person.”
The survey is one of the first and most thorough to measure the opinion of Salvadorians regarding the role and effectiveness of law enforcement. The police there have long been criticized for committing human rights violations. Yet a notable percentage of the public also supports the possibility of reinstating executions without due process.
José María Tojeira, Director of the University Institute for Human Rights at UCA, said around 278 gang members have been killed in gun battles with security forces in El Salvador since last February.
The Office for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH) has been investigating the problem since 2013, and looked into 119 gang-related executions that allegedly lacked due process.
According to official figures, between 2014 and 2016, at least 4,100 agents of El Salvador’s security forces were brought to court, mainly for crimes related to injuries, threats and homicide.
Foreigner fans hoping to see a reunion of the core line up recently got treated to the next best thing, and the footage was posted on July 21 via Foreigner’s official YouTube channel. A long awaited reunion between Foreigner co-founder and guitarist Mick Jones with ex-Foreigner co-founders Lou Gramm (lead vocals), Al Greenwood ((keyboards) and Ian McDonald (sax) has finally taken place.
Rolling Stone reports on July 21 that the four long estranged classic era members performed together for the first time in 37 years on July 20 in Wantagh, New York. The performance was at Jones Beach Theater and a part of Foreigner’s ongoing 40th anniversary celebrations. After performing the initial set with the current Foreigner line up, Jones and company returned for an encore and thrilled the fans at Jones Beach Theater by welcoming his long estranged bandmates.
It was a huge moment and Jones was visibly choked with emotion as Gramm, Greenwood and McDonald joined him onstage. The reunited multi-platinum sellers rocked through three classic Foreigner singles, including: “Long, Long Way From Home,” “I Want to Know What Live Is” and “Hot Blooded.”
Fans can check out the footage of Jones’ introduction and the first encore number – the third single from their 1977 self-titled debut “Long, Long Way From Home.” Gramm displays the vocal chops that made him one of rock’s premiere frontmen as he sings, “It was a Monday/A day like any other day/I left a small town/For the apple in decay.”
“It was great to have Lou, Al and Ian join us onstage last night, Jones writes in his notes below his YouTube posting. “(It) certainly brought back some special memories.”
The appearance by Gramm, Greenwood and McDonald was the second time during Foreigner’s current 40th Anniversary Tour, that former members have joined Jones to perform. Ex-Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliot and former bassist Rick Wills sat in with the current line up on Feb. 24 in St. Augustine, Florida.
Gramm and Jones last appeared together at the pair’s induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame back in 2013. It remains uncertain whether any other reunion performances will take place during the current tour.
Foreigner embarked upon their current US summer tour in support of their latest greatest hits compilation Foreigner 40, which dropped May 19 via Rhino. The powerful triple bill, which features huge support from Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, kicked off July 11 in Syracuse, New York, and will continue on July 25 in Bristow, Virigina, at Jiffy Lube Live.
It was a rescue mission, but one that years later turned the tables on victim and rescuer. Abandoned by their own government, American servicemembers who came to the aid of Japanese disaster victims will now benefit from a fund set up for them by a former prime minister.
Following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011 in Japan, it quickly became clear the rescue work needed far outstripped the capabilities of Japan’s Self Defense Forces. The tsunami, whose waves reached heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, shutting down its cooling system and causing a nuclear meltdown that devastated the immediate area and at one point threatened to send a radioactive cloud over much of the nation.
The United States quickly dispatched an entire aircraft carrier group, centered on the USS Ronald Reagan, some 25 ships, for what came to be known as Operation Tomadachi (Friend). The U.S. provided search and rescue, and medical aid. Thousands of American military personnel assisted Japanese people in desperate need.
But it did not take long before the problems started.
Military personnel soon began showing signs of radiation poisoning, including symptoms rare in young men and women: rectal bleeding, thyroid problems, tumors, and gynecological bleeding. Within three years of the disaster, young sailors began coming down with leukemia, and testicular and brain cancers. Hundreds of US military personnel who responded to Fukushima reported health problems related to radiation.
Some of those affected had worked in the area of the nuclear disaster, some had flown over it, many had been aboard ships that drew water out of the contaminated ocean to desalinate for drinking. All personnel were denied any special compensation by the US government, who referred back to Japanese authorities’ reports of relatively low levels of radiation, and to the military’s own protective efforts.
In a final report to Congress, the Department of Defense claimed personnel were exposed to less radiation than a person would receive during an airplane flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. The Defense Department stated due to the low levels of radiation “there is no need for a long-term medical surveillance program.”
However, five years after the disaster and more than a year after its final report, a Navy spokesperson admitted that 16 US ships from the relief effort remain contaminated. However, the Navy continued, “the low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures.”
Other Parts of the US Government Reacted Very Differently to the Threat
On March 16, five days after the meltdown, the State Department authorized the voluntary departure from Japan of eligible family members of government personnel assigned to the US Embassy in Tokyo and other State Department facilities.
Ten days later, the US military moved over 7,000 military family members out of Japan under what was also called a “voluntary departure.” The effort, codenamed Operation Pacific Passage, also relocated close to 400 military pets.
And around the same time, the American Embassy repeated a Japanese government warning to parents about radioactive iodine being detected in the Tokyo drinking water supply. Tokyo is about 150 miles away from the Fukushima disaster site.
US Servicemembers Sue the Nuclear Plant Owner
After receiving no help from their own government, in 2013 a group of US servicemembers (now numbering 400; seven others have died while the lawsuit winds its way through the courts) filed a lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear plant) seeking more than two billion dollars.
The suit contends TEPCO lied about the threat to those helping out after the nuclear disaster, withholding some information and downplaying the dangers. The suit requests $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages for each plaintiff. It also requests a fund for health monitoring and medical expenses of one billion dollars.
It is unclear when the lawsuit will reach a decision point, one which, if it implicates TEPCO, will then begin another long legal journey through the appeals process. A resolution will take years.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Steps Up
However, while the US government seemingly abandoned its servicemembers, and TEPCO hides behind lawyers, one unlikely person has stepped up to offer at least some monetary help with victims’ medical bills: former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Koizumi left office five years before the Fukushima disaster, but has what many feel is a sense of national guilt over how the Americans were treated. In May 2016, Koizumi broke down in tears as he made an emotional plea of support for US Navy sailors beset by health problems, saying “US military personnel who did their utmost in providing relief are now suffering from serious illnesses. We cannot ignore the situation.”
The former prime minister had become a vocal opponent of nuclear energy after the Fukushima meltdown. He responded to a request from a group supporting the TEPCO lawsuit plaintiffs and flew to the United States to meet with the veterans.
Then, just this week, on September 8, Koizumi told reporters he has set up a special fund to collect private donations for the former service members, with the goal of collecting one million dollars. Koizumi has already raised $400,000 through lecture fees.
“I felt I had to do something to help those who worked so hard for Japan,” he said. “Maybe this isn’t enough, but it will express our gratitude, that Japan is thankful.”