Syrian Infighting May Be Pretext for Expanded Intervention

January 7th, 2014 by Tony Cartalucci

A strategy of tension created by divisions among foreign-funded fighters may give West an opportunity to increasingly “back good terrorists” versus “bad terrorists.“ 

Geopolitical analyst Eric Draister on PressTV explained what is behind recent infighting between foreign-funded fighters battling along and within Syria’s borders. It is suggested that a new narrative is in the making, portraying “good terrorists” locked in battle with “bad terrorists,” thus providing a new context within which the West can continue arming and funding terrorist groups waging war on Syria.

While the West will maintain that the conflict in Syria began as “peaceful protests,” readers should keep in mind that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his article, ”The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” prophetically stated (emphasis added): 

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Hersh would also state in his 2009 report that Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood was already being funded and supported by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to prepare for the eventual overthrow of the Syrian government (emphasis added):

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

The New York Times would then confirm in its June 2012 article, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” that (emphasis added): 

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The US State Department itself would confirm the presence of nation-wide operations as early as November 2011 by Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, in its December 2012 “Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa’ida in Iraq,” which stated:

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed. 

Clearly, from 2009, long before the US-created “Arab Spring” was entered into the international lexicon, the US and its regional partners had begun tangibly preparing for the violent overthrow of the Syrian government via the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda fighters imported into the country. 

For anyone seeking a genuine solution to the rampant violence destroying Syria, they would look to cut off entirely foreign fighters and supporting Damascus in restoring order and stability to the country. 

Climate Change, Global Warming and the Big Freeze

January 7th, 2014 by Patrick Henningsen

Cults and technocracies go together it seems, like peanuts and beer.

No matter what is happening in the real world, zealots and mandarins still carry on, filing their green reports, making incredible claims – politically intoxicated, in a never-ending compulsive melodrama. It would be a funny thing, if it weren’t so darn expensive. 

In the United States, a ‘polar vortex’ has swooped down into the Midwest, bringing with it a record freeze. It’s a deadly freeze too, and stark reminder of how low temperatures – not ‘warming’, poses the greatest threat to human survival in the Northern hemisphere.

Still, this reality still remains lost on the legions of faithful green cult followers still clinging to Al Gore (image, left) and the UN’s global warming mythology, coloured by more wild tales of drowning polar bears.

This year’s freeze is no laughing matter. Millions of Americans have been forced into virtual hibernation as a result of the latest arctic wave, which is now pushing its way from Midwest states like Minnesota, down to the south and over to the east coast. It is so cold in fact that skin exposure to sub-zero elements can result in instant frostbite. In Minneapolis, low temperatures are predicted to reach minus-24 F, with a wind chill factor of minus-50.

While Chicago’s Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has seen some 1,200 flights canceled as of Monday, New York’s Kennedy International Airport saw one if its arrivals on Sunday slide into snow as it turned from an icy runway to taxi. Other incidents have been reported around the country.

This is not the first record-breaking cold snap in recent years. North America hit record lows in 2012 along with record snow falls, and record blizzards and ice storms in 2011 . Before that, 2010 saw record low freezes as well. In fact, according to the UN own data, the planet has been in a global cooling cycle for the last 16 years.

And no kidding, it’s snowing in Egypt.

1-CLIMATE-PHOTO-By-Patrick-Henningsen
Cold Snap: Gore Odyssey continues (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

According to one report from earlier this year, “The world added roughly 100 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all CO2 put there by humanity since 1750. Yet, still no warming during that time. That is because the CO2 ‘greenhouse effect’ is weak and marginal compared to natural cause of global temperature changes.”

What about the melting polar ice caps? Well, US space agency NASA has just announced that sea ice in the Antarctic (South Pole) has surpassed 19.47 million square meters as of September – the highest since measurements began in 1979.

How about the North Pole? Despite it’s earlier attempts to hide this news, the UN’s own reports have had to admit how a chilly Arctic summer has left 533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than last winter – an increase of 29 per cent.

It should go down in history as the greatest scientific hoax of our times. Gore said many times that, “the science is settled”, but the reality was that there was never any science to popular global warming theory.

As the UK Mail rightly points out, “The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.” Of course, that 2007 BBC’s report relied on one of those ‘green expert’ scientists, Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, who based his conjecture on super-computer models and the fact that ‘we use a high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice’. Yes, another computer-generated reality.

So where does this leave the global warming zealots who are still insisting that Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC hacks’ prophecy of CO2 doom is real?

At some point, even the most faithful cult followers will have to admit they’ve been sold a pup. The computer-modeled, academic concept man-made CO2-induced global warming, or rather, as it has been rebranded for more flexibility, as “climate change”, was simply a creation of high-flying think tanks, egged on by bureaucrats and green opportunists who saw new careers and easy billions that could be conjured out of thin air.

The concept of global warming as a tool of economic and social engineering emerged into mainstream policy in 1991, by way of The Club of Rome ‘think tank’. In their own words:

“In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill… All these dangers are caused by human intervention… and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself… believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or… one invented for the purpose.

Here was a neatly packaged ideology ready just in time for the UN’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

People should consider the ridiculousness – and complete waste of state money and resources, of still maintaining whole government departments of Climate Change, staffed by ‘Climate Bosses’, working to implement more ‘Climate Policy’ and ‘Climate Legislation’. This incredible charade is costing us billions, if not trillions.

Sure, it’s beyond a joke when you look at it all through the lense of reality, but it’s important to understand the context in which this climate drive was put in motion. Aside from the failed Carbon Trading markets, it was a well-placed distraction at a specific place in time especially in the United States, Australia and Great Britain. Look at the timing of the climate movement which went mainstream in 2003-2005. By tying up millions of ‘green’ activists and controlled opposition organisations like Greenpeace, all three of those governments were able to aid industry in making substantial headway in the hydraulic fracturing shale gas, or ‘Fracking’ industry – in a quiet takeover of large areas of rural land and with little or no public resistance. By the time activists copped on, plans were already too far down the road and all the relevant civil servants, politicians and journalists were already bought and paid for. City fat cats and multinational energy consortiums have been laughing ever since.

No Greenpeace ships circling Japan over the Fukushima disaster either. Funny that.

If you want to gauge the disfunctionality and insanity of the Climate Cult, just take at look at how climate zealots are now claiming how, “global cooling is expected because of global warming”.

Humanity is no stranger to mythology. Climate Change is simply the latest mythology for this current epoch, and the elites who control the mythology have always profited and consolidated their power and social control through it.

In the 21st century, you might have thought modern man would surely have advanced past this handicap, but alas… old habits die hard.

 By Bill Holter

As you know, Germany has reported that 37.5 tons were delivered last year, which is about 50 tons shy of what was the announced plan last January and was expected to be delivered over the course of 2013. Peter Boehringer (Germany’s equivalent of GATA’s Chris Powell here in the States) asked many questions of the Bundesbank, the most central being: Why was this gold “recast” before being returned?

As there has not been an audit of Fort Knox since the 1950′s, nor a bar list made public since this German gold was claimed to have been deposited with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York back in the 1950s, this is a can of worms that has already been opened and any “answer” will only lead to more questions.

So why exactly would the gold need to be recast before sending it back?

Never mind the obvious question that we’ve already asked. Why will it take up to eight years to send the Germans their gold?

You see, gold has a “fingerprint.” Once it is refined down to 99.999 percent pure, the fingerprint is erased. For example, the “coin melt” that came from the 1934 confiscation has a fingerprint of 90 percent purity. The gold the Soviet Union was selling back in 1990 was 89 percent pure and had the czar’s stamp on it, which was a dead giveaway that they were out of gold (money). They collapsed within six months and it was foretold by this “fingerprinted gold.”

For these 37.5 tons to be recast brings up the question: Where did it come from? Was this the original gold that was safe-kept? Or was the German gold leased out a hundred times over and is this gold being recast and returned from another source?

Is this like the bank employee or even retail cashier who stole from the register with the intent of replacing it before anyone found out?

 This is a very legitimate question because we know for a fact that demand has outstripped supply for 20 years or more — and the supply had to come from somewhere, right?

 If the gold was held on an “allocated,” basis then the bars should at most need a feather duster to clean them up before shipment — unless they are not the same bars. There is no other explanation for this, as the New York Fed would have no incentive to go through the process of recasting (refining?) even an ounce if the Fed was shipping what was originally stored. Germany would not and should not expect its gold back in form other than how it was originally delivered to the New York Fed.

 I call “monkey business” on this one because there are just too many questions. The questions collectively all have the same obvious answers. All these obvious answers point to the same conclusion: The German gold that is being delivered is not the same gold that was supposedly deposited more than 50 years ago. That their 300+ tons (20 percent of the supposed total of Germany’s gold in New York) will take more than eight years to deliver means that it’s not just sitting in a corner collecting dust and waiting patiently to be delivered — it was mobilized and “used” years ago. The conspiracy wackos who used to be laughed at with their (our) farfetched questions and claims had merit after all — and all along the way!

 Please remember that even though this gold that has been delivered no longer has any fingerprint left to it, foreigners can (and will) eventually come to the obvious conclusion. The process may take longer and be far more complex and obfuscated than the Soviets delivering gold with the czar’s stamp on it, but the result will be the same.

We live in an era where everything is supported by confidence, so how confident will anyone be if (when) it is known that the gold is long gone?

This is a very serious question and is the core reason I have been screaming to buy gold for more than 15 years no matter what the price has been. Any price between $252 and $1,920 over the last 15 years has been too low by orders of magnitude. In my opinion you could add a zero to the prices of gold and silver and still possibly not have the price necessary to clear the market.

We will not know exactly how much monkey business has already gone on until the music stops. Whatever levels gold and silver do finally settle out to when the dust clears will be an indicator as to exactly how much. All you need to do is read the questions that are being asked and then use common sense. Any and all questions speak to one thing: There has been fraud. Gold and silver in their physical forms are anti-fraud and will be priced accordingly after the revelation.

Copyright Bill Holter, Miles Franklin Precious Metals Specialists, 2014

As War Lingers in Mali, Western Powers Target its Natural Resources

January 7th, 2014 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

France’s intervention in the West African nation of Mali under Operation Serval drove Islamic groups associated with Al-Qaeda out of Northern Mali in February 2013. When the Tuareg rebellion occurred in early 2012, it was against the Malian government led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) for the independence of Northern Mali also known as Azawad. There were also Islamic groups such as the Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who originally helped the MNLA. Eventually both Islamist groups turned on the MNLA forcing them out and creating a Sharia based Northern Mali. The government of Mali requested foreign assistance to re-take the north and France answered the call. France restored Mali’s government back to power.

France’s military incursion with Western support was described as a “humanitarian intervention” which resulted in a race for Mali’s natural resources. That was the plan after all. New drilling contracts have just been established after Mali’s civil war was contained by the French military with the backing of the United Kingdom and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). The collaboration of Western powers just opened up Mali for business. A new press release by Legend Gold of Vancouver, BC Canada states the intention of gold mine drilling in several regions of Mali. The press release titled ‘Legend Gold Announces Signing of Drilling Contracts for Exploration in Mali’ stated exactly what areas of Mali will be extracted for gold by the new drilling contracts:

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Jan. 6, 2014) – Legend Gold Corp. (the “Company” or “Legend Gold”) (TSX VENTURE:LGN) is pleased to announce the commencement of drilling for the season. Legend Gold has contracted for a minimum of 5,000 m of reverse circulation (RC) drilling and 10,000 m of air core (AC) drilling for the Diba and Lankafla projects in western Mali and the Mougnina project in southern Mali. 

In western Mali, Legend Gold plans to explore for extensions to the Diba-Badiazila resource which contains 234,000 oz at 1.67 g/t gold of indicated and 26,700 oz of inferred mineralization at 1.9 g/t at 0.8 g/t gold cutoff (AMEC’s NI 43-101 compliant Technical Report, August 2013). There remain a number of gaps in the AMEC resource which can be in-filled by a number of shallow RC holes to bring the oxide resource from the indicated and inferred categories to measured and indicated. The oxide resource evaluated to date extends to about 50 m below the surface. A minimum of 3,000 m of RC drilling will be used to infill gaps in the existing resource as well as testing the immediate on-strike extensions of the Diba deposit. Analysis of previous results derived from drilling completed by Etruscan Resources in 2009 suggests that additional resources remain to be discovered on-strike from the known mineralization, along a 2 km long soil auger geochemistry anomaly to the northwest. Several lines of RC and core holes drilled by Etruscan Resources about 1.5 km to the NNW of Diba yielded multiple mineralized intervals which warrant follow up drilling.

Preliminary results of a ground gravity survey on the Lankalfa project area suggest that areas that have been drilled previously warrant additional exploration. New and upgraded targets revealed by the final interpretation of the gravity survey will also be included in the 2,000 m of RC drilling planned for Lankafla.

In southern Mali, exploration by Legend Gold on the Mougnina exploration license, some twenty kilometers north of the Syama mine, has mapped a series of ancient artisanal workings which are coincident with soil auger gold anomalies. The ancient workings appear to be on splays off the same fault system that controls mineralization at the Syama mine. At least 5,000 m of AC drilling are planned to test the soil auger gold anomalies and artisanal workings.

The drill program is expected to commence in early February 2014.

Douglas Perkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of Legend Gold stated, “The data review and project ranking that took place over the past three months is now complete and the technical team has chosen their priorities for the current drilling season. Given the current state of the exploration business, Legend Gold was able to obtain some very competitive quotes for meters. We look forward to announcing the results as soon as they are available.” 

On December 18th, 2013 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it would financially assist Mali in a press release ‘IMF Executive Board Approves New Extended Credit Facility Arrangement for Mali and US$9.2 Million Disbursement’ regarding Mali’s economic potential with help from external financial resources. The institution which is based in Washington DC announced what the new arraignments will provide to the war torn country:

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a new arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for Mali for an amount equivalent to SDR 30 million (about US$ 46.2 million or 32 percent of quota). The approval enables the immediate disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 6 million (about US$9.2 million).

The authorities’ program is designed to reduce balance-of-payments vulnerabilities and lay foundations for stronger, more inclusive growth. Reform efforts are focused on tax policy and revenue administration, public financial management and improving the business environment.

The IMF imposes debts on nations and forces its governments to cut back on social services such as education and medical care in order to pay back the debt. An article written by Arthur MacEwan which was published on Third World Network titled ‘Economic debacle in Argentina: The IMF strikes again’describes how IMF policies affected Argentina’s economy:

During 2001 the Argentine recession grew rapidly deeper. Although the IMF pumped in additional funds, it provided these funds on the condition that the Argentine government would entirely eliminate its budget deficit. With the economy in a nose-dive and tax revenues plummeting, the only way to balance the budget was to drastically cut government spending. Yet, in doing so, the government was both eviscerating social programmes and reducing overall demand. In mid-December, the government announced that it would cut the salaries of public employees by 20% and reduce pension payments. At the same time, as the worsening crisis raised fears that the peso would be devalued, the government moved to prevent people from trading their pesos for dollars; it promulgated a regulation limiting bank withdrawals. These steps were the final straws, and in the week before Christmas, all hell broke loose.

According to www.allafrica.com an online African news source admits an increase in foreign investments and believes that Mali will experience growth “Mali is expected to benefit from relatively stable external conditions in the near term. The region’s prospects are favorable. Sub-Saharan Africa is set to enjoy continued robust growth driven by strong investment in infrastructure and productive capacity, and by rising inflows of foreign direct investment and other financing opportunities” which is further from the truth. RT News reported on June 10th, 2013 what does foreign investment in the gold industry mean for Malian citizens and especially for those who work in the gold mines:

War-worn Mali has tripled its gold exports over the last decade, though the rising profits are being funneled outside what is one of the world’s poorest countries: Foreign corporations appear to be taking over one of Mali’s few thriving industries. Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer, has just announced it expects to double annual gold output over the next five years to 100 tons.

Malian officials claim the gold-abundant south has been untouched by the military conflict between government troops and Tuareg insurgents in the north, which prompted an intervention by France in January. The promise of gold has lured investors into one of Mali’s most profitable industries.

However, residents have decried the news, as they feel they will benefit little from the country’s newfound riches. Thousands are employed as ‘traditional miners’ in the town of Yanfolila in southern Mali, the epicenter of the country’s gold rush. Traditional mining is a near-medieval process in which Malian workers dig holes approximately the size of their own bodies using only primitive picks – their gold mines. Without a proper geological survey, workers are essentially hoping to get lucky. The narrow shafts go as deep down as 60 meters, the equivalent of a 15- to 20-story building 

French intervention in Mali had nothing to do with the welfare of the Malian people. It was about the natural resources it has including gold, uranium and oil. With gold demand increasing among nations throughout the world, it is no surprise that the Western powers would intervene in any internal conflict in a resource rich country in the African continent. The French government has interests in Mali. That interest is in natural resources as Katrin Sold of the German Council on Foreign Relations stated in 2013“In the long term, France has interests in securing resources in the Sahel – particularly oil and uranium, which the French energy company Areva has been extracting for decades in neighboring Niger”. Mali has abundant natural resources. The civil war intensified through a western backed military coup with Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo who was trained by the United States lead a coup against democratically-elected government of Amadou Toumani Touré after the Tuareg Rebellion in Northern Mali. Western Institutions and corporations wasted no time in acquiring natural resources during Mali’s crises. Divide and conquer and then accumulate the resources was the was the Western government’s intentions. During a speech by French President Francois Hollande on February 2nd, 2013 after France intervened in Mali, hypocrisy took hold when he said:

France stands alongside you, not to serve any particular interest – we have none –, to protect this or that faction, or in favour of this or that Malian party… No, we stand alongside you for the sake of the whole of Mali and for West Africa. We’re fighting here to ensure Mali lives in peace and democracy. And you’ve presented the best image today, through your warmth and fervour, after your pain throughout those months when fanaticism held sway in northern Mali.

We’re fighting as brothers – Malians, French, Africans – because I haven’t forgotten that when France herself was attacked, when she was seeking support and allies, when her territorial integrity was threatened, who came along? It was Africa; it was Mali. Thank you, thank you, Mali. Today we’re repaying our debt to you

Mali is the country that has to repay its debts to the IMF and its western powers through its natural resources, not France. A loan from the IMF  is guaranteed to create more debt for the Malian people.  As Western powers such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and France continue to intervene in third world countries for their own interests, it seems like Mali is under their control for the long term pushing China out as a potential business partner with the Malian government. France and AFRICOM are expanding its intervention policies throughout Africa because it is about the resources, besides; the West has been intervening in Africa for the past 500 +years that only resulted in more wars and extreme poverty for the African people.

Why the US Wants to Stay in Afghanistan

January 7th, 2014 by Jack A. Smith

The U.S. is supposed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this new year. But despite public opinion polls to the contrary, President Obama is seeking to leave several thousand Special Forces troops, military trainers, CIA personnel, “contractors” and surveillance listening posts for 10 more years in Afghanistan until the end of 2024.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Dec. 30 shows that 75% of the American people oppose keeping any U.S. military troops in Afghanistan after the scheduled pullout Dec. 31.

Indeed, “a majority of Americans would lke to see U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan before the December 2014 deadline.”

The poll’s most important statistic is that “Just 17% of those questioned say they support the 12-year-long war, down from 52% in December 2008. Opposition to the conflict now stands at 82%, up from 46% five years ago. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland suggested the 17% support was the lowest for any U.S. ongoing war. A majority of Americans turned against the war against Afghanistan a few years go, but according to a Associated Press-GfK poll released Dec. 18 — these days 57% say that even attacking and invading Afghanistan in 2001 was probably the “wrong thing to do.”

Clearly, the American people are truly fed up, but do not have a viable electoral alternative to a continuing military presence in Afghanistan. The era of the mass antiwar movement, which was supported by the great majority of Democrats, collapsed when Democrat Obama was elected. Democrats may acknowledge their views to pollsters but they rarely attend protests against Obama’s Afghan adventure or drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. President Obama is sticking to his original schedule of withdrawing “all ground troops” by the end of 2014, but the Special Forces, et al., are not technically “ground troops.” His intention to deploy a smaller but vital military presence is related to larger policy goals connected to the “pivot” to Asia. The White House has been bargaining with the Kabul government for years to keep military forces in Afghanistan for another 10 years.

In return the U.S. would pay multi-billions for the training and upkeep of the Afghan army and police and help finance the government at great expense until 2024. It recently seemed an agreement was reached, but President Hamid Karzai says it cannot be signed until after a new president takes office after elections in April — a delay that upset the Oval Office. According to Mara Tchalakov of the Institute for the Study of War:

“With deep divisions in Afghanistan over the right of legal immunity for American soldiers and contractors, as well as the right to conduct night raids in private Afghan homes, Karzai is trying to buy time to build political support…. Waiting until after the election would buy time and leave open the possibility of renegotiating issues that could prove problematic as the election nears.”

At this stage it is not known who will win in April. Two-term Karzai cannot run for reelection, a blessing as far as the Obama Administration is concerned. He may be a puppet but he knows how to kick back on his own, especially about civilian deaths, night house invasions by U.S. troops, and Washington’s efforts to completely dominate the Kabul government.

The White House has a year to obtain a signed agreement and seems confident it will do so either before or soon after Karzai steps down, particularly if the anti-Taliban, pro-U.S. Northern Alliance and friendly political parties such as the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami, gain more influence. Obama sought a similar arrangement in Iraq when U.S. troops were set to withdraw in December 2011, but a deal was rejected in the last months by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, much to the administration’s chagrin.

In a sense Obama was lucky. If the several thousand American troops he sought had remained in Iraq they would have become embroiled in the al-Qaeda and jihadist Sunni uprising against the majority Shi’ite regime led by Maliki. In 2013 alone, over 7,300 civilians and 1,000 Iraqi security forces — overwhelmingly Shia —were slaughtered. Most of the deaths were from executions and bomb attacks.   The White House may be extremely worried about closer ties between Shi’ite Iraq and Iran — an unintended consequence of the U.S. invasion and overthrow of the secular regime of Saddam Hussein — but it is now even more worried about Sunni jihadist gains in Iraq, particularly since jihadist elements began to dominate the rebel fighting in neighboring Syria.

The al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) is making significant gains in both countries. According to The New York Times Dec. 26, Washington

“is quietly rushing dozens of Hellfire missiles and low-tech surveillance drones to Iraq to help government forces combat an explosion of violence by al Qaeda-backed insurgency that is gaining territory in both western Iraq and neighboring Syria.”

On Jan. 3 the same newspaper reported:

“Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened on Thursday to seize control of Fallujah and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.”

Afghanistan is especially important to Washington for two main reasons.

The obvious first reason is to have smaller but elite forces and surveillance facilities in Afghanistan to continue the fighting when necessary to protect U.S. interests, which include maintaining a powerful influence within the country. Those interests will become jeopardized if, as some suspect, armed conflict eventually breaks out among various forces contending for power in Kabul since the mid-1990s, including, of course, the Taliban, which held power 1996-2001 until the U.S. invasion.

The more understated second reason is that Afghanistan is an extremely important geopolitical asset for the U.S., particularly because it is the Pentagon’s only military base in Central Asia, touching Iran to the west, Pakistan to the east, China to the northeast and various resource-rich former Soviet republics to the northwest, as well as Russia to the north. A Dec. 30 report in Foreign Policy by Louise Arbour noted:

“Most countries in [Central Asia] are governed by aging leaders and have no succession mechanisms — in itself potentially a recipe for chaos. All have young, alienated populations and decaying infrastructure… in a corner of the world too long cast as a pawn in someone else’s game.”

At this point a continued presence in Afghanistan dovetails with Washington’s so-called New Silk Road policy first announced by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two years ago. The objective over time is to sharply increase U.S. economic, trade and political power in strategic Central and South Asia to strengthen U.S. global hegemony and to impede China’s development into a regional hegemon. As the State Department’s Robert O. Blake Jr. put it March 23:

“The dynamic region stretching from Turkey, across the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, to Afghanistan and the massive South Asian economies, is a region where greater cooperation and integration can lead to more prosperity, opportunity, and stability.  “But for all of this progress and promise, we’re also clear-eyed about the challenges. Despite real gains in Afghan stability, we understand the region is anxious about security challenges. That’s why we continue to expand our cooperation with Afghanistan and other countries of the region to strengthen border security and combat transnational threats.”

Blake did not define what “security challenges” he had in mind. But both China and Russia are nearby seeking greater trade and influence in Central Asia — their adjacent backyard, so to speak — and the White House, at least, may consider this a security challenge of its own.

Jack A. Smith,  Activist Newsletter editor

A report on the UK’s weapons exports has triggered accusations that Britain may be arming Somali pirates and dictatorial regimes. MPs allege this is due to the sheer volume of guns being exported and poor oversight.

An urgent review has been launched over why some 44,000 guns were exported to East Africa in just 15 months. Government data shows that among the weapons were 30,000 assault rifles, 2,536 pistols and 11,000 rifles which ended up in countries with poor human rights records like Somalia, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Some of the weapons were also exported to Russia and South Africa.

The report, which was part of a wide-ranging inquiry into arms exports, noted the MPs want to know why UK firms would need such a large stash of new weapons, given that they already had thousands of weapons in their armory before April 2012.

MPs alleged that the sheer volume of weapons being exported meant that it was difficult to keep tabs on where they end up, prompting speculation the UK could be arming pirates in Somalia.

House of Commons Arms Export Controls Committee said that the Business Department, which approved the weapons export, did not thoroughly assess where the weapons were going. MPs also raised doubts as to whether Britain’s export policy has got the “balance right between the arms trade, surveillance equipment and our economic interests.”

“The evidence provided to us by Mr Bell seems to suggest that the department did not have a process of looking at the cumulative number of weapons and whether those exports fitted the scenario on the ground needed for protection.”

The head of the Export Control Organisation at the Business Department, Edward Bell said he understood the worries of MPs given the large quantity of arms, although he denied the weapons had fallen into the wrong hands.

“I understand the concern about the volumes … having now heard about the volumes, I would like to do a bit more digging around that. I have no concerns that anything untoward has happened, but I certainly will have a closer look at the volumes involved,” Bell told MPs. The Business Department has now launched an internal inquiry into weapons exports.

Piracy remains a big problem in Somali despite international efforts to curtail attacks. In November of last year a US court sentenced two Somali pirates to life in prison for the killing of four American citizens onboard a yacht off the Horn of Africa in 2011.

Prosecutors said the pirates intended to kidnap the Americans and hold them for ransom in Somalia.

However, following four days of negotiations with the US Navy, the pirates shot their captives dead and opened fire on the US vessels.

There has been a significant naval operation by many countries around the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, which has helped stop attacks. There haven’t been any successful pirate raids on ships since May 2012.

In the US, we’re used to seeing the alphabet soup agencies involved in trafficking arms, and as long as the government are doing it, no one in government seems to mind too much.

For Washington DC, state-sanctioned gun-running has developed into a nice, not-so-little cottage industry, with arms flooding into the hands of criminal drug cartels in Mexico being well-documented through Eric Holder’s ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal.

Add to this the recent CIA admission of overseas gun-running into the hands of quasi-terrorist outfits in Syria, and you can see how government-controlled gun-running operations are key to maintaining instability and a criminal climate in regions all around the world.

By contrast, in Britain, business enterprises like international gun-running are mere whispers in the halls of Westminster, and remain well-hidden behind the walls of London’s infamous city state – the financial Square Mile. A new report this week (see full article below), accuses the British Government of having been caught in their own ‘Fast and Furious’ episode – this time shipping some 44,000 guns to East Africa – in the last 15 months alone. That’s just the tip of the global iceberg. Does this also explain how all of those lovely weapons made it into the hands of rebel fighters in Libya and Syria?

In order for this river of arms to keep flowing, it’s important that a government maintain little or no oversight regarding state-sanctioned weapons trafficking. The UK’s House of Commons Arms Export Controls Committee has now admitted that the government’s Business Department, which ‘approves’ these massive weapons exports, “did not thoroughly assess where the weapons were going”. Dear, oh dear.

There is a strong suggestion in this report that many of these weapons have ended up into the hands of Somalian pirates – and this is where we see the business cycle come full circle…


Is their any relationship between the British government, the destabilisation of East Africa and the City of London’s insurance and trading firms? The connections run deep indeed.

Insurance syndicates raking in profits

Who benefits from Somalian piracy in the Gulf of Aden? According to a study conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), insurance companies have seen a windfall in profits from the Somali pirate attacks, with insurance premiums sharply increasing. The DIW white paper concluded that:

“Many of the relevant players (Somali pirates, local communities, nascent government in pirate regions, international navies, private security and the insurance industry) have no incentive to stop piracy. In fact, there is a relatively stable relationship between these groups, many of whom share a clear business interest in maintaining piracy at its current level.”

Even though Somalian piracy only affects a small percentage of shipping through Somalia’s coastal waters and the Indian Ocean, thus far the overall winner of this regional “crisis” has to be the insurance syndicates providing coverage to the shipping industry. DIW confirmed that, “Of an estimated 30,000 ships transiting the Gulf of Aden in 2009, 116 were attacked, less than one in 250. Moreover, the 25 final ransoms are still only a small fraction of the overall value of the ship, crew and cargo”.

Lloyds insurance moguls saw other opportunities to increase their profits by extending the ‘pirate zone’, even in the face of international opposition. Bloomberg reported in 2011, that “India is lobbying Lloyd’s of London to reverse its expansion of the area judged prone to pirate attacks to cover almost all of the nation’s west coast after insurance costs surged as much as 300-fold this year”.

A clear nexus exists between the City’s business elite, the UK government and the World Bank. Keeping Somalia entrenched in a pit of debt and dependent of “aid” from multi-lateral institutions like the IMF and the World Bank helps fuel the cycle of poverty and lawlessness, which in turn, puts even more money into established City pockets in the form of insurance premiums. Add to this, NATO is overseeing the entire security operation in and around the Gulf of Aden from its new maritime headquarters – in North London. That’s right – nearly everything concerning Somalia and its ‘security crisis’… comes from, or passes through London.

So it’s no surprise then why the British government has bothered to funnel £2.2m into the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime’s ”counter-piracy programme”, to run prisons in Puntland, Somalia and helps fund the reinforcement police and maritime forces which will defend British interests in the region.

Big Money for Major Players

It’s no secret that British mining and energy interests in East Africa – especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, are a top priority for neocolonial market makers, shakers and takers in the City of London. Ethipoian-based British proxy firm SouthWest Energy is one of the major players in the region. According to Hands of Somalia blog, SouthWest’s advisory board include Sir John Bond, chairman of Xstrata, Simon Murray, chairman of Glencore and Lord Malloch-Brown, who served for two years as UK minister of state in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Gordon Brown’s Labour government with responsibility for Africa, Asia and the UN.

Hands off Somalia notes here how insurance rackets and their beneficiaries (opportunists) have already carved up a their niche market:

“On 6 January (2013) the first private British navy for the last 200 years was set up off Somali waters by a group of businessmen to defend western private interests and rake in massive shipping insurance contracts with Lloyds of London.

Simon Murray backs the company behind the venture, Typhon. The firm is composed of ex-Royal Marines, Legionnaires, NATO commanders, and even a former chief of HSBC’s marine and insurance business. Typhon owner Anthony Sharp told the Telegraph “I had the idea for Typhon playing polo one afternoon, thinking about what my next business might be”.

City insurance stalwart Lloyds of London started in business doing marine insurance, underwriting centuries of British empire-building – and have been profiting out of the piracy game for centuries. Other piracy insurance giants based in the City of London. include Willis Group Holdings plc. According to a report by Forbes in 2010, buying the highest insurance package per voyage would, somehow, significantly lower the risk of a piracy attack. If you were one of the hundreds of ships to buy Willis Group’s full ‘Vessel Shield’ package – a bargain at $35K per voyage, then you would have completely avoided being targeted by Somali pirates. What luck. Go figure.

It would be interesting to know if the same City of London insurance and financial firms involved the Gulf of Aden piracy market also have any business interest in arms shipments to East Africa, or the mining and oil businesses. If you dig deep enough, it’s likely that you might find a yes(s) somewhere in this criminal matrix, but who really knows, right?

With Somalia weak and unstable, British and other US and European firms only need wait until the moment is right to jump on Somalia’s natural resource assets. Until then, there’s plenty of money to spread around.

Bernie Madoff has said all along that JP Morgan knew about – and knowingly profited from – his Ponzi schemes.

So JP Morgan has agreed to pay the government $2 billion to avoid investigation and prosecution.

While this may sound like a lot of money, it is spare sofa change for a big bank like JP Morgan.

It’s not just the Madoff scheme.

As shown below, the big banks – including JP Morgan – are  manipulating virtually every market – both in the financial sector and the real economy – and breaking virtually every law on the books.

Here are just some of the recent improprieties by big banks:

  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments. See this, this and this
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Details here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here
  • Pledging the same mortgage multiple times to different buyers. See this, this, this, this and this. This would be like selling your car, and collecting money from 10 different buyers for the same car
  • Committing massive fraud in an $800 trillion dollar market which effects everything from mortgages, student loans, small business loans and city financing
  • Pushing investments which they knew were terrible, and then betting against the same investments to make money for themselves. See this, this, this, this and this
  • Engaging in unlawful “Wash Trades” to manipulate asset prices. See this, this and this
  • Bribing and bullying ratings agencies to inflate ratings on their risky investments

The executives of the big banks invariably pretend that the hanky-panky was only committed by a couple of low-level rogue employees. But studies show that most of the fraud is committed by management.

Indeed, one of the world’s top fraud experts – professor of law and economics, and former senior S&L regulator Bill Black – says that most financial fraud is “control fraud”, where the people who own the banks are the ones who implement systemic fraud. See this, this and this.

The failure to go after Wall Street executives for criminal fraud is the core cause of our sick economy.

And experts say that all of the government’s excuses for failure to prosecute the individuals at the big Wall Street banks who committed fraud are totally bogus.

The big picture is simple:

  • The big banks manipulate every market they touch
  • The government has given the banks huge subsidies … which they are using for speculation and other things which don’t help the economy. In other words, propping up the big banks by throwing money at them doesn’t help the economy
  • The big banks own the D.C. politicians … so Congress and the White House won’t do anything unless the people force change

A 50-person committee to draft an amended Egyptian constitution completed its work in December and dates for a referendum have been set for January 14-15. The military-appointed regime which came to power through an army coup on July 3 of last year is encouraging people to vote in the upcoming national poll.

Concerns are growing among the regime operatives that a low turnout will damage the coveted “legitimacy” that they so desperately crave. A number of organizations have already called for a boycott of the vote based upon the undemocratic character under which the process was conducted.

Opponents of the referendum include the Muslim Brotherhood as well as some secular left and liberal organizations which had initially supported the military coup of July 3. A new coalition has been formed calling itself the Way of the Revolution Front which includes the April 6 Youth Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Egypt Strong Party.

Nonetheless, the Salafist Al-Nour Party, which had fallen out with the government of Mohamed Morsi during 2013, is supporting the referendum. Other supporters of the referendum are the Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, the Popular Current, the National Salvation Front as well as the leadership of the Copts Church representing the Christian community in Egypt which constitutes approximately 10 percent of the overall population.

Other Islamist groups are also boycotting the referendum including the Salafist Front, reputed to be one of the largest of such organizations in the region. In addition, the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyaa, another religious party, is also rejecting the referendum vote.

The so-called Tamarod, or rebel group, which is credited with organizing the anti-Morsi demonstrations last June prior to the coup, says that it is supporting the referendum vote and has in the past encouraged military strongman, Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, to enter the upcoming presidential race.

In an article published by the state-owned Ahram online website in Cairo it points out that on January 6 “Interim President Adly Mansour amended the political rights law. Citizens can now vote at polling stations not affiliated to their registered addresses in the upcoming constitution referendum.”

This new declaration is a clear attempt to encourage people to participate in what many in Egypt consider to be an illegitimate process. Rules that had prevailed during the local and national elections of 2011 and 2012 are being altered based upon a governmental decree.

The same Ahram online article points this out by noting that “Special polling stations will be designated to receive voters who do not reside at their registered addresses. Voters in parliamentary polls in 2011, as well as the presidential election and constitution referendum in 2012 had to vote at specific polling stations linked to the addresses mentioned on their national identity card or passport.”

If the proponents of the military coup which deposed the elected government of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who ruled on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood allied Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were certain that their actions enjoyed the approval of key sections of the Egyptian population there would not be these efforts which can provide the ability to manipulate the vote in the upcoming referendum.

Clashes Continue Between Coup Opponents and Security Forces

During the period of examinations at some of the leading universities in Egypt, students have been boycotting and staging mass demonstrations. Late last year the Egyptian interim government imposed a ban on unapproved protests.

Numerous activists have been arrested and sent to prison for their involvement in actions that both oppose the law banning demonstrations as well as the existence of military rule and the staging of a national referendum to legitimatize the current political order. On December 22 activists Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, both of the April 6 Youth Movement and blogger Ahmed Douma were sentenced to three years in prison in addition to monetary fines for violating the law prohibiting unapproved demonstrations.

On January 3 at least 17 people were killed in clashes between coup opponents and the security forces in Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum and Ismailia. Some 50 others were injured as police violently suppressed efforts to protest against the upcoming referendum.

Also on the same day 122 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested. The movement has been banned and labelled a “terrorist organization.”

RT.com reported on January 4 that not only has the Muslim Brotherhood been banned but leading members of the organization have been faced with economic sanctions. These actions are an attempt to make it almost impossible for the group to function.

According to RT.com, “Furthermore, Egypt froze the assets of 132 senior Brotherhood members following a court decree in September which banned the Islamist movement. On Wednesday (January 1), an additional 572 Brotherhood members had their assets frozen by the state which also took over 87 schools run by the Brotherhood.”

A series of bomb attacks have also escalated tensions inside the country. These incidents have been blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood by the military regime even though they have been claimed by another organization, Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis.

On December 24, fifteen people were killed in a bombing at the security directorate in the city of Mansoura in the Nile Delta region. Later on December 29 another intelligence building was destroyed in Sharqiya also in the Nile Delta where four soldiers were wounded.

Also on December 29 a bomb was defused at a building in the Al-Azhar University medical complex at New Damietta city north of Cairo. Later on January 1 a bomb exploded near a bus in Nasr City in eastern Cairo wounding four people.

In the Sinai region fighting has been taking place as well over the last several months. Reports indicate that some 100 police and military personnel have been killed in this natural gas producing region of Egypt on the border with the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza.

In response to these attacks, the United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pledged Washington’s support in investigating the incidents. Egypt is the recipient of $1.5 billion in annual assistance from the administration.

Although the Obama administration claimed earlier in 2013 that it was suspending some aspects of its aid to Egypt, Secretary of State John Kerry later said during a brief visit to Cairo that this was not a comprehensive halt and that the U.S. would continue to maintain relations with the military regime in Egypt.

Hagel said in a statement that Washington expressed its condolences for those killed in the bombings and “condemned the attacks and offered the assistance of the Department of Defense to help the Egyptian government investigate. We are expressing concerns about the political climate in advance of the constitutional referendum, including the continued enforcement of a restrictive demonstrations law.”(AFP, December 29)

Repressive Policies Impacting International Relations

The politically sensitive situation in Egypt has created concern over criticism outside the country as well. Both the governments of Qatar and Iran have been cited by the Egyptian regime for alleged interference in the country’s internal affairs.

In a report published by Reuters news agency on January 6 it notes that “Egypt on Monday summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in Cairo to protest over recent Iranian statements on Egypt, the foreign ministry said. Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said last Saturday that her country was worried by the recent escalation in violence between Egypt’s army and protesters supporting former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.”

The Qatar monarchy’s representative as well has been summoned by the Egyptian authorities. The government of Qatar had supported the previous government of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and pledged billions of dollars in financial assistance.

However, a report by the Fars news agency said on January 6 that “The Egyptian authorities will recall their ambassador to Qatar after holding the vote on the draft constitution in mid-January for consultations. ‘The decision to recall the ambassador is a protest over the rejected Qatari interference in the Egyptian domestic affairs,’ official news agency MENA quoted a governmental source as saying. ‘”

These developments indicate that the current Egyptian government is placing a tremendous amount of weight on carrying out the January 14-15 referendum. The outcome of the vote and the new reconfiguration of political forces will determine the future of the struggle inside the country.

Rising water prices forced some Egyptians to draw water from polluted canals. (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy under a Creative Commons license from flickr.com)

The American media focused mainly on internal corruption and oppression [as causes of the Arab Spring revolution last year]. They did not report on the role of the international superpowers in influencing the Mubarak regime to privatize the country’s public land and water; they did not report, for instance, that since the 1990s the World Bank has argued that privatization enhances “efficiency” and has mandated the policy as a condition for making loans; and that in 2004 this mandate led the Egyptian government to privatize its water utilities, transforming them into corporations which were required to operate at a profit, and which thus began to practice “full cost recovery”— passing along the cost of new infrastructure through rate increases.

Within months of privatization, the price of water doubled in some areas of Cairo, and citizens started to protest. At one demonstration in northern Cairo, in 2005, “angry residents chased bill collectors down the streets.” Those who could not afford the new rates had little choice but to go to the city’s outskirts to collect water from the dirty Nile River canals.

In 2007, protestors in the Nile Delta blocked the main coastal road after the regional water company diverted water from farming and fishing towns to affluent resort communities. “The authorities sent riot police to put down these ‘disturbances,’” wrote Philip Marfleet, a professor at the University of East London, even as “water flowed uninterrupted to the gated communities, and to country clubs and upmarket resorts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.”

In the next few years such demonstrations only grew in intensity. As activist Abdel Mawla Ismail has noted, “Thirst protests or intifadas, as some people have called them, started to represent a new path for a social movement.” From this path the revolution that consumed the nation in 2011 seems inevitable. People can live in poverty for a long time; they cannot live without water.

Here is Karen Piper’s full essay Revolution of the Thirsty on the Design Observer Group website. Also posted on Global Research

An English professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, she is now at work on a book about water privatization.

 

The Killings Fields of Gaza

January 6th, 2014 by Colin Green

Revelations from Israeli sources such as ‘Breaking the Silence’ and ‘Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’ that the Israeli assaults on Gaza in 2008/9 (Cast Lead) and 2012 (Pillars of Defence) were planned many months ahead pose many questions about the real motives for the seven year siege and these massive attacks on a helpless concentration of impoverished and imprisoned people.  Let us then pose just some of those questions and seek objective answers to:

*Why does the international community and UN allow Israel to blockade and besiege a tiny strip of land called Gaza for near seven years with absolute impunity?

*In a related vein, why is Israel allowed to commit piracy in international waters to prevent unarmed merchant ships reaching Gaza under the nose of NATO naval fleets operating in the Eastern Mediterranean?

*Were the asymmetric assaults on Gaza in 2008/9 and again in 2012 genuinely a response to Qassam rocket attacks or carefully planned attacks for other reasons?

*Could the siege and attacks actually be about testing of new weapons, testing of new missile defence systems, field trials of new strategies of population control and control of the immense energy resources found in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Let’s begin by examining the demographics obtaining at the time of the Cast Lead assault. Gaza is a narrow strip of land, 45 km long by 5-12 km wide, into which 1.5 million Palestinians were concentrated and virtually imprisoned – at a density of 4119/km2, four times the density of Bangladesh. The population is confined mainly to five cities and seven large refugee camps, with one million people registered as UN refugees. There is only about 24 km2 of potentially productive farmland, the best of it adjacent to the north-eastern border with Israel, most of it inaccessible because it falls within the Israeli ‘buffer zone.’ Eighty percent of Gazans, 59% of whom are children, live below the poverty line. Forty percent are unemployed, 60% are food dependent on UNRWA.

Gaza had been ruled by Hamas, a freely elected government, for over a year before the attacks, but Israel and the US designated it a ‘terrorist organisation’ and Gaza a ‘hostile entity’ soon after those elections, and then set out to make life hell for its citizens. From 2006 onward, Israel set out to destroy the Gazan economy, using food insecurity, a kind of controlled starvation, as a means of punishing the population and breaking its will.

The buffer zone inside the border removed 68% of arable farmland, making farming dangerous and impossible. Available fish stocks were reduced by 84%, Palestinian fishermen limited by Israel to three instead of the 20 nautical miles agreed upon in the Oslo process, thus reducing protein intake to dangerous levels and destroying one of the bases of the Gazan economy. No less telling is that by limiting Palestinian access to the sea the Israelis have also prevented Gazan exploitation of natural gas reserves of Gaza Marine 1 and 2 estimated at nearly 1.4 trillion cubic feet, which could have turned the economy around and made Gaza energy independent of Israel.

Analysis of the timelines of both major military assaults is instructive. For six months leading up to the Cast Lead invasion, Hamas observed a ceasefire until an Israeli incursion into Gaza on November 4th (election day in the US) killed six Palestinians, predictably triggering a response of Qassam rocket fire into Israel. This provided just the pretext needed by the Israeli military to attack on a massive scale.

The Israeli attack commenced on December 27, 2008, carefully coordinated to coincide with the changeover in American Presidencies. After three days of intensive air strikes, the Security Council attempted to pass Ceasefire Resolution 1860, but the US blocked it, giving Israel the political space it needed to launch a full ground assault. (Congress supported the invasion overwhelmingly, the House by a vote of 390-5, the Senate by an overwhelming bi-partisan voice vote.)

The Ceasefire Resolution was finally passed by the Security Council on January 8th, almost a week after the ground invasion, but the US abstained, thereby affording Israel the necessary political cover to continue its operations. US President-elect Barack Obama uttered not a word. Tony Blair, the Quartet representative, issued a tepid call for an immediate ceasefire.

Palestinian casualties in the Cast Lead invasion were appalling. About 1400 people were killed, of which 313 were children and 116 were women; less than 20% of those killed were combatants. More than 6000 were badly injured, including 1855 children and 795 women (source: Palestinian Center for Human Rights). My Norwegian medical colleagues Mads Gilbert and Eric Fosse, working in Gaza at the time alongside Palestinian medical staff, reported lesions which they had never seen before and which provided circumstantial evidence that the Israelis had used and tested new weapons as well as white phosphorus in heavily populated civilian areas. Apart from severe burns, there were an abnormally high number of amputations and maiming among the surviving wounded.

For example, 150 amputees had to be referred to Egyptian hospitals; in Jabalia refugee camp there were 165 newly disabled patients of whom at least 90 had amputations, some multiple. These casualties were caused by the full armamentarium of known conventional weapons, but some injuries caused strongly suggest that other ordnance was tested for the first time under battle conditions. Some of these described here were definitely used but others are still in doubt.

White phosphorous shells contain the chemical impregnated into small strips of felt, which scatter over a radius of 100 metres when the shell explodes in mid-air. It is officially used as a smoke-screen device and for illumination at night, but it is also an incendiary device and was used as such in Gaza on several occasions. Flechette shells contain thousands of darts about 4 cm long which disperse in a widening cone when the shell explodes about a metre from the ground; these darts are ballistically designed to tumble on penetration and wreak havoc in soft tissues. They were used in 2008/9 but not in the 2012 assault.

The Keshet rapid fire automated mortar was tried out to devastating effect in a crowded street in Jabalia Refugee camp near the Al Fakhoura School, in full view of the Israeli troops. Kalanit shells were fired from 120mm tank cannons; these explode in the air, stop and release 6 mini-charges which spray a target with shrapnel from above.

Dense inert metal explosives (DIMES) are newly developed ordnance comprising a carbon fibre casing packed with micro-shrapnel of inert metals like tungsten, nickel and cobalt causing a massive implosion within a relatively confined space, supposedly allowing a precise kill without collateral damage over a wide area. Small diameter bombs (SDBs) which glide toward their target under laser direction can be fitted to F16 fighter aircraft, and were used in Gaza (1000 were purchased from the US in early December in readiness for the 2008 attack).

It is thought that they contained dense inert metal shrapnel. However the evidence for the use of DIMES is based on the powdered shrapnel found over the liver surface and other soft tissues, as well as the clean-cut multiple amputations suffered by so many casualties; it is not definitive.

Depleted uranium tipped shells are designed for deep penetration of targets such as tanks and create a high temperature fireball inside; in Gaza they were used to attack large buildings, not tanks. Finally although the Israelis have been accused of using thermobaric weapons in Gaza as bunker busters targeting the Egyptian border tunnels, there is no clear evidence for that.

Operation Cast Lead was a supreme example of asymmetric warfare between, on the one hand, the most powerful military state in the Middle East and, on the other, a besieged concentration camp. To give you an idea of the military might of this prototypic modern warrior state, Israel has at the last count between 240 and 300 nuclear warheads; huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (yet calling indignantly for the destruction of all in Syria); 620 warplanes including F16 fighters (soon to be replaced with the latest F35 lightning fighters costing $200 million each, 25 of which promised by the US to Israel ahead of all other recipients as they come off the production line), as well as Cobra and Apache helicopters; six German-built and donated Dolphin Class submarines, some capable of being armed with nuclear warheads and two thought to be currently operational in the Persian Gulf; an unknown number of short, intermediate and long range (up to 8000 kilometres) ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload (Jericho1,2,3); a modern navy of 58 combat surface warships many armed with missiles which regularly exercises with the NATO Fleet in the Mediterranean; three squadrons of drones (Hermes, Searcher and Heron), many designed and built in Israel with 100 on order by the UK Government; a highly trained army with 2442 heavy Merkava tanks, 1265 armoured troop carriers and numerous other smaller military vehicles; 2754 pieces of heavy artillery with diabolical ordnance specifically designed to create havoc in civilian populations; and a standing army of 26,000 bolstered by 107,000 conscripts to a total of 133,000 troops (60% bigger than the British Army) which can be rapidly expanded nearly 3-fold in emergency with 400,000 personnel who have been trained for mandatory periods each year of their life from 18 up to the age of 40-50.

Think back to the size of that total population of 7.8 million Israelis, of which at least 20% are ineligible to join the armed forces because they are regarded as a Fifth Column of Israeli Arabs. This represents a massive investment in war both in blood and in money. How much does all this cost? Officially, Israel says it spends roughly 7% of total GDP ($265 billion) on the military (as compared with 4.5% US and 2.5% UK). Once a tiny state like Israel commits itself to such a massive proportion of its GDP for war, the only way to pay for it is through economies of scale, an indigenous arms development programme, partly for domestic use by the IDF and partly for sale.

Based on their 2012/13 sales ($13 billion), it lies 4th in the world league table (UK 3rd with $19 billion in sales). If you factor in, however, Israel’s homeland security trade (perhaps as much as its arms trade, whose goods have been honed over decades of control over the Palestinians), such profitable enterprises as retrofitting and its largely unreported arms trade through the shadow world of arms dealers, its global reach and profits place it among the leading arms and security exporters. The Israeli arms and homeland security industry has certainly made its mark both in hardware weaponry (particularly drones), in IT (avionics, robotics, other forms of electronic warfare, plus the military applications of nanotechnology) and in cyber warfare (where IDF Unit 8200 works closely with the NSA), plus myriad forms of security-for-hire. Labelling their products “Field-tested” or “Combat-proven in Gaza” gives Israeli weapons manufacturers a key edge in the market.

Besides unquestioning bi-partisan support for Israel in Congress for domestic reasons, are there other interests at work that explain why the US routinely vetoes in the Security Council any and every UN resolution critical of Israel (43 times so far, more than all other countries have used their veto on all other issues combined)? Could the ability of the Pentagon and American (and European) arms manufacturers to test their new weaponry in Gaza and the West Bank offer an explanation?

The immediate connection between American financial support of the Israeli anti-missile defence system Iron Dome, its use against Qassam rockets whose firing Israel actually provoked and announcements that the system is being sold to American forces in Afghanistan and to India has to raise questions. Similarly, could a demonstration of “aerial occupation” in which drones complete dominate, intimidate and control the lives of 1.7 million people in Gaza have any effect on Israeli sales of drones as part of its larger export of means of control to governments, armies, security agencies, and police forces around the world? And what about the massive natural gas fields off-shore from Gaza being exploited by Israel while the Palestinians are denied access to their own natural resources through supposed “security” controls?

Israel’s armoury serves as the ultimate extension of Western hegemony in the region. That and the Western military-security-industrial complex being served by Israeli weapons and the opportunity to develop and test weapons in the Palestinian Territories makes the assaults on Gaza and the ongoing repression a case study in what is rapidly becoming Global Palestine – the “palestinization” of us all. For the Gazans are only the guinea pigs. We are the end-recipients. In that sense we all are, truly, Palestinians.

Colin Green is Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University College London (UCL) and Academician in the Ukraine National Academy of Science, as well as a human rights activist with particular interests in the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Stop the War Coalition, Physicians for Human Rights, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross (civil name Fadia Laham) and the Mussalaha Reconciliation Initiative in Syria have been nominated by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

by The Peace People

Press Release 4 Jan. 2014

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross (civil name Fadia Laham) and the Mussalaha Reconciliation Initiative in Syria have been nominated by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

In her letter to Nobel Institute, Mairead Maguire said:

“At a time when the world so desperately needs to see a peaceful way forward to end the bloodshed and Conflict in Syria the Mussalaha initiative stands out as a beacon of hope showing us a better way forward,  one which comes from within Syrian Society and expresses the spontaneous desire of the majority of Syrians for a peaceful path, a way forward that departs from violence and embraces a future where differences are resolved in an atmosphere of mutual respect that preserves the historic fraternity of the Syrian people.   The Mussalaha initiative is an outstanding example of the resilient spirit of the Syrian people and their innate ability to resolve their difficulties, by themselves, even in the most tragic and exceptional of circumstances, we have a duty to support their work in every way possible.

“Mussalaha, which translates as reconciliation, is a community-based non-violent popular initiative stemming from within Syrian civil society.  Founded at the community level, it includes members of all Syria’s ethnic and religious communities who are tired of the war.  Mussalaha fills a void created by the noise of weapons; it does not side with any of the warring parties, rather it embraces all.  The movement says no to the continued loss of life, and yes to a nonviolent solution.   The initiative says no to civil war and rejects all forms of sectarian violence and denominational strife.  Its founding session was a peace congress held almost two years ago on 25th January, 2012, in the Sahara complex on the Syrian coast.

“As a guest of the Mussalaha Initiative I visited Syria in May of 2013 where I met a few of the millions of refugees and internally displaced people whose lives have been torn apart by the ongoing conflict in that country.  I learned from those I spoke to, both within the government and in opposition groups, that while there is a legitimate movement calling for long overdue reform in Syria, it is one of peaceful non-violence and that the worst acts of violence are being perpetrated by outside groups who strive to incite inter-communal division and discord.  Extremist groups from around the world have converged upon Syria, bent on turning conflict into one of ideological hatred.  The Mussalaha Initiative has worked diligently to stem this flow of violence and heal the wounds inflicted on the social fabric of the country.

“Over the last two years the Mussalaha Initiative has worked in mediation and negotiation often crossing lines of conflict in the most difficult and life threatening of circumstances.  Many abducted people have been freed, prisoner swaps facilitated, humanitarian aid supplied without discrimination, evacuation of civilians from conflict zones made possible, and disarmament of local opposition fighters peacefully facilitated.  Principle among those who have worked tirelessly for this peace initiative is Mother Agnes Mariam, with courage and conviction she has been an outspoken advocate of peace, a voice seeking justice and one which has consistently called on the international community to recognize the truth with regard to what is happening in Syria.

“Mother Agnes Mariam’s astute observations which discredited the video evidence offered by the United States, as proof of an alleged chemical gas attack in East Ghouta, contributed to help forestall what would have proved a regionally devastating external military intervention in Syria.  This heroic peacemaker has thought nothing of placing her own life on the lines for the sake of others, and at great personal risk she personally brokered a cease-fire between rebels and the Syrian authorities in Moadamiya, Damascus province.  This work facilitated the transfer of over 5,000 civilians from a besieged opposition area and included the voluntary surrender of over 500 men many of whom had been armed opposition combatants.

“In making this nomination for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, I believe that there is no military or paramilitary solution to the Syrian conflict and only through dialogue and negotiation can peace be reached.   We urgently need a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.   Mother Agnes Mariam and the Mussalaha Initiative in Syria exemplify all that is remarkable about the resilience of humanity when faced with unbelievable adversity.   The Mussalaha initiative which unites people of all faiths, and none, and ethnic backgrounds, deserves to be nurtured supported and fully recognized for the enormous contribution it has made, and continues to make in saving lives, and in directing all Syrians towards the path of peace.”

(Signed) Mairead Maguire, Nobel peace laureate

Mother Agnes Mariam,  [email protected]   

www.facebook.com/peoplescommissionfornationalreconciliation

See also; Australians for Mussalaha reconciliation in Syria; AMRIS; http://australiansforreconciliationsyria.wordpress.com/

The Peace People, 224 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6GE, Northern Ireland Phone: 0044 (0) 28 9066 346   Email: [email protected]

50 verdades sobre Raúl Castro

January 6th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

El actual Presidente de Cuba siempre ha vivido a la sombra de su hermano y sigue siendo poco conocido por la opinión pública mundial.

1. Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz nació el 3 de junio de 1931 en Birán en la provincia de Holguín en el seno de una familia cubana-española. Como su hermano mayor Fidel Castro, cursa estudios en el colegio jesuita de Dolores en Santiago de Cuba y en el colegio de Belén de La Habana.

2. Contrariamente a Fidel Castro que es miembro del Partido Ortodoxo, Raúl Castro milita desde muy joven en la Juventud Socialista afiliada al Partido Socialista Popular que es el partido comunista cubano de la época.

3. En 1953, realiza un viaje al otro lado de la Cortina de Hierro, a Viena, para participar en la Conferencia Internacional de Defensa de los Derechos de la Juventud.

4. Raúl Castro se involucra mucho en la juventud estudiantil y participa en las manifestaciones contra el Gobierno de Carlos Prío Socarrás, regularmente sacudido por escándalos de corrupción.

5. El 26 de julio de 1953, con 20 años, Raúl Castro participa con su hermano Fidel y sus compañeros en el ataque al cuartel Moncada en Santiago de Cuba cuyo objetivo es derrocar al dictador Fulgencio Batista. Tiene como misión tomar el control del Palacio de Justicia de la ciudad.

6. Arrestado, es condenado a 13 años de prisión con los pocos sobrevivientes de la expedición del Moncada y cumple su pena en la cárcel de Los Pinos, en Isla de la Juventud.

7. En 1955, tras ser amnistiado por Batista, se exila a México con su hermano Fidel y varios miembros del Movimiento 26 de Julio.

8. Raúl Castro conoce a un joven médico llamado Ernesto Guevara y decide presentárselo a Fidel Castro.

9. El 25 de noviembre de 1956, embarca con su hermano y otros 80 hombres a bordo de un barco con destino a la provincia oriental de Cuba, con el objetivo de desatar una guerra insurreccional contra el régimen militar. Antes de subir a bordo del Granma, redacta su testamento político.

10. El desembarco es un desastre total pues el ejército estaba esperando a los revolucionarios y elimina a una parte de los combatientes y dispersa al resto. Raúl Castro se acordaría de la tragedia del 2 de diciembre de 1956: “Eran las 4:30 de la tarde cuando vino la hecatombe”.

11. Tras encontrar a su hermano el 18 de diciembre de 1956 en Cinco Palmas, Raúl Castro inicia la campaña en la Sierra Maestra como simple guerrillero y su parentesco con el líder del Ejército Rebelde no le confiere ningún privilegio.

12. Raúl Castro se asombra de la solidaridad y la generosidad de los campesinos de la Sierra Maestra. En su diario escribe: “La manera en que estos campesinos de la Sierra se esfuerzan sin contar para ocuparse de nosotros y cuidarnos es admirable. Toda la nobleza y la grandeza del alma cubanas se encuentran aquí”.

13. El Ejército Rebelde trata bien a los soldados presos. Al respecto Raúl Castro cuenta: “Les dimos de comer a los tres y les dijimos que los liberaríamos y que guardaríamos sólo las armas. Tenía dinero y relojes que necesitábamos, pero siguiendo nuestros principios, no los tocamos. […] Les pedimos que firmaran un papel diciendo que fueron bien tratados. Conversando con uno de ellos con tono amable, F. [Fidel] logró conseguir información de gran utilidad”. Cuando los guerrilleros descubren la presencia de un infiltrado a sueldo de la dictadura en su tropa, lo ejecutan. Raúl Castro escribe en su diario: “Quizás torturándolo nos hubiera proporcionado más información, pero incluso con un traidor tan miserable no aplicamos estos métodos”.

14. En febrero de 1957, Raúl Castro es el primero en conocer a Herbert L. Matthews, el periodista del New York Times que revelaría al mundo la existencia de una guerrilla en Cuba: “Le di la mano al periodista, y recordando mi rudimentario inglés escolar, le dijo ‘How are you?”. No entendí su respuesta y luego F. llegó, y después de saludarlo, se sentó con él en la cabaña y empezó la entrevista periodística, que seguro será un palo”.

15. Después de Che Guevara en 1957, Raúl Castro es nombrado comandante del Ejército Rebelde en febrero de 1958 tras hacer sus pruebas en el terreno. Su hermano Fidel le encargó abrir un segundo frente en el noreste de la Sierra Maestra con la columna de guerrilleros n°6 nombrada Segundo Frente “Frank País”, en honor al líder del Movimiento 26 de Julio de Santiago de Cuba asesinado por la dictadura en julio de 1957. En realidad el n°6 se destinaba a engañar al enemigo sobre el número de guerrilleros que, en realidad, nunca superó los 300 hombres armados.

16. Raúl Castro toma el control de los territorios liberados y crea una verdadera estructura autónoma con hospitales, escuelas y varias fábricas de armas y de zapatos.

17. Raúl Castro elabora a partir de 1958 el primer servicio de inteligencia revolucionario. También crea la nueva policía revolucionaria.

18. Estados Unidos había impuesto oficialmente un embargo sobre las armas a Cuba en marzo de 1958. En realidad, seguía suministrando secretamente al ejército cubano. En junio de 1959, Raúl Castro decide denunciar la colusión entre Batista y Washington mediante una espectacular acción. Frente a los bombardeos de la aviación cubana, equipada con armas estadounidenses, responde con la Operación Antiaérea y secuestra a varios ciudadanos estadounidenses, incluso a militares. El objetivo es acabar con los bombardeos de la Sierra Maestra que tienen un impacto mortífero para las fuerzas rebeldes pero sobre todo para la población civil de la zona. La Operación resulta coronada de éxito. El Washington Post and Times Herald evoca “el tratamiento digno de un rey” del cual se beneficiaron los rehenes: “Los militares estadounidenses fueron tratados tan bien, y tan convencidos por los argumentos de los rebeldes, que varios de ellos deseaban quedarse y luchar contra Batista”. “Un tipo extraordinario, ese Raúl Castro”, escribió por su parte la revista estadounidense Time, citando a un rehén, y agrega que el joven comandante “deseaba darle una lección a Washington”.

19. En 1958, Raúl Castro impone el pago de un impuesto revolucionario a todas las empresas, incluso a las multinacionales estadounidenses.

20. Al triunfo de la Revolución, durante la formación del Gobierno provisional, Raúl Castro no ocupa ningún cargo.

21. El 26 de enero de 1959, Raúl Castro se casa con Vilma Espín Guillois, combatiente en la clandestinidad que participó en el levantamiento armado del 30 de noviembre de 1956 en Santiago de Cuba, en apoyo al desembarco del Granma. Sería la fundadora de la Federación de Mujeres Cubanas.

22. En febrero de 1959, sustituye a Fidel Castro como Ministro de las Fuerzas Armadas cuando éste es nombrado jefe del Gobierno por el Presidente Manuel Urrutia. Dirigiría el Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas hasta 2008, el cual se convertiría en la institución más eficaz de Cuba, autosuficiente en producción agrícola gracias a la Unión Militar Agropecuaria.

23. De 1959 a 1965, Raúl Castro tiene que enfrentar los actos terroristas y los sabotajes que organiza la CIA y golpean el país. Recuerda: “A veces llegaba al Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas y venían cuatro o cinco ayudantes, que eran enlaces con los diferentes territorios, ejércitos y regiones del país, y para andar más rápido no me hacían informes, venían con un listado de lo que había acontecido en las últimas 24 horas, o por lo menos las últimas 12 horas de la noche anterior: decenas de casas de curar tabaco incendiadas en Pinar del Río, tantas decenas de cañaverales ardiendo en todo el país, según la época del año; tantos combates librados, tantas bombas en ciudades y otros lugares, tantos sabotajes a tendidos eléctricos. A veces yo les decía: «Díganme lo más importante», y eso fue, con mayor o menor intensidad, durante cinco o seis años”.

24. En 1959, Fidel Castro designa a Raúl Castro su sucesor en el caso de que fuera asesinado.

25. Desde 1959, Raúl Castro es, con su hermano, el único miembro de la familia Castro en ocupar un puesto político en Cuba.

26. En 1961, Raúl Castro es nombrado a la Dirección Nacional de las Organizaciones Revolucionarias Integradas que agrupan el Movimiento 26 de Julio de Fidel Castro, el Directorio Revolucionario de los estudiantes y el Partido Socialista Popular.

27. En 1963, ocupa también la Dirección del Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista que sustituye las ORI.

28. En 1965, con la creación del Partido Comunista de Cuba, es nombrado segundo secretario.

29. Con la adopción de la nueva Constitución de 1976, Raúl Castro es elegido vicepresidente de la República, puesto al cual sería reelegido hasta 2006. También es diputado y vicepresidente del Consejo de Estado y de Ministros de 1976 a 2006.

30. En noviembre de 1976 es ascendido a General del Ejército.

31.  A partir de los años 1980, Raúl Castro desarrolla el concepto de “Guerra de Todo el Pueblo” frente a las amenazas de invasión por parte de Estados Unidos. Esta estrategia de defensa militar consiste en armar a todo el pueblo y desatar una guerra de guerrillas contra el invasor: “La Guerra de Todo el Pueblo significa que, para conquistar nuestro territorio y ocupar nuestro suelo, las fuerzas imperiales tendrían que luchar contra millones de personas y tendrían que pagar con cientos de miles e incluso millones de vidas, el intento de conquistar nuestra tierra, de aplastar nuestra libertad, nuestra independencia y nuestra Revolución […]. Por poderoso que sea el imperio, por sofisticadas que sean sus técnicas y sus armas, no está en condiciones de pagar el precio que significaría semejante aventura”.

32. En 1993, en pleno Periodo Especial marcado por una grave crisis económica tras la desaparición de la Unión Soviética y el recrudecimiento de las sanciones económicas por parte de Washington, Raúl Castro advierte a Estados Unidos contra todo intento de agresión: “La lucha sería sin frente ni retaguardia, en cada rincón del país. Para ello contamos además de las Tropas Regulares con las Milicias de Tropas Territoriales y las Brigadas de Producción y Defensa organizadas en cada provincia y sus 169 municipios; se combatiría en las más de 1.400 Zonas de Defensa si el enemigo fuera capaz de llegar a todas, supuesto imposible, pues necesitarían millones de soldados y aun así serían sumamente débiles pues donde quiera podrían pisar una mina, ser liquidados por una bala o una granada y las emboscadas serían su pesadilla […]. En una guerra prolongada, si de cada dos o tres francotiradores -y tenemos decenas de miles-, uno de ellos aniquila un yanqui, preferiblemente un oficial, ¿podría el invasor asumir tantas bajas y persistir en la agresión? […].En nuestra doctrina las tropas terrestres son las fuerzas decisivas, ya que los combates, una vez desembarcado el enemigo, se librarían sobre nuestro suelo, hombre frente a hombre, a tiro de fusil. Y en esas condiciones la superioridad moral de los hombres que defienden su patria es infinitamente superior a la del odiado invasor. El suelo ardería bajo sus pies, de las entrañas de la tierra, después de los golpes aéreos, saldrían los combatientes a ajustarle cuentas en el suelo sagrado de la patria que no admite botas invasoras”.

33. En 1998, 40 años después de ser nombrado Comandante del Ejército Rebelde, es ascendido a Comandante de la Revolución.

34. El 31 de julio de 2006, en virtud de Artículo 94 de la Constitución, Raúl Castro sustituye a su hermano Fidel Castro, víctima de una grave enfermedad, y se convierte en Presidente temporal de la República.

35. En 2007, Raúl Castro lanza una amplia consulta nacional con el objetivo de proceder a una “actualización del modelo socioeconómico del país.


Assim como su hermano  mas viejo, Fidel, Raúl dá grande importancia a la integración latino-americana, teniendo sido presidente de la Celac

36. En febrero de 2008, el Parlamento Cubano elige a Raúl Castro a la Presidencia de la República, quien sucede a su hermano que anunció su retirada de la vida política. Para llegar a la cabeza del Estado y del Gobierno, Raúl Castro tuvo que pasar por dos procesos electorales. Primero fue electo al sufragio universal y secreto como diputado de la Asamblea Nacional. Luego, el Parlamento lo eligió Presidente del Consejo de Estado y del Consejo de Ministros.

37. En septiembre de 2008, Raúl Castro decide otorgar las tierras ociosas en usufructo a los campesinos para aumentar la producción agrícola en un país que importa más del 80% de las materias primas alimenticias.

38. En diciembre de 2008, Raúl Castro realiza su primera gira diplomática internacional como Presidente de la República y visita Venezuela, donde se reúne con Hugo Chávez, y Brasil donde mantiene un encuentro con Lula.

39. En noviembre de 2010, el proyecto de actualización del modelo socioeconómico se somete a un amplio debate popular que implica a más de 8 millones de personas. Tras ser modificado, es adoptado en abril de 2011 y abre varios sectores de la economía al campo privado. Cerca de medio millón de cubanos trabajan hoy en el sector privado.

40. El 16 de abril de 2011, Raúl Castro celebra el 50 aniversario de la Declaración del carácter socialista de la Revolución Cubana y organiza el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Es elegido Primer Secretario y sustituye oficialmente a Fidel Castro.

41. En 2010 y 2011, tras un acuerdo con España y la Iglesia Católica Cubana, Raúl Castro decide liberar a todos los presos llamados “políticos” en Cuba. Algunos deciden abandonar el país mientras otros permanecen en la isla.

42. En noviembre de 2011, Raúl Castro simplifica los trámites administrativos para el sector inmobiliario. Desde entonces, los cubanos pueden comprar y vender sus bienes sin otra formalidad que una visita a la notaría. Antes, hacía falta conseguir el permiso de la Oficina de la Vivienda. Para evitar toda concentración de bienes en un mercado deficitario, los cubanos no pueden tener más de dos productos inmobiliarios, uno de los cuales debe situarse en el campo.

43. En marzo de 2012, Raúl Castro recibe la visita de Benedicto XVI. “Nuestro Gobierno y la Iglesia Católica, Apostólica y Romana en Cuba mantenemos buenas relaciones”, declara.

44. En diciembre de 2012, Raúl Castro decide generalizar el sistema de cooperativas en todos los sectores.

45. En enero de 2013, respondiendo a una fuerte petición popular, Raúl Castro decide eliminar los obstáculos burocráticos como la “tarjeta blanca” y la “carta de invitación” para facilitar los viajes de los cubanos al exterior. Pero ahora son las embajadas occidentales las que exigen de los cubanos una “carta de invitación”.

46. El 28 de enero de 2013, Raúl Castro es elegido a la Presidencia pro témpore de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños que agrupa a los 33 países de América Latina y del Caribe, e inflige así un importante revés diplomático a Estados Unidos cuyo llamado a aislar a Cuba fue ignorado.

47. En febrero de 2013, Raúl Castro es reelegido a la Presidencia de la República por un mandato de cinco años. Tras la reforma constitucional, los mandatos ejecutivos se limitan ahora a 10 años. Así, Raúl Castro se retirará del poder a más tardar en 2018.

48. El 10 de diciembre de 2013, durante el funeral de Nelson Mandela en Sudáfrica, Raúl Castro estrecha la mano al Presidente Barack Obama. Como su predecesor Fidel Castro, declara públicamente de su voluntad de diálogo con Estados Unidos: “Si realmente deseamos avanzar en las relaciones bilaterales, tendremos que aprender a respetar mutuamente nuestras diferencias y acostumbrarnos a convivir pacíficamente con ellas. De lo contrario, estamos dispuestos a soportar otros 55 años en la misma situación”.

49. Su hija Mariela Castro es directora del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual y defiende los derechos de las personas homosexuales, lesbianas y transexuales en Cuba.

50. Raúl Castro es famoso por su franqueza y su mente abierta. No vacila en mostrarse muy crítico y denuncia públicamente las derivas del sistema, lo que le vale la fama de ser a la vez el mejor periodista de la isla y el disidente más incisivo.

 Salim Lamrani

Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, con un prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

http://www.amazon.fr/Cuba-m%C3%A9dias-face-d%C3%A9fi-limpartialit%C3%A9/dp/2953128433/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376731937&sr=1-1

Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

 

 

What’s a Slum? Urban Poverty and Marginality in America

January 6th, 2014 by Michael Parenti

Image: East Harlem, 1970

When I was about thirteen-years-old I chanced upon an article in Henry Luce’s Life magazine that described East Harlem ( a Manhattan working class neighborhood) as “a slum inhabited by beggar poor Italians, Negroes, and Puerto Ricans,” words that stung me and wedged in my memory.

“We live in a slum,” I mournfully reported to my father.

“What’s a slum?” he asked. He was not familiar with the term.

“It’s a neighborhood where everybody is poor and the streets are all run-down and dumpy and dirty and filled with beggars.”

“Shut up and show respect for your home,” he replied. Note his choice of words. Poppa was not expressing pride in East Harlem as such. But situated within the neighborhood was our home, and you didn’t want anything reflecting poorly upon family and home.

On my block, 118th Street, there was both normal poverty and extreme poverty. But the latter was not readily detectable. For years there was an iceman on the block who did a bustling business. This meant that there were families that did not have refrigerators—including my own. We made do with a window box that held a piece of ice and a bottle of milk and a few other perishables. Eventually we got a second-hand refrigerator.

Also on 118th Street was an old brownstone that served as a nursery for needy children. One day during my high-school years, I heard the famous writer Dorothy Parker being interviewed on the radio. (I was already familiar with her name if not her writing.) She was talking about giving aid to the poor children who were cared for in that very same settlement house on 118th Street. “Are they Negro children?” asked the interviewer. “No, I believe they are Italians,” Dorothy Parker answered. The nursery for the needy was just across the street halfway down the block from my house. I often hung around that area yet I had never seen impoverished children being escorted in or out of there; or I never thought anything of it if I had seen any.

Italian Harlem had its block parties, family links, and numerous face-to-face acquaintances. Still it was not one big Gemeinschaft (community). It was not an urban village. Many people were unknown to each other even on the same block, even in adjacent buildings. I had to find out about the nursery-for-the-needy from a radio interview with Dorothy Parker. That is almost pure Gesellschaft (impersonal mass society).

Contrary to the slur in Life magazine, I came to realize that, despite the extreme poverty, my neighborhood was inhabited not by “beggar-poor” derelicts but mostly by hardworking and usually underpaid proletarians, more-or-less sane folks who were the ordinary heroes of the urban landscape. Much the same can be said for the nearby African-American and Puerto Rican communities in Harlem.

In Italian Harlem (as East Harlem was also called) there could be found people who drove the trucks, taxicabs, trolleys, and buses. They manned the loading docks and the maintenance crews, and practically monopolized New York’s building sites as construction workers, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, roofers, glaziers, housepainters, and plumbers. And when they were not building structures, they were on the wrecking crews that tore them down.

Other Italian Americans put in long hours employed in candy stores, grocery stores, and five-and-dime stores, in dress shops, barber shops, butcher shops, and sweatshops; in beauty parlors, ice cream parlors, and pizza parlors; tending bakeries, barrooms, and poolrooms. They were bank clerks, janitors, dry cleaners, and laundresses. They were auto mechanics, machinists, manicurists, hospital workers, and gardeners; ditch diggers and gravediggers, milkmen and mailmen, shoemakers and homemakers, elevator operators and telephone operators, apartment guards and bank guards, night workers and day jobbers. They shined shoes at Grand Central Station right next to their Black coworkers, and on the Staten Island ferry. And they buffed the shiny lobbies of midtown office buildings.

They served as waiters and waitresses, cooks and caterers; secretaries and receptionists; garment cutters, tailors, seamstresses, and dress designers; fish vendors, vegetable vendors, peddlers, and truck farmers.

They worked in insurance offices and post offices. They built the highest skyscrapers and deepest subway tunnels, and years later their offspring cleaned the subway tracks and the streets and sidewalks of the whole city and collected the garbage, holding the lion’s share of jobs in the Sanitation Department.

These were the people who performed “the work of civilization” to borrow a phrase from the great economist Thorstein Veblen. (Veblen was actually talking about the unsung unpaid work that women did all over the world.) The working poor lived out their lives largely unsung and unnoticed. Wherever they toiled, it was almost always to “bring some money home for the family,” that prime unit of survival.

Tucked away amidst the blue collar ranks of Italian Harlem were the politicos who got out the vote in their neighborhood precincts for the Democratic Party. There were local lawyers and realtors; doctors, dentists, and morticians; professional musicians and many amateur ones, and photographers (mostly for weddings and Holy Confirmations); a few young toughs training to be professional boxers who might end up as downtown bouncers if they were lucky; some union shop stewards and union organizers, a struggling magazine illustrator, a comic book cartoonist, a sculptor, a tall lovely sixteen year-old girl who was working as a model downtown, young men attending City College and young women attending Hunter College, and a few aspiring opera students, including a lovely mezzo-soprano who performed with great charm at local events and at high mass at Holy Rosary Church. Then there was an occasional young man going off to the seminary to become a priest, or a young woman preparing to become a nun

In sum, pace Henry Luce and Life magazine, defamatory labels like “slum” and “beggar poor” can hide a multitude of virtues—not likely to be appreciated by Mr. Luce and his superrich cohorts.

There is the saying that “the slums are not the problem, they are the solution,” meaning they are the place we dump the marginal and low performing groups. It might do well to remember that the slums are where hard-working underpaid people live and out from which they venture to help keep society afloat.

Michael Parenti‘s most recent books are GOD AND HIS DEMONS (2010); THE FACE OF IMPERIALISM (2011); WAITING FOR YESTERDAY: PAGES FROM A STREET KID’S LIFE (2013) from which this article is excerpted.

Religious NGOs, Civil Society and the United Nations

January 6th, 2014 by Paul O’Keeffe

A new study by the University of Kent’s Department of Religious Studies in the United Kingdom has revealed that more than 70% of the United Nation’s religious non-governmental organisations are Christian. The report, religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for better clarity in how religious NGOs are represented at the UN and for more emphasis to be placed on religious tolerance.

So far so good.  The study also argues for more equitable inclusive processes which incorporate Asian religions more fairly within the world’s premier political body. Now, this is all well and good, but what exactly would that entail? More religion influencing the course of world events? In my opinion this would be a disaster and if anything the world should be trying to reduce the influence religion already has rather than augmenting it.

As a new year gets underway we have yet another religion-anchored genocide on our hands. The Central African Republic (CAR) veers towards filling its own blood bath with religious based violence while a neutered world looks on in exasperation at butchery in a far off land. While religion may be just a guise to express long held ethnic divisions and competition for resources between the northern mostly Muslims and the southern mostly Christians in CAR, there is no denying that religion is the central expression of most hatred that characterises such carnage in the world. With nearly a million people displaced because of the fighting and countless people already dead CAR is bracing itself to descend into religious warfare that some predict will echo the slaughter Rwanda experienced in 1994. Once again another country divides itself into us and them.

Nothing says us and them quite as well as religion does. As a species we know it all too well, or at least we should by now.  Our history is littered with needless death and mayhem neatly packaged up as religious burden.  The Thirty Years War, the Crusades, Northern Ireland, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Sudan – the list is endless.  Religion has always been the excuse rather than the reason to express hatred, separation and greed. Is it time to place greater emphasis on the role that religion plays in world politics? I think not. It is time that this excuse, which has given the gravest licence to human suffering, is relegated to the history books once and for all. We need to move on by placing religion secondary to our common needs and decoupling it from our political processes.

I am not denying that religious institutions and organisations do a lot of good in the world. There are many examples of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist organisations that do meaningful and important work throughout the world. Just as there are many examples of secular organisations doing similar. The question is if our good deeds come from some political space that requires some duty of care to be given to our fellow man or if it is an instinctive human desire to help that motivates the good in people. If it is the former then that would rather nullify the humanity raison d’etre of the UN. Far more likely is the latter.

Empathising, respecting, doing good and helping each are all central facets of being alive. They are not dependent on which religion, if any, that we subscribe to. Along with all the bad, we also have some good. Humanitarianism and caring for the less well-off and troubled comes from a social conscience that I believe is innate to our nature and not dependent on which God we believe in. Helping someone in need has a lot more to do with being human than being religious. Perhaps if religion gave more licence to this aspect of humanity than it does to division then places like CAR wouldn’t be in the mess that they are in.

Defenders of religion may point to the codes of morality within various theological edicts to which our modern societies have based their judicial and social systems upon. Such an argument assumes that without religion humanity would have spiralled into an orgy of violence where man is pitted against man in his lust for power, resources and control. Kind of like what religion has enabled kings, popes and emperors to do throughout history. It might be a chicken and egg debate for some but when it comes to treating ones’ fellow man with decency the moral compass points firmly towards inherent humanity rather than religiosity.

Another argument that may be put forward is that religious organisations constitute the ideals and wishes of large groups of people who count themselves as members of that religion. By this representation then surely a collective voice at international level should be called for? Indeed religions do represent large amounts of people but it is the job of the state to represent its citizens at international level rather than a hierarchical undemocratic institution that represents some of ‘us’ and none of ‘them’.

The UN, for all its troubles, is the only global institution that binds all of humanity together. A call for a greater role for religion is counterproductive in trying to resolve our deep seated differences. We need to focus on our commonalities rather than our divisions if we are to truly address the problems we face together. Religion, it is time to move on.

Paul O’Keeffe is a Doctoral Fellow at La Sapienza University of Rome

Image: Cambodian police confront protestors in December 2013. Photo: Luc Forsyth. Used under Creative Commons license.

At least four people were killed when Cambodian police opened fire on a garment workers protest in Canadia Industrial Park in Phnom Penh. The workers were demanding a minimum wage of $154 a month from employers who supply Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands as well as H&M.

The garment industry is Cambodia’s biggest export industry generating over $5 billion in international sales for the country in 2013 and employing some 500,000 people work in over 400 garment and shoe factories. Many of the workers were paid just $61 a month until last March when minimum wages were raised to $80.

Unions have demanded that the wages be raised further and have organized a series of strikes to press the government. Over 130 strikes were reported in 2013, up from 121 in 2012 and almost four times greater than 2010 and 2011, according to the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia. Government officials have so far refused to bow to their demands, with a Ministry of Labor Advisory Committee offering workers a small raise to $95 a month as a compromise.

Over the New Year, tens of thousands of workers around the country went on strike to demand higher wages, prompting the government to send in the security forces. On Thursday, over a dozen people outside the Yakjin factory were beaten by a paratrooper unit armed with batons, steel pipes and even slingshots, sparking outrage, according to the Cambodia Daily.

On Friday several hundred workers blocked traffic to protest the previous day’s violence. In response police opened fire with AK-47 machine guns, killing four and injuring over two dozen others.

“The workers didn’t want violence. We just wanted to block the road . . . the police attacked us and shot us,” Yean Sothear, one of the protestors who was injured, told the Phnom Penh Post. “My friend went to the nearby hospital, but the police ordered them not to treat them – that’s why they were angry.”

“Why are they cracking down on us when we are just demanding our salary?” Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, asked the newspaper.

“We condemn this appalling use of extreme lethal force by security forces,” Naly Pilorge, director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), said in a statement. “Security forces must now put an immediate end to the use of live ammunition against civilians and ensure that all those injured are safely transported to hospital without delay.”

The protests and the accompanying violence have battered Cambodia’s reputation as a model of fair production. For over a decade the country has been able to point to the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) monitoring program allowing it to compare itself favorably with Bangladesh where workers make just $38 a month.

While industry blames the unions for fomenting trouble, independent experts have backed the unions.

“Cambodia’s longstanding reputation as a “success story” in efforts to end sweatshop abuses in export garment production is wearing thin,” wrote researchers from Stanford Law School and the Worker Rights Consortium in a report titled “Monitoring in the Dark” published in February 2013.

The report noted that working conditions were only reported to factory managers and the brands that source from the factory which led to “a glaring lack of transparency and an institutional overemphasis on protecting the interests of factory owners and international buyers, rather than responding to appeals from garment workers to protect them from abuse.”

In five-star hotels on Mumbai’s seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India’s Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.

It is Children’s Day in India. On page nine of the Times of India, a study reports that every second child is malnourished. Nearly two million children under the age of five die every year from preventable illness as common as diarrhoea. Of those who survive, half are stunted due to a lack of nutrients. The national school dropout rate is 40 per cent. Statistics like these flow like a river permanently in flood. No other country comes close. The small thin legs dangling in a banyan tree are poignant evidence.

The leviathan once known as Bombay is the centre for most of India’s foreign trade, global financial dealing and personal wealth. Yet at low tide on the Mithi River, in ditches, at the roadside, people are forced to defecate. Half the city’s population is without sanitation and lives in slums without basic services. This has doubled since the 1990s when “Shining India” was invented by an American advertising firm as part of the Hindu nationalist BJP party’s propaganda that it was “liberating” India’s economy and “way of life”.

Barriers protecting industry, manufacturing and agriculture were demolished. Coke, Pizza Hut, Microsoft, Monsanto and Rupert Murdoch entered what had been forbidden territory. Limitless “growth” was now the measure of human progress, consuming both the BJP and Congress, the party of independence. Shining India would catch up China and become a superpower, a “tiger”, and the middle classes would get their proper entitlement in a society where there was no middle. As for the majority in the “world’s largest democracy”, they would vote and remain invisible.

There was no tiger economy for them. The hype about a high-tech India storming the barricades of the first world was largely a myth. This is not to deny India’s rise in pre-eminence in computer technology and engineering, but the new urban technocratic class is relatively tiny and the impact of its gains on the fortunes of the majority is negligible.

When the national grid collapsed in 2012, leaving 700 million people powerless, almost half had so little electricity, they “barely noticed”, wrote one observer.  On my last two visits, the front pages boasted that India had “gatecrashed the super-exclusive ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) club” and launched its “largest ever” aircraft carrier and sent a rocket to Mars: the latter lauded by the government as “a historic moment for all of us to cheer”.

The cheering was inaudible in the rows of tarpaper shacks you see as you land at Mumbai international airport and in myriad villages denied  basic technology, such as light and safe water. Here, land is life and the enemy is a rampant “free market”. Foreign multinationals’ dominance of food grains, genetically modified seed, fertilisers and pesticides has sucked small farmers into a ruthless global market and led to debt and destitution. More than 250,000 farmers have killed themselves since the mid-1990s – a figure that may be a fraction of the truth as local authorities wilfully misreport “accidental” deaths.

“Across the length and breadth of India,” says the acclaimed environmentalist Vandana Shiva, “the government has declared war on its own people.” Using colonial-era laws, fertile land has been taken from poor farmers for as little as 300 rupees a square metre; developers have sold it for up to 600,000 rupees a square metre. In Uttar Pradesh, a new expressway serves “luxury” townships with sporting facilities and a Formula One racetrack, having eliminated 1225 villages. The farmers and their communities have fought back, as they do all over India; in 2011, four were killed and many injured in clashes with police.

For Britain, India is now a “priority market” – to quote the government’s arms sales unit. In 2010, David Cameron took the heads of the major British arms companies to Delhi and signed a $700 million contract to supply Hawk fighter-bombers. Disguised as “trainers”, these lethal aircraft were used against the villages of East Timor. They may well be the Cameron government’s biggest single “contribution” to Shining India.

The opportunism is understandable. India has become a model of the imperial cult of “neo-liberalism” – almost everything must be privatized, sold off. The worldwide assault on social democracy and the collusion of major parliamentary parties – begun in the US and Britain in the 1980s – has produced in India a dystopia of extremes and a spectre for us all.

Whereas Nehru’s democracy succeeded in granting the vote – today, there are 3.2 million elected representatives – it failed to build a semblance of social and economic justice. Widespread violence against women is only now precariously on a political agenda. Secularism may have been Nehru’s grand vision, but Muslims in India remain among the poorest, most discriminated against and brutalised minority on earth. According to the 2006 Sachar Commission, in the elite institutes of technology, only four out of 100 students are Muslim, and in the cities Muslims have fewer chances of regular employment than the “untouchable” Dalits and indigenous Adivasis. “It is ironic,” wrote Khushwant Singh, “that the highest incidence of violence against Muslims and Christians has taken place in Gujarat, the home state of Bapu Gandhi.”

Gujarat is also the home state of Narendra  Modi, winner of three consecutive victories as BJP chief minister and the favourite to see off the diffident Rahul Gandhi in national elections in May. With his xenophobic Hindutva ideology, Modi appeals directly to dispossessed Hindus who believe Muslims are “privileged”. Soon after he came to power in 2002, mobs slaughtered hundreds of Muslims. An investigating commission heard that Modi had ordered officials not to stop the rioters – which he denies. Admired by powerful industrialists, he boasts the highest “growth” in India.

In the face of these dangers, the great popular resistance that gave India its independence is stirring. The gang rape of a Delhi student in 2012 has brought vast numbers into the streets, reflecting disillusionment with the political elite and anger at its acceptance of injustice and a modernised feudalism. The popular movements are often led or inspired by extraordinary women – the likes of Medha Patkar, Binalakshmi Nepram, Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy – and they demonstrate that the poor and vulnerable need not be weak. This is India’s enduring gift to the world, and those with corrupted power ignore it at their peril.

This article first appeared in the Guardian, UK. Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger 

America Greatest Threat to World Peace

January 6th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

new poll affirms it. Respondents in 68 countries said so. Anti-US sentiment is palpable. It doesn’t surprise. It’s for good reason.

Around one-fourth of people surveyed believe America is the greatest threat to world peace. Pakistan was second with 8%. Other countries mentioned were Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and North Korea.

About 13% of Americans believe the same thing as many abroad. Others in Latin America feel the same way. Moroccans, Lebanese and Iraqis called Israel the number one threat.

For sure Palestinians, Syrians and many others throughout the Middle East and beyond feel the same way about Israel and America.

Both countries threaten world peace. They wage war on humanity. They deny their own people fundamental rights.

They ignore rule of law principles. They operate extrajudicially. They do whatever they please. They remain unaccountable.

Peace begins at home. It means protecting the rights of all citizens and residents. It includes respecting rule of law principles.

It’s about democratic values. It involves government of, by and for everyone. It features peace, equity, justice and fairness above all.

Not in Israel. Not in America. Conditions in both countries are deplorable. They’re worse than ever.

Israel spies lawlessly like America. It does it aggressively. It targets Americans. Previous articles explained.

On January 3, The New York Times headlined “Court Grants Secrecy for Memo on Phone Data.”

Only a police state one would do so. A three-judge panel “ruled (unanimously) that the Obama administration may continue to withhold a (secret) Justice Department memo,” said The Times.

It “came down on the side of a broad conception of the executive branch’s power to keep secret its interpretation of what the law permits it to do.”

It makes it easier for federal authorities to circumvent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosure.

The court approved giving FBI officials customers’ telecommunications data without subpoena or court order.

Doing so violates the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). It restricts telecommunications wiretaps. It prevents unauthorized government access to private online communications.

It sets strict guidelines for search warrants. It protects stored online communications. It prohibits pen registering and/or trap and trace devices.

They’re used to record dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information for processing or transmitting wire or electronic communications without court order.

Emails may be subpoenaed lawfully. Warrantless authorizations are strictly prohibited. USA Patriot Act provisions subvert ECPA restrictions. So does the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorized surveillance relating to “foreign intelligence information” between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.”

It restricts spying on US citizens and residents to those engaged in espionage in America and territory under US control.

The 2008 FISA Amendments Act authorized warrantless spying. The 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act renewed it for another five years. No federal statute authorizes mass surveillance.

Doing do is unconstitutional. So is warrantless spying. It doesn’t matter. Meaningful oversight is lacking. Courts largely OK what demands rejection.

On January 3, the secret/rubber-stamp Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court renewed US intelligence agencies’ authority to collect telecommunications meta-data.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) announced it, saying:

“It is the administration’s view, consistent with the recent holdings of the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York and Southern District of California, as well as the findings of 15 judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on 36 separate occasions over the past seven years, that the telephony metadata collection program is lawful.”

The Justice Department appealed “the lone contrary decision issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.”

At issue is Judge Richard Leon’s December 16 ruling. He justifiably called NSA spying unconstitutional. It’s “almost Orwellian,” he said.

He’s the exception that proves the rule. The federal bench is stacked with right-wing extremists. Odds favor his ruling being overturned.

FISA court judges renewed mass surveillance for three months. They did so before. They’ll do it again when current authorization expires. It applies to all meta-data spying at home and abroad.

Handing over private telecommunications data to government agencies without court order or subpoenas raises serious constitutional concerns.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued for injunctive relief. It did so under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

It sought “disclosure of a memorandum prepared by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in January 2010 concerning statutory provisions governing the conduct of electronic surveillance.”

DOJ Office of the Inspector (OIG) released a report titled “A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records.”

It pertains to FBI “informal requests” to obtain private telephone records “without any legal process at all.”

Doing so violates 18 USC No. 2702 of the Stored Communications Act. Electronic Communications Privacy Act provisions relating to regulating provider disclosures and government demands for communications records and content are violated.

Federal authorities stonewalled EFF’s request for information. “Defendant DOJ has violated the applicable statutory time limit for rendering decisions on administrative appeals under the FOIA,” said EFF.

DOJ “wrongfully withheld the requested records from plaintiff.”

EFF sought injunctive and “such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.”

Appeals Court judges unanimously rejected EFF’s suit. They didn’t surprise. They agreed with a district court ruling.

They said withholding OLC memorandum disclosure is permitted under a legal exception. It’s called “deliberative process privilege.”

It’s legalistic mumbo jumbo. It can be interpreted any way courts wish. According to Appeals Court judges:

“The District Court correctly concluded that the unclassified portions of the OLC Opinion could not be released without harming the deliberative processes of the government by chilling the candid and frank communications necessary for effective governmental decision-making.”

Government agency memos, other official communications and documents reflect policy.

The New York Times said OLC “issues binding legal advice to the executive branch on whether proposed actions would be legal.”

“If it says something is permitted, government officials who act on that advice are essentially immune from prosecution by the Justice Department.”

It’s done for precisely that purpose. An earlier article discussed notorious Bush administration memos and other documents. More on this below.

EFF attorney David Sobel called the Appeals Court ruling “troubling.” He described OLC memos as a body of “secret law.” It denies what the public has a right to know.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine how a different case in the DC Circuit is likely to have a different outcome in light of this opinion,” he said. It’s harder imagining Supreme Court justices overturning it.

Justice Department attorneys lie. They argued that memos like OLC’s contain classified information. “It’s highly specific in nature and known to a very few individuals,” they said.

It pertains to “secret (FBI) intelligence-gathering techniques (against) hostile entities.” They’re undefined.

They include ordinary Americans. They include virtually anyone FBI operatives claim for any reason or none at all. Bush administration officials operated the same way.

A January 9, 2002 John Yoo/Robert Delahunty memo said in part:

“(T)he laws of armed conflict (don’t) apply to the conditions of detention and the procedures for trial of members of al Queda and the Taliban militia.”

These treaties “do not protect members of the al Queda organization (or) the Taliban militia.”

Days later, Bush issued a finding. It designated Al Qaeda and Taliban members “enemy combatants.”

It called them unprotected by Third Geneva provisions. At the same time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees “are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.”

To this day, CIA operatives and Pentagon commanders take full advantage. They claim “military necessity” to do whatever they wish.

America wages dirty wars. Fundamental laws are violated with impunity. Homeland practices are similar. Government memos and other documents run cover for lawlessness.

Ordinary people are gravely harmed. Many wind up political prisoners in America’s gulag. Torture occurs at home like abroad.

Police state lawlessness is official policy. Obama exceeds the worst of George Bush.

Democracy is a figure of speech. Freedom is vanishing in plain sight.

Rule of law protections don’t exist. Anything goes is policy. Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. State terror targets non-believers.

Mass surveillance watches everyone. Congress enacts police state laws. Federal courts rubber-stamp them.

People wanting to live free are considered state enemies. Challenging government of, by and for privileged elites is criminalized.

Orwell envisioned a dark future. It’s worse than he imagined. Wars rage without end. Big Brother watches everyone.

State-of-the-art technology is used repressively. Privacy is a thing of the past. Electoral politics doesn’t work.

Monied interests run America. Both parties are two sides of the same coin. Democrats are as ruthless as Republicans.

Vital change more than ever is needed. Ordinary people are on their own to achieve it. Collective activism has power. What better time to use it than now.

Civil disobedience is a longstanding tradition. America’s Declaration of Independence states:

“(W)henever any form of government becomes destructive (of unalienable rights too important to lose), it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government…”

“(W)hen a long train of abuses and usurpations (establishes) absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government.”

Failure to act assures worse ahead than now. If that’s not incentive enough to change things, what is?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/america-greatest-threat-world-peace/

Nearly half of public school children in the United States were poor in the school year that ended in 2011, according to a new study by the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), the oldest US educational charity. In 17 states in the South and four in the West, children from low-income families comprised a majority in public schools.

The SEF study, based on data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), further found that the percentage of low-income students in public schools rose dramatically from 2001 to 2011, far outpacing public school funding. The study also found a direct correlation between levels of poverty and academic performance.

The findings are the latest exposure of the growth of poverty in the US alongside burgeoning social inequality.

The SEF study defines poor students as those qualifying for either free or reduced-price lunches in preschool through 12th grade (P-12). According to Department of Agriculture Guidelines, a student from a household with an income below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG)—about $29,000 for a family of four—qualified for free lunches. Children from four-person households with incomes below 185 percent FPG (about $41,000) qualified for reduced-price lunches.

Levels of poverty among schoolchildren were the highest in the South and West, including in all but two of the 15 Southern states. The five most impoverished school populations also came from states in these regions: Mississippi (71 percent), New Mexico (68 percent), Louisiana (66 percent), Oklahoma (61 percent), and Arkansas (60 percent).

The SEF study’s most staggering finding is that 48 percent of all US public school children come from poor households. While figures for poor school children were highest in the South and West, 53 percent and 50 percent respectively, poverty levels were also extremely high in the Midwest, 44 percent, and the Northeast, 40 percent.

The study notes that reduced family incomes in the US since the 2008 recession have directly contributed to the growth in the number of poor students in public schools, especially in states hard hit by the housing market crisis. However, data from the US Department of Agriculture show a consistent growth in rates of poor students in most US states since at least as far back as 1989, long before the recession hit.

According to NCES data, the growth of child poverty between 2001 and 2011 was particularly sharp, rising by 32 percent—an increase of more than 5.7 million children. In 2007, a year before the recession hit, the South became the first region of the country in modern times to have a majority of poor students in its public schools. Three years later, poor children also became the majority in schools in the West.

More than two-thirds of African American and Hispanic public school students attend schools where poor students are the majority. A high number of students from Pacific Islander (53 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native (65 percent) households also attend schools where more than half of students are poor. About a third of white and Asian students attend schools where the majority is poor.

A comparison between living areas across the country—city, suburb, town, rural—finds the highest concentration of majority poor students in cities (60 percent), followed by towns (52 percent), rural areas (44 percent), and suburbs (40 percent). While the Northeast had the lowest percentage of poor students in public schools, 40 percent, it had the highest rate of majority poor students in cities—71 percent.

However, several Northeastern states have extremely high levels of poor students in their cities. The figure for New Jersey is 78 percent, for Pennsylvania it is 75 percent, and for New York it is 74 percent. In these same three states, 30 percent or less of students in suburban schools are poor, an indication of striking social inequality in these urban centers.

While the proportion of students from poor families has continued to increase, the growth of public school funding has not kept pace in all but the Northeast region. The Midwest, which has been devastated by the collapse of manufacturing, saw a 40 percent increase in poor students between 2001 and 2011, but per pupil expenditures increased by only 12 percent. Nationwide during this decade, school funding has increased a paltry 14 percent.

The study also found that the regions with the largest proportion of poor students spend the least on educating them. For example, the South (53 percent poor students) spent $9,226 per pupil in 2011, compared to the Northeast (40 percent poor students), which spent $16,045 per pupil. This disparity in funding can only serve to perpetuate social inequality and the decay of education in poorer schools.

Data cited by the SEF study show that poor students are more likely than students from more well-off families to have lower test scores, fall behind in school, drop out, and fail to acquire a college degree. Problems faced by children coming from households where poverty, hunger and the accompanying stress are a daily fact of life are exacerbated by conditions in schools that are starved for funding.

Test scores for the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) strongly suggest that from 2003 to 2011, despite a slight upward trend in scores overall for 4th graders, the gap between the scores of low-income and higher income students has remained relatively constant. Both in 2003 and 2011, higher income students scored an average of 28 points higher on a 240-point test.

Austerity budgets at the federal, state and local level threaten to further starve the poorest school districts of cash, while growing income inequality will increase the percentage of low-income students attending these struggling public schools.

In our last article, “Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer than You May Realize,” we defined where today’s social-political movement is within the eight stages of successful movements. We have passed the “Take-Off Stage” (Stage 4), gotten through the “Perception of Failure” (Stage 5) and are in the phase of “Building Majority Support” (Stage 6) which is the last stage before “Victory.” In this article we delve deeper into the tasks of the movement in this stage and apply those tasks to current issues faced today.

In this stage, which can take many years, the primary task of the people-powered social movement is to build national consensus through broad and deep grassroots organizing.  The power holders are currently in a crisis management mode. They continue to defend their policies while shifting positions and taking countermeasures to undermine people power. During this stage public opinion is shifting, majorities oppose the current situation and are beginning to see that new alternative solutions must be put in place. People-powered activists are in a battle with the power holders for the hearts and minds of super-majorities of the people.

We ended our last article with a key point that we need to highlight here: our goal is to build a mass movement, which has the support of super-majorities of Americans and has mobilized up to 3.5% of the population.  Therefore, the target of our protests is not the government or a corporation, the target is the people: to educate and mobilize them. We want to show that there is an effective movement speaking to the people’s concerns and putting forth views that they support. We protest the power holders to expose their actions but do not expect them to be capable of addressing our concerns adequately in this stage.

Build unity around the values of the movement

The foundation of the current phase is massive public education and building support in all segments of the population for the values of the movement. This is done through grassroots organizing involving constant outreach to friends, neighbors and family – the local community.  In these conversations, people gain a greater understanding of how the problems of the present system affect them; how the present system violates their values and principles; and how it is in their own self-interest to do something about it.

This is happening now; one example is the low-wage worker movements. While workers and their allies participate in resistance actions like one-day walkouts or mass protests on key shopping days like the Black Friday’s protests at 1,500 Walmarts, members of the community are joining in solidarity. People are learning that when a corporation provides poverty-level pay to a worker, we all subsidize that policy through food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies.  The Walton family and Walmart executives (as well as other poverty paying corporations) make massive profits because of worker-subsidies from all of us.  And, paying workers an inadequate wage for their labor violates our values.

While these corporations continue to refuse to change their policies, even though they could afford to and would benefit from doing so, the power holders are responding as expected at this stage with inadequate solutions. The movement has forced 13 states to increase the minimum wage in 2014 which will affect 2.5 million people. This is not a complete victory because no state is putting in place a real living wage. And, in the one place that voted for the movement’s demand, a $15 per hour wage, it is being challenged in court. The struggle must continue. It is not acceptable for workers to still be poverty workers, though some will have less poverty.

Whenever we push to solve current problems, the movement should also put forward a vision of a paradigm shift.  When it comes to workers, one shift is to make workers into owners and decision makers in worker-owned businesses, like cooperatives so they can share the wealth they help to create.  More existing businesses are being converted to worker-owned businesses and there is a growing worker-cooperative movement.  And it is important to link the problems of underpaid workers to the broader economic problem of the wealth divide and build support for the many solutions to that problem.

 Exposing the myth and explaining the reality

An important task of the movement is to expose the difference between ‘official policies’ and ‘actual policies.’ That is, what the power holders say they are doing and what the policies actually do, which are often the complete opposite. Every government policy put forward by either of the two corporate-funded parties is designed to help their funders, not the people.

For example, the public is told that we are going to war for democracy or for ‘humanitarian’ reasons, not for resources for corporations. Another example is the ‘all of the above’ energy policy which is said to address climate change and create energy independence but actually does neither while lining the pockets of Big Oil and Gas. On issue after issue there is a discrepancy between the official policies and the actual policies. One of our key jobs is to separate myth from fact, so people understand what is going on around them. Groups like Wikileaks and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden are doing critical work in exposing the myths by leaking documents that make it undeniable what the government is really doing.

We are going to be seeing myth in hyper-gear in January around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The TPP is the largest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization in the early 90s.  The government has worked hard, with the cooperation of the mass media, to keep the TPP secret from the public.  But, now most people in the activist community are aware of the TPP thanks to high profile protests and leaks of portions of the TPP that reveal the US is pushing an extreme corporate power grab. And more people are aware that the President is trying to circumvent a democratic process of review in Congress.

 In early January some of the most pro-corporate members of Congress will put forward a bill calling for Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.  Fast Track would permit the President to sign the TPP before it goes to Congress. Members of Congress would then have a limited time to review the thousands of pages in this agreement that has been negotiated over the past four years with the help of 600 corporate advisers; they would not be allowed to make changes to it and would only be allowed an up or down vote.

 Fast Track is needed to prevent Congress from doing its job under the Constitution. The Commerce Clause gives the constitutional responsibility of “regulating trade between nations” to Congress.  If Congress does its job that will require the contents of the TPP to be made public, hearings to be held and experts and citizens to weigh in.  If the people know what is in the TPP, it will not become law. The only way for the TPP to pass is for its contents to remain secret.

We expect to hear President Obama and corrupt senators like Max Baucus (D-MT) and members of Congress like David Camp (R-MI) telling us that these rigged trade agreements are necessary for the economy.  We just passed the 20 year anniversary of NAFTA, on which the current trade negotiations are based, and the opposite has happened. We need to explode the myth. These trade agreements are not to create jobs or raise wages or even grow the US economy, they are to make transnational corporations wealthier and increase the profits of the investor class.  They are only good for the wealthiest and are terrible for the rest of us, as a recent report found:

“A new Public Citizen report shows that not only did promises made by proponents [of NAFTA] not materialize, but many results are exactly the opposite. Such outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, one million net U.S. jobs lost because of NAFTA, a doubling of immigration from Mexico, larger agricultural trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and more than $360 million paid to corporations after “investor-state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies.”

Stopping the TPP will be job one for the movement in 2014. January will be the key month to engage in this issue because a vote on Fast Track is expected by the end of the month.  The TPP is an issue that unites the movement because it affects not just workers but the environment, regulation of finance, Internet freedom, food safety, healthcare and gives corporations control of virtually every aspect of our lives. There are many ways to organize in local communities to unite people and stop the TPP. We can stop the TPP and when we do, it will be a major victory of the people over the transnational corporations and their government allies.

 Our task is to change the political environment, not succumb to it.

 One of the key points in this phase of the movement is to avoid compromise. We are often told by those who want reform that the solution we are urging is “not on the table.”  We need to refuse to accept the limits of the current political table.  It is evident to all that politics in the United States is corrupted by money from big business interests and the wealthy.  It is corruption that determines what is “on the table” so we need to respond that we are not limited to the corruption-defined political table. We are seeking real solutions that require a paradigm shift. Our task is to change the political environment, not succumb to it.

 An example of some advocates making the mistake of accepting compromises is the health law.  Advocates know that the empirical evidence shows that the only approach that will provide quality healthcare to all and control costs is a single payer, Medicare for all, system.  We saw a variety of approaches to the “not on the table” claim of those in power during the debate on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 Many single payer advocates bought into the ACA, which is really a big insurance scam, because they were Democratic Party-leaning organizations. These groups were given tens of millions of dollars to advocate for the ACA.  This is the classic strategy described in leaked documents from Stratfor, the private intelligence firm that works with big business and government, of how the power holders deal with political movements.  They divide and conquer by defining four groups of activists.  First, they pulled the ‘realists’ and ‘opportunists’ away from the movement by giving them access to politicians and funding for their work.  Then, they further try to isolate the ‘radicals’ (people who want transformative change of the system) by pulling the ‘idealists’ away.  Idealists were given the fake choice of the public option, not only was this not a real solution to the health crisis but it was never really on the table.

The problems with the roll out of the ACA website exposed the deeper problems, that the law is a complicated, insurance-based and for-profit approach that will consistently lead to greater costs and obstacles for patients and will weaken our public insurances. The ACA entrenches a system that treats healthcare as a commodity rather than a public good and that will make some investors very rich. This has renewed calls for single payer as people see how such a system would be superior in many ways.  This makes it essential for those who favor single payer to call out groups like MoveOn, who are closely tied to the Democratic Party, for their continued advocacy for the ACA as well as elected officials who claim to support single payer but who are staying silent despite the problems with Obamacare.

Keep the moral high ground and remain a movement based in principled dissent

One of the risks in this phase of the movement is becoming a member of the professional non-profit community. Moyer calls these groups ‘professional opposition organizations’ or POOs. Instead we must remain what he calls a principled dissent group. We must advocate for transformational change and not for inadequate reforms that do not solve the problem but merely make it look like the system is responding to our concerns.

During this time period the power structure will try to pull the movement into the system. Foundations may start to offer financial support.  Care must be taken here because money is needed to build the necessary grassroots infrastructure, but funding cannot have strings attached that compromise the goals of the movement.

The kind of infrastructure that is needed is grassroots organizations that understand the goals and strategy and how the various sub-issues being worked on relate to the overall goals of the movement.  Infrastructure includes training of hundreds of people who either organize grassroots groups or work with grassroots networks, or who work on the ten fronts of struggle we identified in our last article.  Additional infrastructure is needed to build movement media.  The corporate mass media will not cover the movement because their job is to make people think it has disappeared and when we have victories, they will make sure not to give the movement credit.  We need to build our own media so people in the movement can stay informed on issues and on what others in the movement are doing as well as have a tool for reaching out to the public.

In addition to remaining true to our principles, we need to be open to expanding our demands.  During this phase, as we better understand the issues we are working on, we will find that the problems run deeper than we realized.  This has shown itself in debates in the environmental movement, e.g. rather than calling for no Keystone pipeline, we need to be calling for no tar sands mining.  Similarly, rather than regulating fracking for methane gas, we need to be calling for a ban on fracking. Indeed, when the overall energy situation is looked at the movement needs to be making a broad call for the end of the extraction economy and putting in place a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy.

Of course, this will be ‘off the political table’ but it is the only approach that makes sense in light of the ecological destruction of extraction, the militarism caused by resource conflicts and the steps needed to combat climate change. This has led to aggressive actions by front-line environmentalists and indigenous peoples with blockades, tree-sits, mass protests and other acts of civil resistance. If the traditional groups are to remain relevant they will be pulled toward these new groups as we are beginning to see, reversing divide and rule into unite and win.

A goal is to hold the POOs accountable and to keep them from co-opting the movement’s goals and allowing the power holders to undermine the movement through false solutions. We expand on this more in our article, “Gang Green or Fresh Greens.”

 Emphasize our role as ‘change agents’

During this phase of building national consensus we need to change our roles.  While we are still ‘rebels’ against the current system, our primary job in this phase is to be ‘change agents.’  Our target is mobilizing the general public, especially those involved and directly affected by current problems.  Change agents operate not by being in the public spotlight as we were during the Take Off phase when our rebel role dominated, but to be people who organize, enable and nurture others to get involved as participants.

One pitfall to avoid at this point is becoming a ‘negative rebel.’ Those who do not understand the progression and tasks of a successful social movement may become discouraged by their perceived lack of progress. They may resort to violent tactics believing that previous tactics failed. This path will actually undermine the movement by giving openings for power holders to infiltrate it and be violent in response and by scaring the public.

The role of the change agent is to encourage conversations that are open and listening.  We are not dictating that we have all the solutions, but engaging with others, providing an informed opinion and finding solutions together. And we must do more than just educate on one issue, but must show how that issue is related to other issues and the need for systemic change. This requires showing that the underlying world view of the current power structure is wrong and that a paradigm shift is needed. One way that issues get connected is by building coalitions or networks that bring people from different movements together.

The global private intelligence firm, Stratfor, has been monitoring the resistance movement and working with corporations and governments to stop it. A 2012 report said: “Once the tactics of a protest movement have been assessed as organized and sophisticated, it’s time to assess strategic weaknesses of the state that the movement can attack. Governments rule by controlling key pillars of society, through which they exercise authority over the population. These pillars include security forces (police and military), the judicial system, civil services and unions.” Stratfor knows that when change agents pull people from the pillars of power to the movement, the government has a problem. A 2013 Stratfor report says:

 “When assessing a crowd, the number of protesters is not the only thing to focus on. The composition of the crowd is just as significant. If the protest comprises only students or marginalized people, it is far easier to quash. However, if members of the military and police, bureaucrats, educators, clergy and business owners begin to participate in protests, it is a sign that the protest movement is much more serious, since these people constitute the pillars that provide power to a regime and have the institutional capacity to better organize a movement that employs sophisticated tactics.”

Change agents and the movement need to not only focus on our core constituencies, but also on people who are in the power structure.  When we pull people from the power structure, the movement not only grows stronger, but the power holders get weaker.

There are signs that the power holders are worried about the growing people power of the social movement.  Recently leaked documents from Washington State show that Bank of America has a team of 20 people who troll the Internet looking for protests against the bank. The documents also show that BoA works with the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the law enforcement Fusion Center of Homeland Security as well as local police in what they call a ‘public-private partnership.’

Another end of the year report by the Information Technology firm Gartner predicts a “much larger scale” occupy-like movement at the end of 2014 that will result in political discussions on the issues the movement is raising. Further, they warn that businesses need to avoid being seen as the culprits in the downward decline in wages and jobs or risk a “backlash in the form of buyer strikes, labor unrest and increased scrutiny of owner and executive compensation.”

 Persist. This is a marathon with hurdles, not a sprint

We have come a long way. On December 16, 2010, almost a year before occupy and the day before the Arab Spring began with the Tunisian fruit vendor lighting himself on fire, we were part of a protest against the Afghanistan war in Washington, DC.  At the protest 131 people were arrested opposing the war while President Obama was inside telling the media the Afghanistan war was going well.  The theme of the protest was that we needed to develop a culture of resistance in the United States.  Now, two years later we can see that culture of resistance growing. We have come a long way.

The current stage of movement evolution is one that could last for years, even more than a decade. Or, it could be one that moves more quickly. When we organized the occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza in 2011 we researched where the people of the United States stood and discovered they were more radical than the corporate media was letting us know. We published an article We Stand With the Majority, then in the month before OWS began we updated it with The American People Could Rule Better than the Elites. Essentially, two-thirds of the American people were already questioning current policies and looking for alternatives. Perhaps this is why President Obama ran on “hope and change” because his polling and focus groups showed that is where the people were.

So, we may be further along than we realize.  This week someone sent us this meme – 2014 the Year Everything Changes and #RiseTogether #NoLongerIgnored.  We have no doubt 2014 is going to be an amazing year for the social-political movement that is growing daily. We are likely to see some victories, perhaps some very important ones.  There will be many victories on the road to our ultimate success. There will also be failures. We should celebrate the victories and learn from the failures.

These are exciting times to be involved with this movement. We’ve already come a long way, but the best is yet to come.

Sign up for the daily news digest of Popular Resistance, here.

This article is produced by PopularResistance.org in conjunction with AlterNet.  It is based on PopularResistance.org’s weekly newsletter reviewing the activities of the resistance movement.

Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD are participants in PopularResistance.org; they co-direct It’s Our Economy and co-host Clearing the FOG. Their twitters are @KBZeese and MFlowers8.

The former United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Iraq says that recent crises in some Iraqi cities have resulted from the US occupation of the country.

“The recent fighting in Fallujah, Ramadi and other towns is a clear result of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq,” Denis Halliday told Press TV on Sunday.

Halliday said the United States has created sectarian divisions in Iraq since it invaded the country in 2003.

“During that period they encouraged division between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, which had not been the case generally speaking prior to the American invasion.”

He went on to say that “the tragedy now is that the strife between religious interests in Iraq as in other parts of the region has become dangerous and life-threatening calamitous to Iraq, to Syria, to Lebanon as well.”

“Americans can be blamed” Halliday said, but added that “only the people of the Middle East can resolve this.”

The cities of Fallujah and Ramadi have been the scene of deadly clashes between security forces and the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants over the past days. Security officials said the fighting left more than 100 people dead in the two flashpoint cities on Friday.

Iraqi forces reportedly lost control of Fallujah in Anbar to the militants on Saturday.

The violence broke out on December 30, 2013, when the army removed an anti-government protest camp in Ramadi. Authorities said the camp was used as “headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda.”

Iraqi security forces are preparing for a major attack on Fallujah. According to a security official, Special Forces conducted several operations in the city on Sunday.

Fallujah is the nearest town to Baghdad on the road between Baghdad and Anbar province.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said the US would support the government of Iraq against al Qaeda-linked groups, but would not send troops, saying “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.”

Obama’s Fraudulent Defense of the Unemployed

January 6th, 2014 by Andre Damon

As Congress reassembles following the holiday break, the White House and the Democratic Party are seeking to perpetrate a political fraud on the American people. Having overseen the Christmas expiration of extended jobless benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed people, the White House is now presenting its call for Congress to restore the benefits for a paltry three months as a crusade against inequality.

“Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline—the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job,” President Obama said in his weekly address Saturday. Blaming Republicans for letting the benefits expire, he declared, “So when Congress comes back to work this week, their first order of business should be making this right.”

The claim that blame for the expiration of federal jobless benefits rests entirely, or even primarily, with the Republicans is a shameless lie. Notwithstanding Republican opposition to the benefits program, the failure to extend it past its December 28 deadline is, in the first instance, the result of a calculated policy carried out by the White House and congressional Democrats. By agreeing to a budget deal last month that excluded an extension of the benefits, the Democrats ensured that the program would lapse before the new year.

On December 7, White House spokesman Jay Carney made clear that the administration would not make the extension of jobless benefits a precondition for the budget deal then being negotiated by House and Senate Democrats and Republicans. The Democratic leadership immediately fell into line. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who only hours before had said the Democrats would not vote for any budget that did not include funding for long-term jobless benefits, turned around and said such a provision did not “have to be part of the budget.”

The following week, the Democratic-controlled Senate chose to allocate 30 hours to debate a nomination to the Washington DC Circuit Court instead of voting on a jobless benefits extension. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, sets the agenda for the body.

Now, leading Democrats are hinting that they are preparing for the measure to be blocked in a Senate vote on January 6. “We will come back at this issue,” said Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat of New York).

Democratic strategists have told the press they intend to keep the issue of extended jobless benefits on the agenda as long as possible, believing it will give them an advantage in this year’s midterm elections. William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton administration advisor, told the Washington Post: “Those are issues with histories. The public support is pretty clear.”

The White House is linking its call for an extension of federal jobless benefits to its rhetorical pivot to the issue social inequality, spelled out in a speech last month in which Obama called inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” In that speech, Obama signaled his support for a proposal by congressional Democrats to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour—an increase that, if enacted, would still leave the minimum wage in real terms lower than it was in 1968.

Obama took up the theme of social inequality in his Saturday address. “That’s my New Year’s resolution—to do everything I can, every single day, to help make 2014 a year in which more of our citizens can earn their own piece of the American Dream,” he declared.

Other Democrats echoed these points on the Sunday morning talk shows, with Senate Majority Leader Reid declaiming, “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is being squeezed out of existence.”

This hollow and utterly hypocritical “campaign” against social inequality takes place in the wake of White House approval for a bipartisan budget that makes permanent over a trillion dollars in “sequester” budget cuts, increases federal employee pension contributions, establishes new consumption fees, and makes nearly $30 billion in additional cuts in Medicare reimbursements.

It comes in the sixth year of Obama’s presidency, a tenure that has been devoted to bailing out Wall Street while slashing wages and cutting government spending in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. As a consequence, social inequality has soared to record levels, along with the surging stock market and corporate profits.

The cutoff of federal jobless benefits came within two days of an announcement by the Federal Reserve assuring Wall Street that it would continue to pump dollars into the financial markets and lend money to the banks at near-zero interest rates, triggering another surge in share values to new record highs.

According to the White House’s own figures, a total of 1.3 million people lost their unemployment benefits on December 28 as a result of the lapse in federal benefits, and an additional 3.6 million people will be cut off from income support next year. An average of two additional family members are supported by each recipient of jobless aid, bringing to nearly 15 million the number of people potentially affected by the expiration of federal jobless benefits—nearly five percent of the population.

Even if federal jobless benefits are extended, they are likely to be saddled with even further restrictions in preparation for their eventual elimination. In calling for the extension of the benefits last month, the White House noted, “Consistent with previous programs, the EUC [Emergency Unemployment Compensation] program has been gradually phasing down—the median number of weeks one can receive benefits across states is down from a peak of 53 weeks in 2010 to 28 weeks currently and phasing down to 14 weeks under the proposed extension.”

While long-term jobless benefits (for those who have been unemployed for more than half a year) have been extended by Congress 11 times since first introduced in 2008, recent extensions have included cuts in eligibility, bringing the total number of people receiving the benefits down from over 5 million to 1.3 million.

In 2010, about two thirds of long-term unemployed people received benefits. That number had fallen to 54 percent by 2011 and 45 percent in 2012. Now, only about one in three of the long-term unemployed receive any benefits.

The Democratic Party’s cynical references to social inequality are part of an effort to rehabilitate the public image of the Obama administration amid growing popular anger over its right-wing social policies, its illegal domestic spying programs, and its foreign policy of militarism and war. This campaign is being coordinated with the trade union bureaucracy, which staged protests last month calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

All of this once again underscores the social character of the Obama administration, which is nothing but an agency of the banks, the corporations, and the military-intelligence apparatus, supported by an upper-middle class layer of trade union officials and their political allies who seek to give its right-wing policies a “progressive” veneer.

Abdulbaki Todashev, the father of slain Boston Marathon bombing witness Ibragim Todashev, released an open letter to President Obama last week pleading for justice and asking the president to ensure that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) not interfere with his investigation into the killing.

In the letter, the elder Todashev accused the FBI of murdering his son in order to prevent him from testifying in court.

Ibragim Todashev, 27, was shot to death at his Orlando, Florida apartment last May by FBI agents who were interrogating him about his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. An ethnic Chechen like Todashev, Tamerlan Tsarnaev is alleged to have carried out the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings along with his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Three people were killed and another 264 injured in the terrorist bombings.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by police on April 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and faces a possible death sentence on charges of using weapons of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.

The death of Ibragim Todashev remains unexplained more than seven months after the event. Initially, it was alleged that Todashev had lunged at officials, wielding a knife, during the interrogation, upon implicating himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a 2011 triple killing in Waltham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, where the two had been acquainted. Government officials subsequently acknowledged that Todashev had not been armed when he was fatally shot.

Authorities have refused to release the name of the FBI agent who shot and killed the unarmed Todashev at point-blank range, and the FBI has blocked the release of the autopsy report. No charges have been filed and no one has been arrested for what was evidently a state murder.

The establishment media have imposed a virtual wall of silence on the extraordinary death of Todashev, which has continued in relation to the open letter to Obama from his father.

In the letter, Abdulbaki wrote: “My reaching out to you is dictated by the calling of my soul and the unsubsiding pain of the father who has lost his guiltless son to a violent shooting death…

“Did my son know that he had the right to remain silent or did he have rights at all, including the right to live? Being a citizen of another country he might not be aware of the laws as he was only 27 years old and wanted to live so much. No, they left no chances for him, inflicting 13 gunshot wounds and multiple hematomas on his body…

“They did it deliberately so that he can never speak and never take part in court hearings. They put pressure on my son’s friends to prevent them from coming to the court and speaking the truth.”

The letter concluded: “I rely on you, Mr. President, and hope that the prosecutor’s office and the court do not let the agencies conducting internal investigation on this case prevent the truth from coming to light so that at least some part of our grief, caused by the murder of our son, is relieved, and that the murderers stand trial instead of sit in their desk chairs.”

Included with the letter were postmortem photographs of Ibragim Todashev, showing in graphic detail the numerous bullet wounds inflicted to his head and torso.

When asked by reporters about the administration’s plans to respond, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlyn Hayden said that “[W]e have just received Mr. Todashev’s letter and will be reviewing it to determine the appropriate follow-up.” Hayden referred all further questions to the FBI.

Abdulbaki Todashev initially ventured to the US in the immediate aftermath of his son’s killing with the intention of uncovering the reasons for the death, announcing his own private investigation in August. This was meant to coincide with an investigation being conducted by the FBI. Nothing has come of reported official investigations, with authorities at both the federal and state level repeatedly stonewalling attempts to obtain information.

Instead, authorities have taken to intimidating the family and friends of those associated with Todashev. In October, the former live-in girlfriend of Todashev, Tatiana Gruzdeva, was deported to her native Moldova after she gave an interview to Boston Magazine questioning the FBI’s killing of her fiancée. Another friend of Todashev was taken into custody while being denied access to an attorney.

The murder of Todashev and the subsequent government-media cover-up raise the very real possibility that the young man was killed because he was in a position to reveal facts about Tamerlan Tsarnaev that would be highly embarrassing to the US government and various intelligence and police agencies. Todashev may have had information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s links to Islamist separatist terrorists in the Russian Caucasus as well as his relations with the FBI and other US state agencies.

No explanation has been given for the fact that the FBI and CIA had warnings, well in advance of the Boston bombings, of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radical Islamist leanings, having been alerted by Russian authorities in 2011 as well as, according to some reports, by Saudi officials. The FBI says it conducted an investigation of Tsarnaev, questioning him and other family members, and gave him a clean bill of health.

The elder Tsarnaev brother was taken off a federal watch list in 2012 and permitted to travel to Dagestan, neighboring Chechnya, where he reportedly established links to radical Islamist separatist movements. The Tsarnaev family maintained links to Chechen rebels and the US government through the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, set up by Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of Tamerlan and Dhzokhar. That outfit was run from the suburban Washington DC home of Graham Fuller, former vice-chairman of the US National Security Council. (See: “Who is Ruslan Tsarni”).

Last May, the Boston police commissioner and a top Massachusetts Homeland Security official told a congressional panel that local and state police were never informed by the FBI or the federal Homeland Security Department, in advance of the Boston Marathon, an international event that draws tens of thousands of people to downtown Boston, of warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev or the investigation carried out by the FBI. This was despite the presence of state and local police officials on a joint terrorism task force for the region that included the FBI, Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

The Boston Marathon bombings were seized upon by the federal government to impose an unprecedented lockdown of Boston and its environs, during which the streets were occupied by heavily armed troops and police and patrolled by machine gun-mounted armored vehicles, while military helicopters flew overhead. Residents were ordered to say indoors and warrantless house-to-house police searches were conducted throughout entire neighborhoods.

The terror attack, carried out by people who had been closely monitored by the FBI and were known to the CIA, became the occasion for imposing de facto martial law and testing out plans previously drawn up to impose dictatorial control over major American cities.

 by Brian Ward

After facing months of protest led by the Mi’kmaq people of the Elsipogtog Nation in New Brunswick, the frackers of Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. (SWN) have left the province and announced they won’t be back before 2015.

SWN said its teams had finished seismic testing and provided no timeline for when – and if – it would return to begin fracking for natural gas. The demonstrators who took a stand against fracking are glad to see SWN leave – and will now prepare to protest if it decides to return. Suzanne Patles, a Mi’kmaq woman from Nova Scotia who has been part of the protests since June told Al Jazeera America: “They’re probably hoping that morale and the movement will slow down. If the company is gone, everybody is going to strategically plan out their actions.”

The Mi’kmaq people and their supporters carried out regular blockades of Highway 11 through New Brunswick, setting up an encampment along the highway and blocking the road with human chains, burning tires and more. The direct action protests led to a series of confrontations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which set up checkpoints throughout the area. In court, SWN claimed that every day it was unable to conduct testing in the area cost it $54,000.

 Idle No More

SWN’s announcement that it was leaving New Brunswick came immediately after the call from the First Nations’ movement Idle No More for protests across Canada on December 2 in solidarity with the Mi’Kmaq people’s struggle for their land.

The actions included roadblocks, solidarity protests, banner drops and more across Canada, including Vancouver, Winnipeg, Victoria, Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal. In Vancouver, activists were able to shut down the port for an hour until a police assault dispersed them. In a statement to the media, the Vancouver activists wrote:

 “We condemn fracking, which has earned its shameful reputation poisoning water and boosting carbon emissions around the world. We decry the brutality of the RCMP response, and their ongoing collusion with corporate interests. We stand in solidarity with Land Defenders everywhere – from the Mi’kmaq in New Brunswick to the Unis’tot’en in British Columbia – who are fighting rampant and reckless resource extraction, which is the face of modern colonialism. We denounce the assertion that this destruction and the associated corruption, deceit and violence are necessary. And today, we shut down a key piece of the infrastructure of this ideological machine. #ShutDownCanada. ”

The Mi’kmaq people have been fighting these battles for years, but now, the broader movement is building support among labour, the environmental movement and other indigenous struggles. Also, Natives in both the U.S. and Canada have been resisting the Keystone XL pipeline. As one statement put it, “If the Keystone XL pipeline is allowed to be built, TransCanada, a Canadian corporation, would be occupying sacred treaty lands as reserved in the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. It will be stopped by unified resistance.”

On November 19, Lake Huron Regional Chief Isadore Day, Windawtegowinini announced, “We have determined that 60 per cent of mining resources in Ontario are located on [Anishinabek Nation] traditional lands…First Nations must take the lead and have a say in what happens in their traditional and treaty territories. I’m calling on my fellow treaty Chiefs; it’s time to formally assemble, design and organize our interests as a treaty organization specific to issues like mining.”

What is Driving this Continuing Colonial Project?

Capitalism survives only through constant expansion – a fact that dates from the earliest phases of the development of capitalism as a system, as Karl Marx pointed out in Capital Volume 1, discussing the foundations of capitalism in North America:

“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of black skins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production.”

In his book Roots of Oppression: The American Indian Question, Steve Talbot makes a similar point:

“The European conquest of North America, and, later, U.S. westward expansion across Indian lands, had its origin in that brutal process Marx termed the ‘so-called primitive accumulation of capital’: the seizure of another people’s land base in the interest of colonial powers’ ruling elites and for the purpose of generating capital, by transforming that land base into large-scale private property.”

Talbot goes on to explain how the experiences and struggles of African Americans and Native Americans are linked.

 “The original or primary accumulation of capital in the United States was at the expense of both Afro-American and Native American peoples. The enslavement of millions of Africans provided a vast source of labour for super-exploitation, while the genocidal disposition of the Indians provided the soil on which the Afro-Americans were forced to toil. Thus the fate of these oppressed peoples is linked in history, although in different ways, to the accumulation of great wealth of U.S. capitalism.”

This process was accelerated during the period of industrialization in the mid- to late 19th century, when more and more minerals and resources were needed for unfettered capitalist development. The ruling class needed to develop an ideological justification to maintain support for the stealing of Native lands. That included propagating “manifest destiny” – the idea that whites had the “right” to take over the whole of America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Racist ideas about indigenous peoples thrived during this era, where even the “liberals” of the time saw it as the duty of the white man to “civilize” the Natives and assimilate them into white society. That meant not allowing Natives to speak their language, practice their religious ceremonies or have access to many of their food sources. They were also forced to accept economic and social forms that benefited capitalism, like private property and the nuclear family.

Broad acceptance of racism against Natives allowed the U.S. and Canada to move Natives onto isolated reservations, where they would “die off.” Pressure forced the U.S. government to give Natives citizenship in 1924 and some form of self-governance in 1934. But many Natives opposed these moves because they were imposed by the federal government, and tribes weren’t given the power to create the societies that they wanted and that they had in the past.

In both the U.S. and Canada in the 1950s, the governments tried to move Natives off reservations and into cities, and to get reservations off the federal books. This policy was called termination, and though it ended up failing, with some of the reservations kicked off the federal books later reestablished, nevertheless, a majority of Natives live in cities today.

The termination policy was driven by the post-Second World War economic boom, which required large amounts of new resources to expand the economy. Many of those resources were to be found on Native lands. Also, the U.S. was in an arms race with the former USSR, and reservations that had previously seemed to be wastelands were now considered valuable because of uranium deposits that were useful to the U.S. war machine.

But this policy had the unintended effect of bringing Natives from many different tribes together in urban centers to develop organizations like the American Indian Movement. Urban natives tried to reconnect with their homelands and called on the government to reexamine treaty rights. This naturally raised the role of the environment in a capitalist society, as author Chris Williams explained:

 “The separation of nature from humans is the ideological position underlying capitalist orthodoxy; namely, that the biosphere is a subset of the economy, rather than the other way around. Capitalists can freely take ‘natural resources’ from outside of the economy as inputs, and dump waste from the production process back into the environment as outputs.”

The process by which people were ripped from their land is a far cry from a natural process – it was an extremely violent one. Much like the resources extracted from their land, Indigenous people were forcibly removed. Thus, the violence inflicted on the land was and is mirrored by the violence imposed on people defending their land. The land doesn’t just represent land alone, but a culture and livelihood. Once you take away that land, you take away language, you take away culture, and you take away a people.

Colonialism in North America

The current attacks on Natives in Canada and the U.S. are part of this history of capitalism and colonialism in North America. Though the times have changed, the situation is similar – today, the leading issue is energy companies seeking to do “exploration” on their land. Corporations and the government will use poverty and unemployment rates to seal deals with tribal leaders. These agreements, typically shrouded in secrecy, are often horrible, and provide little benefit to the community. The effects are often unknown until it’s too late.

Then the corporations use Natives to work in coal mines, uranium mines and more on their own homeland with very little protections on wages and health. An example of the consequences can be seen on the Navajo reservation, where uranium was mined after the Second World War, and the rates for stomach cancer are about 15 times the national average. In some areas, the frequency gets as high as 200 times the national average.

There have been some examples of tribes overturning deals with companies – such as the Northern Cheyenne, which used the legal argument that the U.S. is breaking its trust relationship by purposefully misleading tribes.

Corporations like SWN are following the same pattern in their drive into Canada. They want to exploit the land for big profits, with little if any of the benefits going back to the tribes. This formula is the same as the past, where the exploitation of the land has gone hand in hand with the exploitation of a people.

On both sides of the border, the Canadian and the U.S. governments have violated treaties, not followed through on promises, or haven’t fully paid out (or paid at all) on resource contracts on Natives lands. As environmental writer Martin Lukacs wrote for the Guardian:

“Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s countrywide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.

 “Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprising may be it.”

Elsipogtog has shown us that people power is the only power that energy companies will yield to. It’s important for activists everywhere to understand that the genocidal assault on Natives that was vital for the development of capitalism is still underway in the exploitation of these lands.

Fighting for Native American liberation means challenging a system that puts profits over people and the planet. •

 Brian Ward writes for Socialist Worker, where this article first appeared. Ragina Johnson contributed to this article.

On January 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a major safety alert, declaring oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale may be more chemically explosive than the agency or industry previously admitted publicly.

This alert came three days after the massive Casselton, ND explosion of a freight rail train owned by Warren Buffett‘s Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and was the first time the U.S. Department of Transportation agency ever made such a statement about Bakken crude. In July 2013, another freight train carrying Bakken crude exploded in Lac-Mégantic, vaporizing and killing 47 people.

Yet, an exclusive DeSmogBlog investigation reveals the company receiving that oil downstream from BNSF — Marquis Missouri Terminal LLC, incorporated in April 2012 bMarquis Energy — already admitted as much in a September 2012 permit application to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The BNSF Direct ”bomb train” that exploded in Casselton was destined for Marquis’ terminal in Hayti, Missouri, according to Reuters. Hayti is a city of 2,939 located along the Mississippi River. From there, Marquis barges the oil southward along the Mississippi, where Platts reported the oil may eventually be refined in a Memphis, Tennessee-based Valero refinery.

According to Marquis’ website, its Hayti, Missouri terminal receives seven of BNSF Direct’s 118-unit cars per week, with an on-site holding terminal capacity of 550,000 barrels of oil.

Marquis was one of many companies in attendance at a major industry conference in Houston, Texas in February 2013, called “Upgrading Crude By Rail Capacity.” Its September 2012 Missouri DNR permit application lends additional insight into how and why BNSF’s freight train erupted so intensely in Casselton.

“Special Conditions”

Rather than a normal permit, Marquis was given a “special conditions” permit because the Bakken oil it receives from BNSF contains high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the same threat PHMSA noted in its recent safety alert.

Among the most crucial of the special conditions: Marquis must flare off the VOCs before barging the oil down the Mississippi River. (Flaring is already a highly controversial practice in the Bakken Shale region, where gas is flared off at rates comparable to Nigeria.)

It’s a tacit admission that the Bakken Shale oil aboard the exploded BNSF train in Casselton, ND is prone to such an eruption.

“Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) emissions are expected from the proposed equipment,” explains the Marquis permit. “There will be evaporative losses of Toluene, Xylene, Hexane, and Benzene from the crude oil handled by the installation.”

Benzene is a carcinogen, while toluenexylene and hexane are dangerous volatiles that can cause severe illnesses or even death at high levels of exposure.

Scientific Vindication

In a December 31 Google Hangout conversation between actor Mark Ruffalo, founder of Water Defense, and the group’s chief scientist Scott Smith, Mr. Smith discussed the oil samples he collected on a previous visit to North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

“What I know from the testing I’ve done on my own — I went out to the Bakken oil fields and pumped oil from the well — I know there are unprecedented levels of these explosive volatiles: benzene, toluene, xylene,” said Smith.

“And from the data that I’ve gotten from third parties and tested myself, 30 to 40 percent of what’s going into those rail cars are explosive volatiles, again that are not in typical oils.”

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Smith said Marquis Energy’s Missouri DNR permit application is in line with his own scientific findings, a vindication of sorts in the aftermath of the Casselton explosion.

“We must work to better understand the risks involved with the transportation of unconventional crude oil, whether diluted bitumen or Bakken fracked oil,” Smith told DeSmogBlog.

“It all starts with scientifically and transparently understanding exactly what is in these crude oils, and working to set new safety standards to protect human lives and all waterways, wetlands, marshes and sensitive ecosystems.”

It may be the dead of winter in North Dakota, but the Casselton explosion has shined a bright light on the myriad serious threats of Bakken oil rolling down the tracks through the backyards of thousands of Americans. The industry’s secrecy about the explosiveness of this oil just went up in flames.

But how will the public react to the news that industry knew this could happen all along? With the Dec. 30 explosion in Casselton, and the deadly Bakken oil train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec last July, all North Americans ought to question the wisdom of extracting and transporting this highly dangerous oil.

India-UAE Investment Agreement: Why Such Desperate Haste?

January 6th, 2014 by Kavaljit Singh

On December 12, 2013, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPA) in New Delhi. The agreement was signed by Namo Narain Meena, India’s Minister of State for Finance and Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs. With the signing of this BIPA, the total number of India’s bilateral investment protection agreements now stands at 84.

As per the official release, the text of the BIPA was finalized during October 30-31, 2013 at Abu Dhabi. After finalization, the agreement was signed by both countries in just a matter of six weeks. However, for some inexplicable reasons, the text of the signed agreement has not yet been made available at the official website of Ministry of Finance.

Seeking Capital Inflows from UAE

India ostensibly signed the BIPA with the UAE in order to tap capital inflows from the UAE to finance large infrastructure projects. The Indian authorities are expecting that this agreement will facilitate over $2 billion investments by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (the world’s second-largest sovereign wealth fund with assets worth $600 billion) and the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company in the infrastructure and energy sectors. Some analysts believe that this agreement was primarily signed to facilitate the investments by UAE’s Etihad Airways in the Jet Airways.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that even before signing this investment agreement, UAE was one of the top 10 investors in India. The UAE is also India’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $75 billion in 2012-13. The Indian government expects that this BIPA will pave way to conclude negotiations on the free trade agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

A Premature Move

This sudden move by the Indian government has raised many questions about the timing and the rationale of signing the BIPA with the UAE. On March 22, 2013, Mr. Meena had announced in the Parliament that India is reviewing all its existing BIPAs and put all ongoing BIPA negotiations on hold till the review process is complete. That is why, Prime Minister’s visit to UAE, scheduled for late March, had to be postponed as the UAE was insisting on India signing the BIPA during the visit.

Since India is currently reviewing all its investment protection agreements, the government has not explained why it has worked out an exception with the UAE. Why the government has shown undue haste to sign this agreement when the new model BIPA text is expected to be finalized by January 2014? Till now, No explanation has been given by the authorities for this hasty decision.

This premature move by Ministry of Finance not only undermines the stated official position but also makes a mockery of its ongoing review process. What if the new model investment agreement text suggests that India should not include provisions such as most favoured nation (MFN), fair and equitable treatment (FET), and investor-to-state dispute mechanisms?

A Mix of Old and New Model Text?

At the time of writing, the text of India-UAE BIPA is not publicly available and therefore one cannot comment on its contents. According to media reports, India’s BIPA with UAE is largely based on the old model text which includes MFN, FET and national treatment provisions. The media reports suggest that India has built a safeguard in the agreement by allowing only executive decisions (not judicial pronouncements or laws progumulated by the Parliament) to be challenged within the stipulated period.

Further, the investors from UAE and India will be allowed to use only one legal option (domestic law or international arbitration) in an event of a dispute. In other words, if an investment dispute is referred to and decided by an Indian court, the same cannot be referred to international arbitration.

Some Misconceptions about SWFs

This episode also shows that our policy makers have very little understanding about the rationale and investments made by sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) such as ADIA. Countries like UAE have set up SWFs not to invest in infrastructure or energy projects abroad, as perceived by New Delhi. Such funds are established to manage excessive foreign exchange reserves, commodity exports, the proceeds of privatisations and fiscal surpluses. The SWFs help in diversifying and improving the return on a country’s foreign exchange reserves or commodity revenues.

Unlike TNCs and other private companies, the overwhelming majority of sovereign funds (including ADIA) are passive investors. The FDI component of the total investments made by SWFs is very minimal. In rare cases where SWFs undertake direct investments, they do not seek controlling interests or active roles in the management of invested companies. Nor do they possess superior technology and necessary expertise required for infrastructure or energy projects.

Missing the Broader Context

This hurried and unjustified move should not be viewed in isolation, but, rather, within the broader context of India facing a spate of legal notices threatening international arbitration and seeking compensation worth billions of dollars under various BIPAs signed by it in the past. In 2012, India lost a case against White Industries of Australia under the India-Australia BIT and paid a monetary compensation of Rs.258 million in its first ever investment agreement dispute. These developments ultimately forced India to review the earlier model agreement text.

For any foreign investor, there are other key determinants (such as tax policy and labor laws) which influence the investment decision rather than an investment protection agreement between the home and host countries. Hence, it is highly debatable whether this BIPA will actually accelerate fresh capital from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and other investors from the UAE. Throughout the world, there is no ample evidence to prove that investment protection agreements lead to increased foreign investment or boost the prospects of obtaining investment in future.

While the new model BIPA text iseagerly awaited, the Ministry of Finance should, at least, post the text of India-UAE BIPA on its official website.

Kavaljit Singh works with Madhyam, a policy research institute, based in New Delhi (www.madhyam.org.in).

Beware of agent provocateurs and staged confrontations with “regime supporters” for January 13, 2014 rally. Be prepared, and the regime will crumble. 

Thailand’s current regime led by unelected defacto dictator Thaksin Shianwatra and his nepotist-appointed proxy and sister Yingluck Shinawatra has issued a threat to protesters regarding an upcoming January 13, 2014 mass mobilization. Bangkok’s English paper “The Nation” reported in its article, “Justice minister warns people against joining Bangkok Shutdown protest,” that:

Caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri Monday warned people against joining the Bangkok Shutdown protest on Monday, saying it is illegal and dangerous.

Chaikasem said Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, was facing sedition charge, which carried the maximum penalty of death sentence.

As a result, if the people support Suthep by joining the Bangkok Shutdown protest, they would also be regarded as committing wrongdoing, Chaikasem said.

He said the protesters could also be injured from clashes with PDRC’s opponents.

Of course, by “PDRC’s opponents,” Chaikasem means the regime’s own Hitleresque “red shirt” enforcers who are literally led by current members of parliament under the regime. It was not a warning, but rather a threat that includes both the prospect of agent provocateurs being planted within the ranks of the protesters as well as planned confrontations by armed thugs deployed by the regime in Bangkok beginning on January 13.

Image: Anti-regime protests have been massive, frequent, and most importantly, peaceful. The regime, desperately clinging to power, has conspired to use violence to discredit protesters and has already – when it could - deployed its “red shirt” enforcers to create violence and bloodshed. It has also deployed unidentified black-clad gunmen atop government buildings to shoot at its own police.

….

It should also be remembered that just recently, the regime has admitted to deploying unidentifiable black-clad gunmen atop government buildings during deadly violence on December 26, 2013.

To date, every mass mobilization by anti-regime protesters has been peaceful. There have been three mass mobilizations – one on November 24December 9, and December 22, 2013 – that have seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets not only across Bangkok, but in provinces across the country.

The only violence that has taken place was when the regime purposefully deployed its “red shirt” enforcers to confront protesters, as was seen yesterday (and on several other occasions) in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Recent threats are to be interpreted not as a position of strength by the regime, but as a sign of immense weakness. Protesters should take this not as cue to shrink from the battle, but to redouble their efforts to ensure a quick and complete toppling of the regime.

Whomever the regime deploys against protesters will be undoubtedly outnumbered 1000-1. Use this advantage wisely to quickly but peacefully and humanely deal with the regime’s provocations. By doing so, protesters will prove through actions what they have insisted on in words – that they represent a real alternative to the violence, intimidation, and thuggery of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime and his “red shirt” enforcers.

What Protesters Should Do on January 13, 2013

  • Have a Group: Build up small groups of friends and family to attend the protests – try to have people who have attended previous mass rallies to help guide others who may be attending January 13 as their first street action.
  • Have a Plan: Plan out a schedule and a map of activities for each day starting on Monday, January 13, and until at least Friday, January 10. Members of your group can take turns going to different stages while other members rest or take care of daily business both within a single day or throughout the week. For instance, some members of your group can stay all day, while others stay half the day. Then those members can switch full/half schedules the next day and so on.
  • Have a Means of Communication: Have a means of communicating with other members of your group, and use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to keep track of announcements and developments. AltThaiNews, for example, can be reached on Twitter @AltThaiNews. Have gathering points picked out ahead of time in case signals go down and you become separated.
  • Be Vigilant: Be vigilant of both threats from outside and within groups of protesters. All legitimate protesters must IMMEDIATELY intervene and break-up violence between “supposed protesters” and staged provocateurs the regime plans to plant throughout the protests.
  • Condemn ALL Violence: Stick to only roadblocks authorized by protest leaders. The regime may create its own “roadblocks” manned by its own “protesters” and then send “opposition” to try and break them for photogenic and incriminating scenes of “protesters beating regular people just trying to get to work.” If you are present at any of these incidents – IMMEDIATELY CONDEMN the violence, and demand that alleged “protesters” stand-down and refrain from violence. Do all within your means to protect anyone attacked by ANYONE, including any abandoned property.
  • Wait for Police or Army to Intervene: As for “red shirts” or “red shirts” posing as other groups, attempting to confront protesters – protesters must refrain from reacting to their provocations. Police or military will intervene and the protesters will win both tactically and strategically. React to the regime’s provocations and you will be doing their work for them - undermining the peaceful nature of the protests and the credibility that has granted the movement its incredible success.
It is not enough to simply “look better” than Thaksin Shinawatra, his illegal proxy regime, and his violent “red shirt” enforcers. For this movement to be successful and to sustain itself, it must actually be better. It will only be able to do so if it makes a plan, wisely prepares for contingencies – especially provoked and staged violence carried out by the regime itself – and sticks to the principles that have made now 3 unprecedented, mass mobilizations already possible.
Image: Red shirts in 2009. Their violence and intimidation are legendary. It is ugly when they do it, it is ugly when you do it. The regime plans fully to incite violence and undermine the credibility of protests that have seriously crippled its ability to sustain its 10 years of until now, unchecked criminality. If your movement truly is better, don’t just say it is, prove it through your actions. Don’t be a “red shirt!”

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When confronted with a choice during upcoming mass mobilizations and if you find yourself in doubt – simply remind yourself, “Don’t be a red shirt!

 

“Question. Why was Mandela’s life celebrated by the world while Gaddafi after everything he did for Africa was gunned down like a dog?”, a Twitter user wondered days after Nelson Mandela’s passing.

This question becomes even more valid in light of what the mainstream media, in the wake of the former South African president’s death, have been anxiously hiding from the public: the actual close and crucial alliance between Mandela and Gaddafi. Back in the 70s and 80s, when the West refused to allow sanctions against Apartheid in South Africa and used to call Mandela a terrorist, it was none other than Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi who kept supporting him. Gaddafi funded Mandela’s fight against Apartheid by training ANC fighters and by paying for their education abroad, and their bond only became stronger after Mandela’s release from prison on February 11, 1990.

Nevertheless, one of them ended up being “gunned down like a dog” and his death was celebrated by the entire elite of the imperialist world, which celebrations were significantly summarized by Hillary “Warzone” Clinton in a now infamous interview in which she exults: “We came, we saw, he died!”

As for the other one, the same entire elite of the imperialist world crowded into the FNB stadium in Soweto, South Africa, to attend the funeral of their hero, and to  verbosely praise Mandela and his achievements with all possible superlatives.

Mandela on Gaddafi

So how did the branded Saint Mandela really feel about the branded Mad Dog Gaddafi? Let’s hear straight from the horse’s mouth what the mainstream media have left out of their laudatory picture of the former ANC leader.

Right upon his release from prison, after more than 27 years behind bars, Mandela broke the UN embargo and paid a visit to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, where he declared: “My delegation and I are overjoyed with the invitation from the Brother Guide [Muammar Gaddafi], to visit the Great Popular and Socialist Arab Libyan Jamahiriya. I have been waiting impatiently ever since we received the invitation. I would like to remind you that the first time I came here, in 1962, the country was in a very different state of affairs. One could not but be struck by the sights of poverty from the moment of arrival, with all of its usual corollaries: hunger, illness, lack of housing and of health-care facilities, etc. Anger and revolt could be read in those days on the faces of everyone.

Since then, things have changed considerably. During our stay in prison, we read and heard a great deal about the changes which have come about in this country and about blossoming of the economy which has been experienced here. There is prosperity and progress everywhere here today which we were able to see even before the airplane touched ground. It is thus with great pleasure that we have come on a visit in the Jamahiriya, impatient to meet our brother, the Guide Gaddafi.”

When Mandela was taken to the ruins of Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, which was bombed by the Reagan administration in 1986 in an attempt to murder the entire Gaddafi family, he said:

“No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do. Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi. They are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past.”

In response, Gaddafi thanked Mandela for his friendship, saying: “Who would ever have said that one day the opportunity for us to meet would become reality. We would like you to know that we are constantly celebrating your fight and that of the South African people, and that we salute your courage during all of those long years you spent in detention in the prison of Apartheid. Not a single day has passed without us having thought of you and your sufferings.”

Eight years later, when then U.S. president Bill Clinton visited Mandela in March 1998, Clinton criticized the South African president’s meeting with Muammar Gaddafi. In reaction to that criticism, Mandela straightforwardly replied:

“I have also invited Brother Leader Gaddafi to this country. And I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country. Not only did the Libyans support us in return, they gave us the resources for us to conduct our struggle, and to winhttp://cdncache1-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png. And those South Africans who have berated me for being loyal to our friends, can literally go and jump into a pool.”

Mandela on the West

Subsequently, let’s hear the ANC leader’s real thoughts on the West that has put him on a posthumous pedestal, and on topics that, to say the least, are not exactly popular among Western leaders.

On the U.S. preparing its war against Iraq in 2002: “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the USA. They don’t care for human beings.”

In a 1999 speech: “Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank.”

“The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” (RT)

The revolutionary Mad Dog

On the day of Mandela’s funeral, December 15, 2013, a citizen from Accra, Ghana, expressed:

“All day long here in Ghana they have been broadcasting live the Memorial Service of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Courtesy, of course, of the BBC and Deutsche Welle? Why on earth doesn’t Africa have its own Broadcasting Network in this day and age? The news coverage on the BBC is always distorting according to their own interest, and that on Deutsche Welle a bit less, but still not African! And in all of Ghana – a nations with so many media resources – there is not a single foreign correspondent in the lot! Why must Africans always depend on others to tell their own stories to them?! Shame! Shame! Shame!”

In fact, there actually was someone working on an African broadcasting network. Someone who already connected the entire African continent by radio, television and telephone. In the early 90s, this person funded the establishment of the Regional African Satellite Communication Organization, which eventually provided Africa with its first own communications satellite on December 26, 2007. A second African satellite was launched in July 2010 and advanced plans for a continental broadcasting network were made. The person who funded at least 70% of this revolutionary project was the revolutionary leader of the Libyan Jamahiriya, Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi thus angered the Western bankers, since Africa no longer would pay the annual $500 million fee to Europe for the use of its satellites, and of course no “self-respecting” banker was willing to fund a project that frees people from their claws. And this was not the only way in which Gaddafi angered the West to the point that he had to be eliminated from their agenda. The leader of the Libyan Al-Fateh Revolution worked hard and came close to embody the famous 1865 quote by American economist Adam Smith, saying: “The economy of any country which relies on the slavery of blacks is destined to descend into hell the day those countries awaken.”

On the eve of the NATO-led war against Libya, Gaddafi’s booming country largely co-funded three projects that would rid Africa from its financial dependence on the West once and for all: the African Investment Bank in the Libyan city of Sirte, the African Monetary Fund (AFM), to be based in the capital of Cameroon, Yaounde, in 2011, and the African Central Bank to be based in the capital of Nigeria, Abuja. Especially the latter angered France – not coincidentally also the main orchestrator of the war on Libya – because it would mean the end of the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc, through which France kept a hold on as much as thirteen African countries. Only two months after Africa said no to Western attempts to join the AFM, Western organized “protests” against the AFM’s  benefactor, Muammar Gaddafi, started to erupt in Libya… ultimately resulting in the freezing of $30 billion by the West, which money mostly was intended for the above mentioned financial projects.

But Gaddafi helped the African continent in more than just material ways. More than any other African leader, he supported Mandela’s ANC’s struggle against the racist regime in South Africa. Above that, many Black Africans, especially sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees, found a new home in Gaddafi’s prosperous Libya.

Gaddafi understood that in order to develop a strong Africa that would be able to finally throw off the shackles of imperialism, unity was the first requirement. The 2009 Chairperson of the African Union also understood the African culture and recognized that African problems need African solutions. During a 2010 meeting in Tripoli, in which he addressed dozens of leaders from across Africa, he told: “African traditions are being replaced with Western culture and multiparty politics is destroying Africa.” Instead, Gaddafi promoted the establishment of a People’s Government (Jamahiriya) in which the power would not belong to (puppet) governments, but to the African people. And nothing scared the Western capitalists more than a united Africa – Muammar Gaddafi’s dream that was about to come true by the end of 2010.

The lukewarm Saint

When Nelson Mandela endured 27 years of isolation in prison, he paid the price of being the socialist revolutionary and the racial equality fighter that he was. His freedom was taken away by the South African Apartheid regime, a regime that was the result of the infiltration of South Africa by European colonial powers. How come the same colonial powers now consider him to be a hero and a saint? Did the Western elite have a massive change of mind, and thus all of the sudden embraced the exact same ideology that made them put Mandela behind bars a few decades ago?

We only have to take a look at the current situation of the Blacks in NATO-led Libya to understand that this was not quite the case. Libya, in 1951 officially the poorest country in the world, under Gaddafi attained the highest standard of living in Africa. The country’s prosperity attracted many Black African immigrants, during the 2011 war on Libya by the mainstream media purposely misnamed as being “black sub-Saharan African mercenaries”. Gaddafi provided them with work and education. Those immigrant workers, to whom Gaddafi was a hero, a father and a friend, now face the cruelest forms of racism by the Western-installed Libyan puppet regime. Just one telling example is a video in which Libyan “rebels” force Black immigrants to eat the green flag of the Libyan Jamahiriya.

Then why the 180 degrees change of attitude of the West towards Mandela after his release from prison?

Statistics show that still 65% of the Blacks in South Africa remain unemployed, while 90% of the Whites own 90% of South Africa’s wealth. Over the last decades, Apartheid may have disappeared for the visual scene, fact is that Blacks remain poor while Whites remain rich.

Yet the West regards Mandela as the protector of the South African economy. According to a Financial Times journalist, Mandela’s ANC “proved a reliable steward of sub-Sahara Africa’s largest economy, embracing orthodox fiscal and monetary policies.” Canadian The Globe and Mail recently added that Mandela did this “without alienating his radical followers or creating a dangerous factional struggle within his movement”.

In other words, Mandela ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds… mainly economically – and nothing interested, interests and will interest the Western capitalist countries more than economics.

As aptly stated by independent writer Stephen Gowans,

“Thus, in [The Globe and Mail journalist Doug] Saunder’s view, Mandela was a special kind of leader: one who could use his enormous prestige and charisma to induce his followers to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good of the elite that had grown rich off their sweat, going so far as to acquiesce in the repudiation of their own economic program.”

“”Here is the crucial lesson of Mr. Mandela for modern politicians,” writes Saunders. “The principled successful leader is the one who betrays his party members for the larger interests of the nation. When one has to decide between the rank-and-file and the greater good, the party should never come first.”

“For Saunders and most other mainstream journalists, “the larger interests of the nation” are the larger interests of banks, land owners, bond holders and share holders. This is the idea expressed in the old adage “What’s good for GM [General Motors], is good for America.” Since mainstream media are large corporations, interlocked with other large corporations, and are dependent on still other large corporations for advertising revenue, the placing of an equal sign between corporate interests and the national interest comes quite naturally.”

I believe the dictionary has a word for that: lukewarm.

What if Mandela had not danced to the tune of the imperialists?What if he did have said words and did have made plans that were too threatening to the interests of the corporate financiers who run the planet – the reason why Gaddafi had to be killed? Then South Africa under his leadership quite likely would have become what Iraq and Libya currently are: a country in turmoil, torn apart by imperialist powers that Mandela, not inconceivable even out of fear for what they are capable of, preferred to side with.

Also the inevitable question arises: where was Mandela when his brother Gaddafi’s country was bombed for nine months by the most powerful military alliance in modern history? Sources have declared by that time his health was too fragile and he was in a too vulnerable state of mind, for which reason his family deliberately kept him away from news that would severely upset him. Whatever the case may be, the significant fact remains that no ANC member stood up for Gaddafi during the war on Libya the way Gaddafi stood up for his friend Mandela during his imprisonment and afterwards.

 The lesson for us

At the beginning of a new year, let us allow ourselves to take a few moments to reflect on our destiny and on that of the post-Mandela and post-Gaddafi world we live in. We live in a time of transition on all fronts. More than ever we are faced with the choice of being guided by fear – especially by the fear of losing credibility with the public and being punished by “authorities” when we challenge the powers-that-be – or being guided by the freedom of thought. The latter will result in a higher level of understanding of both ourselves and the world around us, which is the main condition for a much needed (r)evolution and for the establishment of true democracy.

What the world needs now, are “Mad Dogs”. Revolutionaries with a vision who dare to be unconventional and dare to be so all the way. It is time for us to become a Gaddafi rather than a Mandela. It is time to let the walls of fear around our thinking fall away. It is time to break free from the fear of not being liked, of no longer being accepted, of being looked upon differently, of being branded an outcast, a lunatic, a conspiracy theorist or anything bad when we raise our voices.

We need to dare to totally tear aside the veil of Apartheid that mights and media use to cover up what is really going on in the world. Only then real progress can be achieved.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;

None but ourselves can free our mind.” – Bob Marley

The Left after The Failure of Obamacare

January 5th, 2014 by Shamus Cooke

It’s satisfying to watch rats flee a sinking ship.  This is because onlookers knew the ship was doomed long ago, and swimming rats signify that the drawn-out tragedy is nearing an end.  A collective sense of relief is a natural response.

The rats who propped up the broken boat of Obamacare are a collection of liberal and labor groups who frittered away their group’s resources—and integrity— to sell a crappy product to the American people.

Those in the deepest denial went “all in” for Obamacare— such as some unions and groups like Moveon.org— while the more conniving groups and individuals—like Michael Moore— playacted “critical” of Obamacare, while nevertheless declaring it “progressive”, in effect adding crucial political support to a project that deserved none.

But of course Obamacare was always more barrier than progress: we’ve wasted the last several years planning, debating, and reconstructing the national health care system, all the while going in the wrong direction— into the pockets of the insurance mega corporations.    A couple of progressive patches on the sails won’t keep her afloat.  It’s shipbuilding time.

It was painful to watch otherwise intelligent people lend support to something that’s such an obviously bad idea.  So it’s with immense relief that liberals like Michael Moore, labor groups, and others are finally distancing themselves from Obamacare’s Titanic failure.   Now these individuals and groups can stop living in denial and the rest of us can proceed towards a rational discussion about a real health care solution.

The inevitable failure of Obamacare is not due to a bad website, but deeper issues.   The hammering of the nails in the coffin has begun:  millions of young people are suddenly realizing that Obamacare does not offer affordable health care.  It’s a lie, and they aren’t buying it, literally.

The system depends on sufficient young people to opt in and purchase plans, in order to offset the costs of the older, higher-needs population.    Poor young people with zero disposable income are being asked to pay monthly premiums of $150 and more, and they’re opting out, inevitably sinking Obamacare in the process.

Those young people who actually do buy Obamacare plans—to avoid the “mandate” fine— will be further enraged when they attempt to actually use their “insurance”.   Many of the cheapest plans—the obvious choice for most young people— have $5,000 deductibles before the insurance will pay for anything.   For poor young people this is no insurance at all, but a form of extortion.

At the same time millions of union members are being punished under Obamacare: those with decent insurance plans will suffer the “Cadillac” tax, which will push up the cost of their healthcare plans, and employers are already demanding concessions from union members in the form of higher health care premiums, co-pays, deductibles, etc.

Lower paid union workers will suffer as well.  Those who are part of the Taft Hartley insurance plans will be pressured to leave the plans and buy their own insurance, since they cannot keep their plans and get the subsidy that the lowest income workers get.   This has the potential to bust the whole Taft Hartley health care system that millions of union members benefit from, which is one of the reasons that labor leaders suddenly became outraged at Obamacare, after having wasted millions of union member’s dollars propping it up.

 Ultimately, the American working class will collectively cheer Obamacare’s demise.   They just need labor and other lefties to cheer lead its destruction a little more fiercely.

 Surprisingly, most of the rats are still clinging to Obama’s hopeless vessel, frantically bailing water.  Sure they’ve put on their life preservers and anxiously eyeing the lifeboats, but they’re also preaching about how to re-align the deckchairs.

For example, in his “critical” New York Times op-ed piece, Michael Moore called Obamacare “awful”, but also called it a “godsend”, singing his same tired tune.   Part of Moore’s solution for Obamacare—which was cheered on in the Daily Kos— is equally ludicrous, and follows his consistently flawed logic that Obamacare is worth saving, since its “progress” that we can build on.   Moore writes:

“Those who live in red [Republican dominated] states need the benefit of Medicaid expansion [a provision of Obamacare]…. In blue [Democrat dominated] states, let’s lobby for a public option on the insurance exchange — a health plan run by the state government, rather than a private insurer.”

This is Moore at his absolute worst.  He’s neck deep in the flooded hull of the U.S.S Obamacare and giving us advice on how to tread water.

Of course Moore doesn’t criticize the heart of Obamacare, the individual mandate, the most hated component.

 Moore also relies on the trump card argument of the pro-Obamacare liberals: there are progressive aspects to the scheme—such as the expansion of Medicaid— and therefore the whole system is worth saving.

 Of course it’s untrue that we need Obamacare to expand Medicaid.  In fact, the expansion of Medicaid acted more as a Trojan horse to introduce the pro-corporate heart of the system; a horse that Moore and other liberals nauseatingly continue to ride on.

But Moore’s sneakiest argument is his advice to blue states to  “…lobby for a public option on the insurance exchange…”

Again, Moore implies that it’s ok if we are “mandated” to buy health insurance, so long is there is a public option.  But that aside, the deeper scheme here is that Moore wants us to further waste our energy “reforming” Obamacare, rather than driving it to the bottom of the sea.

Moore surely knows that very few people are going to march in the streets demanding a public option at this point; he therefore knows that even this tiny reform of the system is unachievable. He’s wasting our time.  Real change only happens in politics when there is a surge of energy among large sections of the population, and it’s extremely unlikely that more than a handful of people are going to be active towards “fixing” Obamacare— they want to drown it.

Moore’s attempt to funnel people’s outrage at Obamacare towards a “public option” falls laughably short, and this is likely his intention, since his ongoing piecemeal “criticisms” of the system have only served to salvage a sunken ship.

Instead of wasting energy trying to pry Obamacare out of the grip of the corporations, Moore would be better served to focus exclusive energy towards expanding the movement for Medicare For All, which he claims that he also supports, while maintaining that somehow Obamacare will evolve into Single Payer system.

Most developed nations have achieved universal health care through a single payer system, which in the United States can be easily achieved by expanding Medicare to everybody.  Once the realities of Obamacare directly affect the majority of the population and exacerbates the crisis of U.S. healthcare, people will inevitably choose to support the movement of Medicare for All, the only real option for a sane health care system.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at [email protected]

Notes

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/22/1257552/-It-s-Inequality-Stupid-Defending-Affordable-Healthcare

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/29/michael_moore_supreme_court_healthcare_ruling

http://www.aflcio.org/About/Exec-Council/Conventions/2013/Resolutions-and-Amendments/Resolution-54-AFL-CIO-Convention-Resolution-on-the-Affordable-Care-Act

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/01/1266411/-Michael-Moore-s-Prescription-for-Obamacare

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/01/opinion/moore-the-obamacare-we-deserve.html?_r=0

50 verdades sobre Raúl Castro

January 5th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

Atual presidente de Cuba sempre viveu à sombra de seu irmão e segue sendo pouco conhecido pela opinião pública mundial

1. Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz nasce no dia 3 de junho de 1931 em Birán, na província de Holguín, no seio de uma família cubana-espanhola. Assim como seu irmão mais velho, Fidel Castro, ele estuda no colégio jesuíta Dolores em Santiago de Cuba e no Colégio de Belém em Havana.

2. Ao contrário de Fidel, que é membro do Partido Ortodoxo, Raúl Castro milita desde muito jovem na Juventude Socialista, filiada ao Partido Socialista Popular, que é o partido comunista cubano da época.

3. Em 1953, realiza uma viagem para o outro lado de Cortina de Ferro, Viena, para participar da Conferência Internacional de Defesa dos Direitos da Juventude.

4. Raúl Castro se envolve muito na juventude estudantil e participa das manifestações contra o governo de Carlos Prío Socarrás, regularmente abalado por escândalos de corrupção.

5. No dia 26 de julho de 1953, aos 20 anos, Raúl Castro participa, com seu irmão Fidel e seus companheiros, do ataque ao quartel Moncada em Santiago de Cuba, cujo objetivo é derrubar o ditador Fulgencio Batista. Tem como missão tomar o controle do Palácio da Justiça da cidade.

6. Capturado, é condenado a 13 anos de prisão junto aos poucos sobreviventes da expedição de Moncada e cumpre sua pena na prisão de Los Pinos, na Ilha da Juventude.

7. Em 1955, depois de ser anistiado por Batista, ele se exila no México com seu irmão Fidel e vários membros do Movimento 26 de Julho.

8. Raúl Castro conhece um jovem médico chamado Ernesto Guevara e decide apresentá-lo a Fidel Castro.

Wikicommons
9. No dia 25 de novembro de 1956, embarca com seu irmão e outros 80 homens a bordo de um barco com destino à província oriental de Cuba, com o objetivo de desatar uma guerra insurrecional contra o regime militar. Antes de subir a bordo do Granma, escreve seu testamento político.

[Raúl e Che em imagem de 1958]

10. O desembarque é um desastre total porque o Exército estava esperando os revolucionários, elimina uma parte dos combatentes e dispersa o restante. Raúl Castro se lembraria da tragédia de 2 de dezembro de 1956: “Eram 4h30 da tarde quando vimos a hecatombe.”

11. Depois de encontrar seu irmão, no dia 18 de dezembro de 1956 em Cinco Palmas, Raúl Castro começa a campanha em Sierra Maestra como simples guerrilheiro e seu parentesco com o líder do Exército Rebelde não lhe confere nenhum privilégio.

12. Raúl Castro se espanta com a solidariedade e a generosidade dos camponeses de Sierra Maestra. Em seu diário, escreve: “A forma como estes camponeses da Sierra se esforçam para tomar conta de nós é admirável. Toda a nobreza e a grandeza da alma cubana se encontram aqui.”

13. O Exército Rebelde trata bem dos soldados presos. A respeito, Raúl Castro conta: “Demos comida aos três e lhes dissemos que os libertaríamos e que guardaríamos apenas as armas.Tinham dinheiro e relógios de que necessitávamos, mas, seguindo nossos princípios, não os tocamos. […] Pedimos que assinassem um papel dizendo que foram bem tratados. Conversando com um deles em tom amável, F. [Fidel] conseguiu informação de grande utilidade”. Quando os guerrilheiros descobrem a presença de um infiltrado pago pela ditadura em sua tropa, o executam. Raúl Castro escreve em seu diário: “Talvez se o torturássemos teria nos dado mais informação, mas, inclusive com um traidor tão miserável, não aplicamos esses métodos.”

14. Em fevereiro de 1957, Raúl Castro é o primeiro a conhecer Herbert L. Matthews, o jornalista do New York Times que revelaria ao mundo a existência de uma guerrilha em Cuba. “Dei a mão ao jornalista e, lembrando de meu rudimentar inglês escolar, lhe disse “How are you?”. Não entendi sua resposta e logo F. chegou e, depois de cumprimentá-lo, sentou-se com ele na tenda e começou a entrevista jornalística, que seguramente será uma porrada.”

15. Depois de Che Guevara em 1957, Raúl Castro é nomeado comandante do Exército Rebelde em fevereiro de 1958, após ter feito suas provas em campo. Seu irmão Fidel o encarregou de abrir uma segunda frente [de batalha] no nordeste de Sierra Maestra, com a coluna de guerrilheiros n° 6 chamada de Segunda Frente “Frank País”, em honra ao líder do Movimento 26 de Julho de Santiago de Cuba assassinado pela ditadura em julho de 1957. Na realidade, a n° 6 era destinada a enganar o inimigo sobre o número de guerrilheiros que, na realidade, nunca superou os 300 homens armados.

16. Raúl Castro toma o controle dos territórios libertados e cria uma verdadeira estrutura autônoma com hospitais, escolas e várias fábricas de armas e de sapatos.

17. Raúl Castro elabora, a partir de 1958, o primeiro serviço de inteligência revolucionário. Também cria a nova política revolucionária.

18. Os Estados Unidos tinham imposto oficialmente um embargo sobre as armas que iriam para Cuba em março de 1958. Na realidade, continuavam fornecendo armas secretamente ao Exército cubano. Em junho de 1959, Raúl Castro decide denunciar o conluio entre Batista e Washington mediante uma ação espetacular. Frente aos bombardeios da aviação cubana, equipada com armas estadunidenses, ele responde com a Operação Antiaérea e sequestra vários cidadãos estadunidenses, inclusive militares. O objetivo era acabar com os bombardeios de Sierra Maestra que têm um impacto mortífero para as forças rebeldes, mas sobretudo para a população civil da região. A operação é exitosa. O Washington Post e o Times Herald evocam “o tratamento digno de um rei” do qual se beneficiaram os reféns. “Os militares estadunidenses foram tratados tão bem, e foram tão convencidos pelos argumentos dos rebeldes, que vários deles desejavam ficar e lutar contra Batista”. “Uma figura extraordinária, esse Raúl Castro”, escreve de sua parte a revista estadunidense Time, citando um refém, e completa que o jovem comandante “desejava dar uma lição em Washington.”

19. Em 1958, Raúl Castro impõe o pagamento de um imposto revolucionário a todas as empresas, inclusive às multinacionais estadunidenses.

20. Quando a Revolução triunfa, durante a formação do Governo provisório, Raúl Castro não ocupa nenhum cargo.

21. No dia 26 de janeiro de 1959, Raúl Castro se casa com Vilma Espín Guillois, combatente clandestina que participou do levante armado de 30 de novembro de 1956 em Santiago de Cuba, apoiando o desembarque do Granma. Seria a fundadora da Federação das Mulheres Cubanas.

22. Em fevereiro de 1959, substitui Fidel Castro como Ministro das Forças Armadas, quando ele é nomeado chefe do governo pelo presidente Manuel Urrutia. Dirigiria a Ministério das Forças Armadas até 2008, o qual se transformaria na instituição mais eficiente de Cuba, autossuficiente em produção agrícola graças à União Militar Agropecuária.

23. De 1959 a 1965, Raúl Castro tem de enfrentar os atos terroristas e as sabotagens organizadas pela CIA que atacam o país. Lembra: “Às vezes, chegava ao Ministério das Forças Armadas e vinham quatro ou cinco assistentes, que eram contatos com os diferentes territórios, exércitos e regiões do país, e para ser mais rápido não me faziam relatórios, vinham com uma lista do que tinha acontecido nas últimas 24 horas ou, pelo menos, nas últimas 12 horas da noite anterior: dezenas de casas de cura de tabaco tinham sido incendiadas em Pinar Del Río, mais tantas dezenas de canaviais queimando em todo o país, de acordo com a época do ano; tantos combatentes libertados, tantas bombas em cidades e outros lugares, tantas sabotagens a linhas de energia. Às vezes, eu lhes dizia: ‘Digam-me o mais importante’, e assim foi, com maior ou menor intensidade, durante cinco ou seis anos.”

24. Em 1959, Fidel Castro designa Raúl Castro como seu sucessor para o caso de que fosse assassinado.

25. Desde 1959, Raúl Castro é, assim como seu irmão, o único membro da família Castro a ocupar um posto político em Cuba.

26. Em 1961, Raúl Castro é nomeado para a Direção Nacional das Organizações Revolucionárias Integradas[ORI], que agrupam o Movimento 26 de Julho, de Fidel Castro, o Diretório Revolucionário, dos estudantes, e o Partido Socialista Popular.

27. Em 1963, ocupa também a Direção do Partido Unido da Revolução Socialista, que substitui as ORI.

28. Em 1965, com a criação do Partido Comunista de Cuba, é nomeado o segundo secretário.

29. Com a adoção da nova Constituição de 1976, Raúl Castro é eleito vice-presidente da República, posto para o qual seria reeleito até 2006. Também é deputado e vice-presidente do Conselho de Estado e do Conselho de Ministros de 1976 a 2006.

30. Em novembro de 1976, é promovido a General do Exército.

31. A partir dos anos 1980, Raúl Castro desenvolve o conceito de “Guerra de Todo o Povo”, frente às ameaças de invasão por parte dos Estados Unidos. Essa estratégia de defesa militar consiste em armar todo o povo e desatar uma guerra de guerrilhas contra o invasor: “A Guerra de Todo o Povo significa que, para conquistar nosso território e ocupar nosso solo, as forças imperiais teriam de lutar contra milhões de pessoas e teriam de pagar com centenas de milhares e, até, milhões de vidas, pela tentativa de conquistar a nossa terra, de esmagar nossa liberdade, nossa independência e nossa Revolução [...]. Por mais poderoso que seja o império, por mais sofisticadas que sejam suas técnicas e suas armas, não está em condições de pagar o preço que significaria semelhante aventura.”

32. Em 1993, em pleno Período Especial, marcado por uma grave crise econômica depois do desparecimento da União Soviética e do recrudescimento das sanções econômicas por parte de Washington, Raúl Castro adverte os Estados Unido contra qualquer tentativa de agressão: “A luta seria sem frente nem retaguarda, em cada canto do país. Para isso, contamos, além das Tropas Regulares, com as Milícias de Tropas Territoriais, e as Brigadas de Produção e Defesa, organizadas em cada província e em seus 169 municípios; o combate se daria nas mais de 1400 Zonas de Defesa se o inimigo fosse capaz de chegar a todas elas, suposição impossível, porque seriam necessários milhões de soldados e, ainda assim, seriam extremamente débeis porque em qualquer lugar poderiam pisar em uma mina, ser liquidados por uma bala ou uma granada e as emboscadas seriam seu pesadelo [...]. Em uma guerra prolongada, se de cada dois ou três franco-atiradores – e temos dezenas de milhares – um deles aniquila um ianque, de preferência um oficial, poderia o invasor assumir tantas baixas e persistir com a agressão? [...]; Em nossa doutrina, as tropas terrestres são as forças decisivas, já que os combates, uma vez que o inimigo tenha desembarcado, aconteceriam sobre nosso solo, homem frente a homem, a tiro de fuzil. E, em tais condições, a superioridade moral dos homens que defendem a sua pátria é infinitamente maior que a do odiado invasor. O solo arderia sob seus pés, das entranhas da terra, e, depois dos golpes aéreos, sairiam os combatentes para acertar as contas no solo sagrado da pátria que não admite botas invasoras.”

33. Em 1998, 40 anos depois de ser nomeado Comandante do Exército Rebelde, é promovido à Comandante da Revolução.

34. Em 31 de julho de 2006, em virtude do Artigo 94 da Constituição, Raúl Castro substitui seu irmão Fidel Castro, vítima de uma grave doença, e se transforma no presidente temporário da República.

35. Em 2007, Raúl Castro faz um grande plebiscito nacional com o objetivo de dar continuidade a uma “atualização do modelo socioeconômico do país.”

Wikicommons

Assim como seu irmão mais velho, Fidel, Raúl dá grande importância à integração latino-americana, tendo sido presidente da Celac

36. Em fevereiro de 2008, o Parlamento Cubano elege Raúl Castro para a presidência da República, o qual sucede seu irmão, que anunciou sua retirada da vida política. Para chefiar o Estado e o governo, Raúl Castro teve de passar por dois processos eleitorais. Primeiro, foi eleito pelo sufrágio universal e secreto, como deputado da Assembleia Nacional. Depois, o Parlamento o elegeu Presidente do Conselho de Estado e do Conselho de Ministros.

37. Em setembro de 2008, Raúl Castro decide outorgar as terras ociosas para usufruto dos camponeses para aumentar a produção agrícola num país que importa mais de 80% das matérias-primas alimentícias.

38. Em dezembro de 2008, Raúl Castro realiza sua primeira turnê diplomática internacional como presidente da República e visita a Venezuela, onde se reúne com Hugo Chávez, e o Brasil, onde se encontra com Lula.

39. Em novembro de 2010, o projeto de atualização do modelo socioeconômico se submete a um amplo debate popular que engloba mais de 8 milhões de pessoas. Depois de ser modificado, é adotado em abril de 2011 e abre vários setores da economia ao campo privado. Cerca de meio milhão de cubanos trabalha hoje no setor privado.

40. No dia 16 de abril de 2011, Raúl Castro celebra o 50° aniversário da declaração do caráter socialista da Revolução Cubana e organiza o VI Congresso do Partido Comunista de Cuba. É eleito Primeiro Secretário e substitui oficialmente Fidel Castro.

41. Em 2010 e 2011, depois de um acordo com a Espanha e com a Igreja Católica Cubana, Raúl Castro decide liberar todos os presos chamados “políticos” em Cuba. Alguns decidem abandonar o país, outros permanecem na ilha.

42. Em novembro de 2011, Raúl Castro simplifica os trâmites administrativos para o setor imobiliário. Desde então, os cubanos podem comprar e vender seus bens sem outra formalidade senão uma visita ao cartório. Antes, era necessário conseguir a permissão do Escritório de Habitação. Para evitar a concentração de bens em um mercado deficitário, os cubanos não podem ter mais de dois produtos imobiliários, um dos quais deve se situar no campo.

43. Em março de 2012, Raúl Castro recebe a visita de Bento XVI. “Nosso governo e a Igreja Católica, Apostólica e Romana em Cuba mantêm boas relações”, declara.

44. Em dezembro de 2012, Raúl Castro decide expandir o sistema de cooperativas para todos os setores.

45. Em janeiro de 2013, respondendo a uma forte petição popular, Raúl Castro decide eliminar os obstáculos burocráticos como a “tarjeta blanca” [como é popularmente conhecida a autorização de saída] e a “carta-convite”, para facilitar as viagens dos cubanos ao exterior.

46. Em 28 de janeiro de 2013, Raúl castro é eleito para à presidência pro tempore da Comunidade de Estados Latino-Americanos e Caribenhos, que agrupa os 33 países da América Latina e do Caribe, e provoca, assim, um importante revés diplomático contra os Estados Unidos, cujo chamado para isolar Cuba foi ignorado.

47. Em fevereiro de 2013, Raúl Castro é reeleito para a presidência da República para uma mandato de 5 anos. Depois da reforma constitucional, os mandatos executivos se limitam agora a 10 anos. Assim, Raúl Castro sairá do poder no máximo em 2018.

48. No dia 10 de dezembro de 2013, durante o funeral de Nelson Mandela na África do Sul, Raúl Castro dá a mão ao presidente Barack Obama. Como seu predecessor, Fidel Castro, declara publicamente sua vontade de dialogar com os Estados Unidos. “Se realmente desejamos avançar nas relações bilaterais, teremos de aprender a respeitar mutuamente nossas diferenças e nos acostumarmos a conviver pacificamente com elas. Do contrário, estamos dispostos suportar outros 55 anos na mesma situação.”

49. Sua filha Mariela Castro é diretora do Centro Nacional de Educação Sexual e defende os direitos dos homossexuais, lésbicas e transexuais em Cuba.

50. Raúl Castro é famoso por sua franqueza e sua mente aberta. Não vacila em se mostrar muito crítico e denuncia publicamente as oscilações do sistema, o que lhe vale a fama de ser ao mesmo tempo o melhor jornalista da ilha e seu dissidente mais incisivo.

Salim Lamrani

Doutor em Estudos Ibéricos e Latino-americanos, Salim Lamrani é professor-titular da Universidade de La Reunión e jornalista, especialista nas relações entre Cuba e Estados Unidos. Seu último livro se chama Cuba. Les médias face audéfi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, com prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

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50 verdades sobre Fidel Castro

January 5th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

El líder histórico de la Revolución Cubana marcó para siempre la historia de Cuba y de América Latina, convirtiendo a su país en símbolo de dignidad y resistencia.

1. Procedente de una familia de siete hijos, Fidel Castro nació el 13 de agosto de 1926 en Birán en la actual provincia de Holguín, de la unión entre Ángel Castro Argiz, rico terrateniente español oriundo de Galicia, y Lina Ruz González, cubana de nacimiento.

 2. A los siete años se marcha para la ciudad de Santiago de Cuba y reside en casa de una maestra encargada de su educación. Ésa lo abandona a su suerte. “Conocí el hambre”, recordaría Fidel Castro y “mi familia había sido engañada”. Un año después ingresa en el colegio religioso de los Hermanos de la Salle en enero de 1935 como interno. Deja la institución para ir al colegio Dolores con 11 años, en enero de 1938, tras rebelarse contra el autoritarismo de un profesor. Prosigue su escolaridad con los jesuitas en el colegio de Belén de La Habana de 1942 a 1945. Tras una carrera brillante, su profesor, el Padre Armando Llorente, escribe en el anuario de la institución: “Se distinguió en todas las asignaturas relacionadas con las letras. Excelencia y congregante, fue un verdadero atleta, defendiendo siempre con valor y orgullo la bandera del colegio. Ha sabido ganarse la admiración y el cariño de todos. Cursará la carrera de Derecho y no dudamos de que llenará con páginas brillantes el libro de su vida”.

Wikicommons

Fidel Castro durante evento en Cuba, en primeiro de maio de 2005

3. A pesar de su exilio a Miami en 1961 tras las tensiones entre el Gobierno revolucionario y la Iglesia Católica cubana, el Padre Llorente siempre guardó un recuerdo nostálgico de su antiguo alumno: “Me dicen ‘usted siempre habla bien de Fidel’. Yo hablo del Fidel que conocí. Inclusive, una vez, me salvó la vida y esas cosas no se pueden olvidar nunca”. Fidel Castro se tiró al agua para salvar a su profesor llevado por la corriente.

4. En 1945, Fidel Castro ingresa en la Universidad de La Habana, donde cursa la carrera de Derecho. Elegido delegado de la Facultad de Derecho, participa activamente en las manifestaciones contra la corrupción del Gobierno del Presidente Ramón Grau San Martín. No vacila tampoco en denunciar públicamente a las pandillas del BAGA vinculadas a las autoridades políticas. Max Lesnik, entonces secretario general de la Juventud Ortodoxa y compañero de Fidel Castro, recuerda este episodio: “El comité «30 de Septiembre» [creado para luchar contra las pandillas] tomó el acuerdo de presentar la denuncia contra el Gobierno y los gánsteres en el pleno de la Federación de Estudiantes En el salón, más de 300 alumnos de las diversas facultades se aprestaban a escuchar a Fidel cuando alguien […] gritó: «El que hable lo que no debe, hablará por última vez». Estaba claro que la amenaza era para el orador de turno. Fidel se levantó de su silla y con paso pausado y firme se encaminó al centro del amplio salón, después de pedir un minuto de silencio en recordación a los mártires, […] comenzó a leer una lista oficial con los nombres de todos y cada uno de los miembros de las pandillas y de los dirigentes de la FEU que habían sido premiados con jugosas «botellas» [cargos] en los distintos ministerios de la administración pública.

5. En 1947, con 22 años, Fidel Castro participa con Juan Bosch, futuro Presidente de República Dominicana, en un intento de desembarco de Cayo Confite para derrocar al dictador Rafael Trujillo, entonces apoyado por Estados Unidos.

6. Un año después, en 1948, participa en el Bogotazo, sublevación popular desatada por el asesinato de Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, líder político progresista, candidato a las elecciones presidenciales en Colombia.

7. Graduado en Derecho en 1950, Fidel Castro ejerce como abogado hasta 1952 y defiende a la gente humilde, antes de lanzarse a la política.

8. Fidel Castro nunca militó en el Partido Socialista Popular (PSP), partido comunista de la Cuba prerrevolucionaria. Era miembro del Partido del Pueblo Cubano, también llamado Partido Ortodoxo, fundado en 1947 por Eduardo Chibás. El programa del Partido Ortodoxo de Chibás es progresista y se basa en varios pilares: la soberanía nacional, la independencia económica con una diversificación de la producción agrícola, la supresión del latifundio, el desarrollo de la industria, la nacionalización de los servicios públicos, la lucha contra la corrupción y la justicia social con la defensa de los trabajadores. Fidel Castro reivindica su pertenencia al pensamiento martiano (de José Martí), chibasista (de Chibás) y antiimperialista. Orador de gran talento, se presenta a las elecciones parlamentarias como candidato del Partido del Pueblo Cubano en 1952.

9. El 10 de marzo de 1952, a tres meses de las elecciones presidenciales, el general Fulgencio Batista rompe el orden constitucional y derroca al Gobierno de Carlos Prío Socarrás. Consigue el apoyo inmediato de Estados Unidos que reconoce oficialmente a la nueva dictadura militar.

10. El abogado Fidel Castro presenta una denuncia contra Batista por romper el orden constitucional: “Si existen tribunales, Batista debe ser castigado, y si Batista no es castigado [...] ¿Cómo podrá después este tribunal juzgar a un ciudadano cualquiera por sedición o rebeldía contra este régimen ilegal producto de la traición impune?” El Tribunal Supremo, a las órdenes del nuevo régimen, rechaza la demanda.

11. El 26 de julio de 1953, Fidel Castro se pone al frente de una expedición de 131 hombres y ataca el cuartel Moncada en la ciudad de Santiago, segunda fortaleza militar del país, así como el cuartel Carlos Manuel de Céspedes en la ciudad de Bayamo. El objetivo era tomar el control de la ciudad –cuna histórica de todas las revoluciones– y lanzar un llamado a la rebelión en todo el país para derrocar al dictador Batista.

12. La operación es un fracaso y numerosos combatientes –55 en total– son asesinados tras ser brutalmente torturados por el ejército. En efecto, sólo seis de ellos murieron en combate. Algunos logran escapar gracias al apoyo de la población.

13. Fidel Castro, capturado unos días después, le debe la vida al sargento Pedro Sarría, quien se niega a seguir las órdenes de sus superiores y ejecutar al líder de Moncada. “¡No disparen! ¡No disparen! ¡Las ideas no se matan!”, exclamó frente a sus soldados.

14. Durante su histórico alegato titulado “La Historia me absolverá”, Fidel Castro, quien se encarga de su propia defensa, denuncia los crímenes de Batista y la miseria en la cual se encuentra el pueblo cubano y presenta su programa para una Cuba libre basado en la soberanía nacional, la independencia económica y la justicia social.

15. Condenado a 15 años de prisión, Fidel Castro es liberado en 1955 después de la amnistía que le concedió el régimen de Batista. Funda el Movimiento 26 de Julio (M 26-7) y declara su proyecto de seguir la lucha contra la dictadura antes de exilarse en México.

16. Fidel Castro organiza allí la expedición del Granma con un médico llamado Ernesto Guevara. A Fidel Castro no le costó mucho trabajo convencer al joven argentino quien recuerda: “Lo conocí en una de esas frías noches de México, y recuerdo que nuestra primera discusión versó sobre política internacional. A las pocas horas de la misma noche –en la madrugada- era yo uno de los futuros expedicionarios.”

17. En agosto de 1955, Fidel Castro publica el Primer Manifiesto del Movimiento 26 de Julio que retoma los puntos esenciales de su alegato “la Historia me absolverá”. Trata de reforma agraria, de prohibición del latifundio, de reformas económicas y sociales a favor de los desheredados, de industrialización de la nación, de construcción de viviendas, de disminución de los alquileres, de nacionalización de los servicios públicos de teléfono, gas y electricidad, de educación y de cultura para todos, de reforma fiscal y de reorganización de la administración pública para luchar contra la corrupción.

18. En octubre de 1955, para reunir los fondos necesarios para la expedición, Fidel Castro realiza una gira por Estados Unidos y se reúne con los exilados cubanos. El FBI vigila estrechamente a los clubes patrióticos M 26-7 fundados en las diferentes ciudades.

19. El 2 de diciembre de 1956, Fidel Castro embarca en el puerto de Tuxpán, México, a bordo del barco Granma, con capacidad para 25 personas. Los revolucionarios son 82 en total y navegan rumbo a Cuba con el objetivo de desatar una guerra de guerrillas en las montañas de la Sierra Maestra.

20. La travesía se convierte en pesadilla por las condiciones climáticas. Un expedicionario cae al mar. Juan Almeida, miembro del grupo y futuro comandante de la Revolución, recuerda el episodio: “Fidel nos dijo lo siguiente: ‘De aquí no nos vamos hasta que lo salvemos’. Eso conmovió a la gente y levantó la combatividad. Pensamos ‘con ese hombre no hay abandonados’. Lo salvamos, a costa que se echara a perder la expedición”.

21. Tras una travesía de siete días, en vez de los cinco previstos, el 2 de diciembre de 1956, la tropa desembarca “en el peor pantano jamás visto”, según Raúl Castro. Los tiros de la aviación cubana la dispersan y la persiguen 2.000 soldados de Batista que esperaban a los revolucionarios.

22. Unos días después, en Cinco Palmas, Fidel Castro vuelve a encontrarse con su hermano Raúl y otros 10 expedicionarios. “Ahora sí ganamos la guerra”, declara el líder del M 26-7 a sus hombres. Empieza la guerra de guerrillas que duraría 25 meses.

23. En febrero de 1957, la entrevista a Fidel Castro que realiza Herbert Matthews del New York Times permite que la opinión pública estadounidense y mundial descubra la existencia de una guerrilla en Cuba. Batista confesaría más tarde en sus memorias que gracias a ese palo periodístico “Castro empezaba a ser un personaje de leyenda”. Matthews matizó sin embargo la importancia de su entrevista: “Ninguna publicidad, por más sensacional que fuese, habría podido tener efecto si Fidel Castro no fuera precisamente el hombre que yo describí”.

24. A pesar de las declaraciones oficiales de neutralidad en el conflicto cubano, Estados Unidos brinda su apoyo político, económico y militar a Batista y se opuso a Fidel Castro hasta los últimos instantes. El 23 de diciembre de 1958, a una semana del triunfo de la Revolución, mientras el ejército de Fulgencio Batista se encuentra en plena desbandada a pesar su superioridad en armas y hombres, tiene lugar la 392 reunión del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional, con la presencia del Presidente Eisenhower. Allen Dulles, entonces director de la CIA, expresa claramente la posición de Estados Unidos: “Tenemos que impedir la victoria de Castro”.

25. A pesar del apoyo de Estados Unidos, sus 20.000 soldados y una superioridad material, Batista no pudo vencer a una guerrilla que se componía de 300 hombres armados durante la ofensiva final del verano de 1958 que movilizó a más de 10.000 soldados. Esta “victoria estratégica” revela entonces el genio militar de Fidel Castro que había anticipado y derrotado la operación Fin de Fidel que lanzó Batista.

26. El 1 de enero de 1959, cinco años, cinco meses y cinco días después del asalto al cuartel Moncada del 26 de julio de 1953, triunfó la Revolución Cubana.

27. Durante la formación del Gobierno revolucionario en enero de 1959, Fidel Castro es nombrado ministro de las Fuerzas Armadas. No ocupa la Presidencia, ocupada por el juez Manuel Urrutia, ni el puesto de Primer Ministro, entregado al abogado José Miró Cardona.

28. En febrero de 1959, el Primer Ministro Cardona, quien se opone a las reformas económicas y sociales que considera demasiado radicales (proyecto de reforma agraria), presenta su dimisión. Manuel Urrutia llama a Fidel Castro para ocupar el cargo.

29. En julio de 1959, frente a la oposición del Presidente Urrutia quien rechaza nuevas reformas, Fidel Castro renuncia a su cargo de Primer Ministro. Inmensas manifestaciones populares estallan en toda Cuba, exigiendo la salida de Urrutia y el regreso de Fidel Castro. El nuevo Presidente de la República Osvaldo Dorticós lo vuelve a nombrar Primer Ministro.

30. Estados Unidos se muestra inmediatamente hostil a Fidel Castro al acoger con los brazos abiertos a los dignitarios del antiguo régimen, incluso varios criminales de guerra quienes habían robado las reservas Tesoro cubano, llevándose 424 millones de dólares.

Wikicommons

[Fidel viajo a Cuba pocos mes después de la Revolucion de 1959]

31. No obstante, desde el principio, Fidel Castro declara su voluntad de mantener buenas relaciones con Washington. Sin embargo, durante su primera visita a Estados Unidos en abril de 1959, el Presidente Eisenhower se niega a recibirlo y prefiere ir a jugar al golf. John F. Kennedy lamentaría eso: “Fidel Castro forma parte del legado de Bolívar. Debíamos haber dado al fogoso y joven rebelde una más calurosa bienvenida en su hora de triunfo.”

32. A partir de octubre de 1959, pilotos procedentes de Estados Unidos bombardean Cuba y regresan a la Florida sin ser molestados por las autoridades. El 21 de octubre de 1959, lanzan una bomba sobre La Habana que ocasiona dos muertos y 45 heridos. El responsable del crimen, Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz, regresa a Miami sin ser molestado por la justicia y Washington se niega a extraditarlo a Cuba.

33. Fidel Castro sólo se acerca de Moscú en febrero de 1960 y sólo adquiere armas soviéticas después del rechazo de Estados Unidos a proporcionarle el arsenal necesario para su defensa. Washington también presiona a Canadá y a las naciones europeas solicitadas por Cuba con el fin de obligarla a dirigirse al bloque socialista y así justificar su política hostil hacia La Habana.

34. En marzo de 1960, la administración Eisenhower toma la decisión formal de derrocar a Fidel Castro. En total, el líder de la Revolución Cubana sufriría no menos de 637 intentos de asesinato.

35. En marzo de 1960, el sabotaje por la CIA del barco francés La Coubre cargado de armas en el puerto de La Habana ocasiona más de cien muertos. En su discurso en homenaje a las víctimas, Fidel Castra lanza el lema “Patria o muerte” inspirado en el de la Revolución Francesa “Libertad, igualdad, fraternidad o muerte”.

36. El 16 de abril de 1961, tras los bombardeos de los principales aeropuertos del país por la CIA, preludio de la invasión de Bahía de Cochinos, Fidel Castro declara el carácter “socialista” de la Revolución.

37. Durante la invasión de Bahía de Cochinos por 1.400 exilados financiados por la CIA, Fidel Castro se encuentra en primera línea de combate. Inflige una severa derrota a Estados Unidos y aplasta a los invasores en 66 horas. Su popularidad alcanza cimas en todo el mundo.

38. Durante la crisis de los misiles de octubre de 1962, el general soviético Alexei Dementiexv estaba al lado de Fidel Castro. Cuenta sus recuerdos: “Pasé junto a Fidel los momentos más impresionantes de mi vida. Estuve la mayor parte del tiempo a su lado. Hubo un instante en que considerábamos cercano el ataque militar de los Estados Unidos y Fidel tomó la decisión de poner todos los medios en alerta. En pocas horas el pueblo estaba en posición de combate. Era impresionante la fe de Fidel en su pueblo, y de su pueblo y de nosotros, los soviéticos, en él. Fidel es, sin discusión alguna, uno de los genios políticos y militares de este siglo.”

39. En octubre de 1965, se crea el Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) en sustitución del Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista (PURS) nacido en 1962 (que remplazó las Organizaciones Revolucionarias Integradas –ORI- creadas en 1961). Fidel Castro es nombrado Primero Secretario.

40. En 1975, Fidel Castro es elegido por primera vez a la Presidencia de la República tras la adopción de la nueva Constitución. Sería reelecto a ese cargo hasta 2006.

41. En 1988, a más de 20.000 kilómetros de distancia, Fidel Castro dirige desde La Habana la batalla de Cuito Cuanavale en Angola, en la cual las tropas cubanas y angoleñas infligen una estrepitosa derrota a las fuerzas armadas sudafricanas que invadieron Angola y que ocupaban Namibia. El historiador Piero Gleijeses, Profesor de la Universidad Johns Hopkins de Washington, escribe al respecto: “A pesar de todos los esfuerzos de Washington [aliado al régimen del apartheid] para impedirlo, Cuba cambió el curso de la historia de África Austral […].La proeza de los cubanos en el campo de batalla y su virtuosismo en la mesa de negociaciones fueron decisivas para obligar a Sudáfrica a aceptar la independencia de Namibia. Su exitosa defensa de Cuito fue el preludio de una campaña que obligó a la SADF a salir de Angola. Esta victoria repercutió más allá de Namibia ».

42. Observador lúcido de la Perestroika, Fidel Castro declara al pueblo en un discurso premonitorio del 26 de julio de 1989 que en caso de desaparición de la Unión Soviética Cuba deberá resistir y proseguir en la vía del socialismo: “Si mañana o cualquier día nos despertáramos con la noticia de que se ha creado una gran contienda civil en la URSS, o incluso si nos despertáramos con la noticia de que la URSS se desintegró [...] Cuba y la Revolución cubana seguirían luchando y seguirían resistiendo”.

Wikicommons

Fidel se aproximo mucho de otros líderes latinoamericanos, como Lula y Chávez

43. En 1994, en pleno Periodo Especial, conoce a Hugo Chávez con el cual establece una fuerte amistad que duraría hasta la muerte de éste en 2013. Según Fidel Castro, el presidente venezolano fue “el mejor amigo que tuvo el pueblo cubano”. Ambos establecen una colaboración estratégica con la creación en 2005 de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de nuestra América que agrupa hoy día ocho países de América Latina y el Caribe.

44. En 1998, Fidel Castro recibe la visita del Papa Juan Pablo II en La Habana. Éste pide que “el mundo se abra a Cuba y que Cuba se abra al mundo”.

45. En 2002, el expresidente de Estados Unidos James Carter realiza una visita histórica a Cuba. Interviene en vivo por televisión: “No he venido acá a interferir en los asuntos internos de Cuba, sino a extender una mano de amistad hacia el pueblo cubano y ofrecer una visión del futuro para nuestros dos países y para las Américas. […] Quiero que lleguemos a ser amigos y nos respetemos unos a otros. […] Debido a que los Estados Unidos es la nación más poderosa, somos nosotros quienes debemos dar el primer paso”.

46. En julio de 2006, tras una grave enfermedad intestinal, Fidel Castro renuncia al poder. Conforme a la Constitución, le sucede el vicepresidente Raúl Castro.

47. En febrero de 2008, Fidel Castro renuncia definitivamente a todo mandato ejecutivo. Se consagra entonces a la redacción de sus memorias y publica regularmente artículos bajo el título de “reflexiones”.

48. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., historiador y asesor especial del Presidente Kennedy, evocó la cuestión del culto de la personalidad tras una estancia en Cuba en 2001: “Fidel Castro no fomenta el culto a la personalidad. Es difícil encontrar un cartel o incluso una postal de Castro en ningún lugar de La Habana. El icono de la Revolución de Fidel, visible en todas partes, es el Che Guevara”.

49. Gabriel García Márquez, escritor colombiano y Premio Nobel de literatura, es un íntimo amigo de Fidel Castro. Esbozó un retrato de él y subraya “la confianza absoluta que coloca en el contacto directo. Su poder es de seducción. Busca los problemas donde están. Su paciencia es invencible. Su disciplina es de hierro. La fuerza de su imaginación lo empuja hasta los límites de lo imprevisto”.

50. El triunfo de la Revolución Cubana el 1 de enero de 1959 dirigida por Fidel Castro es el acontecimiento más relevante de la Historia de América Latina del siglo XX. Fidel Castro seguirá siendo una de las figuras más controvertidas del siglo XX. No obstante, hasta sus más acérrimos detractores reconocen que hizo de Cuba una nación soberana e independiente respetada en la escena internacional, con innegables logros sociales en los campos de la educación, la salud, la cultura, el deporte y la solidaridad internacional. Quedará para siempre como el símbolo de la dignidad nacional que siempre se puso del lado de los oprimidos y que brindó su apoyo a todos los pueblos que luchaban por su emancipación.

 Salim Lamrani

Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, con un prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

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La Habana, Washington y el caso Alan Gross

January 5th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

Desde el 3 de diciembre de 2009, Alan Gross está encarcelado en La Habana. Era empleado de la Development Alternative, Inc (DAI), subcontratista de la Agencia Estadounidense para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID), la cual a su vez depende del Departamento de Estado. Gross fue juzgado y condenado a 15 años de prisión por distribuir equipos satelitales, en el marco de un programa del Departamento de Estado de «promoción de la democracia en Cuba», cuyo objetivo es un “cambio de régimen” en la isla.[1]

Según Washington, Gross se encontraba en La Habana para ayudar a los miembros de la comunidad judía cubana a “a conectarse con otras comunidades judías del mundo”.[2] No obstante, la misma comunidad judía de La Habana contradice la versión oficial de Estados Unidos y de la familia Gross. Por su parte la Agencia estadounidense Associated Press señala que los “líderes de la comunidad judía de Cuba negaron que el contratista estadounidense Alan Gross […] hubiera colaborado con ellos”.[3] Del mismo modo, la Agencia Telegráfica Judía precisa que “los principales grupos judíos de Cuba han desmentido cualquier contacto con Alan Gross y cualquier conocimiento de su programa”.[4]

El reverendo Odén Marichal, secretario del Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba (CIC), que agrupa las instituciones religiosas cristianas así como a la comunidad judía de Cuba, también ha ratificado esta posición: “La comunidad hebrea de Cuba, que es miembro del Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba, nos dijo: ‘Nosotros jamás tuvimos relación con ese señor, jamás nos trajo equipo de ninguna clase. Negaron cualquier relación con Alan Gross’”.[5]

Wayne S. Smith, embajador estadounidense en Cuba entre 1979 y 1982 y director del Programa «Cuba» del Centro de Política Internacional de Washington, señala en cambio que “Gross estaba implicado en un programa cuyas intenciones son claramente hostiles a Cuba ya que el objetivo es nada menos que el cambio de régimen”.[6]

Alan Gross

En efecto, Alan Gross violó la legislación cubana, particularmente el Artículo 11 de la Ley 88 cubana que estipula que “El que, para la realización de los hechos previstos en esta Ley, directamente o mediante tercero, reciba, distribuya o participe en la distribución de medios financieros, materiales o de otra índole, procedentes del Gobierno de Estados Unidos de América, sus agencias, dependencias, representantes, funcionarios o de entidades privadas, incurre en sanción de privación de libertad de tres a ocho años”.[7]

Este rigor no es específico de la legislación cubana. En efecto, la ley estadounidense prevé sanciones similares para este tipo de delitos. La Ley de Registro de Agentes Extranjeros (Foreign Agents Registration Act) sanciona a todo agente no registrado por las autoridades que “en Estados Unidos solicita, recolecta, proporciona o gasta contribuciones, préstamos, dinero u otro objeto de valor en su propio interés”, con una pena de cinco años de prisión y una multa de 10.000 dólares.[8]

La legislación francesa también sanciona este tipo de actuación. Según el Artículo 411-8 del Código Penal, “el hecho de ejercer, por cuenta de una potencia extranjera, de una empresa u organización extranjera o bajo control extranjero o de sus agentes, una actividad con el objetivo de conseguir o proporcionar dispositivos, informaciones, procedimientos, objetos, documentos, datos informatizados o ficheros cuya explotación, divulgación o reunión tengan la naturaleza de atentar contra los intereses fundamentales de la nación se castiga con diez años de cárcel y 150.000 euros de multa”.[9]

El New York Times recuerda que Gross “fue arrestado en diciembre pasado durante un viaje a Cuba en el marco de un programa semiclandestino de la USAID, servicio de ayuda extranjera del Departamento de Estado destinado a socavar al Gobierno de Cuba”. El diario neoyorquino subraya también que “las autoridades estadounidenses han reconocido que el señor Gross entró en Cuba sin visa en regla, y han declarado que distribuía teléfonos satelitales a disidentes religiosos”.[10]

Desde un punto de vista jurídico, esta realidad ubica de hecho a los disidentes que aceptan los emolumentos ofrecidos por Washington en una situación de agentes al servicio de una potencia extranjera. La Agencia USAID es consciente de que su política constituye una grave violación del Código Penal cubano. Recuerda entonces que “nadie está obligado a aceptar o formar parte de los programas del Gobierno de Estados Unidos”.[11]

El caso Alan Gross constituye un obstáculo mayor a una eventual normalización de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Parece vinculado a la suerte de los cinco agentes cubanos condenados a severas penas de prisión en Estados Unidos y encarcelados desde 1998. Después de una serie de atentados con bombas contra los centros turísticos de La Habana, el Gobierno cubano envió a los cinco agentes para que se infiltraran en los grupos terroristas anticastristas de Florida y recogieran información sobre sus planes. El FBI, tras recibir pruebas por parte de La Habana de la implicación de esos grupos en actos violentos contra Cuba, en vez de neutralizarlos procedió al arresto de los agentes cubano. Luego, la justicia de Estados Unidos los condenó a penas que van de 15 años de prisión hasta dos cadenas perpetuas, durante un juicio denunciado por numerosos organismos internacionales.[12]

Cuba ha hizo partícipe de su “inmediata disposición” a encontrar una solución humanitaria a estos dos asuntos[13]. Un intercambio de presos es perfectamente posible y permitiría dar un gran paso hacia la flexibilización de las relaciones bilaterales entre La Habana y Washington y resolver un conflicto de otro tiempo.

 Salim Lamrani

Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, con un prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

http://www.amazon.fr/Cuba-m%C3%A9dias-face-d%C3%A9fi-limpartialit%C3%A9/dp/2953128433/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376731937&sr=1-1

Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

 



[1] Jeff Franks, «Scenarios-U.S. Contractor Jailed in Cuba Still in Limbo», Reuters, 24 de octubre de 2010.

[2] Phillip J. Crowley, «Statement on Anniversary of Alan Gross’ Incarceration in Cuba», U.S. Department of State, 3 de diciembre de 2010; EFE, “EEUU insta a Cuba libertar de ‘inmediato’ al contratista Alan Gross”, 2 de diciembre de 2013.

[3] Andrea Rodríguez, «Judíos niegan haber colaborado con Alan Gross», The Associated Press, 2 de diciembre de 2010.

[4] Jewish Telegraphic Agency, «Cuba to Seek 20- Year Prison Term for Alan Gross», 6 de febrero de 2011.

[5] Andrea Rodríguez, «EEUU pide Iglesias de Cuba interesarse por contratista preso», The Associated Press, 2 de diciembre de 2010.

[6] Wayne S. Smith, « The Gross Case and the Inanity of U.S. Policy », Center for International Policy, marzo 2011. http://ciponline.org/pressroom/articles/030411_Smith_Intelligence_Brief_Gross.htm (sitio consultado el 5 de diciembre de 2013).

[7] Ley de protección de la independencia nacional y la economía de Cuba (LEY N˚. 88), Artículo 11.

[8] U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 11, Subchapter II, § 611, iii <<Definitions>>, § 618, a, 1 <<Violations; false statements and willful omissions>>.

[9] Code Pénal, Partie législative, Livre, Titre Ier, Chapitre I, Section 3, Article 411-8.

[10] Ginger Thompson, « Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to Castro », The New York Times, 24 de octubre de 2010.

[11] Along the Malecon, « Exclusive: Q & A with USAID », 25 de octubre de 2010. http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/2010/10/exclusive-q-with-usaid.html (sitio consultado el 5 de diciembre de 2013).

[12] Salim Lamrani, « 50 vérités sur le cas des Cinq », Opera Mundi, noviembre de 2013.

[13] Agence France-Presse, « Cuba propone diálogo ‘inmediato’ sobre Gross y agentes cubanos », 3 de diciembre de 2013.

Havana, Washington e o caso Alan Gross

January 5th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

Desde o dia 3 dezembro de 2009, Alan Gross está preso em Havana. Era um empregado da Development Alternative, Inc (DAI), contratada pela Agência dos Estados Unidos para o Desenvolvimento Internacional (USAID, por sua sigla em inglês), a qual, por sua vez, depende do Departamento de Estado. Gross foi julgado e condenado a 15 anos de prisão por distribuir equipamentos via satélites, no marco do programa do Departamento de Estado de “promoção da democracia em Cuba”, cujo objetivo é uma “mudança de regime” na ilha.[1]

De acordo com Washington, Gross estava em Havana para ajudar os membros da comunidade judaica cubana a “se conectarem com outras comunidades judaicas do mundo” [2]. Não obstante, a mesma comunidade judaica de Havana contradiz a versão oficial dos Estados Unidos e da família Gross. A agência estadunidense Associated Press afirma, de sua parte, que os “líderes da comunidade judaica de Cuba negaram que o contratado estadunidense Alan Gross [...] tivesse colaborado com eles”.[3] Do mesmo modo, a Agência Telegráfica Judaica pontua que “os principais grupos de Cuba desmentiram qualquer contato com Alan Gross e qualquer conhecimento de seu programa.”[4]

O reverendo Odén Marichal, secretário do Conselho de Igrejas de Cuba (CIC), que agrupa as instituições religiosas cristãs bem como a comunidade judaica de Cuba, também ratificou essa posição: “A comunidade hebraica de Cuba, que é membro do Conselho de Igrejas de Cuba, nos disse: ‘Nós jamais tivemos relações com esse senhor, jamais nos trouxe nenhum equipamento de nenhum tipo’. Negaram qualquer relação com Alan Gross!”.[5]

Wayne S. Smith, embaixador estadunidense em Cuba entre 1979 e 1982 e diretor do programa “Cuba” do Centro de Política Internacional de Washington, diz, por outro lado, que “Gross estava envolvido em um programa cujas intenções são claramente hostis a Cuba, já que o objetivo é nada menos que a mudança de regime”.[6]

Reprodução

Alan Gross está preso em Cuba há quatro anos

De fato, Alan Gross violou a legislação cubana, particularmente o Artigo 11 da Lei 88 cubana que estipula que “aquele que, para a realização dos atos previstos nessa Lei, diretamente ou por terceiros, receba, distribuía ou participe da distribuição de meio financeiros, materiais ou de outra índole, procedentes do governo dos Estados Unidos da América, suas agências, dependências, representantes, funcionário ou entidades privadas, incorre em pena de privação de liberdade de três a oito anos.”[7]

Este rigor não é específico da legislação cubana. De fato, a lei estadunidense prevê sanções similares para esse tipo de delito. A Lei de Registro de Agentes Estrangeiros (Foreign Agents Registration Act), pune todo agente não registrado pelas autoridades que, “nos Estados Unidos, solicite, recolha, proporcione ou gaste contribuições, empréstimos, dinheiro ou outro objeto de valor em seu próprio interesse”, com uma pena de cinco anos de prisão e uma multa de 10 mil dólares.[8]

A legislação francesa também pune esse tipo de atitude. Segundo o Artigo 411-8 do Código Penal, “o fato de exercer, por conta de uma potência estrangeira, uma atividade com o objetivo de conseguir ou proporcionar dispositivos, informações, procedimentos, objetos, documentos, dados informatizados ou arquivos cuja exploração, divulgação ou reunião tenham a natureza de atentar contra os interesses fundamentais da nação é punido com dez anos de prisão e 150 mil euros de multa.”[9]

New York Times lembra que Gross “foi preso em dezembro passado durante uma viagem a Cuba pelo programa semiclandestino da USAID, serviço de ajuda estrangeira do Departamento de Estado destinado a enfraquecer o governo de Cuba”. O diário nova-iorquino ressalta também que “as autoridades estadunidenses reconheceram que o Sr. Gross entrou em Cuba sem ter um visto em dia, e declararam que ele distribuía telefones via satélite para dissidentes religiosos.”[10]

De um ponto de vista jurídico, essa realidade coloca os dissidentes que aceitam os emolumentos oferecidos por Washington em uma posição de agentes de uma potência estrangeira. A Agência USAID é consciente de que sua política constitui uma grave violação do Código Penal cubano. Recorda, então, que “ninguém está obrigado a aceitar ou a fazer parte dos programas do governo dos Estados Unidos”.[11]

O caso de Alan Gross é um obstáculo maior a uma eventual normalização das relações entre Cuba e os Estados Unidos. Parece vinculado à sorte de cinco agentes cubanos condenados a severas penas de prisão nos Estados Unidos e presos desde 1998. Depois de uma série de atentados a bombas contra os centros turísticos de Havana, o governo cubano enviou cinco agentes para que se infiltrassem em grupos terroristas anticastristas da Flórida e reunissem informação sobre seus planos. O FBI, depois de receber provas por parte de Havana do envolvimento desses grupos em atos violentos contra Cuba, em vez de neutralizá-los, prendeu os agentes cubanos. Assim, a justiça dos Estados Unidos os condenou a penas que vão de 15 anos de prisão até a prisão perpétua, durante um julgamento denunciado por numerosos organismos internacionais.[12]

Cuba já divulgou sua “imediata disposição” de encontrar uma solução humanitária para esses dois assuntos[13]. Uma troca de presos é perfeitamente possível e permitiria dar um grande passo em direção à flexibilização das relações bilaterais entre Havana e Washington e resolver um conflito de outra época.

 Salim Lamrani

Doutor em Estudos Ibéricos e Latino-americanos, Salim Lamrani é professor-titular da Universidade de la Reunión e jornalista, especialista nas relações entre Cuba e Estados Unidos. Seu último livro se chama Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, com prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

Contato: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Página no Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel



[1] Jeff Franks, « Scenarios-U.S. Contractor Jailed in Cuba Still in Limbo », Reuters, 24 de octubre de 2010.

[2] Phillip J. Crowley, « Statement on Anniversary of Alan Gross’ Incarceration in Cuba », U.S. Department of State, 3 de diciembre de 2010 ; EFE, “EEUU insta a Cuba libertar de ‘inmediato’ al contratista Alan Gross”, 2 de diciembre de 2013.

[3] Andrea Rodríguez, « Judíos niegan haber colaborado con Alan Gross », The Associated Press, 2 de diciembre de 2010.

[4] Jewish Telegraphic Agency, « Cuba to Seek 20- Year Prison Term for Alan Gross », 6 de febrero de 2011.

[5] Andrea Rodríguez, « EEUU pide Iglesias de Cuba interesarse por contratista preso », The Associated Press, 2 de diciembre de 2010.

[6] Wayne S. Smith, « The Gross Case and the Inanity of U.S. Policy », Center for International Policy, março de 2011. http://ciponline.org/pressroom/articles/030411_Smith_Intelligence_Brief_Gross.htm (site acessado no dia 5 de dezembro de 2013).

[7] Lei de proteção da independencia nacional e da economía de Cubay de protección de la independencia nacional y la economía de Cuba (LEY N˚. 88), Artículo 11.

[8] U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 11, Subchapter II, § 611, iii <<Definitions>>, § 618, a, 1 <<Violations; false statements and willful omissions>>.

[9] Code Pénal, Partie législative, Livre, Titre Ier, Chapitre I, Section 3, Article 411-8.

[10] Ginger Thompson, « Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to Castro », The New York Times, 24 de outubro de 2010.

[11] Along the Malecon, « Exclusive: Q & A with USAID », 25 de outubro de 2010. http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/2010/10/exclusive-q-with-usaid.html (site acessado no dia 5 de dezembro de 2013).

[12] Salim Lamrani, « 50 vérités sur le cas des Cinq », Opera Mundi, novembro de 2013.

[13] Agence France-Presse, « Cuba propone diálogo ‘inmediato’ sobre Gross y agentes cubanos », 3 de dezembro de 2013.

In late December, 2013 the Department of Defense released a database on the military’s controversial Student Testing Program in 11,700 high schools across the country.  An examination of the complex and contradictory dataset raises serious issues regarding student privacy and the integrity of the Student Testing Program in America’s schools.

The data was released after a protracted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

See the State ASVAB Databases and the National Database.

The DoD’s Freedom of Information office reports that 678,000 students participated in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB-CEP) during the 2012-2013 school year, down nearly 10% from the previous school year. The three-hour test is the linchpin of the Pentagon’s school-based recruiting program and provides the Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) an invaluable tool in prescreening candidates for military service.

 The ASVAB is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. Since 1968 the test has also been used as a recruiting tool in high schools. It’s used by USMEPCOM to gain sensitive, personal information on high school students, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically take the test at school without parental consent and often without parental knowledge.

The Pentagon admits military testing in the nation’s schools is a crucial component of maintaining an “all-volunteer” force. In recent years military recruiting has evolved into an exceptionally sophisticated psychological campaign aimed at enticing high school children to enlist. From a myriad of social websites and a host of other sources, recruiters may know, before first contact, that a young man reads wrestling magazines, weighs 155, can bench press 230, drives a ten year-old truck, listens to “classic rock,” and enjoys fly fishing.  They know where his girlfriend stands on his looming decision to enlist. But the ASVAB opens the door to a student’s cognitive abilities, something recruiting services can’t purchase or find on line. A child’s virtual social being, his intellectual capabilities, and mechanical aptitude are combined to create a precise, virtual portrait, all before a recruiter’s first contact.

 In 1974 The Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) stood in the way of the DoD’s carte blanche access to student education records. The law, which is still in effect today, requires a signed parental release statement before “education records” are released to third parties.  The Pentagon’s position, explained in the ASVAB Counselor Guide (See page 14)  is that the ASVAB is proctored by DoD personnel and that ASVAB results become education records only after the test is scored by the DoD and returned to the school.  This way, the brass argues, ASVAB results are not education records. Instead, they’re “military records”. ASVAB results are the only information about students leaving American schools without providing for parental consent.

 USMEPCOM Regulation 601-4 (Section 3) identifies several options schools have regarding the administration and release of ASVAB information. These options range from Option 1, which permits test results and other student information to be released to military recruiters without prior consent, to Option 8, the only one that prevents test results from being used for recruiting purposes. The problem is that many, if not most school administrators are unaware the release options exist and USMEPCOM officials are not going out of their way to tell them. Coalition partners in several states report telling hundreds of school officials who did not know about release options.

Inaction on the part of a school will cause USMEPCOM to automatically select Option 1.

53% of all students taking the ASVAB across the country did so under Release Option 1. Students and parents may not determine which release option is used; therefore they cannot opt out of releasing the information individually.  Just 15% of students taking the ASVAB had Option 8 selected by school officials.

DoD officials wash their hands of the privacy issue. “Whether or not a school official seeks students’ or parents’ or guardians’ permission is entirely up to that school, and we don’t have anything to say about that at all,” said Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon’s prior Director of Accession Policy during an NPR Interview in 2010.

Meanwhile, the DOD markets the ASVAB in high schools without revealing its tie-in to the military or its primary function as a recruitment tool. School counselors and administrators encourage students to take the test that many claim assists students in matching their abilities with certain career paths. It is terribly deceptive.


A Snapshot of the data

INDICATOR                        2011-2012                   2012-2013

 

Total Tested                  752,758                       678,248

 Total Schools                  11,754                         11,741

 # Students Option 8     122,636                      105,222

 % Option 8                         16.29                           15.51

 # Schools Option 8           2177                            2408

 # Schools Mandatory        1219                              938


Mandatory Testing

Pursuant to the FOIA request, the data released by the DoD contains a column that identifies whether the test was mandatory for students. The data shows that 931 schools required nearly 50,000 students to take the test.

 Interestingly, military regulations forbid recruiters from suggesting the ASVAB be made mandatory. According to USMEPCOM Regulation 601-4,

“School and student participation in the Student Testing Program is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory. Schools will be encouraged to recommend most students participate in the ASVAB CEP. If the school requires all students of a particular group or grade to test, the Military Entrance Processing Command will support it.”

School officials in several states are under the impression that ASVAB testing is mandated by federal law.  For instance, counselors in Nebraska have reported they’ve been told by recruiters that testing is required.

Kevin Haake of the Nebraska Coalition to Protect Student Privacy explains it this way, “We’d rather not have the military actively recruiting in our schools but I don’t see an egregious violation of civil rights when a couple of  kids voluntarily sign up to take this military test.  It’s another matter when entire classes of children are told they’ve got to take this thing and all their information is shipped to the Pentagon without mom and dad knowing about it.”

 The line between mandatory and voluntary testing is blurred with U.S. Army Recruiting Command Regulation  601-107 page 25 Item 8 which ranks each high school based on how receptive it is to military recruiters. Schools are awarded extra points when they make the ASVAB mandatory.

 Regardless of the perceptions of school officials concerning the voluntary or mandatory nature of the testing regime many principals and counselors are sold on the utility of the ASVAB as a useful career exploration program that assists students in determining career paths.  Critics claim 16 year-olds are generally clueless regarding the “careers” they may eventually choose. They say the test fails miserably in this regard – and they’re not alone.

The U.S. Marine Corps Military Personnel Procurement Manual contains the following,

“The ASVAB is used by the Armed Forces for recruiting purposes and by school counselors for vocational guidance counseling. The ASVAB’s ability for determining civilian job skills has not yet been proven.” See Sec. 4104 3b (pg 237 of this document)

It’s mind boggling.

Once the test is administered and scored, the recruiting command sends recruiters to the schools after the tests are scored to discuss “career paths” with students.

 The military has done a tremendous job marketing the program in high schools across the country.   American high schools are blanketed with posters and announcements that read like this:

“Explore your interests. Expand your horizons. Realize your strengths. Realize your dreams. Start opening doors to your future. Participate in the ASVAB Career Exploration Program on (DATE). It’s free! See your counselor to register today.”  See ASVAB Snippets.

The Pentagon’s marketing to students in the high schools never explains what “ASVAB” stands for and never mentions the primary purpose of the testing regime, which is to procure leads for recruiters. Its website, http://www.asvabprogram.com/ looks nothing like a DoD site and buries any mention of the military.

Do huge numbers voluntarily take the test?

The database purports to reflect the number of schools and students that participate in mandatory testing but there are several problems with its accuracy.

 The ASVAB provides the first, massive, national litmus test for enlistment.  Consider five schools in the Miami area. North Miami Beach HS tested 855. It has a minority population of 96%..  Coral Gables HS tested 695 with a minority population of 90%.   Coral Park HS had 429 take the test. It has a minority population of  96% Miami Central High School tested 645 and Miami Northwestern HS sat down 642. Both have minority populations of 99%.  None of these five schools are listed in the DoD database as having “mandatory” testing and there’s no evidence online that students were required to take the test.

Voluntary?

 A web search of seven Michigan high schools listed in the newly released data as “Not Mandatory” clearly shows that students are required to take the ASVAB.  Pickford, Watersmeet, Goodrich, Manistique Lake Linden, Rapid River, and Ironwood High Schools all force students to take the test.

 Munford High School in Munford Tennessee tested 855 but is listed in the database as not mandatory.  Perhaps patriotism is rampant in Munford, but how, exactly, do they manage to get 855 teenagers to voluntarily sit for three hours to take a military exam?

 Scranton High School in Arkansas is listed as being mandatory for all grades but only 11 students took the test, according to the data.  Scranton has a total enrollment of 181.  It begs the question: Just how many students are required to take the test in Arkansas? Last year the state led the nation with more than 10,000 students being forced to take the ASVAB. After a robust email campaign to school officials, that number has dropped to 7,333 although 140 schools still require students to take the test.  (That’s an average of 52 per school.)  One school counselor explained that the test has always been required and no one had ever complained. Certainly there have been no complaints from the Military Entrance Processing Command in Little Rock, until now, perhaps.

 Two important questions remain concerning mandatory testing, despite the data. How can we tell from the statistics furnished by the DoD exactly how many are taking the test and how do we know if a school requires students to take the ASVAB?  If the Pentagon admits there are nearly a thousand schools that require military testing, how many are there, really? There’s never been outside accountability. This is tragically ironic because we’re dealing with the most sensitive information the state can possess regarding our children.

 According to the data, 6,536 schools or 56% of the total nationally, tested ten or fewer children, comprising just 6% of the total number of students tested.  Most of these children, it may reasonably be assumed if the data is accurate, were offered the opportunity to participate, rather than being required to do so.

 The average American high school has an enrollment of 595 students and the average junior class has about 120 students.  If our hypothetical high school has 120 juniors what number of juniors tested might provide us a clue that the test was required?  Alternately, how small must the number of test takers be to reasonably demonstrate the voluntary nature of the exam?

 There have been numerous press reports concerning student and parent dissatisfaction with mandatory military testing. Often, juniors and seniors use these ASVAB testing days to simply skip school, reducing the numbers of those being tested.  3,600 schools tested more than 50 students. Is it reasonable to assume that these students were required to do so?   Is it a stretch to suggest that the number of children in America that are forced to take the ASVAB is substantially higher than what the Pentagon publicly admits?

 The U.N. weighs in on mandatory testing

 In early 2013 The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the Obama Administration to “Ensure that schools, parents and pupils are made aware of the voluntary nature of the ASVAB before consenting to the participation into it.”  See the  Concluding observations on the Second Report of the United States of America, Adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child at its sixty-second session (14 January–5 2013) regarding the  Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

http://www2.ohchr.org/English/bodies/crc/docs/co/CRC_C_OPAC_USA_CO_2.doc

The Committee had previously found that “Parents and children are often unaware of the voluntary nature of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test organized in schools or its links to the military and that in some instances students were reportedly informed that the test was mandatory.”

Members of the Committee in Geneva found it incredulous that a thousand American schools force underage children to take this military test without parental consent. 

 The United States ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) in 2002.  Article 3.3 of OPAC states that recruitment practices involving minors should be voluntary. Forced military testing in American public schools for recruitment purposes without parental consent violates the treaty. In late 2012 the Obama Administration denied the mandatory nature of the testing regime. The US replied to the Committee,“Participation in the ASVAB CEP is entirely voluntary. DOD does not require schools to participate, nor does it require schools to test all students within a participating school.”

 The ASVAB is “free”

There is a compelling financial reason why so many take the ASVAB.  It is often the only “free” assessment on “test day”.   A third of all high school students are not college bound.  If these students are offered a choice between taking the PSAT which is a college entrance exam and involves paying a fee — or taking the ASVAB which is free, they’ll typically pick the ASVAB.  The military will list these children as voluntarily taking the ASVAB, although they’re actually forced to do so.

 At Crown Point HS in Indiana,

“11th grade students that wish to take the PSAT, and potentially qualify for national merit scholarships, will be required to pay $14.00.  Juniors may register to take the PSAT in room c-203 from September 7-14th.   11th grade students that do not wish to take the PSAT will be administered the ASVAB exam. The ASVAB exam is free of charge.”

Crown Point tested 469 students last year and they’re listed as not mandatory. All had their results shipped to recruiting services without parental consent.

 It’s the same deal at Woodridge High School in Ohio,

“Juniors may take the PSAT or the ASVAB.  The cost of the PSAT is $14, Students register for the PSAT in Guidance and the deadline is September 16, 2013. There is no cost for the ASVAB.”  The DoD lists Woodridge as “not mandatory”.

 Administrative and Legislative Inroads by the DoD

 New Jersey allows the ASVAB to be used as a substitute for mandatory graduation tests.  The guidelines call for receiving a 31 on the AFQT, the Armed Services Qualifying Test. The ASVAB is used to calculate the AFQT.  A 31 is the minimum score for enlistment in the Army.  A 31 on the AFQT  is roughly comparable to 5th or 6th grade proficiency in reading and math.

 Kentucky calls for a 55 on the AFQT for a student to earn a diploma. A 55 on the AFQT is the same as a composite SAT score of 840, according to the widely distributed ASVAB Concordance Table provided by the recruiting command.  An 840 on the SAT won’t open college doors. It represents the bottom 5th of national SAT scores. A 55, however, opens the door to a host of military occupations.  Kentucky, it should be noted, allows the military access to all student academic records upon request by any agency of the federal or state government for the purpose of determining a student’s eligibility for military service. It’s the worst law in the nation.

Mississippi’s Department of Education is close to allowing students who score a 36 or better on the ASVAB in addition to a passing score on a state vocation test or approved industry certification to receive a high school diploma. The Magnolia State’s board of education is seeking public input and is widely expected to approve the changes in January of 2014. The proposed policy does not address privacy concerns.

 In Minnesota a new policy allows students to take the ASVAB to meet graduation assessment requirements in reading, mathematics and writing.

 Missouri schools now encourage the universal use of the ASVAB and track all ASVAB scores as an integral part of the state’s school improvement program.

 Missouri and Kentucky alone tested 21,000 more students than they did last year.  The rapid decline in the popularity of the testing regime nationally is somewhat arrested by these developments. Meanwhile, the vast majority of these new test takers had their personal information sent to military recruiting services without parental consent, undermining the efforts of privacy advocates.

 The Military Entrance Processing Command is also aided by a dozen state governors who have issued proclamations calling on all students to take the ASVAB.  In 2008 Alaska’s Governor Palin became one of the first to proclaim ASVAB Career Exploration Month although no arrangements were made in Alaska or any other state to protect student privacy.

 We’re witnessing the institutionalization of a direct informational pipeline to the Military Entrance Processing Command.

Psychology 101

School officials often ask, “What’s the problem with sharing student information with the recruiting command?”

Some aren’t too smart and they can get killed would be the answer.

Military recruiting is an exceptionally sophisticated psychological program aimed at enticing high school children. The American Public Health Association (APHA) has called for the cessation of military recruiting in the nation’s high schools, citing the vulnerable stage of brain development of youth and their “limitations in judging risk at this stage in life. They are unable to fully evaluate the consequences of making a choice to enter the military.”  The APHA specifically calls for the end to military testing in the high schools.

Patterns of Obfuscation

In 2010 Maryland became the first state to pass a law requiring the universal selection of Option 8 for all high school students taking the ASVAB.  When the bill was working its way through the legislature, the USMEPCOM Battalion Commander at Fort George G. Meade warned school officials and legislators of a “disinformation campaign” regarding the school testing program.  The Colonel wrote that the efforts to encourage schools to select Option 8 are “bent on disrupting any effort to build, support, or sustain the military.”

It is apparent the Pentagon has orchestrated a “disinformation” campaign of its own.

Guidance counselors in high schools in a dozen states across the country have said they were told by MEPS personnel that privacy concerns are misplaced because students sign a “Privacy Act Statement” that is part of the ASVAB answer sheet.  It is a very familiar refrain.  The counselors are led to believe that the Privacy Act Statement gives students notice of the release of test results to military recruiters and provides student consent for the release of information.  The statement, however, says nothing about recruiter contact. The statement is not a proper waiver of rights because it does not disclose that ASVAB test results may be used for recruitment purposes, and it does not do away with the obligation to obtain consent from a parent or guardian when a student is under age 18. This is precisely where the program runs afoul of state laws.

See the 2013 report Best Practices for ASVAB-CEP Administrationfrom Rutgers Law School. The report makes a compelling case that high school counselors have both legal and professional responsibilities to ensure that ASVAB student test information is not automatically released to military recruiters.

Another misperception spread by the recruiting command is the notion that the “Opt Out” law covers ASVAB testing.  Every fall parents of American high school children are provided the opportunity to “opt out” of information being forwarded to recruiting services pertaining to their children. If parents haven’t “opted out”, the reasoning goes, their kids are fair game for the ASVAB.   The “opt out” law is found in Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is limited to the release of a student’s name, address, and phone number.  The ASVAB, on the other hand, provides an in-depth cognitive picture of a student, along with detailed demographic information and social security number. ESEA doesn’t regulate ASVAB testing.

Still, another obfuscation practiced by USMEPCOM is the use of ASVAB Test Request Forms that are distributed to high school administrators that purposely leave off Option 8.  See this form distributed by the recruiting command to school administrators in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  School officials were so incensed they supported an effort that resulted in passing a law that mandates the selection of Option 8 across the state.

Another reprehensible practice involves recruiters who lurk on internet chat rooms like Yahoo Answers. It’s a way for Staff Sergeants to procure leads to meet their monthly quotas and sometimes it’s laughable. Consider this post in mid-December, 2013,

“I’m a junior in high school (17) and I took the ASVAB. When I was taking the test it didn’t seem hard. Yes it was timed, and I have test anxiety. I think that’s why I did so poorly. I made a score of 16. I cried afterwards because one, I felt stupid, and two, I want to join the military and I know getting a 16 won’t qualify me for any jobs. I am planning on joining the Marine Corp. I know you’re probably going to tell me to study. But can you give me some good advice on what to do to keep my head up and keep trying?”

A score of 16 would mean our Yahoo friend is functionally illiterate. A 16 roughly equates to a 2nd grade level and is half of the score necessary to enlist in the Army.  Several of the comments alluded to the contradiction between the claimed score of 16 and the rather well written question.  Yahoo Answers enforces Community Guidelines.  Under the heading “Exploiting the Community” Yahoo requires participants “to be responsible and don’t misrepresent yourself or claim false credentials… Yahoo Answers is a place to gain knowledge, not customers.”

Yahoo is quick to remove these miscreants and has done so a dozen times.
The question has been deleted.

The greatest fallacy perpetrated by the Pentagon is their insistence that ASVAB testing is not subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is ludicrous to suggest that ASVAB results are not education records because the military, instead of the school, proctors the test. Although the recruiting command may send one civilian employee to officially administer the exam, it is school employees who market the test over several weeks, assemble and keep track of students, and provide much of the work controlling a large group of teenagers for a few hours.

It’s unconscionable that ASVAB results are the only information leaving American schools regarding children without providing for parental consent, but the tide is turning.

Diane Wood with the Texas Coalition to Protect Student Privacy reflects common sense Lone Star State attitudes, “I support the military but I got fired up when I discovered this egregious violation of civil liberties that’s been going on entirely unnoticed.  I don’t care if it’s the Department of Defense or who ever. The thing that’s surprised me is that this privacy campaign has resonated with Tea Party activists down here.  We all see ASVAB testing as an unwarranted and illegal federal incursion into our lives.”  It’s a peculiar campaign that attracts allies on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Wood’s tireless organizing and her testimony to the nationally maligned Texas State School Board probably contributed to Texas testing 6,600 fewer students in 2012-2013 than the year before.  In Texas Option 8 rates increased from 14.7% to 15.5% while the number of students forced to take the test shrunk from 15,805 to 4,825 and the number of  schools requiring students to take the ASVAB decreased from 181 to 70.

In many states, smart, targeted community activism has been shown to translate into quantifiable results.

Barbara Harris with the New York Coalition to Protect Student Privacy has been at it for years and has helped to eliminate mandatory testing in the Empire State. “We’ve witnessed several trends here in New York. The number of test takers continues to drop, the percentage of schools that have selected Release Option 8 continues to rise, and mandatory testing has disappeared. I’m hopeful we’ll soon get the Board of Regents to mandate Option 8 across the state.”

It’s the same in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Seth Kershner with the Connecticut Coalition to Protect Students Privacy reports, “Testing numbers in Connecticut and Massachusetts have plummeted in recent years to about 4,000 in each state. There’s no mandatory testing. Nearly half of the students being tested do so under Option 8.  We’re hoping to duplicate successes in Hawaii and Maryland and have policies or laws enacted that mandate Option 8.”

Oregon’s school officials have responded to our campaign.  Don Chapin with the Oregon Coalition to Protect Student Privacy reports that 57.2 % of students taking the test have Option 8 selected. See the statistics on the National Coalition’s website www.studentprivacy.org

Will Hopkins with the Coalition in New Hampshire has lobbied to introduce a bill in the New Hampshire. HB 1321 mirrors Maryland’s law.

 Outreach to moderate school board members in the north citing privacy concerns are often taken into consideration, resulting in policy changes.  In the South and the Midwest, however, many responses have been hostile, especially after school officials consult with their local military entrance processing command.

If the Pentagon called the shots across the country every high school student would be subjected to taking the ASVAB for enlistment purposes.  The program is fraudulent but it is sponsored by the military, a sacrosanct institution that remains above constitutional restraint and the rule of law in the view of many American school officials and state legislators.  We must convince them otherwise.

Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy. www.studentprivacy.org      Email: [email protected]

The NSA Is Spying On Our Elected Representatives

After Senator Bernie Sanders asked the NSA whether it spied on members of congress, the NSA responded:

NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.

In other words: yes, we spy on members of Congress, just like all other Americans.

For contrast, here’s what NSA would have said if it wasn’t spying on Congress:

The Constitution provides for a separation of powers between the executive branch – which includes the NSA and its parent agency, the Department of Defense – on the one hand, and the legislative branch (i.e. Congress), on the other hand.

So the NSA is constitutionally prohibited from spying on members of Congress or their staff, and we go to great lengths to ensure that we faithfully discharge that constitutional duty.

So the answer is: no. We do not and never would spy on Congress.

Yeah, they didn’t say that at all. Instead, NSA lumped Congress members in with the great unwashed masses of the American public who they spy on every day.

The Washington Post writes:

The answer is telling. We already know that the NSA collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States. That program was renewed for the 36th time on Friday. If members of Congress are treated no differently than other Americans, then the NSA likely keeps tabs on every call they make as well.

It’s a relief to know that Congress doesn’t get a special carve-out (they’re just like us!). But the egalitarianism of it all will likely be of little comfort to Sanders.”

The Bigger Question: What Is NSA Doing With the Info?

But the bigger question is what the NSA does with that information. Remember, the Guardian reported in September that not only might the NSA be collecting information on Congress, but that it was sharing unfiltered information with a foreign nation … Israel:

The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

***

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

***

A much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government“. Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.

In reality, there is quite a bit of evidence that NSA is using information gained through spying to blackmail Congress.

Thai PBS has reported in its article, “CAPO to use combined forces against capital shutdown,” that (emphasis added): 

The Center for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) today threatened to use combined forces to deal with protesters taking part in the shutdown of Bangkok on January 13. 

Announcing the warning live on TV Pool before noon today, CAPO head Surapong Tovichakchaikul said that the threat to shut down Bangkok on January 13 could pose a serious threat to the country’s security and economy and would have widespread impact on the people as a whole. 

He described the shutdown as serious violation of human rights with no regard to the rule of law. 

He said the people must think carefully before joining the shutdown of the capital with the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban. 

He said Suthep’s announcement to seize the capital and to revolt against the government was a serious crime and violation of the Criminal Act in which violator is subject to death penalty.

Surapong Tovichakchaikul  would also go on to claim that any measures the regime took “would comply with international standards.” Of course, Surapong had made similar assurances during clashes on December 26, 2013, where regime gunmen were seen atop government buildings, leaving both a policeman and a protester dead from shots fired from above. Police would also be seen restraining protesters as other officers beat them with batons as well as destroying parked cars including a truck belonging to medical volunteers with the volunteers trapped inside. 

After initial denials, including going as far as accusing protesters of dressing up as an entire battalion of police and carrying out the crimes themselves, the regime has piecemeal backpedaled and admitted it was guilty of placing gunmen on rooftops and destroying scores of vehicles including the truck belonging to medical volunteers. 

Of course, attacking medical volunteers and placing gunmen in unidentifiable black uniforms on rooftops is more the work of a terrorist organization, not a legitimate government. Surapong’s threats of using the “death penalty” against protest leaders is yet more poorly disguised intimidation – not the impartial application of the law of which Surapong is charged to carry out as a “government administrator.” 

While Surapong might believe his threats may deter protesters from coming out on Monday, January 13, 2014 - all it does is send another reminder to millions of Thais of what a menace and continuing threat the regime is to the future of Thailand and the absolute necessity of removing that threat as quickly as possible.

Surapong Tovichakchaikul serves the regime of unelected dictator Thaksin Shinawatra, who the New York Times admitted in its article titled, “In Thailand, Power Comes With Help From Skype,” that: 

For the past year and a half, by the party’s own admission, the most important political decisions in this country of 65 million people have been made from abroad, by a former prime minister who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape corruption charges. 

The country’s most famous fugitive,Thaksin Shinawatra, circles the globe in his private jet, chatting with ministers over his dozen cellphones, texting over various social media platforms and reading government documents e-mailed to him from civil servants, party officials say. 

There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2 year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy – or that protesters have every right and duty to stand in opposition of this overtly criminal regime. 

At least four workers have been shot dead, after Cambodian military police opened fire yesterday on striking workers blocking the road near the Canadia Industrial Park in the southern suburbs of the capital Phnom Penh. The national strike for higher pay involving tens of thousands of garment workers began on December 24.

Human rights group LICADHO described the incident as “horrific” and said its own investigation had found that four people had been killed and 21 wounded. The group’s director Naly Pilorge condemned “the appalling use of extreme lethal force by security forces” and called for an end to the use of live ammunition against civilians.

Yean Sothear who had suffered head injuries, told the Phnom Penh Post: “The workers didn’t want violence. We just wanted to block the road … the police attacked us and shot us. Most of the workers were injured. My friend went to the nearby hospital, but the police ordered them not to treat them—that’s why they were angry.”

As of last night 11 workers had been arrested.

City police official Chuon Narin put the number of dead at three and blamed workers, saying that they had thrown stones and petrol bombs at police. However, the use of automatic weapons was a deliberate attempt to terrorise workers after the government set Thursday as the deadline to end the strike.

The violence yesterday followed a series of police assaults on Thursday afternoon, including at the Korean-owned Yakjin factory where workers and their supporters were subjected to severe beatings and dragged away by baton-wielding police. Five hundred police in riot gear had moved into the area but the protests resumed Friday morning. Yakjin produces clothing for Gap and Walmart.

National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito defended the use of force. “We’re just doing our jobs. We fear the security situation, so we have to crackdown on them. If we allow them to continue the strike, later on, it will become messy and more complicated to control.”

The government is also threatening to take legal action against the unions and workers. Officials warned this week that unions could have their licences suspended or cancelled and union leaders could face penalties.

Most of the country’s 500 garment factories, which supply US and European retailers, are on strike demanding that their monthly wage be increased to $US160 from the current $80. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a grouping of trade unions and labour rights activists, has estimated that a living wage for Cambodia would be $283. Workers are facing sharply rising prices, including rents and electricity.

The strikes involve most of the industry’s 400,000 workers, many of whom are women. The size of the strike is unprecedented and part of growing resentment over the low wages and appalling conditions enforced by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) government of Prime Minister Hun Sen. From January to November, there were 131 recorded strikes by garment workers compared with 121 for the whole of 2012.

On Tuesday the Labour Ministry slightly increased an earlier offer to increase pay by 25 percent to $100. But Labour Minister Heng Sour warned that there would be no more negotiation and called for an end to the strike by Thursday. On Thursday, the government began moving military units and riot police to factories around the capital.

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union president Ath Thorn offered to continue the negotiations and call off further protests. “But if their response is no, we will continue with the protest,” he said.

The size of the strike and the determination of workers has shaken the Hun Sen regime. The industry turned over more than $5 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, up 22 percent from the same period in 2012, and occupies a central place in the national economy, along with footwear manufacture.

The government is under pressure from factory owners to end the strike. In comments to Reuters, Cheath Khemera, an official with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), estimated that each factory was losing $20,000 to $30,000 a day in production. “This really impacts the industry seriously,” he said.

The GMAC sent a letter to the government on Thursday asking for permission for their members to export capital equipment to other countries, stating that some of its members were unable to operate in Cambodia. The move underscores the cut-throat competition to drive down costs that pits workers in Cambodia against those in other cheap labour platforms in Asia and elsewhere.

The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) led by Sam Rainsy has latched onto the strike as a means of pressing its demands for Hun Sen to resign. Amid widespread opposition to the government, the CNRP greatly increased its seats to 55, compared to 68 for the ruling CPP. Rainsy has accused the government of rigging the outcome and is demanding an international inquiry and new elections.

The CNRP is boycotting the parliament creating an ongoing political standoff. The opposition was due to meet with the government yesterday over the deadlock but cancelled the meeting to take advantage of the strike. The opposition is planning another protest rally tomorrow.

Rainsy, a right-wing populist, has offered to meet the demands of garment workers for a monthly wage of $160. He has condemned the violence and started visiting the injured workers in hospital. “The CNRP will do its best to show solidarity with the workers. On the 5th [of January] more people will [the protest],” he declared.

However, the opposition has no fundamental differences with Hun Sen’s policy of transforming Cambodia into a cheap labour platform and would quickly dump its promises if it came to power. The CNRP, like the CPP, wants to further open up the economy for more foreign investment.

The election deadlock involves rival sections of the Cambodian ruling elite: the pro-Western Rainsy is orientated to Washington, while Hun Sen has been more aligned with China. Both factions are organically hostile to an independent movement of the working class and would not hesitate to join together if need be to ruthlessly suppress any significant threat to investment and profits.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most powerful federal court, ruled Friday that the Obama administration could keep secret a Justice Department legal memorandum that approved the handover of telephone company consumer data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel upheld the decision of a US district court judge, who had rebuffed a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), a privacy and consumer rights group.

The case concerns a spying program distinct from the dragnet collection of telephone metadata by the National Security Agency, which was exposed last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. On Friday, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court renewed the authority of the NSA and other intelligence agencies to continue the collection of the telephone records of virtually every American and millions of people internationally for three more months. The extension, routinely granted by the FISA Court, was announced in a press release issued by the Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The DC Circuit Court ruling handed down Friday relates to the FBI practice of ordering telecommunications companies to produce the phone records of specific individuals, without a judicial warrant.

The EFF was seeking release of a classified memorandum signed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) on January 8, 2010. The memo’s existence was revealed in a subsequent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which also revealed its conclusion that telephone companies could provide consumer information to the FBI and other government agencies “without legal process or a qualifying emergency.”

The OLC issued the memo to the FBI in response to an internal investigation into data collection under the Bush administration between 2003 and 2006, when the FBI used orders known as “exigent letters” to get information from telecommunications and financial companies.

The EFF filed its lawsuit in 2011 after the Justice Department rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for the memo. The district court judge ruled that the memo was covered by an exception to the law known as the “deliberative process privilege.”

The three-judge appeals court panel agreed with lower court, declaring, “The District Court correctly concluded that the unclassified portions of the OLC Opinion could not be released without harming the deliberative processes of the government by chilling the candid and frank communications necessary for effective governmental decision-making.”

Much of the 20-page opinion issued by the appeals court is a laborious and highly technical effort to conceal the obvious fact that the Office of Legal Counsel was effectively setting policy for the FBI. The appeals court decision quotes numerous judicial precedents to the effect that “an agency is not permitted to develop ‘a body of “secret law,”’ used by it in the discharge of its regulatory duties and in its dealings with the public, but hidden behind a veil of privilege …”

But this is precisely what the latest decision sanctions, behind a screen of legalistic doubletalk claiming that OLC legal memoranda are only advisory and that the FBI did not formally adopt the OLC guidelines as its own rules of operation.

However, as the New York Times pointed out in its analysis of the decision, “The Office of Legal Counsel issues binding legal advice to the executive branch on whether proposed actions would be legal. If it says something is permitted, government officials who act on that advice are essentially immune from prosecution by the Justice Department.”

This is particularly true in the case of the FBI, since both the OLC and the FBI are units of the Justice Department, and the OLC serves as the in-house legal counsel for the entire department.

Prior to the telephone records collection issue, the most notorious case involving the OLC was its drafting of rules, under the Bush administration, permitting the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, CIA “black sites” and other US government and military prisons.

The Obama administration ultimately made public the “torture memos,” but blocked any sanctions against the Bush administration officials responsible for writing them. John Yoo, Jay Bybee and others were never prosecuted and have since enjoyed prosperous legal careers. Bybee is a federal appeals court judge on the Ninth Circuit, covering the Pacific Coast states.

The composition of the three-judge panel that issued the ruling demonstrates the across-the-board support for police state measures in every section of the US ruling elite. The opinion was written by Judge Harry T. Edwards, one of the longest-serving federal appellate court judges, nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and one of the first African Americans on the most powerful US circuit court.

Joining the opinion were Judge David Sentelle, a former top aide to arch-reactionary US Senator Jesse Helms and one of the most right-wing federal judges, and Judge Sri Srinavasan, the newest member of the DC Circuit Court, nominated by President Obama and approved by the Senate late last year.

This unanimous line-up only underscores what the World Socialist Web Site has long said about the decay of American politics: there is no significant support for democratic rights in any section of the US ruling class—“left,” right or center.

The appeals court ruling was only one of a number of important developments Thursday and Friday in relation to government surveillance of the American population. In addition to Friday’s FISA Court renewal of the telephone metadata collection program:

* The Justice Department filed a notice of appeal of the decision by US District Court Judge Richard Leon, who ruled last month that the NSA telephone metadata collection program was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment. The appeal would go before the same appeals court that issued Friday’s ruling upholding the suppression of the OLC memorandum on telephone spying.

* The American Civil Liberties Union filed notice of appeal of a district court decision in New York City that upheld the constitutionality of the NSA telephone metadata collection program.

* Hundreds of academics around the world launched a petition calling for the governments of the United States, Britain and other countries to halt mass surveillance of telecommunications and the Internet. The petition, billed as “Academics Against Mass Surveillance,” declared, “Without privacy people cannot freely express their opinions or seek and receive information. Moreover, mass surveillance turns the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt.”

* The Washington Post reported, based on documents from Edward Snowden, that the NSA had spent $80 million on a research program called “Penetrating Hard Targets,” whose goal was to create qualitatively new quantum computers that could break the encryption now used to protect banking, medical, business and government records throughout the world.

* A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York ruled that US border agents had the authority to search and copy laptop computers carried by travelers at border crossings, even when the travelers were members of the news media. District Judge Edward Korman dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association and other plaintiffs, ruling that the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches does not apply to border crossings because of the threat of terrorism.

2014 is shaping up to be a decisive year for the future of food and farming.  Grassroots activists are gearing up for new legislative battles, including state GMO labeling laws and county bans on growing genetically engineered crops. Meanwhile the multinational food corporations last month raised the stakes in the ongoing David vs. Goliath battle by petitioning the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to allow companies to continue to label or market products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as “natural.”

And all signs point to efforts by industry and the FDA to float either voluntary, or watered-down mandatory GMO labeling laws that would take away states’ rights to impose strict GMO labeling laws, and also exempt a large percentage of GMO ingredients from labeling.

For more than two decades, Monsanto and Big Food have poisoned and profited with impunity, thanks to the FDA’s reckless 1992 dictate that pesticide-drenched (Roundup-resistant) or insecticide-impregnated (Bt-spliced) crops and foods are “safe and substantially equivalent” to non-GE foods. Now, the Biotech Bullies and Junk Food Giants are under siege by a well-informed and passionate grassroots food movement that is determined to drastically reduce or eliminate the market share of genetically engineered and chemically-intensive foods and crops.

Since natural health and food activists discovered the “Achilles Heel” of the GMA and processed junk food industries—mandatory labeling—there has been no stopping this movement. Over the past several years, this movement has painstakingly built a broad national coalition to demand laws requiring mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, the same types of laws that have been passed in the European Union and scores of other nations. Food activists, bolstered by a growing number of successful class action lawsuits, are also demanding that food manufacturers and retailers put an end to the routine industry practice of fraudulently labeling or marketing products contaminated with GMOs and other chemicals as “natural” or “all natural.”

In the past two years, citizen activists in 30 states have pressured legislators to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws, with partial success in three states: Vermont, Connecticut and Maine. Anti-GMO campaigners boldly challenged the mega-billion-dollar biotech and Big Food establishment in 2012 in California (Proposition 37) and 2013 in Washington State (I-522) by launching state GMO labeling initiatives. Pro-organic and natural health activists raised a multi-million dollar war chest and mobilized millions of voters in two hard-fought and highly publicized campaigns that industry barely won (51%-49%).  Both initiatives garnered national attention. Combined, they forced the biotech and food elite to spend $70 million ($12 million of which was illegally laundered in Washington state through their front group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association) and wage a blatantly dishonest campaign that ultimately divided the industry and damaged the reputations and sales of a number of national brands, including Coca-Cola (Honest Tea and Odwalla); Pepsico (Naked Juice); General Mills (Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen); Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s); Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave); Heinz (Heinz Organic), Nestle’s, and Kellogg’s (Kashi, Morningstar Farms, Gardenburger).

Meanwhile, inspired in part by this anti-GMO grassroots upsurge, over 100 class action lawsuits have been filed across the U.S., charging major food corporations with labeling fraud for labeling or marketing GMO-tainted or chemically processed foods and cooking oils as “natural” or “all natural.”  Rather than admit that much of their product lines are junk foods filled with synthetic chemicals and GMOs, and that nearly the entire $70-billion “natural” products industry is based on fraud and deception (i.e. misleading health minded consumers into believing that unregulated, non-certified “natural” products are “nearly organic,”), large companies such as Pepsi, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Con-Agra, and specialty brands such as Chabani and Barbara’s will likely pay out millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements this year while quietly removing “natural” and “all natural” labels from their non-organic products.

GMO labeling laws are the cornerstone of the anti-GMO movement. But consumers are also expanding the fight by demanding outright bans on the growing of GMO crops. A number of counties in California, Washington and Hawaii have already passed bans, while a half dozen others, including counties in Oregon and California, will vote to create GMO-free zones in 2014.

Beyond “Exemptions:” Comprehensive Labeling

In a bizarre but effective propaganda move, polls reveal that Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) bamboozled millions of voters into voting “no” on mandatory GMO food labeling initiatives in California and Washington by pretending to take the side of consumers. How? By pointing out that these ballot initiatives failed to require GMO labels on restaurant, cafeteria and take-out food, and on meat and animal products. During the California and Washington campaigns, industry hammered home its message that the proposed initiatives were “incomplete,” “confusing,” “expensive” and riddled with “loopholes” that somehow benefitted nefarious “special interests.” In fact, consumers would have preferred a more comprehensive law, with no exemptions. But state laws mandate single-subject or limited provision language, and federal law preempts mandatory state labels on meat packages (though not on grocery store shelves, or on meat and dairy cases).

In the wake of Monsanto and the GMA successfully sowing confusion over GMO labeling “exemptions,” a growing number of activists have decided to call industry’s bluff by upping the ante. Future plans include pushing not only for GMO food labeling laws, but for all-inclusive food labeling legislation that will require restaurants, schools and grocery stores to label not just foods that contain GMO ingredients, but also foods from factory farms where animals are fed GMO-contaminated feed.

As Alexis Baden-Meyer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association puts it:

“Tens of millions of Americans want to know if the food they buy contains genetically engineered ingredients. They want to know whether the meat, fish and animal products they consume come from animals reared on factory farms or CAFO’s (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), where the animals are inhumanely confined, routinely fed genetically engineered grain, injected with synthetic hormones, engorged with growth promoters and dosed with antibiotics. Concerned consumers want and need this information whether they are shopping in a grocery store, sitting down in a restaurant or worrying about what their kids are eating in the school cafeteria. After we win the upcoming strategic battles over GMO food labeling in Vermont and Oregon, organic consumers and our allies will push for comprehensive factory farm labels as well.”

Industry’s Next Move: Co-Opting the Right-to-Know Movement

Industry sees the writing on the wall. As the head of the GMA admitted last year “we can’t keep fighting these labeling battles in every state.” Monsanto, Bayer and their allies such as General Mills, Coca-Cola and Pepsi know that in 2014, several states including Vermont and Oregon will likely pass mandatory GMO food labeling laws, while a flood of successful class action lawsuits will highlight the fact that major brands are fraudulently labeling their GMO and chemically-tainted junk foods and beverages as “natural” or all natural.

Once a greater degree of labeling transparency is required by law, even if in just a handful of states, leading food manufacturers will find themselves in a terrible bind. Will Kellogg’s or Coke admit that their products contain GMOs in Vermont or Oregon, while refusing to divulge this fact in the other 48 states, Canada and Mexico? Or will they be forced to do what they’ve already done in the EU, take these GMOs out of their products? Similarly if they can’t label their junk foods as “natural” or “all natural,” how will they successfully compete in the marketplace?

Backed into a corner by the anti-GMO movement, industry has come out fighting. The GMA has called on the Obama Administration and the FDA to bail out Big Food. If grassroots-powered state laws and class action judges will no longer permit the biotech and food industry to secretly tamper with non-organic food and then fraudulently label these products as “natural,” then industry wants the federal government to take away states’ power to require GMO labeling, and at the same time, take away the judiciary’s power to rule on fraudulently labeled “natural” products.

Leaked documents obtained by the New York Times reveal that the GMA is lobbying the FDA to allow the use of “natural” on food labels even if the products contain GMOs. As Times writer Stephanie Strom reported on Dec. 19:

“Use of the term “natural” is now generating battles similar to previous fights over terms like organic, amid initiatives in several states that seek to label foods in a more transparent way. Last summer, Connecticut passed legislation on labeling that would make it illegal to use the word “natural” on the packaging of any food product containing biotech ingredients, and the governor signed it on Dec. 11.”

At the same time former USDA officials Dan Glickman and Kathleen Merrigan are floating the idea that certain members of the organic elite might be persuaded to back off on the demand for strict GMO labeling if certified organic products are allowed to state on their labels that they are “GMO-free.” As Glickman and Merrigan told the LA Times:

“Mandatory GMO labeling of all food will continue to arouse passions on both sides of the issue. Though it may not satisfy all GMO-labeling advocates nor be welcomed by all leaders in the biotechnology industry, allowing a GMO-free organic label provides more choice in the marketplace and responds to the demands of millions of American consumers in a practical and common sense way.”

Meanwhile informed sources in the organic industry are warning that the FDA might be preparing to propose a watered-down federal GMO labeling law designed to co-opt the organic and anti-GMO Movement and take away states’ rights to pass stricter labeling laws covering all genetically engineered ingredients basically nullifying laws now under consideration in Vermont, Oregon and several dozen other states.

This strategy would involve the FDA allowing foods made from highly processed GE ingredients, such as cooking oils, high fructose corn syrup and sugar beets, that contain no easily detectable GE proteins down to a specified level to be labeled “natural”; and certified organic foods to be labeled as “GMO-free.” Under this strategy, labels would be required on only those foods that contain readily detectable GMO proteins, as determined by standardized tests. In other words a large percentage of GMO-tainted foods would still not have to be labeled.

So as we near victory on the GMO labeling front in Vermont and Oregon, and in class-action lawsuits this year, we must beware FDA treachery and the willingness of some in the organic and so-called “natural” industry to sell us out. If the FDA proposes a watered-down federal GMO labeling bill, or a rubber-stamp for the fraudulent industry practice of labeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural,” we must raise holy hell, and mobilize as never before.

Either way 2014 is shaping up to be a make or break year for citizen activism on the food and farming front, part of a larger battle that will determine whether we, the grassroots majority, take back our democracy, or surrender to the corporatocracy and their indentured media, scientists and politicians.

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s Genetic Engineering page, and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Tens of vehicles carrying arms shipments from Saudi Arabia failed to cross the Iraqi border into Syria due to the Iraqi army’s ongoing operations in the Western Al-Anbar province which borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Following the Iraqi Army’s operations against Al-Qaeda forces in Al-Anbar province, the Saudi arms shipments have been stuck behind Iraq’s borders with Syria. The Saudi arms shipments entered Iraq from the Saudi city of Nakheib and via Ar-Ar border crossing.

Nearly 70 2-ton vehicles are waiting for the Iraqi army forces to end its operation and withdraw from the region giving them a chance to cross the border with Syria.

 The vehicles are packed with explosives used for suicide attacks as well as anti-armor and anti-aircraft weapons.

Saudi Arabia is still supporting the Al-Qaeda terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

While Turkey has closed a large part of its borders to terrorists and Jordan has also considered restrictions for the Saudi nationals who intend to sneak into Syria, Iraq’s desert borders where the government does not have a lot of military and security supervision are regarded as the best route for Saudi Arabia’s logistical supports for the terrorists in Syria.

 The Iraqi army started military operations in Huran and Al-Abyaz regions in the deserts of Al-Anbar province last week.

The Case of the Missing Economic Recovery

January 4th, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Have you seen the economic recovery?  I haven’t either.  But it is bound to be around here somewhere, because the National Bureau of Economic Research spotted it in June 2009, four and one-half years ago.  

It is a shy and reclusive recovery, like the “New Economy” and all those promised new economy jobs.  I haven’t seen them either, but we know they are here, somewhere, because the economists said so.

Congress must have seen all those jobs before they went home for Christmas, because our representatives let extended unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million unemployed Americans, who have not yet met up with those new economy jobs, or even with an old economy job for that matter.  

By letting extended unemployment benefits expire, Congress figures that they saved 1.3 million Americans from becoming lifelong bums of the nanny state and living off the public purse.  After all, who do those unemployed Americans think they are?  A bank too big to fail?  The military-security complex?  Israel?

What the unemployed need to do is to form a lobby organization and make campaign contributions.

Just as economists don’t recognize facts that are inconsistent with corporate grants, career ambitions, and being on the speaking circuit, our representatives don’t recognize facts inconsistent with campaign contributions.

For example, our representative in the White House tells us that ObamaCare is a worthy program even though those who are supposed to be helped by it aren’t because of large deductibles, copays, and Medicaid estate recovery. The cost of this non-help is a doubling of the policy premiums on those insured Americans who did not need ObamaCare and the reclassification by employers of workers’ jobs from full-time to part-time in order to avoid medical insurance costs. All it took was campaign contributions from the insurance industry to turn a policy that hurts most and helps none into a worthy program.  Worthy, of course, for the insurance companies.

Keep in mind that it is the people who could not afford medical insurance who have to come up with their part of the premium or pay a penalty.  How do people who have no discretionary income come up with what are to them large sums of money?  Are they going to eat less, drive less, dress less?  If so, what happens to people employed in those industries when demand falls?  Apparently, this was too big a thought for the White House occupant, his economists, and our representatives in Congress.

According to the official wage statistics for 2012, forty percent of the US work force earned less than $20,000, fifty-three percent earned less than $30,000, and seventy-three percent earned less than $50,000. The median wage or salary was $27,519. The amounts are in current dollars and they are compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.

To put these incomes into some perspective, the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2013 was $23,550.

In recent years, the only incomes that have been growing in real terms are those few at the top of the income distribution.  Those at the top have benefitted from “performance bonuses,” often acquired by laying off workers or by replacing US workers with cheaper foreign labor, and from the rise in stock and bond prices caused by the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. Everyone else has experienced a decline in real income and wealth.  

As only slightly more than one percent of Americans make more than $200,000 annually and less than four-tenths of one percent make $1,000,000 or more annually, there are not enough people with discretionary income to drive the economy with consumer spending. When real median family income and real per capita income ceased to grow and began falling, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan substituted a credit expansion to take the place of the missing growth in income.  However, as consumers became loaded with debt, it was no longer possible to expand consumer spending with credit expansion.

World War II left the US economy the only undamaged industrial and manufacturing center. Prosperity ensued. But by the 1970s the Keynesian demand management economic policy had produced stagflation. Reagan’s supply-side policy was able to give the US economy another 20 years.  But the collapse of the Soviet Union brought an era of jobs offshoring to large Asian economies that formerly were closed to Western capital. Once corporate executives realized that they could earn multi-million dollar performance bonuses by moving US jobs abroad and once they were threatened by Wall Street and shareholder advocates with takeovers if they did not, American capitalism began giving the US economy to other countries, mainly located in Asia. As high productivity manufacturing and professional service jobs (such as software engineering) moved offshore, US incomes stagnated and fell. 

As real income growth stagnated, wives entered the work force to compensate. Children were educated by refinancing the home mortgage and using the equity in the family home or with student loans that they do not earn enough to repay.  Since the December 2007 downturn, Americans have used up their coping mechanisms.  Homes have been refinanced. IRAs raided. Savings drawn down. Grown children, now adults, are back home with parents. The falling labor force participation rate signals that the economy can no longer provide jobs for the workforce. In such a situation, economic recovery is impossible.

What the Treasury and Federal Reserve have done, with the complicity of the White House, Congress, economists, and the media, is to focus on rescuing a half dozen banks “too big to fail.” The consequence of focusing economic policy on saving the banks is rigged financial markets and massive stock and bond market bubbles.  To protect the dollar’s exchange value from quantitative easing, the price of gold has been forced down in the paper futures market, with the consequence that physical gold is shipped to Asia where it is unavailable as a refuge for Americans faced with currency depreciation.

 At a time when most Americans are running out of coping mechanisms,  the US faces a possible financial collapse and a high rate of inflation from dollar depreciation as the Fed pours out newly created money in an effort to support the rigged financial markets.

It remains to be seen whether the chickens can be kept from coming home to roost for another year.

Terrorism dressed as “civil war” is likely. Vigilance and swift, decisive action against regime’s leadership can stop it. 

The embattled regime of Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra and his substantial Western backers are attempting to hold peace, stability, and the nation’s future hostage in order to extort from Thailand the perpetuation of their current grip on power. Chief among their threats is the myth of an impending “civil war.” Unfortunately for them, and despite their best efforts, in order to have a “civil war,” you must first have a divided nation. Thailand is by no means divided, and now more than ever what little support the regime had is slipping away – which is precisely why attempts to finally uproot Thaksin for good are being made now.

A particularly irresponsible piece of fear-mongering propaganda comes to us from the Globe and Mail’s report, “Rising tensions in Thailand pit urbanites against rural poor.” It begins by stating:

 The voice on the radio is calm, its message anything but.

“Civil war is going to happen,” says the announcer on a station broadcast across the arid plateau around Khon Kaen, where rice paddies, cane fields and fishing-net factories form the geographic heart of the country’s red-shirt movement. It is now preparing to fight back if the government it supports, under caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, falls. “All sides, get ready,” the voice says. “We are ready to come together any time in the name of democracy.”

Throughout the propaganda piece, nothing in the line of evidence is offered aside from one unqualified anecdote after another. The Globe and Mail also peddles the entirely discredited “class divide” myth spun by others across the Western media, including Reuters, the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times - again offering nothing in the line of facts, figures, or statistics to backup its dubiously sensational narrative.

The Facts: Why “Civil War” is Impossible in Thailand

It was in 2010 that the Asia Foundation conducted its ”national public perception surveys of the Thai electorate,” (2010′s full .pdf here). In a summary report  titled, “Survey Findings Challenge Notion of a Divided Thailand.” It summarized the popular misconception of a “divided” Thailand by stating:

“Since Thailand’s color politics began pitting the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s (PAD) “Yellow-Shirt” movement against the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD) “Red-Shirt” movement, political watchers have insisted that the Thai people are bitterly divided in their loyalties to rival political factions.”

The survey, conducted over the course of late 2010 and involving 1,500 individuals, revealed however, a meager 7% of Thailand’s population identified themselves as being “red” Thaksin supporters, with another 7% identifying themselves only as “leaning toward red.”

Worse yet for Thaksin Shianwatra and his foreign backers, the survey would also reveal that many more Thais (62%) believed the Thai military, who ousted Thaksin Shinawatra from power in 2006 in a bloodless coup, and who put down two pro-Thaksin insurrections in 2009 and 2010, was an important independent institution that has helped safeguard and stabilize the country.


Graph: Up from 62% the year before, the public perception of the military as an important independent institution stood at 63%. Even in in the regime’s rural strongholds, support stood at 61%. The only individually polled group that did show majority support for the military, was the regime’s tiny “red” minority, but even among them, 30% still supported the army.  

….

For Thaksin Shinawatra and his proxy regime, it has only lost support since the 2010 survey was conducted. In the 2011 elections, despite being declared a “landslide victory,” according to Thailand’s Election Commission, Thaksin Shinawatra’s proxy political party received 15.7 million votes out of the estimated 32.5 million voter turnout (turnout of approx. 74%). This gave Thaksin’s proxy party a mere 48% of those who cast their votes on July 3rd (not even half), and out of all eligible voters, only a 35% mandate to actually “lead” the country. 

Since taking office, it has bankrupted a disastrous vote-buying rice subsidy and has subsequently failed to pay rice farmers, fumbled its response twice during catastrophic flooding in 2011 and again just this year – all while spending the vast majority of its time consolidating its power and attempting to exonerate Thaksin Shinawatra of his many crimes. 

Conversely, it was the Royal Thai Army that came to the aid of the rural countryside when flooding hit, and assisted in both rescue and logistics during the floods, as well as cleaning up afterwards.

Worst Case Scenario: Large-scale Terrorism, not “Civil War” – The Syria Model

Not only do the facts paint a picture in sharp contrast to the “divided Thailand” narrative, but operational considerations also completely dispel the myth of a pending “civil war.”

The number of armed supporters Thaksin could possess in Thailand to actually fight a “civil war” are minimal. Of the 10,000-30,000 supporters he is able to mobilize with cash payments and bus services at any given time, only about 1,000 could be considered fanatical, and out of that, fewer still who are of military age, willing, and physically able to take up arms against Thaksin’s enemies. Thaksin had clearly augmented this with professional mercenaries, drawn from paramilitary border units in the north and northeast, but these numbered only about 300 and were easily outmatched by the Thai military in 2010.Thaksin’s grip on the nation’s police forces allows him to produce on demand thousands from across his north and northeast political stronghold, but even if these police were armed, they lack the training, organizational skills, and coordination to pose any threat to the nation’s armed forces. They have proven in recent weeks to be completely ineffectual (and in some cases unwilling) against even unarmed protesters.

Image: From Thaksin Shinawatra’s “red” publications, left to right – “The Giant Wave of Democracy From Tunisia to Thailand,” “Asking to Die in the Seat of Power,” and “From the Nile to the Mekong, to the Chaopaya,” all indicate that Thaksin’s propagandists were likewise channeling the US State Department’s “Arab Spring” rhetoric as well as making the implicit threat that armed militancy was (and may still be) a desired option. 

….

The real threat would be an influx of Cambodian mercenaries, trained, armed, and directed from Cambodia, and sent into Thailand covertly to be staged and deployed at key points during Thaksin’s continued bid to cling to power. These could be used to augment police and small units of fanatics drawn from Thaksin’s “red shirt” mob, or in individual operations aimed at various elements of the opposition.

This follows the same model Thaksin’s foreign backers are using against Syria, where armed militants had been prepared and staged along Syria’s borders, years before violence erupted in 2011. While initial reports from Western media claimed Syria was engaged in a “civil war,” it is now abundantly clear it was instead a foreign invasion by mercenaries sponsored by a conglomerate of NATO and Persian Gulf nations.

However, unlike in Syria, Thailand commands tactical, strategic, economic, and numerical superiority over Cambodia. There are few if any regional mechanisms that would protect the regime in Cambodia from retaliation by Thailand should violence break out and Hun Sen found complicit in supplying mercenaries and/or material support.

The Thai “civil war” Western analysts have long been predicting with poorly masked enthusiasm, would most likely only materialize using the “Syrian-model” of covert invasion combined with a coordinated propaganda campaign already being carried out by the Western media. Instead of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and northern Iraq feeding militants into Syria, this new war would consist of Cambodia feeding militants and material in through northeast Thailand, with the resulting conflict appearing to be between “Thaksin’s political stronghold” there and the rest of the country.

However, the best Thaksin Shinawatra and his backers could hope to achieve in the wake of their eventual ousting from Thailand’s political landscape is wide-scale terrorism, not all out “war.” Such violence would only open the door to hard-lined Egypt-style purges of Thaksin’s political allies and remaining financial assets inside the country, and the permanent exile of anyone in his regime smart enough to leave before the violence began. For Thaksin it would be a futile act of spite, but one the nation should be prepared for nonetheless.

“Civil war” in Thailand is impossible. Thailand is not divided. If anything, now more than ever it is united in purpose against an increasingly destructive, perpetually self-serving regime that has long since overstayed its welcome. Thais of all kinds are eager to get back to the business of moving the nation forward and that the regime would threaten this desire with warnings of protracted “civil war,” is but another reason it must be uprooted permanently from Thailand’s political landscape.

We have entered 2014 a little poorer. For those of us with a job, our salaries have been frozen, or even cut; only a few can expect a rise in the New Year.  Furthermore, the price of electricity, public transport and water are increasing.

2013 ended with the controversy over a threatened increase in electricity bills by 11%, leaving Spaniards paying well above the European average and Spain ranking the third most expensive electricity in Europe. So, Mariano Rajoy’s  Popular Party (PP) government intervened and stopped this rise by decree. As you can see, if the PP wants to, it can intervene. But overall, there is little willingness to confront the interests of multinationals. For now, the government has limited the rise to  2.3%, and we are expected to be thankful.

The rising price of public transport is another traditional New Year scam. Train tickets, are up nearly 2%, and in Barcelona, ??not to be outdone, the fare raises on the subway are an abusive 5% with the most popular travelcard, the T-10. However, if you usually take the high speed train (AVE) , which is only used by a minority of citizens, do not worry, because the price has been frozen . Lucky too, are the drivers who use the highways from Castelldefels to Sitges and Montgat to Mataro, where the tolls have been  reduced by 30% and 10% respectively, provided they use teletac card, the automatic payment system.  Lower the cost of private transport and increase the cost of public transport – that’s the approach of Catalonia’s [right-wing nationalist] CiU government.

And in Barcelona, we face further rises, for water too, even if money appears to be in plentiful supply, especially for the city council, as we saw with the celebrations on New Year’s Eve at the Montjuïc fountain. The tourists are happy at least. But for the rest of us, water bills will be going up by 8.5 % on average in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, thanks to the votes of CiU and [Catalan Socialists] PSC, and the abstention of the [left nationalists] ERC. In the end, those who criticise the cuts are the first to sharpen the scissors. We will not forget.

Meanwhile, the minimum wage remains frozen, as was the case last year, leaving it at a meagre 645 euros per month, while public sector workers  remain on the wages they received in 2010. Pensions of those ten million retirees who worked all their lives, will see their incomes hit by a change in indexation that means rise are tied to below inflation (CPI ); this year they will rise by just 0.25% , the minimum set by the Government . An increase that will barely buy a cup of coffee.

We enter this 2014, a little poorer. Our purchasing power slowly falls. Every year that passes we have less. They want to make poverty normal. Do you remember those stories, not so long ago, of those struggling on 1000 euros a month? The new precariat. Today an employer offering a job paying a thousand euros monthly would be swamped by curriculums . And yet some, like the Prime Minister, dare to say that 2014 brings ” the beginning of the recovery.” What a bunch of thieves and liars.

 +info: http://esthervivas.com/english/

This article was first published in the Spanish digital newspaper Público.es, 02/01/2014. translated by Revolting-Europe.com.

“If war should come, whichever side may claim ultimate victory, nothing is more certain that victor and vanquished alike would glean a gruesome harvest of human misery and suffering.”(UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, July 31, 1939, to the House of Commons.)

Fallujah  has become a symbol of Iraq’s suffering since the onslaught on the country in 1991, numerous, uncounted interim US-UK bombings, then the 2003 invasion, occupation – and misery unending.

In 1991, a busy market was bombed, as was a hotel, which was “leveled.” Two hundred people were incinerated. Another attack: “destroyed a row of modern, concrete, five and six story apartment buildings, as well as several other houses nearby.” Middle East Watch recorded: “All buildings for four hundred meters on both sides of the street, houses, markets, were flattened.”

Fallujah merchant Hamid Mesan, lost his son, brother and nephew in a bombing and: “saw the bombs from one attack hit a market. ‘’ This pilot said he had come to hit the bridge, on the television and it was a mistake. But we’re a distance of one and a half kilometers from the bridge. In our minds, we are convinced the attack was to the market, to kill our people.” That attack was seemingly by the British Royal Air Force, who, in a tired, all too familiar excuse, said that their “precision-guided” missiles had missed their target.(i) One man’s “collateral damage” is another man’s son, brother and nephew.

In  2004, the US military launched a revenge attack on Falluja after US troops, who had taken over a school, shot peaceful demonstrators, which led to four Blackwater mercenaries being hung from a bridge. To describe the “liberators” aggression as a blood bath would be massive understatement.

One Minister Dr Khalid ash-Shaykli: “described large areas of Fallujah where nothing, people, cats, dogs, birds were left alive, alleging that mustard and nerve gasses had been used. InterPress reported people being roasted alive, in unquenchable, jellied fire. Numerous reports during the assault recorded people on fire leaping in to the Euphrates – and continuing to burn. Bodies were found with clothes melted in to the skin – and bodies were found with no injuries at all, giving credence to the accusation of the use of gasses and chemical weapons.”

“It wasn’t a war, it was a massacre”, wrote an unidentified soldier in militaryproject.org (ii)

The massacre has been described as the greatest urban military operation involving U.S. troops since another massacre, in Hue City, Vietnam, during the Tet offensive of 1968.

“By one estimate 36,000 of the city’s 50,000 homes in Fallujah were laid to waste.” (ABC, 3rd January 2014.)

The rampant epidemic of cancers and birth defects in the city – and throughout Iraq – are the shocking, ongoing testimony to the chemical and radiological toxicity of the weapons used. Perhaps one day the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will head from the road to Damascus to the road to Washington.

Fallujah, nearby Ramadi in Anbar Province, this Western region of Iraq which borders Syria, now faces a  new threat.

At Friday prayers (27th December 2013) a masked fighter of the self declared Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “took the podium and addressed the crowd, declaring the establishment of an ‘Islamic emirate’ in Fallujah … promising to help residents fight the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Iranian allies.”

“The al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control … raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state …  amid an explosion of violence across … Anbar in which (residents) Iraqi security forces and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants have been fighting one another for days in a confusingly chaotic three-way war.”

“At the moment, there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,” said a local journalist who asked not to be named because he fears for his safety. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al-Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.”(iii)

Fallujah, Ramadi and much of western Iraq has been demonstrating for a year against the vicious, sectarian, US imposed puppet government of Nuri al Maliki. Now this ancient “City of Mosques”, dating back to Babylonian times, is threatened with the most fundamentalist perversion of Islam, which is also (literally) invading neighbouring Syria via Western backed insurgents.

The invasion of Iraq by the US and UK and their murderous meddling in Syria has reduced the two of the most developed, secular States in the region and  is reducing them to sectarian, fundamentalist-run multi-cantons.

Ironically, the name Falluja is believed derived from the Syriac “Pallgutha”, from the word “division”, since it is where the great Euphrates river which flows through Turkey, Syria and Iraq, divided.

The region is now largely fighting against the imposed government, whose horrendous execution rate makes the excesses of Saddam Hussein pale and even has the supine UN vocally appalled, and a brand of fundamentalism which was introduced by the US-UK invasion, whether intentionally or through complete ignorance of the region. Also their feckless lack of management of the borders, certainly never a problem to the government they overthrew. Saddam certainly understood the multi complexities of the region. Al Maliki is equally manifestly border inept.

Further: “A group representing the tribal fighters, calling itself the Military Council of the Anbar Rebels, posted a video on YouTube  in which masked men declared their opposition to Maliki’s government but made no mention of al-Qaeda. The fighters called on local members of the Iraqi security forces to desert, hand over their weapons ‘and remember always that they are the sons of Iraq, not slaves of Maliki.’ “ Up to nine thousand people died in America’s “New Iraq” in violence in 2013.

The last words go to the unamed Falluja journalist: “It is sad, because we are going back to the days of the past,” he said. “Everyone is remembering the battles of 2004 when the Marines came in, and now we are revisiting history.”

The US Marines are thus being compared with Al Qaeda and their spawn, ISIS. Irony rules.

Notes

i. Ramsey Clark, “The Fire this Time”, U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf.

 ii. http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-crimes-in-fallujah-tony-blair-and-a-man-with-a-mission/21212

iii. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/al-qaeda-force-captures-fallujah-amid-rise-in-violence-in-iraq/2014/01/03/8abaeb2a-74aa-11e3-8def-a33011492df2_story.html?tid=sm_fb

Please also see Ross Caputi’s “Fear Not the Path of Truth”, documentary on the US siege of Falluja: http://thefallujahproject.org/home/node/103

 

Gli eventi di Volgograd sono parte di una serie assai più grande di eventi e di una lotta multiforme che va avanti da decenni, nell’ambito di una guerra fredda dopo la guerra fredda, il dopoguerra fredda della Guerra Fredda, se vi piace, risultato di due guerre mondiali prevalentemente eurocentriche. Quando George Orwell scrisse il suo libro1984 e parlò di una guerra perpetua tra le entità fittizie di Oceania ed Eurasia, ebbe in mente un’idea generale degli eventi attuali che poté essere stato solo un pensiero sulla lotta tra l’Unione Sovietica e gli Stati Uniti d’America circondati da due grandi oceani.

Così cosa ha a che fare Volgograd con la vertiginosa nozione presentata? In primo luogo, non è schizofrenico collegare gli eventi di Volgograd al conflitto nel Caucaso del Nord e agli scontri in Siria, o collegare la Siria a decenni di combattimenti nel Nord Caucaso post-sovietico. I combattimenti in Siria e Caucaso del Nord rientrano nella grande lotta per il dominio dell’Eurasia. I conflitti in Medio Oriente rientrano in tale grande narrazione, che a molti sembra essere così lontano dalla realtà quotidiana.

“Bandar Bush” si reca in Madre Russia
Per sostenere tale affermazione, dovremo iniziare con la visita ‘non-così-segreta’ a Mosca di un oscuro funzionario del regime saudita. Il principe Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, famigerato boss terrorista saudita ed ex-inviato dei Saud a Washington, divenuto guru dell’intelligence, che ultimamente ha visitato la Federazione russa ai primi di dicembre 2013. Bandar bin Sultan fu inviato da re Abdullah a sollecitare il governo russo ad abbandonare i siriani.  L’obiettivo del principe Bandar era un accordo con il Cremlino per lasciare che Damasco venisse sconfitta dalle brigate sostenute dai sauditi che assediano le forze governative siriane nelle provincie e nelle frontiere della Siria fin dal 2011. Bandar ha incontrato il presidente russo Vladimir Putin ed hanno avuto colloqui a porte chiuse su Siria e Iran nella residenza ufficiale di Putin, a Novo-Ogarjovo.

L’ultimo incontro che Bandar ebbe con Putin fu pochi mesi prima, nel luglio 2013. Tale riunione si tenne sempre in Russia. I colloqui di luglio tra il principe Bandar e il Presidente Putin coinvolsero anche il segretario Nikolaj Patrushev, capo del Consiglio di Sicurezza della Federazione Russa. Si potrebbe anche immaginare che la discussione sugli iraniani sia continuata in ogni visita, con Bandar che certamente cercava di inasprire i rapporti dei russi con gli alleati iraniani.

Dopo il primo incontro di Bandar con il presidente Putin, è stato ampiamente riportato che i Saud volevano comprarsi la Russia. Agence France-Presse e Reuters citarono diplomatici anonimi delle petro-monarchie arabe, i loro lacchè del 14 marzo libanese e i loro burattini dell’opposizione siriana, dire che l’Arabia Saudita s’era offerta di firmare un lucroso contratto sulle armi con Mosca e il Cremlino dando la garanzia che i petro-emirati arabi non avrebbero minacciato il mercato del gas russo in Europa o usato la Siria per un gasdotto verso l’Europa.

La Russia sapeva meglio come trattare con i Saud. Fu offerto un lucroso accordo sulle armi dal regime saudita molto prima, nel 2008, per sigillare certi compromessi a spese dell’Iran. Dopo che i compromessi furono accettati da Mosca, i Saud congelarono l’accordo. Se la fuga mediatica di AFP e Reuters non era tattica o menzogna, in primo luogo l’obiettivo era creare tensioni tra i governi siriano e russo. Le tangenti presumibilmente spropositate per tradire la Siria erano fiato sprecato per le orecchie dei funzionari russi.

I Saud e il club non democratico delle petro-monarchie arabe che formano il Consiglio di cooperazione del Golfo (GCC), hanno sempre parlato di montagne di soldi. Le azioni di tali pretesi signori della Penisola Arabia non hanno quasi mai accompagnato le loro parole e promesse. Chi li conosce, i Saud e compagnia sono noti soliti fare grandi promesse che non potranno mai mantenere, soprattutto quando si tratta di soldi. Anche quando il denaro viene consegnato, non si tratta mai dell’intero importo promesso e molta parte viene derubata dai loro corrotti partner e compari. Se il contratto mai concluso sulle armi con la Russia del 2008 fu agevolato con il coinvolgimento dell’ex agente iracheno della CIA Iyad Allawi, o da sovrabbondanti promesse di un aiuto finanziario e logistico ai popoli libanese e palestinese, mai materializzatosi, i petro-sceiccati arabi non fecero altro che parlare grandiosamente per farsi  propaganda con articoli sulla loro generosità e splendore. Sotto tale grandezza e scintillio c’è sempre stato fallimento, insicurezza e vuoto.

Una settimana dopo il primo incontro con Bandar, il Cremlino rispose al ronzio mediatico sul tentativo di corruzione da parte dell’Arabia Saudita. Jurij Ushakov, uno dei principali aiutanti di Putin ed ex-ambasciatore russo negli Stati Uniti, respinse categoricamente l’idea che un qualsiasi accordo sia stato accettato o anche considerato dal Cremlino. Ushakov confessava che la cooperazione bilaterale non fu nemmeno discussa tra i sauditi e la Russia. Secondo il funzionario del Cremlino, i colloqui tra Bandar e Putin furono semplicemente sulla politica di Mosca e Riyadh verso la Siria e la seconda conferenza internazionale di pace in Siria, programmata a Ginevra, Svizzera.

Altre fughe: combattere il fuoco con il fuoco?

Se il suo obiettivo era spingere i russi ad abbandonare la Siria, il principe Bandar ha sempre lasciato la Russia a mani vuote. Tuttavia, la sua visita creò una scia di articoli inverosimili e speculazioni. La discrezione è sempre necessaria quando si analizzano tali resoconti, elementi della guerra mediatica sulla Siria combattuta dai media di tutti i lati. La storia inventata dei sauditi che cercano di comprarsi i russi non era il solo resoconto di ciò che  avvenne nei colloqui russo-sauditi. Ci fu anche una presunta fuga diplomatica, molto probabilmente una risposta alla storia sulla proposta di Bandar. Tale fuga riprendeva la riunione tra Bandar e Putin. Delle minacce furono fatte, secondo tale fuga pubblicata sul quotidiano libanese al-Safir del 21 agosto 2013.

Secondo il quotidiano libanese, non solo il principe Bandar disse ai russi durante la loro prima riunione di luglio, che i regimi del GCC non avrebbero minacciato il monopolio del gas russo in Europa, ma promise ai russi che avrebbero potuto mantenere la loro base navale sulle coste della Siria e che i Saud avrebbero garantito la protezione, dalle milizie dei separatisti ceceni controllate dai sauditi, delle Olimpiadi Invernali del 2014 che si terranno nella città turistica nord caucasica di Sochi, sulla costa orientale del Mar Nero. Se Mosca collaborava con Riyadh e Washington contro Damasco, la fuga rivelava che Bandar avrebbe anche dichiarato che gli stessi militanti ceceni che combattono in Siria per rovesciare il governo siriano, non avrebbero avuto alcun ruolo nel futuro politico della Siria.

Quando i russi si rifiutarono di tradire i loro alleati siriani, il principe Bandar minacciò la Russia di cancellare la seconda conferenza di pace prevista a Ginevra, scatenando l’opzione militare contro i siriani, affermava la fuga.

Tale fuga, una velata minaccia saudita sui previsti attacchi alle Olimpiadi invernali di Sochi, suscitò una frenesia di speculazioni internazionali alla fine dell’agosto 2013, durante le gravi tensioni derivanti dalle minacce statunitensi di attaccare la Siria e le minacce dell’Iran d’intervenire al fianco degli alleati siriani contro gli Stati Uniti. Provenienti dalla cerchia mediatica della medesima affiliazione politica in Libano, degli articoli riferirono sui preparativi militari russi per attaccare l’Arabia Saudita, in risposta alla guerra contro la Siria, che furono fatti circolare dal giornale al-Ahid, alimentando ulteriormente le speculazioni.

Il “reindirizzamento” neo-con suscitato dai Saud

Seymour Hersh scrisse nel 2007, dopo la sconfitta d’Israele in Libano nel 2006, che il governo degli Stati Uniti aveva una nuova strategia chiamata “reindirizzamento”. Secondo Hersh, il “reindirizzamento avvicinava gli Stati Uniti al confronto aperto con l’Iran proiettando, in alcune parti della regione, un crescente conflitto settario tra sciiti e sunniti“. Con la collaborazione di Arabia Saudita e tutti gli stessi elementi che contribuirono a lanciare la carriera di Usama bin Ladin in Afghanistan, il governo statunitense “partecipò ad azioni clandestine contro l’Iran e la sua alleata Siria“. La cosa più importante da notare è ciò che poi dice Hersh: “Un sottoprodotto di tali attività fu il rafforzamento dell’azione dei gruppi estremisti sunniti che adottano la visione militante dell’Islam e sono ostili agli USA e vicini ad al-Qaida.”

Iniziò il nuovo “reindirizzamento” dei Saud. Se c’è qualcosa che i Saud sanno fare bene, è usare i fanatici quali strumenti al servizio dei patrocinatori dell’Arabia Saudita di Washington. Lo fecero in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Caucaso settentrionale in Russia, Libia, e lo fanno in Libano e Siria. Non ci vuole il quotidiano inglese The Independent, che pubblica un articolo intitolato “Le stragi in Medio Oriente sono finanziate dai nostri amici sauditi,” per rendersene conto.

Gli attentati terroristici in Libano segnano una nuova fase del conflitto in Siria, mirando a costringere Hezbollah a ritirarsi dalla Siria e combattere una guerra civile interna. Gli attacchi sono parte del “reindirizzamento”. I Saud hanno accentuato questa nuova fase grazie ai legami con gli attacchi terroristici all’ambasciata iraniana a Beirut del 19 novembre 2013. Gli attacchi furono effettuati da persone legate al famigerato Ahmad al-Asir, che condusse una battaglia sconsiderata contro l’esercito libanese nella città libanese di Sidone, nel tentativo d’innescare una guerra civile settaria in Libano.

L’ascesa di al-Assir, invece, fu politicamente e logisticamente supportata dai Saud e dal loro spudorato cliente Hariri, in Libano. Anche ciò fa parte del “reindirizzamento” che ha portato Fatah al-Islam in Libano. Questo è il motivo per cui non sorprende vedere la bandiera del partito Futuro di Hariri sventolare accanto alle bandiere di al-Qaida in Libano. Dopo il fallito tentativo di al-Asir di scatenare una guerra civile settaria libanese, si nascose, e venne affermato che fosse stato accolto in una delle ambasciate del GCC.

Riguardo il ruolo dei Saud negli attentati in Libano, Hezbollah potrebbe confermare che l’attacco all’ambasciata iraniana a Beirut era dovuta ai Saud. La leadership di Hezbollah avrebbe riferito che la brigata Abdullah Izam, affiliata ad al-Qaida e collegata agli attentati, è direttamente legata ai servizi segreti dell’Arabia Saudita.

Inoltre, l’agente saudita Majid al-Majid, responsabile dell’attentato, sarebbe stato arrestato dalle forze di sicurezza libanesi a fine dicembre 2013. Era entrato in Libano dopo aver collaborato con al-Nusra in Siria. Fars News Agency, media iraniano, avrebbe riferito il 2 gennaio 2014 che fonti anonime libanesi hanno confermato di aver scoperto che l’attacco era dovuto al principe Bandar.

La rabbia dei Saud scatenata?

Molto è cambiato tra la prima e la seconda riunione tra il principe Bandar e Vladimir Putin, avutesi rispettivamente nel luglio 2013 e dicembre 2013. I Saud aspettavano che i loro patroni degli Stati Uniti impegnassero il Pentagono nei bombardamenti convenzionali sulla Siria a settembre. Assai probabilmente Riyadh non sapeva delle trattative segrete che Stati Uniti e Iran avevano tramite l’Oman, durante ciò che sembrava essere un’escalation verso la guerra aperta.

La minaccia di Bandar di rivalutare i legami dei Saud con Washington è probabilmente il risultato diretto del fatto che il governo degli Stati Uniti  non avvertì i Saud di voler usare la Siria per negoziare con il governo iraniano. Funzionari degli Stati Uniti possono aver istigato i Saud ad intensificare la loro offensiva contro la Siria, per spingere gli iraniani a un accordo per evitare l’attacco alla Siria e la guerra regionale. Inoltre, non solo la situazione mutava tra Stati Uniti e l’Iran, ma la Russia avrebbe poi firmato un grande contratto sul gas naturale siriano nel Mar Mediterraneo. I Saud furono danneggiati pesantemente in vari modi e iniziarono a rivalutare la propria disponibilità.

Se si scava abbastanza in profondità, si troveranno gli stessi collegamenti tra chi ha attaccato l’ambasciata iraniana a Beirut e chi ha attaccato l’ambasciata russa a Damasco. Gli attentati terroristici furono dei regali a Iran e Russia, che li usarono per rappresaglia nel proteggere la Siria dal cambiamento di regime e dalla guerra distruttiva. Si deve, tuttavia, saper notare se i Saud si sono realmente scagliati contro l’Iran e la Russia, o se furono manipolati per promuovere gli obiettivi di Washington nei negoziati con Teheran, Mosca e Damasco.

Allo stesso modo, i Saud volevano premiare generosamente Hezbollah anche per il suo ruolo nel proteggere Siria, paralizzando Hezbollah in Libano. Riyadh non può desiderare una grande guerra in Libano, come gli israeliani, ma vuole neutralizzare ed eliminare Hezbollah dal Libano. A tale proposito, l’Arabia Saudita trama seriamente per reclutare il presidente libanese Michel Suleiman e l’esercito libanese contro Hezbollah e i suoi sostenitori.

La concessione dai Saud di tre miliardi di dollari alle forze armate libanesi, non è solo il prezzo del sangue dato al Libano per esonerare l’Arabia Saudita dal suo ruolo negli attentati terroristici che attanagliano la Repubblica libanese dal 2013, il denaro saudita è anche volto alla desiderata ristrutturazione militare libanese, da usare per neutralizzare Hezbollah. In linea con gli sforzi dei Saud, vi sono gli impegni degli Emirati Arabi Uniti e le relazioni secondo cui i Paesi della NATO pensano di donare denaro e armi all’esercito libanese.

Oltre agli attentati terroristici in Libano e l’attacco all’ambasciata russa a Damasco, anche la Russia è stata attaccata. L’intenso conflitto siriano ha fatto debordare le tensioni nel Nord del Caucaso russo scatenando attentati terroristici. Religiosi musulmani russi, noti per le loro opinioni sulla coesistenza tra le comunità cristiane e musulmane della Russia e una visione anti-separatista, sono stati assassinati. Gli attentati a Volgograd sono solo i casi più recenti dell’espansione sul Volga di ciò che accade nel Caucaso del Nord, ma avvengono in modo inquietante in previsione delle Olimpiadi Invernali che il principe Bandar avrebbe detto di “proteggere” se Mosca tradiva la Siria.

I Saud possono resistere da soli?

È opinione diffusa negli Stati Uniti e Israele che, tirando le fila, si possono vedere gli affari dei Saud. Tale punto di vista è stato alquanto messo in discussione, ora. Il principe Muhammad bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, ambasciatore dell’Arabia Saudita nel Regno Unito, ha minacciato che l’Arabia Saudita resterà da sola contro la Siria e l’Iran, in un articolo del dicembre 2013. La lettera, come il rifiuto saudita del seggio al Consiglio di Sicurezza delle Nazioni Unite, esprime la rabbia dei Saud contro i realisti che dirigono la politica estera degli Stati Uniti.

In tale contesto, si segnalano inoltre coloro che pensano che l’Arabia Saudita non abbia libertà d’azione, che i leader israeliani sottolineano da anni che Tel Aviv deve collaborare segretamente con l’Arabia Saudita manipolando gli Stati Uniti contro l’Iran. Ciò è esemplificato dalle parole del Brigadier-Generale israeliano Oded Tira: “Dobbiamo collaborare clandestinamente con l’Arabia Saudita, in modo da convincere gli Stati Uniti a colpire l’Iran.

Lungo linee simili, alcuni possono precisare che insieme Saud e Israele hanno aiutato la Francia a ritardare l’accordo nucleare interinale tra gli iraniani e il P5+1 di Ginevra. I Saud hanno premiato Parigi con affari lucrosi, facendo in modo di permettere che le forze armate libanesi comprino materiale militare francese. Saad Hariri, il principale cliente saudita in Libano, ha anche incontrato Francois Hollande e funzionari francesi in Arabia Saudita, durante la transazione. Placando Saud e Israele, il presidente francese Hollande ha replicato l’ostruzionismo della Francia all’accordo nucleare interinale dei P5+1 con l’Iran, cercando di rovinare la seconda conferenza di pace in Siria a Ginevra, dicendo che non ci può essere alcuna soluzione politica in Siria se il Presidente Bashar al-Assad rimarrà al potere.

Anche in tale caso però ci si deve chiedere chi fa infuriare l’Arabia Saudita nell’ambito della strategia degli Stati Uniti per spingere i sauditi ad esercitare la massima pressione su Teheran, Mosca e Damasco, in modo che gli Stati Uniti possano ottimizzare i propri vantaggi nei negoziati? Dopo tutto, risultava che gli Stati Uniti fossero in combutta con la Francia a Ginevra e che utilizzarono l’ostruzionismo francese all’accordo con l’Iran per porre ulteriori richieste agli iraniani durante i negoziati. Il ministro degli Esteri russo Sergej Lavrov ha rivelato che il team negoziale degli Stati Uniti aveva effettivamente fatto circolare una bozza di accordo modificata, in risposta alle richieste della Francia, prima che l’Iran e le altre potenze mondiali avessero anche la possibilità di studiarla. Il piano del team statunitense fu fatto circolare, secondo il ministro degli Esteri Lavrov, “letteralmente all’ultimo momento, quando eravamo in procinto di lasciare Ginevra.

Invece di discutere sul grado d’indipendenza dei Saud, è importante chiedersi se l’Arabia Saudita può agire da sola e in che misura i Saud possono agire indipendentemente. Ciò appare una domanda molto facile a cui rispondere. E’ assai improbabile che l’Arabia Saudita possa agire da sola nella maggior parte dei casi, o anche rimanere uno Stato intatto. Questo è il motivo per cui gli strateghi israeliani affermano molto chiaramente che l’Arabia Saudita è destinata a cadere a pezzi. “L’intera penisola arabica è un candidato naturale alla disintegrazione per pressioni interne ed esterne, e la questione è inevitabile soprattutto per l’Arabia Saudita“, riteneva il Piano Yinon degli israeliani. Gli strateghi di Washington ne sono consapevoli e questo è anche il motivo per cui hanno replicato i modelli di un’Arabia Saudita frammentata. Ciò suscita un’altra domanda importante: se gli Stati Uniti valutano che il regno dell’Arabia Saudita non sia un’entità sostenibile, intende utilizzarlo fino a quando brucia come una fiamma? È questo ciò che accade, e l’Arabia Saudita sarà sacrificata o sarà il capro espiatorio dagli Stati Uniti?

Chi si nasconde dietro i Saud?

Guardando al Libano, il messaggio dei media internazionali con i loro titoli è che gli attentati in Libano evidenziano o riflettono una lotta di potere tra i Saud e Teheran in Libano e nel resto della regione. Senza dire nulla dei ruoli principali di Stati Uniti, Israele e alleati europei, questi articoli ingannevoli di giornalisti come Anne Barnard, casualmente danno la colpa di tutto ciò che accade in Siria e Libano alla rivalità tra Arabia Saudita e Iran, cancellando tutta la storia di ciò che è successo, casualmente nascondendo gli interessi dietro al conflitto. Ciò è disonesto e dipinge una contorta narrazione orientalista.

I media che provano a descrivere tutti i problemi del Medio Oriente come gravitanti attorno a una sorta di rivalità iraniana e saudita, potrebbero anche scrivere che “i sauditi e gli iraniani sono la causa dell’occupazione israeliana della Palestina, dell’invasione anglo-statunitense dell’Iraq che ha paralizzato il Paese arabo più avanzato, del blocco dei farmaci a Gaza, della no-fly zone sulla Libia, degli assassinii con droni nello Yemen e dei miliardi di dollari scomparsi del Tesoro iracheno nel 2003, dopo che Washington e Londra invasero il Paese impossessandosi delle sue finanze.” Tali articoli tacitamente ripuliscono dal sangue le mani di Washington, Tel Aviv, Parigi e Londra cercando di inventarsi delle false storie che incolpino di tutto la rivalità regionale tra Teheran e Riyadh o premettendo che sunniti e sciiti  si combattono una guerra eterna cui sono biologicamente programmati.

Arabi e iraniani, sciiti e sunniti, vengono tacitamente dipinti come creature non-umane  incomprensibili e selvagge. The New York Times insinua disonestamente anche che sunniti e sciiti in Libano si uccidono nei reciproci attentati. Ciò implica subdolamente che Hezbollah e i suoi rivali libanesi si assassinino. Bernard, nel suo articolo sul Libano già menzionato, insieme ad un altro collega scrive: “Ciò che si vedono sono attentati reciproci con autobombe contro i quartieri di Hezbollah nei sobborghi meridionali di Beirut e contro le moschee sunnite nella città settentrionale di Tripoli. Venerdì scorso, una potente autobomba ha ucciso Mohamad B. Shatah, ex-ministro delle finanze libanese, una figura importante nel blocco Futuro, il principale gruppo politico sunnita rivale di Hezbollah.

Il New York Times cerca astutamente di fare credere ai suoi lettori che Hezbollah sia responsabile dell’attentato nell’ambito di un conflitto settario sciita-sunnita, concludendo spiegando che l’ex ministro delle Finanze libanese ucciso apparteneva al “principale rivale sunnita di Hezbollah,” dopo aver detto che i bombardamenti in Libano “appaiono attentati reciproci” tra le aree che sostengono Hezbollah e “le moschee sunnite” di Tripoli.

Stati Uniti e Israele vogliono un conflitto settario sciita-sunnita in Libano e nel resto del Medio Oriente. Lavorano a ciò. Ed è qui che manipolano l’Arabia Saudita per istigare il settarismo. Stati Uniti e Israele istigano i Saud, che non rappresentano i sunniti, figurarsi il popolo dell’Arabia Saudita sottoposto alla sua occupazione, contro l’Iran, cercando sempre di nascondere e giustificare il conflitto istigato da certuni come una sorta di rivalità “naturale” tra sciiti e sunniti in tutto il Medio Oriente.

Fu valutato con elevata sicurezza da esterni interessati ai rapporti interni dei Saud, che il principe Bandar sia uno dei tre principi al-Saud a guidare la sicurezza e la politica estera dell’Arabia Saudita; gli altri due sono il principe Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, viceministro degli Esteri saudita e uomo di punta del re Abdullah sulla Siria, per via dei suoi legami materni con la Siria, e il principe Muhammad bin Nayaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, ministro degli Interni. Tutti e tre sono legati agli Stati Uniti più dei loro predecessori. Il principe Bandar stesso ha una lunga storia di stretta collaborazione con gli Stati Uniti, il che spiega l’appellativo affettuoso di “Bandar Bush”, ampiamente citato. Ma “Chemical Bandar” può essergli aggiunto, per via degli articoli sui suoi legami con gli attacchi chimici a Ghuta in Siria.

Come cliente degli Stati Uniti, l’Arabia Saudita è una fonte di instabilità perché condizionata da Washington. La lotta al terrorismo e alla minaccia estremista viene ora utilizzata dagli Stati Uniti per convergere con l’Iran, che casualmente è a capo del Movimento mondiale contro la violenza e l’estremismo (WAVE) presso le Nazioni Unite. In realtà, causa dei problemi e dell’instabilità regionali è Washington stessa. Con un colpo da maestro, i realisti ora al timone della politica estera, sostengono il riavvicinamento iraniano-statunitense sulla base di ciò che disse Zbigniew Brzezinski, ex consigliere per la sicurezza nazionale degli Stati Uniti, secondo cui Teheran e Washington devono collaborare per assicurare “l’ambiente regionale volatile” dell’Iran. “L’eventuale riconciliazione (tra Stati Uniti e i governi iraniani) dovrebbe basarsi sul riconoscimento di un interesse strategico comune nel stabilizzare ciò che attualmente è un ambiente regionale molto volatile per l’Iran“, spiega. Il punto non va trascurato, anche se Brzezinski ha collaborato con i sauditi per usare i mujahidin afghani contro i sovietici, dopo aver organizzato l’operazione d’intelligence per spingere i sovietici ad intervenire in Afghanistan, in primo luogo.

I Saud non agirono da soli in Afghanistan durante la Guerra Fredda. Furono rigorosamente sostenuti da Washington. Gli Stati Uniti ne furono ancora più coinvolti. Lo stesso in Siria. Se la fuga diplomatica sull’incontro tra Bandar e Putin è credibile, va notato che “Bandar Bush” ha detto a Putin che qualsiasi “comprensione saudita-russa” farebbe anche parte di una “comprensione americano-russa.”

Il “reindirizzamento” vede la sua Stalingrado?

Volgograd si chiamava Stalingrado durante una parte dell’era sovietica, in onore del figlio più famoso della Repubblica di Georgia e leader sovietico Josif Stalin. A Volgograd, allora chiamata Stalingrado, i tedeschi furono fermati e il corso della guerra in Europa si volse contro Hitler e i suoi alleati dell’Asse in Europa. La battaglia di Stalingrado fu laddove i nazisti furono sconfitti e fu in Unione Sovietica e nell’Europa dell’Est che si svolse la maggior parte dei combattimenti contro i tedeschi. Né v’è alcuna esagerazione ad accreditare a russi, kazaki, uzbeki, tagiki, tartari, georgiani, armeni, ucraini, bielorussi, ceceni sovietici, di aver svolto la maggior parte dei combattimenti per sconfiggere i tedeschi nella seconda guerra mondiale.

A giudicare dal bellicoso discorso di fine 2013 del presidente russo Vladimir Putin, gli attentati terroristici a Volgograd avvieranno un’altra battaglia di Stalingrado di altro tipo, iniziando un’altra “guerra al terrore” russa. Molti dei terroristi che la Russia dovrà affrontare sono in Siria e sono sostenuti dai Saud.

Gli oppositori del Blocco della Resistenza che l’Iran, la Siria, Hezbollah ed i gruppi della resistenza palestinese formano, hanno definito i campi di battaglia in Siria la Stalingrado dell’Iran e dei suoi alleati regionali. La Siria è stata una Stalingrado di un certo tipo, ma non per il Blocco della Resistenza. L’alleanza formata da Stati Uniti, Gran Bretagna, Francia, Arabia Saudita, Qatar, Turchia e Israele rivela i suoi sforzi per far attuare il cambio di regime in Siria. Gli ultimi anni hanno segnato l’inizio della sconfitta umiliante dei finanziatori di estremismo, separatismo e terrorismo contro Paesi come Russia, Cina, Iran e Siria, per impedirne la coesione eurasiatica. Un altro fronte di questa stessa battaglia viene combattuta politicamente dagli Stati Uniti e dall’Unione europea in Ucraina, impedendo agli ucraini l’integrazione con Bielorussia, Russia e Kazakhstan.

Volgograd e la conquista dell’Eurasia

Mentre speculazioni sono frammiste ad avvisi in questo testo, la maggior parte di ciò che è stato spiegato non è speculazione. I Saud hanno un ruolo nel destabilizzare la Federazione Russa e nell’organizzare gli attentati terroristici in Russia. Supportando oppure opponendosi ai movimenti separatisti nel Caucaso del Nord, il punto è che vengono opportunisticamente aiutati e utilizzati dai Saud e da Washington. Nonostante l’autenticità del racconto delle minacce di Bandar alla Russia, Volgograd è la Siria e la Siria è Volgograd. Rientrano nell’ambito della stessa lotta. Gli Stati Uniti cercano d’invadere la Siria mirando alla Russia e ad entrare in profondità nel cuore dell’Eurasia.

Quando George Orwell scrisse 1984 vedeva il mondo diviso in diverse entità in guerra costante o “eterna”. I suoi fittizi superstati che usano la polizia della lingua per la sorveglianza totale e la manipolazione totale della comunicazione di massa per indottrinare e ingannare i popoli. In parole povere, l’Oceania di Orwell è formata da Stati Uniti e dai suoi territori formali e informali dell’emisfero occidentale, che la dottrina Monroe ha sostanzialmente dichiarato colonie statunitensi, confederati alla Gran Bretagna e alle colonie e domini dell’ex impero inglese (Australia, Canada, Irlanda, Nuova Zelanda e Sud Africa). Il concetto orwelliano di Eurasia è la fusione dell’Unione Sovietica con l’Europa continentale. L’entità di Estasia invece è formata attorno alla Cina. Il Sud-Est asiatico, l’India e le parti dell’Africa che non rientravano nell’influenza della Oceanica Sud Africa, erano territori contestati in cui si combatteva costantemente. Per quanto non espressamente menzionato, si può estrapolare che l’Asia del sud-ovest, dove si trova la Siria, o parti di essa,  probabilmente fossero parte di tale fittizio territorio contestato, che comprendeva anche il Nord Africa.

Se cerchiamo di adattare i termini orwelliani al presente delle relazioni globali, possiamo dire che l’Oceania ha fatto le sue mosse contro l’Eurasia/Estasia per il controllo del territorio conteso (Medio Oriente e Nord Africa).

1984 non è solo un romanzo, è un avvertimento del lungimirante Orwell. Tuttavia, non immaginò che la sua Eurasia avrebbe fatto causa o incluso l’Estasia con una triplice alleanza incentrata su Russia, Cina e Iran. L’Eurasia concluderà, in un modo o nell’altro, ciò che l’Oceania ha iniziato. Per tutto questo tempo, mentre i Saud e gli altri governanti dei petro-emirati arabi continuano a competere tra loro in costruzioni fantastiche, la Spada di Damocle diventa sempre più pesante sopra le loro teste.

Articolo originariamente pubblicato da Global Research, il 3 gennaio 2014.

Traduzione di Alessandro Lattanzio.

Colonel Muntadher al Samaree’s confession is about crimes that were committed by Interior Ministry Special Commandos in 2004-2005 and after that time. Paul Bremer  was the Civil Governor assigned by the American Occupation in Iraq during that period. In other words, these crimes were committed before the sectarian violence eruption after the  bombing the Shrines in Samara.

When Paul Bremer  dissolved the Iraqi National Security and Police Forces, he formed another one from mercenaries and sectarian militias who were backing and supporting the occupation. In reality, the nature of hideous crimes committed by these forces was the major motivation behind the sectarian violence killing of 2006-2007.

According to Geneva Convention Protocols, the occupation represented by Bremer, not only failed its duty to protect the population of the country under occupation, they officially formed militias and armed gangs to help them control the country.

Paul Bremer committed crimes against humanity and an act of cleansing and Genocide in Iraq by targeting thousands of innocent civilians through Interior Minister and Special Commandos Forces.

The Following is transcript of the Video interview (translation from Arabic)

Scene 1:

Iraqi Woman: (They took my son two months ago and we don’t know anything about him. He is in Jadiria Shelter. We go and ask about him, they chase us out with no answer).

Scene 2,

Ex Interior Minister Baker Jaber Solagh:

(Not acceptable, not acceptable, people lost their patience, and don’t accept any excuses).

Scene 3,

Colonel Muntadher al Samaraee,  (In charge of Interior Ministry Special Forces from 2004 to 2005) saying:

An order was initiated by the Minister of interior Baker Jabar Solagh, to stop and forbid the  movement of any military unit within the forces of interior ministry without the approval of the minister of interior, exclusively. In other words, there is no way when the curfew starts every night at 11 PM, a force of 35 armed and totally equipped vehicles move around and have an access and pass through all check points with people helping and coordinating for them, raiding areas and arresting people, and bringing them to unidentified places, unless they have higher authority to command this force.

After a while they surprise the families of the arrested detainees by throwing their bodies in the streets or in the Forensic Madison centers. The bodies are all mutated with sharp and electrical torture tools. One of the cases I will mention here, and the rest of the names I can reveal later on for the investigation committees, is Colonel Shukry Maarouf. He was working with us in the Interior Ministry, specifically in the Commandos Intelligence section. They came and took him by an official order stating that he was under investigation. The officers under his command and his family interfered for his release. Imagine, working in the interior ministry and someone with the special commandos force intelligence or investigation departments comes and tell you that you are under investigation. The General Commander of the force interfered for his release, and they promised him that he will be released the next day.  After one day, the officers and his family were shocked when they discovered hid body in the Forensic Madison center. Many of those detained in the interior commando’s unidentified prisons were found dead under different names. When you send a person dead body to Forensic Madison Center with different name, he becomes an unknown soldier.

It sounds unbelievable, torturing a person to death then threw his body in an unknown place. Just like what happened one week ago when people found 27 coffins of unidentified people at Badra Wa Jassan area. The bodies were totally torn apart and mutilated, only the bones were mostly in there.

People asked interior minister to investigate these crimes. Such as the Eskan area residents in Baghdad who found the bodies of their young men killed blind folded and thrown in the streets one week after the interior commandos arrested them.

Martyrs of al  Hurriah area, about 25 dead bodies found in Dolaee area.

Another one is the Refrigerator Bodies mass killing from (8-12) bodies, where they were locked  in a Refrigerator till they were frozen to death and threw their bodies.

In Adhamia area.  In Thawrah area. How many people they arrested and never came back home.

We ask people whose family members were taken by interior ministry commandos and never returned back to register their complains to religious centers like al Waqef Alssuni, Muslem scholars association, al Waqef Alsheaee, and the Sadrists . They are all asked to register their missing members who were taken by interior commandos’ forces.

The interior commandos with their costumes, artilleries, and advance gadgets get out raiding places, arresting people for investigation during late nights of curfews, torturing and killing them.  Who is responsible for these crimes???

Scene 4 :

Major general Mohammad Abdullah al Shahwani, Director of Iraqi Intelligent Agency 2005-2009: (Answering this question):  according to our information, those are related to Iranian Kudus Brigade. Iranian agents are all over Iraq, in the Parliament, in the government, in streets, in religious centers, everywhere.

Scene 5:

Iraqi women:  Security, what security?? If our police force is doing this to us!! No wonder what others do?

Scene 6:

Iraqi citizen: The Iraqi citizen is being taken from his house and nobody knows who is taking him, the Americans, the interior commandos, or Bader Brigade??

Scene 7:

Colonel Muntadher al Samaraee again:

We would like to ask about the results of the investigation committees of al A Ema Bridge event, where thousands of victims got hurt?  how many days have passed  and the people are waiting for  the results of these investigations. A press release of the interior ministry assured people that the ministry is innocent and that they will announce who is behind and responsible of this tragedy, but none of this happened. Isn’t this an obvious right of the Iraqi people?? To know the results of the interior ministry investigations and who is committing these crimes???

George W. Bush

George W. Bush Presidential Center
PO Box 560887
Dallas, Texas, 57356

**

Dear Mr. Bush:

A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center which included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included “I’m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidency” and “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” (Below were categories of “tax-deductible contributions” starting with $25 and going upward.)

Ralph NaderDid you mean the “timeless principles” that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq [under its dictator and his dilapidated military] threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.

Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a million Iraqis, including many children and infants (remember Fallujah?) lost their lives, millions more were sickened or injured, and millions more were forced to become refugees, including most of the Iraqi Christians. Iraq is a country rife with sectarian strife that your prolonged invasion provoked into what is now open warfare. Iraq is a country where al-Qaeda is spreading with explosions taking 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 lives per day. Just this week, it was reported that the U.S. has sent Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraq’s air force to be used against encampments of “the country’s branch of al-Qaeda.” There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before your invasion. Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were mortal enemies.

The Bush/Cheney sociocide of Iraq, together with the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers’ lives, countless injuries and illnesses, registers, with the passage of time, no recognition by you that you did anything wrong nor have you accepted responsibility for the illegality of your military actions without a Congressional declaration of war. You even turned your back on Iraqis who worked with U.S. military occupation forces as drivers, translators etc. at great risk to themselves and their families and were desperately requesting visas to the U.S., often with the backing of U.S. military personnel. Your administration allowed fewer Iraqis into the U.S. than did Sweden in that same period and far, far fewer than Vietnamese refugees coming to the U.S. during the nineteen seventies.

When you were a candidate, I called you a corporation running for the Presidency masquerading as a human being. In time you turned a metaphor into a reality. As a corporation, you express no remorse, no shame, no compassion and a resistance to admit anything other than that you have done nothing wrong.

Day after day Iraqis, including children, continue to die or suffer terribly. When the paraplegic, U.S. army veteran, Tomas Young, wrote you last year seeking some kind of recognition that many things went horribly criminal for many American soldiers and Iraqis, you did not deign to reply, as you did not deign to reply to Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. As you said, “the interesting thing about being the president” is that you “don’t feel like [you] owe anybody an explanation.” As a former President, nothing has changed as you make very lucrative speeches before business groups and, remarkably, ask Americans for money to support your “continued work in public service.”

Pollsters have said that they believe a majority of Iraqis would say that life today is worse for them than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. They would also say George W. Bush left Iraq worse off than when he entered it, despite the U.S. led sanctions prior to 2003 that took so many lives of Iraqi children and damaged the health of so many civilian families.

Your national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said publically in 2012 that while “the arc of history” may well turn out better for post-invasion Iraq than the present day violent chaos, she did “take personal responsibility” for the casualties and the wreckage. Do you?

Can you, at the very least, publically urge the federal government to admit more civilian Iraqis, who served in the U.S. military occupation, to this country to escape the retaliation that has been visited on their similarly-situated colleagues? Isn’t that the minimum you can do to very slightly lessen the multiple, massive blowbacks that your reckless military policies have caused? It was your own anti-terrorism White House adviser, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, soon after leaving his post, that the U.S. played right into Osama bin Laden’s hands by invading Iraq.

Are you privately pondering what your invasion of Iraq did to the Iraqis and American military families, the economy and to the spread of al-Qaeda attacks in numerous countries?

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader

P.S. I am enclosing as a contribution in kind to your presidential center library the book Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions by Clyde Prestowitz (2003) whom I’m sure you know. Note the positive remark on the back cover by General Wesley Clark.

Boujemaa Razgui had his ney flutes taken from him by TSA and destroyed by US customs officials in New York. Boujemaa Razgui is a virtuoso ney player and longtime Al Andalus Ensemble (http://www.andalus.com)

You can hear Boujemaa Razgui’s beautiful ney playing on the Al Andalus Ensemble “Illumination (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/alandalus2)”  on the track “Nabil.” Boujemaa has performed and recorded with Beyonce, Shakira and the Cirque de Soleil and is a regular with the Boston Camarata.

Boujemaa has made many trips around the world for over three decades with these flutes and never before has had a problem.  He was traveling back to the US to his home in Boston, Ma from Marrakech, Morocco via Madrid, Spain when his instruments were confiscated and destroyed in New York.  Boujemaa is a Canadian citizen and longtime US permanent resident. His wife and children are US citizens.  In addition to the loss of his valuable instruments, Boujemaa said he was treated very poorly by US Customs officials where he was questioned for hours, photographed and fingerprinted without cause.Boujemaa Razgui with the Al Andalus Ensemble performing in Sevilla, Spain

Boujemaa was in tears when he told us about the loss of his neys.  He explained:

“besides representing my livelihood, the neys are like my children.  Each one was carefully and lovingly crafted.  Seasoned and oiled, and regularly played upon.  With the years, the sound of the ney just grows better and better.  I don’t know what I am going to do now…”

Professional ney flutes are almost impossible to purchase and most professional ney players must resort to making them themselves.  This however, is not an easy process as the reed required to make this soulful and mourning instrument is increasingly difficult to come by.

Ney players typically carry one set of neys as a different ney is required for each key. The ney flutes which Boujemaa had taken from him are ones which he has spent a lifetime collecting, making and playing upon.  From literally hundreds of pieces of reed, a ney player/maker might find one reed that is suitable to make a ney with.  Thus, the eleven neys and two kawala’s represents over three decades of searching thorough many tens of thousands of reeds.

The artists of the Al-Andalus Ensemble build a new artistic language that unifies Eastern & Western cultures.  Further the advancement of international understanding, goodwill & peace by supporting a group that reflects a place and time where Christians, Jews & Muslims lived together for a cultural flourishing: Al-Andalus.

 

Boujemaa with the Al Andalus Ensemble performing in Sevilla, Spain. http://www.flickr.com/photos/al-andalus/11696202115/in/photostream/lightbox/

More pictures of Boujemaa can be downloaded here
http://www.flickr.com/photos/al-andalus/

We thank Norman LeBrecht at the Slipped Disc Arts Journal for being so proactive in spreading the word about this sad loss.  Here is his original article together with a follow up by Boujemaa.
http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/12/jfk-custom…

Here is also is an article in the Boston Globe about the incident.
http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/names/2014/01/01/cus…

We would appreciate it greatly if you would please assist us in bringing this incident to the attention of the public. If you have any questions or require any further information, please contact: Al Andalus Ensemble: http://www.Andalus.com

Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cats

January 4th, 2014 by Global Research News

By

This article was first published on Who What Why

Click any of the photo in this article to enlarge.

Wild tigers have disappeared from 90 percent of their historic range, and their population stands at a tiny fraction of a century ago. WhoWhatWhy science contributor Sharon Guynup collaborated with National Geographic photographer Steve Winter to raise an alarm about the state of this imperiled species in Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cats (National Geographic Books).

Back in 2003, Winter began a decade spent in Asia’s jungles in search of wild tigers. In 2007, Guynup was researching a story about wildlife poaching in India’s Kaziranga National Park when she glimpsed her first tiger, and began writing regularly about big cats. Writer and photograher joined forces to create this book.

In this excerpt for WhoWhatWhy, Guynup gives voice to Winter’s quest to document the tiger’s magnificence—and tells the tiger’s story: why the cats has been both feared and revered throughout human history, the threats it faces—and the extraordinary efforts to save it.

Tigers have been around for millennia, she writes. But is the end near?

 EXCERPT: Tigers Forever

Panthera tigris, the largest of the world’s cats, is the heart and soul of Asia’s jungles. It’s the dominant predator in both the valley and every ecosystem it inhabits, stealthy, walking silent and unseen, like a shadow, but possessing fearsome teeth and claws and a roar that resounds for miles. It’s no wonder tigers have long been feared and worshipped across their range.

For millennia, they’ve stood as iconic symbols of power and courage, woven into culture, religion, folklore, and ritual. Neolithic cave paintings are the earliest existing depictions, images etched into rock walls across the Indian subcontinent some 8,000 years ago.

Asian cultures have deified this cat, bestowing powers beyond those of any worldly animal. In Tibet, tigers held the key to immortality. In 13th century China, tigers protected both the living and the dead by frightening away threatening spirits. In Indochina and elsewhere, many were reluctant to kill them; it was widely believed that when a tiger killed a human, the human’s soul entered and inhabited the cat’s body.

The Hindu goddess Durga vanquished a monster-demon while astride her ferocious mount, a tiger. Legend from various countries describes shamans transforming into tigers to move between worlds or people shape-shifting into werecats to harm others.

Many tribes, including the Naga in Myanmar and India, only killed tigers as part of powerful rituals or on ceremonial occasions. When the Europeans arrived and trophy hunts began, those who helped or acted as guides faced harsh punishment from village elders. But as the fabric of traditional culture unraveled and guns proliferated, tiger slaughter grew common.

What I didn’t realize until I dug into research was that today, tigers hover closer to extinction than any of the big cats. They face a deadly cocktail of threats. With diminishing prey, widespread poaching, and conflict with humans who live too close to their ever shrinking habitat, one of the world’s most iconic species is careening toward the edge.

A century ago, more than 100,000 of these majestic cats roamed Asia’s rainforests, savannas, and mountains. They ranged across 24 nations, from Turkey eastward to Siberia, south through China and Indochina to the tip of Indonesia. They are the national animal of six nations, but have vanished from two of them, North and South Korea.

Only about 3,200 wild tigers survive, and of those, less than a third are breeding females. They’re gone from 93 percent of their historic range; that range shrank by almost half during the first decade of this century.

Tigers hang on in just 13 countries in scraps of habitat sandwiched amid an exploding human population. In 2010, they were declared extinct in Cambodia. (In contrast, at least 4,000 captive tigers are privately owned in the United States alone, living in people’s backyards, lost to the wild and often living miserable, caged lives.)…

Though they’re quickly disappearing from the region, their presence here dates back millions of years. All modern cats originated in Southeast Asia. The great roaring cats, Panthera—a group that includes tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, and snow leopards—were the first to branch off the cat family tree 10.8 million years ago.

The earliest tiger fossils are two million years old. That ancestor eventually evolved into nine subspecies, slowly adapting to Asia’s various landscapes, prey, and climate. Three of them blinked into extinction over the last 80 years. The Bali tiger died out during the 1940s; the Javan and Caspian tiger both disappeared in the 1970s. Six subspecies remain: the Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, Sumatran, Amur (Siberian)—and the South-China, which now exists only in captivity, gone from the wild. All are endangered. In 1996, the Sumatran tiger was reclassified as critically endangered, one step from oblivion, and the Indochinese tigers that roam Myanmar and neighboring countries are approaching that same precipice.

The species has always faced challenges. Genetic studies revealed that tigers were almost annihilated 73,000 years ago when a massive volcanic eruption at Lake Toba, Sumatra, wiped out scores of Asian mammals. The species rebounded from just a few individuals to repopulate Asia.

Today, viable breeding populations exist in 42 known locations, or “source sites.” Tigers are in the emergency room, but they’re a resilient species. There is enough remaining habitat to support tigers, and if both the cats and their prey are given boots-on-the-ground protection, there’s hope. But only committed, targeted action and creative strategies will bring them back from the brink…

The time to act is now. Once the last tigers disappear, no longer gliding on velvet paws through the jungle, we cannot bring them back.

Poachers with tiger skin  - MM7666_110108_1615_84620

 These men were apprehended in January 2011 while trying to sell a tiger skin near Chandrapur, India. Police received the tip from the Wildlife Protection Society of India, with intelligence from their informant network. They were members of an extended family from a nearby village, ranging in age from 17 to 40.

Girl holding photo of tiger - MM7666_090825_1605_4522

 Dara Arista holds a portrait of Sheila, a beloved 18 year-old Sumatran tiger, in front of her cage at Taman Rimbo Zoo in Jambi. Two nights before,  a poacher broke in and killed her in her cage. He was captured on a bus and confessed to killing her for $100.

Kaziranga National Park

 A tiger moves, nearly invisible, through Kaziranga’s tall reeds. Though we tend to think of tigers as a jungle species, they are perfectly adapted to grasslands where their striped camouflage raises the odds for a successful kill.

Kaziranga National Park, camera trap

 A young male tiger walks through elephant grass.  Kaziranga National Park, India

33

 A tiger peers at a camera trap it triggered while night-hunting in the forests of northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

Copyright Who What Why 2014

The Killing of Journalists in Iraq

January 4th, 2014 by Dirk Adriaensens

In Iraq, at least 404 media professionals have been killed since the US invasion in 2003, among them 374 Iraqis, according to The BRussells Tribunal statistics. The impunity in Iraq is far worse than anywhere else in the world.

Dr. Yasser Salihee (here with his wife Dr. Raghad Wazzan) gave up his job at Yarmouk Hospital to become a journalist.

In memory of Dr Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for the news agency Knight Ridder, killed on 24 June 2005 by a single bullet of an American sniper as he approached a checkpoint that had been thrown up near his home in western Baghdad by US and Iraqi troops. Since May 2005, Dr. Salihee had been reporting on the similarities between the death squads used in El Salvador to obliterate their “insurgency” and the US military’s creation of the “Wolf Brigade” that had been unleashed to eliminate the Iraqi Resistance. Salihee had been gathering evidence that US-backed Iraqi Ministry of Interior forces had been carrying out extra-judicial killings.

We believe that he was assassinated because he came too close to the truth. There is serious doubt that the shooting was “an accident”. Nevertheless, the Committee for The ‘Protection’ of Journalists (CPJ) has thrown Dr Yasser Salihee in the dungeons of history. He doesn’t figure in any of their death lists.

Impunity for killers of media professionals in Iraq

In Iraq, at least 404 media professionals have been killed since the US invasion in 2003, among them 374 Iraqis, according to The BRussells Tribunal statistics. The impunity in Iraq is far worse than anywhere else in the world. None of the journalist murders recorded in Iraq in the past decade has been solved. Not a single case of journalists’ killings has been investigated to identify and punish the killers.

Hassan Shaaban, head of the Center for the Legal Protection of Journalists, told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that, “Terrorists are systematically targeting journalists,” but that “the government is not protecting people.”

The New York Times reported on 24 December 2013 that: “Security forces have found lists of journalists targeted for assassination during raids on militant hide-outs in Mosul, and many journalists have stopped reporting in the streets or attending news conferences.”

Maliki’s security forces are not interested in protecting the journalists on this dead list.

Maliki’s harassment of journalists

Human Rights Watch stated: “Journalists in Iraq face a double threat, from armed gangs gunning them down and prosecutors charging them, all because of what they write. The recent spate of assassinations of journalists has had a chilling effect on journalists, who risk being prosecuted by the very authorities that are supposed to protect them.”

HRW: “At the same time, Iraqi prosecutors have stepped up criminal prosecutions of journalists for defamation and have increased other harassment of journalists. Three journalists told Human Rights Watch in November that security forces arrested them and confiscated their equipment after they covered politically sensitive topics, such as poor security, corruption, and the government’s inadequate response to the needs of people affected by flooding. Another journalist told Human Rights Watch that police arrested him on charges of defamation, a crime in Iraq’s penal code, for an article accusing officials of corruption.”

“Since the start of protests in Iraq in February 2011 over widespread corruption and lack of services, journalists have faced escalating attacks and threats, including from members of the government’s security forces.”

21 Iraqi media professionals assassinated in 2013

In 2013, the BRussells Tribunal has listed 21 assassinated media professionals, while the two best known advocacy groups for journalists: the Committee For The Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) listed respectively 12 and 11 murdered Iraqi colleagues.

Here are the names of the media professionals killed in Iraq in 2013:

1- Hamid Rashid Abbas (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Journalist, formerly of Jumhuriah (Republic) newspaper.

06/02/2013

Iraqi Journalists Syndicate condemned, in a statement issued today 7 Feb, the assassination of Hamid Rashid Abbas, who worked in formerly Jumhuriah (Republic) newspaper southwest of Baghdad last night as he left the mosque after night prayers. An armed group assassinated the journalist in Baghdad yesterday evening Southwest of Baghdad.

2- Muwaffak al-Ani (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Radio broadcaster in Baghdad and one of Iraq’s best-known media voices.     06/05/2013

Muwaffak al-Ani was one of Iraq’s longest-serving broadcasters. He began his career in radio and television in 1962 at Radio Baghdad and had worked for several of the country’s major networks since then. He also taught radio journalism. According to media reports he was killed, along with his brother and several others, when a bomb exploded outside the Mansour Mosque in west Baghdad during evening prayer on Monday.

3- Zamel Ghannam al-Zoubaie (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Journalist in the Baghdad bureau of the Iraq News Network.

09/06/2013

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Tuesday condemned the murder of an Iraqi journalist who was killed in a terrorist attack in Baghdad.

The body of well-known journalist, Zamel Ghannam Al Zoubaie, was found in the Al Washwash area of western Baghdad.

4- Imad Ali Abbass (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Journalist.

10/09/2013

A journalist was killed when an improvised explosive device placed in his car went off on Tuesday, Sep. 10, in northern Mosul. The car belonged to a journalist called Imad Ali Abbass.

5- Tahrir Kadhim Jawad (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Freelance cameraman for US-funded Al-Hurra TV satellite channel.

05/10/2013

A freelance cameraman for US-funded Al-Hurra TV satellite channel was among 10 Iraqis killed in violence across Baghdad and the north of the country on Monday. Tahrir Kadhim Jawad was killed when a magnetic “sticky bomb” attached to his car detonated in the town of Garma, 50 km (30 miles) west of the Iraqi capital.  Jawad was driving to Baghdad to deliver footage when the bomb exploded.  He died instantly.

6- Mohammed Ghanem

Cameraman of the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya.

07/10/2013

Gunmen opened fire on Mohammed Karim al-Badrani, correspondent for the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya, and Mohammed Ghanem, a cameraman, while they were filming in the Al-Sarjkhana area of Mosul in Nineveh province, the station said. The journalists were hit in the head and chest, the reports said.

7- Mohammed Karim al-Badrani

Correspondent for the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya.

07/10/2013

Gunmen opened fire on Mohammed Karim al-Badrani, correspondent for the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya, and Mohammed Ghanem, a cameraman, while they were filming in the Al-Sarjkhana area of Mosul in Nineveh province, the station said. The journalists were hit in the head and chest, the reports said.

8- Saad Zaghloul (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Reporter for several newspapers in the northern city of Mosul.

08/10/2013

Saad Zaghloul, who reported for several newspapers in the northern city of Mosul, was shot and killed outside his home

9- Bashar al-Nuaimi

Cameraman working for local TV channel al-Moussilyah.

24/10/2013

In the northern city of Mosul, police said gunmen killed Bashar al-Nuaimi, a cameraman working for local TV channel al-Moussilyah, as he was walking near his house.

10- Alaa Edward Boutros

Cameraman in Nineveh al-Ghad channel.

24/11/2013

Unidentified gunmen opened fire targeting Alaa Edward Boutros in the north of Mosul. The victim belong to Christian religion. ‘The victim used to work as a cameraman in Nineveh al-Ghad channel and he quit his job after receiving threats of killing him in case he remained working in the channel.

11- Wahdan al-Hamdani (Not listed by RSF)

Cameraman for the Al Taghee television station in Baghdad.

27/11/2013

Wahdan Al-Hamdani, a cameraman for the Al Taghee television station in Baghdad, was shot to death while covering a funeral in the southern city of Basra, according to a statement from the United Nations.

12- Aadel Mohsen Husain (Not listed by CPJ)

Reporter for a number of news media in Iraq.

02/12/2013

Aadel Mohsen Husain, a reporter for a number of news media in Iraq, was shot to death in the northern city of Mosul. There was no immediate information on who carried out the attack. The killing of Husain, 43, was confirmed by the Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association.

13- Kawa Ahmed Germyani

Editor-in-chief of Rayal magazine and a correspondent for Awene newspaper.

06/12/2013

Kawa Ahmed Germyani, investigative journalist, was shot in the head and chest in front of his mother at his home in the town of Kalar, which lies south of Iraqi Kurdistan’s second-biggest city Sulaimaniyah. Germyani had received threats, and he was taken to court by politicians and officials over his work to uncover corruption.

14- Nawras al-Nuaimi

TV presenter in Al-Mawsiliyah Channel.

15/12/2013

An unknown armed group murdered a TV presenter Nawras Al-Nuaimi who worked in Al-Mawsiliyah Channel near her house in Al-Jazaer District in Mosul

15- Muhanad Mohammed (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Journalist who worked for both foreign and Iraqi media.

20/12/2013

Muhanad Mohammed, a journalist who worked for both foreign and Iraqi media, was among those killed in one of the suicide bombings on Thursday. He was the seventh journalist to be killed in Iraq in less than three months.

16- Raad Yassin

Chief news editor of Salaheddin TV.

17- Jamal Abdel Nasser

Producer of Salaheddin TV.

18- Mohamed Ahmad al-Khatib

Cameraman of Salaheddin TV.

19- Wissam al-Azzawi

Presenter of Salaheddin TV.

20- Mohamed Abdel Hamid

Archives manager and editor of Salaheddin TV.

(?) Unknown 

Staff Member of Salaheddin TV.

23/12/2013

Five attackers stormed the offices of the channel owned by the provincial government of Salah al-Din in the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad, one blowing up a suicide car bomb at the gate and two more setting off explosive suicide belts inside, police said. Two more were killed by security forces. Six channel staff died in addition to the attackers, and six others were wounded, police and health officials said. A security source said one of the dead was a female presenter. Earlier in 2013, the Iraqi government suspended the licenses of 10 stations, including Salah al-Din, accusing the channels of sectarian incitement for their coverage of Sunni protests in Hawija outside of Kirkuk.

21- Omar al-Dulaimi (Not listed by CPJ – Not listed by RSF)

Reporter for one of the local agencies in Ramadi

31/12/2013

Killed when he was covering the armed clashes between the security forces and gunmen in the city of Ramadi, where he was shot by sniper fire in the head. Omar al-Dulaimi, a graduate of the Department of Information in the Faculty of Arts, University of Anbar

Scores of Iraqi media professionals not listed by CPJ and RSF

The question is why so many media professionals, assassinated in Iraq, were not reported by CPJ and RSF?

One of the reasons can be found on their websites.

RSF: “Journalists killed” in the table includes only cases in which Reporters Without Borders has clearly established that the victim was killed because of his/her activities as a journalist. It does not include cases in which the motives were not related to the victim’s work or in which a link has not yet been confirmed.

Note CPJ: CPJ’s list of killed journalists is different from other organizations. Why?

When CPJ publicizes journalists killed on duty, it cites only those cases in which the motive has been “confirmed.” Lists compiled by other organizations may include journalists whose killings CPJ has not connected to their work with reasonable certainty. Other organizations may also list media support workers, such as drivers and interpreters. CPJ maintains a separate list of media support workers killed on duty. CPJ also maintains a separate list of killed media professionals for which the motive is “unconfirmed”.

But a quick glance at The BRussells Tribunal database should make clear that their explanation doesn’t make sense in many cases.

It is hard to imagine that the unreported killing of 144 Iraqi media professionals (RSF) and 180 Iraqi media professionals (CPJ) between 2003 and 2013 was not related to their work.

But then how can the discrepancy between the RSF and CPJ lists and the list of The BRussells Tribunal be explained?

It is a well-established fact that since the invasion of 2003 the corporate media have consistently downplayed mortality figures. The killing of media professionals is no exception. It’s obvious that the journalist advocacy groups in the West are reluctant to give the real casualty figures of their colleagues who lost their lives under the ruthless occupation of the US/UK, an occupation that is still ongoing. So they narrow their criteria of who should be included in their lists. This is an objectionable attitude, especially because it concerns professional colleagues.

The difference with the situation in Syria is blatantly clear. But then CPJ is located in the USA, the country that illegally invaded and occupied Iraq, while in Syria the USA is on the side of the ‘opposition’. Since the ‘civil war’ in Syria in 2011 RSF has come up with a new category of journalists. They call them “netizens” (Media activists) and citizen journalists.  This makes sense. A difference should be made between media ‘professionals’ and media ‘amateurs’.

CPJ has another opinion: “CPJ does not distinguish between professional and amateur journalists like some organizations. We also do not fixate on labels commonly used in the Syrian conflict such as “media activist” and “citizen journalist.” Instead, we care only about what the individual was doing. Did he or she show a consistent effort in gathering, producing, and publicly disseminating the news? That’s a journalist in our book.”

If only they had applied the same criteria for Iraqi ‘journalists’ ……

CPJ keeps 3 separate lists: ‘journalists motive confirmed’, ‘media workers motive confirmed’ and ‘motive unconfirmed’.

RSF also keeps 3 separate lists: ‘journalists killed’, ‘media assistants killed’ and since 2011 ‘Netizens and citizen journalists killed’.

“Now, can we come up with a consensus all-inclusive journalist/media worker death tally rather than these disparate counts?” (Eason Jordan)

Media manipulation

Media manipulation in the USA didn’t start in 2003.

John Catalinotto, International Action Center (IAC): “935 lies. The Bush gang lied 935 times between Sept. 11, 2001, and March 19, 2003, to justify the invasion of Iraq. Bush lied 259 times. The biggest lie was that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction”. And that Saddam Hussein worked with al-Qaida. Why is the number of lies important? There were 935 opportunities to question the liars. The 935 lies are proof that the entire U.S. ruling class is responsible for the conspiracy to wage war on Iraq.”

“The millions who marched against the war knew these were lies. You did not have to be Einstein. But the entire ruling class and its institutions colluded. The Pentagon went along willingly. The State Department presented the false statements to the United Nations. Congress voted the funds.”

“No major corporate media questioned or challenged these lies. The influential New York Times and the Washington Post supported the war drive. Nor did the media allow war opponents to expose the lies.”

TheCommonIlls commented on 18 December 2012 about CPJ not listing the assassination of an Iraqi journalist:

“Their list is missing Ziyad Tarek (not the 2007 death which is what the CPJ friend and I went round and round about).  Al-Shorfa reported on Ziyad Tarek’s November 2012 death noting that he was killed in Baqubah — a sticky bomb attached to his car — that would be murder, CPJ, and that he was “the main news anchor” at the Diyala satellite TV station.”

(…) “On the phone last week, I was told I was confused and that I was referring to Ziad Tarek al-Dibo who died in 2007.  No, I wasn’t confused.  CPJ is obvioulsy confused.  Ziad Tarek al-Dibo did die in October 2007.  But that is not the November 2012 death that was reported last month.”

“As I said on the phone, you’re supposed to be a professional outlet and you can’t even get your facts straight and you’re telling me you’re not going to write an alert on Nouri (al-Maliki) closing the satellite station by force, with the Iraqi military?”

“And, yes, that’s what I was being told.  They still haven’t reported on it.  They want attention for their latest ‘report’ — that can’t even include the number dead in Iraq (the report would leave you with the impression that NO journalist died in Iraq this year) — and they can e-mail and call on that but they can’t get their damn facts right.  And they want to be taken seriously?”

(…) “I haven’t begged for a penny and don’t plan to.  But CPJ sure begs for pennies.  And then after that they can’t do their job?”

More statistics

More than 36% of all the cases of killed media professionals worldwide between 2003 and 2013 occurred in Iraq. It is the deadliest country for media professionals.

Iraq was the deadliest country for media professionals in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013 (if you don’t count the netizens and citizen journalists) – Figures in this graph: RSF (for the rest of the world) and The BRussells Tribunal (for Iraq). RSF’s ‘Netizens and citizen journalists’ have been left out of this graph. They are no ‘media professionals’.

Accurate Information on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

January 4th, 2014 by Global Research News

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s major sources of instability. Americans are directly connected to this conflict, and increasingly imperiled by its devastation.

It is the goal of If Americans Knew to provide full and accurate information on this critical issue, and on our power – and duty – to bring a resolution.

Please click on any statistic for the source and more information.
Statistics Last Updated: October 17, 2013

Israeli and Palestinian Children Killed
September 29, 2000 – Present

129 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 1,519 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information)

Chart showing that approximately 12 times more Palestinian children have been killed than Israeli children

Israelis and Palestinians Killed
September 29, 2000 – Present

Chart showing that 6 times more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis.

1,104 Israelis and at least 6,836 Palestinians have been killed since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information)

Israelis and Palestinians Injured
September 29, 2000 – Present

9,104 Israelis and 50,742 Palestinians have been injured since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information.)

Chart showing that Palestinians are injured at least four times more often than Israelis.

Daily U.S. Military Aid to Israel and the Palestinians
Fiscal Year 2013

Chart showing that the United States gives Israel $8.2 million per day in military aid and no military aid to the Palestinians.

During Fiscal Year 2013, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least $8.5 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians. (View Sources & More Information)

UN Resolutions Targeting Israel and the Palestinians
1955 – 1992

Israel has been targeted by at least 77 UN resolutions and the Palestinians have been targeted by 1. (View Sources & More Information)

Chart showing that Israel has been targeted by 77 UN resolutions, while the Palestinians have been targeted by 1.

Current Number of Political Prisoners and Detainees

Chart showing that Israel is holding 5,604 Palestinians prisoner.

0 Israelis are being held prisoner by Palestinians, while 5,007 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel. (View Sources & More Information)

Demolitions of Israeli and Palestinian Homes
1967 – Present

0 Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians and at least 27,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. (View Sources & More Information)

Chart showing that 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished, compared to no Israeli homes.

Israeli and Palestinian Unemployment Rates

Chart depicting the fact that the Palestinian unemployment is around 4 times the Israeli unemployment rate.

The Israeli unemployment rate is 6.9%, while the Palestinian unemployment in the West Bank is 22.6% and 27.9% in Gaza. (View Sources & More Information)

Current Illegal Settlements on the Other’s Land

Israel currently has 260 Jewish-only settlements and ‘outposts’ built on confiscated Palestinian land. Palestinians do not have any settlements on Israeli land. (View Sources & More Information)

Chart showing that Israel has 227 Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

Copyright ifamericansknew.org, 2014

Globalization and the “Fast Food” Industry

January 4th, 2014 by Global Research News

by Tom Beacham

It is often said that one of the most exciting aspects of being immersed in foreign culture is the mixture of different herbs and spices, meats and fish, fruits and veg that you explore every day. It is a sad fact that food is becoming more traveled than we are. Eating local or traditional food in big cities is proving to get more and more difficult as a result of the globalization process. The quality of French cuisine can be seen almost everywhere, as well as low quality adaptations of traditionally Italian dishes, and San Pedro Sula, in Northern Honduras is a classic example of when the American fast food culture meets classic Central American fare.

During my first half an hour of being here in San Pedro Sula, I find myself engulfed in a conversation with a taxi driver, in which we discussed a number of topics, from the prominence of cartel gun crime to the total domination of American fast food companies, a conversation that could have erupted in Guatemala City, San Salvador, Managua or almost any large Central American city. This domination is clear to see with the aggressive advertising techniques utilised by these restaurant chains. The pinnacle of these ugly and intrusive visuals is used by Coca-Cola, who decided that they are going to prop up an advert that you can see from miles away. The City is swallowed by rolling hills that surround its four corners, so … Coca-Cola decided to put a huge sign up in the hills in the style of the classic ‘Hollywood’ sign of Los Angeles. The sign can be seen from the city centre clearly and can be seen from the main strip of restaurants and fast food outlets … it even lights up a hideous red when the sun goes down.

The hard sell attitude of the fast-food industry is self-evident all over the world.  For example: MacDonald’s and Coca-Cola were two of the nine major sponsors for the 2012 Olympic Games, a strange oxymoronMacDonald’s accounted for less than 2% of the total revenue for the Olympics, but still splashed out a cool $100 million for the four year period, they have been major partners for the last 40 years. They built a 1,500 seat restaurant on the London Olympic site, the biggest in the world and stated that they are trying to “raise brand awareness”, as did Coca-Cola. I just wonder who these people are, sitting watching the Olympics, that are unaware of the existence of MacDonald’s and Coca-Cola, the stagnant branding of these chains and couldn’t draw the infamous golden arches (I know it’s hard to believe, but it is just an “M”).

The point is, aggressive advertising is deconstructing food cultures that out-date us by millennia and have been a huge part of the formation national identity. This for me is depressing, and when travelling now, in certain areas, it’s near impossible to find and immerse yourself in the flavours of the nation, this is a sad fact that is becoming more and more apparent.

And remember – by calling your restaurant “Burgermeister”, burgers do not suddenly become part of local or even German cuisine, although, they do still taste nice…

Tom Beacham – Creator and editor of www.globalissuers.org, a new and exciting group of writers discussing various issues from across the globe. Having conducted research across England and Nicaragua, Tom is looking to progress in the field of Human Rights. Feel free to contact at: [email protected].

Copyright Tom Beacham, globalissuers.org 2014

China Informed Japan of Air Defense Zone Plan (ADIZ) in 2010

January 4th, 2014 by Global Research News

by  John Hofilena

Citing confidential documents that they recently acquired, a leading Japanese newspaper has published a news report saying that Chinese military officials had informed a Japanese government delegation about its plans to put up an expanded air defense zone as far back as 2010.

According to the report, senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) met informally with a delegation of Japanese government officials and informed them of China‘s plan to put up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that covered the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The documents – minutes of the informal meeting between the PLA officers and Japanese government officials at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies in Beijing on May 14-15, 2010 – show that China had already established its ADIZ but had not made it public yet. The report says that upon checking the details of the minutes of that meeting, the area of the zone presented to the Japanese officials is almost identical to the one that was recently announced by the Chinese government in November of 2013.

The more significant revelation, we think, from these documents is that a Chinese navy commodore took the time to explain that the ADIZ it was claiming roughly matched what China claimed as its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, which is one logical way of defining a sovereign nation’s ocean borders. According to the minutes of the meeting, the Chinese military official clearly explained that the Senkakus were inside this zone. Furthermore, the documents show that the Chinese were already pushing for some sort of cooperation between the two nations, with the PLAN saying that the Chinese and Japanese ADIZ “overlap by about 100 nautical miles,” or 185 kilometers, and put out suggestions saying that the Chinese air force and Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force needed to work out rules to prevent accidental clashes in the overlapping airspace.

These revelations indicate that China had been doing groundwork for the declaration of the ADIZ at least three and a half years before what looked like a surprise announcement in November. The stance of Japan regarding the Senkakus has been unchanged for some time now, where Tokyo continues to claim that there is no territorial dispute at all because the Senkakus are controlled by Japan. These documents show that there already was a question put out by China as far back as 2010. The said documents point to a brigadier general with the PLA’s Academy of Military Science – China’s highest-level military research institute – who asked the Japanese officials, “What shall we do about China’s and Japan’s overlapping ADIZ?”, going on to make the same proposal of cooperation and discussion as the PLAN commodore. It would seem now that the ball is in Japan’s court, and it would be interesting to see what comes out of this situation.

Copyright , japandailypress.com 2014

The Global Research News Hour starts the new year off with a retrospective on  important international stories of 2013 ignored by the mainstream media.

As noted elsewhere on this site, 2013 has been marked by spreading environmental  degradation, economic uncertainty, and increased military tensions.

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Rarely does mainstream media focus much attention on the significant stories affecting literally millions upon millions of people.

In Canada, for example, if you are a regular consumer of the major dailies, or a faithful viewer of national news programs on CBC or Global, you can be forgiven if you believe that the scandal surrounding Senators’ expense accounts, or the spectacle of a crack-addicted mayor of Toronto offsets by a factor of a thousand revelations of a nuclear broth from Fukushima threatening ecosystems in BC, and possibly the entire country.

Consider coverage of indigenous struggles. Major media, including the alternative press, will give extensive coverage of the Idle No More movement, or resistance to fracking in New Brunswick or the tar sands in Alberta. But, how often do we hear about human safaris in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands east of India where a small indigenous tribe is treated like a zoo exhibit? Or the rise of an anti-tribal sovereignty movement in the United States coordinating a sophisticated campaign against federally recognized First Nations and mobilizing racial sentiment against them?

Through his on-line magazine Intercontinental Cry, John Schertow has since 2004 been compiling stories of the more than 500 indigenous nations around the world engaged in active resistance against corporate and colonial forces. Schertow joins us for the first half hour.

Following Schertow, we hear from Andy Lee Roth, Associate Director of Project Censored and co-editor with Mickey Huff of Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times. In our conversation, Roth addresses many of the under-reported stories of the past year including the corporate media’s shunning of Bradley/Chelsea Manning, food riots world-wide and the vote by Icelanders to include the commons in their constitution.

Global Research, of course, has since 2001 made a special point of bringing important geo-political subjects to light. Founder and Director Michel Chossudovsky joins the conversation near the end of the show to give us a run down of some of the stand out issues of 2013. These include revelations about a fabricated attempt to secure a Western military intervention in Syria, Western destabilization of Africa, increased globalization under various trade agreements and the use of ‘humanitarian intervention’ as a way of defusing popular anti-war movements.

For more on these guests and the stories they are trying to shed light on, check out the following sites:

IC Magazine: Essential News and Film on the World’s Indigenous Peoples

(IC is currently holding an on-line fundraiser to secure its survival in a competitive media landscape. If you have the means, please donate whatever you can to help keep this unique information outlet afloat. Donate here. THe campaign ends Friday January 3 at 11:59pm PST)

Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make the News

(Please note that several of this year’s most censored stories were by Global Research authors! These include:

24. Widespread GMO Contamination: Did Monsanto Plant GMOs Before USDA Approval?

14. Wireless Technology a Looming Health Crisis

8. Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent

3. Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens a Regime of Corporate Global Governance

GLOBAL RESEARCH

(Like Intercontinental Cry, Global Research operates on a shoestring and does not accept corporate or foundation support. Donations are encouraged and welcome. You can send your donation here.)

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The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Fridays at 1pm CDT. The programme is also broadcast weekly (Monday, 5-6pm ET) by theProgressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

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As must appear self-evident to both historians and astute observers by now, the United States, in its history, has had a rather facile and at times acrimonious relationship to the idea of domestic democracy (If this is not self-evident, see Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, along with Failed States. For a specific analysis of this observation applied to the USA Patriot Act, see my A User’s Guide to the USA Patriot Act). What is seldom noticed, however, is the speed with which the U.S. has moved from a liberal democracy to, at best, an authoritarian government.

To demonstrate this rapid movement in U.S. government, we will use as a base Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” address to Congress, on January 6, 1941. By all rights, and regardless of FDR’s real intent (some say it was to garner support for U.S. involvement in WWII), very few would doubt that his elucidated four freedoms form an important base for understanding liberal democracy. Here are FDR’s own words, quoted at length:

“The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.”

  The point of this article is to compare Roosevelt’s understanding of a “moral democracy,” with where our domestic “democracy” stands today. I will assume that the Four Freedoms are in stark contrast to Authoritarianism, Totalitarianism, and Fascism. But by way of general definition, just for purposes of reference for this article, I would like to adopt the following general definitions of Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism. Authoritarianism exists when an elite group monopolizes all political power; Totalitarianism exists when an elite group monopolizes power on every aspect of society, such as economy, education, art, and acceptable moral codes. When combined with a strong nationalism and militarism, such forms of government become Fascism.

  With these contradictory positions as our bookends (i.e. democracy versus Authoritarianism and its extreme forms), the comparison we will make here yields the inevitable conclusion that the U.S. has gone a long way, with increasing speed, in the opposite direction of freedom and a moral society that Roosevelt thought was the key to a thriving democracy.

 Roosevelt’s First Freedom: Freedom of speech.

 How free is speech in the U.S. today? Even if, in principle, people are free to use technology to communicate their thoughts with others, the squelching of this freedom can easily occur with knowledge of such programs that seek to record such speech, such as the NSA spying programs. Without privacy in sharing our thoughts with others, there is neither freedom of speech nor of association. No protests or dissenting movements can be successful, since those against whom the dissent occurs and who are eavesdropping will be enabled to have all their plans to squelch it in place in advance, based on their pre-knowledge of any dissent and its planned actions.

  Contrary to that, the Supreme Court ruled, in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama (1958), that not only was freedom of association protected by the First Amendment, but that privacy of membership was an essential part of this freedom. Worse yet, if the government knows where every person is and with whom they are associating by tracking their technology use, how truly free is our speech? In other words, if you know there is a spook around every corner listening to you, would you alter your speech? Most people would. In short, government programs that seek to have knowledge on and about persons and organizations by collecting it all, “willy-nilly” as Obama stated it, without probable cause that they are engaged in illegalities, directly undermine democracy, if for no other reason than that we do not surrender our right to privacy, of speech, or of association—all of them arguably the engine of democratic discourse—simply because we choose to express to others our disagreement with our government or the corporations with whom they work, or choose to associate with like-minded people.

 In direct contradiction to FDR’s First Freedom and the Constitution’s First Amendment regarding free speech, let us examine some NSA programs regarding speech. One is called “Co-Traveler,” the cell phone mapping program that tracks not just the locations of cell phones, but which other cell phones they are in geographical proximity to. It doesn’t matter if your cell phone of off: the program still tracks it. The NSA engages in this operation without warrant or court authorization.

 If this wasn’t enough, other Snowden revelations concern malware that the NSA is now sending out to the individual computers in which they are interested. Called the “Computer Network Exploitation,” it is estimated in the Snowden documents to have infected 50,000 computers so far. The malware is powerful enough to take control of the computer it infects. Add to this the facts that corporations such as Google now place cookies on computers for the purpose of government information collection, and the NSA’s “Special Source Operations” (SSO), which “manages surveillance programs that involve collaboration with corporate communication providers” (Robert Stevens, “New Documents Expose More NSA Programs,” World Socialist Web Site, December 14, 2013).

 Add to all this what we already know about corporate spying on people. For example, according to a new report on corporate spying, corporations such as Kraft, Cola-Cola, Burger King, McDonald’s, Monsanto, Shell, BP, Chevron, Dow, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now engage in espionage against nonprofit civic organizations and the individuals involved in them,  summarized nicely in Ralph Nader’s article “Corporate Espionage Undermines Democracy,” November 26, 2013). Take all of this together, and you have a powerful but small group of people that control all communications data in the U.S.: the NSA and a few large corporations.

This technology and these practices are not limited to the federal level, either. Now local police use the same spying programs and practices as their federal mentors have done. In fact, the “trickle down” of totalitarian technology and practice has infiltrated local police departments. The Washington Post reports (December 8) that local police departments now have technology to obtain what are called cell phone “tower dumps” from all telecommunication companies that use the towers. Additionally, police agencies are using fake cell phone towers to simply collect data, period. None of this information collection is done with warrants. This means that local police now randomly collect all cell phone information, including GPS location information, email addresses, and web sites.

According to USA Today, this is being done by local police in 33 states. 

 We can thus conclude first, that NSA actions are not an attempt to thwart terrorism; they are an attempt to maintain full control of citizen association, movement, and information.

 But there is a second, even more alarming conclusion that we must draw from this. It was summarized poignantly by Judge Richard J. Leon, who ruled that the NSA’s collection of metadata from phones is “almost Orwellian,” stating forthrightly that the U.S. government had failed to cite “a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack.” Couple this judgment with the ruling of Judge Reggie Walton (referenced by Judge Leon), that the NSA was in “systematic noncompliance” with the Federal Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court.

Perhaps most egregious of all in the NSA’s “Orwellian” programs is the NSA SIGINET document that in essence states “the law has not kept up with us, so we can violate the law with impunity.” This document, again courtesy of Edward Snowden, states that the law must be adapted to the NSA practice of unlimited spying, rather than the other way around, as is normall the case for a government that abides by the rule of law. It details how the NSA intends to have “mastery of the global network,” and makes open mention of their corporate partners in this venture.

   Contrary to the NSA antics, it is certainly well within the confines of the authority of the Justice Department and of Congress to both investigate and criminally prosecute NSA members who are violating our Constitutional rights, specifically in this case, the First and Fourth Amendments. Instead, the U.S. Justice Department defended the NSA spying programs in New York federal court, in November. Additional to that, the Obama administration’s hand-picked “advisory committee” on the abuses of NSA spying recommended only surface changes to the program. Thus, not only have our “democratic” institutions been almost completely silent on this issue, but congressional members have even gone to lengths of engaging in scare tactics in order to continue the unchecked operations of the NSA.

 For example, both Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein, and Republican Representative Mike Rogers have publicly claimed that “we are not safer now than we were a year ago,” and that “terror is up worldwide” (both of these quotations come from their appearance on the CNN program “State of the Union,” on December 1). However, when one examines the facts, the total number of deaths that have been classified as “terrorist-related” in 2011 was nine, and six of those were from the lone shooter who murdered worshippers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Likewise, the FBI has listed a total of nine terrorist incidents on U.S. soil, less than half what they were in 2011. The scare statistics are instead drawn from four countries in which terrorist activities have been on the rise: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria. This shows clearly that Feinstein and Rogers are lying when they make their claims. Could it be that this is due to the fact that both of their spouses are deeply involved in “private security” contracts with the U.S. military and State Department? (Bill Van Auken, “U.S. Congressional Intelligence Chiefs Promote Terror Scare,” World Socialist Web Site, December 6, 2012).

 Roosevelt’s Third Freedom: Freedom from want, especially economic want.

This clearly implies economic equality, as opposed to inegalitarian views of individualist economic gain. Where we stand today in regard to this freedom may readily be demonstrated by two facts: first, the top ten CEO’s today in the U.S. make an average of over $13 million each. On the extreme end, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, took home $2.27 billion, while Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, made $143 million, and Howard Shultz of Starbucks made $117.5 million this year. The richest increased their wealth by over $2 trillion this past year, according to the Forbes 400 report from September. To put this in perspective, Andre Damon states in his report of these numbers that “the wealth of these 400 individuals is more than twice the amount necessary to cover the federal budget deficit, which is being used as the justification for slashing food stamps, education, housing assistance, and health care programs” (World Socialist Web Site, October 24, 2013).

 For the second fact, compare these obscene salaries with the normal U.S. household, whose income has fallen by approximately ten percent over the past ten years. In fact, according to a report by the Southern Education Foundation, nearly half of public school children in the U.S. are now poor, where “poor” is defined as an annual income of $29,000 for a family of four. Additionally, the report states, of the 45 wealthiest countries in the world, the U.S. ranks second in the level of child poverty rate. If that isn’t enough, with the lack of congressional action for the unemployed, benefits for over one million of the unemployed will expire next week. This news comes as the Federal Reserve continues to add $85 billion per month into the financial system, in order to keep Wall Street profits at a maximum.

While the corporate mentality propagandizes that the destitute are “parasites” on the body politic, corporate millionaires in the fast food industry have conspired to take taxpayer money both “from the top” and “from the bottom.” According to the report “Fast Food CEO’s Rake in Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay,” the CEO’s of these corporations—KFC, Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut named among them—have created and used a tax loophole to let themselves deduct performance-based executive pay from their taxes, so that the higher the CEO salary under this category, the less tax they pay. This is “from the top” of the tax monies. “From the bottom” is the fact that fast food corporations like McDonald’s pay their employees such low wages that the employees need government programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families. In fact, McDonald’s has a program that assists its employees to get on the food stamp and welfare programs, thus taking taxpayer money to fund the wage gap that they have deliberately created.

Of course, this class inequality is insufficiently wide for the elites. Thus, there are several other actions they have planned in order to widen the class divide in America and to consolidate their complete economic and political power. First, according to a report in The Guardian, their main lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is now planning a 34-state assault on education, health, tax, worker compensation, and the environment (Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, “State Conservative Groups Plan U.S.-wide Assault on Education, Health, and Tax,” The Guardian, December 5, 2013).

Second, workers are seeing their pensions slashed. The test cases for this assault on the politically unrepresented, helpless class are in Detroit and Chicago. In an excellent analysis of the Detroit bankruptcy issue, Wallace Turbeville argues that the real crisis in Detroit has absolutely nothing to do with pensions or expenses. Rather, the real problem lies in numerous other factors, including “emergency manager” Kevyn Orr’s shady accounting, revenue reductions, state revenue sharing, corporate subsidies, and most of all, questionable financial dealings in such things as interest rate swaps. All of this contributed to the city’s cash flow problem, while the city’s pension contributions and expenses remained relatively stable (Wallace Turbeville, “The Detroit Bankruptcy,”)

In Chicago, corporate Democrat Rahm Emauel announced his plan to entirely eliminate health insurance subsidies for retired city workers, effective on January 1, 2017. This will place far more financial burden on the workers by increasing their premiums, eliminating subsidies, cutting retired workers from the city’s health care plan, and requiring employees to purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” However, like Detroit, worker pensions are not the problem. Rather, the deficits have been created by reducing tax rates on the wealthy and by raiding pensions, among other things, all with union backing.

Third, Obama and the Democrats’ new federal budget has eight key items that constitute what David Cay Johnston, among many others, has characterized as a huge giveaway to the economic elites who now run the country. The budget cuts 1.3 million Americans out of unemployment insurance, provides no job creation, provides additional tax cuts for the wealthy, maintains tax loopholes for corporations, cuts Head Start back, cuts medical research back, and increases Pentagon spending (by $20 billion) (see “Democracy Now,” December 16, 2013). Johnston could easily have added other serious “class warfare” cuts such as reduction of retirement benefits to federal workers and retired military personnel, and leaving intact sequestration cuts (thus reducing social spending even more). That the Democrats are not merely “conceding,” but have been in on this whole class war from the beginning, is nearly commonplace knowledge by now (for evidence of this assertion, see the Democrat’s report entitled “State Budget Crisis Task Force,” released in July, 2012).

 Fourth, while Obama’s speech on inequality on December 4 was crafted to make him appear as the great defender of equality, in point of fact Obama has done everything in his power to maintain a distinct inequality in society, doing his corporate master’s bidding all the way. While these examples are not exhaustive, the following will suffice to indicate support for this claim. First, Obama’s restructuring of the auto industry in 2009 was done precisely to cut wages and benefits to the workers. In that same year he intervened to prevent legislation directed at blocking executive bonuses at various bailed-out banks and insurance companies. Additionally, he has rejected providing federal assistance to states and cities hit hard by the economic crisis, while continuing to pump money into the very banks and Wall Street companies that crashed the economy in 2008. While the average income for average Americans has fallen by several percentage points during his tenure, Obama has failed to advocate strongly for a fair increase in the minimum wage. Simultaneously, he heralds education for all, while cutting Head Start programs from his budget and advocating corporate-owned schools in his “Race to the Top” education program.

Fifth, we should take note of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the top-secret, closed-door negotiations between the U.S., Canada, and ten Asian and Latin American countries. This “free-trade agreement” establishes supranational litigation tribunals, to which any given domestic court would be required to defer, for the purpose of ruling on economic and trade matters. Lest this sounds too removed from we, the people, this new capitalist-based court system, which will have no human or civil rights limitations, would rule on issues affecting all of us, such as food production (i.e. genetically modified foods [GMO’s]), individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers, internet privacy, and the intellectual and environmental commons (WikiLeaks, “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement”). Here is the key part. According to Bloomberg News, “the treaties would elevate individual corporations to equal status with nation states, empowering them to drag the U.S. government before closed-door extrajudicial tribunals.” These tribunals would be composed of three private lawyers who are unaccountable to anyone else, least of all to the electorate, and would have the power “to order taxpayer payments for domestic policies or government actions the corporations oppose.” In its most corrupt part, the TPP calls for judges serving on these tribunals to rotate between serving as judges and actually arguing cases for corporations against governments. There is no independent judicial mechanism to appeal their decisions (Ralph Nader and Lori Wallach, “Congress Shouldn’t Fast-Track Covert Trade Deals,” Bloomberg News, December 11, 2013).

 Roosevelt’s Fourth Freedom: Freedom from fear, especially from military aggression.

So who are the military aggressors from whom everyone should be free of fer? How about beginning with the largest spender on military, and the nation and aggresses the most against others? The U.S., which spends three times what the rest of the world spends in total on military weaponry, just gave its military yet another budget boost, this time for $633 billion, while most of its citizens are suffering from a deep recession. Part of that money will no doubt go toward fulfilling our new agreement, announced in November, for the permanent U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Much like the Iraq agreement, and directly contradictory to Obama’s proclamations, the agreements with both countries allow U.S. troops and bases to continue their operations through 2024. This is not something that the U.S. was “asked” to do, either. As Susan Rice, Obama’s national security director, very publicly put it, it was the U.S. position that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai sign the U.S.-drafted accord, or face a complete cut-off of U.S. funding and troops. In comparison, a paltry $76.4 billion could fund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For those whose unemployment insurance is being suspended by the government at the end of the month, just $25.6 billion would suffice to take care of that.

  Part of the money being piped into the U.S. military, at the expense of its citizens, is also destined for support of U.S. military provocations in Southeast Asia. Although much ado was made in the U.S. mainstream media over China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, followed by North Korea’s doing the same, and while much was made (rightfully) about U.S. deliberate provocations of China in this zone by the flight of B-52’s directly into the ADIZ, much less attention was paid to two events that demonstrate the military seriousness of Obama’s “Asia pivot.” Both stories indicate how much Obama and his military-corporate masters are itching for a war of territorial control. The first story concerns the U.S. guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens nearly colliding with a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea, on December 5. Although the U.S. claimed it was operating in international waters, in point of fact the U.S. was playing chicken with the Chinese fleet formation, by sailing within that formation. What could more incendiary than for the U.S. to deliberately sail their ships into the fleet formation of a country that the U.S. has already very publicly targeted for economic war, and publicly stated its preparedness for a military war? As regards to how serious the U.S. is about the U.S. itch for a “hot war,” in November, the Rand Corporation, an allegedly independent “think-tank” but that just happens to do much of its studies advocating Pentagon issues, released a strategic plan for engaging China in war. It advocates (indeed, it even claims that what has already started is) an “arc” of land-base anti-ship missiles with which to attack China. These missiles, the report claims, should be and are being stationed in Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

   Finally, the long shadow of U.S. military and imperialist presence in Syria is once again making the news, with the United Nations now reporting that three-quarters of Syria’s 22.4 million people will need humanitarian assistance just to survive, by the end of 2014. This report says nothing about the roughly three million refugees who have already fled Syria, due to the U.S. proxy war there. This is the inevitable result when a country whose sole concern is military power and economic and social control puts its footprint on a country such as Syria. Note that the Obama administration has said nothing at all concerning these reports, let alone taken any responsibility for the immense social problems that its attempt to control Syria has brought in its wake. The Syrian people, much like the Palestinian people, simply do not exist in the eyes of Totalitarian and militaristic leaders such as our current U.S. regime.

 In this examination of U.S. military aggression worldwide, we have not even mentioned the numerous drone strikes that President Obama has ordered and continues to order and publicly support, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen, to name but three prominent places. This practice of asymmetric remote-control war shows only signs of increasing in U.S. practice in years to come.

Putting this militarism into perspective, Chalmers Johnson warned in his book Nemesis that we can either have an Empire (i.e. abroad) or we can have a democracy, but we cannot have both. I have been arguing that FDR’s Four Freedoms is a good synopsis of what the side of having a democracy truly means, and arguing that Totalitarianism at home is at least morally equivalent to Empire abroad.

The conclusion of this article seems so obvious that it almost doesn’t need stating, but state it we must:

the United States has rushed headlong into a Totalitarian, if not a Fascist, regime of government-corporate control of the culture and citizens, and we are only seeing the beginnings of it, in part because the Snowden revelations are incomplete, and in part because the government is not forthcoming with just how many and how far its actions go that contradict the Four Freedoms. But with regard to this conclusion, just because our government has the trimmings of a democracy matters not, when the fact is that regardless of who is elected, the political bureaucrats put in office tend to the interests of the ruling regime of corporations and their desire for authoritarian control of all of the information of the culture and the citizens.

This is what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg no doubt at least partially had in mind when she stated that if aggregate limits on individual political contributions are not limited, then “500 people will control American democracy.” This makes U.S. elections a sham and a farce. Worse, it bodes ill for the immediate future, in that Totalitarian regimes are extraordinarily difficult to overthrow without a complete revolution in the mindset (i.e. worldview) of the vast majority of citizens. The obvious mindset or worldview change argued for in this article is that if we want to put the brakes on this bullet-train into headlong Fascism, we must reiterate and organize around these Four Freedoms adumbrated by Roosevelt. They are user-friendly, and nicely encapsulate the primary values for any true democracy. That change of mindset is worth re-committing ourselves to in the year to come. Unlike Obama’s empty campaign rhetoric, it is truly our only “hope” for “change.”

  Dr. Robert P. Abele holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Marquette University He is the author of three-plus books: A User’s Guide to the USA PATRIOT Act (2005); The Anatomy of a Deception: A Logical and Ethical Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq (2009); Democracy Gone: A Chronicle of the Last Chapters of the Great American Democratic Experiment (2009); and a contributor of eleven chapters to the Encyclopedia of Global Justice, from The Hague: Springer Press (October, 2011). Dr. Abele is a professor of philosophy at Diablo Valley College, located in Pleasant Hill, California in the San Francisco Bay area. His web site is http://www.spotlightonfreedom.com/

 

After U.S. Navy sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan responded to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan for four days, many returned to the U.S. with thyroid cancer, Leukemia, brain tumors and more.

At least 71 sailors—many in their 20s—reported radiation sickness and will file a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant.

The men and women accuse TEPCO of downplaying the danger of nuclear radiation on the site. The water contaminated the ship’s supply, which led to crew members drinking, washing their bodies and brushing their teeth with contaminated water. Paul Garner, an attorney representing 51 sailors, said at least half of the 70-plus sailors have some form of cancer.

“We’re seeing leukemia, testicular cancer and unremitting gynecological bleeding requiring transfusions and other intervention,” Garner told New York Post.

Senior Chief Michael Sebourn, a radiation-decontamination officer assigned to test the aircraft carrier, said that radiation levels measured 300 times higher than what was considered safe at one point. Meanwhile sailors like Lindsay Cooper have contrasted their initial and subsequent feelings upon seeing and tasting metallic “radioactive snow” caused by freezing Pacific air that mixed with radioactive debris.

“We joked about it: ‘Hey, it’s radioactive snow!” Cooper said. “My thyroid is so out of whack that I can lose 60 to 70 pounds in one month and then gain it back the next. My menstrual cycle lasts for six months at a time, and I cannot get pregnant.

“It’s ruined me.”

Cooper said the Reagan has a multimillion-dollar radiation-detection system, but the crew couldn’t get it activated quickly enough.

“And then we couldn’t go anywhere,” she said. “Japan didn’t want us in port, Korea didn’t want us, Guam turned us away. We floated in the water for two and a half months.”

San Diego Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the initial suit in late November, but Garner and a group of attorneys plan to refile on Jan. 6, according to Fox 5 San Diego.

Though publications like The Washington Times have wondered if the Navy and/or National Security Agency might have known about the conditions the sailors were heading into two years ago, Garner and the attorneys say the lawsuit is solely directed at TEPCO.

“We’re suing this foreign corporation because they are doing business in America,” co-counsel Charles Bonner. “Their second largest office outside of Tokyo is in Washington, D.C.

“This foreign corporation caused harm to American rescuers, and they did it in ways that give rise to jurisdiction here in this country.”

Hear more comments from Bonner, Cooper and Garner in the above video by eon3EMFblog.net .

An official with the Department of Health and Human Services hung up when asked if the federal government’s purchase of 14 million doses of potassium iodide was linked to the Fukushima crisis.

 As we reported earlier this week, the DHHS put out a solicitation asking for companies to supply 700,000 packages each containing 20 pills to be delivered before the beginning of next month.

Potassium Iodide helps block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland and is used by victims of severe nuclear accidents or emergencies.

Questions immediately arose as to whether such a large purchase was routine or if it was linked to concerns about radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant impacting the west coast of America.

When Anthony Gucciardi called the procurement office of the Department of Health and Human Services, he was told that the iodide pills were being supplied to pharmaceutical depots and that the 14 million dose figure was “not out of the ordinary” because iodide pills have a shelf life of seven years and that they were bought in bulk to save taxpayer money, adding that the department also bought “millions of doses of flu” in June.

After the DHHS representative denied that the government was stockpiling the potassium iodide for any particular reason, Gucciardi asked, “Do you have any concerns about Fukushima?”, to which he responded, “I have no idea about any of that….there’s no hidden agenda here.”

“So you don’t actually know why you’re buying it?” asked Gucciardi, a question which immediately prompted the official to say “goodbye” and hang up the phone.

The explanation that the pills were being bought in bulk to save taxpayer money was also given as a reason for the Department of Homeland Security’s stockpiling of ammunition, despite the fact that the hollow point bullets being purchased were more expensive than ordinary full metal jackets used for training purposes.

Is the government’s purchase of 14 million doses of anti-radiation pills merely a routine order, or are they stockpiling potassium iodide in preparation for a nuclear catastrophe which could emerge out of the Fukushima crisis? Either way, the DHHS doesn’t seem too keen on answering questions.

If the Fukushima saga has taught us anything, it’s that government officials routinely downplay and lie about risks in the name of preventing panic. However, this method of treating the general public as infants who should be shielded from the truth even at the cost of their own health has already backfired.

Last month it was revealed that 71 U.S. sailors who helped during the initial Fukushima relief efforts are suing the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) after they returned with thyroid cancer, Leukemia, and brain tumors as a result of being exposed to radiation at 300 times the safe level.

With the Japanese government and TEPCO having repeatedly been caught lying about the true radiation levels both in the toxic water spilling into the Pacific Ocean and around the plant itself, mass wildlife die offs are already being recorded as radioactive debris hits the west coast.

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

On December 30, the same day a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) oil train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, Warren Buffett — owner of holding company giant Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF — bought a major stake in pipeline logistics company Phillips Specialty Products Inc.

Owned by Phillips 66, a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, Phillips Specialty Products’ claim to fame is lubricating oil’s movement through pipelines, increasingly crucial for the industry to move both tar sands crude and oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in an efficient manner.

“Phillips Specialty Products Inc…is the global leader in the science of drag reduction and specializes in maximizing the flow potential of pipelines,” explains its website.

Buffett — the second richest man in the world — sees the flow lubricant business as a lucrative niche one, increasingly so given the explosion of North American tar sands pipelines and fracked oil pipelines.

“I have long been impressed by the strength of the Phillips 66 business portfolio,” he said of the deal in a press release. “The flow improver business is a high-quality business with consistently strong financial performance, and it will fit well within Berkshire Hathaway.”

Already owning 27 million shares of Phillips 66, the marriage between Berkshire and Phillips 66 was a natural one. Corporate law firm giant Bracewell & Giuliani provided Phillips 66 legal representation for the deal.

Buffett Cashing in on All Facets of Big Oil

Few understand the increasing importance of freight rail transportation of oil better than Buffett. But he also understands it’s not an either-or choice: pipelines also are key for moving oil to targeted markets.

Warren Buffett and President Barack Obama; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the rail sphere alone, BNSF moves over 1 million barrels per day of Bakken crude to market, with The Dallas Morning News declaring in June 2013 that “without BNSF, the great North Dakota oil boom wouldn’t be as big.”

On top of Phillips Specialty Products and BNSF, Buffett also bought a $3 billion stake in ExxonMobil in November 2013. This came just a few months after he purchased over half-a-billion dollar stake in Suncor.

Far from “either-or,” for Buffett then, it’s a game of investing in “all of the above” of Big Oil’s assets. 

“Dodged a Bullet”

In the aftermath of the BNSF’s massive freight train explosion in Casselton, Mayor Ed McConnell told the press the city with 2,329 citizens was lucky to have “dodged a bullet,” with no fatalities from the disaster.

“There have been numerous derailments in this area,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we’re going to have an accident, it’s when. We dodged a bullet by having it out of town, but this is too close for comfort.”

In July 2013, another “bullet” came in the form of a freight train carrying oil obtained via fracking in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. That one exploded in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

Lac-Mégantic explosion aftermath; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

Dubbed “bomb trains” by many train crews due to their volatility and containment of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the smoking gun in Casselton was the mushroom cloud ascending after the BNSF train exploded.

With the freight rail industry carrying unprecedented levels of oil to market and rail car explosions happening with greater frequency — led in the forefront by BNSF — it’s an industry with many serious safety questions to answer as we turn the page to 2014.

CIA Blocks Inquiries on Torture

January 3rd, 2014 by Russ Baker

This article was first published by WhoWhatWhy.

In a recent New York Times article about efforts by the Senate Intelligence Committee to get its hands on (and perhaps release?) an internal report on torture that the CIA doesn’t want to turn over, the author mentions in passing the pending nomination of Caroline D. Krass to be the top lawyer at the Agency.

He then notes that:

Ms. Krass is a ca­reer gov­ern­ment law­yer who works at the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s Of­fice of Le­gal Coun­sel, the arm of the de­part­ment that ad­vis­es the White House on the le­gal­ity of do­mes­tic and for­eign poli­cies.

The of­fice was par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, when lawyers there wrote lengthy mem­os ap­prov­ing C.I.A. in­ter­ro­ga­tion meth­ods like wa­ter­board­ing and sleep dep­ri­va­tion, as well as sign­ing off on the ex­pan­sion of sur­veil­lance by the Na­tion­al Se­cu­rity Agency.

That is very useful information, worthy of its own article.

Because the move of Krass from OLC to CIA is highly suspicious. After all, they’re taking someone from the very heart of the cover-up over torture at the Agency and putting her in charge of… legal blocking of inquiries into CIA actions.

This would not be the first time in recent memory that an organization that is all about subterfuge has moved to prevent the truth from getting out by shuffling key personnel between it and other parts of the Executive Branch. In another instance, the CIA last year sent Sheryl Shenberger, who had served as a branch chief in the CIA counterterrorism center between 2001 and 2003, to be in charge of declassification of documents at the National Archives. Bet that she hasn’t rushed to make available documents pertaining to the September 11 attacks.

The Times article, published under the dull headline, “Senate Asks C.I.A. to Share Its Report on Interrogations,” unsurprisingly does not seem to have made any waves. And we have not noticed anyone else drawing attention to the buried sub-narrative about Krass’s new appointment.

If these kinds of congressional committees are serious about actually representing the interests of the American people, after years of failures on that front, they might start by taking a closer look at dodgy- looking personnel moves.

Fresh plumes of most probably radioactive steam have been detected rising from the reactor 3 building at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, said the facility’s operator company.

The steam has been detected by surveillance cameras and appeared to be coming from the fifth floor of the mostly-destroyed building housing crippled reactor 3, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the plant’s operator.

The steam was first spotted on December 19 for a short period of time, then again on December 24, 25, 27, according to a report TEPCO published on its website.

The company, responsible for the cleanup of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, has not explained the source of the steam or the reason it is rising from the reactor building. High levels of radiation have complicated entry into the building and further inspection of the situation.

AFP Photo / TEPCO

Three of the plant’s reactors suffered a nuclear meltdown in March 2011 after the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami hit the region. The plant is comprised of six separate water boiling reactors. At the time of the earthquake, reactor number 4 had been de-fueled and reactors 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance, thereby managing to avoid meltdowns.

Unlike the other five reactors, reactor 3 ran on mixed core containing both uranium fuel and mixed uranium and plutonium oxide, or MOX nuclear fuel. The Reactor 3 fuel storage pond still houses an estimated 89 tons of the plutonium-based MOX nuclear fuel composed of 514 fuel rods.

In a similar incident, small amounts of steam escaped from the reactor 3 building in July 2013, Asahi Shimbun reported. However it was unclear where the steam came from. TEPCO said that radiation levels did not change, adding that the steam could have been caused by rain that found its way to the primary containment of the reactor, and because this vessel was still hot, the water evaporated. On 23 July the steam was seen again coming out of the fifth floor just above the reactor containment, the Japanese newspaper reported.

In November, TEPCO, responsible for the decommissioning of the plant, began the highly risky removal of over 1,500 potentially damaged nuclear fuel rods from reactor 4. The reactor is the most unstable part of the plant as it was offline at the time of the 2011 catastrophe and its core didn’t go into meltdown. Instead, hydrogen explosions blew the roof off the building and severely damaged the structure.One of the most dangerous operations attempted in nuclear history was a success as a total of 22 assemblies containing 50 to 70 fuel rods have been transported to a new storage place. While the extraction of the fuel rods is a significant challenge for TEPCO, a more complex task of removing the cores of the stricken reactors is yet to come.