The criminal character of the US-European Union intervention in Ukraine was tragically exposed for all to see Friday when supporters of the US-installed regime in Kiev, led by neo-Nazi Right Sector thugs, set fire to the Trade Unions House in the Black Sea port of Odessa, killing 38 pro-Russian demonstrators who had taken refuge in the building.

The anti-Kiev regime protesters had retreated into the building after the Ukrainian nationalist mob set fire to their nearby tent encampment. Authorities say 30 people died from smoke inhalation and another eight were killed when they jumped from windows and balconies in an attempt to escape the blaze.

According to eyewitness accounts, those who dropped from the building and survived were surrounded and beaten by Right Sector fascists. Videofootage shows bloodied survivors being attacked.

This massacre occurred on the same day that government military forces, including armored personnel vehicles and helicopter gunships, attacked towns in the southeast of the country under the control of pro-Russian opponents of the regime, which was illegally installed last February in a coup led by Right Sector paramilitaries and backed by Washington and the EU.

The Obama administration, along with the governments of Germany, France, Britain and the other European imperialist powers, bears political responsibility for Friday’s atrocity. They have sponsored the Right Sector, as well as the neo-fascist Svoboda party, and seen to it that they were integrated into the new anti-Russian regime in Kiev.

The US media, led by the so-called “newspaper of record,” the New York Times, shares political responsibility, having brazenly promulgated government propaganda and lies since the Ukraine crisis began last November. The Times, in particular, both in nominal “news” stories and in columns by State Department mouthpieces such as Andrew Higgens, C.J. Chivers, Roger Cohen, Nicolas Kristof and Thomas Friedman, has promoted the line that the insipient civil war in Ukraine is the result of Russian aggression, not US-European subversion.

In order to promote this grossly distorted version of events, the Times has gone so far as to publish an article with fabricated “evidence” and doctored photos supposedly proving that the rebellion in southeast Ukraine is the work of Russian military and intelligence forces—a story the newspaper was forced to retract—and dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic politics of Washington’s ultra-right allies in Kiev. Chivers has also penned on-the-spot reports on the right-wing Maidan protests in Kiev sympathetically painting the ultra-nationalist paramilitaries as honest patriots and obscuring their fascist politics and pedigree.

Thus it is not surprising that the Times responded to the fascist murder of 38 people in Odessa on Friday by burying the story and deliberately obscuring the identity of the perpetrators. The only mention of the torching of the Trade Unions House and murder of 38 people holed up inside occurred in a story on page A7 of the Saturday edition of the newspaper—on the fourth page of the International section.

The reference to the massacre, moreover, was a fleeting mention well down in the article, carefully formulated to avoid attributing blame. The authors, C.J. Chivers (Who else?) and Noah Sneider, wrote: “Violence also erupted Friday in the previously calmer port city of Odessa, on the Black Sea, where dozens of people died in a fire related to clashes that broke out between protesters holding a march for Ukrainian unity and pro-Russian activists.”

The Sunday Times published a front-page on-the-spot report by Chivers and Sneider from Slavaynsk on the anti-Kiev government insurgents. Despite being unable to produce any evidence of the presence of Russian spies or troops, the authors wrote that “one persistent mystery has been the identity and affiliations of the militiamen.”

To further bolster the US State Department line they wrote, in relation to a rebel leader named Yuri, whom they described as “an ordinary eastern Ukrainian of this generation,” that his background as a former Soviet special forces commander in Afghanistan “could make him authentically local and a capable Kremlin proxy.”

Mention of the torching of the Trade Unions House and murder of dozens of pro-Russian protesters in Odessa was once again relegated to the back pages. The article falsely stated that “it was not immediately clear who had started the blaze.”

The cover-up by the Times is consistent with the dishonest treatment provided by the rest of the so-called “mainstream” press in the US—only more crude than most. The Washington Post had a front-page article that featured the deaths in Odessa and acknowledged that the fire was set by supporters of the Kiev regime, but omitted any mention of the Right Sector.

The Wall Street Journal in a news report attributed the fire to “a clash between pro-government and anti-government mobs.” In an editorial published Saturday, the Journal actually implied that Russia was responsible for the mass murder. The editorial stated: “Pro-Ukraine demonstrations in the southeast are large, and the Russians have tried to beat them into silence. Some three dozen people died on Friday during clashes in Odessa.”

In downplaying the mass killing in Odessa and concealing the identity, politics and US connections of the perpetrators, the American media is not simply covering up for the fascists and the regime in Kiev, it is concealing the criminal responsibility of the Obama administration and American imperialism.

Even as Ukrainian military forces were attacking protesters in the east and fascist mobs allied to the government were burning and killing in Odessa, President Barack Obama was giving his unconditional support to the actions of the regime at a joint White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “The Ukrainian government has the right and responsibility to uphold law and order within its territory,” he declared, and went on to praise Kiev for its “remarkable restraint.”

At a meeting Friday of the United Nations Security Council, US Ambassador Samantha Power put the entire blame for the violence on Moscow and called the military crackdown in the east “proportionate and reasonable.”

Nothing of any significance that the US puppet regime in Kiev does is independent of its masters in Washington. That the US is calling the shots in the mass repression of anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine was highlighted by the separate visits to Kiev of Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden, after each of which the regime launched new attacks on the rebels in the east.

The United States has worked closely with the neo-fascist Svoboda party as well as the Right Sector, and signed off on their incorporation into the government it installed in Kiev after the November 22 putsch that overthrew the elected, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Initially, the head of Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, was offered the post of deputy head of internal security, but he turned it down in order to operate more freely while providing the regime with a pretense of separation from the fascist militia.

Nevertheless, the Kiev government set up a new National Guard, recruited largely from the Right Sector and other ultra-nationalists and fascists, and has thrown it, as well as the Right Sector directly, against pro-Russian oppositionists in the east to supplement the operations of the Ukrainian military.

In an interview last month with the German publication Spiegel Online, Yarosh boasted of state support for his forces, saying, “Our battalions are part of the new territorial defense. We have close contact with the intelligence services and the general staff.”

The handprints of Washington are all over the fascist massacre in Odessa, and the New York Times, along with the rest of the “mainstream” media, is exposed as an accomplice. The cover-up of this crime by the Times is a guarantee that it will whitewash even greater crimes of US imperialism in the days and weeks to come.

The DPRK is said to be an economist’s nightmare. There are almost no reliable statistics available, making any analysis speculative at best. The few useable figures that we have, though, fly in the face of the media’s curious insistence on a looming economic collapse.

Food production and trade volumes indicate that the DPRK has largely recovered from the economic catastrophe of the 1990s. Indeed, Pyongyang’s reported rising budget figures appear more plausible than Seoul’s pessimistic politicized estimates. Obviously, sanctions, while damaging, have failed to nail the country down. There are signs that it is now beginning to open up and prepare to exploit its substantial mineral wealth. Could we soon be witnessing the rise of Asia’s next economic tiger?

There is hardly an economy in the world that is as little understood as the economy of the Democractic People’s Republic of Korea (aka “North Korea”). Comprehensive government statistics have not been made public since the 1960s. Even if production figures were available, the non-convertibility of the domestic currency and the distortion of commodity prices in the DPRK’s planned economy would still prevent us from computing something as basic as a GDP or GDP growth figure1. In the end, this dearth of public or useable primary data means that outside analysis is generally based more on speculation or politicized conslusions than on actual information. Unfortunately, the greater the province of speculation, the greater also the possibility of distortion, and hence of misinformation, or even disinformation.

The dominant narrative in the Western press is that the DPRK is on the verge of collapse2. What commentators lack in hard data to prove this, they often try to invent. There is no way, it is suggested, that the economy could ever recover on its own from the combined economic, financial and energy crisis that hit it in the 1990s3. And indeed, though it remains difficult to quantify the damage done by the collapse of the Soviet Union, we know that the DPRK was then suddenly confronted with the loss of important export markets and a crippling reduction of fuel and gas imports. These two factors triggered a cataclysmic chain reaction that severely dislocated the Korean economy.

Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the disaster was the collapse of food production. The sudden shortages of fuel, fertilizer and machinery, compounded by “a series of severe natural disasters” from 1995 to 19974, made the DPRK tumble from a self-reported food surplus in the 1980s to a severe food crisis in the 1990s. We will address the reliability of food figures in greater detail below, but suffice for now to say that figures provided to the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO’s) investigative team indicate production dipping from “a plateau of 6 million tons” of grain equivalent from 1985 to 1990to about 3.5 million tons in 1995 and less than 3 million in 1996 and 19975. Food requirements for the roughly 23 million-strong population were almost 5 million tons6. The chain of events left the DPRK no choice but to make a formal appeal for aid to the international community in August 1995.

Illustrating the crisis, President Kim Il-Sung passed away on July 8th, 1994. Official images of grieving citizens. The country observed a three-year mourning period before Kim Jong-Il assumed the leadership in 1997. Photo: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

A barrage of sanctions also seriously disrupted and continues to disrupt the DPRK’s ability to conduct international trade, making it even more difficult for the country to get back on its feet. Besides the unilateral sanctions regimes that the US and its allies have put in place since the early days of the Cold War7, the country also has had to face a series of multilateral sanctions imposed by UN Security Council resolutions in 2006 (S/RES/1718/2006), 2009 (S/RES/1874/2009) and 2013 (S/RES/2087/2013). The bulk of these are financial and trade sanctions, as well as travel bans for targeted officials.

Financial sanctions curtail access to the global financial system by targeting entities or individuals engaging in certain prohibited transactions with or for the DPRK. The professed intention is to prevent specific transactions from taking place, particularly those related to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program, or alleged money-laundering activities. In practice, however, the stakes of even a false alarm can be so high that banks might well shun even the most innocuous transactions with the DPRK. In the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) affair, for instance, public suspicion by the US Treasury that a Macanese bank might be money-laundering and distributing counterfeit dollars for the DPRK destroyed the bank’s reputation and triggered a massive bank run even before local authorities could launch a proper investigation8. An independent audit commissioned by the Macanese government from Ernst & Young found the bank to be clean of any major violations9, but the US Treasury nonetheless blacklisted BDA in 2007, triggering suspicions that it was simply trying to make an example of the bank10.

Whatever the case, the blacklisting effectively prevented BDA from conducting transactions in US dollars or maintaining ties with US entities, and caused two dozen banks (including institutions in China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam and Singapore) to sever ties with the DPRK for fear of suffering a similar fate11. Veiled threats by the US Treasury also seem to be behind the Bank of China’s closure in 2013 of the DPRK Foreign Trade Bank’s account12, and possibly had an indirect influence on other major Chinese banks’ cessation of all cross-border cash transfers with the DPRK (regardless of the nature of the business)13. As we can see, financial sanctions effectively contribute to making the DPRK an “untouchable” in the world of money, greatly affecting its ability to earn foreign currency by conducting legitimate international trade or attracting foreign direct investment. Obviously, shortages of such foreign currency have grave developmental consequences, because they limit vital and urgently needed imports of fuel, food, machinery, medicine, and so on, “stunting” both the economy and the general population14.

Trade sanctions also have a more disruptive effect than their wording suggests. Although the sanctions were ostensibly designed to prevent DPRK imports of nuclear, missile or weapons-related goods and technology, in practice they had the effect of blocking DPRK imports of a whole range of goods and technology that are classified as “dual-use,” which means that their civilian use could potentially be adapted for military purposes. The result is that the “dual-use” lists prohibit imports of equipment, machinery and materials that are in practice essential for the development of a modern economy, impeding the development of a broad range of industries such as aeronautics, telecommunications as well as the chemical and IT sectors15. In his book “A Capitalist in North Korea,” Swiss businessman Felix Abt explained, for instance, how a $20 million project to renew Pyongyang’s water supply and drainage system fell through, simply because the Kuwaiti investor was concerned that importing the software needed for the project could run afoul of US dual-use sanctions against the DPRK16. Abt further recalls the role UN sanctions played in preventing his pharmaceutical company from importing the chemicals it needed for a healthcare project in the DPRK countryside17.

Given the formidable obstacles, the international press has drawn the conclusion (1) that the DPRK is one of the poorest countries in the world18. But it has also concluded (2) that its misery is almost entirely the result of systematic mismanagement19, and (3) that it will go from bad to worse as long as it refuses to implement liberal reforms20. Yet, these assertions, which have been repeated throughout the period of six decades of sanctions, are rarely supported by hard data. On the contrary, they run counter to the little reliable evidence available.

The “Black Hole”

If statistics on the DPRK economy are mentioned at all in the Western press, they generally stem from “secondary source” estimations rather than “primary source” figures from the DPRK government. The most commonly used of those estimates are those of the South Korean Bank of Korea (BOK) and of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)21. Yet there are a number of reasons why these numbers in fact are nearly unuseable as evidence for the above three claims.

First, the numbers are equivocal. CIA numbers do present the DPRK as comparatively poor in terms of PPP-based GDP per capita. The $1800 figure from 2011 would place it 197th of 229 countries in the world, located among mostly African economies22. But as far as the CIA’s general GDP figure goes, the $40 billion figure catapults the economy into a comfortable middle position (106thof 229)23, which is not really what one would expect from “one of the poorest countries in the world.” Moreover, neither BOK nor CIA figures demonstrate that the DPRK economy is going “from bad to worse.”The CIA’s PPP figure has simply remained stuck at $40 billion for the past ten years. And according to BOK estimates, the DPRK’s GDP has been growing at an average of roughly 1% per year in the ten years from 2003 to 201224. These figures alone cannot prove recession, they would have to be combined with evidence of high inflation rates. This, again, is easier said than done, in the absence of access to something like a yearly and holistic consumer price index (CPI) figure.

 

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
-6.3 -1.1 6.2 1.3 (0.4) 3.7 (3.8) 1.2 1.8 2.2 (2.1)
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
3.8 -1.1 (-1.0) -2.3 (-1.2) 3.7 (3.1) -0.9 -0.5 0.8 1.3

 

Figure 1: BOK estimates of DPRK GDP growth 1997-2012

Note: Figures up to 2008 are drawn from the BOK report for 2008, and those from 2009 to 2012 are drawn from the report for 2012. Figures in parentheses represent those from the 2012 report that conflict with those from the 2008 report25.

Second, these numbers are rarely comparable with figures for other countries, for methodological reasons. Both institutions admit this, and yet many commentators seem to ignore it when they use them. The BOK’S GDP estimates, for instance, are unsuitable for international comparison with any economy except the South Korean one, because they were estimated on the basis of South Korean prices, exchange rates and value added ratios26. Meanwhile, CIA estimates are unsuitable for historical comparison, because the methodology it used changed over time27. Particularly striking is the sudden and unexplained “jump” from a $22.3 billion GDP figure in 2003 to a $40 billion one in 200428.

Third, these numbers are actually little more than wild guesses. Both institutions admit that they have far too little data to work with to provide reliable estimates. BOK officials, for instance, have conceded that the paucity and unreliability of price and exchange rate data for North Korea mean that an estimated GDP figure will “by nature be highly subjective, arbitrary and prone to errors.”29 The CIA, for its part, rounds PPP-based GDP figures for the DPRK to “the nearest $10 billion,” telling volumes about the confidence with which it makes its estimates30.

Four, these numbers cannot accurately reflect fundamental differences between market-driven and socialist economies. How meaningful or useful are the GDP per capita figures of the CIA and the BOK in measuring quality of life in a taxfree country with public food distribution as well as free housing, healthcare and education? What do prices or income really mean in such a system anyway? The use of GDP figures is notoriously controversial when it comes to judging the well-being or economic development of a people, and this is even truer in the case of socialist economies31.

Finally, there are good reasons to think that the numbers have been politically manipulated.According to Marcus Noland, executive vice-president and director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics:

[The BOK's GDP estimation] process is not particularly transparent and appears vulnerable to politicization. In 2000, the central bank delayed the announcement of the estimate until one week before the historic summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The figures implied an extraordinary acceleration of North Korea’s growth rate to nearly 7 percent. This had never occurred before and has not been repeated since. Under current South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative, the central bank’s figures imply that the North Korean economy has barely grown at all32.As for the CIA numbers, suffice to say that they create a completely artificial impression of stagnation by systematically rounding the GDP figure to the nearest $10 billion33.

As we can see, there are very serious grounds to doubt the reliability of secondary source estimates. This is why Noland has called the DPRK’s economy a “black hole” and warned against trusting any figure on DPRK economy that comes with a decimal point attached34. Rüdiger Frank, economist and Head of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Vienna, concurs:

Too often, such numbers produced by Seoul’s Bank of Korea or published in the CIA World Factbook seem to be a curious product of the market mechanism. Where there is a demand, eventually there will be a supply: if you keep asking for numbers, they will eventually be produced. But knowing how hard it is to come up with reliable statistics even in an advanced, transparent, Western-style economy, it remains a mystery to me how suspiciously precise data are collected on an economy that has no convertible currency and that treats even the smallest piece of information as a state secret35.

Obviously, this does not leave us with many reliable sources of information to appreciate the state of the DPRK economy.

Of Food and Trade

The rare useable statistics indicate that the DPRK has, against all odds and expectations, managed to get back on its feet, and is now poised to reach new heights. As we will see, food production appears to have nearly recovered to self-sufficiency, which should bring increased labor productivity and life expectancy. Trade, for its part, seems to be booming, easing access to much-needed imports and foreign currency.

Food production is one of a few areas for which decent statistics are publicly available. When the DPRK first called for food aid in the 1990s, it agreed to cooperate with inspectors from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in drafting an annual report for the donor community, the “Crop and Food Security Assessment Report” (CFSAR). There is a growing consensus that this cooperation makes the CFSAR a reasonably solid estimate of food production in the DPRK. According to Randall Ireson, consultant on rural and agricultural development issues in Asia:

Like all reports on North Korea, theCFSARsare by no means perfect, but we have come a long way from the 1990s when for most reports, any precision after the first digit represented a wild guess. While there are certainly errors in the estimates, the reports have benefited from the use of a consistent methodology over many years and improved cooperation from DPRK authorities. Moreover, since 2011, the assessment teams have included international Korean-speaking members, and since last year, they have been able to take sample crop cuttings from selected fields as a cross check against farm production reports. [...] The mission used official data provided by the government, but adjusted those data based on ground observations and satellite information36.

 

Figure 2: DPRK Cereal Production 1981-2011 (per thousand metric tonnes). Source: FAO37.

According to the latest CFSAR, the food production for the year 2012 to 2013 was 5.07 mMT of grain equivalent. This corresponds to 95% of the estimated grain requirement of the DPRK for that year38. Note that this figure does not mean malnutrition has been fully eradicated, especially among vulnerable groups. The estimate refers solely to an average grain requirement of 1640 kcal/day per person (174 kg of grain equivalent per year), excluding 400 kcal/day and other nutrient needs (e.g. protein) to be covered with non-cereal food sources39. Moreover, the figure does not address the issue of distribution. But even though these are important caveats, seeing self-sufficiency within grasp remains a major cause of optimism, especially when the current 5.07 mMT figure is compared to the 3 mMT of the late 1990s. Provided that appropriate reforms are made and effectively implemented, it may be only a matter of time before the DPRK returns to the 6 million tons plateau it reported for the late 1980s.

Trade is another area for which comparativelysolidstatistics now exist. Although the DPRK does not publish its trade volumes, data can still be collected through reverse statistics of its trade partners40. The reliability of an aggregated trade volume figure for the DPRK is thus dependent on the countries for which data have been collected. Unfortunately, it appears that customs offices sometimes make major errors, for example by confusing trade with Pyongyang and trade with Seoul41. Reliability thus also depends to a certain extent on the good judgment of the database compilers, especially since many statistics are likely to be simply mirrored from other sources. Finally, it must be kept in mind that sanctions on the DPRK might force it to conduct a substantial part of its trade covertly42, and that a considerable amount of smuggling might be conducted outside the purview of the State, meaning that officially reported trade figures are actually heavily undervalued compared to the real amount of trade conducted by DPRK entities and individuals.

According to an extensive review of DPRK economic statistics by development consultant Mika Marumoto, the most referenced databases on DPRK trade volumes are those of the IMF Direction of Trade, the UN Comtrade and the Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), a South Korean organization43. There are still important differences between the respective figures they report for the DPRK. In 2006, says Marumoto, the aggregate trade volume figures varied from $2.9 billion for the KOTRA, to $4.3 billion for the IMF and to $4.4 billion for the UN database44. According to Marumoto, the discrepancy is largely explainable by differences in the number of countries covered and the conservativeness with which the data is appraised. From 1997 to 2007, the KOTRA surveyed trade with only 50 to 60 countries, while the IMF and the UN covered dealings with 111 to 136 countries45. KOTRA tends to be much more critical than the IMF and the UN concerning figures reported by national customs offices, often preferring to ignore them rather than run the risk of including errors46. The result, according to Marumoto, is that while IMF and UN figures may be overvalued for recording certain erroneous figures, the KOTRA data are almost certainly overly conservative, for example by ignoring trade with the entire South American continent47. Despite all those caveats and differences, the trade data nonetheless remain useful in providing a certain sense of scale.

Another major methodological issue that deserves attention is that Seoul does not report trade with Pyongyang as “international trade48.” In the complex politics of a divided nation, neither the southern nor the northern government considers the other another “country.” They record trade with each other in a separate, “inter-Korean” trade category. The statistics of international organizations like the IMF and UN cannot reflect these subtleties, and thus simply record that inter-Korean trade is extremely low (e.g. $36 million in 2005) or even non-existent, when Seoul is in fact Pyongyang’s second-most important trade partner after Beijing, with volumes standing at about $1.8 billion in 200749. Since KOTRA does not include inter-Korean trade volumes, and since the IMF and UN numbers are unusable for this, we have to use the separate data of the southern Ministry of Unification (MOU). Unfortunately, what the MOU counts as “trade” includes transactions that are in fact classified as “non-commercial” and that includegoods related to humanitarianaid,as well associal and cultural cooperation projects50.Moreover, the trade figures may be further inflated by the way in which the MOU records transit of goods in and out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a joint economic zone in the North that accounts for the bulk of inter-Korean trade. By counting “southern” KIC inputs as exports and “northern” KIC outputs as imports, the MOU is actually deviating from standard accounting practice, insofar as it should only be counting as imports the value added by processing in the KIC. Both of these points suggest that the MOU numbers are overvalued, but we simply have no alternative ones to use.

Figure 3: KOTRA and IMF DOTS presentations of the ratio of Sino-Korean trade to total DPRK trade 1990-2010. Graph by Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland51.

For the sake of simplicity, rather than quote a multitude of sources every time for international trade figures, we will simply use the KOTRA numbers for international trade in tandem with the MOU numbers for inter-Korean trade (except where otherwise specified), bearing in mind that they are respectively under- and over-valued. Southern research databases like the Information System for Resources on North Korea (i-RENK) generally followthese figures and compile their graphs accordingly52. Both KOTRA and the MOU are, after all, South Korean governmental organizations.

According to i-RENK, the great majority of DPRK trade is conducted between the Koreas ($1.97billionin 2012) and with China ($5.93billionin 2012).Trade with the rest of the world was evaluated by KOTRA at around $427 million in 2012, from which tradewith theEuropean Unionaccounted forabout $100 million,according to the EU’s Directorate-General for Trade53. According to the CIA Factbook, the DPRK primarily imports petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles and grain;it exports minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products54.Interestingly, even ROKfigures clearly indicate that the DPRK is going through an unexpected trade boom, beginning, of course, from low levels of trade. AggregateKOTRAand MOU figures indicate thatthe total volumes have nearly quintupled from $1.8 billion in 1999 to $8.8 billion in 201255.This directly contradicts suggestions that theDPRKis going “from bad to worse.”

A further observation that can be made is that Pyongyang is much less dependent on inter-Korean trade as a source of foreign currency than Seoul apparently believed. It is probable that the KOTRA methodology contributed to create this false impression as its statistics systematically ignore most of the developing world. At any rate, when hawkish conservatives came to power in Seoul in 2008, they decided to pressure Pyongyang by using inter-Korean trade as a carrot to control it . This strategy turned out to be grossly miscalculated. Pyongyang simply turned to Beijing, and trade volumes with China soon left those with South Korea far behind. Instead of increasing Seoul’s influence in Pyongyang, the confrontational move drastically reduced it, wasting a decade of trust-building efforts by South Korean doves.

The evolution of Sino-Korean (China-DPRK) and inter-Korean trade clearly reflects the shifting of Pyongyang’s priorities and possibilities. Back in 1999, trade levels were still similar –i-RENK graphs show the inter-Korean trade at$333millionand the Sino-Korean at$351million. Thanks to the doves’ efforts in Seoul, both trade channels progressed at roughly the same speed for the next eight years, reaching respectively $1.8and $2billion in 2007. But when the hawks took over and tried to take inter-Korean trade hostage, total volumes stagnated at an average of $1.8 billionfor four years, even falling to $1.14billion in 2013, their lowest level since 200556. The politicization of inter-Korean trade by Seoul predictably led to a shift towards Beijing, and Sino-Korean trade volumes soared up to six times ($6.54billion57in 2013) above inter-Korean ones. “South Korea,” as one commentator bluntly concludes, “has lost the North to China58.” Tokyo similarly wasted its influence when it first banned all imports from the DPRK and then all exports to it to express its displeasure with Pyongyang’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 200959. The DPRK is left with nothing else to lose, and has continued its nuclear tests in 2013 regardless of Japan’s now almost toothless protests.

Figure 4: Inter -Korean and Sino-Korean trade volumes 1993-2011. Graph by Scott A. Snyder60.

Budget Matters

Having established that the DPRK is probably close to food self-sufficiency and is experiencing a trade boom, we can consider primary sources from the DPRK itself, such as the annual budget sheets published by the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA). They are the closest we get to official and publicly available statistics on the DPRK economy. Remarkably, the latest ones hint that the DPRK has attained or is about to attain double digit growth. If that proves to be correct, the change would be extraordinary, given what the DPRK went through in the 1990s and continued obstacles such as US-led sanctions.

Before drawing any conclusions, however, we must examine the reliability of those numbers, as we did for our other sources. Critics point out that the published sheets are full of blanks, and only reveal relative rather than absolute numbers61. Moreover, the achievements cannot be verified, leading to accusations that the projections may be little more than Party propaganda. But according to Rüdiger Frank, who has lived in both the GDR (the former East Germany) and the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War, there are good reasons to see these figures as “not just propaganda, but rather more or less the North Korean contribution to the guessing game about [the performance of the country’s economy62.”

Though Frank cautions against taking the figures at face value, he points out that they do consistently include overall values for State revenue and expenditure – both planned and achieved. He argues that this can, at the very least, reveal the level of optimism and confidence the authorities place in the economy63. His analysis of the year-on-year differences since the early 2000s shows that this level, rather than following an “idealized” trajectory, shows credible patterns of response to major contemporary events64. There are, for instance, significant drops and priority shifts in reaction to the Iraq War or the DPRK’s first nuclear test in 2006. Interestingly, Frank notes a “relatively high” coefficient of correlation of the SPA budget figures with the BOK’s GDP growth estimates of the DPRK, leading him to conclude that “although both sides seem to differ about the amount of growth, at least there is some moderately strong agreement about its general direction65.”

Figure 5: Year-on-year growth (in percentage) according to BOK estimates on GDP and SPA reports on state budget revenue and expenditure. Source: BOK, KCNA. Graph by Rüdiger Frank66.

The year-on-year growth of the state budgetary revenue stands out for our purposes, because one can assume it loosely corresponds to a GDP growth figure. We can see, for instance, that the growth of achieved revenue drops sharply from +16% in 2005 to a little over +4% in 2006 – perhaps because of the sanctions for the first nuclear test. Although direct comparisons between SPA and BOK data should actually be avoided insofar as they do not measure exactly the same sort of growth, it is still notable that the BOK numbers also report a sharp drop from +3.8% in 2005 to -1.0% in 2006.

Interestingly, however, the two trajectories diverge after this. BOK values from 2008 (+3.1%) to 2012 estimate a dip in 2009 (-0.9%) and a timid recovery up until 2012 (+1.3%). SPA values, however, accelerate by almost a full percentage point per year from 2008 (+6%) to 2013 (+10.1%). Why does the BOK estimate growth to be so weak and erratic when the SPA reports it to be so strong and sustained? There seems to be a world of a difference between the southern narrative of near stagnation and the northern picture of double-digit growth. Of course, we should not get too caught up in the detail of numbers that are little more than wild guesses on the one side and that are unverifiable on the other. But analysing the credibility of each version may give us useful hints on the DPRK’s actual rate of growth.

The 2009 Mystery

Consider 2009, when the BOK estimated a sharp dip (from +3.1% to -0.9%) and the SPA presented steadily accelerating growth (from +6% to +7%). There are a number of major events that could help us determine which of these trajectories is most plausible.

First of all, oil and food prices fell markedly on the world market that year, following the financial crisis. The price of Brent crude oil nose-dived from nearly $140 per barrel in 2008 to about $40-80 in 2009, and the FAO food price index fell down from 201.4 points in 2008 to 160.3 in 200967, making imports of both much more affordable for the DPRK.

Figure 6: WTI and Brent crude oil prices 2002-2011

Second, trade and financial sanctions against the DPRK were tightened by Security Council Resolution 1874 on June 12, in response to a new nuclear test by the DPRK. However, there was not much more that could be tightened after the 2006 sanctions, besides lengthening the lists of embargoed arms, luxury goods and dual-use items as well as targeting eight entities and five officials with financial sanctions and travel bans.

Third, meteorological stations recorded “unusually intense rainstorms” in August to September 2009 and an “unusually severe and prolonged68” winter for 2009/2010, affecting the country’s agriculture. Unfortunately, the FAO did not draw up an annual report for crop and food security assessment (CFSAR) in 2009, leaving us to rely on information collected for the 2010 CFSAR.

Fourth, a major currency revaluation came into force on the 30thNovember 2009, when citizens were given a certain time window to exchange old currency for new currency at a rate of 100:1, with an exchange cap eventually set at 500,000 oldwon69. Remaining oldwonwere to be deposited in a state bank, but deposits in excess of a million were to come with proof of a legal source of earning70. This was meant to multiply the spending power of ordinary citizens (wages in newwoncoupled with price controls in the public distribution system) while wiping out the stashes of thenouveaux richeswho had been involved in the shadow economy and who could not prove a legal source of earning, like smugglers and corrupt officials71. On a macroeconomic level, it would allow the state to reassert control over the currency (curb inflation and reduce currency substitution) and over the economy (discourage imports, stimulate domestic production and replenish bank capital available for investment)72 Outside observers, however, feared that the blow to private savings and the shadow economy could dislocate the main economy and lead to a devastating food crisis, as much food consumption was reportedly drawn from private markets73. Last but not least, it must be noted that the publication of the BOK estimates for the DPRK’s GDP growth in 2009 were published just a month after hawks in Seoul called a halt to all inter-Korean trade and investment outside of a designated special economic zone, the Kaesong Industrial Complex. As we will see below, there are reasonable grounds to believe that those estimates have been affected by the drama of domestic politics unfolding at the time.

So, how is possible to justify negative economic growth based on those events? From the BOK perspective, the 2009 dip is due to “decreased agricultural production due to damage from particularly severe cold weather” and “sluggish manufacturing production owing to a lack of raw materials and electricity74.” Accordingly, the agriculture, forestry & fisheries sectorand the manufacturing sector were said to be down by respectively -1 and -3%, compared with 2008. Based on satellite images, the BOK estimated cereal production to have slowed from 4.3 million metric tons of grain equivalent in 200875to 4.1 mMT in 200976. Lack of raw materials and electricity, for its part, could be explained by the difficulty of securing imports because of tightening sanctions and because of the depreciation of thewoncompared to other currencies in the wake of the reform. The revaluation was also reported in the Western and South Korean press to have wreaked havoc in the economy, as the crackdown on smugglers and private traders reduced the supply of a range of goods and thereby allegedly triggered “runaway inflation77.”

That being said, there are reasonable grounds to challenge this pessimistic analysis. Concerning the agricultural sector, there are obviously limits to the accuracy of satellite-based estimates. The slashing of oil prices on the world market would instead suggest a rise in agricultural production, given the greater affordability of fuel and fertilizer. And while the FAO confirms harsh weather reports and appears to report figures similar to those of the BOK78, the fact that it did not draw up a separate report for 2009 indicates that it did not enter the country that year, and that it might therefore just be mirroring BOK estimates. This means that, once more, we are confronted with unverifiable figures. Concerning access to imports, it is hard to imagine the 2009 sanctions could have seriously hurt the economy, given that the country had by this time found a range of ways to evade these sanctions79and there was not much more to tighten compared to 2006. Instead, again, the tumbling of food and oil prices on the world market suggests that the DPRK’s two most crucial imports could be secured at more affordable prices, allowing the redirecting of reserves for other needed imports.

As for the currency revaluation, the surprise announcement arguably came too late (30thNovember) to have seriously impacted 2009 figures on the general economy.The reform did suffer some problems of implementation, as the government publicly admitted80, butWestern claims of chaos and unrest (or even of the sacking and execution of a responsible official) were based on second- or third-hand reports of isolated, unverifiable or uncorroborated incidents81. Note also that the above-mentioned “runaway inflation” reports are not based on holistic CPI figures, but on foreseeable price hikes of selected consumer itemson the black market(making it unattractivevis-à-visthe public distribution system was the whole point, after all). Western beliefs that the shadow economy was so big that any attack on it would dislocate the main economy appear to have been proved wrong in retrospect asprices and exchange rates stabilized after a short period of transition82. Keeping in mind that, in all likelihood, the reform partly aimed at freeing up capital and stimulating domestic production, we would have to compare nationwide production figures in all sectors before and after the reform to establish whether it actually had a positive or negative impact on the main economy. Since we don’t have these figures, we cannot really pass a verdict on the reform’s legacy. But note that according to Jin Meihua, a research scholar on Northeast Asian Studies at the Jilin Academy of Social Sciences writing thirteen months after the revaluation, exchange rates with the Chinese yuan, prices of rationed rice and prices of rice on the open market all more or less halved from 2009 to 2010, dropping respectively from 1:500 to 1:200, from 46 to 24 won a kg, and from 2000 to 900 won a kg83. These figures imply that the turbulent period that followed the reform did not last long, and that prices and exchange rates soon stabilized enough to double the spending power of consumers of rice and Chinese imports. At the end of the day, it does seem hard to use this reform to build a convincing case for GDP drop.

‘Tongil Street Market,’ a state-sanctioned market in Pyongyang. Photo: Naenara.com (2003)

So perhaps analysis of trade figures will help determine whether the BOK’s estimated four point deceleration in growth is more or less plausible than the SPA’s reported one point acceleration. Regarding inter-Korean trade, the MOU reported that volumes shrank by 7.8% from 2008 to 2009, down to $1679 million84. And regarding Sino-Korean trade, the Chinese Embassy in the DPRK reports that volumes slowed by 4%, for a total of $2.68 billion85. Do these reductions not seem a bit too small to justify the BOK’s claim concerning recession? One has to keep in mind that the reduction in the reportedvalueof the Sino-Korean trade does not necessarily entail a reduction in theamountof goods flowing into the DPRK, given the dramatic reduction in world price for food and oil. Also, the June sanctions likely pushed a sizeable part of Sino-Korean trade in the grey zone of unreported trade. Note, for example, that Chinese customs stopped publishing Sino-Korean trade data from August to November, so that there is no way of verifying the quantity of goods that crossed the Yalu and Tumen rivers in 200986. Even the above-mentioned $2.68 billion figure likely does not tell the whole story. Moreover, it is hard to believe that the DPRK had not foreseen the outcry its nuclear test would cause in May, and accordingly stocked up on necessary goods long before the sanctions hit it in June. Finally, consider that trying to use trade data to justify the BOK’s reported recession backfires when discussing GDP growth for later years. If a reduction of Sino-Korean trade volumes from $2.79 to $2.68 billion could reduce GDP growth by 4% in 2009, where would this leave us for 2010 or 2011, when trade volumes leaped respectively to $3.47 billion and $5.63 billion? Surely this suggests that the DPRK’s GDP growth should be substantial at this time. Yet BOK figures inexplicably continue to indicate negative value for 2010 (-0.5%) and only timid growth for 2011 (+0.8%). Would the SPA’s revenue growth figures for 2010 and 2011 not be far more plausible in this case, at respectively 7.7% and 8.6%87? These considerations leave the BOK’s pessimist assessment of the DPRK economy on very shaky ground indeed.

All this makes us wonder about the extent to which the BOK judgment might be influenced by Seoul’s political climate. This would not be the first time that the BOK is the target of such suspicions, as we noted above. It thus becomes relevant to point out that BOK statistics for 2009 were published in June 2010, when inter-Korean relations were at their worst since the end of the Cold War. Relations had already been going downhill since Lee Myung-bak – the first conservative president in fifteen years – assumed power in Seoul in 2008. But it was not until May 2010 that Seoul really cut ties, by halting all inter-Korean trade and investment outside the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The precise justification for these “May 24 measures” was the Cheonanincident, the sinking of a southern corvette that hawks in Seoul have blamed on Pyongyang. A summary of the report coming to this controversial conclusion had been released on May 20th, with the full report only made available to the public in mid-September. Ultimately, Seoul’s accusations failed to convince enough nations internationally to produce unified action88. But in the South, the hawks were cracking down heavily on dissent, silencing growing suspicions among doves that it may all have been a false flag operation designed to discredit the opposition. Why else release only a “summary” just when campaigning started for the June 2ndlocal elections? The government seemed to do everything in its power to control public discourse on the incident, invoking national security to prosecute public critics of the report (or even the skepticism voiced by a former presidential secretary) as libel or “pro-North” propaganda89. In these circumstances, it seems almost too convenient for the hawks that the BOK estimates a weakening of the northern economy, less than a month after doves registered surprising successes in local elections by drumming up support against the trade ban90.

To sum up, too little data is available to solve the 2009 riddle with absolute certainty. We do have reasonable grounds to believe, though, that the economy continued to grow during that year, following a trajectory more in line with the SPA than the BOK assessment. Agriculture may have suffered from the weather, but probably benefited from low oil prices. The currency reform arguably came too late to substantially drag down figures for 2009, and it turns out that the doomsday reporting that surrounded it at the time was mostly exaggerated. The new wave of sanctions was foreseeable and probably added only limited pressure compared to what was already in place. Reported trade, though sluggish, slowed less than expected, and this sluggishness was likely offset by low food and oil prices, as well as unreported trade. In any case, if lethargic trade could really throw the DPRK into a recession, it is hard to see why the BOK would continue to report recession and mediocre growth in 2010 and 2011, when trade was skyrocketing. There thus seems to be no convincing empirical evidence to warrant the BOK’s pessimism. Worse, the atmosphere in Seoul at the time the estimates were published gives rise to concerns that the BOK may have been manipulated for domestic political purposes.If the SPA’s numbers turn out to be accurate, and the trajectory in 2010 and 2011 seems to suggest so, then the DPRK’s growth rate ranks among the fastest in the world in these years.

Conclusion: A New Era?

The theory of the “coming North Korean collapse” is a curiously tenacious myth. It is based on little more than speculation, sometimes aggravated by misinformation, disinformation or wishful thinking. Even the dubious and undervalued statistics commonly cited in the Western and South Korean press hardly support allegations that the DPRK’s socialist economy is slowly disintegrating. On the contrary, comparatively reliable indicators on food and trade suggest that it is recovering and catching up, despite the extremely hostile conditions it has faced since the 1990s.

The evidence suggests that the high growth figures reported by Pyongyang are more plausible than the pessimistic estimates emanating from Seoul. Some changes have been so conspicuous that they could be followed by satellite imagery91, such as the recent construction frenzy92that has seen impressive new housing, health, entertainment and infrastructure facilities mushroom in Pyongyang and other major cities of the DPRK93. Some other changes have been more subtle, and reach us instead through the observations of recent visitors like Rüdiger Frank:

…the number of cars has been growing so much that in the capital traffic lights had to be installed and the famous “Flowers of Pyongyang”—the traffic ladies—had to be pulled off the street lest they get overrun by Beijing taxis, home-madeHuitparamsandSamchollis, the ever-present German luxury brands of all ages and the occasional Hummer. Inline-skating kids are now such a common sight that hardly any visitor bothers mentioning them anymore. Restaurants and shops are everywhere, people are better dressed, more self-confident than two decades ago, and obviously also better fed, at least in the capital. Air conditioners are mounted on the walls of many residential buildings and offices. Everyone seems to have a mobile phone, and there are even tablet computers.In the countryside, too, signs of improving living standards are visible, including solar panels, TV antennas, cars in front of farmer’s houses, shops, restaurants and so forth94.

In fact, the question today in informed circles is not so much whether the DPRK is changing, but whether it can sustain this change in the long-term. Frank, notably, worries that the economy is not yet solid enough to justify such an ongoing spending spree, and draws concerned parallels with the closing years of his native GDR95.

Newly built apartments in downtown Pyongyang. Photo: Lukasz.

The DPRK, however, has a trump card that may spare it the fate of the GDR – a vast and still largely untapped mineral wealth. The country has literally been called a “gold mine,96“and there is in fact not just gold, but a whole range of extremely valuable mineral resources in the mountains of Korea. According to Choi Kyung-soo, President of the North Korea Resources Institute in Seoul:

North Korea’s mineral resources are distributed across a wide area comprising about 80 percent of the country. North Korea hosts sizable deposits of more than 200 different minerals and has among the top-10 largest reserves of magnesite, tungsten ore, graphite, gold ore, and molybdenum in the world. Its magnesite reserves are the second largest in the world and its tungsten deposits are probably the sixth-largest in the world97.

South Korean reports have estimated the total value of the North‘s mineral wealth at US$ 7 to 10 trillion99. And this was before the largest so-called rare earth element (REE) deposit in the world was discovered in the north of the country, in Jongju, with 216 MT of REEs said to be “worth trillions of dollars” by themselves100.

To be sure, the experiences of countries like Mongolia, Nigeria and Russia show that it is not so much the presence, but the ability to extract and market natural resources that matters. Choi estimates existing mining facilities in the DPRK to operate below 30 percent of capacity because of lack of capital, antiquated infrastructure and regular energy shortages101. And although the DPRK has expressed interest in joint ventures to develop its mining industry, foreign companies appear concerned about the legal guarantees and the general investing environment that the country can offer102.

Figure 7: Estimates of the DPRK’s major mineral and coal reserves (per thousand metric tonnes, unless otherwise specified). Source: Korea Resources Cooperation98.

That being said, the government appears to be taking steps to respond to these challenges. It has, for example, supported mammoth trilateral projects between Moscow, Pyongyang and Seoul (the so-called “Iron Silk Road”) that could link the Russian Far East and the Korean Peninsula with railways, pipelines and electric grids103. Once built, the railway could reduce the time needed for goods to transit between Asia and Europe to just 14 days, instead of 45 days by freight shipping up to now, greatly facilitating trade104. The greater and cheaper access to Russian energy should also prove a boon to the DPRK economy.

The government has also taken steps to meet investor expectations through the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Drawing on the Chinese and Vietnamese experiences, SEZs are segregated areas with a favorable legal and fiscal framework specially designed to attract foreign investment. Following establishment of the Rason SEZ as a model, the government has announced plans for new SEZs all over the country. Besides the construction of the Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa islands SEZs on the Sino-Korean border105, it has also been actively setting up fourteen new provincial SEZs106, as well as a “Green Development Zone” in Kangryong and a “Science and Technology Development Zone” in Umjong107. Reports indicate that, besides these, even further SEZ plans may be in the works108. A new SEZ law has also been unveiled, to provide international investors with appropriate frameworks and guarantees109.

The government also appears to encourage companies to approach it for cooperation beyond the SEZs. A good example is the joint venture between the Egyptian telecom provider Orascom (75%) and the Korea Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (25%), which launched the DPRK’s first 3G cellular service in December 2008, reaching a million subscribers by February 2012 and two million by May 2013110.

A pier of the Rason SEZ. Photo: NKNews

Given this potential – as well as the wider evidence presented in this paper – it makes little sense to continue to insist that the DPRK is heading towards economic collapse. If collapse ever threatened the DPRK, it was twenty years ago, not now. This also means that there is just as little sense in continuing to strangle the Korean people through sanctions and diplomatic isolation. These have failed to fulfil any substantial objectives to date, be it regime change or nuclear non-proliferation, and will be even less likely to fulfil them in the future, if the country continues to grow.

In these circumstances, continued sanctions and forced isolation may not be meaningfully contributing to international peace and security. Marginalization has not only failed to “pacify” the country, it even seems to have radicalized it. It is obvious that the more we isolate the DPRK, the more it will want to develop its self-defence capabilities, and the less it will stand to lose from infuriating its neighbours with its nuclear and ballistic research programs. Better integration into the world community would likely be much more effective in shifting its political priorities.

The DPRK, far from being the crazed and trigger-happy buccaneer it is made out to be in international media, is – like many other countries – prioritizes its own safety and prosperity. Since the country insists on its right to self-determination and has apparently found ways to maintain it without collapsing in the face of international power, we should stop senselessly segregating it and instead help it integrate into the global village, by giving it reasonable security guarantees and establishing mutually beneficial trade relations. This is not about “rewarding” the DPRK, but simply about choosing the ounce of prevention that will be worth the pound of cure and opting for a policy that best serves world peace.

Candlelight vigil on Seoul Plaza in favour of a US-DPRK peace treaty, held on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement, July 27, 2013. Photo: Lee Seung-Bin / Voice of the People.

Henri Feron is a Ph.D candidate in international law at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He holds an LL.B. in French and English law from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and King’s College London, as well as an LL.M. in Chinese law from Tsinghua University. He can be reached at [email protected]

Notes

Rüdiger Frank, “A Question of Interpretation: Statistics From and About North Korea,”38 North, Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University,July 16, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

See e.g.Evan Ramstad, “North Korea Strains Under New Pressures”,The Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Geoffrey Cain, “North Korea’s Impending Collapse: 3 Grim Scenarios”,Global Post, September 28, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Doug Bandow, “The Complex Calculus of a North Korean Collapse”,The National Interest, January 9, 2014. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

See e.g. Soo-bin Park, “The North Korea Economy: Current Issues and Prospects,” Department of Economics, Carleton University (2004). Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

4 World Food Programme. Office of Evaluation, Full Report of the Evaluation of DPRK EMOPs 5959.00 and 5959.01 “Emergency Assistance to Vulnerable Groups,” March 20 to April 10, 2000, p.1. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

5 Food and Agricultural Organization/World Food Programme,Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, November 12, 2012, p.10.Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

6 Food and Agricultural Organization/World Food Programme,Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, June 25, 1998.Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

7 For a summary of unilateral sanctions by the United States of America against the DPRK, refer to: U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control,An Overview of Sanctions with Respect to North Korea, May 6, 2011. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

8 “Breaking the Bank,” The Economist, September 22, 2005. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

9 “Ernst & Young says Macao-based BDA clean, cites minor faults,” RIA Novosti, April 18, 2007. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

10 See Ronda Hauben, “Behind the Blacklisting of Banco Delta Asia,”Ohmynews, May 25, 2007. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; John McGlynn, John McGlynn, “North Korean Criminality Examined: the US Case. Part I,” Japan Focus, May 18, 2007. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Id., “Financial Sanctions and North Korea: In Search of the Evidence of Currency Counterfeiting and Money Laundering Part II,” July 7, 2007; Id., “Banco Delta Asia, North Korea’s Frozen Funds and US Undermining of the Six-Party Talks: Obstacles to a Solution. Part III,” Japan Focus, June 9, 2007.

11 Daniel L. Glaser, testimony before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate, September 12, 2006. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

12 Simon Rabinovitch and Simon Mundy, “China reduces banking lifeline to North Korea,” Financial Times, May 7, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

13 Simon Rabinovitch, “China banks rein in support for North Korea,” Financial Times, May 13, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

14SeeRüdiger Frank, “The Political Economy of Sanctions against North Korea,”Asian Perspective, Vol. 30, No. 3, 2006, at 5-36. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

15 Ibid.

16 Chad O’Caroll, “How Sanctions Stop Legitimate North Korean Trade,” NK News, February 18, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014 at: http://www.nknews.org/2013/02/how-sanctions-stop-legitimate-north-korean-trade/

17 Ibid.

18 See e.g.Michelle A Vu, “Living conditions in North Korea ‘very bad’,”Christian Today, March 31, 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Harry de Quetteville, “Enjoy your stay… at North Korean Embassy,”Telegraph, April 5, 2008. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

19 See, e.g.,“Where the sun sinks in the east,”The Economist, August 11, 2012 (print edition). Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Nicholas Eberstadt, “The economics of state failure in North Korea,”American Enterprise Institute, May 23, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

20 Ibid.

21 Mika Marumoto,Project Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Economic Statistics Project(April-December 2008), Presented to Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management and the DPRK Economic Forum, U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University-School of Advanced International Studies. March 2009, at 42. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

22 United States Central Intelligence Agency, “North Korea”,The World Factbook. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

23 Ibid.

24 Calculations based on tables in the BOK report for 2012. SeeBank of Korea,Gross Domestic Product Estimates for North Korea in 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

25Ibid. See also Bank of Korea,Gross Domestic Product of North Korea in 2008. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

26 BOK, supra note 24.

27 CIA, supranote 22

28 Marumoto,supranote 21, at 48

29 Ibid., at 58-63.

30 CIA,supranote 22

31 The DPRK does not now participate in global Human Development Index (HDI) calculations, which would be a better measure of development than GDP as it includes life expectancy, education and standard of living variables. The only HDI figures we have now are based on 1995 data, during the famine that followed the collapse of the socialist bloc. Even then, UN data indicate that the DPRK still had an HDI of 0.766, roughly the same as Turkey (0.782) or Iran (0.758), placing 73rdout of 158, on the verge of leaving the medium HDI category (0.5 – 0.8) for a high HDI one (0.8 – 1). See United Nations Development Programme,Human Development Report 1998, at 20. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

32 Marcus Noland, “The Black Hole of North Korea”,Foreign Policy, March 7, 2012.

33 Marumoto,supranote 21, at 48

34 Noland, supra note 32

35 Frank, supra note 1

36 Randall Ireson, “The State of North Korean Farming: New Information from the UN Crop Assessment Report,”38 North, Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University,December 18, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

37 Food and Agricultural Organization/World Food Programme,Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, November 25, 2011. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

38 Food and Agricultural Organization/World Food Programme,Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, November 28, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

39 Ireson,supranote 36

40 Marumoto,supranote 21, at 58-63

41 Ibid.

42 See,generally, UN Security Council Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1874 (2009), Report, March 6, 2014, S/2014/147. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

43 Marumoto,supranote 21, at 58-63

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid, at 67-69.

49 Ibid.

50 Ibid.

51 Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland, “Sanctions Busting,” Peterson Institute of International Economics, June 12, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

52 See graphs on the i-RENK database. Retrieved on April 10, 2014 (Korean only).

53 European Union Directorate-General for Trade,European Union, Trade in Goods with North Korea, November 7, 2013.

54 CIA,supranote 22

55 See graphs on the i-RENK database. Retrieved on April 10, 2014 (Korean only).

56 “Inter-Korean trade hits 8-year low in 2013,”Yonhap News Agency, February 23, 2014.

57 “Trade between N. Korea, China hits record $6.45 bln in 2013,”Yonhap News Agency, February 1, 2014.

58 Aidan Foster-Carter, “South Korea has lost the North to China,”Financial Times, February 20, 2014.

59 The National Committee on North Korea, DPRK-Japan Relations: A Historical Overview, December 1, 2011. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

60 Scott A. Snyder, “North Korea’s Growing Trade Dependency on China: Mixed Strategic Implications,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 15, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

61 Aidan Foster-Carter, “Budget Blanks and Blues,”38 North, Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University,June 26, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

62 Frank,supranote 1

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Seetables on the FAO website. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

68 Food and Agricultural Organization/World Food Programme,Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, November 16,2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

69 “N.Korea backtracks as currency reform sparks riots”,The Chosun Ilbo, December 15, 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

70Ibid.

71 Alexandre Mansourov, North Korea: Changing but Stable,38 North,Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, May 1, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

72Ibid.

73 Blaine Harden, “North Korea revalues currency, destroying personal savings,” Washington Post, December 2, 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

74 Bank of Korea,Gross Domestic Product of North Korea in 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

75 Bank of Korea,Gross Domestic Product of North Korea in 2008. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

76 Bank of Korea,supranote 74

77 “New N.Korean Currency Sees Runaway Inflation,”The Chosun Ilbo, January 6, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

78 The FAO CFSAR for 2010/2011 reports that the 4.48 mMT production for that harvesting year was up 3% compared to 2009/2010, meaning the latter harvesting year’s production was about 4.35 mMT. The difference with the BOK’s 4.1 mMT might be explainable by the FAO’s inclusion of winter crops in its figure. FAO,supranote 68

79 Patrick Worsnip, “North Korea maneuvers to evade U.N. sanctions: experts,”Reuters, November 18, 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

80 “N.Korea Climbs Down Over Anti-Market Reforms,”The Chosun Ilbo, February 11, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

81See“Chaos in North Korea Coverage,”38 North, U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, June 2, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

82 Meihua Jin, “DPRK at Economic Crossroads,”China Daily, December 22, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

83 Ibid.

84 Ministry of Unification (Republic of Korea), White Paper on Korean Reunification, 2013, p.86. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

85 Embassy of the PRC in the DPRK,Zhongchao Jingmao Gaikuang, July 20, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014 (Chinese only)

86 Note that this has lead the i-RENK database to record Sino-Korean trade volumes at nil during this period, indicating those volumes to amount toto $1.71 rather than $2.68 billion. This one billion dollar difference creates the wrong impression that Sino-Korean trade levels were in free-fall due to the sanctions.SeeChris Buckley, “China hides North Korea trade in statistics,”Reuters, October 26, 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014;see also graphs here (in Korean only)

87 Frank, supra note 1

88 This is neither the time nor the place to review the truth behind the sinking, but suffice to say that Pyongyang proposed to prove its innocence by sending a team to review the evidence (Seoul refused), that Moscow concluded in its own report that a stray mine was a more plausible cause, and that the UN Security Council found Seoul’s version too inconclusive to point any fingers.See“N.Korea’s reinvestigation proposal alters Cheonan situation”,The Hankyoreh, May 21, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; “Russia’s Cheonan investigation suspects that the sinking Cheonan ship was caused by a mine in water”,The Hankyoreh, July 27, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; “Presidential Statement: Attack on Republic of Korea Naval Ship ‘Cheonan’”. United Nations Security Council (United Nations). 9 July 2010. S/PRST/2010/13. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

89 See Barbara Demick and John M. Glionna, “Doubts surface on North Korea’s role in ship sinking,”Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; “Ex-Pres. Secretary Sued for Spreading Cheonan Rumors”,The Dong-A Ilbo, May 8, 2008. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; John M. Glionna,“South Korea security law is used to silence dissent, critics say,”Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Ronda Hauben, “Netizens question cause of Cheonan tragedy,” Ohmynews, June 8, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

90 Blaine Harden, “President’s party takes hits in South Korean midterm elections,”Washington Post, June 3, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; Donald Kirk, “At polls, South Korea conservatives pay for response to Cheonan sinking,”Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2010. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

91 See e.g. Curtis Melvin, “North Korea’s construction boom,”North Korean Economy Watch,May 21, 2009. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

92 Jack Kim and James Pearson, “Insight: Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s Master Builder,”Reuters, November 23, 2014. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

93 Rüdiger Frank, “Exhausting Its Reserves? Sources of Finance for North Korea’s ‘Improvement of People’s Living’,”38 North, Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University,December 12, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

94 Ibid.

95 Ibid.

96 Leonid A. Petrov, “Rare Earth Metals: Pyongyang’s New Trump Card,”The Montreal Review, August 2010. Retrieved April 10, 2014.

97 Choi Kyung-soo, “The Mining Industry in North Korea”,NAPSNet Special Reports, August 4, 2011. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

98 Korea Resources Cooperation, Current Development Situation of Mineral Resources in North Korea (2009), xii. As cited in Choi, supra note 97.

99 “‘N.K. mineral resources may be worth $9.7tr’,”The Korea Herald, August 26, 2012. Retrieved on April 10, 2014; “N. Korea possess 6,986 tln won worth of mineral resources: report”,Global Post, September 19, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

100 Frik Els, “Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in North Korea”,Mining.com, December 5, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

101 Choi, supra note 97

102 Ibid.

103 See Georgy Toloroya, “A Eurasian Bridge Across North Korea?,”38 North., Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, November 22, 2013.Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

104 “Putin lobbies for ‘Iron Silk Road’ via N. Korea, hopes political problems solved shortly,” Russia Today, November 13, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

105 “China, DPRK meet on developing economic zones in DPRK,”Xinhua,August 14, 2012. Available here. As cited in The National Committee on North Korea,Special Economic Zones in the DPRK, January 14, 2014. Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

106 The zones are the North Pyongan Provincial Amnokgang Economic Development Zone; the Jagang Provincial Manpho Economic Development Zone; the Jagang Provincial Wiwon Industrial Development Zone; the North Hwanghae Provincial Sinphyong Tourist Development Zone; the North Hwanghae Provincial Songrim Export Processing Zone; the Kangwon Provincial Hyondong Industrial Development Zone; the South Hamgyong Provincial Hungnam Industrial Development Zone; the South Hamgyong Provincial Pukchong Agricultural Development Zone; the North Hamgyong Provincial Chongjin Economic Development Zone; the North Hamgyong Provincial Orang Agricultural Development Zone; the North Hamgyong Provincial Onsong Island Tourist Development Zone; the Ryanggang Provincial Hyesan Economic Development Zone; and the Nampho City Waudo Export Processing Zone.See“Provincial Economic Development Zones to Be Set Up in DPRK,”KCNA, November 21, 2013. Available here. As cited in NCNK,supranote 105

107 State Economic Development Committee Promotional Video, as cited by Bradley O. Babson, “North Korea’s Push for Special Enterprise Zones: Fantasy or Opportunity?,” 38 North, Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, December 12, 2013.Retrieved April 10, 2014.

108 SeeNCNK,supranote 105

109 See “DPRK Law on Economic Development Zones Enacted,” KCNA, June 5, 2013. Retrieved on April 10, 2014. As cited in NCNK,supranote 105

110 Yonho Kim, “A Closer Look at the ‘Explosion of Cell Phone Subscribers’ in North Korea,” 38 North, Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, Retrieved on April 10, 2014.

Drones: Obama’s Invisible War

May 5th, 2014 by Dr. Ismail Salami

In the midst of a crisis which has in recent weeks created a political chasm between Russia and the United States, there is an ongoing carnage in the name of combating terrorism against Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The story of the CIA-led killer drones which are killing women and children on a daily basis is a tale accorded inexcusably scant attention in media. Indeed it is being ignored.

Just recently, the US director of national intelligence James Clapper ordered US senators to remove a provision from a major intelligence bill that would require the president to publicize information about drone strikes and their victims.

The bill originally required the president to release a yearly report clarifying the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by drone strikes in the previous year.

Reports clearly indicate the number of drone attacks on Muslim countries has increased tremendously since Barack Obama took office in 2009. Quite ironically, the man who was initially compared to Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize nine months later.

I for one always presumed that George W. Bush was a political retard who thought he was burdened with a messianic mission and that he felt he had to save the world. Quite naturally, the election of a colored president in the US engendered some false hope that there might appear tangible political upheavals in the country in its approach towards the world in general and toward the Muslim world in particular.

To the dismay of many, this dream was however shattered altogether to be ensued by an era of apocalyptic darkness and escalating mass murders in the international arena.  

According to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based public-policy institute, Obama authorized 193 drone strikes in Pakistan alone from 2009 to 2011, that is, over four times the number of attacks that President George W. Bush authorized during his two terms.

To date, the liar-in-chief has only acknowledged that the United States has killed four Americans in drone strikes. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Obama has launched over 390 covert drone strikes in his first five years in office and thousands of civilians have been killed in the strikes.

The drone warfare is indeed a war in disguise, a form of war meant to lull American public who are manifestly fed up with their government’s military interventions on the one hand and to vindicate their gory policies through a mechanism of invisibility on the other.

Contrary to their claims that the drones are only used to wipe out the al-Qaida elements in different parts of the Muslim world, their strikes have however proven to kill civilians. Women and children are unfortunately among the routine victims of their ‘targeted’ assassinations.

 For the US government, war has taken a new shape, ranging from cyberwar to drone strikes, from assassinations to other forms of covert operations.

It is agonizingly sad to see that certain governments including Pakistan and Yemen have been even collaborating with the CIA, providing them with the space for their inhumane intrusion.

A known victim of the assassination drones attacks is Pakistan which had long declined to admit that it had been aware of the attacks and that it had even helped the US government. In 2011, ex-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that his government clandestinely signed off on US drone attacks. It was actually part of a deal by Washington to help retain the Pakistani strongman in power.

A cable sent in August 2008 and later posted online by Wikileaks, then-US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson mentioned a discussion about drones during a meeting that also involved Malik and then-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“Malik suggested we hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation,” Patterson wrote. “The PM brushed aside Rehman’s remarks and said, ‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.’ ”

Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has also confessed that he “personally approves every US drone strike in his country and described the remotely piloted aircraft as a technical marvel that has helped reverse al-Qaeda’s gains.”

Further to that, there are third-party governments which are aiding and abetting Washington in carrying out its massacre of the civilians in Africa by allowing them to use their military sites in the country. According to a report by the German Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the Stuttgart-based supreme command of the United States Africa Command (US Africom) and the Air Operations Center (AOC) at the US air force base in Ramstein, in the state of Rhineland Palatinate, are directly involved in the drone attacks.

 With a morbid mind, former US president George W. Bush, who was incapable of truth, commenced a series of invasions and military expeditions in the Muslim countries, caused inconceivable human losses and left a legacy of horror and bloodshed which came to be followed by his successor Barrack Obama. Then in order to keep up appearances and beguile the American public, Obama who was essentially expected to behave differently took the wars from the battlefields to the towns and exacted an irretrievable toll on the civilians under the banner of fighting terrorism. 

By all standards, Obama is a brazen criminal and those who collude with him in perpetrating these acts of atrocity are no better. All of them are indeed under the watchful eyes of God and they shall meet their dismal reckoning.

As Noam Chomsky once said, “Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism.”

China to help Russia build transport corridor to Crimea

May 5th, 2014 by Global Research News

Chinese companies will soon take part in the construction of a transport corridor to the Crimea through the Kerch Strait.

According to Kommersant newspaper, state-owned China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) may take part in the project, the cost of which reaches $3 billion. Private investment fund China International Fund Ltd (CIF) may participate in the project as well. The latter may participate in the funding. Currently, the Russian Transport Ministry is preparing to sign a memorandum on construction.

Preliminary documentation for the construction should be elaborated by May 30; the financial scheme and construction model will be developed in July. The project may involve major Russian companies: almost all leading players engaged in infrastructure construction confirmed their interest in the project.

American Government Backed Ukrainian Nazis … Same Group Supported By the Leader of the Protests which Toppled the Ukrainian Government In February

Oliver Stone’s documentary Untold History notes:

Truman approved the creation of a guerrilla army code-named “Nightingale” in Ukraine. Originally setup by the Nazis in 1941, it was made up of ultra-nationalists. They would, as Stone describes, wreak havoc on the “famine-wrecked region where Soviet control was loose, carrying out the murder of thousands of Jews, Soviets and Pols, who opposed a separate Ukrainian state.” The CIA would parachute “infiltrators” into the country as well to further “dislodge Soviet control.”

Sounds nuts, right?

But American historian and former Under Secretary of the Air Force  Townsend Hoopes and Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkely confirm:

One group that particularly attracted CIA attention and support was the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a political-military underground movement that had long fought for Ukrainian independence—first against the Poles in the 1920s when Poland controlled the Ukraine and after 1939 against the Soviets. ‘Though violently anti-Russian, the OUN was itself totalitarian and Fascist in character. as well as anti-Semitic. The Nazis poured money into the OUN after the German invasion of Russia and pretended to support the goal of Ukrainian national independence. In return, a large OUN militia, code-named Nachtigall, or Nightingale, provided local administrators, informers, and killers for the German invaders. Nazi-sponsored OUN police and militia formations were involved in “thousands of instances of mass murders of Jews and of families suspected of aiding Red Army partisans.”

***

When the Germans were driven out of the Ukraine, many OUN members who had served the Nazis’ police formations and execution squads fled with them, but several thousand retreated into the Carpathian Mountains to fight another day against the hated Soviet government. It was this remaining Nightingale group that fascinated the CIA and was recruited essentially en bloc. To bring its leaders to the United States for training and indoctrination required special bureaucratic exertions, as well as an immigration law permitting the admission of one hundred such immigrants per year, provided the Director of the CIA, the Attorney General, and the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service all personally stated that the action was vital to national security.” As one army intelligence officer noted sardonically, one wing of the CIA was hunting Ukrainian Nazis to bring them to trial at Nuremberg, while another wing was recruiting them.

***

After training in the United States, the Nightingale leaders were parachuted into the Ukraine to link up with their compatriots and to carry out measures of subversion, agitation, and sabotage, including assassination.

***

[United States Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal] vigorously supported the program and presumably participated in the approval of the basic NSC charters as a member of the National Security Council.

The leader of the Nightingale group was Stepan Bandera.

The leader of the “protests” in February 2014 which ousted the president of Ukraine is a neo Nazi and follower of Stepan Bandera.

In other words, 70 years ago, the U.S. supported the types of fascists who are now in control of Ukraine.

Postscript: Another little known historical fact is that – in 1997 – a former U.S. national security advisor and high-level Obama policy advisor called for the U.S. to take Ukraine away from Russia.

And almost a month before the Ukrainian president was ousted in February, a high-level State Department official – Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Victoria Nuland, wife of arch Neocon Robert Kagan – announced plans to promote a “new government” in Ukraine.

As the fog of war descends, it is important to shout a few main points from the rooftops before they get lost in the details. A coup-appointed junta in Kiev, designed, engineered and controlled from Washington, has begun a massive armed assault on its citizens in the east. This supreme and original war crime, reinforced by the Nuremburg Tribunal, is no longer in doubt.

Nor can there be any more doubt about who is pulling the strings. The illegitimate junta have pulled out all the stops, as their IMF masters demanded they do just the other day. Pointedly–and tellingly–the mafia enforcer organization of western capital issued a statement saying that the crushing austerity agreement–already a death sentence in its own right–might have to be ‘revised’ if the chosen cabal could not control the rebellious and resource rich eastern regions, the grand prize in the whole ‘democracy’ charade.

The junta, using a rump military and their fascist shock troops, has dutifully complied–a shameful and disgusting moment in world history. It is also, however, a moment that I think will be transformative in ways we can’t even yet understand.

i9CStOfi6gcFor a moment, I was afraid that in a fully militarized phase the resistance would be less able to access its chief asset–the people. When war breaks out, soldiers are not forced to confront the humanity of their opponents, and we would no longer see scenes like cordons of ordinary people trying to stop tanks with their bare hands. (However such acts of self-sacrifice are still the case in Eastern Ukraine – watch e.g. this video from Slavyansk dated May 2 where unarmed people tried to stop armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian army – OR).

And a giant middle finger to the “peace” community, the apologists of the war machine, and especially liberals and elements of the first world left who are always the last to see that their purist intellectual detachment is always–*always*–suspiciously close to empire’s agenda, who watch (and cheerlead!) while the US and its proxies slaughter innocents and thwart the will of the people from Afghanistan to Zaporozhye.

The League of Nations (let’s call a spade a spade) is dead. They have exposed themselves as an eager and unabashed tool of western supremacy and apologist for the crimes of empire. They will be discarded along with the other detritus of the old world. UNjust, UNequal, and UNwilling to break the yoke of the western paradigm, I think the organization is much worse than useless. (While lacking effective mechanisms to implement urgent measures in Ukraine due to the irresponsible politically motivated stance of the US and Washington-dominated SC, the UN is still the only international forum providing a platform for the reasonable Russian voice to be heard internationally. We can’t afford just ignore and dismiss this framework. – OR)

I actually think this is the death knell for the UN, along with the IMF/EU/NATO and all the other western organizations who act in concert to try to force billions of people to believe that 2 + 2 = 5. They are the problem, and they have no solutions. As it should be–for as Eduardo Galeano gently reminded us,

“it would be strange if the remedy should come from the United States, the same place which brings us the disease.”

Citizens of Odessa burnt alive at the Trade Unionist hall set on fire by Ukrainian ultra-Nazis on May 2, 2014.Citizens of Odessa burnt alive at the Trade Unionist hall set on fire by Ukrainian ultra-Nazis on May 2, 2014.

Amid the fascist terror campaign now being unleashed by the Kiev junta at the insistence of the west, it is simply astounding that blinding russophobia (bigotry) still lets some people find time to bash Putin while the clear headed among us have our hands full fighting the beast. If you engaged in all that silly and smug smirking over Sochi, you should reflect on your role in this. Fomenting hatred against and demonizing Russia has been a key element of the sleight-of-hand strategy of the empire, softening up colonized minds for a major confrontation with Russia and distracting focus from the true goals and dangers of western adventurism in Ukraine.

It’s an old trick, folks. There is blood on our hands. The Nazi thugs who set fire to the building in Odessa and then blocked the doors to make sure they burned alive were being paid a daily stipend, quite possibly from the $50 million Joe Biden promised a few days prior to shore up Ukraine security forces.

Amid the lies and distortions of a bought-and-sold press and a government propaganda machine, we can still cut through the bullshit and see the hustlers for what they are: pitchmen of a war machine hell bent on selling us more death and destruction. We all have it within us to refuse the pitch. Each of us has the ability to grasp a Michael Corleone moment, in that scene from The Godfather in Havana in 1959, when he knew instinctively that he was right and Hyman Roth was wrong. He was no fan of the revolution, but he saw that it was a bad investment when Castro’s revolutionaries would rather kill themselves than be captured.

The current crisis presents many such opportunities, not the least of which are those stories and images of people stopping tanks with their own bodies. One moment of particular clarity for me came in an absolutely stunning interview by Graham Phillips of a man on the street in Kramatorsk, who condensed what it’s all about in two and a half minutes for the people of East Ukraine. Eloquent, impassioned and clear, it still brings a lump to my throat.

“Furthermore, the Banderites who have now come here and want to impose their ideology on us have given us a precious gift because they have awakened for us in East Ukraine our patriotism, which had been dormant for many years.

“This happened because people had forgotten more or less who they used to be, who they had become. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a kind of depression. People saw this event, the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a kind of natural disaster. The Soviet Union fell apart, and the rain came. People didn’t understand what had happened–they were demoralized, they used to believe in their leaders.

“Now people understand that it is not necessary to believe in leaders. We don’t need to believe in any Yanukovich, we don’t need to believe in a Party of Regions. We need to organize ourselves *by* ourselves–and to remember our own history, remember our own culture. That is our foundation.

“So thank you to all the Banderites who have come into Kiev, and who have made people remember who they are, who they are in the world, and above all *why* they are here on this earth.”

Filter this in among the ludicrous and increasingly obvious slanders about “pro Russian separatists,” “pro Russian Russians” and other ill fitting and deliberately vilifying terms to synch up with the ginned-up Russophobia now polluting virtually all western airwaves. One might consider the similarly bizarre yet more honest term “pro self selves,” or “pro self humans.” Or simply, “People who object to being killed.”

As the helicopters and missiles start flying, you can feel the desperation of a people under attack, as in this more pointed Farewell letter from East Ukraine (source in Russian), from those whose grandparents fought and died to defeat fascism:

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“Each Banderite scum, each rat of the National Guard and other gangs must know this: you came to our land with weapons! You’ve come to kill us in our land! So don’t expect any mercy from us! You will find only grim death! Because you have not yet tasted Slavic-Russian anger! But it will overwhelm you in a severe, violent flame! Do you think we are afraid? We, Russians in the South-East afraid? You are very, very deeply mistaken. And not many of you will be able to understand, as few of you will get to return from the South-East.

“So ask your parents, wives, sisters, from the heart to prepare coffins for their husbands, sons and brothers. Or at least a place in the cemetery, as most of the bodies may be hard to find.

“We have nowhere to retreat and we are Russians, though for a while yet with Ukrainian passports. We are Russians, who never give up! We will defend ourselves to the last bullet, the last grenade, to our last breath! And if we die, we die for the glory of the Russian land! We will never be under the Banderite fascist scum!

Brothers, Slavs, Russians, if we perish, avenge us. Death to fascism!” Date: May 1, 2014

Even more astonishing, beyond geography and cultural ties, an experiment in Western Ukraine is quite eye opening. Ukranian TV in the central western town of Zhytomir sent Maidan activists posing as armed south-eastern rebels to the town center asking for directions. They were apparently quite surprised that local residents willingly helped them – even giving details on how to avoid police checkpoints. Then they stood for a time–armed–by the local police station, and no one paid them any attention. In other words, the mask is off, and the junta is done.

Massive, suppressive violence is the only way for the western puppet junta to maintain power. They will kill a good number of people, but their deaths will be avenged, and the world will be transformed. It is an amazing moment.

A new world is arising right before our eyes, and those who still don’t see it will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Are you ready? Do you hear the people sing? The heroic people of Southeast Ukraine are taking a stand for us all, on behalf of the peoples of the world and against the sick and sorry world the Washington consensus wants to sell us. It is developing and unfolding now, and we can’t quite predict its course. We do, however, have the power to choose whether we want to be on the right side of history.

Daniel Patrick Welch is the American writer, singer, linguist and activist living and writing in Salem, Massachusetts.

To ensure the Internet is open to all on an equal basis we must act now to  prevent mega-corporations from destroying Internet Freedom

Update: Actions every day starting on Wednesday, May 7th, at noon and 5 pm. To Save The Internet, we are building a People’s Firewall against the FCC’s proposed rule that will create a ‘pay to play’ Internet by ending net neutrality. The FCC is located at 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.

If we act NOW, we can ensure a free, open and equal Internet for the 21st Century. On Wednesday, May 15 the FCC will vote on a proposal to end net neutrality and impose class-based Internet discrimination, but we have the power to stop them.

 To ensure the Internet we want, we must take action today; and people need to plan to come to Washington, DC beginning next Wednesday to join in a series of escalating protests that will undermine the legitimacy of the FCC leadership and force them to pay attention to the public interest rather than the interests of mega-corporations.

Already more than a million people have written the FCC in favor of net neutrality and the Commissioners are receiving more than 100 calls per day from citizens. They know the public wants a free, open and equal Internet. Now we have to show them we will revolt if it is taken away from us.

The proposal by Obama appointee, Tom Wheeler , a long-time industry lobbyist and Internet profiteer, will put in place a pay-to-play Internet where the wealthiest will have superior service to the rest of us, where big corporations will have faster websites than independent sites and where free speech is stifled by money. The Internet has become the great democratizer of media where independent and social media have flourished and allowed people to create an alternative to the concentrated corporate media. We will not let Wheeler undermine media democratization and turn most of us into second-class Internet citizens.

This is an issue that affects all of us – Internet news sites like this one and other independent media, advocacy websites, community radio, social media, blogging sites and you, who are reading this article on the Internet.  Democratized communication depends on the Internet being free and open to all on an equal basis.  Wheeler’s proposal will undermine open communication and free speech on the Internet.

The primary driving force for Wheeler’s proposal is profit for a small group of massive monopoly corporations. Corporations like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T see the Internet as a money machine as do Google, Netflix and YouTube, among others. They already make huge profits, profits so large that they can buy domination of government. We need to act NOW to put the public interest first and prevent the plutocrats from invading our Internet commons where we have been free to communicate and create.

The FCC is being Driven off Track

When President Obama ran for office, his position was the opposite of what is now being proposed by the FCC Chairman. In April 2008 during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama took the side of the people saying:

“The most important thing we can probably do is to preserve the diversity that’s emerging through the Internet…something called net neutrality. I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.”

The New Yorker, in “Good-Bye Net Neutrality, Hello Discrimination,” points out how at a 2008 Iowa forum Obama explained:

“What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites … And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

Obama was right when he campaigned, but he has made the FCC into an illegitimate plutocratic agency that is doing the opposite of what he promised. In essence, he campaigned telling the people what they wanted to hear, but as the President, he has governed for the mega-corporations.

Every current member of the FCC was appointed by Obama and confirmed by the Democratic Party controlled senate.  This is Obama’s FCC.

When President Obama appointed Thomas Wheeler as the Chair of the FCC, it was a signal that his administration was taking the free and open Internet into a tiered Internet that favors the wealthy.  Many in the Internet freedom community expressed deep concerns about the appointment but were ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate that confirmed Wheeler.

Wheeler represented the telecom industry in Washington, DC for decades in between stints where he was an investor who profited from the industry.  From 1979 to 1984, Wheeler headed the National Cable Television Association, now the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.  He worked in the telecom industry for 8 years where he became a millionaire, followed by taking over as head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association in 1992 until 2005.

Wheeler went on to become a major Obama fundraiser and bundler in 2008 and 2012.  His biography page on the FCC says: “He is the only person to be selected to both the Cable Television Hall of Fame and The Wireless Hall of Fame, a fact, as President Obama joked, that made him ‘The Bo Jackson of Telecom.’” Appointing Wheeler was akin to putting the industry in charge of the future of the Internet. His recent proposal is exactly what the industry wants; and exactly what the people oppose.

The problems at the FCC run deeper than Wheeler; the agency is littered with industry lawyers, executives and lobbyists who have gone through the “pernicious corruption of the revolving door” as  Lee Fang describes in VICE. Fang writes:

“The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality.”

Fang describes people who worked for Comcast, TDS Telecom, Verizon, AT&T, industry groups like the Wireless Association (CTIA), the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the U.S. Telecom Association have been recently hired at the FCC.  The executives, lawyers and lobbyists from these Internet corporations and associations have worked against net neutrality for years and now inside the Obama-FCC.  The fox is definitely guarding the hen house. The people need to expose these foxes and delegitimize any action they take.

President Obama and the Democratic Party-controlled Senate which confirmed Wheeler and all the FCC Commissioners are to blame for the direction of the FCC.  Polls show Obama’s popularity sinking and increased likelihood of the Democrats losing the Senate. If Wheeler’s proposal becomes law, it will be the death knell for Democratic hopes of keeping their Senate majority and also result in big losses in the House of Representatives.  Obama’s legacy will include being the President who destroyed the free, open and equal Internet. Unless the Democrats join with the people and act now to stop the FCC, people will stay home or vote against them in the Fall. Obama could call Wheeler today and change the direction the FCC is going.

What Should Be Done?

John Nichols writes in the Nation:

“A free and open Internet is essential to modern democracy. But that freedom and openness will be maintained only if Americans use their great democratic voice to demand it.”

It is up to us to prevent the further corporatization of the Internet and to keep it free, equal and open to all. It will take more than our voices, it will taking our bodies stopping the machine of corporatocracy. What are our demands?

1.       Reject the proposal. This is the Obama FCC. Obama appointed three Democrats and two Republicans to the Commission, as required by law. The political apparatus of the Democratic Party needs to demand this proposal be rejected.

2.      Reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service that can be regulated in the public interest. Under President Bush the Internet was redefined as an “information service” limiting the FCC’s ability to regulate in the public interest. This decision needs to be reversed so the FCC can properly regulate the Internet. Wheeler opposes this but said in response to opposition to his proposal that reclassification is on the table.

3.      Put in place net neutrality regulations. The Commission should act consistently with President Obama’s campaign position – net neutrality. Acting opposite of what the people voted for undermines the democratic legitimacy of government on the critical issue Internet freedom.

Beyond these initial steps we need to do more to protect the Internet in the long-run.  Robert McChesney tells The Real News that the Internet is controlled by a cartel: “We basically have three enormous companies–Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T–and a few other quasi-enormous companies that have more or less divvied up the market for internet service…” The result is the United States, formerly a leader in the Internet, now provides expensive, poor service to Americans:

“By setting up this cartel, what we have in America today is Americans pay much more to get cell phone service, much more to get wireline broadband than people do in most other countries, and we get a much lower service. It’s one of the cruel ironies that here we are in the United States, the country that invented the Internet, the country that in 1999 or 2000 was light years ahead of most places in the world. We were at the top of the list in the quality of Internet service and the percent of the population that was online. And we’ve fallen now, so that depending on the ranking, we rank between 15 and 30, sometimes 35 or 40, on rankings from what you pay, the speed, the quality of the service. And it’s not an accident. This is what happened when very powerful corporations own the government, when they basically have the regulators in their pocket.”

This cartel needs to be broken up; a handful of mega-corporations should not control the communications of hundreds of millions of people. The New York Times editorial board wrote recently that these monoply-corporations exist in large part because of public support, “the viability of those networks are based on decades of public investments in the Internet, the companies’ use of public rights of way and, in the case of some companies, a long government-sanctioned monopoly over telephone service.” They need to be required to act in the public interest first.

By reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service, the FCC will be able to regulate it in the public interest.  We would like to take it farther and make the Internet a public service by law. Taxpayers developed the technology that has become central to communication in 2014.  By allowing corporate domination of this public utility, we are giving them power to minimize our Freedom of Speech in the Internet age.

Chris Ziegler writing for the Verge hones in on this:

“The government is too afraid to say it, but the internet is a utility. The data that flows to your home is just like water and electricity: it’s not a luxury or an option in 2014. The FCC’s original Open Internet rules failed precisely because it was too timid to say that out loud and instead erected rules on a sketchy legal sinkhole that was destined to fail.”

In fact there are community broadband networks already that treat the Internet as a public utility rather than a private profit center. This approach puts the public interest first and recognizes the Internet as a public good.

MuniNetworks has a map showing progress being made toward the Internet as a public utility that includes nearly 400 communities:

-         89 communities with a publicly owned FTTH network reaching most or all of the community.

-         74 communities with a publicly owned cable network reaching most or all of the community.

-         Over 180 communities with some publicly owned fiber service available to parts of the community.

-         Over 40 communities in 13 states with a publicly owned network offering at least 1 Gigabit services

There is a growing movement to municipalize ownership over the things that are public goods such as energy, water and the Internet. This needs to be made into national Internet policy.

Now Is the Time                            

 Josh Levy a campaign director at Free Press writes that this is the time to launch the biggest campaign the FCC has ever seen. He describes how the Internet has become central to our lives:

“. . . the Internet is an amazing thing. It’s a crucial driver of free speech, innovation, education, economic growth, creativity and so much more. We wake up with it in the morning. We’re on it all day long. And it’s the last place we go before we finally say good night.”

Now that we know the FCC Chair is doing the work of his Internet industry colleagues, the people have to step up and become a firewall against the virus Wheeler wants to release that will threaten to infect the Internet with corporatism and the wealth-based discrimination that it creates.

People are activated, sending hundreds of thousands of emails and petitions and making thousands of phone calls to the FCC.  We’ve begun to see elected officials criticizing Wheeler’s proposal. The media, like The New York Times, is opposing the proposal. The Times wrote: “The Internet has been a boon to the economy and to free speech because it is not divided into tiers and is open to everybody in the same way.”

We have to keep building the opposition to an escalating crescendo for the Commission’s May 15 vote.  This is a defining moment for communication and Freedom of Speech in the 21st Century. It is up to each of us – reading this on the Internet right now – to get involved.  As long-time Internet freedom advocate Harold Feld wrote:

“There’s a lesson here. YOU CAN’T OUTSOURCE CITIZENSHIP. You can’t let ‘the tech companies’ or even ‘the consumer advocates’ or anyone speak for you. Citizenship carries responsibilities that go beyond the ritual of voting every two years. But when citizens wake up and speak up, and speak to each other, they find — to their surprise — they are strong. They find they have power.’”

 We have the power to create the Internet we want for the 21st Century. Let’s embrace our power. This is our opportunity.

 If you want to get involved in escalating actions in Washington, DC beginning Wednesday, May 7th contact us at [email protected].

This article is produced by Popular Resistance in conjunction with AlterNet.  It is a weekly review of the activities of the resistance movement. Sign up for the daily news digest of Popular Resistance, here.

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

Two days ago a mob, supported by the fascists Right Sektor, killed over 30 federalist Ukrainians in Odessa by pushing them from their camp into a building and then setting fire to it. Those who escaped the massacre, not the perpetrators, were rounded up by police. Today pro-federalism people besieged the police headquarter in Odessa until the police released those it had earlier arrested.

 In the east some military and National Guard units under government control were in sporadic fights with federalists but right now the government forces seem to be again in retreat. There were attacks on private bank outlets in the east because the owner of the bank, a well known oligarch, is suspected of financing the fascist Right Sektor paramilitaries.

The U.S. plan for Ukraine seems to be to bait Russia into an occupation. This would destroy EU-Russia relations, embolden NATO and help the U.S. to keep the EU as a secondary partner under its control. There would be lots of economic upsides for the U.S. in such a situation. Selling more arms and increasing energy market shares are only the starters.

There are two reasons to believe that this plan will fail:

First: Russia will not take the bait. The people requesting more local autonomy in Ukraine are perfectly able to take a stand on their own. Should a few die, like in Odessa, even more will rise up. Except for the Right Sektor people now included in the National Guard there are no loyal troops for the Kiev coup government to use against the people. The huge mistake the coup government made, repeating a U.S. mistake made in Iraq, was to dissolve the federal riot police Berkut. Those now unemployed trained fighters, together with experienced former Soviet soldiers, are the military backbone of the federalists. There is therefore no need for Russia to openly intervene. The Kiev coup government is already a dying entity.

Second: Many people in Europe have recognized the nefarious U.S. scheme and are protesting against their politicians’ slavishness in following the U.S. lead. The political pressure against Russia bashing is building. Every pro-NATO/anti-Russian report in the media, and there are lots of them, gets trashed in the comment sections. Some of the European elite are openly turning against the U.S. induced anti-Russia propaganda. Even the most staunch transatlantic tabloid in Germany, Bild, today reports (original here) that the CIA and FBI with dozens of agents are running the show in Kiev. The report is based on “German security sources” which lets me believe that the German government is looking for ways to counter Washington’s moves. The German Foreign Minister Steinmeier just called (in German) for a second Geneva conference to solve the situation.

Without Russian intervention and without German support the U.S. campaign against Russia is unlikely to reach its secondary target of isolating Russia. The primary target, Sevastopol harbor in Crimea, was already lost when Russia reunified with the island.

What is left to do then for Washington is to create more chaos in Ukraine and to hope that somehow out of total chaos some new chance may arise to stick it to Russia. For lack of real direction that strategy is also unlikely to succeed.

Copyright Moon of Alabama 2014

Venezuela y el derecho a manifestarse

May 4th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

Los medios informativos occidentales presentan la decisión del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de someter el derecho a manifestarse a la obtención de una autorización previa como un atentado contra las libertades individuales. Ahora bien, este principio está vigente en la mayoría de las democracias occidentales.

Solicitado por uno de los cinco municipios de Caracas, el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia se pronunció el 24 de abril de 2014 sobre el derecho a manifestarse. Según la más alta entidad judicial del país, “los ciudadanos y ciudadanas tienen derecho a manifestarse pacíficamente y sin armas, sin otros requisitos que los que establezca la ley […]. Resulta obligatorio para las organizaciones políticas así como para todos los ciudadanos, agotar el procedimiento administrativo de autorización ante la primera autoridad civil de la jurisdicción correspondiente, para poder ejercer cabalmente su derecho constitucional a la manifestación pacífica”. 1

En efecto, el país se encuentra golpeado por más dos meses de violencias orquestadas por la oposición. El balance es grave: 41 personas perdieron la vida, entre ellas 5 miembros de la Guardia Nacional y un Fiscal de la República, 700 personas resultaron heridas y los daños materiales superan los 10.000 millones de dólares. 2

Los medios informativos occidentales se han hecho portavoces de la derecha venezolana y han denunciado una decisión liberticida. Así, según Associated Press, que cita a la oposición, Venezuela se encuentra ahora “en un estado de excepción permanente y [los ciudadanos sólo podrán] ejercer el derecho a la manifestación cuando lo permita el Estado”. Según la agencia estadounidense, la decisión del Tribunal “destruye los derechos humanos” 3  y constituye “el último intento del gobierno de amordazar a la disidencia”. 4 Para el diario español El País, “el Supremo venezolano limita el derecho a la protesta” y atenta contra los “los derechos ciudadanos y las libertades democráticas”. 5 Para Agence France Presse, “este fallo es contrario a los principios democráticos”. 6 En cuanto al diario Le Monde, esta decisión tiene como objetivo “limitar el derecho a manifestarse”. 7

No obstante, la prensa occidental se olvida de recordar que en la mayoría de los países democráticos, conseguir una autorización de las autoridades para cualquier manifestación es la norma general. Así, en Francia, ninguna manifestación puede tener lugar sin la autorización clara de la prefectura de policía. Por ejemplo, la Prefectura de Policía de París exige que la petición de autorización se haga “al menos un mes antes de la fecha de la manifestación”. 8 Además, “este plazo será de tres meses como mínimo si el evento proyectado agrupará a mucha gente”.

Por otra parte, “cada petición debe comportar toda la información útil sobre el organizador (persona física o moral) y sobre la manifestación (naturaleza, fecha, lugar, horario, número de participantes…)”. Los organizadores tienen la obligación de “suscribir una póliza de seguros que garantice en el plano de la responsabilidad civil todos los riesgos relativos a la manifestación proyectada (participantes, público y obras públicas). La póliza de seguros debe comportar la garantía máxima […] calculada en función del evento asegurado, respecto a los siguientes riesgos: daños corporales, materiales e inmateriales”.

En Francia, los organizadores de manifestaciones son penalmente responsables de todos los daños que pueda causar el evento. La Prefectura de Policía insiste en este punto: “El organizador debe asumir la tarea de la seguridad general en el sitio dedicado a la manifestación. En caso de daños por imprudencia o negligencia, la responsabilidad civil, incluso penal, del organizador puede evocarse sobre la base de los artículos 1382 y siguientes del Código Civil y de los artículos121-1, 121-2, 223-1 y 223-2 del Código Penal”. 9

Así, la Prefectura de Policía de París rechaza decenas de peticiones todas las semanas. Recuerda las principales razones: “no respetar el plazo para hacer la petición; marcha susceptible de causar problemas de seguridad, de orden público o de tránsito; rechazo del organizador a aceptar las obligaciones o prescripciones que presenta la Prefectura de Policía; opinión desfavorable de la alcaldía de París o de un servicio consultado; incompatibilidad entre la marcha prevista y el lugar escogido; organizador que no respetó sus obligaciones en una petición anterior o que ignoró las prescripciones de la Prefectura de París, etc.”. 10

Lejos de ser liberticida, la decisión del tribunal Supremo de Justicia se asemeja a lo que existe en la mayoría de las democracias occidentales. Así, vistos los últimos acontecimientos violentos ocurridos durante las protestas, la oposición venezolana no tendría absolutamente ninguna posibilidad de conseguir una autorización para manifestarse en la Patria de los Derechos Humanos que es Francia.

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.

Contacto: [email protected][email protected]
Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

1. Jorge Rueda, “Prohíben manifestaciones sin permisos en Venezuela”, Associated Press, 25 de abril de 2014.
2. Salim Lamrani, “Se a oposição venezuelana fosse francesa”, Opera Mundi, 11 de abril de 2014.
3. Jorge Rueda, “Prohíben manifestaciones sin permisos en Venezuela”, op. cit.
4. Jorge Rueda, “Protestan en Venezuela contra plan educativo y restricciones a manifestaciones”, Associated Press, 26 de abril de 2014.
5. Alfredo Meza, “El Supremo venezolano limita el derecho a la protesta”, El País, 25 de abril de 2014.
6. Agence France Presse, “Protestan en Venezuela contra plan educativo y restricciones a manifestaciones”, 26 de abril de 2014.
7. Le Monde, “Venezuela : l’opposition dans la rue contre une réforme de l’éducation”, 27 de abril de 2014.
8. Préfecture de Police de Paris, “Manifestation sur la voie publique ou sur tout espace ouvert au public”, Ministère de l’Intérieur. (sitio consultado el 28 de abril de 2014).
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.

Venezuela e o direito a se manifestar

May 4th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

Os meios de comunicação ocidentais apresentam a decisão do Supremo Tribunal de Justiça da Venezuela, de submeter o direito a se manifestar à obtenção de uma autorização prévia, como um atentado contra as liberdades individuais. Esse princípio está vigente na maioria das democracias ocidentais.

Solicitado por um dos cinco municípios de Caracas, o Supremo Tribunal de Justiça se pronunciou em 24 de abril de 2014 sobre o direito a se manifestar. Segundo a mais alta entidade judicial do país, “os cidadãos e cidadãs têm direito a se manifestar pacificamente e sem armas, sem outros requisitos senão os estabelecidos na lei […]. Torna-se obrigatório para as organizações políticas, assim como para todos os cidadãos, realizar o procedimento administrativo de autorização diante da primeira autoridade civil da jurisdição correspondente, para poder exercer cabalmente seu direito constitucional à manifestação pacífica”. 1

Efe (14/04/2014)

Manifestação opositora em Caracas. Na maioria dos países, conseguir uma autorização para fazer qualquer protesto é regra geral

De fato, o país foi atingido por mais de dois meses de violência orquestrada pela oposição. O balanço é grave: 41 pessoas perderam a vida – entre elas, cinco membros da Guarda Nacional e um Procurador da República –, 700 pessoas ficaram feridas e os danos materiais superam os 10 bilhões dólares. 2
Os meios de comunicação ocidentais se tornaram porta-vozes da direita venezuelana e denunciaram uma decisão liberticida. Assim, segundo a Associated Press, que cita a oposição, a Venezuela se encontra agora “em um estado de exceção permanente e [os cidadãos apenas poderão] exercer o direito à manifestação quando o Estado permitir”. Segundo a agência norte-americana, a decisão do Tribunal “destrói os direitos humanos” 3 e se constitui “como última intenção do governo de amordaçar a dissidência”. Para o jornal espanhol El País, “o Supremo venezuelano limita o direito aos protestos” e atenta contra “os direitos cidadãos e as liberdades democráticas”. 5 Para a Agência France Presse, “essa falha é contrária aos princípios democráticos”. 6 Já para o jornal Le Monde, essa decisão tem como objetivo “limitar o direito a se manifestar”. 7

No entanto, a imprensa ocidental se esquece de que, na maioria dos países democráticos, conseguir uma autorização das autoridades para fazer qualquer manifestação é regra geral. Na França, nenhuma manifestação pode acontecer sem a autorização expressa da polícia. Por exemplo, a polícia de Paris exige que a petição de autorização seja entregue “pelo menos um mês antes da data da manifestação”.8 Além disso, “esse prazo será de, no mínimo, três meses se o evento planejado agrupar muita gente”.

Por outro lado, “cada petição deve trazer todas as informações úteis sobre o organizador (pessoa física ou moral) e sobre a manifestação (natureza, data, lugar, horário, número de participantes…)”. Os organizadores têm a obrigação de “assinar uma apólice de seguros que garanta no plano da responsabilidade civil todos os riscos relativos à manifestação planejada (participantes, público e obras públicas). A apólice de seguros deve comportar a garantia máxima […] calculada em função do evento, em relação aos seguintes riscos: danos corporais, materiais e imateriais”.

Na França, os organizadores das manifestações são penalmente responsáveis por todos os danos que o evento possa causar. A polícia insiste neste ponto: “O organizador deve assumir a tarefa da segurança central no local destinado à manifestação. Em caso de danos por imprudência ou negligência, a responsabilidade civil, e inclusive penal, do organizador pode ser evocada com base nos artigos 1382 e seguintes do Código Civil, e dos artigos 121-1, 121-2, 223-1 e 223-2 do Código Penal”. 9

Dessa forma, a polícia de Paris rechaça dezenas de petições todas as semanas. As principais razões: “não respeitar o prazo para entregar a petição; passeata suscetível a causar problemas de segurança, de ordem pública ou de trânsito; recusa do organizador em aceitar as obrigações ou prescrições apresentadas pela polícia; opinião desfavorável da prefeitura de Paris ou de algum serviço consultado; incompatibilidade entre o ato previsto e o local escolhido; organizador que não respeitou suas obrigações em uma petição anterior ou que ignorou as prescrições da prefeitura de Paris”. 10

Longe de ser liberticida, a decisão do Supremo Tribunal de Justiça se assemelha ao que já existe na maioria das democracias ocidentais. E, tendo em vista os últimos acontecimentos violentos ocorridos durante os protestos, a oposição venezuelana não teria absolutamente qualquer possibilidade de conseguir uma autorização para se manifestar na Pátria dos Direitos Humanos que é a França.

Salim Lamrani

Doutor em Estudos Ibéricos e Latino-americanos pela Universidade Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani é professor titular da Universidade de La Reunión e jornalista, especialistas nas relações entre Cuba e Estados Unidos. Seu último livro é intitulado “Cuba: os meios de comunicação e o desafio da imparcialidade” (Paris, Edições Estrella, 2013), com prefácio de Eduardo Galeano.

Contato: [email protected] ; [email protected]
Página no Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

1. Jorge Rueda, “Proíbem manifestações sem permissão na Venezuela”, Associated Press, 25 de abril de 2014.
2. Salim Lamrani, “Se a oposição venezuelana fosse francesa”, Opera Mundi, 11 de abril de 2014.
3. Jorge Rueda, “Proíbem manifestações sem permissão na Venezuela”, op. cit.
4. Jorge Rueda, “Na Venezuela, protesta-se contra o plano educativo e contra restrições a manifestações”, Associated Press, 26 de abril de 2014.
5. Alfredo Meza, “Supremo venezuelano limita o direito a protestar”, El País, 25 de abril de 2014.
6. Agência France Presse, “Na Venezuela, protesta-se contra o plano educativo e contra restrições a manifestações”, 26 de abril de 2014.
7. Le Monde, “Venezuela: a oposição vai às ruas contra uma reforma na educação”, 27 de abril de 2014.
8. Polícia de Paris, “Manifestação em vias públicas ou sobretudo em espaços abertos ao público”, Ministério do Interior. (site consultado el 28 de abril de 2014).
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.

Pocos son los que han leído las dos encíclicas sociales de Papa Jean XXIII, MADRE Y EDUCADORAPAZ EN LA TIERRA. En estas dos encíclicas, recuerda ciertos aciertos hechos por sus predecesores, incluyendo León XIII, Pío XIPío XII. Especialmente en la primera de ellas donde hizo este recordatorio que todavía conserva su relevancia para nuestros tiempos. Aquí están los extractos más importantes.

En el momento donde las presiones de los medios económicos de hoy requieren la reducción de las intervenciones del Estado, particularmente en los sectores sociales, las observaciones formuladas por el Papa León XIII en 1891, mantienen su pertinencia.

20. Por lo que toca al Estado, cuyo fin es proveer al bien común en el orden temporal, no puede en modo alguno permanecer al margen de las actividades económicas de los ciudadanos, sino que, por el contrario, la de intervenir a tiempo, primero, para que aquéllos contribuyan a producir la abundancia de bienes materiales, «cuyo uso es necesario para el ejercicio de la virtud» (Santo Tomás de Aquino, De regimine principum, I, 15), y, segundo, para tutelar los derechos de todos los ciudadanos, sobre todo de los más débiles, cuales son los trabajadores, las mujeres y los niños. (MM20)

Es lo mismo con la deificación de la libre competencia y la ley del mercado que alaban los economistas y empresarios como fuente primera de las libertades individuales y colectivas. El Papa Pio XI en 1931, contradijo esta declaración en su encíclica publicada con motivo del cuadragésimo aniversario de la encíclica del Papa León III.

35. No olvidó, sin embargo, Pío XI que, a lo largo de los cuarenta años transcurridos desde la publicación de la encíclica de León XIII, la realidad de la época había experimentado profundo cambio. Varios hechos lo probaba, entre ellos la libre competencia, la cual, arrastrada por su dinamismo intrínseco, había terminado por casi destruirse y por acumular enorme masa de riquezas y el consiguiente poder económico en manos de unos pocos, «los cuales, la mayoría de las veces, nos son dueños, sino sólo depositarios y administradores de bienes, que manejan al arbitrio de su voluntad» (Ibíd., p.201ss). (MM35)

36. Por tanto, como advierte con acierto el Sumo Pontífice, «la dictadura económica ha suplantado al mercado libre; al deseo de lucro ha sucedido la desenfrenada ambición del poder; la economía toda se ha hecho horriblemente dura, inexorable, cruel» (Ibíd., p.211). De aquí se seguía lógicamente que hasta las funciones públicas se pusieran al servicio de los económicamente poderosos; y de esta manera las riquezas acumuladas tiranizaban en cierto modo a todas las naciones. (MM36)

Aquí, se pone de relieve un principio con gran incidencia en cuanto a las libertades individuales o corporativas en relación con los fundamentos de la verdadera autoridad. Lo que se observa en el párrafo anterior conduce a esta afirmación del papa Pie XI:

38. (…) prohibición absoluta de que en materia económica se establezca como ley suprema el interés individual o de grupo, o la libre competencia ilimitada, o el predominio abusivo de los económicamente poderosos, o el prestigio de la nación, o el afán de dominio, u otros criterios similares. (MM38)

Hay en este último párrafo el absoluto rechazo de cualquier fuerza política y económica que se reivindicará como la autoridad suprema de las actividades e instituciones en el mundo económico. No es poco decir, especialmente en estos tiempos donde las fuerzas del imperio de los Estados Unidos persisten en su afán de dominar el mundo. Sus intereses y la seguridad nacional se colocan por encima de todos los derechos de las personas y pueblos. Sin embargo, en este extracto de la encíclica del Papa Pio XI, se ve este absoluto rechazo de cualquier Imperio.

El Papa Pio XII, por su parte, relativiza el sagrado derecho a la propiedad de los bienes. Durante un discurso radiofónico, en 1941, dijo lo siguiente sobre este derecho a la propiedad:

43. Por lo que se refiere a la primera cuestión, nuestro predecesor enseña que el derecho de todo hombre a usar de los bienes materiales para su decoroso sustento tiene que ser estimado como superior a cualquier otro derecho de contenido económico y, por consiguiente, superior también al derecho de propiedad privada. 
(MM43)

Es en referencia a estos principios que el Papa Juan XXIII, a comienzos de la década de 1960, publica su primera encíclica social, Mater et Magistra, recordando estas referencias básicas, y también refrescando la doctrina social de la Iglesia para los nuevos tiempos.
Como sus predecesores, detecta distorsiones inadmisibles en los sistemas políticos y económicos que caracterizan a las sociedades de los años cincuenta y sesenta.

69. En algunas de estas naciones, sin embargo, frente a la extrema pobreza de la mayoría, la abundancia y el lujo desenfrenado de unos pocos contrastan de manera abierta e insolente con la situación de los necesitados; en otras se grava a la actual generación con cargas excesivas para aumentar la productividad de la economía nacional, de acuerdo con ritmos acelerados que sobrepasan por entero los límites que la justicia y la equidad imponen; finalmente, en otras naciones un elevado tanto por ciento de la renta nacional se gasta en robustecer más de lo justo el prestigio nacional o se destinan presupuestos enormes a la carrera de armamentos (MM69)

74. «La economía nacional —como justamente enseña nuestro predecesor, de feliz memoria Pío XII—, de la misma manera que es fruto de la actividad de los hombres que trabajan unidos en la comunidad del Estado, así también no tiene otro fin que el de asegurar, sin interrupción, las condiciones externas que permitan a cada ciudadano desarrollar plenamente su vida individual. Donde esto se consiga de modo estable, se dirá con verdad que el pueblo es económicamente rico, porque el bienestar general y, por consiguiente, el derecho personal de todos al uso de los bienes terrenos se ajusta por completo a las normas establecidas por Dios Creador» (cf. Acta Apostolicae Sedis 33 (1941) p. 200). (MM 74)

Es una situación que requiere, por parte de la Iglesia, que dé un importante golpazo para combatir esas fallas inadmisibles y restablecer la confianza de las personas y de los pueblos. Él ve positivamente los avances de la socialización a la cual atribuye numerosos beneficios.

61Es indudable que este progreso de las realciones sociales acarrea numerosas ventajas y beneficios. En efecto, permite que se satisfagan mejor muchos derechos de la persona humana, sobre todo los llamados económico-sociales, los cuales atienden fundamentalmente a las exigencias de la vida humana: el cuidado de la salud, una instrucción básica más profunda y extensa, una formación profesional más completa, la vivienda, el trabajo, el descanso conveniente y una honesta recreación. (MM.61)

65. Para dar cima a esta tarea con mayor facilidad, se requiere, sin embargo, que los gobernantes profesen un sano concepto del bien común. Este concepto abarca todo un conjunto de condiciones sociales que permitan a los ciudadanos el desarrollo expedito y pleno de su propia perfección. Juzgamos además necesario que los organismos o cuerpos y las múltiples asociaciones privadas, que integran principalmente este incremento de las relaciones sociales, sean en realidad autónomos y tiendan a sus fines específicos con relaciones de leal colaboración mutua y de subordinación a las exigencias del bien común.

Es igualmente necesario que dichos organismos tengan la forma externa y la sustancia interna de auténticas comunidades, lo cual sólo podrá lograrse cuando sus respectivos miembros sean considerados en ellos como personas y llamados a participar activamente en las tareas comunes. (MM.65)

Con respecto a los sistemas económicos, tiene esta sentencia que no presta a ninguna ambigüedad:

83. De donde se sigue que si el funcionamiento y las estructuras económicas de un sistema productivo ponen en peligro la dignidad humana del trabajador, o debilitan su sentido de responsabilidad, o le impiden la libre expresión de su iniciativa propia, hay que afirmar que este orden económico es injusto, aun en el caso de que, por hipótesis, la riqueza producida en él alcance un alto nivel y se distribuya según criterios de justicia y equidad. (MM.83)
Eso es todo el lugar que ocupan la persona humana y la importancia que se debe dar al sentido de la responsabilidad y de la iniciativa personal.

En su encíclica Pacem in Terris (Paz en la tierra), el Papa Juan XIII da un paso más especificando en que una autoridad civil deba restringirse moralmente y cuando dejar lugar a la objeción de conciencia.

51. El derecho de mandar constituye una exigencia del orden espiritual y dimana de Dios. Por ello, si los gobernantes promulgan una ley o dictan una disposición cualquiera contraria a ese orden espiritual y, por consiguiente, opuesta a la voluntad de Dios, en tal caso ni la ley promulgada ni la disposición dictada pueden obligar en conciencia al ciudadano, ya que es necesario obedecer a Dios antes que a los hombres[34]); más aún, en semejante situación, la propia autoridad se desmorona por completo y se origina una iniquidad espantosa. Así lo enseña Santo Tomás: En cuanto a lo segundo, la ley humana tiene razón de ley sólo en cuanto se ajusta a la recta razón. Y así considerada, es manifiesto que procede de la ley eterna. Pero, en cuanto se aparta de la recta razón, es una ley injusta, y así no tiene carácter de ley, sino más bien de violencia (PT.51)

Muchos dictadores y gobiernos serviles de los intereses del Imperio y de las oligarquías nacionales se encuentran en esta categoría. Las constituciones que les sirven de ley han sido desarrolladas y escritas por ellos mismos para satisfacer ante todo a sus intereses individuales y a grupos dominantes.

78. Sin embargo, no puede aceptarse la doctrina de quienes afirman que la voluntad de cada individuo o de ciertos grupos es la fuente primaria y única de donde brotan los derechos y deberes del ciudadano, proviene la fuerza obligatoria de la constitución política y nace, finalmente, el poder de los gobernantes del Estado para mandar. (PT.52)

La conciencia de los pueblos, cada vez más desarrollada, exige que la ley fundamental, que debe encuadrar las actividades políticas, económicas, sociales del país, sea un reflejo de lo que son como pueblos y cumpla con los valores que llevan. No es por nada que muchos pueblos exigen cada vez más la puesta en marcha de constituyentes para proceder a la redacción de estas constituciones, reflejos de lo que son y quieren.

79. No obstante, estas tendencias de que hemos hablado constituyen también un testimonio indudable de que en nuestro tiempo los hombres van adquiriendo una conciencia cada vez más viva de su propia dignidad y se sienten, por tanto, estimulados a intervenir en la ida pública y a exigir que sus derechos personales e inviolables se defiendan en la constitución política del país. No basta con esto; los hombres exigen hoy, además, que las autoridades se nombren de acuerdo con las normas constitucionales y ejerzan sus funciones dentro de los términos establecidos por las mismas(PT 79)

Un último punto se debe tomar en cuenta. En su encíclica Mater et Magistra, el Papa Juan XXIII justifica el hecho de la nacionalización afirmando, como más allá de la necesaria cooperación entre los poderes públicos y el sector privado, que el Estado y las instituciones de derecho público puedan, además, poseer propiedades de producción. Es en estos términos que está enunciado este principio:

116. Lo que hasta aquí hemos expuesto no excluye, como es obvio, que también el Estado y las demás instituciones públicas posean legítimamente bienes de producción, de modo especial cuanto éstos «llevan consigo tal poder económico, que no es posible dejarlo en manos de personas privadas sin peligro del bien común (MM.116)

EL SOCIALISMO DEL SIGLO XXI

Estamos llegando, aquí, a este famoso socialismo que hace estremecer a los obispos y a las oligarquías católicas de America latina.

Este socialismo no es el producto de una ideología, sino de un movimiento de una sociedad que basa su desarrollo en los valores de justicia, verdad, solidaridad y convierte al Estado en herramienta del pueblo para el Bien común de toda la sociedad. La democracia participativa que se promueve toma forma y crece con la conciencia y la organización de los distintos actores sociales que participan en las decisiones y orientaciones políticas y económicas. Ella es básicamente antiimperialista y anticapitalista, sin estar, por lo tanto, en contra la empresa privada dispuesta a subordinar a sus intereses individuales y mercantiles a los del Bien común de la colectividad.

En el plano económico, el Presidente de Venezuela, en 1998, Hugo Chavez, declaró en febrero de 1999: “Nuestro proyecto no quiere una estatización de la economía, pero no es tampoco neoliberal. Buscamos una vía intermedia, donde la mano invisible del mercado está trabajando con la mano visible del Estado: tanto Estado como sea necesario, y tanto mercado como sea posible.” (19 Richard Gott, Hugo Chávez y la Revolución Bolivariana, Verso, Londres, 2005, p. 175)

Cuando observamos los 15 años del Gobierno Bolivariano actualisando el socialismo del siglo XXI, reconocemos la aplicación de los principios que encontramos en la doctrina social de la Iglesia según lo expresado por el Papa Jean XXIII. Me permito referirles a un artículo que trata de esta projimidad entre este socialismo del siglo XXI y el pensamiento social del Papa Juan XXIII. A ustedes les toca juzgar.

Desafío a todos los opositores de este socialismo que se reclaman de la doctrina social de a Iglesia católica para que digan en que este socialismo va en contra del pensamiento social de la Iglesia tal como lo ha expresado el santo papa Juan XXIII. En él se encuentra tambien lo que inspiro la teologia de liberacion.

La exhortación Evangelii Gaudium del papa Francisco actualiza los puntos mas fundamentales de esa doctrina social des papa Juan XXIII.

Mas que nunca urge que los principales responsables, obispos, cardenales, nuncios apostolicos y otros esten a lo tanto de esta doctrina y actuen en consequencia. Muchos dejan la impresión de ignorarla de completo.

35. Por esto, la convivencia civil sólo puede juzgarse ordenada, fructífera y congruente con la dignidad humana si se funda en la verdad. Es una advertencia del apóstol San Pablo: Despojándoos de la mentira, hable cada uno verdad con su prójimo, pues que todos somos miembros unos de otros[25]. Esto ocurrirá, ciertamente, cuando cada cual reconozca, en la debida forma, los derechos que le son propios y los deberes que tiene para con los demás. Más todavía: una comunidad humana será cual la hemos descrito cuando los ciudadanos,bajo la guía de la justicia, respeten los derechos ajenos y cumplan sus propias obligaciones; cuando estén movidos por el amor de tal manera, que sientan como suyas las necesidades del prójimo y hagan a los demás partícipes de sus bienes, y procuren que en todo el mundo haya un intercambio universal de los valores más excelentes del espíritu humano. Ni basta esto sólo, porque la sociedad humana se va desarrollando conjuntamente con la libertad, es decir, con sistemas que se ajusten a la dignidad del ciudadano, ya que, siendo éste racional por naturaleza, resulta, por lo mismo, responsable de sus acciones. (PT35)

11. Puestos a desarrollar, en primer término, el tema de los derechos del hombre, observamos que éste tiene un derecho a la existencia, a la integridad corporal, a los medios necesarios para un decoroso nivel de vida, cuales son, principalmente, el alimento, el vestido, la vivienda, el descanso, la asistencia médica y, finalmente, los servicios indispensables que a cada uno debe prestar el Estado. De lo cual se sigue que el hombre posee también el derecho a la seguridad personal en caso de enfermedad, invalidez, viudedad, vejez, paro y, por último, cualquier otra eventualidad que le prive, sin culpa suya, de los medios necesarios para su sustento. [PT.11)

Es lo que la Revolución bolivariana, en estos ultimos 15 anos, se dedica a favorecer en funcion de todo el pueblo, empezando por los más pobres y desfavorecidos. Lo mismo sucede en Bolivia y en Ecuador.

Coloco este artículo bajo el patrocinio del Papa San Juan XXIII, en su dia de canocizacion, el 27 de abril 2014.

Oscar Fortin

traductor de la parte texto del autor: Marius Morin

Pisa, la guerra diventa «solidarietà»

May 4th, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

Pisa ha ormai, accanto alla tradizionale festa di San Ranieri, un’altra ricorrenza che sta assumendo carattere quasi religioso: la «Giornata della solidarietà», in memoria del maggiore Nicola Ciardelli della brigata Folgore, ucciso nella guerra in Iraq il 27 aprile 2006 a Nassiriya, decorato con la Croce d’Onore dal presidente Napolitano. Alla giornata, celebratasi ieri per iniziativa del Comune e dell’Associazione Nicola Ciardelli, hanno partecipato oltre 2400 alunni delle scuole dell’infanzia, primarie e medie, condotti attraverso la città a visitare luoghi significativi dei «diritti inviolabili e doveri inderogabili sanciti dalla Costituzione». A partire dal «ripudio della guerra e la difesa della patria», cui mani sapienti hanno aggiunto «e della pace». A significare che le «missioni di pace» sono il necessario complemento degli articoli 11 e 52 e quindi rientrano nei «doveri inderogabili» sanciti dalla Costituzione.

Il sindaco Filippeschi (Pd) l’ha definita «una giornata che parte dalla memoria e si trasforma in momento educativo». Memoria corta: il maggiore Ciardelli faceva parte del 185° Reggimento acquisizione obiettivi (Rao), formato da forze speciali che, infiltrate in territorio straniero, individuano gli obiettivi da colpire. Lo stesso che opera oggi in Afghanistan nell’ambito della «unità speciale e semisegreta Task force Victor», come la definisce la Rivista Italiana Difesa, specificando che gli «insorti» (o presunti tali), una volta individuati, vengono «neutralizzati attraverso il fuoco dei tiratori scelti del Rao o mediante la guida del fuoco aereo dei cacciabombardieri». Questo era il compito svolto in Iraq dal maggiore Ciardelli che, una volta morto, è stato trasformato in icona del «momento educativo».

Il clou della giornata è il lancio dei paracadutisti che scendono sul Ponte di mezzo portando, insieme alla bandiera della Folgore (due ali bianche che lanciano un fulmine giallo-oro), un’altra con scritto «Nicola». Il nome del maggiore Ciardelli – si spiega agli alunni – ucciso mentre, in missione di pace in Iraq, aiutava i bambini. Con tecniche persuasive che rasentano il reato di circonvenzione di incapace, si cerca in tal modo di plasmare le menti di migliaia di minori, istillando l’idea che i militari italiani vengono inviati in terre lontane non per la guerra, ma per la pace e la solidarietà.

A tale operazione hanno partecipato oltre 30 enti e associazioni, tra cui diverse del volontariato, in gran parte inconsapevoli dell’obiettivo centrale della «Giornata della solidarietà». Quello che l’attuale ministro degli esteri Federica Mogherini (Pd) così spiegava alla Camera tre anni fa: «Colmare una apparente, grave e fittizia contrapposizione tra la cultura della difesa e la cultura della pace e della solidarietà». Una contrapposizione che manteniamo ferma, quando si spaccia per «cultura della difesa» la cultura della guerra.

Manlio Dinucci

Appearing at a joint White House press conference Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Barack Obama voiced full backing for the bloody crackdown against pro-federalization protesters in eastern Ukraine, while ratcheting up US threats against Russia.

Even as the scale of bloodletting by the Kiev regime’s troops and its fascist allies in the Right Sector was becoming clear, the American president issued an explicit endorsement of the government’s military attack on the pro-Russian population in the east and south of the country.

Obama stated, “As Ukrainian forces move to restore order in eastern Ukraine, it is obvious to the world that these Russian-backed groups are not peaceful protesters.”

He continued, insisting that “The Ukrainian government has the right and responsibility to uphold law and order within its territory.” The onus fell on Moscow, he claimed, “to use its influence with these paramilitary groups so that they disarm and stop provoking violence.”

As Obama spoke, a fascist mob led by the neo-Nazi Right Sector was carrying out a massacre of pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa, killing dozens. In the east of the country, fully armed troops and Right Sector thugs, backed by armor, artillery and helicopter gunships, attacked centers of the anti-Kiev protests in Slovyansk and other cities, setting the stage for a bloodbath.

Yet Obama praised Kiev for its “remarkable restraint” and placed the full blame for the violence wracking the country on Russia. He made no call for the Ukrainian regime to disarm the fascist paramilitary groups such as the Right Sector that brought it to power and now comprise its shock troops for the assault on the east.

Washington has given the order for this offensive, coming just days after the coup regime in Kiev declared itself “helpless” in the face of the eastern protests, particularly given Moscow’s warning against any use of armed force against Russian-speaking people of the region.

According to Financial Times foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman: “The Ukrainian government’s hesitation up until now may also reflect the conflicting pressures the government is under from its Western allies. The German government in particular has been putting the Kiev authorities under intense pressure not to go on the offensive. This reflects both innate German caution and the fact that four of the OSCE hostages being held by separatists in Slovyansk are Germans. The Americans, by contrast, have been urging the Ukrainians to assert their authority in the east.”

Friday’s Rose Garden press conference was meant to signal US-German unity in the face of the Ukraine crisis, but it was impossible to entirely paper over differences between the two imperialist powers. These emerged most explicitly over the US National Security Agency’s wholesale spying in Germany and internationally, which—as revealed by Edward Snowden—extended to the cell phone of the German chancellor and the communications of officials at every level of the German government.

Obama claimed Washington had taken significant measures to allay European concerns, while insisting on its need to spy on all of its supposed allies. Merkel, who stressed US-German unity in the “war on terror,” discreetly allowed that there remained a “difference of opinion” on surveillance policies and there could be no return to “business as usual.”

While the two heads of state claimed agreement on imposing additional, more punishing “sectoral sanctions” targeting Russian industry unless the government of Vladimir Putin bows to Western demands, neither spelled out the specifics of such measures, and there was a significant difference in the tone each adopted.

Merkel, expressing the interests of German big business, which reaps substantial profits off of its investment and trade with Russia, insisted that her government did not want stiffer sanctions, though it was prepared to impose them, and preferred a diplomatic solution.

Obama voiced no such qualms. He expressed the determination to “impose costs on Russia” and declared Washington’s “unwavering Article 5 commitment” under the NATO alliance to defend any member state coming under military attack. This invocation came as the Pentagon continued to stage provocative deployments of US paratroopers in the former Soviet Baltic republics and Poland.

What are Washington’s aims? It would appear that the US has decided to deliberately escalate tensions with the aim of drawing Russia into an invasion of eastern Ukraine, thereby creating the conditions for roping Western Europe into draconian sanctions and even war.

This strategy underlies the lies and distortions employed by the American president in an attempt to indict Russia as the source of violence in Ukraine. He denounced Putin for thinking that he had the “right to violate the sovereignty of another country, to violate its territorial integrity,” a privilege that Washington reserves for itself, invading, attacking and overthrowing governments from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya, Syria and beyond.

Casting himself as the champion of Ukrainian independence and freedom, Obama insisted that “Ukrainians should be able to make their own decisions.” He denounced the position, which he attributed to Russia that “the Kremlin has veto power over decisions made by a duly elected government in Kiev.”

The only problem here, of course, is that the “duly elected government in Kiev” was overthrown last February in a US-orchestrated, fascist-led coup that installed an unelected ultra-nationalist government in which neo-Nazis from the Right Sector and the Svoboda party hold prominent positions.

In orchestrating the February 22 putsch that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych, Washington and Berlin exercised their own veto over the legally constituted government’s decision to align itself more closely with Russia rather than with the European Union.

In the press conference, Obama ridiculed “Russian propaganda” for “suggestions or implications that somehow Americans are responsible for meddling in Ukraine.” He continued, “Our only interest is for Ukraine to be able to make its own decisions and the last thing we want is disorder and chaos in the center of Europe.”

Does Obama believe that everyone in the world is an idiot? US officials have boasted about American “meddling,” including his “point person” on Ukraine, Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, who has bragged repeatedly about Washington pouring $5 billion into the country to install precisely the kind of regime it brought to power in February.

The same Nuland was recorded last fall in the infamous “fuck the EU” taped phone conversation advising the US ambassador as to who among the Ukrainian opposition leaders should head a new government, dubbing “Yats,” her pet name for Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as its leader. Once the smoke had cleared from the mayhem in Kiev’s Maidan square, it was indeed “Yats” who was proclaimed prime minister.

It should be recalled that in the run-up to the coup, Washington was insisting that Yanukovych had to step down because he had dared to use force against the protesters who had erected barricades in the center of Kiev and seized government buildings. Secretary of State John Kerry declared his “disgust” over the government’s decision to “meet the peaceful protest … with riot police, bulldozers and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity.”

Now the US-backed regime brought to power through armed violence is suppressing protesters who have seized government buildings, employing not bulldozers and batons, but tanks, helicopter gunships and automatic weapons. Washington is fully supporting, and by all appearances directing, the operation. Seldom has the hypocrisy of US imperialist policy been exposed so nakedly and in such short order.

Precisely such a scenario has been repeatedly invoked by Washington as a justification for military intervention in countries thousands of miles from US shores. This includes Libya in February 2011, when Gaddafi’s dispatch of military units to secure the rebellious province of Benghazi and subdue its armed protesters was seized upon as the pretext for launching a US-NATO war to topple his regime.

Now the Obama administration is directing, in the name of “democracy” and “human rights,” a military crackdown against anti-Kiev regime rebels in eastern Ukraine. It feels no need to explain the howling contradictions in its propaganda narrative because it has complete contempt for the democratic will of the American people, who are overwhelmingly opposed to US military provocations against Russia, and because it knows that the corporate-controlled media will continue to function as a state propaganda organ and raise no embarrassing questions.

It appears that the US is intent on drawing Putin into an intervention in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic on Russia’s border, to protect pro-Russian protesters against the violence of the state. This will then be used by Washington to justify an escalation of economic warfare and military deployments against Russia, potentially igniting a nuclear Third World War.

In what can only be described as a massacre, 38 anti-government activists were killed Friday after fascist-led forces set fire to Odessa’s Trade Unions House, which had been sheltering opponents of the US- and European-backed regime in Ukraine.

According to eye-witnesses, those who jumped from the burning building and survived were surrounded and beaten by thugs from the neo-Nazi Right Sector. Video footage shows bloodied and wounded survivors being attacked.

The atrocity underscores both the brutal character of the right-wing government installed in Kiev by the Western powers and the encouragement by the US and its allies of a bloody crackdown by the regime to suppress popular opposition, centered in the mainly Russian-speaking south and east of Ukraine.

As the Odessa outrage occurred, US President Barack Obama, at a joint White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, explicitly endorsed the military offensive being carried out by the unelected Kiev government against protesters occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine.

Despite Western media attempts to cover up what happened in Odessa—with multiple reports stating that “the exact sequence of events is still unclear”—there is no doubt that the killings in the southern port city were instigated by thugs wearing the insignia of the Right Sector, which holds positions in the Kiev regime, along with the like-minded Svoboda party.

The Trade Unions House was set on fire by pro-Kiev elements after they surrounded and set fire to a tent camp of anti-government activists that had stood for several weeks in front of the building on Odessa’s Kulikovo Field Square. The building itself was torched after some of the anti-government protesters barricaded themselves inside it.

As the building was engulfed in flames, photos posted on Twitter showed people hanging out of windows and sitting on windowsills of several floors, possibly preparing to jump. Other images showed pro-regime elements celebrating the inferno. Some jeered on Twitter that “Colorado beetles are being roasted up in Odessa,” using a derogatory term for pro-Russian activists wearing St. George’s ribbons.

Thirty of the victims were found on the floors of the building, having apparently suffocated from smoke inhalation. Eight more died after jumping out of windows to escape the blaze, according to local police. Ukraine authorities said a total of 43 people died in Odessa Friday and 174 others sustained injuries, with 25 still in a critical condition.

The violence started as around 1,500 supporters of the Kiev authorities, who recently arrived in the city, gathered at Sobornaya Square in central Odessa. Armed with chains and bats and carrying shields, they marched through the city, chanting “Glory to Ukraine,” “Death to enemies” and “Knife the Moskals [derogatory for Russians].”

Odessa has been among the southeast Ukrainian cities swept by protests since the February coup. At the end of March, thousands rallied in the city, challenging the legitimacy of the coup-imposed government and demanding an autonomy referendum.

The Odessa massacre is the largest death toll so far since the Ukrainian regime, at the urging of the Obama administration, renewed its full-scale military assault on anti-government protests and occupations.

Earlier Friday, interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said many separatists had been killed in a government offensive in Slavyansk. Kiev officials said troops overran rebel checkpoints surrounding the city of 130,000 people in an operation launched before dawn, adding that the city was now “tightly encircled.”

Despite the use of helicopter gunships, the assault stalled, however, because of local resistance. By early afternoon, the Ukrainian troops were halted in the villages of Bylbasovka and Andreyevka, where residents flocked to their lines to argue with them and urge them not to fight.

In Andreyevka, about 200 people formed a human chain to stop armoured personnel carriers and trucks. In Bylbasovka, residents chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” In the nearby town of Kramatorsk, people blocked roads with trolley cars and buses in an attempt to prevent the army from entering.

At his press conference with Merkel, Obama seized on reports that two Ukrainian helicopters had been struck by ground fire. He cited unconfirmed allegations by the Ukrainian intelligence agency SBU that one was hit by a heat-seeking missile as proof that Russian forces were involved. By the evening, however, even the New York Times admitted that no evidence had been produced of heat-seeking missiles.

Along with Obama’s incendiary claim, his backing for Kiev’s military onslaught points to a drive by the US and its European partners to create civil war conditions and goad Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration into intervening, in order to provide the pretext for crippling economic sanctions and a NATO confrontation with Russia.

Washington pushed for the renewed offensive just days after the Kiev regime appeared to back away from an all-out military assault, saying it was “helpless” to stop the occupations of buildings, which have spread to at least 17 cities and towns.

Putin sought to forestall the US-led push by signing a so-called peace agreement with the US, the European Union and Ukraine two weeks ago, which provided for ending the building occupations and halting plans for a military crackdown. This pact has been swept aside by Kiev and its backers. Putin’s spokesman yesterday said the “punitive operation” mounted by Ukraine had destroyed the agreement.

Russia called another emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday to denounce Ukraine’s actions. Moscow’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the military operation continued, only to be denounced by his US counterpart, Samantha Power, who called the attack “proportionate and reasonable.”

Power, who made a name for herself by championing US military interventions in Libya and elsewhere in the name of “human rights” and the “protection of civilians,” declared that Russia’s concern about escalating instability was “cynical and disingenuous.” In keeping with US government propaganda since the beginning of the crisis, she baldly asserted that Russia was the cause of the instability.

It was Washington and its allies, particularly the German government that orchestrated the ultra-nationalist February putsch in Kiev and then exploited the reaction of Moscow, and Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population, to accuse Russia of threatening Ukraine.

Having poured some $5 billion into the country to install the Kiev regime via violent paramilitary operations, it is now accusing Russia, without producing any serious evidence, of doing the very same thing.

Ukraine’s initial military assault last month began after CIA Director John Brennan surreptitiously visited Kiev. A second push followed a visit by US Vice President Joseph Biden.

There is evidence of ongoing US involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said English-speaking foreigners had been seen among the Ukrainian forces mounting the assault on Slavyansk on Friday, echoing its previous charges that Greystone, a US military contractor, is working alongside the Ukrainian military.

In part, the US operation seems directed at preventing an autonomy referendum planned by anti-Kiev opponents on May 11. In addition, a Ukrainian presidential election, scheduled for May 25, is seen by the Western powers as a means of lending legitimacy to the coup government in Kiev. The most widely-promoted presidential candidate, billionaire oligarch Petro Poroshenko, advocates NATO membership for Ukraine and the subordination of the country to the dictates of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

But with the Kiev regime failing to suppress the opposition, Washington appears intent on provoking a confrontation and then accusing Russia of preventing the presidential poll from proceeding. Meanwhile, on the pretext of training exercises, US troops are being deployed in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as Poland, bringing NATO forces right up to Russia’s borders.

Dozens of people died in flames in Odessa, when radicals set ablaze the local House of Trade Unions with anti-government protesters blocked inside. The city is now in mourning for those who died, suffocated in smoke or had to jump out of windows.What triggered the tragedy were violent clashes, which erupted on Friday afternoon between two rival rallies in Ukraine’s port-city of Odessa.http://rt.com/news/156592-odessa-activists-burnt-alive/

Around 1,500 supporters of the Kiev authorities, accompanied by aggressive fans of the local football club, Chernomorets, tried to march through the center of the city chanting “Glory to Ukraine,” “Death to enemies,” “Knife the Moskals [derogatory for Russians].” Some of the people in the group were wearing ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement insignia, were armed with chains and bats and carried shields.

Several hundred anti-government activists eventually confronted the procession. Fighting broke out as a result, with members of the rival groups throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and smoke grenades at each other and at police. The pavements were spattered with blood.

 

The police failed to draw the rival groups apart. As a result, 4 people were killed and 37 wounded in the violence. Police were among the injured.

 

This still grabbed on TV images released by INTER, shows a man covering the bloodied body of a man with an Ukrainian flag during a demonstration on May 2, 2014 in Odessa. (AFP/Inter)

This still grabbed on TV images released by INTER, shows a man covering the bloodied body of a man with an Ukrainian flag during a demonstration on May 2, 2014 in Odessa. (AFP/Inter)

 

Ukrainian police help an injured colleague during clashes between pro-Russian activists and supporters of the Kiev government in the streets of Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

Ukrainian police help an injured colleague during clashes between pro-Russian activists and supporters of the Kiev government in the streets of Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

Street clashes appeared to be only the beginning of the Odessa Friday nightmare, as radicals started to drive anti-government activists back to their tent camp in front of the local House of Trade Unions. Many anti-Kiev protesters eventually hid inside the building.

 

Women and children were hiding in the Trade Union’s building,” an eye-witness told RT. “First the armed men set fire to tents, then they started throwing Molotov cocktails and grenades at the building. We heard shots fired and saw smoke,” she added.

The first floor of the Trade Unions building was soon engulfed in flames. The people inside appeared to be trapped.

 

Dozens eventually burnt alive or suffocated to death. To escape the fire and smoke, people were hanging out of windows and sitting on windowsills. In sheer desperation, some of them eventually jumped to the ground.

 

 

People wait to be rescued on the second storey's ledge during a fire at the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

People wait to be rescued on the second storey’s ledge during a fire at the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

 

People wait to be rescued on upper storeys at the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

People wait to be rescued on upper storeys at the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

Many of those who managed to escape the fire were then brutally beaten by armed men, believed to be from the ultra-nationalist Right Sector group, who had the building under siege.

As people were dying in the burning building, some of the pro-Kiev activists jeered on Twitter that “Colorado beetles are being roasted up in Odessa,” using a derogatory term for pro-Russian activists wearing St. George’s ribbons.

 

Video stills from ustream channel opposition-ru

Video stills from ustream channel opposition-ru

About 50 people got to the roof of the burning building and waited for help there. RT managed to speak to one of them, after they were later rescued by police.

We were hiding there [on the roof] from this angry mob, which forced us inside this building and threw Molotov cocktails and stones at us,” he said. “People were burned alive inside the building, they couldn’t get out. We couldn’t go down, we were seeing people from other floors being brought down and then those rioters down there attacked them like a pack of wolves. We were escorted from the roof and from the building. We had to step over dead bodies when we were descending the stairs.

 

A total of 46 people died in Odessa’s violence on Friday and almost 200 others sustained injuries, Odessa Region prosecutor Igor Borshulyak told journalists on Saturday.

39 of the dead lost their lives in the fire at the Odessa Trade Unions House, according to the Ukrainian emergencies agency, which released a statement saying that “31 of the dead were found inside the building, eight more were found outside by law enforcement officers.”

 

A protester walks past a burning tent camp and a fire in the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

A protester walks past a burning tent camp and a fire in the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

Odessa announced on Saturday a three-day mourning for the victims of the tragedy.

Later, Ukraine’s acting President Aleksandr Turchinov signed a decree signaling two days of national mourning for those who died in the special military operation in eastern Ukraine and in mass clashes in Odessa.

Residents of Odessa have since Saturday morning been laying flowers outside the burnt out Trade Union building.

Russians have been bringing candles to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow to commemorate the dead in Odessa.

 

People watch as firefighters work at the burned Trade Union building late on May 2, 2014 in Odessa. (AFP Photo)

People watch as firefighters work at the burned Trade Union building late on May 2, 2014 in Odessa. (AFP Photo)

US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the US is interested in Africa’s natural resources. Kerry said that the US and the continent of Africa are “Natural Partners” because of its abundant resources and their “know-how for economic development”.

The Associated Press reported what Kerry said to members of the Addis Ababa diplomatic corps and the Young Africa leader network following his visit to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. He said:

Africa has the natural resources, capacity and the know-how for economic development, Kerry said, adding that the U.S. is the continent’s “natural partner.” He said that over the next three years, 37 of the 54 African nations will hold national elections with millions of voters going to the polls. And he called on Africans to combat the political corruption that the African Union says has cost the people of Africa tens of billions of dollars

The report said that

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted crises in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic and urged Africans to demand stability and financial development.”

Well obviously it does not include a handful of dictatorships Washington has supported over the years including Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea in West Africa. He is also known as “the country’s God” according to a report conducted by BBC in 2003. The state-controlled radio program had announced to the public that “He can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell because it is God himself, with whom he is in permanent contact, and who gives him this strength,” a presidential aide announced on the show” according to the report. Obiang is a staunch US ally and Africa’s longest ruling dictator since 1979 after he executed his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema. Obiang was actually trained in Spain under the fascist leadership of Francisco Franco. Equatorial Guinea’s oil exports and corruption has made the Obiang family one of the wealthiest families on the African continent. In 2008, the US Department of State’s own human rights report stated the following concerning Equatorial Guinea:

limited ability of citizens to change their government; increased reports of unlawful killings by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention; harassment and deportation of foreign residents with limited due process; judicial corruption and lack of due process; restrictions on the right to privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press; restrictions on the rights of assembly, association, and movement; government corruption; violence and discrimination against women; suspected trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic minorities; and restrictions on labor rights

Equatorial Guinea is an example. It has natural resources and a government that is friendly to Washington and its corporate interests. The speech made by Kerry mentioned countries that lacked security and democratic values for its people as he said that the US was “ready to help increase its ties with Africa, but nations across the continent need to take stronger steps to ensure security and democracy for its people”. He did not mention Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Rwanda or Ethiopia. All are whom supported by Washington. “And he called on Africans to combat the political corruption that the African Union says has cost the people of Africa tens of billions of dollars” According to the AP report. Kerry also said

“That money could build new schools and hospitals, new roads and bridges, new pipes and power lines. That’s why it’s a responsibility for citizens in Africa and in all nations to demand that public money is providing services for all, not lining the pockets of a few”

Just like President Teodoro Obiang. It is no secret that Africa has an enormous amount of resources including oil, copper, gold and silver. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is expanding its presence in Africa to counter not only China, but Brazil, India and Russia. According to a document published by AFRICOM during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with General David M. Rodriquez on March 6th 2014, confirmed Washington’s strategy concerning Africa:

Africa is increasingly important for our European allies, who are directly affected by the rising economic and political influence of some African countries, as well as the symptoms of instability emanating from other countries. Many European Allies view Africa as the source of their greatest external security threats, including terrorism, illegal immigration, human smuggling and trafficking, and drugs and arms trafficking. Our support to allies in addressing mutual security challenges in Africa may influence their willingness and ability to help shoulder the burden in future conflicts in other areas in the world. The African continents energy and strategic mineral reserves are also of growing significance to China, India, and other countries in the broader Indian Ocean basin. Africa’s increasing importance to allies and emerging powers, including China, India and Brazil, provides opportunities to reinforce U.S. security objectives in other regions through our engagement on the continent. While most African countries prefer to partner with the United States across all sectors, many will partner with any country that can increase their security and prosperity. We should be deliberate in determining where we leave gaps others may fill

Africa is Washington’s next colonial project. Expanding AFRICOM and more drone bases will be the norm. Will Africa’s leadership allow Washington and it European partners (who colonized Africa for centuries) to dominate their continent? That is a hard question to answer, especially when leaders such as Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang who became wealthy at the expense of his people.

The recent destabilization campaign waged by the right-wing opposition has yet again made Venezuela a darling of the international media.

While there is always a deafening media silence when the Bolivarian government wins an electoral mandate, throughout the month of February 2014 viewers were assailed with images of “innocent” student protesters – mostly from the academic bastion of the Venezuelan elite, the Central University of Venezuela – being brutalized by state security forces.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announces new initiatives to address current economic problems, arguing that population’s universal welfare is a key aim behind policymaking.

Apparently the axe that has chopped budgets for investigative journalism has fallen heavily on Venezuela. Mainstream media outlets re-broadcast images from Twitter without bothering to fact-check, not realizing that they were actually from places like Egypt and Syria or that they depicted Venezuelan state security forces that had been disbanded two years ago. The February traumas were almost another “media coup” in the making.

The mainstream media’s attempts to manufacture consent and condone the opposition-sponsored violence against the Maduro government should ring alarm bells for anyone on the left. While we can have legitimate debates about how anti-capitalist the Bolivarian revolution has truly been, since Hugo Chávez took office in 1999 “the process” (as it is known in Venezuela) has achieved the greatest redistribution of social wealth since the Cuban Revolution in 1959. As well, “twenty-first century socialism” should be distinguished from earlier historical versions because of its commitment to democratic forms of decision-making. By fostering forms of democratic control over the economy through systems such as workers’ collectives and community councils, Venezuela is experimenting with what may be the most radical attempts to decentralize decision-making to the local level.

Twenty-First Century Socialism

For these reasons, socialists ranging from Karachi, Pakistan to Toronto, Canada have demanded that imperialist powers keep their “hands off Venezuela.” Not only does Venezuela give us much to learn from this creative experiment with “twenty-first century socialism,” but it also continues to play a crucial role in Latin America and the rest of the world – opening spaces for the election of left governments and inspiring extra-parliamentary movements that demand radical social change.

However, it is important to recognize that as with any socialist experiment, it has been riddled with contradictions and tensions. Nonetheless, the Bolivarian revolution is worth defending because of its importance to the region and its worth in its own right.

This is not the first time that the Venezuelan opposition has used extra-parliamentary and parliamentary tactics to try to force a “regime change.” In April 2002 Chávez was deposed for 48 hours in a U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat, only to be restored to office by loyal members of the Presidential guard who were inspired by the hundreds of thousands of citizens who poured on to the streets of Caracas and demanded the return of their President.

The second extra-parliamentary attempt occurred a few months later from December 2002-January 2003 when the opposition-controlled oil company Petroleum of Venezuela organized a “strike,” shutting down production in an act of economic sabotage. In response, workers who identified with the Bolivarian revolution took matters in their own hands, taking over oil refineries and distribution centres, delivering domestic gasoline which eventually inspired the movement for worker-controlled factories.

Having failed with these tactics, in August 2004 the opposition resorted to parliamentary methods. Right-wing forces under the umbrella organization Súmate (funded by U.S. aid money) organized a referendum campaign to recall the president. Again, they lost as 58 per cent of voters cast ballots in favour of Chávez. Fed up with playing by the rules, in 2005 the opposition parties refused to participate in the presidential elections, allowing the Bolivarian forces to sweep the parliament, and then complaining that Venezuela was a “dictatorship” due to one-party rule.

Emboldened by the overwhelming show of support from the Venezuelan people, at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005, Chávez declared for the first time that he was a “socialist,” having realized that social democracy would never achieve social justice or overturn the highly unequal structures of capitalism.

Chávez’s Declaration

The February 2014 insurrection is yet another extra-parliamentary attempt by the opposition forces to topple the government. They aim to capitalize on a perceived moment of weakness in the Bolivarian revolution largely due to the death of Hugo Chávez.

Widely recognized to be an incredibly charismatic leader, he was often described as the “glue” that held the revolution together. Chávez’s charisma was undeniable. He had a wicked sense of humour; something he displayed weekly on his television talk show, Aló Presidente (Hello President). Not only was he smart and funny, but incredibly charming; often serenading the audience with traditional folk songs, or sharing his reflections on socialism, economic theory and love. (Who amongst us, I ask, would be able to stomach seeing Stephen Harper’s mug on TV every week. What a dreadful thought!)

While Chávez’s personal charisma undoubtedly played a role in “the process,” it also did little to change the political culture of the Latin American strongman and the widespread belief of Venezuela as a “magical state” in which the president had powers to transform oil into cars, constitutions, housing, etc. The socialists left of Chavismo whom Jeff Webber and I have interviewed over the past five years suggest that such hero worship is a problem. As Juan Contreras, a militant from one of the most revolutionary barrios of Caracas, once put it in an interview in 2012 (about seven months before Chávez died), “Chávez’s charisma is at once a strength and a weakness for the movement. When he got sick recently, there was a power gap, no one talked about ‘revolution,’ we were all paralyzed. Like any mortal, Chávez could die any day. Anything could happen to him; he could choke on a fish bone. This is why we need a collective leadership (‘direccióncolectiva’).”

February Traumas

After winning his fourth presidential mandate by a wide margin in October 2012, Chávez succumbed to a battle with cancer in early March 2013. On April 4, 2013, Chávez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and one Chávez’s must trusted advisers, won the presidential elections, this time only winning by a narrow margin of 1.7 per cent over the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles (compared with Chávez’s more decisive mandate of 11 per cent).

Sensing a withering of the Chavista forces, the opposition waited for a moment of “crisis” to organize protests against the government. Due to the hoarding of basic goods by opposition-owned and controlled distribution chains, Venezuela has been experiencing shortages of basic food products such as flour and cooking oil, and other essential goods such as toilet paper for months. While the situation might seem trivial, these shortages do wear down the people’s patience, particularly in a country that has grown accustomed to periods of material and consumerist abundance due to its vast oil wealth.

Stoked by main opposition leaders, the first protests were organized on “Youth Day” in early February 2014. Blockades were erected throughout eastern Caracas – the wealthy part of the capital city – but then spread into other wealthy neighbourhoods across the country. While the international media has reported on a government-sponsored “campaign of terror,” in reality the rich have barricaded themselves in their own neighbourhoods, facing off with the state security forces in nightly contests.

The poor, who overwhelmingly support the government, have been notably absent. Indeed, life has been more-or-less normal in the western part of Caracas. It is amazing how a few strategically placed cameras can give the outside world the impression that there is general mayhem.

And the poor, who are most affected by economic issues such as inflation and shortages, and who are the least to blame, do not have domestic servants to wait in line for goods and cannot afford to hoard supplies. Most tragically, a majority of the people who have lost their lives in the period of unrest have been innocent bystanders or government-supporters, including three motorcyclists (a method of transportation that is almost exclusively used by the poor) who were beheaded by invisible razor wires erected by opposition protesters.

While there are some real economic problems in Venezuela that affect the rich and the poor alike, as economist Mark Weisbrot reports from the front lines of Caracas, this is a revolt of the well-off, not a terror campaign by the government.

What is Going to Happen Next?

The government has called for “dialogue” with the opposition. Thus far, hard-line opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma (former opposition Mayor of Caracas) and Maria Corina Machado (a congress representative), who have openly called for violence in the streets, have boycotted any dialogue. Only the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, who ran against Chávez and Maduro in the past year’s presidential races, attended initial talks. Throughout this period, Capriles had been hoping to cast himself as the middle-of-the-road “good guy,” less radical than his colleagues who basically foam at the mouth when they speak about the Bolivarian Revolution. Other opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopez (the former Mayor of a wealthy area of Caracas and leader of opposition party Popular Will) and Daniel Ceballos (Mayor of San Cristobal) are currently in prison for supporting or encouraging the violence.

While the right-wing opposition has a unity of purpose – to seize state power so that they can once again channel wealth toward their cronies and restore a more brutal form of capitalism – the squabbles that are emerging in the wake of their defeat could divide them; at least temporarily.

The dialogue thus far has also exposed the corrupt practices, such as hoarding, of the Venezuelan opposition. As Chris Gilbert recently reported, some products “magically” appeared on shelves just a few days after the kingpin of Venezuela’s largest food and beverage chain Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, decided to join the dialogue organized by the Maduro government.

Other events that have developed include: two opposition mayors who failed to follow a Supreme Court ruling to remove the barricades have been arrested for their insubordination; the head of the National Guard was replaced immediately when some officers failed to obey government orders not to suppress the protesters; and there is a warrant out for the arrest of the officers that fired the shots that claimed the life of at least one opposition supporter.

In terms of the economic situation, in mid-February, Venezuela announced a new exchange rate system that seeks to undercut the black market in dollars, which was wreaking havoc on the value of the currency and fueling inflation. Gilbert argues that while it is too early to draw any conclusions, the reform is “off to a good start,” and that it has already stabilized the rate of inflation which means that the value of peoples’ salaries will not erode as quickly – a problem that weighs most heavily on the poor.

While the dialogue within the upper echelons of the state may bring more peace to the wealthy districts of Caracas, their importance for the rest of the process should not be over-emphasized. Whatever pacts may be signed between the opposition capitalists and the ruling government may bring toilet paper back to the shelves but they will have little bearing on the lives of the average Venezuelan. As long-time observer of Venezuelan politics, Steve Ellner correctly observed,

“the final outcome of the process of transformation in Venezuela will be determined not so much by those on top, but rather by the rank and file of the PSUV and allied parties and social movements in a variety of venues including, to a great extent, the streets.” •

Susan Spronk is a member of the Socialist Project in Ottawa and has been a community organizer and a trade union activist for over 20 years. Also see “February Traumas,” Bullet No. 942.

The US-NATO sponsored Kiev coalition government is responsible for the killings perpetrated by Neo-Nazi Right Sector mobs and security forces in Odessa in which at least 43 people were killed. 

In Odessa, Right Sector thugs set fire to the city’s Trade Union building leading to countless deaths of innocent civilians who were burnt alive within the building which had been set ablaze.

“Such actions are reminiscent of the crimes of the Nazis,” said Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin.

The “international community” has turned a blind eye, the Western media has described the Neo-Nazi Brown shirts as “freedom fighters”. In the words of Eric Sommers:

May 2, 2014 -  the date that fascist forces supported by the U.S. government attacked and murdered helpless civilians in the Ukraine – is a day which will live in infamy”. 

In recent developments, Obama has granted full support to the crackdown on so-called “pro-Russian” activists. This movement against America’s fascist regime in Kiev is widespread. It is not limited to “ethnic Russians” as conveyed by the media. The leaders of this movement are Ukrainians.

The Neo-Nazi mobs bear the hallmarks of  US sponsored terrorism (e.g Syria) trained to commit atrocities against civilians.  America’s Neo-Nazi Government in Kiev is a reality. Confirmed by Germany’s Bild: “Dozens of specialists from the US Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation are advising the Ukrainian government”

“Citing unnamed German security sources, Bild am Sonntag said the CIA and FBI agents were helping Kiev end the rebellion in the east of Ukraine and set up a functioning security structure.”

Escalation

The killings of civilians in Eastern and South Eastern Ukraine by Neo-Nazi mobs and members of the civilian militia opens up the possibility of a broader conflict within Ukraine, which could potentially lead to escalation. Moreover, prevailing divisions within Ukraine’s  armed forces could lead to military action directed towards unseating the Kiev Neo-Nazi regime. 

Known and documented, escalation is part of a longstanding scenario of military confrontation directed against the Russian Federation.

Protesters look at a fire in the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

Trade Unions building set ablaze by Right Sector thugs (Reuters)

“The Anti-Terrorist Operation”

The killings are part of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” initiated by the Kiev government with the support of the Pentagon.

The “anti-terrorist operation” is coordinated by the National Security and National Defense Committee (RNBOU). (Рада національної безпеки і оборони України), which is controlled by Svoboda and Right Sector. Dmytro Yarosh, Neo-Nazi leader of the Right Sector delegation in the parliament, oversees the National Guard, a loyal civilian militia created in March with the support of Western military advisers. Paramilitary training of the National Guard commenced in mid-March, north of Kiev.

While the media has presented the crisis as a confrontation between “pro-Russian” and “Ukrainian nationalists”, the grassroots movement in Eastern Ukraine has widespread support. It is largely directed against the Neo-Nazi Kiev regime supported by the West.

The National Guard

In the wake of the Coup, divisions have emerged within Ukraine’s regular military forces and police, which “can not be trusted” in carrying out an “anti-terrorist operation” on behalf of the Kiev regime directed against civilians:

Concerns over the loyalty of the Ukrainian army and security agencies have pushed Kiev to start forming an additional armed branch, which it will fully control.

The National Guard is designed to be 60,000-strong and completely independent from the country’s military and police.

Recruitment across Ukraine began on March 13, with around 20,000 people already joining the new uniformed service. RT

In eastern Ukraine, the National Guard has been given the mandate to “reinforce regular military units defending against a feared Russian invasion… it it is intended to act as a counterinsurgency force.”

Members of this civilian militia operating alongside Neo-Nazi mobs have been set loose in Eastern Ukraine and Odessa.

Right Sector can be identified by its members openly wearing Nazi insignia, as well as carrying crimson and black banners. Mobs supporting the Svoboda party are also present among recent clashes, wearing yellow armbands with the Nazi wolfangel symbol upon them. Odessa Massacre Pushes Ukraine to the Edge. Towards a Larger Destructive Conflict? By Tony Cartalucci, May 03, 2014

The actions of the National Guard are coordinated by the RNBOU. In turn, the riot police and units of the armed forces are also overseen by RBOU, which is controlled by the two Neo-Nazi parties.

These killings of civilians are part of a carefully planned military agenda involving both the National Guard as well organized armed Neo-Nazi mobs, casually described by the media as pro-Ukrainian activists. These are the foot soldiers of the Western military alliance.  The Odessa killings bear the fingerprints of a US-NATO led intelligence operation, with both National Guard and Right Sector militants trained in paramilitary combat skills including the killings of innocent civilians.

Ironically, the Israeli media, while largely supporting the Kiev regime, has tacitly acknowledged that the threat of civil war emanates from the Neo-Nazi elements within the government: “Neo-Nazi Militia Leader Threatens ‘Civil War’” according to Israel National News.

Meanwhile, NATO has scheduled military exercises in Poland “as part of NATO reassurance measures in response to the Ukraine crisis”.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has pointed to an extensive and unprecedented buildup of NATO forces within proximity of Russia’s  borders.

Yesterday – May 2, 2014 -  the date that fascist forces supported by the U.S. government attacked and murdered helpless civilians in the Ukraine – is a day which will live in infamy.

Those of us who grew up in the west after WWII believed that supporting anything resembling fascism was unthinkable.

The moral degeneration of the U.S. state and its Nato allies since that time is almost beyond belief. So too is the degeneration of the Washington Post, New York Times, and other corporate media which have helped to delude large numbers of Americans into believing that Russia, which has killed or attacked no one,  is somehow the aggressor in Ukraine.

In reality, and on the ground, the U.S. government – with no mandate from the American people -  is supporting a fascist/oligarch unelected Ukrainian ‘government’ installed in a coup spear-headed by two openly fascist parties, Svoboda and Right sector.

Now, in actions highly reminiscent of Hitler and his brown shirts, Right-sector oriented hooligans aided by military forces have just beaten with chains and baseball bats, and burned to death in the Trade Unions building of Odessa  31 civilians who were engaged in a peaceful occupation in their own city – civilians who are opposed to, and do not recognize, the new oligarch/fascist ‘government’.

Neo-Nazi thugs at the forefront of Ukrainian protests

 Source: The Red Phoenix

 December 2013

Reuters / Gleb Garanich

Russia Today. Ukrainian Neo-Nazi skinheads

I assume that if, say, the American Nazi party allied with some billionaires, took power in America, at least some Americans would also resist. They might even propose a referendum, as some Eastern Ukrainian cities have, on whether to remain in the country.  If you do not believe that Svoboda and Right sector are fascist, or that they do not now have substantial power in the ministries of the military and security apparatus of the new ‘government’, just look them up, and look at these  photos of their leaders and followers with Nazi-style armbands, Nazi-style flags, and Nazi-style badges, and use of brown-shirt style bully boys, not to mention the leader of Svoboda giving the fascist salute:

The Svoboda leader, Oleh Tiahnybok, whose party now controls key positions in the military and security apparatus of the self-appointed Ukrainian ‘government,  is on record as saying that the WWII Ukrainian fascists who collaborated with the Nazis

“Were not afraid and went into the forest with their automatic rifles to kill Jews, Russian, and other filth’.

He has also called for the ”cleansing’ of Ukraine of ‘Russkie-Yid (jewish) mafia’ and praised the convicted Nazi mass murderer John Demjanjukas a ‘hero’.

Following the surprise attack by the fascist Japanese government on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt began his speech to the American Congress:with these words:

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

After that speech, the American government and people joined with the Soviet Union, China, Britain, Canada, and other nations in the momentous struggle to defeat fascism and its attempt to impose its racist ideology, holocaust, and tyranny on the whole world.  

Yesterday, the day that U.S.-state-supported fascists beat civilians with chains and clubs and burned them to death in a trade union hall in the Ukraine – this also is a day that will live in infamy.

Image: Military PSYOPS in Europe: 1) German Combat Camera Team CCT – Combat Camera is a PSYOPS Center controlled function in Bundeswehr. 2) German and Belgian Tactical Psyops Team patch. 3) German OPINFO Team Kunduz – PSYOPS Team 4) NATO ISAF patch 5) Non Kinetic Working Group Advisory Team – 109th AFGHAN Corps. Non Kinetic Warfare – an interesting term comprising CIMIC, INFO OPS AND PSYOPS 6) Regional Command Public Affairs Office 7) Tactical PSYOPS Team Task Force Northern Lights TPT 6C23 8) NATO INFO OPS ISAF 9) ISAF INFO OPS 10) German IEB – Intercultural Ops Advisor – part of the German OPINFO Center. Image: oefoif.forumotion.net

The United States is working closely with members of the NATO club in Eastern Europe to help the junta in Ukraine better manage its propaganda effort, U.S. News & World Report said on Thursday.

“We are starting some projects together with others, understanding the time factor is of the essence,” Janis Sarts, the state secretary of defense in Latvia, told the news magazine. Asked if the plan includes sending troops and trainers to Ukraine, Sarts said, “Yes. I think that would help.” He added the United States is currently involved in discussions.

The Pentagon, however, refused to comment on any possible mission “that would help Ukrainians to deal with the propaganda that is going on,” as Sarts characterized Russian reportage on the political and military crisis.

NATO, however, is more forthcoming, although it prefers to speak in generalities. “NATO Allies are actively considering ways to further strengthen our long-standing cooperation with Ukraine, including in the area of public diplomacy,” a NATO official said. “Allies are also providing assistance to Ukraine on a bilateral basis.”

NATO’s use of the phrase “public diplomacy” is significant. The term was coined during the Cold War when the United States engaged in a concerted propaganda effort to influence public opinion on the Soviet Union. Public diplomacy is defined as “white propaganda” whereas psychological operations are considered black propaganda. “Bottom line, however, is that propaganda is an instrument of war used by a government, primarily but not exclusively, against a present or possibly future enemy,” writes John Brown.

The former U.S. ambassador to Moscow and current deputy secretary-general of NATO, Alexander Vershbow, confirmed the discussion, but did not provide details. He said “I honestly don’t know” if troops from Western nations would be involved in any PSYOPS effort in Ukraine. Vershbow said there is “nothing that would preclude that, but it could also be done in the home country [of participating nations], in Latvia or any other country that might provide that.” He added there is nothing preventing the United States from providing Ukraine with military assistance.

U.S. News & World Report said in addition to disseminating propaganda inside Ukraine, the United States and NATO need to transmit information to the Russian people.

The CIA and the U.S. State Department have ample experience in propaganda dissemination. CIA director Allen Dulles and investment banker Frank Altschul established the National Committee for a Free Europe in 1949. Its Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty operations broadcast anti-communist propaganda into the Soviet Union. The CIA implementation of surrogate radio stations was a key part of a larger psychological effort during the Cold War.

Paul D. Shinkman writes for U.S. News & World Report, a magazine owned by CFR member and bankster advisor Mortimer Zuckerman:

The need to send a message to its citizens and to Russia alike reflects a cold truth in eastern Ukraine, where many lived through the Cold War and learned to speak the prerequisite Russian. Daily, the message on TV, radio and 21st century sources of information amounts to this: ”The fascists are taking over from Kiev. They really want to come and get us.”

It stems from what experts call an extremely aggressive propaganda campaign on behalf of the Russian government that seeks to rob targeted communities of any news coming out of the West, and replace it with its own version of the facts.

U.S. officials and top leadership at NATO, including Vershbow, say there are no muddling interpretations or shades of gray. Russia is flat out lying to the people it hopes to conquer in a desperate attempt to foment fear and submission.

Ultra-nationalists and fascists undoubtedly play an important role in the Ukrainian regime, including running its security serviceRussian-speaking citizens have been targeted, most notably by legislation following the U.S. State Department fomented coup.

Despite a coordinated effort by the establishment media in the United States to minimize the fascist character of the regime, Russian and other networks have reported on these and other aspects. Russian media has undoubtedly put a spin on coverage. Its contribution to the flow of information, however, has denied the establishment media in the United States the ability to dominate the story and shape it in an effort to enhance its political objectives.

Image: Barack Obama (Wiki Commons).

Amidst new revelations concerning emails that show the Obama administration conspired to create a phony narrative around the Benghazi attacks, the true purpose behind the cover-up is being obfuscated – the fact that an annex near the U.S. embassy was being used by the CIA to transfer surface to air missiles to terrorists in Syria.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today issued a subpoena for Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before the committee on May 21 about Benghazi following the release of emails by Judicial Watch which show that the White House crafted a deceptive policy to falsely frame the attack as a spontaneous protest sparked by a YouTube video in order to protect Barack Obama’s image.

Lost in the haze of claims and counter claims is the real reason why the White House is desperate to prevent the attack from coming under any further scrutiny – because it would likely reveal an arms smuggling scandal that could rival Iran-Contra.

In May last year, Senator Rand Paul was one of the first to speculate that the truth behind Benghazi was linked to an illicit arms smuggling program that saw weapons being trafficked to terrorists in Syria as part of the United States’ proxy war against the Assad regime.

“I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria,” Paul told CNN, adding that he “never….quite understood the cover-up — if it was intentional or incompetence”.

At the same time it emerged that the U.S. State Department had hired an Al-Qaeda offshoot organization, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, to “defend” the Benghazi Mission months before the attack.

Senator Paul was vindicated less than three months later when it emerged that the CIA had been subjecting its operatives to monthly polygraph tests in an effort to keep a lid on details of the arms smuggling operation being leaked.

On August 1, CNN reported that dozens of CIA agents were on the ground in Benghazi during the attack and that the polygraph tests were mandated in order to prevent operatives from talking to Congress or the media about a program that revolved around “secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.”

Although the Obama administration is now openly arming the Syrian rebels, it has been keen to stress that such weaponry has been restricted to so-called “moderate” fighters, despite the fact that it is now widely acknowledged that Al-Qaeda is by far the most potent fighting force in Syria and indeed commands all the other militant groups.

The real truth behind Benghazi is likely to reveal that the Obama administration knowingly and deliberately provided surface to air missiles and other weapons to the most bloodthirsty Al-Qaeda jihadists in Syria who are now busy crucifying Christians while promising to bring their reign of terror to the west.

If a proper investigation into the Benghazi attacks uncovered concrete evidence of this arms smuggling scandal, Obama would face impeachment and many members of his administration would be facing long stretches in prison.

That’s the real reason why the White House is desperate to bury Benghazi.

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Sophisticated US Weapons for Al Qaeda Mercenaries in Syria

May 3rd, 2014 by Global Research News

Syria’s foreign-backed opposition says it is going to ask the United States for “sophisticated” weapons for use by its militants against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday, the so-called Syrian National Coalition said foreign-backed opposition leader Ahmad Jarba was set to travel to the US on Wednesday to seek more weapons.

“Ahmad Jarba will pay an eight-day visit to Washington at the head of a delegation from May 7,” his office said in a statement.

It added that the delegation includes the new chief of staff of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir.

“He will meet US officials to discuss the supply of sophisticated weapons to the FSA to enable it to change the balance on the ground,” read the statement.

Jarba will meet with a number of US officials including US Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, according to the statement.

The announcement came just weeks after the opposition admitted that a “Western source” supplied them with 20 US-made TOW anti-tank missiles, vowing more of them in the future.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Over 150,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by Western-backed militants.

According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

Western headlines have attempted to spin into ambiguity the death of over 30 anti-fascist Ukrainian protesters cornered and burned to death in the Trade Unions House in the southern port city of Odessa. The arson was carried out by Neo-Nazi mobs loyal to the unelected regime now occupying Kiev.

Both the London Guardian and the BBC attempted in their coverage to make the perpetrators and circumstances as ambiguous as possible before revealing paragraphs down that pro-regime mobs had indeed torched the building. And even still, the Western press has attempted to omit the presence of Right Sector, the militant wing of the current regime charged with carrying out political intimidation and violence against Kiev’s opponents.

Odessa, north of pro-Russian Crimea, and far west of where clashes are now taking place in eastern Ukraine, has also been a point of contention between Kiev and Ukrainians who refuse to recognize the unelected regime’s authority.

Right Sector, a Neo-Nazi militant group who spearheaded the so-called “Euromaidan” protests, has been visibly operating in Odessa in recent weeks. It’s primary role has been to attack and intimidate political opponents planning to run in upcoming elections. It was therefore already present an well established in Odessa ahead of the attack on the Trade Unions House resulting in dozens of deaths in a single day, and as part of a wider campaign to put down multiplying unrest erupting across the country.

Right Sector can be identified by its members openly wearing Nazi insignia, as well as carrying crimson and black banners. Mobs supporting the Svoboda party are also present among recent clashes, wearing yellow armbands with the Nazi wolfangel symbol upon them.

For NATO – War or Nothing? 

The clashes in Odessa in the south and Slavyansk in the east, appear to some to be part of an escalating conflict meant to lure neighboring Russia into a direct conflict with the NATO-backed regime in Kiev. While this is possible, a repeat of the 2008 Georgia-South Ossetia War would most likely take place, with superior Russian forces quickly overwhelming Ukrainian troops and leaving Kiev vulnerable to inevitable regime change.

Immensely unpopular and wholly illegitimate, the regime in Kiev stands little chance in any upcoming election. It is also faced with the self-imposed economic ruination of Ukraine, after willfully accepting IMF conditions which include crippling austerity measures that will only further diminish the regime’s support and stability.

With a socioeconomically hobbled Ukraine still reeling from the loss of Crimea, the “Ukraine” the US and EU had invested in through their “Euromaidan” putsch, no longer exists. With anti-fascist, pro-Russian sentiment running high across what remains of Ukraine (and around the world), and an unpopular regime teetering precariously in Kiev, the West appears instead, intent on burning the country rather than leave it a stable and beneficial neighbor for Russia. 

World Affairs Journal has recently lamented in an article titled, “Beyond Crimea: What Vladimir Putin Really Wants,” that:

Ukraine is lost. At least lost as many of us had once imagined it—as a potential member of the European Union and, perhaps one day, of NATO.

This sentiment has been repeated across NATO’s corporate-funded think-tank, the Atlantic Council which recently hosted its “Europe Whole and Free” forum – where the expansion of both the European Union and NATO were the focus. The disruption of this expansion, and perhaps even the threat of its reversal appears to weigh foremost on the minds of Western policy makers.

Creating a disaster along Russia’s borders in Ukraine, while attempting to make progress elsewhere, and thus alleviating itself from the promises it made the regime in Kiev upon its accession to power to “rebuild” Ukraine’s troubled economy, appears to be the current agenda.

Responsibility to Protect? 

The United States had used the “responsibility to protect” doctrine as cover for regime change in Libya, and attempted regime change in Syria. All the while it was fabricating atrocities to sway public opinion, it was in reality fueling sectarian extremists who were in reality carrying out the crimes against humanity the West was accusing Libya and Syria of perpetrating in fiction. This formula has been spun around in Ukraine. 

Now the West is expending resources to cover up atrocities to prevent the “responsibility to protect” from being invoked against them. The massacre in Odessa would have been marked as a turning point by the West for military intervention had it not been their own proxies who carried it out. Instead, the US has claimed, according to the BBC, that ongoing violence carried out by the regime in Kiev is “proportionate and reasonable.”

With the West not only covering up the atrocities being carried out by the regime in Kiev, but in fact aiding and abetting them, the violence will only escalate further. Beyond Odessa, helicopter gunships, armored columns, and special forces have been sent by Kiev into eastern Ukraine and are attempting to overrun and occupy towns and cities that refuse to recognize the unelected regime. This includes the city of Slavyansk where deaths have been reported on both sides and military aircraft have been shot down.

Ukraine is being pushed to the edge of a much larger and destructive conflict that if started, may be difficult to stop. If the West commits to a proxy war and has been able to mobilize enough militants to carry it out, it can leave Ukraine a destabilized failed state Russia may spend years managing. Russia’s attempts to deescalate the conflict have been met only by belligerence from the West. Its patience, and the patience of pro-Russian factions in Ukraine may be the only factor that helps push Ukraine back from that edge.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Looking back,  the whole debacle might have been avoided – if only certain actors had behaved differently.

On February 21st, against the background of the deadly violence of the previous two days in which over 100 people had been killed by sniper fire, the Yanukovych regime and the leadership of the three main political players in the rebellion came to an agreement.

The agreement was accepted by the opposition because, in the circumstances, it made very considerable concessions – including early elections, a full amnesty for all protestors and, critically, a full and open EU-led enquiry into the recent deadly violence. Even the racist, homophobic and ethno-nationalist Svoboda party accepted the terms.

The agreement was brokered by the Polish, German and French governments, and the assumption was that it had the de facto support of the US regime. In subsequent statements, the Russians regularly referred to the agreement as the baseline for any progress in resolving divisions over the Ukraine. It was the only point of agreement between all parties. Well, all parties except one.

The very next day, the far-right ‘political soldiers’ element on the Maidan, buoyed by a growing sense of its own political power, rejected the agreement and launched a series of attacks that led to the craven flight of the Yanukovych leadership and the dubiously legal ‘impeachment’ of Yanukovych by the opposition parties, who then installed an interim government led by the ex-banker Yatsenyuk. The government, critically, contained members from Svoboda, a party that grew out of the former pro-Nazi Social National Party.

There and then, the USA and the EU should have said no to the fascists and required that the Svoboda group be ejected from the regime.

Svoboda is a party that gained 10% of the vote in the 2012 Rada election, less than the Ukrainian Communist Party.

So why was it tolerated in the regime?

The answer is that although it only represents a small section of the Ukraine overall, it represents a much larger section of the Ukrainians who were fighting the Berkut in the street and who overthrew the regime. The physical base of the regime, particularly in the early days, had a considerable ethno-nationalist, far-right element.

The USA/EU had clearly made a calculated decision to turn a blind eye to this element as long as it meant a regime that would finally bring the Ukraine into the Atlanticist bloc.

This was a critical error of judgement that, as will be shown, became a major factor in the Crimean and Donbas rebellion.

Throughout these events, the average consumer of Atlanticist media could have been forgiven for demonstrating complete ignorance of a number of critical facts. These would include the fact that the putsch regime had come to power on the coat tails of a far-right mob and the fact that the regime had placed the former leader of a gang of neo-nazi football hooligans in charge of National Security. But perhaps even more importantly, the average viewer of CNN or the BBC would have been largely ignorant of the fact that there were many millions of Ukrainians who not only played no part in this process, but who in fact had every reason to be strongly opposed to what had happened in what was, at least at that point, still their country too.

This ignorance was understandable, because all the Atlanticist media had really proffered was a montage of events designed to conform to  the typical Atlanticist narrative structure deployed in situations where regime change is in Atlanticist interests. The storyline in these situations is a simple form of civilizational chauvinism  – the victory of ‘western civilisation’, as represented by the USA, EU and NATO, is morally and historically ineluctable. All those who resist are morally bankrupt and will lose. This is what has happened in the Ukraine, and what is inevitable and right must therefore  be for the good.

The problem is – it isn’t true. What happened in the Ukraine was that an Atlanticist backed regime containing far-right elements had come to power on the back of a violent uprising in which far-right elements had played a critical part.  The USA/EU gamble was based on the Putin regime, Russian public opinion, and the pan-Russian and communist/socialist elements in the Ukraine, simply accepting the right of the Nationalist and right wing part of the Ukraine, together with the Atlanticists, to determine all of the Ukraine’s fate.

The gamble failed miserably.

Fast forward to May Day 2014. To the east of Ukraine, Russia has deployed a significant military capability, to the west and the north, NATO has increased its military capability. The Atlanticists have imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and corporations supposedly close to the Putin regime. Russia has experienced significant capital outflow and a drop over the forecast growth for Q1, but is not budging. The Crimea is long gone, and is now part of Russia. It wasn’t even mentioned in the Geneva agreement.

The Donbas is in a state of revolt, with armed rebels occupying strategic locations in over 10 towns and cities, including Donetsk, the industrial hub of the Ukraine – the Donbas region generates close to 30% of Ukraine’s GDP.  There is considerable support for the Donbas rebellion amongst the local security forces, who are offering hardly any opposition. The Ukraine is planning to introduce military conscription, and the Putin regime is threatening that any action against Russian interests, in which it includes action against ethnic Russians in the Donbas, may result in military intervention. In Kiev, Right Sector fascists still occupy public buildings and are still acting out their fascist fantasies in night-time torch-lit parades. Meanwhile, the average Ukrainian of whatever political stripe is facing vicious austerity imposed by IMF ‘conditionalities’.

It is utterly facile to blame Russia for this. If Russia, and the Crimean and Donbas rebels, are to blame for anything, it is refusing to lie down and be dictated to by the Ukrainian nationalists and their Atlanticist backers. Did Nuland, McCain and the other siren voices of one-eyed Atlanticist support for the nationalist rising ever stop to consider how it would play out against Ukraine’s cultural, linguistic and political fault-lines? Did they expect the Crimea – a region that has consistently supported the irredentist cause ever since the 1991 independence of Ukraine – to just accept their new Ukrainian nationalist rulers? Did they expect the left-wing and pan-Russian elements in the south and east of Ukraine to accept a government that included some who identify with the former Galician SS and the Nazi invasion of  the Soviet Union?

The Ukrainian regime and its Atlanticist backers are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to whip up opinion against the Donbas rebels and the Putin regime. This reached an absolute nadir with the obviously fraudulent anti-Semitic ‘registration notice’ episode, which Kerry even saw fit to raise at the Geneva negotiations. Yatsenyuk then went on US television to accuse Putin of wanting to resurrect the Soviet Union (he doesn’t). The Ukrainian government has even accused Putin of wanting to start World War 3 (he doesn’t).  This is the stuff of desperation.

One wonders whether Kerry has actually seen or read any of the banners that currently adorn public buildings throughout the Donbas. Many of them have a common theme – opposition to fascism. Has it not crossed Kerry’s mind that the USA lost all credibility with these elements when, together with the EU, it  supported a regime containing fascists and failed to condemn the continued fascist occupations of public spaces in Kiev?

Does Kerry realise that whereas possibly 100,000 Ukrainians fought with the Germans in WW2, around 2 million fought with the Soviet Union and that, in the Donbas, this is part of a shared historical tradition, ingrained for generations and strongly associated with the pan-Russian identity, that makes the presence of fascists in the Ukrainian putsch regime highly inflammatory.  It seems that the one thing that the Atlanticist bloc cannot face up to is that if you were to ask the rebels and their supporters what it is they are fighting against, they would tell you they are fighting against fascism.

And in the Ukraine the US government and the EU are on the same side as the fascists.

Lionel Reynolds writes the www.dispatchesfromempire.com blog

The IMF’s Board of Directors has just approved a US$ 17 billion loan package to ‘rescue’ Ukraine from dire economic consequences, like a 5% GDP contraction in 2014, predicted by the same gurus of the IMF. This loan is part of a two-year US$ 27 billion package which is supposed to include numerous loans from the EU.

The money, of course, comes with strings attached–raising taxes, freezing minimum wage, cutting pensions (by 50%) and energy subsidies – the usual hardship conditions the world is cowardly and silently witnessing with a downtrodden Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain. For the next steps, tranches two and three, privatization of state enterprises, massive firing of state employees, international contracts for exploitation of natural resources – one of which is Ukraine’s huge agricultural potential – will most certainly follow.

By then Ukraine, will be ripe to do the bidding for NATO. – So thinks the west. That’s their game plan. Fortunately people, societies and history are dynamic not linear. The western leaders with their bought propaganda media have been hoodwinking the populace into believing that the world functions like computer models – which do not include human consciousness that eventually may evolve according to values innate in mankind but have been oppressed by a system of exploitation for greed.

The first tranche of the 17 billion – US$ 3.2 billion is to be disbursed immediately, in other words to the illegitimate Ukrainian interim government – which is an act of financial crime committed by an international financial institution, created under the Charter of the UN – an institution that has long ago seized to respect the rules under which it has been founded, but functions as a mere extended arm of the US Treasury. This institution and the EU are hastening indebting Ukraine – even before the country has a legitimate government, to make it dependent on the abusive western banking system, regardless of what the new government after the 25 May elections will decide.

CNBC  and other western and Asian news outlets quote from an IMF staff report

“Should the central government lose effective control over the east, the program will need to be re-designed.”

In other words:

“Go to war with your pro-Russian Ukrainian brothers, otherwise you won’t get the money!”

The report further says that

If the government loses control of the east, it would further erode the country’s finances and damage Ukraine’s ability to attract investment.”

In other words – You will then need more of our debt-money, but at even harsher conditions.

In other words, the IMF insists, that Kiev takes control of Eastern Ukraine, lest the rescue package will be ‘reconsidered’, or redesigned – or scrapped altogether.

This is pure blackmailing a desperate government, coercing it into a civil war – into sending its troops to fight and kill its compatriots in the east, whose only ‘fault’ is that they want independence from the racist neo-Nazi Washington-supported government of thugs – that came to power after a 5 billion dollar ten-year effort for regime change, instigated by the United States of America.

The IMF now appears to also play the role of a proxy warrior for Washington’s assassin-in-chief. It is almost unbelievable. But in today’s manipulated and brainwashed western population, war becomes peace, because according to the Washington Post “War is brutal, but the alternative is worse.” And “Wars make us safer and richer”. http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-is-peace-it-makes-us-rich-and-safe-or-so-says-the-mainstream-media/5379762

These are the new values promoted by the presstitute mainstream media. – Who is surprised, then, if the IMF now in addition tosuffocating populations with burdens of debt, is coercing them into civil wars, killing themselves.

 If not stopped, it won’t be long before a small military corporate and banking elite will be reigning over a reduced population serving them as serfs.

But there is hope. The BRICS and associates (also called BRICSA) – controlling about a third of the world’s GDP and half of the world’s population– are preparing an alternative monetary system with a new money to be used for international trading and as reserve currency, including a new international payment system that would be totally detached from the dollar dominated sham economy.

This new paradigm for world economy and finance most likely will be welcome and attract many nations which are now in submission and for fear of ‘sanctions’ in the camp of the bully.

But most of them quietly wish for the collapse of the monster – just waiting to break loose when it happens. The world may look forward to emerging from ages of darkness into an era of light, into the prosperity of living in peace and harmony with each other and with Mother Earth.

Peter Koenig is an economist and former World Bank staff. He worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for the Voice of Russia, Global Research and ICH, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe

When Prime Minister David Cameron pulls a stunt, or indeed, announces a “ground breaking” new policy, it is pretty well guaranteed to back fire. Indeed, his coalition government policy U-turns are heading for encyclopedic.(1)

Is he opportunistic, spineless – or a lethal combination of the two? In opposition, to prove his “green credentials” he headed for the Arctic for a photo-op with Huskies, leaping: “aboard a Husky-powered sled to visit a remote Norwegian glacier to see first hand the effects of global warming.” As the (UK) Telegraph put it at the time: “Cameron turns blue to prove green credentials.”(2)

In office, the environment is an inconvenience rather than a concern. Protected historic sites of natural beauty, ancient woodlands and sites of special scientific interest are to be sacrificed to quick-build homes in their thousands and a multi billion £ train line that cuts mere minutes off journeys hours long. Homes are needed, but the country is filled with sturdily built abandoned office blocks, warehouses, large homes, smaller ones, which could be restored, converted, refurbished and landscaped at a fraction of the cost, without destroying the irreplaceable.

Ironically, homes across the country are anyway at threat. Cameron has thrown the country open to fracking with the manic enthusiasm of an alcoholic given the run of a liquor warehouse. Never mind that there have already been a few earthquakes linked to fracking and that the scientific evidence of the massive dangers are ever mounting.

Public and scientific concerns are to be over-ridden to the extent that Cameron is to rule that fracking companies can drill on privately owned land and even under people’s homes, with the land and home owners having no say. Huskies and “green” are a distant memory for the Prime Minister.

Last year Downing Street denied reports that David Cameron ordered aides to “get rid of all the green crap“ in policies. Never believe anything until it has been officially denied”, advised the late, great journalist, Claud Cockburn.

However, Husky stunts long forgotten, his new prop is God. And it is not going too well. Following an Easter reception for Christians at his Downing Street residence (3) he wrote an article in the Church Times (4) in which he argues that: “… faith … compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives … the Christian values  (include) charity, compassion … Christians … are the driving force behind some of the most inspiring social-action projects in our country (playing) a fundamental role in our society. So being confident about our Christianity we should also be ambitious in supporting faith-based organizations to do even more.”

Cameron urged:

“…  supporting local projects. I welcome the efforts of all those who help to feed, clothe … the poorest in our society (inspiring) belief we can get out there and change people’s lives … to improve our society … tackle poverty …”

He also welcomed: “the debate with church leaders” on the issues, especially in the desire: “not to write anyone off” and anticipated seeing: “our churches as partners. If we pull together, we can change the world and make it a better place.” The article was entitled: “My Faith in the Church of England.”

As ever with Cameron words and deeds are a parallel universe. In his rural Oxfordshire constituency, on the day the article was published, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard and the Revd Keith Hebden were absolutely committed to helping “feed, clothe, tackle poverty” and making Britain, their part of the word, “a better place.” Indeed, Revd Hebden had fasted for the forty days and nights of Lent in solidarity with those who find themselves in the direst straights, often as the result of the Cameron led government’s ferocious welfare cuts.

In context, the cuts are cited as being largely responsible for nearly a million people, including over 300,000 children, having been given charity emergency food in the last year, by one charity alone, the Trussel Trust.

Shockingly, at least 4.7 million people living in food poverty in the UK, roughly one in thirteen – yet London has the fifth largest city economy in the world, is the world’s leading financial centre, regarded as a “command centre” for the global economy. (“Economy of London”, Wikipedia.)

The Trust cites the reason for people turning to food banks as the result of impoverishment by the welfare changes, with some recipients having had their only income completely severed. Ironically this by a Prime Minister and Cabinet largely comprised of millionaires and a Parliament whose meals and hefty £400 per head monthly food allowance are subsidized by the taxpayer.

Poverty figures:

“understated the likely level of people going hungry, because they did not include thousands of people helped by non-Trussell food banks and soup kitchens, those who had no access to a food bank, those too ashamed to turn to charity food, or those who were coping by going without food …”

Their figures, state Trussel, were the “tip of the iceberg.”

An astonishing eighty three percent of recipients reported resorting to the food bank because their benefits had been completely cut, with the Trust also: “providing essentials like washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to struggling families.”(5)

So as the Prime Minister’s fine words were published the Bishop of Oxford and the Revd Hebden, walked with parishioners to his constituency office to deliver a letter signed by forty five of the UK’s fifty nine Bishops and six hundred vicars, urging action on food poverty. The office had been courtesy telephoned ahead to expect their visit.

The letter cited, at Easter, a terrible rise in hunger in Britain, and urged society to “begin rising to the challenge of this national crisis.”

They wrote:

“Hope is not an idle force. Hope drives us to act. It drives us to tackle the growing hunger in our midst. It calls on each of us, and government too, to act to make sure that work pays … and that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.”

The parishioners waiting across the road, the Bishop and Revd  Hebden approached to door. Not only was it closed, but the police were called. This, as Keith Hebden pointed out, shortly after Cameron had called on those of faith to be more “evangelical” and said that his concept of a “Big Society” was continuing Jesus’ work. A comment, of angry hundreds, in the Independent wrote: “Jesus could have gone to give the letter in. They would have done the same.” Another: “There is only one word for David Cameron and I can’t type it here.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Oxford, the following day the Prime Minister dug himself in even deeper.

“I wasn’t at the office, but my door is always open to the Bishop of Oxford.” Then: “The British government is leading the world in helping to end world hunger”, thus he had not even bothered to appraise himself that this was about British hunger, directly connected to his government’s policies.

Incidentally Britain has a “leading the world” complex. Successive Ministers and Prime Ministers are always “leading” it in declared scientific breakthroughs, medicine, agriculture, technology, childcare, dog walking, pencil sharpening, cheese grating, emery board development (I made the last few up) you name it. Then the latest pronouncement dies a death, never to be heard of again.

David Cameron’s constituency office, it would seem, has form in calling police on citizens attempting to bring about social improvement. In December 2010, twelve year old Nicky Wishart, who lives in the constituency was hauled out of an English class at school to be interviewed by the police.

Nicky had arranged on facebook, a protest of children of similar age outside Cameron’s office, against the closure of the local youth club, which also across the country were being targeted, in government cut-backs. His school was contacted by anti-terrorist officers.

He told the Guardian that the police officer:

“said even if I didn’t turn up I would be arrested and he also said that if David Cameron was in, his armed officers will be there ‘so if anything out of line happens …’  and then he stopped.”(6)

Three months later, in an address which should have shamed the Prime Minister the twelve year old spoke at a mass rally organized by Trade Union UNISON against the “catastrophic cuts” in youth and other services, including libraries.

He said of the youth club, a social life-line for him and friends:

“ I use it three times a week, which is a lot in a five-day working week. If it’s closed I won’t do anything – sit indoors, or hang around on the streets.

“I also use the local library which is also threatened with closure. I’ve got two younger brothers, one was born last Friday and one who is three, and both of them are never going to have a chance to know what a youth club is like.”

He told the Oxford Times of the Centre for which he had also raised £150 with various initiatives various towards it’s costs: “The youth centre means loads to me. It’s the only thing we have to do in Eynsham.” A twelve year old that should truly shame Cameron, his Cabinet and their shameful cuts.

In January this year, Nicky Wishart, now fifteen, with two friends, Tyler Walker and Ollie Hinchliffe were honoured by the same police force that threatened Nicky for his public spirited action over the youth club.

Sitting on a bench in the local park together, they noticed an elderly man in trouble in a nearby stream. They ran to help, called the emergency services and tried to revive him when he became unconscious. He died later in hospital.

The widow June Gwilliam, 85, called for an Award for the three, who had given help and comfort when it was so needed. They were honoured at a special presentation at police headquarters. David Cameron wrote to congratulate them. Another day, another bandwagon after a disgraceful response to a courageous and public spirited child who knew what conscience was.

Incidentally, the Prime Minister has come up with another cost cutting stunt: charging patients for crutches, walking sticks and neck braces – but he has reportedly personally intervened to keep the price of a gun licence at a mere £50 annually, static since 2001. See the full, mind stretching Cameron priority list at (9.) “Kill not cure” comes to mind.

Charity of any kind is clearly not Cameron’s brand of Christian faith. Oh, and of the barring of the Bishop and his colleague, Cameron told Radio Oxford: “Sorry if there was a misunderstanding, but to be fair to the police and people in the office, we get some interesting characters turning up from time to time.”

When in a hole, Prime Minister, stop digging.

Notes

1. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/28/coalition-u-turn-list-full

2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1516276/Cameron-turns-blue-to-prove-green-credentials.html

3. http://www.globalresearch.ca/tony-blair-george-w-bush-and-david-cameron-hi-jacking-god/5377707

4. http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/17-april/comment/opinion/my-faith-in-the-church-of-england

5. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/16/million-people-britain-food-banks-religious-leaders-faith-groups

6. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/dec/10/schoolboy-quizzed-cameron-office-picket

7.http://www.witneygazette.co.uk/news/national/news/8850063.Boy_voices_fears_over_service_cuts/

8.http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/yourtown/witney/10976402.Teens_honoured_for_trying_to_save_man/?ref=rss

9. http://www.monbiot.com/2014/04/28/the-shooting-party/

Israeli military has established a new missile system in the occupied Golan Heights for supporting militant groups in Syria and prevent Syria’s national army from retaking occupied areas.

According to the Israeli Channel 1 television, ‘security sources’ informed of a new missile system named ‘Mitar’, established in Golan for giving backup coverage to anti-Syria militant groups.

The system includes middle-range and long-range missiles, according to the report.

The Arabic language Rai al-Youm wrote the Israeli regime wants to repeat a scenario in Syria borders, like the one in south Lebanon with Antoine Lahad who is seen by many in Lebanon as a traitor who left country’s border to the Israeli regime during Israel invasion of southern Lebanon.

Lahad became head of South Lebanon Army in 1984. He cooperated with Israeli regime for two decades against the resistance movement which battled against Israeli occupation.

The Israel move comes as Syria’s foreign backed opposition has been mulling ‘selling’ Golan Heights to Israel in return for military aid.

Israel has been one of the greatest supporters of the war in Syria and has been making military provocations along Syrian borders, especially in the Golan.

Secretive Airborne Police Surveillance in California

May 3rd, 2014 by Andrew J. Santos

The revelation concerning a secretive airborne surveillance test in Compton, CA is disturbing. The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department via “Persistent Surveillance Systems”, spied on residents in Compton, CA for nine days in 2012.[1]

Unlike the mirrored pilot program in Lancaster, CA, the citizens of Compton were unaware of this surveillance because the sheriff department and private contractor kept it hidden. The spying was accomplished by utilizing a Cessna mounted with high resolution cameras.

This technology is from Persistent Surveillance Systems which maintained and recorded a live video feed of the entire city of Compton. According to Persistent Surveillance owner Ross McNutt, this surveillance technology is able to capture 10,000 times the area as compared to a standard police helicopter.[2] That feat is impressive, but that is to be expected as this technology was used militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq to look for terrorists.[3]

The characteristics of this technology begs the question:

why is battlefield technology being used on residents of an American city and without their knowledge?

What has been the response from officials following these revelations? In regards to the surveillance in Compton, Sgt. Iketani of the LASD stated,

“a lot of people have a problem with […] Big Brother, so in order to mitigate any of those kinds of complaints, we basically kept it hush-hush”.[4]

Not only is this official response condescending, but it is also a confession to violating Article 1, Section 1 of the California State Constitution.

The audacity of governmental officials to respond in this fashion is a metaphorical slap in the face to every resident in the city of Compton, as well as to every other American. There was an outcry of privacy violations following the confirmation of the NSA’s mass internet surveillance, known as PRISM.[5]

The surveillance of Compton is even more draconian because it goes further than being wiretapped from behind a computer screen. The medium of surveillance can now include aerial surveillance of every movement that an individual makes. This is a strong characteristic of a police-state.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution has been blatantly violated under the veneer of a pilot test. Knowing that we are being wiretapped when we are connected to the internet provoked a great backlash from individuals of all political backgrounds, but where is the outrage now? Compton, CA is treated as if it were a battlefield in the Middle-East. For nine days, residents in the city of Compton experienced a fuller effect of the Patriot Act compared to the rest of America. Why was this covert operation executed in the city of Compton?

Compton has a reputation of being a city of inhabitants who are poor, lacking education, engaging in various forms of crimes, and whom Latinos, Blacks, and Pacific-Islanders make up virtually the entirety of the city. Compton was chosen as a strategic geographical location for aerial reconnaissance because the city serves as a litmus test for a nationwide roll out. This exercise is a means to gauge public response to such technology being used within American cities. Presumably, the city of Compton with its notorious gangster image, as popularized through the Corporate Media, will allow for a soft-launch with minimal critical response. Who wants to defend the Constitutional rights for those who are assumed to be guilty of some crime?

With no doubt, some portion of Americans will be pleased to hear that poor socio-economic cities, such as Compton, are under police surveillance since the majority of their inhabitants must be guilty until proven innocent. They will claim that cities like Compton are full of gang-bangers who commit crimes, leech off of taxpayers, and are not productive; so that in itself is probable cause for privacy invasion.  The negative prejudices against the poor and the ghetto is what the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex is banking on, hoping that public opinion will accept this form of intrusion. The hate that some Americans have for people that live in Compton, and similar cities, is precisely the same hate that some Americans have against Middle Easterners which resulted in over 1 million deaths in the Unconstitutional Iraq War,[6] and the reduction of liberty within the United States. If this pilot test by government and private interests are accepted, then expect to live with this aerial form of data gathering soon.

To conclude, we have on record a private contractor spying on Compton, CA ,as sanctioned by the LASD. This latest example displays the militarization of policing and a step towards Martial Law in the United States of America. This nine day exercise of turning Compton into a police-state is not only an issue of privacy, but one that involves socio-economics and race, as I have just presented. Do not let negative preconceived notions about Compton and its’ inhabitants  prevent you from taking action against this new form of policing.

Notes:

[1] G.W. Schulz and Amanda Pike ,“Hollywood-style surveillance inches closer to reality” April 11,2014 http://cironline.org/reports/hollywood-style-surveillance-technology-inches-closer-reality-6228 

[2] Conor Friedersdorf “Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied On A Whole City” April 21, 2014 http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/04/sheriffs-deputy-compares-drone-surveillance-of-compton-to-big-brother/360954/

[3] PBS Newshour “New police surveillance technology raises privacy concerns” April 28, 2014 http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/daily_videos/new-police-surveillance-technology-raises-privacy-questions/

[4] Angel Jennings, Richard Winton, and James Rainey “After secret air surveillance of Compton, mayor wants protections” April 24, 2014 http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-air-surveillance-compton-mayor-wants-protections-20140424,0,6911829.story#axzz30P4wuZJe

[5] ZDNet Community and Zack Whittaker “PRISM: Here’s how the NSA wiretapped the Internet” June 8, 2013 http://www.zdnet.com/prism-heres-how-the-nsa-wiretapped-the-internet-7000016565/

[6] Luke Baker “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey” Jan 30. 2008 http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130

Andrew J. Santos holds a B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Riverside

Energy Prices Manipulated

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says that JP Morgan has massively manipulated energy markets in  California and the Midwest, obtaining tens of millions of dollars in overpayments from grid operators between September 2010 and June 2011.

Pulitzer prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston notes today that Wall Street is trying to launch Enron 2.0:

The price of electricity would soar under the latest scheme by Wall Street financial engineers to game the electricity markets.

If regulators side with Wall Street — and indications are that they will — expect the cost of electricity to rise from Maine to California as others duplicate this scheme to manipulate the markets, as Enron did on the West Coast 14 years ago, before the electricity-trading company collapsed under allegations of accounting fraud and corruption.

The test case is playing out in New England. Energy Capital Partners, an investment group that uses tax-avoiding offshore investing techniques and has deep ties to Goldman Sachs, paid $650 million last year to acquire three generating plant complexes, including the second largest electric power plant in New England, Brayton Point in Massachusetts.

Five weeks after the deal closed, Energy partners moved to shutter Brayton Point. Why would anyone spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the second largest electric power plant in New England and then quickly take steps to shut it down?

Energy partners says in regulatory filings that the plant is so old and prone to breakdowns that it is not worth operating, raising the question of why such sophisticated energy-industry investors bought it.

The real answer is simple: Under the rules of the electricity markets, the best way to earn huge profits is by reducing the supply of power. That creates a shortage during peak demand periods, such as hot summer evenings and cold winter days, causing prices to rise. Under the rules of the electricity markets, even a tiny shortfall between the available supply of electricity and the demand from customers results in enormous price spikes.

With Brayton Point closed, New England consumers and businesses will spend as much as $2.6 billion more per year for electricity, critics of the deal suggest in documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

That estimate will turn out to be conservative, I expect, based on what Enron traders did to California, Oregon and Washington electricity customers starting in 2000. In California alone the short-term market manipulations cost each resident more than $1,300, a total burden of about $45 billion.

***

Public Citizen characterized the Energy partners explanation for the shutdown as absurd:

In the world of business, a firm announcing that an asset purchased just 5 weeks ago is actually uneconomical to operate would be called incompetent, and such a firm would have difficulty attracting capital and staying in business. But the managing partners of Energy Capital Partners are a highly sophisticated all-star crew of former Wall Street financiers: four of the five managing partners are Goldman Sachs veterans, and the firm’s vice-presidents and principals are alumni of JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Credit Suisse and other financial powerhouses. These are not your run-of-the-mill owners and operators of power plants. They are Wall Streeters highly motivated to exploit the intricacies of power markets to make as much money as possible for their Cayman Islands-based affiliates.

The record is clear that artificially reducing supply to jack up prices was the plan of Energy partners from the get-go. The strategy is obvious from auction records, as explained by Robert Clark of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 464.

“Almost immediately after acquiring ownership of the Brayton Point Power Station late last year,” Clark said, “[Energy partners] intentionally withheld all of Brayton Point’s capacity from [auction] for the purpose of reducing capacity supply and intentionally raising the market prices” that Energy partners and its competitors could charge for other New England generating capacity they already owned.

 

As shown below, Wall Street has manipulated virtually every other market as well – both in the financial sector and the real economy – and broken virtually every law on the books.

Interest Rates Are Manipulated

Bloomberg reported in January:

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc was ordered to pay $50 million by a federal judge in Connecticut over claims that it rigged the London interbank offered rate.

RBS Securities Japan Ltd. in April pleaded guilty to wire frauda s part of a settlement of more than $600 million with U.S and U.K. regulators over Libor manipulation, according to court filings. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in New Haventoday sentenced the Tokyo-based unit of RBS, Britain’s biggest publicly owned lender, to pay the agreed-upon fine, according to a Justice Department Justice Department.

Global investigations into banks’ attempts to manipulate the benchmarks for profit have led to fines and settlements for lenders including RBS, Barclays Plc, UBS AG and Rabobank Groep.

RBS was among six companies fined a record 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) by the European Union last month for rigging interest rates linked to Libor. The combined fines for manipulating yen Libor and Euribor, the benchmark money-market rate for the euro, are the largest-ever EU cartel penalties.

Global fines for rate-rigging have reached $6 billion since June 2012 as authorities around the world probe whether traders worked together to fix Libor, meant to reflect the interest rate at which banks lend to each other, to benefit their own trading positions.

To put the Libor interest rate scandal in perspective:

  • Even though RBS and a handful of other banks have been fined for interest rate manipulation, Libor is still being manipulated. No wonder … the fines are pocket change – the cost of doing business – for the big banks

Indeed, the experts say that big banks will keep manipulating markets unless and until their executives are thrown in jail for fraud.

Why? Because the system is rigged to allow the big banks to commit continuous and massive fraud, and then to pay small fines as the “cost of doing business”. As Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted years ago:

“The system is set so that even if you’re caught, the penalty is just a small number relative to what you walk home with.

The fine is just a cost of doing business. It’s like a parking fine. Sometimes you make a decision to park knowing that you might get a fine because going around the corner to the parking lot takes you too much time.”

Experts also say that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t ever really stabilize.

But the government is doing the exact opposite. Indeed, the Justice Department has announced it will go easy on big banks, and always settles prosecutions for pennies on the dollar (a form of stealth bailout. It is also arguably one of the main causes of the double dip in housing.)

Indeed, the government doesn’t even force the banks to admit any guilt as part of their settlements.

Because of this failure to prosecute, it’s not just interest rates. As shown below, big banks have manipulated virtually every market – both in the financial sector and the real economy – and broken virtually every law on the books.

And they will keep on doing so until the Department of Justice grows a pair.

Currency Markets Are Rigged

Currency markets are massively rigged. And see this and this.

Derivatives Are Manipulated

The big banks have long manipulated derivatives … a $1,200 Trillion Dollar market.

Indeed, many trillions of dollars of derivatives are being manipulated in the exact same same way that interest rates are fixed: through gamed self-reporting.

Oil Prices Are Manipulated

Oil prices are manipulated as well.

Gold and Silver Are Manipulated

Gold and silver prices are “fixed” in the same way as interest rates and derivatives – in daily conference calls by the powers-that-be.

Bloomberg reports:

It is the participating banks themselves that administer the gold and silver benchmarks.

So are prices being manipulated? Let’s take a look at the evidence. In his book “The Gold Cartel,” commodity analyst Dimitri Speck combines minute-by-minute data from most of 1993 through 2012 to show how gold prices move on an average day (see attached charts). He finds that the spot price of gold tends to drop sharply around the London evening fixing (10 a.m. New York time). A similar, if less pronounced, drop in price occurs around the London morning fixing. The same daily declines can be seen in silver prices from 1998 through 2012.

For both commodities there were, on average, no comparable price changes at any other time of the day. These patterns are consistent with manipulation in both markets.

Commodities Are Manipulated

The big banks and government agencies have been conspiring to manipulate commodities prices for decades.

The big banks are taking over important aspects of the physical economy, including uranium mining, petroleum products, aluminum, ownership and operation of airports, toll roads, ports, and electricity.

And they are using these physical assets to massively manipulate commodities prices … scalping consumers of many billions of dollars each year.  More from Matt Taibbi, FDL and Elizabeth Warren.

Everything Can Be Manipulated through High-Frequency Trading

Traders with high-tech computers can manipulate stocks, bonds, options, currencies and commodities. And see this.

Manipulating Numerous Markets In Myriad Ways

The big banks and other giants manipulate numerous markets in myriad ways, for example:

  • 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
  • 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 criminality and blatant manipulation will grow and spread and metastasize – taking over and killing off more and more of the economy – until Wall Street executives are finally thrown in jail.It’s that simple …

Washington Intends Russia’s Demise

May 3rd, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Washington has no intention of allowing the crisis in Ukraine to be resolved. Having failed to seize the country and evict Russia from its Black Sea naval base, Washington sees new opportunities in the crisis. 

One is to restart the Cold War by forcing the Russian government to occupy the Russian-speaking areas of present day Ukraine where protesters are objecting to the stooge anti-Russian government installed in Kiev by the American coup. These areas of Ukraine are former constituent parts of Russia herself.  They were attached to Ukraine by Soviet leaders in the 20th century when both Ukraine and Russia were part of the same country, the USSR.

Essentially, the protesters have established independent governments in the cities. The police and military units sent to suppress the protesters, called “terrorists” in the American fashion, for the most part have until now defected to the protesters.
With Obama’s incompetent White House and State Department having botched Washington’s takeover of Ukraine, Washington has been at work shifting the blame to Russia.  According to Washington and its presstitute media, the protests are orchestrated by the Russian government and have no sincere basis.
If Russia sends in military units to protect the Russian citizens in the former Russian territories, the act will be used by Washington to confirm Washington’s propaganda of a Russian invasion (asin the case of Georgia), and Russia will be further demonized.
The Russian government is in a predicament. Moscow does not want financial responsibility for these territories but cannot stand aside and permit Russians to be put down by force.  The Russian government has attempted to keep Ukraine intact, relying on the forthcoming elections in Ukraine to bring to office more realistic leaders than the stooges installed by Washington.  
However, Washington does not want an election that might replace its stooges and return to cooperating with Russia to resolve the situation.  There is a good chance that Washington will tell its stooges in Kiev to declare that the crisis brought to Ukraine by Russia prevents an election.  Washington’s NATO puppet states would back up this claim.
It is almost certain that despite the Russian government’s hopes, the Russian government is faced with the continuation of both the crisis and the Washington puppet government in Ukraine.
On May 1 Washington’s former ambassador to Russia, now NATO’s “second-in-command” but the person who, being American, calls the shots, has declared Russia to no longer be a partner but an enemy.  The American, Alexander Vershbow, told journalists that NATO has given up on “drawing Moscow closer” and soon will deploy a large number of combat forces in Eastern Europe. Vershbow called this aggressive policy deployment of “defensive assets to the region.”
In other words, here we have again the lie that the Russian government is going to forget all about its difficulties in Ukraine and launch attacks on Poland, the Baltic States, Romania., Moldova, and on the central Asian states of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The dissembler Vershbow wants to modernize the militaries of these American puppet states and “seize the opportunity to create the reality on the ground by accepting membership of aspirant countries into NATO.”
What Vershbow has told the Russian government is that you just keep on relying on Western good will and reasonableness while we set up sufficient military forces to prevent Russia from coming to the aid of its oppressed citizens in Ukraine.  Our demonization of Russia is working.  It has made you hesitant to act during the short period when you could preempt us and seize your former territories.  By waiting you give us time to mass forces on your borders from the Baltic Sea to Central Asia.  That will distract you and keep you from the Ukraine.  The oppression we will inflict on your Russians in Ukraine will discredit you, and the NGOs we finance in the Russian Federation will appeal to nationalist sentiments and overthrow your government for failing to come to the aid of Russians and failing to protect Russia’s strategic interests.
Washington is licking its chops, seeing an opportunity to gain Russia as a puppet state.
Will Putin sit there with his hopes awaiting the West’s good will to work out a solution while Washington attempts to engineer his fall?
The time is approaching when Russia will either have to act to terminate the crisis or accept an ongoing crisis and distraction in its backyard. Kiev has launched military airstrikes on protesters in Slavyansk.  On May 2 Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Kiev’s resort to violence had destroyed the hope for the Geneva agreement on de-escalating the crisis. Yet, the Russian government spokesman again expressed the hope of the Russian government that European governments and Washington will put a stop to the military strikes and pressure the Kiev government to accommodate the protesters in a way that keeps Ukraine togetherand restores friendly relations with Russia.
This is a false hope.  It assumes that the Wolfowitz doctrine is just words, but it is not.
The Wolfowitz doctrine is the basis of US policy toward Russia (and China). The doctrine regards any power sufficiently strong to remain independent of Washington’s influence to be “hostile.”  The doctrine states:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

The Wolfowitz doctrine justifies Washington’s dominance of all regions.  It is consistent with the neoconservative ideology of the US as the “indispensable” and “exceptional” country entitled to world hegemony.  

Russia and China are in the way of US world hegemony.  Unless the Wolfowitz doctrine is abandoned, nuclear war is the likely outcome.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter and Cyrus Vance in 1977. As Carter’s National Security Advisor, Brzezinski orchestrated a covert war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Top level globalist and Rockefeller confidant Zbigniew Brzezinski has mounted the pages of Politico to call for more pointed U.S. involvement in Ukraine.

“It is more than a month since the Russians annexed Crimea, and recent events have only exacerbated the crisis, with pro-Russian rebels reportedly shooting down two Ukrainian helicopters in separatist-held Slaviansk on Friday. Yet the president still hasn’t laid out a comprehensive statement of what is really at stake,” writes the co-founder of the Trilateral Commission.

Indirectly calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “thug,” Brzezinski says “we have an obligation to help Ukraine.” He characterizes the crisis as “the most important challenge to the international system since the end of the Cold War” and tells Obama he desperately needs to issue “a comprehensive statement of what is really at stake” and address “the American people on this issue… He needs the support of the American people. Thus he has to convince them that this is important and that his stand deserves both national understanding and support.”

In late April, a Rasmussen Reports poll indicated nearly 60 percent of Americans believe the situation in Ukraine does not concern the United States. On April 28, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll found Americans overwhelmingly oppose the idea of sending arms or military supplies to Ukraine.

Despite this disapproval by the American people, Brzezinski writes “we should be more open to helping the Ukrainians defend themselves if they’re attacked. The Ukrainians will fight only if they think they will eventually get some help from the West, particularly in supplies of the kind of weaponry that will be necessary to wage a successful urban defense. They’re not going to beat the Russians out in the open field, where thousands of tanks move in. They can only beat them through prolonged urban resistance. Then the war’s economic costs would escalate dramatically for the Russians, and it would become futile politically. But to be able to defend a city, you have to have handheld anti-tank weaponry, handheld rockets and some organization.”

Arizona Senator John McCain has led the call in Congress to arm the junta in Ukraine.

Brzezinski, a notorious Russophobe, employed a similar tactic when he was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. He was instrumental using U.S. taxpayer money to covertly arm the Afghan Mujahideen to fight against the Soviet Union. Factions within the Mujahideen would eventually become the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

In 1998, he told Le Nouvel Observateur the CIA’s “secret operation was an excellent idea” and “had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap” and “giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Asked if he regretted lending a hand in the creation of radical and terrorist Islamic groups, the ever testy Brzezinski replied: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

The State Department’s less than covert installation of a gang of ultra-nationalists and fascists in Kyiv is evidence enough the “liberation of Central Europe” – apparently, for Brzezinski, Russia is Eastern Europe – is an ongoing project.

Now that Brzezinski has issued a public statement on Ukraine and called for arming Russophobes in that country — many who have long expressed their desire to ethnically cleanse and kill not only Russians, but Jews and Poles (Brzezinski is Polish) — we can conclude the global elite have decided to foster a civil war along Russia’s western border.

Imagine if China were stationing large numbers of troops in the United States.  Imagine that most of them were based in a small rural county in Mississippi.  Imagine — this shouldn’t be hard — that their presence was problematic, that nations they threatened in Latin America resented the United States’ hospitality, and that the communities around the bases resented the noise and pollution and drinking and raping of local girls.

Now imagine a proposal by the Chinese government, with support from the federal government in Washington, to build another big new base in that same corner of Mississippi.  Imagine the governor of Mississippi supported the base, but just before his reelection pretended to oppose it, and after being reelected went back to supporting it.  Imagine that the mayor of the town where the base would be built made opposition to it the entire focus of his reelection campaign and won, with exit polls showing that voters overwhelmingly agreed with him.  And imagine that the mayor meant it.

Where would your sympathies lie? Would you want anyone in China to hear what that mayor had to say?

Sometimes in the United States we forget that there are heavily armed employees of our government permanently stationed in most nations on earth.  Sometimes when we remember, we imagine that the other nations must appreciate it.  We turn away from the public uproar in the Philippines as the U.S. military tries to return troops to those islands from which they were driven by public pressure.  We avoid knowing what anti-U.S. terrorists say motivates them, as if by merely knowing what they say we would be approving of their violence.  We manage not to know of the heroic nonviolent struggle underway on Jeju Island, South Korea, as residents try to stop the construction of a new base for the U.S. Navy. We live on oblivious to the massive nonviolent resistance of the people of Vicenza, Italy, who for years voted and demonstrated and lobbied and protested a huge new U.S. Army base that has gone right ahead regardless.

Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, Okinawa, (population 61,000) is headed to the United States, where he may have to do a bit of afflicting the comfortable as he tries to comfort the afflicted back home.  Okinawa Prefecture has hosted major U.S. military bases for 68 years.  Over 73% of the U.S. troop presence in Japan is concentrated in Okinawa, which makes up a mere 0.6% of the Japanese land area.  As a result of public protest, one base is being closed — the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.  The U.S. government wants a new Marine base in Nago City.  The people of Nago City do not.

Inamine was first elected as mayor of Nago City in January 2010 promising to block the new base.  He was reelected this past January 19th still promising to block the base.  The Japanese government had worked hard to defeat him, but exit polls showed 68% of voters opposing the base, and 27% in favor of it.  In February U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy visited Okinawa, where she met with the Governor but declined to meet with the mayor.

That’s all right. The Mayor can meet with the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress.  He’ll be in Washington, D.C. in mid-May, where he hopes to appeal directly to the U.S. government and the U.S. public.  He’ll speak at an open, public event at Busboys and Poets restaurant at 14th and V Streets at 6:00 p.m. on May 20th.

A great summary of the situation in Okinawa can be found in this statement: “International Scholars, Peace Advocates and Artists Condemn Agreement To Build New U.S. Marine Base in Okinawa.”  An excerpt:

“Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa.”

Here’s background on the Governor of Okinawa.

Here’s an organization working to support the will of the public of Okinawa on this issue.

And here’s a video worth watching:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzAw-jOQwME#t=0

He’s a multi-billionaire. He made money the old-fashioned way. On March 24, 2014, Forbes ranked him 16th on its World Billionaire List. It estimates his net worth at $33 billion.

He’s founder and 88% owner of Bloomberg LP. It’s a global financial data/media company. He’s a Johns Hopkins/Harvard Business School graduate.

From January 1, 2002 – December 31, 2013, he was New York City mayor. On March 5, Harvard University named him 2014 commencement speaker. It’s scheduled for May 29.

Choosing him follows Harvard tradition. Rare exceptions occur. Last year Oprah Winfrey spoke. She’s an African-American multi-billionaire.

She’s connected to America’s rich and powerful. She promoted Bush’s Iraq war on air. She disgracefully called it a “humanitarian mission.”

She omitted key facts. She sold millions of viewers imperial war. She did so with fabricated reasons. She lied for power. It wasn’t the first time or last.

She appeals to America’s lowest common denominator. She’s a faux progressive. She teamed with Obama during campaigning.

They conned Americans. Uninformed ones were sold false promises. Oprah bears much responsibility. Don’t expect her to explain.

Previous Harvard commencement speakers include rich and powerful notables. In 2007, Bill Gates was invited.

The Harvard Crimson called him “Harvard’s most successful dropout.” Admirers and detractors call him unbelievably wealthy. Other Harvard commencement speakers included:

  • former Supreme Court Justice David Souter,
  • former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
  • former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo,
  • Alan Greenspan,
  • Paul Volker,
  • Madeleine Albright,
  • Colin Powell,
  • Helmut Kohl,
  • Helmet Schmidt,
  • Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and
  • Winston Churchill among many other likeminded figures.

Nary a progressive in sight. Rarely ever is one invited. Nowadays it’s strictly verboten.

In June 1956, Jack Kennedy addressed Harvard’s commencement. He was Massachusetts junior senator at the time.

An earlier article discussed his address. Today’s politicians don’t speak like he did. Perhaps Harvard regretted inviting him.

He accused politicians of sacrificing truth for political advantage. Little wonder they’re scorned, he said. He wanted politicians and scholars working together cooperatively.

He wanted elected officials freed from “imprison(ment) by (their) own slogans.” He wanted “the cooling waters of the scholastic pool” lowering the temperature in Washington.

He called it “regrettable that the gap between the intellectual and the politician seems to be growing.”

He said “if more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live on this commencement day of 1956.”

Kennedy differed from today’s politicians. A previous article explained as follows:

He changed during his time in office. He evolved from cold warrior to peacemaker.

The Bay of Pigs fiasco chastened him. He refused authorizing another attempt to remove Castro.

He supported Palestinian rights. He opposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program. He offended energy giants. He wanted their oil depletion allowance cut or eliminated.

RFK waged war on organized crime. JFK’s first executive order expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He was a gradualist on civil rights. He believed integration was morally right.

He favored Federal Reserve reform. His Executive Order 11110 authorized replacing Federal Reserve notes with silver certificates if the occasion arose to do so.

It’s believed he ordered Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon to begin issuing United States notes. Perhaps he had in mind replacing Federal Reserve ones altogether. He was assassinated too soon to know.

He deplored the CIA. He fired director Allen Dulles. He sacked his deputy General Charles Cabell.

He wanted to “splinter the (agency) into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds,” he said. It was reason enough to kill him.

He increasingly opposed imperial wars. Initially, he sent troops and advisors to Southeast Asia. He opposed sending more to Laos. He wanted conflict resolved diplomatically.

He opposed deploying nuclear weapons in Berlin. He was against using them in Southeast Asia.

He once called Pentagon generals “crazy” for suggesting it. He refused to attack or invade Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis. He said he “never had the slightest intension of doing so.”

He urged abolishing all nuclear weapons. He knew using them is lunacy. He favored general and complete disarmament.

He opposed Pax Americana enforced dominance. He signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty with Soviet Russia.

Weeks before his assassination, he signed National Security Memorandum 263. It called for removing 1,000 US forces from Vietnam by yearend. He wanted them all out by December 1965.

He underwent a spiritual transformation. It bears repeating. He switched from cold warrior to peacemaker.

He was at odds with Pentagon commanders, CIA, most congressional members, and nearly all his advisors.

He understood his vulnerability. He paid with his life. He was favored to win reelection. Imagine if he had two full terms.

Imagine a new direction. Imagine deploring war. Imagine turning swords into plowshares.

Imagine a world at peace. Imagine nuclear disarmament. Imagine ending the Cold War a generation earlier.

Imagine a chance to keep it from reemerging. Killing Kennedy, brother Bobby, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X decapitated the political left. New leadership hasn’t materialized.

It’s needed now more than ever. It’s nowhere in sight. Potential candidates aren’t welcome as Harvard commencement speakers.

President Drew Faust invited Bloomberg. He’s a multi-billionaire corporatist. She praised what demands condemnation. He “led one of the world’s great cities,” she said.

He “built one of the nation’s most influential information services, and generously committed his attention and resources to worthy causes in public health, the environment, civic life, the arts, and – not least of all – education. I greatly look forward to welcoming him in May.”

He took plenty and then some. He gave back crumbs. He did so to buy recognition. Honor and integrity are earned, not bought. Faust ignored the distinction.

Throughout his business and public careers, he served powerful monied interests. He did so exclusively. He profited handsomely himself.

He ignored public need. He won elections the old-fashioned way. He bought them. He spent millions. He outspent challengers multiple times over. He flooded the airwaves with campaign ads.

He drowned out opposition voices. He used deep pocket money  power to win. He’s Wall Street’s man. He’s a product of its predatory system.

He was weaned at Solomon Brothers. In 1973, he became a general partner. He headed equity trading. He earned millions.

In 1981, he used them to launch Innovative Market Systems. In 1987, he renamed it Bloomberg LP. Thereafter, he established Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Message, and Bloomberg Tradebook.

He has his own radio network. WBBR AM New York is its flagship station. His public record was deplorable.

Among America’s 25 largest cities, New York unemployment is among the highest.

Most city workers lack pensions. Many earn sub-subsistence wages. Poverty is extremely high. It rose annually during his tenure.

Census figures rank New York sixth poorest among America’s 20 largest cities. Over two-thirds of New Yorkers can’t afford a home.

City homelessness is at record levels. It more than doubled since Bloomberg took office. It includes numbers sleeping in public shelters.

It excludes countless thousands on city streets. Many more rely on overcrowded substandard apartments. Others live with family or friends.

New York has a housing crisis. Rental prices are extremely high. Low cost alternatives are in short supply. Demand way exceeds what’s available.

What’s ongoing reflects New York’s unprecedented social polarization. It worsened steadily under Bloomberg.

New York’s top 20% most well off earn 40 times more than the bottom one-fifth. It’s top 1% earns infinitely more.

Bloomberg lied claiming “nobody’s sleeping on (New York City) streets.” Homelessness plagues New York. It’s at epidemic levels. It worsens annually. Little is done to address it.

Since 2008 crisis conditions erupted, Coalition for the Homeless figures show well over 100,000 men, women and children used city shelters.

Perhaps that many or more sleep on streets, rely on family, or make due best they can. Perhaps double or triple reported estimates. Main Street economic conditions are worse than ever.

City budget balancing harmed ordinary New Yorkers. Onerous tax burdens were imposed. Over $1 billion in public worker concessions were demanded.

Massive layoffs affected thousand of teachers, hundreds of firefighters and many other city workers. Dozens of senior centers and day care ones were closed.

Public wages were frozen or minimally increased. Benefits were cut. At the same time, Wall Street got generous ones on top of trillions of dollars of federal bailout funding.

Throughout his tenure, Bloomberg implemented numerous financial sector tax giveaways. He added billions to his own net worth.

Ordinary city residents got tax increases. Crisis conditions affect them. It’s increasing annually. Bloomberg largely ignored them.

He waged war on organized labor. He did so on public education. He supports making it another business profit center.

He wants young kids cheated. He wants them denied opportunities he had growing up. He closed dozens of city schools. Low-income neighborhoods were targeted.

He waged war on Occupy Wall Street. City cops were unleashed ruthlessly. Peaceful protesters were attacked. Beatings and arrests followed.

Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly intensified longstanding NYPD stop and frisk practices. Blacks and Latinos are targeted.

He denounced efforts to end flagrantly racist practices. He wants unconstitutional ones continued. He reflects the worst of irresponsible leadership.

Maybe Harvard will invite him to replace Faust as president when she steps down. Maybe he’ll accept.

Maybe he’ll run Harvard like NYC and Bloomberg LP. Maybe he’ll order it privatized and buy it.

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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

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

Image: The Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey by Alan Denney at Flickr

Police and prosecutors are struggling to tackle a worrying decline in rape convictions, which new figures show have fallen to a four-year low.

Statistics released to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), reveal there were 129 fewer rape suspects convicted of any offence in 2013 than in the year before.

This is despite the introduction of a CPS strategy focused on violence against women and various improvements to the way rape cases are managed by police, prosecutors and the courts.

At the same time the numbers of rape cases referred to prosecutors for charging has fallen by more than a third since 2011, despite a rise in offences recorded by police.

In an interview with the Bureau Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there were worrying variations in the way rape cases are dealt with across the country.

‘We have certainly seen some indication that cases which we thought should have gone through (to charge) didn’t go through,’ she said.

She added: ‘There is best practice out there. It’s just that not everyone is doing it.’

The CPS and police chiefs set up an expert ‘rape scrutiny panel’ last year to assess the problem and produce new national guidelines for police and prosecutors.

The figures given to the Bureau show that last year there were 1,747 fewer rape cases sent to the CPS by the police than in 2010, while the number of rape convictions fell from 2,433 to 2,300.

The fall in convictions raises serious concerns that despite previous policy reviews and improvements to management of rape cases, police and prosecutors are still not getting to grips with the crime.

Last month the Bureau reported the view of the former head of research at the Metropolitan Police Service, Professor Betsy Stanko, that for many victims rape was ‘effectively decriminalised’. Over the coming week the Bureau will publish more evidence that backs up this claim.

Related story: Revealed – why the police are failing most victims

Statistics that don’t stand up

In the past few years, the CPS has claimed that it is successfully tackling rape by citing increases in the percentage of cases it prosecutes that result in a conviction – the ‘conviction rate’.

But some parts of the country that have the highest ‘conviction rates’ have seen some of the largest falls in real terms of successful prosecutions – suggesting that cases that previously have been prosecuted are being dropped.

East Midlands and the East of England CPS regions, for example, were recently praised for their high conviction rates.

However the raw figures show that East Midlands achieved only 188 convictions in 2012/13 compared with 208 the previous year, while East of England had 18 per cent fewer convictions than in the previous year.

Ms Saunders said the improved conviction rates showed the CPS and the police were getting better at building stronger cases.

‘The Rape Scrutiny Panel is now looking at how we get the numbers going through as well as the quality going up,’ she said.

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 13.21.27

CPS figures reveal a drop in prosecutions and convictions of rape since 2010

Dismay

The drop in both referrals and convictions has been greeted with dismay by academics and charities working with survivors of sexual violence.

Marianne Hester, professor of gender and violence at Bristol University, said it gave a wrong impression that those reporting attacks ‘are just making it up’.

‘But most cases do not end up in court, and this is not because the rape did not happen but because the police may not be vigorous enough in pursuing evidence, or because victims may be deemed too fragile to cope in the court setting or because they are seen as the “wrong” kind of victim if they have been raped before.’

Related story: Case study – ‘Type of underwear’ influenced CPS decision to drop rape case

Academic research has shown that only around 12% of rapes recorded by police result in a conviction of any kind – and only around six per cent end in a conviction for rape.

These figures have hardly changed over a decade despite improvements in police and prosecutor training and victim support and the introduction of specialist centres for collecting forensic evidence.

The conviction rate when cases do go before a jury is higher than the average for other indictable offenses suggesting that not enough cases are coming to court.

Mary Mason, director of Solace Woman’s Aid said: ‘We will not see convictions improve significantly and consistently until there is a change to the institutional mindset which blames the victim for being raped.’

Concerning figures

The former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer, who left the CPS in November 2013 after five years at the helm, also said the conviction numbers were concerning.

He said dramatic falls in referrals of rape cases from police to prosecutors might be to blame.

‘We initially thought that the numbers might be plateauing and would then continue the upward trend, but then they started to go down,’ he said.

‘It is not due to rape offences dropping, I am certain about that. But it is very hard to pinpoint a reason. It may be related to the decline in referrals from the police.’

Related story: Case study – Police failed to arrest rapist despite discovering he had victim’s phone

New guidelines brought in around 2011 put more emphasis on police forces identifying and stopping cases where the threshold for charging had not been met, than had previously been the case. The CPS insisted that any changes were in language rather than substance.

But the Rape Scrutiny Panel set up by the CPS and police chiefs to examine the reason for the decline has now realised that the guidance has been interpreted differently around the country.

The current DPP Alison Saunders, who sits on the panel, says:

‘You have some places where within 24 hours of a rape being reported to the police there is a referral to the CPS. In others [the guidance] has been interpreted as “send the file through when we are ready for charging” – a much later stage.’

Related story: Prosecution intervention behind dramatic falls in rape cases sent for charging

The panel has scrutinised ‘samples of cases from seven forces in different regions to try to work out why cases were being dropped.

One causal factor identified so far has been officers’ failure to seek early advice from prosecutors.

‘We are not doing what we should be doing in terms of seeking early investigative advice.

‘This was not a quantitative survey, but a sample of a small number of cases. But we think there is something there. There is no common best practice.’

The CPS is now working on a new protocol on how rape cases are handled.

Ms Saunders added that even the referral figures – which show significant variation between forces – could not be relied on.

‘It is not clear that we are counting the same thing in every place.’

Focus on conviction rates has disguised stalling conviction numbers

In the past few years, the CPS has been claiming an impressive performance in convicting rape. The CPS is able to claim this success because it has emphasised improvements in the conviction rate. But this is a measure of the proportion of cases prosecuted that result in a conviction, not a measure of the actual numbers.

While improved convition rates mean fewer cases are going to court unnecessarily they could also mean that only the most water-tight cases are going to court – and that many rapists are going free.

Last year the CPS claimed ‘an all time high for the conviction rate in rape cases‘ and ‘a second year of record conviction rates for rape‘.

But some parts of the country that have the highest “conviction rates” have seen some of the largest falls in real terms of successful prosecutions – suggesting that cases that previously have been prosecuted are being dropped.

East Midlands and the East of England CPS regions, for example, were praised for their high conviction rates in the CPS’ Violence Against Women and Girls report for 2012/2013.
However East Midlands achieved only 188 convictions in 2012/13 compared with 208 the previous year, while East of England had 18 per cent fewer convictions than in the previous year.
Police forces including the Metropolitan Police have dropped targets based on the percentage of cases resulting in charge and performance is now measured on actual numbers of cases charged.

This is because rate-based targets were found to encourage ‘gaming’ – officers were dropping difficult cases in order to improve their performance.

Ms Saunders said there was no evidence a focus on conviction rate is creating perverse incentives for prosecutors to do the same.

Ms Saunders says: ‘We are not just focused on conviction rates, we do look at numbers as well. You can’t just look at the percentage [of successful cases] and not look at the actual numbers as well, you need to look at both, which is what we do.’

Confusion about rape convictions and conviction rates led to several newspapers welcoming rises in numbers of rape convictions last year where in fact falls had occurred.

The Daily Express reported that ‘the number of successful convictions of defendants charged with rape has continued to rise,’ when it had actually fallen for the second successive year.

And Bradford Telegraph and Argus quoted the local Rape Crisis centre welcoming ‘to ‘the increase in rape convictions’.

In fact, in  Yorkshire & Humberside convictions fell by almost a fifth, from 251 convictions to 203 and it was the conviction rate that had risen.

A version of this story was published in the Independent

Twisting Putin’s Words on Ukraine

May 3rd, 2014 by Robert Parry

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivering a speech on the Ukraine crisis in Moscow on March 18, 2014. (Russian government photo)

Anti-Russian bias pervades the mainstream U.S. media in the Ukraine crisis, reflected in word choices – “pro-democracy” for U.S.-favored protesters in Kiev, “terrorists” for disfavored eastern Ukrainians – but also in how the narrative is shaped by false summaries.

Sometimes dealing with the waves of U.S. media propaganda on the Ukraine crisis feels like the proverbial Dutch boy putting his fingers in the dike. The flood of deeply prejudiced anti-Russian “group think” extends across the entire media waterfront – from left to right – and it often seems hopeless correcting each individual falsehood.

The problem is made worse by the fact that the New York Times, the traditional newspaper of record, has stood out as one of the most egregious offenders of the principles of journalism. Repeatedly, the Times has run anti-Russian stories that lack evidence or are just flat wrong.

Among the flat-wrong stories was the Times’ big front-page scoop on photos that purportedly showed Russian troops inside eastern Ukraine, but the story had to beretracted two days later when it turned out that a key photo – allegedly of several men “clearly” in Russia before they later turned up in Ukraine – was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the story’s premise.

The other type of Times’ propaganda – making assertions without evidence – appeared in another front-page story about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s phantom wealth ($40 billion to $70 billion, the Times speculated) without presenting a shred of hard evidence beyond what looked like a pricy watch on his wrist.

However, in some ways, the worst of the New York Times reporting has been its slanted and erroneous summations of the Ukraine narrative. For instance, immediately after the violent coup overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych (from Feb. 20-22), it was reported that among the 80 people killed were more than a dozen police officers.

But, as the pro-coup sympathies hardened inside the Times, the storyline changed to: “More than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.” [NYT, March 5]

Both the dead police and the murky circumstances surrounding the sniper fire that inflicted many of the casualties simply disappeared from the Times’ narrative. It became flat fact: evil “pro-Yanukovych” police gunned down innocent “pro-democracy” demonstrators. Also consigned to the memory hole was the key role played by well-organized neo-Nazi militias that led the final assaults on the police.

More recently, the Times’ Ukraine summary has challenged Putin’s denials that Russian special forces are operating in eastern Ukraine (the point that the bogus photo scoop was supposed to prove). So, now whenever Putin’s denial is noted, the Times contradicts him by claiming that he made the same denial about Crimea, that Russian troops weren’t involved, and then reversed himself later.

For instance, in Friday’s editions, the Times wrote: “Mr. Putin has said there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. He made similar claims during the annexation of Crimea, however, and then later acknowledged the existence of a Russian operation.”

But that simply isn’t true. The Russians never denied having troops in Crimea, since that’s where they maintain a major Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol and had a contractual agreement with Ukraine allowing the presence of up to 25,000 troops. At the time of the Feb. 22 coup, Russia had about 16,000 troops in Crimea and that was well known as Crimea began to break away from the post-coup regime in Kiev.

On March 4, the Associated Press reported that “the new Ukrainian leadership that deposed the pro-Russian Yanukovych … has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, insists it made the move in order to protect Russian installations in Ukraine and its citizens living there.

“On Tuesday, Russian troops who had taken control of the Belbek air base in the hotly contest[ed] Crimea region fired warning shots into the air as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back. …

“The shots reflected tensions running high in the Black Sea peninsula since Russian troops – estimated by Ukrainian authorities to be 16,000 strong -tightened their grip over the weekend on the Crimean peninsula, where Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet is based.

“Ukraine has accused Russia of violating a bilateral agreement on conditions of a Russian lease of a naval base in Crimea that restricts troop movements, but Russia has argued that it was acting within the limits set by the deal.

“Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said Monday [March 3] at the U.N. Security Council that Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under the agreement. Churkin didn’t specify how many Russian troops are now stationed in Crimea, but said that ‘they are acting in a way they consider necessary to protect their facilities and prevent extremist actions.’”

Putin’s Comments

Also on March 4, Putin discussed another public confrontation in Crimea at a Moscow press conference. He said: “You should note that, thank God, not a single gunshot has been fired there; there are no casualties, except for that crush on the square about a week ago. What was going on there? People came, surrounded units of the [Ukrainian] armed forces and talked to them, convincing them to follow the demands and the will of the people living in that area. There was not a single armed conflict, not a single gunshot.

“Thus the tension in Crimea that was linked to the possibility of using our Armed Forces simply died down and there was no need to use them. The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defense of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in. We did this, it was the right thing to do and very timely.”

So, Putin did not deny that Russian troops were present in Crimea. He even acknowledged that they were operational and were prepared to take action in defense of Crimean citizens if necessary.

Arguably, Putin did dissemble on one point, though the precise circumstances were unclear. When a reporter asked him about a specific case of some people “wearing uniforms that strongly resembled the Russian Army uniform,” he demurred, claiming “those were local self-defense units.”

A Formal Speech

Two days after a hastily called referendum, which recorded a 96 percent vote in favor of seceding from Ukraine and rejoining Russia, Putin returned to the issue of Russian involvement in Crimea, a territory that first became part of Russia in the 1700s.

On March 18 in a formal speech to the Russian Federation, Putin justified Crimea’s desire to escape the control of the coup regime in Kiev, saying: “Those who opposed the [Feb. 22] coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

“Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.”

Again, Putin was not claiming that the Russian government had no involvement in Crimea. He was, in contrast, confirming that it was involved. He continued:

“First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law.  Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.

“Secondly, and most importantly – what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation [Putin] received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet. Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement.

“True, we did enhance our forces there; however – this is something I would like everyone to hear and know – we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.”

However, several weeks later, when Putin reiterated these same points, saying that Russian troops were in Crimea in support of the Crimean people’s right to have a referendum on secession from Ukraine, the New York Times and other U.S. publications began claiming that he had reversed himself and had previously hidden the Russian troop involvement in Crimea.

That was simply bad reporting, which now gets repeated whenever the Times mentions Putin’s denial of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. Clearly, there is nothing “similar” between Putin’s previous statements about Crimea and his current ones about eastern Ukraine.

Beyond sloppy reporting, however, something arguably worse is playing out here, since this distortion fits with the pattern of anti-Russian bias and anti-Putin prejudice that has pervaded the “news” coverage at the Times and other major U.S. media outlets.

Rather than show some independence and professionalism, the Times and the rest of the MSM have marched in lock-step with the propaganda pronouncements emanating from the U.S. State Department.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Russia’s RT reported in an article titled, “Russia will not import GMO products – PM Medvedev,” that, “Russia will not import GMO products, the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food.” The article would quote Russia’s prime minister who stated specifically, “if the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”

The article would also state that products in Russia containing more than 0.9% genetically modified ingredients must be labeled, as opposed to US laws where no labeling is required for genetically modified products despite steadily growing public opposition to the practice.

Russia’s stance against GMO is mirrored elsewhere, including in France where just recently Monsanto’s GM corn was banned and in China where the importing of US GM corn has been outlawed. The backlash against GMO has widespread appeal due to well-placed health and environmental concerns among increasingly informed populations. But the drive to push back against GMO in nations like Russia and China also has a geopolitical dimension.

An Army Marches on Its Stomach

The biotechnology from which genetically modified organisms are derived, is currently monopolized by a handful of very powerful multinational corporations centered in the West. This monopoly forms (in part) the foundation of Western hegemonic power. As seen in Afghanistan, big-ag monopolies like Monsanto played a pivotal role in the attempted corporate colonization of the South Asian nation. Corporate interests and technology, coupled with Western aid organizations, backed by NATO’s military force, helped transform Afghanistan’s agricultural landscape through the systematic poisoning of traditional crops and their replacement with genetically modified soybeans (a crop previously alien to Afghan agriculture and cuisine).

The roots Monsanto sank into Afghanistan will be deep and lasting. Farmers dependent on patented genetically modified soybeans will be dependent on Monsanto and other Western biotech/big-ag giants indefinitely, and in turn, so will the people who depend on those farmers for daily sustenance. The very sovereignty of Afghanistan as an independent nation has been undermined at the most basic and fundamental level, its food security which now resides in the hands of foreigners.

It is clear then that nations like Russia, China, and others are not only responding to growing concern from among their populations regarding the safety and environmental impact of GMO products, but the threat this monopolized technology poses toward each respective nation’s food supply and consequently, their sovereignty.

Recent sanctions aimed at Russia in the West’s bid to cement regime change in neighboring Ukraine illustrates perfectly just how potentially damaging absolute dependence on Western big-ag corporations can be. Had Russian agriculture been more dependent on Western GMOs, and had the West’s sanctions been across a wider or full spectrum as they are against nations like Iran, the potential survival of Russia’s population could have been put at risk and foreign-backed political instability able to threaten Moscow easily achieved.

Each Nation a Castle

Sanctions against Iran have forced the nation to become self-sufficient across a wide spectrum of socioeconomic activity including food production, technological research and development, and weapons development. While the sanctions the West aims at Iran are designed to act as a modern form of siege warfare practiced at a national level, weakening the nation and ultimately contributing to its collapse, they have instead made Iran more resilient.

Iran has become a proverbial “castle,” weathering the siege by breaking it in some places, and undermining it with self-sufficient economic activity within its borders in other places. Nations like Russia and China, directly confronted by a West openly attempting to encircle both with specified alliances and strategies (NATO and the “pivot toward Asia” respectively), must likewise ensure independence and self-sufficiency across a wide range of socioeconomic activity, with fundamental necessities like food security taking priority.

Organic farming augmented by modern technology, as suggested by Prime Minister Medvedev has the power to ensure food security for Russia now and well into the future. With growing global demand for healthier, GMO-free food, a national policy leaning toward organic could eventually become an economic advantage beyond Russia’s borders. Other nations, communities, and indeed individuals around the world should look at this basic first step, securing one’s food supply, and understand how it is the key to national, local, and individual sovereignty, as well as a means toward enhancing economic prospects.

The West’s mega agricultural monopolies seek to infiltrate and overrun national food supplies worldwide, while it aims crippling sanctions at nations it seeks to influence or control geopolitically. A nation made dependent on the West’s mega agricultural monopolies, if ever targeted by sanctions or other means to undermine and overthrow its existing political order, will be particularly vulnerable. Thus, going organic is not just a means to keep a nation’s population healthy and therefore more productive, but also a fundamental means to protect national sovereignty.

The shortsighted benefits in terms of payoffs from mega agricultural monopolies governments around the world may be tempted by today, might be the leverage used by the West tomorrow to uproot them when their utility is perceived by the West to be exhausted, and new leadership is desired. For nations that believe in the merits of GMO, their people should demand that such technology be developed, implemented, regulated, and monitored indigenously, preempting the multitude of dangers the foreign domination of their food supply poses.

Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

US State-Sponsored Terrorism

May 2nd, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Washington notoriously points fingers the wrong way. It whitewashes its own crimes.

Its latest Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 omits the world’s leading sponsor. More on it below.

Terrorism is what they do, not us, it’s claimed. Reasons why imperial wars are waged are suppressed.

Might justifies right. Nations are destroyed to free them. Lives and freedoms lost don’t matter. They’re small prices to pay.

Mind manipulation turns truth on its head. People are convinced wrongs are right. Wars are glorified in the name of peace.

Peaceful countries become cauldrons of violence. Instability rocks them. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and others are US imperial victims.

So is Ukraine. It’s a global flashpoint. Potentially it’s worst of all. It threatens to spin out-of-control. It risks regional conflict. Possible East/West confrontation looms.

Washington bears full responsibility for numerous world hot spots. Imperialism works this way. It instigates violence. It fosters instability.

It promotes state-sponsored terrorism. It’s what we do, not them. More on this below.

On April 30, the State Department issued its “annual assessment of trends and events in international terrorism…” It covers the period January 1 – December 31, 2013.

“It includes a strategic assessment, country-by-country breakdowns of counterterrorism efforts, and sections on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, and foreign terrorist organizations.”

It bears repeating. The world’s top sponsor by far is omitted. None in human history compare.

Washington uses Al Qaeda and similar groups strategically. They’re allies and enemies at the same time. They’re core elements of American imperial wars.

Tina Kaidanow is US ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism. In 2013, terrorism evolved rapidly, she said.

“The international community’s successful efforts to degrade al-Qaida, or AQ, senior leadership in Pakistan, coupled with weak governance and instability in the Middle East and Northwest Africa have accelerated the decentralization of what we refer to as al-Qaida core,” she added.

“This has led to the affiliates in the AQ network becoming more operationally autonomous from AQ core and increasingly focused on local and regional objectives.”

“The past several years have seen the emergence of a more aggressive set of AQ affiliates and likeminded groups, most notably in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Northwest Africa, and Somalia.”

“Iran’s state-sponsorship of terrorism and Hezbollah’s activities are also of significant concern,” she claimed.

“Interdictions in the past year have found Iran attempting to smuggle arms and Iranian explosives to Syria, to Yemen, and also to arm Shia opposition groups in Bahrain.”

“And the IRGC Qods Force, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shia militant groups have all been providing a broad range of critical support to the Assad regime since the start of the conflict.”

Fake Washington-hyped terror threats persist. It’s done to generate fear. America’s only enemies are ones it invents. Demagogic duplicity claims otherwise. It turns truth on its head.

Inconvenient truths are buried. Michael Parenti exposed the terrorism trap. He did so post-9/11. Wars are waged “to keep the world safe for the Fortune 500,” he said.

“To make sure that the transnational corporations and international global finance capital continues to control the land, labor, resources, and markets of most of the world, and ultimately, all of the world on terms that are extremely favorable to them.”

“The goal is to destroy, to obliterate, to thwart any social movement or national leader who is trying for an alternative way of using the land, the labor, the natural resources, the markets, the capital of his or her country.”

To institute a homeland police state apparatus. To destroy freedom in the name of stability. To lose both at the same time. To continue waging war on humanity.

To claim it’s about spreading democracy. To tolerate it nowhere. To crush it wherever it emerges. To institute Washington rules. To enforce hardline rule.

To demand absolute obedience. To tolerate no outliers. To ravage humanity in the name of saving it. To make planet earth unfit to live on.

State-sponsored terrorism defines US policy. Demagogic duplicity conceals it.

US law calls “international terrorism” activities involving:

(A) “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;”

(B) are intended to -

(i) “intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States….”

The US Army Operational Concept for Terrorism (TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-37, 1984) called it “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature….through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear.”

Merriam-Webster calls it “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

The Oxford Dictionary calls it “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”

In his book “Terrorism, Theirs and Ours,” the late Eqbal Ahmad called state-sponsored terrorism most important of all.

It includes “torture, burning of villages, destruction of entire peoples, (and) genocide” on a massive scale.

It’s called “self-defense,” protecting “national security,” and/or “promoting democracy.” Doing so conceals America’s dark side. War on humanity follows.

“Who will define the parameters of terrorism, or decide where terrorists lurk,” asked Ahmad?

“Why none other than the United States, which can from the rooftops of the world set out its claim to be sheriff, judge and hangman, all at one and the same time.”

Martin Luther King called America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He did so for good reason.

It’s more menacing than ever. At stake is humanity’s survival. Aggression is called humanitarian intervention. Freedom is crushed for our own good.

Big Lies substitute for truth. They proliferate to advance America’s imperium. Mind manipulation convinces people to go along.

Eastern Ukrainian freedom fighters are called terrorists. US-led NATO takes full advantage.

Eastern European deployments continue. Doing so encroaches provocatively closer to Russia’s borders.

Georgia and Russia share a common one. Its Defense Minister Irakli Alasania wants more NATO troops deployed internally.

He calls them “defensive actions,” saying:

“(T)his is something we need to put in Georgia and Russians will understand that you are serious.”

Americans and Europeans must work together, he stressed. It’s “important for the United States to show leadership…to make sure (NATO’s) next steps will be an adequate response to what’s happening in Ukraine.”

“We are talking about the Membership Action Plan, but we don’t really know how these discussions will end up, while, honestly, in fact after (developments in) Ukraine we should be talking about accession talks of Georgia and other aspirants to NATO.”

According to NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow:

“We need to step up our support for defense reforms and military modernization of Russia’s neighbors, and not just of Ukraine, but also Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.”

On April 27, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) headlined“Russian and Ukrainian armies shaping up for initial military clash over Slavyansk,” saying:

“The outcome will determine who controls the Donetsk region and possibly all of East of Ukraine…”

“(I)t might be the last straw that undermines (Kiev’s) shaky rule.” Ukraine’s military is no match against Russia’s.

“Its threat to blockade the more than a dozen towns where separatists are entrenched in official buildings is unconvincing.”

DF sees no broad international coalition for a “strong stand” against Russia forthcoming. Obama may be largely on his own.

On April 30, the Wall Street Journal headlined ”Americans Want to Pull Back From World Stage, Poll Finds.”

“Nearly Half Surveyed in WSJ/NBC Poll Back Anti-Interventionist Stance That Sweeps Across Party Lines.”

Only 38% of Americans approve how Obama handles foreign policy. It’s the low water mark of his presidency.

According to Democrat pollster Fred Yang:

“The juxtaposition of an America that wants to turn inward and away from world affairs, and a strong feeling of powerlessness domestically, is a powerful current that so far has eluded the grasp of Democrats and Republicans.”

“The message from the American public to their leaders in this poll seems to be: You need to take care of business here at home.”

Public support for Obama’s handling Ukrainian crisis conditions dropped to 37%. In March it was 43%.

On April 30, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Washington isn’t “concerned (about) the fate of Ukraine…but (has) a strong desire to prove (it) decides how things should be – always and everywhere.”

Lavrov wants US officials to “discipline” putschists it elevated to power. Do it instead of sanctioning Russia, he stressed.

Moscow urges constructive dialogue, he added. “US and EU representatives have blocked this initiative,” he said.

“We’ll continue to call for the full implementation of the Geneva Declaration, which our partners are trying to distance themselves from.”

“But we cannot decide for the self-defense forces. Those people live under a constant threat coming from Kiev that the military and armored vehicles will be used against them; under constant threat from the extremists.”

At the same time, Russia bashing persists. Eight Republican senators introduced hostile legislation.

If enacted, it’ll strengthen NATO, enhance missile defense for offense, provide military aide to Ukraine, and sanction Russia’s banking and energy sectors.

On Wednesday, coup-appointed president Oleksandr Turchynov said Ukraine’s military went on full alert.

“Special tactical exercises” were held. Military forces were deployed on Kiev streets.

On Tuesday, Moscow’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said Kiev, “encouraged by Western ‘friends,’ is persistently pushing the country towards a catastrophe.”

US imperialism bears full responsibility. State terrorism defines it. War on humanity persists.

Ukraine is in the eye of the storm. Flashpoint conditions risk spreading things out-of-control.

Obama’s latest imperial adventurism risks global war. He’s mindless about what’s potentially unfolding.

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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

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

Kinder Morgan Says oil Spills Can Be Good for the Economy

May 2nd, 2014 by Global Research News

Kinder Morgan has managed to find a silver lining in oil slicks: they could create jobs.

That’s according to a 15,000 page application Kinder Morgan has submitted to the National Energy Board for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (a document so large that it “stands over two metres tall and fills 37 binders”).

In a section of the application dedicated to the risks and effects associated with oil tanker traffic and the possibility of oil spills, Kinder Morgan finds that “spills can have both positive and negative effects.” In particular, “spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers.”

While it is true that a massive oil spill in the Strait of Georgia likely would create a demand for “clean-up service providers,” an oil company leading off their analysis of the socioeconomic effects of oil spills by pointing to all the jobs that would be created is as absurd as leading off an analysis of the effects of a recession by pointing out it will lead to a boom in demand for repossession service providers.

The report goes on to list a dozen negative effects of oil tanker spills, notably the devastation of fishing stocks, tourist industries, widespread property damage, cultural heritage sites, the “traditional lifestyles” of aboriginal communities and, of course, a significant impact on human health. But far as the economy is concerned, Kinder Morgan wants you to know an oil spill also has a positive side.

Since the filing of this application in December, the NEB has rejected 27 climate experts from delivering testimony and quietly dropped oral hearings from the Trans Mountain pipeline review, reducing the approval process to a “mere paperwork exercise.” 

Photo: dvids. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Over the last 25-30 years Sweden’s military, security and foreign policy elite has changed Sweden’s policy 180 degrees.

These fundamental changes were initiated by the Social Democratic government under Goran Persson and foreign minister Anna Lindh and have been carried through virtually without public debate.

The rapproachment with interventionism, militarism and US/NATO in all fields has been planned, incremental, furtive and dishonest; in short, unworthy of a democracy.

This elite is more loyal with Brussels and Washington than with the Swedes.

If your image of Sweden is that it is a progressive, innovative and peace-promoting country with a global mind-set and advocate of international law, it is – sad to say – outdated.

How Sweden has changed

Sweden is no longer neutral and it is only formally non-aligned; there is no closer ally than US/NATO. It has stopped developing policies of its own and basically positions itself in the EU and NATO framework. It no longer produces important new thinking – the last was Olof Palme’s Commission on Common Security (1982).

It has no disarmament ambassador and does not consider the UN important; it does not have a single Swede among the UN Blue Helmets. None of its top-level politicians make themselves available as mediators in international conflicts.

Nuclear abolition is far down the agenda, problematic as a NATO-aspiring country. But one thing has not changed: Sweden remains the world’s largest arms exporter per capita.

Sweden no longer contributes to the protection of smaller states through a a commitment to international law. Its elites wholeheartedly supported the bombing of Serbia/Kosovo. It thought – also under social democratic leadership – that the mass-killing sanctions on Iraq and the occupation were appropriate.

Since Sweden cannot legally export arms to a country in war but upholds a close military technological co-operation with the U.S., its parliament decided to make the US an exception.

Sweden supported the destruction of Libya – participating with its planes there, however only conducting reconnaissance, not bombing, missions.

Sweden did not support the planned war on Syria but also did not voice any audible criticism of the West’s support of only the militant opposition, including Al-Qaeda affiliates.

Carl Bildt

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt operates mainly as an eminently well-informed international affairs traveler and blogger who doesn’t seem to want to waste too much of his precious time on being a minister. And when he does, he isn’t known for consulting many people around him.

That could be a reason that his comments on various events repeatedly attract laughable media attention. If you compare, as he has, Ukraine’s former President Yanokovich with Norway’s Quisling and thereby make Putin equivalent to Hitler and Russia to Nazi-Germany you no longer operate as a statesman but, rather, as an emotional hothead or a marketing consultant. (Add to that that Bildt recently refused in the Swedish Broadcasting’s ”Saturday Interview” to distance himself from neo-Nazi elements in Kiev).

Bildt’s simplifying, twisted interpretation of Georgia 2008 is revealing of his biased emotionality where earlier – for instance during his position as High Rep in Bosnia – he deserved respect for operating in an intellectually sober manner.

If you don’t have your own thinking and policies, Russophobic platitudes is all you need. And it qualifies for CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Sweden is heading for NATO membership

Here follow a few recent events/news  which emphasize further the deplorable path Sweden – its elites rather than its people - have decided to follow.

1. Sweden’s security political elite these years ”considers broader alliances with NATO and the EU” as Defence Newsrecently informed us.

How enigmatic! After having been neutral and non-aligned during tough confrontation and tension in the Cold War years, Sweden now needs to join NATO when there is no single analysis anywhere that makes it likely that Sweden, in the foreseeable future, will be faced with a threat.

While the intelligent security and defence discourse is now about human security, the environment and high-tech challenges, Sweden’s elites talk about defence as weapons only.

This is dangerous ”group think” steered by bureaucratic vested interests and paid for by tax payers who are de facto threatened more by these interests than by Putin. A reality check would lead to a reality chock.

Cruise missiles for “deterrence” 

2. Swedish planes shall now, in the light of a conveniently hysteric interpretation of the crisis in Ukraine, equip its planes with cruise missiles. (Defense News)

Incredibly, decisions like this is taken with the intellectually sloppy mantra that it adds to the country’s ‘deterrence’ capacity.

The security priesthood of the country consists of some researchers of military affairs at huge, well-financed state institutes in close contact with politicians and the military to whom military-loyal journalists have close bonds. Everybody, follow the party line! Saty in the box! Don’t challenge the domain assumptions!

Sweden now jumps on a sinking ship

The country that once did something for a better world, has joined the militarist world. In a time when both NATO and the US is getting weaker, Sweden’s elite foolishly plans to put all Sweden’s eggs there.

It has no policy vis-a-vis, say, the BRICS countries or any vision of the world in 20 years to navigate towards. It has no ideals, values or commitments, only a ”follow-the-US/NATO and EU” flock mentality.

The US Ambassador is invited to blackmail

3. The US ambassador to Sweden, Mark Brzezinski, recently told Sweden to join NATO, otherwise it won’t get any help in the event of an attack – in short, Mafiosi blackmailing disguised as deep concern and generous offer to bring (conditional, however) help. This was revealed by the conservative Swedish daily, Svenska Dagbladet, Google translation here.

How many – and which – ambassador’s are given the opportunity to speak directly to all parties of the Swedish parliament?

The message is pure blackmail – and based on fearology - because everybody knows that should Russia attack anyone, Sweden would not be the first target and it would be in the interest of NATO to control Swedish territory before any spreading of Russian forces from somewhere else  to the Nordic area.

In short, NATO’s interests in Sweden is much larger than Sweden’s in NATO. Whatever one may think of these fantasies, they are just that: No one has thought up a credible scenario for how Sweden would be invaded by Russia and remain defenceless.

If one of largest militaries per capita can’t defend its people there is something wrong with it

But this is the military-fundamentalist propaganda the Swedes are the target of these years: We must join NATO because we have such a weak defence that we can’t defend ourselves!

The liberal party’s defence spokesman, Allan Widman, recently stated this in a manner indicative of the low intellectual level of defence discussions here: ”I can only state the fact that Russia is about 140 million people and Sweden is 9 million. We won’t be able to manage serious challenges from outside on our own…”

Now if the Swedish military can’t provide any protection of the 9 million Swedes with a budget of 8 billion dollars (among the 10% highest per capita in the world) at its disposal, it’s time to ask how inefficient and cost-maximising it can be without its leadership being fired.

4. Just this week it was decided that AWACS planes can pass through Swedish airspace in connection with its Ukraine crisis missions.

5. Sweden (and Finland) is discussing how to receive military aid, including troops, from NATO (see Dagens Nyheter April 27, 2014). This goes beyond what NATO members Denmark, Norway and Iceland have ever accepted. And Sweden is not a NATO member!  (You may see a petition against this here)

It’s time to begin to think

Take the money, prestige, privileges and funds from the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes – MIMAC – of the world – and in Sweden too – and force them to think: 

• Think for the common good and not for their vested interests.

• Think for the world and not for their parochial psycho-political nationalism.

• Think of the people’s human security and make violence-prevention the top goal.

• Think first of non-violent policies and use militry as the last resort in accordance with the UN Charter.

• Think as you should in a democracy, with the people, for the people and by the people.

As long as all you have on your shelves is fighter planes, the world’s problems will be seen as bombing missions.

And that’s when peace, co-operation and mutual understanding is dropped and cold – even warm – wars become ”realistic”. This must not be Sweden’s future.

NATO officials escalated their military build-up against Russia yesterday, as the pro-Western puppet regime in Kiev reinstated conscription in order to boost its crackdown on spreading pro-Russian protests in eastern Ukraine.

The news came as the position of the far-right regime in Kiev weakened, with more cities and government buildings in east Ukraine held by protesters and militias opposed to it. Protesters stormed the prosecutor’s office, disarming police, in the city of Donetsk, one of many cities in the region, including Luhansk, Slavyansk, and Kramatorsk, now outside of Kiev’s control.

A statement issued by the Kiev regime’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov confirmed that the aim of the conscription order, for all able-bodied males between 18 and 25, was to boost the crackdown in predominately Russian-speaking areas. The order was issued “given the deteriorating situation in the east and the south [and] the rising force of armed pro-Russian units and the taking of public administration buildings,” the statement declared. It added that the protests “threaten the territorial integrity” of Ukraine.

Turchynov’s justification for the conscription order is a political fraud. His regime, the product of a Western-backed putsch, does not stand for Ukraine’s independence or its territorial integrity. The regime has launched crackdowns planned in discussions with top US officials such as CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Kiev as successive waves of repression began.

The contempt of the Kiev regime and its imperialist backers for the Ukrainian population was further underscored by their agreement to a $17 billion bailout package dictated by the International Monetary Fund. It is conditioned on unpopular fuel price increases and mass layoffs in the public sector that have already provoked protests in several cities.

Turchynov has admitted that his regime’s security forces are “helpless” to stop the spread of pro-Russian seizures of cities and government buildings across east Ukraine. Some army and police units have refused orders to shoot protesters. The Kiev regime has turned to setting up private militias led by business oligarchs or fascist paramilitaries from the Right Sector to attack the protesters.

This crackdown has placed the world on the verge of war. Moscow has stated that it will use “all means” to protect ethnic Russians from Ukrainian forces, should the Kiev regime’s crackdown escalate into a large-scale massacre of the population of east Ukraine. In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that all Ukrainian troops be withdrawn from eastern Ukraine.

The conscription order is a desperate attempt to bolster the tottering Kiev regime amid deepening political crisis and rising popular opposition. If obeyed in parts of the country still under Kiev’s control, it would provide back-up to the fascist forces spearheading the repression of the protests.

It would also place an army of over a million men, supported and equipped by NATO, directly on Russia’s southwestern border. In this, the Kiev regime is doing the bidding of its Western imperialist masters, who are recklessly denouncing Russia and mounting a military build-up across Eastern Europe laying the basis for a major war with Russia.

Yesterday, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow branded Russia an enemy. “Clearly the Russians have declared NATO as an adversary, so we have to begin to view Russia no longer as a partner, but as more of an adversary than a partner,” he said.

Vershbow said NATO could repudiate its 1997 pledge not to station nuclear weapons or large numbers of troops in Eastern Europe. Given Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the east Ukraine protests, he said, “we would be within our rights” to scrap the deal and permanently station “significant” numbers of troops in Eastern Europe.

The Western powers are seizing upon the Ukraine crisis to try to carry out a major restructuring of European and world politics. Like the September 11, 2001 attacks, which US imperialism exploited to launch a series of unpopular Middle East wars, the Ukraine crisis is to provide the Western imperialist powers with a justification for a massive military escalation and the preparation of large-scale wars.

Such topics will doubtless be at the heart of discussions today between US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is visiting Washington, DC.

Claims that NATO’s reckless escalation is simply a response to Russian military aggression are lies. Protests in eastern Ukraine—previously the power base of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed by the February putsch—are not the product of Russian aggression, but of broad opposition to the oligarchs and fascists who lead the Kiev regime. They are a consequence of the reckless decision of the NATO powers, led by Washington and Berlin, to back the putsch and then stoke tensions with Moscow.

Since the Kiev putsch, Washington and its NATO allies have stationed fighter jets and ground forces in Poland, the Baltic States, and Romania. They have also stepped up naval deployments to the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, while hypocritically denouncing Russia for stationing troops along its western border with Ukraine.

Vershbow said that NATO will deploy more forces, to be able to intervene rapidly in the Baltic states. “We want to be sure that we can come to the aid of these countries if there were any, even indirect, threat very quickly before any facts on the ground can be established,” he said.

Such a deployment would be wildly provocative. Were NATO forces to be stationed in the northernmost Baltic country, Estonia, they would be less than 100 miles from Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

NATO officials also announced yesterday that they were examining ways to grant NATO membership status to the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, in the southern Caucasus.

Such a move also directly raises the risk of war between Russia and NATO. Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, after Georgia attacked Russian peacekeepers stationed in ethnic minority regions of Georgia along its border with Russia. Had Georgia been a NATO member state at the time, the other NATO powers could have invoked the Clause 5 mutual self-defense guarantee between NATO member states to justify intervening in the war on Georgia’s side.

NATO Special Representative for the Caucasus James Appathurai pledged that the organization would ignore Russian objections to Georgian membership in NATO.

“What Russia says or does will not influence our decision,” he said. “We will judge Georgia on Georgia’s merits and regardless of what’s happening elsewhere and regardless of comments from the Kremlin or elsewhere … We are now looking, of course, at next steps, at bringing Georgia even closer to NATO and to meeting its goals.”

NATO’s second-in-command says Russia is now an enemy, not a partner

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow now says that the allied group has been compelled to treat Russia “as more of an enemy than a partner,” according to an Associated Press report published Thursday.

The 61-year-old former United States ambassador to Russia reportedly told journalists this week that Moscow’s role in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has forced NATO to reconsider the alliance’s opinion on Russia, and that additional troops may soon be mobilized to the region as tensions worsen.

AP journalist Robert Burns wrote on Thursday that Vershbow said the Kremlin’s perceived part in the recent events in Ukraine “marks a turning point in decades of effort by NATO to draw Moscow closer.”

NATO’s second-in-command reportedly told journalists that the alliance is now considering new measures meant to counter any future acts of aggression on the part of Russia aimed at partner nations, and soon could deploy a larger number of combat forces to Eastern Europe.

Journalists reporting for Civil.Ge wrote on Thursday that Vershbow told the audience at a panel discussion in Washington, DC one day earlier that NATO should deploy “defensive assets to the region.”

We need to step up our support for defense reforms and military modernization of Russia’s neighbors, and not just of Ukraine, but also Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan,” Vershbow said, according to the Civil Georgia site.

NATO should think about “upgrading” joint exercises among partner nations, the site quoted Vershbow as saying during the event, while acknowledging that deploying forces to Georgia would be a “controversial” maneuver.

“It is also important for the United States to show leadership… to make sure that next steps that NATO will make, for example at the summit in September, will be adequate response to what’s happening in Ukraine,” the Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said during the discussion.

“The West should now seize the opportunity and create the reality on the ground by accepting membership of aspirant countries, by putting purely defensive assets in aspirant countries and predominantly in Georgia,” Alasania added. “What is important now is to put some deterrent capabilities on the ground like air defense and anti-armor capabilities that will give us a chance to defend our freedom, because we know that if things go wrong at this point no one is coming to save us; we’ve seen that in 2008.”

Earlier this week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the builduip of NATO troops near Russia’s border was “unprecedented.” Weeks earlier, the US Air Force commander in charge of NATO’s military presence in Europe said that US troops may soon be deployed to the region as tensions continue to worsen near the border between Ukraine and Russia.

For weeks now, officials in Washington and Kiev have claimed that the recent separation of Crimea from Ukraine and the rash of uprisings in the country’s eastern part are the direct result of destabilization efforts spearheaded by Moscow, and both the US and European Union have introduced several rounds of sanctions against Russia as a result. The Kremlin has refuted these claims and rebuffed the sanctions, however, and earlier this week Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin accused the White House of orchestrating the Ukrainian crisis.

“I think what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow,” Putin said this week.

The western presstitute media are relentlessly reporting about the kidnapped monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); kidnapped by pro-Russian protesters, allegedly helped by Russian special forces.  

The truth is that the captured monitors are in fact NATO military intelligence officers, sent to the Ukraine under the guise of the OSCE.

Russia was not consulted on these NATO ‘observers’, although Russia is a member of the OSCE. In no case do the media distinguish between the 150 or so legitimate OSCE civilian observers, including Russians, and the illegal NATO spies. Global Research

Among the many reasons for Washington to justify a direct confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, is that Mr. Putin hasn’t done enough to free the NATO spies.

The ridiculous ‘sanctions’, as Obama knows very well, are of course not enough to keep the US economy (sic) going. On the other hand, a war or armed conflict – or a new Cold War– might sustain the US economy for a while.

Let’s face it, the US economy is as dependent on the military and security industrial complex – the War Machine – as a drug addict is on drugs. Without the drugs the addict collapses. American military expenditures are more than those of the rest of the world together and amount to about 50% of the US budget.

Without war and WMD the United States of America collapses – and along with its sick economy.

Poverty in the US is rampant.

60 million children go to bed hungry every night (Department of Agriculture);

The real level of unemployment is above 20%; people without health insurance and dependent on food stamps or other food assistance amount to about 40 million. The American empire is at a point of no return. Peace is America’s greatest enemy.

Therefore no lie and propaganda is brazen enough to brainwash the western public, especially the Europeans, into believing the only way to save the West, meaning Europe, is to involve Russia in an armed conflict, to basically annihilate their economy, to the level it was at the end of WWII, or even after Cold War I.

Let us not forget, the end game for the American Oligarchs is encircling Russia and China to obtain full control of the world and its resources. A weak Russia and an intimidated China would make the task towards a One World Order easier. As a reminder – today about 50% of the US Navy fleet is already stationed along China’s East and Southern Coast, to be increased to 60% within a year.

Europeans are awaking. If not they should. Germany would have most to lose from a war. They are not only virtually the go-between; they are also geographically and economically caught in the middle. Though when listening to the German Foreign Minister, one could believe that he is oblivious to the gravity of the situation for his country, as he is still aping the emperor about ‘sanctioning’ Russia.

Another argument for US intervention is the ceaselessly repeated lies about Russia’s special forces fighting alongside the pro-Russia Ukrainian faction, occupying public buildings and radio / TV station – conquering entire cities, like the city of Slavyansk. According to western propaganda, the new people’s mayor of Slavyansk, VyacheslavPonomarev,is nothing but a figure head put in place by Moscow; all lies to further denigrate Russia and its leader.

The United States will unlikely risk interfering again (remember the 5 billion dollar investment for obtaining ‘Regime Change’ in Kiev) in the Ukraine. The emerging confrontation with Russia could willy-nilly result in a nuclear war. Obama knows that a first preventive strike by the US would still leave Russia with enough nuclear fire power to hit back and destroy most of what the elite thrives for.

In the meantime, like a dying beast, the US destroys and divides as much as it can, creating chaos and suffering–the old mantra ‘dividing for reigning’. Even knowing that the end is near, the (military) corporate and banking elite behind the Obama Administration is adamant to postpone the demise as long as possible, annihilating what we call civilization and the globe’s resources, according to the motto, ‘after me the deluge’ — nobody should be allowed to live happily and peacefully, once the empire bites the dust.

There is still the possibility that before the last straw breaks, the US viathe IMF, declares a new gold standard. That could take any form possible suiting them most. It could even be a combination of gold and hydrocarbon; the latter based on oil and gas reserves throughout the world, controlled, or quasi-controlled by US hydrocarbon giants.

That’s why the Bricso– a fictitious name for the soon to be issued new currency by the BRICS – is more than welcome.

As the era of the US dollar plunges into its demise, the rest of the world needs an alternative to the dollar to be able to continue life with the least possible disruption, once the dollar is extinct.

Peter Koenig is an economist and former World Bank staff. He worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, the Voice of Russia and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. Peter may be reached at [email protected] .

A May Day 2014 Lament for American Labor

May 2nd, 2014 by Jack Rasmus

Today, May 1, 2014, is International Labor Day. It is worth summing up how well American workers—and their unions—have fared over the past year; since the so-called economic recovery began in mid-2009; and for the recent decades preceding.

What’s happened to jobs, wages and incomes, health and retirement security, and other indicators of the quality of life for the more than 100 million non-supervisory wage and salary earners—the core of the working class in America—over the past decade and especially since 2009?

What a summary of the facts tell us is as follows:

*While jobs have been created for managers, supervisors, and highly skilled business and technical professionals since 2009, job levels for the core of the American working class—the category of the more than 100 million ‘Production & Non-Supervisory Workers’—is still 11 million below 2007 pre-recession levels. Manufacturing jobs are still 1.4 million fewer today than in 2007, and Construction jobs 1.3 million fewer.

*The real unemployment rate in the US is approximately 14%, when the ‘hidden unemployed’ are added to the ranks of the officially declared full time unemployed (U-3) and underemployed (U-6) estimates. That’s approximately 22 million still jobless after five years of so-called economic recovery.

*The quality of job creation since 2009 has been extremely poor by past historical standards. The US is ‘churning out’ high paying-good benefit jobs for low pay, increasingly part time/temp (contingent) jobs, with few if any benefits. 79% of jobs lost during the recent recession paid more than $14/hr., while 58% of the jobs created since recession were low pay (less than $14 and with a median of only $7.69hr.)

*While 5 million plus jobs have been added since the official ‘end’ of the recession in June 2009, more than 5 million have left the labor force or been unable to find work as new entrants—a 5+million ‘in’ and a 5+ million ‘out’ additional churn. As labor force participation has declined in general (from 66.2% to 62.9% since 2009), and has fallen especially rapidly for age groups 35 and below, previously retired workers are entering the labor force in record numbers as their savings are depleted and retirement benefits are being reduced. The fastest growing age groups entering the labor force are: age 65-69 (64% increase in participation), 70-74 (91%), and >75 (81%).

*The US economy is not only churning out high pay for low pay, and labor force drop-outs for new hires, but is also churning non-union for union jobs, in the process reducing private sector unionization to historic lows not seen since the 19th century.

*Union membership in the private sector has fallen to only 6.7% of the total labor force, or 7.3 million—down roughly 5 million since 1980 despite 45 million more wage workers having entered the labor force. And for the first time in decades, since 2009 union membership in the public sector has also begun falling since 2009, down by more than 2% points.

*The US is experiencing a chronic long-term problem in the 21st century creating jobs sufficient to keep up with the growth of its population, a structural problem in the US economy that clearly pre-dates the onset of the latest recession. Since just 2009, the ratio of employed to the US population has fallen from 63% to 58.7%. The population is growing much faster than the economy can create jobs.

*The US economy has developed a corresponding problem of inability to find jobs for the long term unemployed, whose numbers are growing as a percent of total jobless. The Employment to Population ratio has continued to decline through both recent recession and recovery, revealing a chronic structural problem of job creation in the US economy long term. The long term jobless as percent of total unemployed remains twice that (36%) of historical average (18%) today, five years into the recovery.

*Income inequality is growing in the US not only because the rich are getting richer, but because the US working class is locked into stagnant wage growth (in best of times) or declining wage growth (in recession or slow growth times) for the past 30 years.

*The real average hourly wage for the 100 million plus full-time employed core working class, adjusted for inflation, has declined despite nearly five years of ‘recovery’, from $8.86/hr. (adjusted in 1982-84 prices as per the US Government estimates) to $8.83/hr.

*But when adjusted for the core working class as a whole—not just full time employed—the decline in core working class income since 2009 has been precipitous—(i.e. when adjusted further for the rise of millions more part time/temp workers, unemployed, for millions of workers leaving the labor force, for millions rise of workers on disability, for millions’ expiration of unemployment benefits, and for workers’ rising share of healthcare benefits costs and reductions of pension benefits). The adjusted decline is at least 15%.

*Per US Government statistics (unadjusted per above), real median household income fell 4.1% under George W. Bush, collapsed by 9.6% since 2008 under Obama, recovering only 3.4% of the overall decline since 2012—i.e. a net loss of more than 10% since 2000.

*The share of wages & salaries of total National Income has declined steadily for 30 years, from 55.6% in 1983 to 52.0% in 2007 just prior to the recession. It has continued to fall during the recession period, 2007-09, as well as during the post-2009 recovery, to 49.1% today.

Concluding Comments

Much has been written over the past year about the growing income inequality in America, and how the wealthiest 1% households, who almost exclusively derive their income from returns on capital (capital gains from stock & bond trading, foreign exchange & derivatives speculation, interest, real estate, rents, etc.), have accrued 95% of all the national income gains in the US economy since the June 2009 so-called economic ‘recovery’ officially began.

Liberal economists like Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, James Galbraith and others have been writing numerous books and countless newspaper columns on the subject of income inequality in general over the past year. They have finally discovered in recent years the sad fact of accelerating income inequality in America, a developing trend that has been in progress for decades, at least since the early 1980s.

But while liberal economists today are finally focusing on why and how the wealthiest 1% are accruing more for themselves, not enough attention has been paid to why and how more than 100 million working class households in America have been doing so poorly—and increasingly so—during recent decades and in particular during the most recent period, 2004-2014. Nor have mainstream commentaries offered much in the way of correcting the historic decline in American working class conditions. How to improve the latter is just as important as taming the runaway capital incomes of the rich and super-rich. But only tepid and conservative proposals are forthcoming thus far from the mainstream economic profession, proposals that are long term and ‘safe’ for the owners of Capital today and do not embarrass their political friends and benefactors.

That condition of the 100 million plus working families in America today, International Labor Day 2014, is as lamentable as the accelerating accrual of income and wealth by the 1% is disgusting. Of course, the two trends are not mutually exclusive but directly related. The rich and very rich are becoming super-rich and mega-rich in large part at the direct expense of the rest.

(Note: A more detailed analysis of these trends is forthcoming in a public article by Dr. Rasmus under the title ‘An American Labor Balance Sheet: 1984-2014’. Look for a copy on his website below in coming weeks).

Dr. Jack Rasmus is author of the 2010 and 2012 books, “Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression” and “Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few”, Pluto Presss, 2010 and 2012. He hosts the weekly radio show, ‘Alternative Visions’, on the Progressive Radio Network in the USA. His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and his blog is jackrasmus.com. His twitter handle is @drjackrasmus.

Right before the champagne bottles began popping for activists engaged in a grassroots struggle to halt the construction of Williams Companies‘ prospective Bluegrass Pipeline project — which the company suspended indefinitely in an April 28 press release — Williams had already begun raining on the parade.

The pipeline industry giant took out the trash on Friday, April 25, announcing its intentions to open a new Louisiana pipeline named Gulf Trace.

Akin to TransCanada’s ANR Pipeline recently reported on by DeSmogBlog, Gulf Trace is not entirely “new,” per se. Rather, it’s the retooling of a pipeline system already in place, in this case Williams’ Transco Pipeline system

The retooling has taken place in the aftermath of Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG export facility receiving the first ever final gas export permit from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during the fracking era.

Williams’ Transco Pipeline System; Photo Credit: William Huston

Both ANR and Gulf Trace will feed into Sabine Pass, the Louisiana-based LNG export terminal set to open for business in late 2015Also like ANR, Transco will transform into a gas pipeline flowing in both directions, “bidirectional” in industry lingo.

Bluegrass, if ever built, also would transport fracked gas to the Gulf Coast export markets. But instead of LNG, Bluegrass is a natural gas liquids pipeline (NGL)

“The project…is designed to connect [NGLs] produced in the Marcellus-Utica areas in the U.S. Northeast with domestic and export markets in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” it explained in an April 28 press release announcing the project’s suspension. 

With Bluegrass tossed to the side for now, Williams already announced in a press release that the company has launched an open season to examine industry interest in Gulf Trace. It closes on May 8, 2014.

“Although we recognized the suspension of the Bluegrass could impact non-conventional drilling here in Western Pennsylvania, we should all know better than to get too excited about this announcement,” Carrie Hahn, a Pennsylvania-based activist told DeSmogBlog. “There is too much at stake here for them to give up that easily.”

The announcement follows in the aftermath of the flurry of federal-level lobbying activity by Williams during the first quarter of 2014.

Williams Spends Big Lobbying for Exports

First-quarter lobbying disclosure forms indicate Williams spent $450,000 lobbying at the federal level for both shale gas exports and pipeline permitting issues. It has done so utilizing both its in-house lobbyists and outside lobbying firms.

In-House Lobbyists 

In-house, Williams spent $410,000 on its own to advocate for gas exports and pipeline permitting issues during the first quarter. Williams’ lobbying efforts were headed by its vice president for governmental affairs, Deborah Lawrence and director of governmental affairs, Glenn Jackson.

Outside Lobbying Firms

No smart corporation makes a big announcement of this sort without first greasing the skids and Williams is no different in that regard, utilizing the age-old government-industry revolving door to curry favor.

In that vein, meet Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli and Berzok, LLP, which Williams paid $40,000 to lobby on its behalf during the first quarter.

Lobbyist Thomas Ryan formerly served as chief counsel for the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee. That committee has pushed forward shale gas exports in a big way so far in 2014. Ryan is one of the lobbyists listed on the firm’s first-quarter disclosure form on the Williams file.

Jeffrey MacKinnon, another lobbyist listed on the firm’s lobbying disclosure form, also has close ties to the Energy & Commerce Committee. MacKinnon formerly served as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the climate change denier and former chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee.


U.S. Rep. Joe Barton: Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Add Joseph Vasapoli to the list, as well.

Vasapoli, who helped write the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that transformed fracking into a widespread practice in the U.S., formerly served as Republican Counsel for the Energy & Commerce Committee. He also has spent time working at both FERC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the two federal agencies responsible for overseeing the LNG export permit process.

The other three lobbyists listed on Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli and Berzok, LLP‘s disclosure form for the work it did on behalf of Williams — Matthew Berzok, Nick Kolovos and Jeffrey Mortier — also passed through the revolving door as former staffers for congressional members who were on the Energy & Commerce Committee.

“Empire State of Mind:” New York Connection

Burgos and Associates, also registered to lobby on behalf of Williams at the federal level, is a New York City-based firm at the center of a February 2013 investigation published on DeSmogBlog on the New York Fracking Scandal.

The episode earned the unflattering name because New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has the final say over whether the floodgates will be opened for fracking the Marcellus Shale in his state, has a powerful aide named Larry Schwartz.

Schwartz, DeSmog revealed, has thousands of dollars worth of investments in Williams Companies and other companies standing to gain if fracking goes forward in New York.

And in New York, like at the federal level, Burgos and Associates lobbies on behalf of Williams.

Not coincidentally, the powerful Tonio Burgos owns Burgos and Associates and is the former aide to Andrew Cuomo’s father, Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Burgos was described by the Chicago Tribune in a 1993 article as Mario Cuomo’s “patronage chief.” He was also identified in 2012 by The Wall Street Journal as “one of [Andrew] Cuomo’s closest outside advisers and top fund-raisers.”

A reminder: Williams’ Transco runs from New York and the northeast down to the Gulf.

Transco is connected to fracked gas produced in Marcellus Shale via the company’s Springville Pipeline and its proposed Constitution Pipeline, which is set to connect to Springville when if and when it opens for business in 2015 or 2016.

Williams’ Constiution Pipeline and Springville Pipeline; Photo Credit: William Huston

In short, New York — a state geographically distant from Louisiana, Gulf Trace and Sabine Pass LNG —is directly connected to Williams’ latest export pipeline announcement both via its lobbyists and Williams’ gas pipeline empire.

And so while fracking has yet to commence in the Empire State, that doesn’t mean the shale gas industry doesn’t have an increasingly heavy footprint there, as it proceeds with business as usual by using an “empire state of mind.”

This is probably the worst time to write and release a book about my involvement in the long struggle to free South Africa.

It’s a bad time because even as the country celebrates its twentieth anniversary as a democracy with elections slated for next week, there has never been more rancor and anger in a land we all wanted to see as a true “Rainbow nation,”a model for the world because of how it achieved a relatively peaceful transition from white rule and promoted racial reconciliation.

 My new book, “When South Africa Called, We Answered: How Solidarity Helped Topple Apartheid” about the global solidarity movement has been published  (Actually pre-published) by ColdType.net, a Canadian-based website and online publication run by Tony Sutton, a former editor of Johannesburg’s classic Drum Magazine, often spoken of as the Life Magazine for the black communities during the glory days of resistance.

 As I hunt for a proper American and South Africa publisher, this 300 pager is available in the PDF format as an e-book and can be downloaded for free at http://coldtype.net.

I wrote it, and released it quickly, after a serious health scare, now happily abated, because I wanted tobe sure that the history of the media projects I have been associated with over the decades, from the all-star music  album “Sun City” bythe 58star Artists United Against Apartheid, the TV series South Africa Now, and my work with Nelson Mandela whose story I tell in the book, Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela(Madibabook.com), gets told in one place.

As I was writing about Mandela heroic life, I thought there might be value in writing my own memoir, too, by compiling the many essays I wrote alongside the media work I have initiated  about South Africa for decades as an expression of solidarity.

But I also know, as is all too often the case with a lot of my work, the timing may bevery problematic,  if not totally off.

The global anti-apartheid movement is long gone, and now, so is Madiba, (the clan name for Mandela) the larger than life leader who largely inspired it. With all the memorializing, many confess to be “Mandela-ed out.”  His life has been feted in print, and on the big screen, most recently by the epic movie Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.

The press has mostly moved on.

The news media is now more focused on red meat for gossip: the tabloid drama of the trial there of Oscar Pistorius, South Africa’s high-profile disabled runner accused of intentionally shooting his high-profile girlfriend in a tragic and bloody late-night confrontation or accident.

There is some media interest in the country. Britain’s The Financial Times, reflecting the interest and interests of its readers,did send their editor, Lionel Barber, on a 12 day safari to Southern Africa to key in on today’s challenges.

He notes that,“twenty years after the end of apartheid (sic, its been 24 years) South Africa and its neighboring states, Namibia and Angola, face a second great struggle for progress, prosperity and a better future for all.”

He spent a day on the campaign trail with President Jacob Zuma, observing, “he can jive like a man half his age to the old liberation favorite, Umshini Wami,” (“Bring Me My  Machine Gun.”)

FT doesn’t mention that this is an oft-repeated recycled act for JZ, as he’s known, because he beat that song to death in his first campaign five years ago after forcing Thabo Mbeki out of ANC politics.

In the end, Barber is upbeat about South Africa’s economy, perhaps because it is still dominated by a multinational privately-controlled Mineral Energy Complex (MEC,)with many of its components now based in London.

“If you believe in Africa,” he writes. “You have to be positive about South Africa.“

This is hardly the message of Zuma’s many detractors want to hear, including many responding to the call of Ex-ANC stalwarts to Vote No by soiling their ballots in a protest against pervasive corruption.

Soon, as the South African election in early May comes into focus, the rest of the world media will descend, and give local events their attention for a day or two.

Big Media loves conflict and this story is perfect, complete with bitter charges oflooting state resources, defections by long-time supporters of Mandela’s ANC, and frustration in every community as the economy seems unable to eradicate poverty and distribute wealth fairly.

The newspaper that brags “We Live in Financial Times”hints at this downside, but features the positive hopes of investors and financiers.

The truth is that twentyyears after the country’s first multiracial election in which the ANC promised “A Better Life For All,” many there are living worse lives with poverty today as deep as it was then. Its not all the fault of South Africans, but reflects a globalized world economy that benefits the 1%, far more than the 99 %, especially in traditionally poor and colonized countries.

At thesame time, activists in West have also moved on—or moved off this political stage as economic failures eruptin Europe and America, and as young people are stuck in a student debt bubbles, with social for global economic justice movements losing visibility.

 Global problems today may be even more serious, with inequality and climate change topping the list, but the sense of widespread moral outrage that fired the anti-apartheid movement seems on the decline. Many of us are now realize that a new apartheid exists in the global economy, in Israel, and here at home.

At Mandela’s funeral, that international movement—in a way, a successor to a similar crusade against slavery a century and a half earlier –was barely referenced.

The focus was on the utterings of heads of state with a great men make history subtext on display.

Ironically, the ANC, as a people’s movement was pushed aside by all the government dictated protocol and media led deification of Mandela by politicians, including President Obama.  Only the aging “Arch,” Desmond Tutu,  criticized the organizers for not inviting leading whites and activists from abroad. He has gone from an ANC booster to trenchant critic

Even as the globally-televised event celebrated the history of South Africa’s greatest son and his ‘long walk to freedom,“ it also rewrote  that history, leaving out the  mass global solidarity movement responsible for generating pressure for sanctions and demands for Mandela and co’s freedom.

That’s why I felt compelled to write this book, to add my small voice to remember important, if relatively,  now forgotten,  contributions to this importanthistory, and the fact that South Africans didn’t make the change all alone.

Its also essential that we realize how the US as  a country supported apartheid for decades and then used its influence and power to impose neo-liberalism, assuring the “compromises” on the economic front then that limits their options now.

 As been said many times, the past is never past.

South Africans also need to be reminded of the debt they owe to a world that responded to their call for support, and stood with them in the dark years. In an interdependent world, that movement played a crucial role.  When South African politicians ride the “gravy train,” they are betraying their friends abroad.

Unfortunately, a media that lionizes changemakers from above, and ignores movements from below, will always downplay that lesson, lest they encourage similar struggles beyond borders on today’s global issues.

As a friend once told me when I went to South Africa at age 25 to enlist in that then against all odds freedom struggle, “its not the ship that makes the waves, but the motion on the ocean.”

News Dissector Danny Schechter is a New York based blogger, (NewsDissector.net), editor of Mediachannel.org, author of 16 books, and director of more than 30 documentaries, including six with and about Nelson Mandela. Comments to dissector@mediachannel,org.

Wall Street and the Global Laundering of Drug Money

May 2nd, 2014 by Washington's Blog

For More Than 30 Years, the Big Banks Have Been Key Players In the Drug Trade

Official statistics show that huge sums of drug money are laundered every year:

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted a study to determine the magnitude of illicit funds generated by drug trafficking and organised crimes and to investigate to what extent these funds are laundered.  The report estimates that in 2009, criminal proceeds amounted to 3.6% of global GDP, with 2.7%  (or USD 1.6 trillion) being laundered.

This falls within the widely quoted estimate by the International Monetary Fund, who stated in 1998 that the aggregate size of money laundering in the world could be somewhere between two and five percent of the world’s gross domestic product.  Using 1998 statistics, these percentages would indicate that money laundering ranged between USD 590 billion and USD 1.5 trillion. At the time, the lower figure was roughly equivalent to the value of the total output of an economy the size of Spain.

Indeed, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says that drug dealers kept the banking system afloat during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

This started a long time ago. For example, Citibank was caught laundering drug money for Mexican cartels in 2001.

In the 1990s, earlier, Citibank apparently set up special client accounts for a big drug dealer:

One of the more infamous cases involving taxpayer bailed-out Citigroup’s ties to money laundering drug cartels emerged in the late 1990s when Raúl Salinas de Gortari, the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, was arrested after his wife, Paulina Castañón, attempted to withdraw $84 million from a Swiss account controlled by Raúl under an alias.

***

According to a 1995 Los Angeles Times report, Salinas “amassed at least $100 million in suspected drug money.”

Switzerland’s top prosecutor at the time, Carla del Ponte, “launched the investigation after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration supplied information that led Swiss agents to the accounts in Geneva, where they arrested Raúl Salinas’ wife and her brother on Nov. 15 as the pair attempted to withdraw more than $83 million.”

Del Ponte told the Los Angeles Times that after observing Salinas’ interrogation by Mexican federal prosecutors the sums found in those accounts were “suspected to be from the laundering of money related to narcotics trafficking.”

In 1998, when Swiss prosecutors completed their Salinas investigation, The New York Times disclosed that “Swiss police investigators have concluded that a brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari played a central role in Mexico’s cocaine trade, raking in huge bribes to protect the flow of drugs into the United States.”

***

A 1998 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) pointed a finger directly at Citibank. Investigators revealed that “Mr. Salinas was able to transfer $90 million to $100 million between 1992 and 1994 by using a private banking relationship formed by Citibank New York in 1992. The funds were transferred through Citibank Mexico and Citibank New York to private banking investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland.”

With the connivance of bank officials, in 1992 Salinas was able to “effectively disguise” the source of those funds and their destination.

Indeed, with hefty fees secured from assisting their well-connected client Salinas, Citibank “set up an offshore private investment company named Trocca, to hold Mr. Salinas’s assets, through Cititrust (Cayman) and investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland.”

***

A 1999 Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on “Private Banking and Money Laundering” revealed that “a culture of secrecy pervades the private banking industry.”

“For example,” Senate investigators disclosed, “in the case of Raul Salinas . . . the private bank hid Mr. Salinas’ ownership of Trocca by omitting his name from the Trocca incorporation papers and naming still other shell companies as the shareholders, directors, and officers. Citibank consistently referred to Mr. Salinas in internal bank communications by the code name ‘Confidential Client Number 2′ or ‘CC-2.’ The private bank’s Swiss office opened a special name account for him under the name of ‘Bonaparte’.”

In the 1980s, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) – apparently backed by top CIA officials – laundered drug money.  Time Magazine reported in 1991:

Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer.

As Wikipedia notes, Alfred McCoy (Professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and one of the world’s top experts on drug trafficking)

[McCoy] uncovered money laundering activities by banks controlled by the CIA, first the Castle Bank which was then replaced by the Nugan Hand Bank, which had as legal counsel William Colby, retired head of the CIA.  He also alludes to the BCCI, which seems to have played the same role as the Nugan Hand Bank after its collapse in the early 1980s, claiming that “the boom in the Pakistan drug trade was financed by BCCI.

Citibank was still laundering Mexican drug money in 2001.

And nothing has changed since then.

The big banks are still laundering staggering sums of drug money.  See this, this, this, this, this, this and and this.

An HSBC employee who blew the whistle on that banks’ money laundering for terrorists and drug cartels says: “America is losing the drug war because our banks are [still] financing the cartels“, and “Banks financing drug cartels … affects every single American“.

(And see this.)

If you can’t believe that the banks would launder drug money, just take a look at their other crimes.

The Feds are a big part of the problem. After all, they support some ruthless, criminal drug cartels, have repeatedly protected drug smugglers, supported  drug producers (update).

Obviously the war on drugs is a total boondoggle.

The following text was published by Spiegel  in November 2009.

It sheds light on the current crisis in Ukraine and on the history of Russia-Western relations in the immediate post-Cold era.

What it overlooks is that Gorbachev and Shevardnaze were tacitly serving Western interests. (Gr Editor, M. Ch.).

(Copyright Spiegel Online 2009)

By Uwe Klussmann, Matthias Schepp and Klaus Wiegrefe

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has accused the West of breaking promises made after the fall of the Iron Curtain, saying that NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe violated commitments made during the negotiations over German reunification. Newly discovered documents from Western archives support the Russian position.

Part I

No one in Russia can vent his anger over NATO’s eastward expansion quite as vehemently as Viktor Baranez. The popular columnist with the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda (“Komsomol Truth”), which has a readership of millions, is fond of railing against the “insidious and reckless” Western military alliance. Russia, Baranez writes, must finally stop treating NATO as a partner.

Baranez, a retired colonel who was the Defense Ministry’s spokesman under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, asks why Russia should even consider joint maneuvers after being deceived by the West. NATO, he writes, “has pushed its way right up to our national borders with its guns.” He also argues that, in doing so, NATO has broken all the promises it made during the process of German reunification.

There is widespread agreement among all political parties in Moscow, from the Patriots of Russia to the Communists to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, that the West broke its word and short-changed Russia when it was weak.

In an interview with SPIEGEL at his residence outside Moscow in early November, President Dmitry Medvedev complained that when the Berlin Wall came down, it had “not been possible to redefine Russia’s place in Europe.” What did Russia get? “None of the things that we were assured, namely that NATO would not expand endlessly eastwards and our interests would be continuously taken into consideration,” Medvedev said.

Different Versions

The question of what Moscow was in fact promised in 1990 has sparked a historical dispute with far-reaching consequences for Russia’s future relationship with the West. But what exactly is the truth?

The various players involved have different versions of events. Of course there was a promise not to expand NATO “as much as a thumb’s width further to the East,” Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet president at the time, says in Moscow today. However, Gorbachev’s former foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, speaking in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, says that there were no such assurances from the West. Even the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Eastern military alliance, “was beyond our imagination,” he says.

For years former US Secretary of State James Baker, Shevardnadze’s American counterpart in 1990, has denied that there was any agreement between the two sides. But Jack Matlock, the US ambassador in Moscow at the time, has said in the past that Moscow was given a “clear commitment.” Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German foreign minister in 1990, says this was precisely not the case.

After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

On Feb. 10, 1990, between 4 and 6:30 p.m., Genscher spoke with Shevardnadze. According to the German record of the conversation, which was only recently declassified, Genscher said: “We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.” And because the conversion revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: “As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.”

Shevardnadze replied that he believed “everything the minister (Genscher) said.”

Not a Word

The year 1990 was one of major negotiations. Washington, Moscow, London, Bonn, Paris, Warsaw, East Berlin and many others were at odds over German unity, comprehensive European disarmament and a new charter of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Soviets insisted that everything be documented in writing, even when all that was at issue was the fate of Soviet military cemeteries in East Germany. However, the numerous agreements and treaties of the day contained not a single word about NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

For this reason, the West argues, Moscow has no cause for complaint today. After all, the West did not sign anything regarding NATO expansion to the east. But is that tough stance fair?

At the beginning of 1990, the Soviet Union was still a world power with troops stationed at the Elbe River, and Hans Modrow, the former Dresden district chairman of the East German Communist Party, the SED, was in charge in East Berlin. But the collapse of the East German state was foreseeable.

Bonn’s allies in Paris, London and Washington were concerned about the question of whether a unified Germany could be a member of NATO or, as had already happened in the past, would pursue a seesaw policy between east and west.

Genscher wanted to put an end to this uncertainty, and he said as much in a major speech to the West on Jan. 31, 1990 in Tutzing, a town in Bavaria. This was the reason, he said, why a unified Germany should be a member of NATO.

Moving with Caution

But how could the Soviet leadership be persuaded to support this solution? “I wanted to help them over the hurdle,” Genscher told SPIEGEL. To that end, the German foreign minister promised, in his speech in Tutzing, that there would not be “an expansion of NATO territory to the east, in other words, closer to the borders of the Soviet Union.” East Germany was not to be brought into the military structures of NATO, and the door into the alliance was to remain closed to the countries of Eastern Europe.

Genscher remembered what had happened during the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Some of the insurgents had announced their intention to join the Western alliance, giving Moscow the excuse to intervene militarily. In 1990, Genscher was trying to send a signal to Gorbachev that he need not fear such a development in the Soviet bloc. The West, Genscher indicated, intended to cooperate with the Soviet Union in bringing about change, not act as its adversary.

The plan that was proclaimed in Tutzing had not been coordinated with the chancellor or West German allies, and Genscher spent the next few days vying for their support.

As Genscher’s chief of staff Frank Elbe later wrote, the German foreign minister had “moved with the caution of a giant insect that uses its many feelers to investigate its surroundings, prepared to recoil when it encounters resistance.”

US Secretary of State James Baker, a pragmatic Texan, apparently “warmed to the proposal immediately,” says Elbe today. On Feb. 2, the two diplomats sat down in front of the fireplace in Baker’s study in Washington, took off their jackets, put their feet up and discussed world events. They quickly agreed that there was to be no NATO expansion to the East. “It was completely clear,” Elbe comments.

Part 2: Calming Russian Fears

A short time later, then-British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd joined the German-American consensus. As a previously unknown document from the German Foreign Ministry shows, Genscher was uncharacteristically open with his relatively pro-German British counterpart when they met in Bonn on Feb. 6, 1990. Hungary was about to hold its first free elections, and Genscher declared that the Soviet Union needed “the certainty that Hungary will not become part of the Western alliance if there is a change of government.” The Kremlin, Genscher said, would have to be given assurances to that effect. Hurd agreed.

But were such assurances intended to be valid indefinitely? Apparently not. When the two colleagues discussed Poland, Genscher said, according to the British records, that if Poland ever left the Warsaw Pact, Moscow would need the certainty that Warsaw would “not join NATO the next day.” However, Genscher did not seem to rule out accession at a later date.

It stood to reason that Genscher would present his ideas in Moscow next. He was the longest-serving Western foreign minister, his relationship with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze was unusually strong, and it was his initiative. But Baker wanted to address the issue himself during his next trip to Moscow.

‘One Cannot Depend on American Politicians’

What the US secretary of state said on Feb. 9, 1990 in the magnificent St. Catherine’s Hall at the Kremlin is beyond dispute. There would be, in Baker’s words, “no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east,” provided the Soviets agreed to the NATO membership of a unified Germany. Moscow would think about it, Gorbachev said, but added: “any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable.”

Now, 20 years later, Gorbachev is still outraged when he is asked about this episode. “One cannot depend on American politicians,” he told SPIEGEL. Baker, for his part, now offers a different interpretation of what he said in 1990, arguing that he was merely referring to East Germany, which was to be given a special status in the alliance — nothing more.

But Genscher, in a conversation with Shevardnadze just one day later, had expressly referred to Eastern Europe. In fact, talking about Eastern Europe, and not just East Germany, was consistent with the logic of the West’s position.

If East Germany was to be granted a special status within NATO, so as not to provoke the Soviet leadership, the promise not to expand the alliance to the east certainly had to include countries like Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, which directly bordered the Soviet Union.

When the Western politicians met once again a few weeks later, their conversation was more to the point, as a German Foreign Ministry document that has now been released indicates. According to the document, Baker said that it appeared “as if Central European countries wanted to join NATO.” That, Genscher replied, was an issue “we shouldn’t touch at this point.” Baker agreed.

Positive Light

The political leaders of the day are now elderly gentlemen who don’t necessarily always find it easy to remember exactly what happened back then. Besides, they are all eager to be portrayed in a positive light in the history books. Gorbachev doesn’t want to be the one who failed to tightly close the door to the eastward expansion of NATO. Genscher and Baker don’t want to be accused of having made deals with Moscow over the heads of the Poles, the Hungarians or the Czechs. And Shevardnadze came to the conclusion long ago that there is “nothing horrible” about NATO expansion — not surprisingly, given that his native Georgia now wants to join NATO.

Their interests were different back in 1990. Bonn and Washington wanted to expedite German reunification. A few days after the talks at the Kremlin, Genscher, Baker and Shevardnadze met again, this time all together and with all of the foreign ministers of the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries present, at a disarmament conference in a converted former train station in the Canadian capital Ottawa.

At the conference, the two German foreign ministers (the East German foreign minister at the time was Oskar Fischer, who had been close to the former East German leader Erich Honecker) came together in the corridors and conference rooms, met with the foreign ministers of the four victorious powers in World War II and, in various configurations, discussed the future course of Germany. By the end of the conference, it had been decided that the external aspects of German unity, such as the alliance issue and the size of the German military, were to be resolved in the so-called “two-plus-four” talks.

Sounding Out the Soviets

Genscher says today that all the key issues should have been addressed in this forum, and that during the talks there was never any mention of excluding the Eastern Europeans from NATO membership, which the participants all confirm.

But what about Genscher’s comments to Shevardnadze on Feb. 10, 1990?

Genscher says today that he was merely “sounding out” Shevardnadze prior to the actual negotiations to determine Moscow’s position on the alliance issue and to see whether there was any leeway.

This is the official position. But there are also other versions of the events.

A diplomat with the German Foreign Ministry says that there was, of course, a consensus between the two sides. Indeed, the Soviets would hardly have agreed to take part in the two-plus-four talks if they had known that NATO would later accept Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries as members.

The negotiations with Gorbachev were already difficult enough, with Western politicians repeatedly insisting that they were not going to derive — in the words of then-US President George H. W. Bush — any “unilateral advantage” from the situation, and that there would be “no shift in the balance of power” between the East and the West, as Genscher put it. Russia today is certainly somewhat justified in citing, at the very least, the spirit of the 1990 agreements.

Absurd Notion

In late May 1990, Gorbachev finally agreed to a unified Germany joining NATO. But why didn’t Gorbachev and Shevardnadze get the West’s commitments in writing at a time when they still held all the cards? “The Warsaw Pact still existed at the beginning of 1990,” Gorbachev says today. “Merely the notion that NATO might expand to include the countries in this alliance sounded completely absurd at the time.”

Some leading Western politicians were under the impression that the Kremlin leader and his foreign minister were ignoring reality and, as Baker said, were “in denial” about the demise of the Soviet Union as a major power.

On the other hand, the Baltic countries were still part of the Soviet Union, and NATO membership seemed light years away. And in some parts of Eastern Europe, peace-oriented dissidents were now in power, men like then-Czech President Vaclav Havel who, if he had had his way, would not only have dissolved the Warsaw Pact, but NATO along with it.

No Eastern European government was striving to join NATO in that early phase, and the Western alliance had absolutely no interest in taking on new members. It was too expensive, an unnecessary provocation of Moscow and, if worse came to worst, did the Western governments truly expect French, Italian or German soldiers to risk their lives for Poland and Hungary?

Then, in 1991, came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the war in Bosnia, with its hundred thousand dead, raised fears of a Balkanization of Eastern Europe. And in the United States President Bill Clinton, following his inauguration in 1993, was searching for a new mission for the Western alliance.

Suddenly everyone wanted to join NATO, and soon NATO wanted to accept everyone.

The dispute over history was about to begin.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

The Bureau reveals the shareholders given priority status in the controversial Royal Mail flotation. (Image: Royal Mail via shutterstock.com)

Hundreds of City institutions registered interest in Royal Mail shares in the run up to one of the most controversial privatisations this century.

They were joined by hundreds of thousands of ordinary members of the public.

But most investors, whether big or small, went away empty-handed because the float was oversubscribed 23 times.

Some 17 institutions were given “priority investor status” by Goldman Sachs and UBS the Royal Mail’s global co-ordinators (GloCos).  These 17 institutions, in Vince Cable’s words were “the high quality institutions of the type that would form the core of a long-term supportive investor base.”

Of the 17 priority investors, 16 were actually allocated 22% of Royal Mail.  

Until now, the identity of the priority investors was one of the City’s most closely guarded secrets. The government, in fact, blocked freedom of interest requests on the grounds that disclosing who they are would breach commercial confidentiality even though it is clear the majority of these firms have profited handsomely from a public asset.

Priority investors committed to buying Royal Mail at 250p – 80p below the offer price, even in the event of threatened industrial action by postal workers and a possible US government debt default.

Unmasked

So who were the privileged 16 – the priority investors that were given the most shares in Royal Mail and who were expected by the government to act as stable, long-term investors?

Until now, the identity of the priority investors was one of the City’s most closely guarded secrets. The government, in fact, blocked freedom of interest requests on the grounds that disclosing who they are would breach commercial confidentiality even though it is clear the majority of these firms have profited handsomely from a public asset.

The Bureau accessed Royal Mail’s register of beneficial interests to examine who owned the biggest slices of the postal operator after it was sold.

By comparing this information to a graphic contained in the National Audit Office report showing changes of shareholdings in the Royal Mail’s 21 largest investors, a picture of the priority investors emerges.

Four of the largest ‘priority investors’ appear to be sovereign wealth funds belonging to Singapore and Kuwait together with US based Capital Group and Lansdowne, a UK hedge fund.

Lansdowne is known for its close links to the Conservative Party. Its co-founder, Sir Paul Ruddock, retired from the firm but still a substantial beneficiary, has donated over £700,000 to the Conservatives according to Electoral Commission data. Peter Davies, co-head of development strategy at Lansdowne was best man at George Osborne’s wedding. Lansdowne was a short seller of Northern Rock prior to its collapse.

Capital Group, based in California and one of the world’s largest investment managers, had a holding of 20,244,100 shares at the close of trading on October 15. Just one week later it had only 3,060,000 which would have yielded a potential profit of tens of millions in the space of seven days.

A likely priority investor is Gazelle with an allocation of 16m shares initially worth £52.8. Gazelle has no identifying information on Royal Mail’s shareholder register – not even a postal address. The Bureau approached an investment adviser with links to a hedge fund called Gazelle but he denied owning shares in Royal Mail.

Two other apparent priority investors that sold a tranche of their holdings at a swift profit appear to include Och-Ziff,the US alternative asset manager who declined to comment, and UK pension firm, Standard Life.

Documents passed to the Bureau show that Standard Life made a £25.8m profit on its allocation of Royal Mail shares.

Of the 16 priority investors, 12, perfectly lawfully, sold some or all of their holdings within a few weeks of the float.

Of those, six priority investors sold out completely so scooping profits running into tens of millions of pounds.

Mystery surrounds the identity of seven priority investors.  These investors sold out completely within a few weeks of the float and some may have sold out on the first day of dealings. The Children’s Investment Fund is the Royal Mail’s biggest shareholder with over 4%. It was not a priority investor.

Implications

So were those institutions lucky enough to get hold of Royal Mail favoured clients of the banks organising the sale?

Was it a case of the Square Mile looking after its own?

The suspicion won’t go away that City financiers advised politicians and government officials to the detriment of the taxpayer.

Vince Cable publicly expressed his intention that the Royal Mail shareholder base should be filled with long-term, stable investors. Today, the Royal Mail shareholders are dominated by hedge funds.

Lazard’s and Goldman Sachs declined to comment on issues raised by the Royal Mail float. UBS failed to respond.

The government rejects any suggestion that value for the taxpayer was not sufficiently prioritised and that it allowed the Royal Mail to be sold on the cheap.

“Our primary objective was to secure the future of the universal postal service by completing a sale of a majority stake in Royal Mail in order for the company to be able to access capital markets,” a spokesman said.

“A failed sale would have been a very poor outcome for the taxpayer and it would have been wrong to take excessive risks with a company that provides a vital public service across the whole of the UK and employs 150,000 people. We secured a sale at the highest price that we had evidence to support, based on assessments of the company’s value and market conditions at the time of the sale.”

The government is said to be about to announce more privatisations. Among those said to be sold off soon include Eurostar and Urenco, the uranium enrichment company partially owned by the British and Dutch governments. A further sale of Royal Mail shares is also on the cards.

Royal Mail Priority Investors

The Bureau has compared data from Royal Mail’s register of beneficial interests, which shows the owners of the firm’s shares, with information in the recent NAO report, where the Priority Investors are only identified by letters of the alphabet. This analysis has given us a new insight into who some of the ‘favoured few’ to profit from the sale were – and how big a slice they got of the UK’s 500-year-old postal provider.

Likely Priority Investors 

  • Government Investment Company of Singapore - the sovereign wealth fund was the second largest shareholder in the weeks after IPO, owning around 4% of the firm. It received an allocation of around 18m shares, bought at 330p from the government. This allocation, which would have cost just under £60m, would have been worth over £88m after the first day’s trading on the October 15. 
  • Lansdowne - According to the NAO report, hedge fund Lansdowne received an allocation of around 18m shares, at a cost of just under £60m. The most recent Royal Mail register the Bureau has seen shows that on the February 17 Lansdowne had 17.8m shares, which would have been worth over £106m at the close of trading on that day. 
  • Kuwait Investment Authority - The Kuwaiti government wealth fund appears to have had an allocation of 16m shares worth just under £53m. Another Kuwaiti government fund then bought around 300,000 shares on the open market. The register from February this year shows that it has retained its holding. 
  • The Capital Group - The US based investment funds is likely to be one of the investors that cashed out in the weeks following the IPO. After receiving an initial allocation of just under 20m shares, it reduced its holding to just over 3m shares by mid-November 2013. 
  • Och-Ziff - The US based hedge fund had a holding of 10m shares on the October 15. A week later it had reduced its holding to 3.5m shares. No Och-Ziff holdings appear on filings from the November 13, leading suggesting it had disposed of its remaining shares. 
  • Standard Life - Standard Life is one of the companies that was involved in conditional trading – when select institutional investors were allowed to trade Royal Mail shares in a ‘grey market’ from the October 11 to set a market price for the shares when full trading opened on the October 15. 
  • Gazelle - The register shows that an organisation named ‘Gazelle’ had 16m of shares on the October 15 and retained this holding in the weeks after trading. This appears to match a holding referenced in the NAO report. However, as no identifying information on the company is included on the register, the Bureau has been unable to identify Gazelle. 
  • ING and Nordea - Two holdings that are in the name of Nordea, the Scandinavian financial services firm, and ING, the Dutch financial conglomerate, match the amounts held by priority investors in the NAO reports. However both banks have informed us that they are not the ultimate owners of these shares. 
  • Seven other priority investors appear in the NAO report – and sold either all or the majority of their holdings in the first few weeks of trading. The Bureau believes that in the case of some of the larger accounts these organisations most likely sold on the first day of trading – otherwise their holdings should have been identifiable via Royal Mail’s register of beneficial ownership. One of these companies received an allocation of almost 20m shares and is recorded as having sold 97% of its holding.
  • Fidelity, Threadneedle and Blackrock have been reported as priority investors. Blackrock issued a “no comment” while Fidelity and Threadneedle have not responded yet.

O presidente Obama e a sua equipe de segurança nacional já olham para além da crise ucraniana por que estão ocupados em “criar uma atualização de uma estratégia da guerra fria para conter a Rússia”.  O que os funcionários da administração fazem saber, de quando especificando o objetivo sobre o qual o presidente se concentra, é que o objetivo aqui seria o de “isolar a Rússia de Putin através de cortar os seus elos econômicos e políticos com o mundo exterior “.

O primeiro passo nessa direção seria o de ir sempre reduzindo, até ao interromper, o fornecimento do gás russo à Europa, para poder substituí-lo, principalmente, por aquele fornecido pelas companhias americanas explorando as reservas do Oriente Médio, as reservas africanas e outras, incluindo-se aqui a dos Estados Unidos, que estão se preparando para exportar gaz liquificado extraido da ardósia betuminosa. Aqui os Estados Unidos estão mostrando suas cartas. A margem de superioridade econômica dos Estados Unidos a escala mundial se reduz mais e mais. A China já está em segundo lugar com o seu gráfico mostrando um forte crescimento já equivalente a metade da dos Estados Unidos, sendo seguida aqui então pelo Japão e a Alemanha, sendo que também, em gráfico, se poderia ver que os 28 países da União Européia já ultrapassaram os Estados Unidos. Para conservar a sua supremacia econômica eles se baseiam no sector financeiro, no qual eles mantém vantagens, assim como na capacidade de suas multinacionais de conquistar novos mercados e fontes de matéria prima. Com esse objetivo Washington põe na balança o peso de sua própria superioridade militar, assim como da OTAN, a qual vem mesmo abaixo do comando deles. Nesse cenário então entra a demolição sistemática, através de instrumentos militares, de países inteiros (como na Iugoslávia, Líbia e atualmente também na Síria) e a anexação, por intermédio da OTAN de todos os países do ex-pacto de Varsóvia, assim como dois da ex Iugoslávia, e três da ex-URSS.

Na verdade esses últimos denominados serão mesmo quatro, porque a Ucrânia já estava de-facto sob o controle da OTAN, mesmo antes da crise. Será suficiente esperar as eleições de 2015 para se ter na Ucrânia um presidente que irá acelerar uma entrada entrada oficial do país na aliança. Porque se teria então tomado em Washington a decisão de organizar o golpe de estado que acabaria por derrubar o presidente Ianokovich (que estava longe de ser hostil ao ocidente) e de instalar no governo, em Quieve, os representantes os mais hostís contra a Rússia, e aos russos da Criméia e da Ucrânia do Leste?  Ao que tudo indica, isso teria sido para fazer Moscou reagir e poder lançar, então sem constrangimentos, a estratégia de isolamento. Coisa não fácil: a Alemanha, por exemplo, é a maior importadora do gás russo e acabaria sofrendo danos com uma eventual interrupção de fornecimento do gás. Entretanto, Washington já se decidiu por não esperar os governos europeus para impor à Rússia as mais duras sanções. Ele já tem o ok, ou sejaa luz verde, de Roma (da qual já se conhece a fidelidade) e ele já está a caminho de entrar em um acordo com Berlin e outras capitais. O objetivo estratégico aqui seria o de criar uma frente Anti-Rússia, frente essa constituida dos EUA-UE e consolidada por um acordo de livre comércio entre esses o que permitiria aos Estados Unidos de aumentar sua influência na Europa. Tem-se nesse cenário também a estratégia de tensão na regiãoÁsia-Pacífico, onde os Estados Unidos tem em vista o conter a China. Aquele que se aproximar da Rússia, exercerá um peso crescente não só regional como também global, o que poderia fazer com que as sanções contra Moscou fossem em vão, pois essa aproximação lhe abriria uma possibilidade de um futuro comércio suplementar, ao leste, e isso seria muito importante para as exportações energéticas.

Nesse cenário e de quebra, Obama já efetuou uma visita oficial na Ásia. Entretanto, nessa o Japão se recusou a assinar um acordo de livre comércio o qual teria aberto um mercado aos produtos agrícolas dos Estados Unidos. Em compensação, a Filipina concluiu com os Estados Unidos um novo acordo de decnio que permite aos Estados Unidos aumentar sua presença militar no arquipélago, isso tendo uma função claramente anti-chinesa.

Tem-se que onde o dólar fracassa, a espada sucede.

 Manlio Dinucci

Artigo original  : http://ilmanifesto.it/

Edição de terça-feira 29 de abril de 2014 do il manifesto

Tradução Anna Malm, artigospoliticos.wordpress.com, para Mondialisation.ca

 

What You Need to Know About May Day

May 1st, 2014 by Leo Panitch

For more than 100 years, May Day has symbolized the common struggles of workers around the globe. Why is it largely ignored in North America? The answer lies in part in American labour’s long repression of its own radical past, out of which international May Day was actually born a century ago.

The seeds were sown in the campaign for the eight-hour work day. On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of North American workers mobilized to strike. In Chicago, the demonstration spilled over into support for workers at a major farm-implements factory who’d been locked out for union activities. On May 3, during a pitched battle between picketers and scabs, police shot two workers. At a protest rally in Haymarket Square the next day, a bomb was tossed into the police ranks and police directed their fire indiscriminately at the crowd. Eight anarchist leaders were arrested, tried and sentenced to death (three were later pardoned).

These events triggered international protests, and in 1889, the first congress of the new socialist parties associated with the Second International (the successor to the First International organized by Karl Marx in the 1860s) called on workers everywhere to join in an annual one-day strike on May 1 – not so much to demand specific reforms as an annual demonstration of labour solidarity and working-class power. May Day was both a product of, and an element in, the rapid growth of new mass working-class parties of Europe – which soon forced official recognition by employers and governments of this “workers’ holiday.”

But the American Federation of Labor (AFL), chastened by the “red scare” that followed the Haymarket events, went along with those who opposed May Day observances. Instead, in 1894, the AFL embraced president Grover Cleveland’s decree that the first Monday of September would be the annual Labor Day. The Canadian government of Sir Robert Thompson enacted identical Labour Day legislation a month later.

Ever since, May Day and Labour Day have represented in North America the two faces of working-class political tradition, one symbolizing its revolutionary potential, the other its long search for reform and respectability. With the support of the state and business, the latter has predominated – but the more radical tradition has never been entirely suppressed.

This radical May Day tradition is nowhere better captured than in Bryan Palmer’s monumental book, Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the Histories of Transgression [From Medieval to Modern] (Monthly Review Press, 2000). Palmer, one of Canada’s foremost Marxist labour historians, has done more than anyone to recover and analyze the cultures of resistancethat working people developed in practising class struggle from below. He’s strongly critical of labour-movement leaders who’ve appealed to those elements of working-class culture that crave ersatz bourgeois respectability.

Set amid chapters on peasants and witches in late feudalism, on pirates and slaves during the rise of mercantile imperialism, on fraternal lodge members and anarchists in the new cities of industrial capitalism, on lesbians, homosexuals and communists under fascism, and on the mafia, youth gangs and race riots, jazz, beats and bohemians in modern U.S. capitalism, are two chapters that brilliantly tell the story of May Day. One locates Haymarket in the context of the Victorian bourgeoisie’s fears of what they called the “dangerous classes.” This account confirms the central role of the “anarcho-communist movement in Chicago [which] was blessed with talented leaders, dedicated ranks and the most active left-wing press in the country. The dangerous classes were becoming truly dangerous.”

The other chapter, a survey of “Festivals of Revolution,” locates “the celebratory May Day, a festive seizure of working-class initiative that encompassed demands for shorter hours, improvement in conditions, and socialist agitation and organization” against the backdrop of the traditional spring calendar of class confrontation.

Over the past century communist revolutions were made in the name of the working class, and social democratic parties were often elected into government. In their different ways, both turned May Day to the purposes of the state. Before the 20th century was out the communist regimes imploded in internal contradictions between authoritarianism and the democratic purpose of socialism, while most social democratic ones, trapped in the internal contradictions between the welfare state and increasingly powerful capital markets, accommodated to neoliberalism and become openly disdainful of “old labour.”

As for the United States, the tragic legacy of the repression of its radical labour past is an increasingly de-unionized working class mobilized by fundamentalist Christian churches. Canada, with its NDP and 30-per-cent unionized labour force, looks good by comparison.

Working classes have suffered defeat after defeat in this era of capitalist globalization. But they’re also in the process of being transformed: The decimated industrial proletariat of the global North is being replaced by a bigger industrial proletariat in the global South. In both regions, a new working class is still being formed in the new service and communication sectors spawned by global capitalism (where the eight-hour day is often unknown). Union movements and workers’ parties from Poland to Korea to South Africa to Brazil have been spawned in the past 20 years. Two more books out of Monthly Review Press – Ursula Huws’ The Making of a Cybertariat (2003) and the late Daniel Singer’s Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours?(1999) – don’t deal with May Day per se, but capture particularly well this global economic and political transformation. They tell much that is sober yet inspiring about why May Day still symbolizes the struggle for a future beyond capitalism rather than just a homage to the struggles of the past.

Leo Panitch teaches political economy at York University, is co-editor of The Socialist Register and author of Renewing Socialist Democracy, Strategy and Imagination.

Black Mesa Coal Mine circa 1973. Photo: Lyntha Scott Eiler. Used under Creative Commons license.

WWF Europe has filed a complaint for false advertising against Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal mining company, after the company began a campaign to promote the use of coal in developing countries, claiming that so-called “clean coal” technology could eradicate poverty.

In late February, Peabody paid for an advertisement in the European edition of the Financial Times with pictures of poor people cooking and warming themselves around the world and a headline that read: “Let’s brighten the many faces of global energy poverty.”

The company said that it was “working to build awareness and support to end energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions using today’s advanced clean coal technologies.”

“Coal-fueled electricity and synthetic natural gas can eliminate widespread deforestation from gathering biomass as well as the devastating effects of energy poverty,” said Gregory Boyce, Peabody CEO, in an accompanying press release.

WWF’s complaint alleges that Peabody’s ad is in violation of the Jury d’Ethique Publicitaire code which require that “any publicity must be decent, honest and verifiable.”“Peabody is marketing its dangerous technologies onto those poorest countries with the least development options,” says Tony Long, the director of WWF European Policy Office. “Peabody Energy’s new campaign marks the final death throes of a dying and desperate industry.”

The term “clean coal” was coined by U.S. Congress in the mid-1980s to rehabilitate the image of coal as a dirty industry by providing funding to address the impact of burning coal which causes air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The term, however, does not address the long term environmental and social issues caused by coal mining which have resulted in the destruction of agricultural and natural lands as well as water pollution.

Peabody touts the process of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in order to prevent the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is done through three key steps: carbon dioxide created by burning coal is compressed, transported typically by pipeline, and then stored on land or under the seabed.

These CCS technologies, however, are often more expensive to install, almost doubling conventional plant costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This, in turn, may result in electricity price hikes of up to 91 percent. Another major concern with CCS technologies is the possibility of leakage of the stored carbon dioxide. Indeed, according to “False Hope” – a 2008 Greenpeace report – even if one percent of the compressed carbon dioxide escaped, it would actually negate the purpose of capturing it in the first place.

“Our analysis shows that switching to cleaner energy sources and investing in energy efficiency often makes more economic sense than spending billions to extend the life of obsolete coal plants,” says Steve Frenkel, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Midwest office.

Some of the impacts of open cut mining enumerated by Greenpeace include: the destruction of landscapes, deforestation, chemical contamination of ground water, pollution of waterways and compromises the health of individuals who live near the sites.

Another key issue that is the fate of coal ash, a by-product of burning coal that contains a concoction of some of the world’s deadliest toxins, including arsenic, boron, chromium, lead, mercury and selenium. CCS technology converts this into a slurry that are stored in open air lagoons which have occasionally leaked and contaminated ground water.

Peabody itself has been criticized heavily for decades over its coal mining practices notably in Arizona, where the company signed a contract with the Diné and Hopi tribes in 1964 allowing the company mineral rights and use of an aquifer that carried out for decades.

Two of these mines – Black Mesa and Kayenta – have fueled major discontent among dozens of families in the area who ironically live without power or running power whilethousands of others have been forced to move off the land. The tribes also allege that Peabody’s usage of the water has caused a significant decline in available potable water. Local coal mining workers have also developed severe health problems as a result of the mining, including asthma, black lung, and bronchitis. (Black Mesa was shut down in 2005 while Kayenta Mine remains in operation.)

To this day, Peabody is attempting to expand its coal mining in the U.S. In southern Illinois Peabody has won a concession from local officials to commence new operations in a community named Rocky Branch, despite documented evidence of flooding, blasting and emergency access problems, and even a failure to obtain federal environmental permits.

For these reasons Peabody has long been a target of activist students in its home state of Missouri where it has endowed a research entity called the ‘Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization’ at Washington University. A campaign called Students Against Peabody has demanded that Peabody CEO Boyce be removed from the Washington University’s Board of Trustees and that the University change the name of the research entity to take out the reference to clean coal.

“Peabody ingratiates itself to the local community by posing as a benefactor to the arts, charitable corporate ‘citizen,’ and hero tackling “energy poverty,” said Caroline Burney, a senior at Washington University. “It all sounds pretty good until you realize that Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private sector coal corporation whose business model propagate climate change and destroys communities.”

Actions that Students Against Peabody have taken include dropping banners at coal-related events and peacefully disrupting speeches.

The latest effort has been sit-ins against Peabody that are now in their third week. Last week 400 people rallied at Brookings Hall with signs that read, “How much is our integrity worth?” and “Peabody’s green can’t make coal clean.”

Peabody is not the only fossil fuel company to attempt to rebrand its business practices as environmentally friendly. BP attempted to re-name itself ‘Beyond Petroleum’ to paint the company in a better light in 2000. Unfortunately for the company, this campaign backfiredwhen in 2010, an offshore oil rig exploded, spilling tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Recent revelations over German complicity in US drone strikes will tomorrow cast a shadow over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.

Investigative journalists in Germany recently revealed Ramstein, a US base in the country, to be a major data centre for the secretive strikes, which have killed thousands of civilians in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan. Legal charity Reprieve this week revealed that a strike in Yemen over the Easter weekend killed four builders on their way to work, leaving at least 20 children fatherless.

The Ramstein findings contradict claims made by both leaders at their last meeting in June 2013, when Obama dismissed reports that US bases in Germany had been used for drone attacks. He told journalists:

“We do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones […] as part of our counterterrorism activities. […] I know that there have been some reports here in Germany that that might be the case. That is not.”

During the same visit, Merkel spoke of Ramstein as filling “a very important function”, saying “our work is based […] on shared values.”

Recent questions in the German parliament have increased pressure on Merkel to reveal the true extent of Germany’s involvement in the strikes, but there is little evidence that the government plans to challenge the Obama administration over them.

Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said:

“One year on from Chancellor Merkel’s assertions about shared US-German ‘values’, the extent of Washington’s use of German soil to perpetrate illegal killings is clear. Despite Obama’s promises to the German people last year, the number of civilian deaths from these secretive drone strikes is higher than ever, and the response of the German government has been to ignore the issue. It is high time that Merkel raised concerns with Obama about the launching of illegal drone strikes from Germany – concerns that are echoing loudly throughout her country. ”

Labor Rights: Persecution of Public and Private Sector Union Activists in Haiti

May 1st, 2014 by Center for Economic and Policy Research

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies.

In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”

The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) – Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,

On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.

The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.

The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:

Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

Haiti’s Senate President, Sen. Simon Dieuseul Desras, has clearly rejected the so-called “Inter-Haitian Agreement of El Rancho,” which was brokered earlier this year by the Catholic Church’s new Haitian Cardinal Chibly Langlois.

Named after the iconic Pétionville hotel where it was negotiated starting in late January and signed on Mar. 19, the “El Rancho Accord” supposedly struck a deal between President Michel Martelly and Haiti’s political parties and civil society for a political framework to hold parliamentary and municipal elections in October.

But critics say the negotiations only included Martelly’s political allies. All the opposition parties and citizen action groups, including the former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family party (which briefly took part in the talks as an “observer”), shunned the “dialogue” and have rejected the El Rancho agreement as a sham.

Desras told Martelly that the Parliament never agreed to the document and therefore “the El Rancho Accord has no binding force and cannot override either the Constitution or the Electoral Law.”

The battle is really over who will umpire the upcoming elections. The “El Rancho Accord” recognizes and enshrines the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP), a mostly Martelly-appointed body formed last year, as the Electoral Council that would oversee elections.

But Sen. Desras, after two meetings with a majority of senators, was mandated to call on Martelly to establish a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) under the guidelines established by Article 289 of the Haitian Constitution. This clause calls for nine representatives from diverse sectors of Haitian society including churches, the university, journalists, and human rights groups.

If he fails to hold elections this year under these conditions, Desras said, the Senate “will have no alternative but to demand Mr. Martelly’s resignation.”

Already, thousands marched in Haiti again this past week on Apr. 26 in Cap Haïtien and on Apr. 28 in Port-au-Prince to call for President Martelly to immediately step down and for the 10-year-long 9,000-soldier U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) to leave the country.

Apr. 26 marked the 51st anniversary of a massacre carried out by dictator Francois “Papa

Doc” Duvalier in 1963 and another carried out 23 years later by Haitian soldiers under the neo-Duvalierist regime of Gens. Henry Namphy and Williams Regala in 1986 against demonstrators commemorating the former massacre.

“Martelly and his cronies are too corrupt to hold free and fair elections, and the MINUSTAH rigged the last ones to have Martelly elected,” said Oxygène David of the new party Dessalines Coordination (KOD), which took part in the protests. “We need to start with a clean slate, as a sovereign country, without a mafia in power and without neo-colonists meddling in our internal affairs.”

But, on Apr. 23, Haitian-born Joël Danies, the U.S. State Department’s lead agent on Haiti, visited the country to pressure six influential senators who form the core of the parliamentary resistance against the U.S./Martelly agenda of rushing through unconstitutional elections before the end of this year.

Two senators refused to meet with Danies – Sens. Moïse Jean-Charles (North) and Francky Exius (South).  No agreement came out of Danies’ meeting with the other four: Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé (North East), Westner Polycarpe (North), John Joël Joseph (West) and Jean William Jeanty (Nippes).

On Mar. 28-29, a U.S. Congressional delegation including Florida congresspeople Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) also had visited Haiti. In an apparent response to the six senators’ snubbing of Danies, Ros-Lehtinen wrote an Apr. 24 letter that said: “I’m deeply concerned that already long overdue elections in Haiti continue to be delayed…. Congress is watching closely this process in Haiti as we examine our foreign aid package. The consensus El Rancho Agreement signed on Mar. 19 committed all parties to a clear path forward for holding elections this year for the Chamber of Deputies, two-thirds of the Senate, and local and regional offices. The Executive Branch and Chamber of Deputies have so far adhered to their commitment and advanced the necessary elections legislation. Now it is time for the Haitian Senate to act and pass the electoral law in the spirit of the El Rancho Agreement so that an election date can be set.”

In contrast to Ros-Lehtinen’s stick, MINUSTAH’s chief, Sandra Honoré, held out a carrot in the form of a pool-side dinner at her residence to honor Sen. Desras on Apr. 21. “This dialogue should continue to engage all actors,” she said, referring to the discredited El Rancho negotiations. “It is one of the first important steps towards a national consensus on the holding of elections in 2014 before arriving at a durable solution for the future of the country.”

Sen. Desras rejected the charges that the Senate was responsible for holding up elections and said that a “trusted electoral council of consensus would not take one week to set up.”

Also attending the dinner were Martelly allies, Sens. Jocelerme Privert and Maxime Roumer; former Sen. Youri Latortue, an advisor to President Martelly; Carl Jean-Louis, an aide to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe,; Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat, a representative of the opposition alliance MOPOD; Dimitri Vorbe, a representative of the private business sector; Mary Gilles Yolène, a representative of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH); journalists Daly Valet of Radio Trans-air/Vision 2000 and Robenson Alphonse of the daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste, and a representative of the Catholic Church.

In the growing war of words, Sen. Desras, declared last week that “the National Palace has turned into a den of thieves.” He pointed in particular to the appointment of Dorzena Wilma, alias Wisky Wisky, to the city government of the town of Saut d’Eau, although the man is an alleged member of the recently busted kidnapping ring known as the “Galil Gang” headed by the fugitive Woodley “Sonson La Familia” Ethéard (see Haïti Liberté4/23/2014.)

On Radio Kiskeya’s show Public Interest, hosted by journalist Lilliane Pierre-Paul, on Apr. 27, Sen. Desras seemed unfazed by Washington’s pressure on him and claimed that he too had some “powerful international allies.”

Desras concluded that Martelly had become “completely arrogant” in demanding that the Haitian Senate and people swallow the El Rancho accord.

Taking a half-step towards the demand of Haiti’s streets for Martelly’s immediate departure, Desras concluded:”I will call for the resignation of President Martelly if he cannot hold elections by the end of this year.”

Ukrainian Crisis Was Always About Containing Russia

May 1st, 2014 by Tony Cartalucci

To careful and honest observers of the events unfolding in Ukraine, it was clear from the beginning that the US and EU through NATO were creating unrest in an attempt to foster regime change in Kiev. They had done so already, admittedly according to the Guardian which would admit in its 2004 article, “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev,” that:

…while the gains of the orange-bedecked “chestnut revolution” are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes. 

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

The Western media has attempted to sidestep this inconvenient chapter in history and paper over what is an overt repeat of the so-called “Orange Revolution” but with the addition of snipers and mystery gunmen sowing violence alongside battalions of literal Neo-Nazi militants, armed and clamoring to back Ukraine’s integration into the EU and eventually NATO.

The constitution of the opposition that has since seized power and is occupying the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev, is a mixture of bigots, racists, Neo-Nazis, and anti-Semites – all bent in eager capitulation to Western interests including the IMF’s desire to impose crippling austerity upon the population. It was no surprise then that the majority of Ukraine’s diverse population, which includes Russian-speakers, Jews, and other minorities,quickly rose up against the unelected regime. Despite the West’s best attempts to bolster the legitimacy of the regime, including visits from both the US Vice President himself and the CIA director, the uprisings have spread and intensified.

Image: Armored vehicles deployed by the regime occupying Kiev are part of an ongoing campaign to put down multiplying uprising across the south and east of Ukraine. Almost immediately much of Ukraine’s Russian speaking communities turned on the unelected regime in Kiev, with more likely to join them as mismanagement, incompetence, and foreign influence further mire the country in socioeconomic turmoil. 

 

Attempts by the Western media to parade out in front of the global public, token “Jews,” claiming they wholly support the Neo-Nazi regime illegally occupying their nation’s capital is undermined by reports from Ukraine’s last round of actual elections in 2010. The Jewish Week reported then in an article titled, “Change For Ukraine, But Likely Not For Jews,” that:

In a country where anxieties about anti-Semitism are never far from the surface, Viktor Yanukovich’s victory in Ukraine’s presidential election is being welcomed with caution by Ukrainian Jews. 

Yanukovich, who has close ties to the Kremlin, replaces Viktor Yushchenko, his West-leaning rival who won five years ago in a second runoff election between the candidates. Widespread protests claiming fraud in favor of Yanukovich in the original runoff spurred the rematch. The pro-democracy protests became known as the Orange Revolution.

As mentioned, the “Orange Revolution” was admittedly US-orchestrated, and yielded what Ukrainian Jews called “a rise in nationalism” which they claim is always “accompanied with the rise of anti-Semitism.”

Of course, President Yanukovich has been run out of power by literal Neo-Nazis. One must wonder what has changed across Ukraine’s Jewish communities that now make such a violent and abrupt transition suddenly “ok.” The answer of course is that Ukraine’s Jews are terrified, their voice simply drowned out by Western propaganda like the Guardian’s “Russia’s propaganda war is a danger for Ukraine’s Jews.” In it, Timothy Snyder claims:

The current Ukrainian government, we were told, was composed of antisemites, fascists, and Nazis. Russian intervention was required, went the argument, to rescue the Jews of Ukraine. 

This version was peddled to the west, where it had some effect, but interestingly it failed entirely in Ukraine itself. Putin seems to have believed that Jewish people in Ukraine would identify with Russia, especially in times of threat. This was one of his many mistakes. 

Ukrainian Jews, especially those from the major communities of Kiev and Dnipropetrovsk, made clear to me that they had no desire to be protected by Russia. Jews in Ukraine understand Russia far better than anyone in the west Jewish or otherwise.

“Made it clear to me…” Of course Snyder cites no organizations or leaders who told him anything, made no direct quotes nor linked to any official statement from any representative body among Ukraine’s Jews. We are to believe Snyder’s claims, apparently, because he says so.

This pattern is repeated across the Western media, except curiously enough, in the BBC which actually interviewed the Nazis Snyder claims are the creations of Russian propaganda. Not only did the BBC prove the existence of Neo-Nazis running rampant across Kiev, but proved that they were very much armed and had run their political opposition out of the capital quite literally. One interview takes place in Ukraine’s Communist Party headquarters now defaced with Nazi slogans and symbolism and occupied by the armed Neo-Nazi militants themselves.

Thus, despite the best efforts of the West’s media and politicians to claim the Nazi militants they used to overrun Kiev are creations of Russian propaganda, the truth exists in plain sight. The inability of the West to check Russia’s counterstrokes in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is precisely due to the fact that neither the people of the East nor the West believe what Washington, London, or Brussels are saying.

NATO, Nazis, and the “Expansion of Europe” 

Image: Atlantic Council’s corporate members. 

So what is NATO doing with Nazi militants in Ukraine? The same thing Adolf Hitler was doing – establishing “breathing room.” While the West attempts publicly to portray the crisis in Ukraine as Europe reacting to Russian aggression, behind semi-closed doors they are very open about their agenda in Ukraine and elsewhere along Russia’s peripheries – it is and always was about the expansion of Europe and the containment of Russia.

Recently the corporate-funded NATO think tank, the Atlantic Council, celebrated what it called, “anniversaries of crucial importance to the transatlantic community, including the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 15th anniversary of NATO’s first post-Cold War enlargement, and the 10th anniversary of the “big bang” enlargements of both the European Union and NATO.” These “enlargements” all took place after the fall of the Cold War – in other words, after NATO’s mandate for existing expired. Yet the alliance continued to grow, and not only did it grow, in tandem with the European Union, it did so directly toward Moscow’s doorstep with every intention of eventually absorbing Russia as well.

In fact, many of the same organizations standing behind the unelected regime in Kiev, have been directing unrest within Russia as well. And in turn, Russian opposition leaders backed by Western-cash and diplomatic support have vocally supported the regime in Kiev.

In reality, what we have witnessed over the past several months is not “Russian aggression,” but the premeditated destabilization and overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine, and a resulting, and continuously escalating confrontation with Russia as Moscow reacts to the reappearance of Nazis along its borders, backed by NATO and the EU.

The American people are now overwhelmingly opposed to more war in Ukraine, Syria, Iran and elsewhere.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows:

Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs even as a showdown with Russia over Ukraine preoccupies Washington ….

In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement—an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines.

Pew poll from December found a majority of Americans – more than ever before in Pew’s 50-year history of polling this question – think the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can on their own.”

Pew/USA Today poll conducted over the weekend found that Americans  oppose – by a 2-1 margin – any U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

YouGov poll conducted last month found that only 14 percent of Americans said the U.S. has “any responsibility” to get involved in Ukraine, and only 18 percent think the U.S. “has any responsibility to protect Ukraine if Russia were to invade.”

Huffington Post reports:

Americans are more likely than not to say that the United States has no responsibility to get involved in Ukraine even under extreme circumstances, the new survey shows ….

Pluralities of Democrats, Republicans and independents agreed that the U.S. does not have a responsibility to protect Ukraine.

Support even for the Afghanistan war has collapsed. For example, only 35% of all Americans support the Afghanistan war, according to a 2011 CNN poll.

A new Pew poll also shows that the American people are sick of the war on drugs, noting that a broad majority of Americans are ready to significantly reduce the role of the criminal justice system in dealing with people who use drugs.  Pew found:

  • 63% of Americans think that we should stop mandatory prison terms for drug law violations
  • 54% are in favor of marijuana legalization
  • 67% say the government should focus more on providing treatment for people who use drugs like cocaine and heroin, and only 26% think the focus should be more on prosecuting people who use such drugs

Of course, the war on drugs is a total boondoggle.  And stopping government support  for drug dealersand producers might be a good place to start (even though it is making American banks rich).

Of course, neither mainstream political party represents the interests of the people as revealed by polls.

Who’s the Propagandist: US or RT?

May 1st, 2014 by Robert Parry

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland.

After Secretary of State Kerry lashed out at Russia’s RT network over its reporting on Ukraine, a senior aide assembled a list of particulars, which have backfired by showing how weak Kerry’s case is and how hypocritical Kerry’s State Department has been.

The U.S. State Department, which has been caught promoting a series of false or dubious stories about Ukraine, is trying to give some substance to Secretary of State John Kerry’s counter-complaint that Russia’s RT network is a “propaganda bullhorn” promoting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “fantasy.”

In a “Dipnote” of April 29, Richard Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy, made some broad-brush criticisms of RT’s content – accusing the network of painting “a dangerous and false picture of Ukraine’s legitimate government” by citing examples of fascism, anti-Semitism and terrorism surrounding the Kiev regime.

Stengel claims he knows the difference between news and propaganda because he spent seven years as managing editor of Time. He defines propaganda as “the deliberate dissemination of information that you know to be false or misleading in order to influence an audience” and asserts: “RT is a distortion machine, not a news organization.”

But Stengel offers no specific citations of the supposedly propagandistic stories done by RT, making it impossible to ascertain the precise wording or context of the RT content that he is criticizing. One basic rule of journalism is “show, don’t tell,” but Stengel apparently didn’t learn that during his seven years in the top echelon of Time magazine.

Nevertheless, Stengel accuses RT of “disinformation” ranging from “assertions that peaceful protesters hired snipers to repeated allegations that Kiev is beset by violence, fascism and anti-Semitism, these are lies falsely presented as news.”

Though it’s impossible to fully assess Stengel’s complaint because he doesn’t specify the offending stories, the first complaint is an apparent reference to the mystery surrounding the identity of snipers who opened fire on protesters and police during the Maidan protests in Kiev on Feb. 20.

The U.S. government, the U.S. press and the Maidan protesters were quick to blame President Viktor Yanukovych although he denied giving an order to fire on the protests and suggested the shootings may have been a provocation. That suspicion of “false-flag” violence – as a way to spur on the coup against Yanukovych – also was expressed by some neutral observers on the ground in Kiev.

Two European Union officials, Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, were revealed discussing in a phone call their suspicions that elements of the protesters were responsible for the shootings.

“So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet told Ashton, as reported by the UK Guardian.

In other words, if Stengel is referring to RT’s reporting about the sniper attacks, his assumption that RT was knowingly lying when it referenced a possible role of the Maidan protesters in the sniper shootings is itself false. Further, Stengel must have known that not all the Maidan protesters were “peaceful.”

Hide the Neo-Nazis

Although the State Department has tried to hide the crucial role of neo-Nazi militias in overthrowing Yanukovych’s elected government, it was well known at the time (and acknowledged by the Maidan protesters themselves) that far-right groups had organized 100-man brigades to carry out the final attacks. There was also widely broadcast news footage of these Maidan protesters hurling Molotov cocktails at police, more than a dozen who died in the clashes.

Is Stengel really unaware of the involvement in the coup by neo-Nazi storm troopers from the Right Sektor and the Svoboda party, which both lionize World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera? Does Stengel really not know about the prevalence of banners honoring Bandera, Nazi insignias at rallies and even the appearance of the Confederate battle flag unfurled at the Kiev City Hall as the universal symbol of white supremacy?

Just because virtually the entire U.S. press corps has joined in the U.S. government’s propagandized version of what happened during and after the violent overthrow of Yanukovych doesn’t mean that RT and other news organizations have to shut their eyes, too.

For instance, the BBC, which is funded by the British government much as RT is funded by the Russian government, had the courage to run a segment on the Maidan’s neo-Nazis, noting that the far-right groups were given four ministries in the new government in recognition of their important contribution.

Most significantly, the new chief of national security, Andriy Parubiy, was one of those neo-Nazis. He founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991, blending radical Ukrainian nationalism with neo-Nazi symbols. Parubiy also formed a paramilitary spinoff, the Patriots of Ukraine, and defended the awarding of the title, “Hero of Ukraine,” to Bandera, whose paramilitary forces joined with the Nazis in exterminating Poles and Jews during World War II.

During the months of protests aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych, Parubiy became the commandant of “Euromaidan,” the name for the Kiev uprising. Then, in mid-April as the new regime’s national security chief and facing growing resistance in eastern Ukraine, Paubiy warned that he was siccing some of his paramilitary veterans, now incorporated in the National Guard, on the anti-regime protesters. On Twitter, he wrote, “Reserve unit of National Guard formed #Maidan Self-defense volunteers was sent to the front line this morning.”

Some leading neo-Nazis have been brazen in their assertion of Ukrainian racial superiority over other ethnic groups in Ukraine, including the ethnic Russians in the east. Like their hero Bandera, these modern-day storm troopers would prefer an ethnically pure Ukraine.

Though it is true that most of the Maidan protesters were there in support of closer European ties and anger over government corruption, it is also true that the neo-Nazi militias surged to the front of the protests for the final clashes on Feb. 20-22. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Though the US ‘Looking Glass.’”]

And, as for Stengel’s insistence that RT’s reporting that “Kiev is beset by violence” is further proof of RT’s “propaganda,” there’s the inconvenient reality that far-right forces have been clashing with other Maidan protesters over the past few days. Some of these ultra-nationalists want more rewards for their role in Yanukovych’s ouster and some want a harsher crackdown on the uprising in the ethnic Russian east.

Who’s Playing Terrorist Card?

In his unspecified litany of other purported RT offenses, Stengel also cites “the constant reference to any Ukrainian opposed to a Russian takeover of the country as a ‘terrorist.’ Or the unquestioning repetition of the ludicrous assertion last week that the United States has invested $5 billion in regime change in Ukraine.

“These are not facts, and they are not opinions. They are false claims, and when propaganda poses as news it creates real dangers and gives a green light to violence.”

However, regarding the use of the word “terrorist,” which Stengel finds so offensive, it has actually been applied promiscuously not by RT but by the Kiev regime and the U.S. State Department against the anti-regime protesters in eastern Ukraine though they have not engaged in behavior that is traditionally considered “terrorism.”

The Russian ethnic protesters in the east have engaged in no indiscriminate killing of civilians for political purposes, the classic definition of “terrorism.” Yet, the post-coup regime in Kiev has repeatedly announced plans for an “anti-terrorism” campaign against the east. In other words, Stengel’s “side” is guilty of what he accuses RT of doing.

As for RT’s “ludicrous assertion” about the U.S. investing $5 billion, that is a clear reference to a public speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affaris Victoria Nuland to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13 in which she told them that “we have invested more than $5 billion” in what was needed for Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.”

Nuland also was a leading proponent of “regime change” in Ukraine who personally cheered on the Maidan demonstrators, even passing out cookies. In an intercepted, obscenity-laced phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland said her choice to replace Yanukovych was Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who ended up as Prime Minister after the coup.

If Stengel wants to quibble about whether Nuland’s $5 billion remark was a reference to “regime change” or not – although the European association was a key issue in Yanukovych’s ouster – the under secretary can make his argument. But to ignore the obvious context of Nuland’s $5 billion reference is again either a sign of stunning ignorance or willful deception.

As for Stengel’s office of “public diplomacy,” it is a segment of the State Department that I have personally dealt with since the 1980s during my days covering the Reagan administration’s Central America policies for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

Back then, some of us referred to the “PD” office as “the office of propaganda and disinformation” because of the endless distortions and lies generated in support of U.S.-backed “death squad” regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala and for Ronald Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels who fairly could be called “terrorist” given their proclivity for slaughtering and raping Nicaraguan civilians and for collaborating with cocaine traffickers to make money on the side.

The Earlier Brave Kerry

Ironically, in those days, a younger version of John Kerry was a U.S. senator who bravely investigated these Reagan-affiliated crimes and faced attacks from the State Department’s public diplomacy operatives.

Part of Kerry’s punishment for being early in his investigation of White House skullduggery in Central America was to be excluded from the Iran-Contra investigation when some of Reagan’s crimes and lies surfaced dramatically in late 1986.

Because Kerry had been ahead of the curve, he was judged “biased” on the issue of Reagan’s guilt and thus passed over for the “select committee” investigation. Only Democratic senators who had been fooled by the lies or were asleep at the switch were deemed “objective” enough for the high-profile inquiry. [For more on the contrast between Kerry's past and present, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What’s the Matter with John Kerry?”]

Another irony of Stengel’s defense of Kerry’s anti-RT outburst is that one of the senior “public diplomacy” operatives on Central America back in the 1980s was a young neocon named Robert Kagan, whose State Department team developed propaganda themes to undercut Kerry and various journalists, like myself, who would not toe the line.

At one point when Kagan realized that I would not play ball with the administration’s propaganda, he informed me that I would have to be “controversialized,” that is become the focus of public attacks from pro-Reagan attack groups and thus have my journalistic career damaged, a process that was subsequently carried out.

The irony in this is that Robert Kagan went on to become a leading light in the neocon movement, a Washington Post columnist, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, a star proponent of Iraqi “regime change” – and the husband of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the recent cheerleader for “regime change” in Ukraine.

That Stengel, the current master of the State Department’s “public diplomacy” operation, is now offended by what he considers “propaganda” by RT has to be considered one of the purest expressions of hypocrisy in the long history of U.S. government hypocrisy. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Propaganda War on Russia’s RT.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Two arch racists were on national display this week, reminding folks that a post-racial America is a myth. Cliven Bundy did a further service by showing federal reluctance to confront White Terror, while Donald Sterling’s case outed the Los Angeles NAACP as a hangout for worthless Black misleaders.

There is nothing like the musings of racist white people to garner media attention and public outrage. Unfortunately there is usually more heat than light generated in these situations and the opportunity to gain insights on the condition of black America is lost.

Such is the case with mooching rancher Cliven Bundy and racist basketball team owner Donald Sterling. Hopefully they woke black Americans from any delusion of a post-racial society and in Sterling’s case simultaneously revealed the traitors and mis-leaders in our midst.

Bundy is a Nevada rancher who like 16,000 others across the country grazes his cattle on federal property, which comprises 85% of that state’s land area. Bundy is within his rights to graze his cattle there but he is required to pay a fee for doing so. He has gotten away with paying absolutely nothing for 20 years and after losing many court cases now owes the Bureau of Land Management more than $1 million.

When the BLM finally had enough and confiscated his cattle, Bundy issued a call to arms to other terrorist minded white people. They came from all over the country, pointing guns at federal agents and creating a media firestorm. In the ironically named town of Bunkerville, Bundy held court among his fellow domestic terrorists and became the darling of Fox news and the Republican Party.

It is obvious that black people or even white people on the left would not get away with publicly brandishing fire arms, forming a de facto militia and threatening the lives of federal employees. The government backed down to prevent violence but Bundy’s fifteen minutes of fame went on a little too long for his own good. He ended what had been a galvanizing event for the right wing when he uttered his opinions about “niggers.” Some media claim he used the word “nigra” and others say “negro” but the audio is clear. Bundy expressed the opinion that black people were better off in slavery than we are today because we had work to do when we picked cotton. He rambled on against abortion and mused about why black people are in jail, but he summed up his theories by saying that freedom just didn’t help black people very much. The best part of this debacle was watching Republicans flee from the public relations disaster but the whole episode should be treated as a serious lesson.

Bundy is no outlier in any of the opinions he holds. There are millions of Americans who would take up arms to kill mostly because they would enjoy it. They might defend their actions with an appeal to patriotism or a sage brush rebellion or doomsday prepping or whatever rationale would be most convenient, but the bottom line is that they would like to get away with killing as many people as possible. That is why we have stand your ground laws and why Georgia recently passed legislation making it legal to carry guns anywhere and everywhere in that state.

Bundy is also not alone in seeing chattel slavery as being worthy of nostalgia. It is not a coincidence that gun and slavery lovers so often find common cause. The two go together and the Second Amendment is directly tied to the granting of police force status to every white person in the country in the days of slavery. Bundy’s popularity is deep and dangerous and he is no less popular now in some circles than he was before he made his remarks. Most racists know how to filter their thoughts in polite society. But Bundy is an ignorant man with no clue about niceties and said what was on his and others’ minds. It doesn’t matter that Rand Paul and Fox News back tracked from the Bundy love fest. If millions of white Americans were granted their ultimate fantasy, black people would be back in chains on the auction block.

Neither Bundy’s actions nor his politics gave him any connection to the black community but Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is a rich man in a sport where a majority of players and fans are African American. The angst surrounding his racism is far more instructive and also more dispiriting too.

The public drama began with a private one. Sterling’s wife wasn’t pleased about the amount of time and money he spent on a woman known as V. Stiviano. Mrs. Sterling was so fed up that she sued Stivano for $2 million, who decided to tape conversations to protect herself. The rest is history.

It is interesting what the media chose to emphasize and to cover up in their conversation. Sterling’s rant was racist and bizarre, telling Stiviano that she could have sex with Magic Johnson but that she shouldn’t be photographed with him or bring him or any other black people to Clippers’ games. Those words were the main focus of media attention.

Sterling, whose real name is Tokowitz, defended himself by pointing out how badly black people are treated in Israel. This exchange with Stiviano was ignored by many news organizations.

“It’s the world! You go to Israelthe blacks are just treated like dogs [emphasis mine].”

“So do you have to treat them like that, too?”

“The white Jews, there’s white Jews and black Jews. Do you understand?”

“And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?”

“A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent.”

Sterling’s racism was well known in Los Angeles prior to the taped conversations being revealed but obedience to a rich man protected him from full exposure. In 2008 he was sued by former NBA star and Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor, who claimed a “plantation mentality” permeated the work environment in that organization. Also in 2009 the Sterlings were forced to pay $2.7 million due to discriminatory housing practices against black and Latino tenants in apartment buildings they owned in Los Angeles. It was the largest such judgment paid in a housing case at that time. None of this mattered to the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP, which honored Sterling with a humanitarian of the year award in 2009 and was prepared to give him a lifetime achievement award before the scandal was revealed.

Not only was Sterling to be honored, but also executives from Walmart and Fedex. Walmart is known for its low wages, union busting, discriminatory hiring and promotion policies, theft of public services and push to privatize education. Fedex is also a well known union breaking corporation. The branch had to be dragged kicking and screaming to cancel the honor for Sterling and also to return funds he had donated over the years. The organization also declined to reveal the amount of those donations but they are estimated to be in the range of $45,000. (*link 45k) The NAACP sold itself cheaply.

It isn’t enough to say that the Los Angeles NAACP represents the worst of the black mis-leadership class. Apparently its sole mission is to raise money because it clearly has no integrity and does nothing to help anyone outside of its own shallow circle. It does no good to anyone who is in need and if it were disbanded it wouldn’t be missed.

The mis-leaders are not the only bad guys in this tale. Former NBA star and current team owner Michael Jordan had nothing to say about Sterling for a full two days after the story broke. He finally announced that he was “disgusted” and “outraged” but apparently only after his handlers gave him permission to speak up.

Both Bundy and Sterling must be given a strange sort of credit because they exposed the degree of confusion that permeates this country. While Bundy said that black people were better off as slaves he also praised Asians and Latinos as being hard workers. He suddenly became not so racist in the eyes of many people, who began to downplay the awfulness of his sentiments in the model minority game. Sterling’s friend Stiviano was initially the object of derision, the “gold digger” whose motives were suspect.

The only question about racism is how well people cover it up. There is an endless supply, and wishful thinking makes it tempting to forget until the next clueless person raises his or her head. In the meantime remember that criticism of Israel shouldn’t be swept under the rug and that some respected individuals and organizations should not be respected at all. There are many villains to go around in this story, and Bundy and Sterling are just two out of many.

Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

Exploratory operations would involve driving off-road vehicles through wetlands, drilling thousands of holes and setting off dynamite charges. Photo credit: National Park Service

Plans to drill for oil close to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge on the western edge of the Everglades have environmentalists worried. A number of companies want to drill and test beneath the Big Cypress National Preserve where prospectors believe significant new oil and gas resources lie buried.

People living near the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge first learned about these plans when they received a surprise notice in May 2013 advising them about evacuation plans if a gas leak or explosion occurred at the proposed drilling site located less than a mile west of the refuge.

“Initially I was concerned about the one well proposed next to the Florida Panther Refuge. There will be a lot of noise and a gigantic construction site for the well next to the pristine wetlands,” says Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association that’s leading a grassroots effort to protect the Everglades from drilling.

“[Then] I found out the leasing company had about 115,000 acres and includes most public lands in southeast Florida. Other companies want to come in. A giant swath of land will be turned over to drilling companies. So it is not a pleasant scenario for the future,” Schwartz said.

The well next to the panther refuge is only a small part of the 115,000 acres of mineral rights the Dan A. Hughes Company of Beeville, TX, has leased from Collier Resources, the actual owners of more than 800,000 acres of mineral rights in southwest Florida. The lease, that runs for five years and can be extended, includes parts of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, Picayne Strand State Forest, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed and the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Collier Resources has issued two more leases for large seismic testing operations to identify more locations for drilling. The Mississippi-based Tocala LLC, has acquired a lease for 103,000 acres. It covers a large portion of the land just north of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Big Cypress National Preserve and includes part of the Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area. The lease also includes a section of State Road 29.

The second lease is held by Burnett Oil Company of Fort Worth, TX, though it has not been approved yet. If it is approved, exploratory drilling would be conducted in four phases, eventually covering 234,510 acres of land inside the Big Cypress National Preserve, that’s one of the last contiguous Florida panther habitats remaining in the western Everglades. The Florida panther is one of the most endangered species in the country—only about 160 of them are left in the wild.

Exploratory operations by both companies involve driving off-road vehicles through wetlands, drilling thousands of holes and setting off dynamite charges.

A growing number of environmentalists believe that the Everglades shouldn’t be drilled and that we don’t need more oil. “I don’t think we should be degrading the Everglades for oil,” Schwartz says. “We don’t even need more oil, we should leave it in the ground. We are risking lands so an oil company can pull a small amount of oil out of the ground and degrade the land.”

During a Florida Department of Environmental Protection administrative hearing on the oil well in Fort Myers last month, residents and environmental groups raised a number of issues against Dan Hughes’ plans to drill near the panther refuge.

The exploratory oil well, they pointed out, is located in the primary zone of the Florida panther—and telemetry (electronic readings from collared panthers) show it to be an area of high level panther activity. “This is not surprising considering the site is located on a piece of undeveloped land next to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge with the highest density of panthers in the state,” Schwartz says.

Additionally, the area just outside the pad contains extremely important wetlands, vital watersheds that are home to rare plants and animals. The Stumpy Strand flows east of the site in a generally north to south direction. It connects with Lucky Lake Strand which flows into the Merritt Canal and into the Picayune Strand State Forest—site of a 30-year, $10 billion Everglades Restoration Project currently in progress. The Panther Refuge boundary was expanded to encompass Lucky Lake Strand and prevent its future development.

 

 

 

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The Florida panther is one of the most endangered species in the country—only about 160 of them are left in the wild. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The exploration plans include construction of a road and drill pad requiring more than 14,000 cubic yards of fill material. If large dump trucks capable of carrying 20 cubic yards each are used, that would amount to approximately 700 truck loads. Additional equipment will be needed to move the fill around. Critics say the noise, vibrations and dust during construction will impact the surrounding wildlife habitat, wetlands and vegetation. Once the drill is set up, the pad and 150 foot drilling tower will be lit up at night. Drilling will be going on around the clock. Three generators will power this massive industrial operation.

Considering the importance of these still pristine and irreplaceable wetlands to our wildlife and ecosystems, even small spills of oil or other fluids from this operation can have enormous implications. Even if there are no spills, it’s expected that wildlife will be disturbed by these combined operations and will be displaced by them. In the case of panthers this can be extremely dangerous. Three panther dens have been historically documented in the vicinity of this well, according to Schwartz, and a number of panthers have been killed in collisions with cars in the area. This is the leading cause of death for this highly endangered species, especially along Interstate-75 that’s just south of the drill site. Increased traffic doesn’t bode well for the big cats.

The oil companies have not clarified exactly what they will do with the leased land. “The area we are looking at is in Big Cypress National Preserve, it is not part of Everglades National Park,” says Rob Hilliard, regulatory manager for Burnett Oil Company. “We are at the outset of what is a long permitting process and we don’t know if we will ever drill there. We have to conduct seismic testing and that requires federal and state approvals.”

Hilliard said his company was proposing to use vibroseis method for seismic testing. “This method is different and that is done by three vibroseis buggies that use a vibrating plate that works like a sonar system and does not use explosives. We believe this minimizes the impact on the environment,” he says.

Following exploration, if Burnett were to decide to drill for oil, the company would have to go through an extensive federal and state permitting process again. “For us that would be a long way down the road,” Hilliard says. “We would be have to be very careful about the environment. Burnett prides itself on being environmentally sensitive.”

Other, pro-industry groups don’t believe there will be problems with the drilling. Oil has been produced in that area since 1943 and there have been few problems, says David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. “Drilling there is in the public interest. We need American energy and we need the jobs it will produce. We need the revenues it will produce. We have panther protection programs. We need to be less dependent on foreign oil. The track record of the oil industry is very positive and successful in producing down there. We are in harmony with nature,” Mica says.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service too, has been assuring residents and environmentalists that there will not be any drilling in the panther refuge. “First and foremost, the site that has been proposed for drilling is about a mile away from the refuge boundary in an abandoned farm field with a levy around it. It will not disturb water or water flows from the refuge,” says refuge manager Kevin Godsea. “They are going to drill about a mile away from the refuge.”

Godsea says the oil drilling company will not be digging canals affecting the refuge. “It is a sensitive environment and we are taking very careful steps to mitigate potential problems with surface drilling and surface disturbances to get at the mineral rights. Those interests have a legal right to get to the minerals. We are concerned about protecting the native environment.”