US- Israeli Attempted “Color Revolution” in Lebanon?

August 26th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

Longstanding US/Israeli plans call for redrawing the Middle East map, replacing independent governments with pro-Western puppet regimes, balkanizing Iraq, Syria, Iran and other regional countries for easier control, looting their resources, and exploiting their people.

Analyst Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya says plans call for “creating an arc of instability, chaos, and violence extending from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria to Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and the borders of NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan” – by color revolutions or wars.

Violent protests rock Beirut – ongoing for days, a so-called “You Stink” campaign over uncollected rubbish, people demanding “corrupt” government officials resign for letting it pile up.

Lebanon has been without a president for over a year. Obama’s war on Syria created an enormous burden. More than 1.2 million refugees flooded into a nation of 4.5 million people on top of half a million displaced Palestinians – the equivalent of around 130 million in a nation the size of America or about 500 million for China.

Other issues affect Lebanon like in most other countries – mainly governance serving monied interests at the expense of most others.

Yet violent street protests haven’t erupted globally. Just cause exists in many countries remaining quiet.

Crisis began after Beirut’s Naameh landfill closed on July 17. New sites or alternative arrangements weren’t chosen. Trash began piling up everywhere.

Since August 22, violent protests gripped the capital. Prime Minister Tammam Salam warned “(w)e’re heading towards collapse if things continue as they are.”

Tuesday’s cabinet meeting failed to resolve things. Protest organizer Marwan Maalouf said “(i)n the beginning, this was a battle over the trash issue…But now there is a general battle against the political class.”

Protesters openly call for regime change. Are Israeli and US dirty hands manipulating things covertly? Is another imperial color revolution attempt ongoing?

Is uncollected garbage a pretext to topple another regional government? People elsewhere facing much greater problems don’t protest violently for days.

These type incidents are manipulated. Several thousand protesters don’t reflect the sentiment of most Beirut residents.

If Lebanon’s government falls, Washington and Israel gain at the expense of Syria and Iran. They’ll achieve another triumph toward redrawing the Middle East map – adversely affecting ordinary people across the region and beyond.

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

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Crashing global stock markets – punctuated by the bracing 1,000-plus point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the start of Monday’s trading before a partial bounce-back – are a reminder about the interdependence of today’s world economy and a wake-up call to those who think that the neocon-driven ideology of endless chaos doesn’t carry a prohibitively high price.

The hard truth is that there is a limit to the amount of neocon-induced trouble that the planet can absorb without major dislocations of the international economic system – and we may be testing that limit now. The problem is that America’s neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks continue to put their ideological priorities ahead of what’s good for the average person on earth.

In other words, it may make sense for some neocon think tank or a “human rights” NGO to demand interventions via “hard power” (military action) or “soft power” (economic sanctions, propaganda or other non-military means). After all, neocon think tanks raise money from self-interested sectors, such as the Military-Industrial Complex, and non-governmental organizations always have their hands out for donations from the U.S. government or friendly billionaires.

But the chaos that these neocons and liberal interventionists inflict on the world – often justified by claims about “democracy promotion” and “human rights” – typically ends up creating conditions of far greater horror than the meddling was meant to stop.

For instance, the Islamic State butchers and their former parent organization, Al Qaeda, are transforming Iraq and Syria into blood-soaked killing fields. But the neocons and liberal hawks still think the higher priority was and is to eliminate the relatively stable and prosperous dictatorships of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

There is always a fixation about getting rid of some designated “bad guy” even if the result is some “far-worse guys.” This has been a pattern repeated over and over again, from Libya to Sudan/South Sudan to Ukraine/Russia to Venezuela (just to name a few). In such cases, we see the neocons/liberal hawks release a flood of propaganda against some unpleasant target (Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi/Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir/Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych/Russia’s Vladimir Putin/Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Nicolas Maduro) followed by demands for “regime change” or at least punishing economic sanctions.

Anyone who tries to provide some balance to offset the propaganda is denounced as a “(fill-in-the-blank) apologist” and pushed out of the room of acceptable debate. Then, with no one in Official Washington left to challenge the “group think,” the only question is how extreme should the punishment be – direct military assault (as in Iraq, Libya and Syria), a political coup d’etat (as in Ukraine and almost in Venezuela) or economic sanctions (as in Russia and Sudan).

For many Americans trying to do international business, it can be confusing as to where the legal lines are, who is or who isn’t on some black list, what kinds of transactions are allowed or forbidden. I know of one counselor who helps people overcome stuttering who had to reject Skype lessons with a prospective patient in Iran because it wasn’t clear whether that might violate the draconian U.S. sanctions regime.

Spreading the Chaos

Arguably some narrowly focused sanctions against a particularly nefarious foreign leader might make sense. Even a limited military intervention might not upset the entire world’s economy. But the proliferation of these strategies has combined to destabilize not just the targeted regimes but nations far from the front lines and is now contributing to global economic chaos.

In tracing these patterns, you can go back in time to such misguided fiascos as the CIA’s huge covert operation in Afghanistan in the 1980s (which gave rise to the Taliban and Al Qaeda). However, for argument’s sake, let’s start with the neocon success in promoting President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Not only did that war divert more than $1 trillion in U.S. taxpayers’ money from productive uses into destructive ones, but it began a massive spread of chaos across the Middle East.

Add in President Barack Obama’s 2011 “humanitarian” interventions in Libya (via Western bombing operations to topple Muammar Gaddafi’s regime) and in Syria (via covert support for rebels and sanctions against President Assad’s government) – and you have two more Mad Max scenarios in two once relatively prosperous Arab states.

These human catastrophes have sent waves of refugees crashing into other Mideast countries and into Europe where the European Union was already stumbling economically, still trying to recover from Wall Street’s 2007-08 financial crisis. After tasting the bitter medicine of austerity for years, Europeans now find their fairly generous welfare systems stretched to the breaking point by refugees seeking asylum.

Having just returned from a visit to Europe, I was struck by the intensity of feelings about the refugee crisis. Some EU nations are throwing up anti-migrant barriers while everyone seems to be squabbling over who should foot the bill at a time when there are financial crises in Greece and other southern-tier countries, which coincidentally are bearing the brunt of the refugee problem.

Toss into this volatile mix of a Europe seemingly close to explosion the Obama administration’s “neocon/liberal interventionist” policies toward Ukraine, where neocon holdover Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland helped orchestrate a 2014 coup to remove democratically elected President Yanukovych after he was demonized in the U.S. mainstream media as corrupt.

Citing “democracy promotion” and “anti-corruption,” the Obama administration backed the creation of a coup regime that has relied on neo-Nazi and Islamist militias to serve as its tip of the spear against ethnic Russian Ukrainians who have resisted the ouster of Yanukovych. Thousands — mostly eastern Ukrainians — have died. Of course, all this was explained to the American people as a simple case of “Russian aggression.”

After the coup, when the ethnic Russians of Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, that became a “Russian invasion,” justifying harsh economic sanctions against Moscow, with the Obama administration strong-arming the Europeans to forgo their profitable trade relations with Russia to punish the Russian economy. But that also added to the pressure on the European economy.

As this madness has escalated, the neocons and their liberal-hawk pals now envision destabilizing the Putin government in nuclear-armed Russia. They don’t seem to recognize that the guy who might follow Putin may not be some obliging Boris Yeltsin but a hard-line ultranationalist ready to brandish the Kremlin’s nuclear arsenal in defense of Mother Russia.

Misguided Interventions

While these various U.S. “hard” and “soft” power interventions are justified by the principles of “human rights,” they often end up working against that goal. A discrete example is the case of Sudan and South Sudan, a crisis that traces back to the demands for a “humanitarian intervention” over Sudan’s alleged genocide in Darfur in 2003.

That horrible conflict was painted in stark black and white colors in the U.S. press, innocent good guys versus evil bad guys, but was actually much more nuanced than what was shown to the American people. The war was touched off by Darfur rebels, but the Sudanese army struck back brutally. The “human rights” community settled on Sudan’s President Bashir as the designated villain, who now faces an indictment in the International Criminal Court.

So, there was great sympathy for carving South Sudan away from Sudan in 2011 and making it an independent country (although oddly Darfur remained part of Sudan). But South Sudan, which possesses significant oil reserves, could sustain itself only if it could get its oil to market and the pipelines went north through Sudan.

And, since the United States and other countries were busy sanctioning Sudan for not turning over Bashir to the ICC, oil companies were unable to assist South Sudan in exploiting its valuable resource, which in turn caused hardship in South Sudan and contributed to a bloody civil war pitting one tribe against another. That led to, you guessed it, calls to sanction South Sudan.

The ongoing tragedy of Sudan/South Sudan is horrific enough, but it is only emblematic of the unintended consequences of rigid neocon/liberal interventionist ideology, which rejects negotiations with “bad guys,” insisting instead on “regime change” or endless punishment of entire populations through sanctions even when those “solutions” inflict more hardship and death.

But now these destructive strategies are going global. They are threatening the economic well-being of the entire planet – taking their place along with other misguided theories such as “free-market” absolutism and “austerity” in the face of recessions. The cumulative impact from these various follies has been to put the West’s Middle Class under severe pressure regarding income and purchasing power, which finally has slowed China’s growth and prompted a crash of its financial markets.

That, in turn, is reverberating back across the rest of the world’s stock markets, erasing trillions of dollars in wealth and further reducing the savings of the Middle Class. As this vicious cycle starts spinning, that could mean even less consumer spending and further economic retrenchment.

The prospects for a global recession, if not a full-scale depression, can no longer be ignored. And such economic hardship would only contribute to more death, devastation and destabilization.

Pragmatic Solutions

So what can be done? As dark as the gathering economic storm may be, one silver lining could be that Americans and other Westerners will finally begin pushing back against the powerful neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist fellow-travelers.

Perhaps, instead of President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal being a one-off affair that may barely survive a determined neocon assault in the U.S. Congress, it could become a model for pragmatic approaches to other international crises. The core of this pragmatism would be that one doesn’t have to love or even like the leadership of another country to cooperate on global concerns, whether they are economic, geopolitical or environmental.

There also should be a recognition that no country has all the answers or a monopoly on morality. American self-righteousness is not only hypocritical – given the many flaws in the U.S. political system from the buying of our campaigns to our repeated violations of international law – but it is self-defeating, requiring the endless expenditure of blood and treasure to act as self-appointed global “policeman” whether the world wants it or not.

If pragmatism replaced exceptionalism as the focus of U.S. international relations, there would be some obvious moves that could reduce world tensions and alleviate some of the economic dislocations that are contributing to the deepening economic crisis.

For instance, instead of a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, what’s wrong with the eastern Ukrainians receiving more autonomy and the right to keep their Russian language? Why shouldn’t the people of Crimea have the right to break their political bonds with Kiev and renew them with Moscow? Why has President Obama bent to the neocon prescriptions of Assistant Secretary Nuland when a little give-and-take could make life better for Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans?

Similarly, why can’t the United States accept a compromise in Syria that includes power-sharing for whatever moderate Sunnis remain and accepts at least the temporary continuation of President Assad’s rule as part of a secular state protecting the lives and interests of Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities? Why not a joint U.S.-Russian-Iranian effort to stabilize the war-torn country, block the expansion of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, and ease the refugee crisis in the Mideast and Europe?

Yes, I realize that geopolitical pragmatism is anathema to many power centers of Official Washington, particularly the influential neocons, their benefactors in the Israel Lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex, and the many self-interested NGOs of the “human rights” community which favor “humanitarian wars” and seem to care little if their purity leads to even more suffering.

But – as the world’s economy teeters and global markets tumble – the American people no longer have the luxury of intervening willy-nilly around the globe. International pragmatism, including working with adversaries, may be the only way to prevent the swelling geopolitical pressures from building into a devastating financial crash.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). 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.

Right-wing extremists attacked refugee accommodations over the weekend in the small town of Heidenau near Dresden. Over three successive nights they repeatedly attacked police and left-wing counter-demonstrators with fireworks and stones, all while chanting Nazi slogans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democrats, CDU) Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democrats, SPD) and other politicians released official statements in which they condemned the violence against refugees. But the crocodile tears being shed cannot disguise the fact that the state apparatus and the German government’s right-wing policies contributed considerably to the violence.

The attacks came as no surprise; the fascist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) registered a demonstration to pass through Heidenau on Friday. On social media and in forums, right-wing extremists urged “blockades” and “civil war” to stop the plan to open the housing for refugees over the weekend.

Despite this, only 135 police officers were present. Encouraged by this balance of forces, between 600 and 1,000 right-wing extremist demonstrators entered the empty warehouse, which was due to begin accommodating asylum seekers on Saturday. They attacked police with stones and fireworks, injuring 31 officers. Nazi and anti-immigrant slogans were repeatedly chanted, such as “We are the people,” “Foreigners Out!” and “national resistance.” “Sieg Heil!” calls were also heard.

Even after this experience, the contingent of police was strengthened by 40 to 175 officers for the opening of the accommodation on Saturday. In addition, 150 people gathered in front of the building to demonstrate their solidarity with the refugees.

After right-wing extremists once again gathered at the warehouse on Saturday evening, throwing stones and fireworks, the police called on the supporters of the refugees to end their demonstration on the grounds that their security could not be guaranteed. In subsequent clashes, more police were injured. The first refugees were brought into the accommodation under police escort.

On Sunday, a large contingent of officers was deployed, two water cannons were set up and a so-called control zone was established in a 500-metre radius around the camp, within which police could search individuals merely on suspicion, issue expulsions, and ban people from the area.

But the state power was ultimately deployed more against counter-demonstrators who had travelled to the town from Leipzig and Dresden, rather than the right-wing vandals. As the protesters clashed with right-wing extremists at a petrol station, the police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, and according to eyewitnesses forced the left-wing demonstrators to the train station and onto trains. There were no further attacks on the refugee centre on Sunday.

Confronted with this chronology of events, the question is posed: to what extent were the attacks encouraged by the Saxony state government, or at least tolerated by it? Shaghayegh, a 30-year-old activist from the Asylum Seekers Movement who was in the area on Friday and Saturday, said in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung that even the choice of accommodation had been dubious.

“The question we are asking ourselves is why accommodate refugees in a town like this,” Shaghayegh said. Heidenau has a strong right-wing scene. At the most recent town council elections, the NPD secured 7.5 percent of the vote. In addition, the warehouse, left unoccupied for two years, is not a fit place for people to live in. A total of 600 refugees are to be housed in one large room.

Similar scenes played out 15 kilometres away in the state capital, Dresden. According to doctors, at a tent camp for 800 refugees that was established earlier this year, human rights were trampled underfoot. There were insufficient sanitary facilities and inadequate medical care.

The NPD organised demonstrations in July against the refugees in Dresden. Left-wing counter-demonstrators were attacked by right-wing extremists, and several counter-demonstrators were seriously injured.

These are not isolated cases. According to official government figures, there were 200 attacks on refugee centres during the first six months of the year. Remarkably, 42 of them took place in Saxony. However, the state takes in only around 5 percent of all refugees.

The reason for this is that the connections between the government and the right-wing extremist milieu are particularly close in Saxony. The judiciary, police and domestic intelligence agency have been targeting Nazi elements for years, while the right-wing extremists continue with their activities unhindered.

Last year, the right-wing Pegida movement was systematically built up. The anti-Islamic group, which had its centre in Dresden, immediately won the support of the state office for political education. Along with SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, several members of the state government spoke out in favour of a “dialogue” with the right-wing radicals.

In addition, the government of Saxony has adopted the programme of the far right in recent years. Two weeks ago, Saxony CDU General Secretary Michael Kretschmer welcomed the Hungarian plan to build a 175-kilometre long fence along its border with Serbia.

The state spokesman for interior affairs in the CDU, Christian Hartmann, even called for the reintroduction of border controls within the European Union. Last year, Saxony’s interior minister Markus Ulbig urged the creation of a special police unit to target asylum seekers committing criminal offences.

The ability of the neo-Nazi mob to run riot again in Germany is the direct product of these right-wing politics, not only at state level but also throughout the country. Right-wing extremist forces have been encouraged by a refugee policy that is openly based on deterrence.

The unrest involving ultra right-wing elements has in turn been exploited by politicians and the media to justify renewed attacks on refugees. Even as the violence in Heidenau continued, Peter Karstens published a comment in theFrankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung headlined “The downside of the open culture.” In it he criticised the fact that, “in a climate of misunderstood tolerance and laziness,” politicians for years had avoided “deporting rejected asylum seekers.”

Then he cited the interior spokesman for the CDU/Christian Social Union parliamentary faction, Stefan Mayer, who said, “The inadequate level of deportations of rejected asylum seekers is one of the main problems in overcoming the tense asylum seeker situation.”

The foul propaganda against refugees and immigrants can only be understood in a broader political context. A policy is being carried out against refugees, in collaboration with right-wing forces, which is in reality aimed against all workers. The basic social and democratic rights denied to refugees today will be called into question in general tomorrow. A policy like that being imposed by the German government in Greece, and the preparation of new wars, are not compatible with democratic rights for the working class.

It is thus all the more cynical when representatives of all the establishment political parties respond to attacks on refugees by calling for the further strengthening of the state apparatus, which is itself responsible for organising the misery faced by refugees.

Saxony’s representative for external affairs, Geert Mackenroth (CDU), has already announced the deployment of “professional security services”, as well as video surveillance and bans on demonstrations. Such security services have been in the headlines many times over the past year for torturing and severely abusing refugees.

The appointment by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of one of his most hawkish and outspoken rivals as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations has prompted widespread consternation.

As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”.

Last year Netanyahu sacked Danon as deputy defence minister, describing him as too “irresponsible” even by the standards of Israel’s usually anarchic politics. Danon had denounced the prime minister for “leftist feebleness” in his handling of Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer.

Danon is a UN official’s worst nightmare. He is a vocal opponent of a two-state solution and has repeatedly called for the annexation of the West Bank.

Back in 2011, days before the UN General Assembly was due to vote on Palestinian statehood, Danon dismissed the forum as irrelevant: “Even if there will be a vote [in favour], it will be a Facebook state.”

On the face of it, Netanyahu’s timing could not be worse. Danon is to represent Israel as the Palestinians are expected to step up efforts at the UN to entrench recognition of their statehood. He will also be a leading spokesman as Israel tries to fend off war crimes investigations at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The generally accepted explanation is that Netanyahu’s move is driven by domestic, not diplomatic, calculations. Danon is the Israeli right’s poster boy, one who makes the prime minister look too cautious and conciliatory.

The two faced off for the Likud party leadership last November. Danon lost but Netanyahu doubtless fears, as his party and the Israeli public shift ever rightwards, that his rival’s time is coming.

The posting removes Danon as head of the Likud’s powerful central committee, dispatches him to a distant land, and should provide him with opportunities aplenty to self-harm.

But that is not the whole story. Danon’s appointment reveals something more significant about Israel’s deteriorating relations even with its international supporters.

It is hard nowadays to recall that Israel once took the UN very seriously indeed. It had to.

In the decade following 1948, Abba Eban, the country’s foremost diplomat, sought to carve out international recognition and respectability for Israel at the UN.

Eban often used deceit and misdirection – he is reported to have avowed that “diplomats go abroad to lie for their country”. But he never forgot the importance of creating a façade of moral justification for Israel’s actions, even as it launched wars of aggression in 1956 at Suez and again against Egypt in 1967.

Reality caught up with Israel when the UN adopted a resolution in 1975 equating Israel’s official ideology, Zionism, with racism. The resolution was only revoked 16 years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States emerged as the world’s sole superpower.

Washington arm-twisted the General Assembly with promises that Israel would engage in a peace process with the Palestinians, culminating a short time later in the Oslo Accords.

But as Oslo slowly unravelled, and Israel’s leaders – not least Netanyahu himself – were exposed as the true rejectionists, Israel was forced on to the back foot again.

Today, the consensus in Israel is not only that the UN is a bastion of anti-Israel prejudice but that it is an incubator of global anti-semitism, much of it supposedly spawned by Arab states. Israel is blameless, so this story goes, but the world has fallen under the haters’ spell.

The parting shot of Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, last week was to accuse yet again a leading UN official, Jordan’s Rima Khalaf, of anti-semitism for pointing out the untold misery caused by Israel’s near-decade blockade of Gaza.

Earlier this year, after stepping down as Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren went further, arguing that the plague of anti-semitism had infected even America’s leading Jewish journalists. Their critical coverage of Israel was proof of self-hatred, he claimed.

The need for such desperate diplomacy has grown as Israel’s moral image has tarnished, even for its allies. But the hectoring and intimidation by seasoned diplomats like Prosor and Oren has produced diminishing returns.

Danon’s posting is part of a discernible pattern of recent appointments by Netanyahu that reflect a growing refusal to engage in any kind of recognisable diplomacy. Confrontation is preferred.

The trend started with Netanyahu’s decision in 2009 to let the thuggish Avigdor Lieberman lead the foreign ministry and Israel’s diplomatic corps.

Notably, Netanyahu picked Ron Dermer, a high-profile partisan of the US Republican party, to replace Oren in 2013. Dermer is widely credited with engineering Netanyahu’s provocative address earlier this year to the US Congress, in an undisguised effort to undermine President Barack Obama’s talks with Iran.

Danon’s appointment, like Dermer’s, indicates the extent to which the Israeli right has abandoned any hope of persuading the international community of the rightness of its cause – or even of working within the rules of statecraft.

Just as Dermer has turned Obama’s White House into a diplomatic battlefield, Danon can be expected to barrack, abuse and alienate fellow ambassadors at the UN in New York.

An Israel that has no place for negotiations or compromise wants only to tell the world that it is wrong and that Israelis don’t care what others think. Danon is the right man for that task.

Netanyahu Sidelined As UK Re-Opens British Embassy in Teheran

August 26th, 2015 by Anthony Bellchambers

Binyamin Netanyahu has been left sidelined as UK re-opens its embassy in Teheran in anticipation of renewed diplomatic and commercial ties between these two major world economies and as European firms race for Iranian oil projects worth up to $185 billion.

In the meantime, however, the Israeli government, with zero oil and dependent on imports, has instructed AIPAC, its foreign affairs agency in Washington, to make every effort – including the spending of $20million – to try to persuade members of the American House of Representatives to overturn the agreed deal between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, with Iran.

Failing which, the Israeli state is prepared to use all means at its disposal to get a future Republican White House to break the long worked-for deal in a deliberate strategy to foment a regional war with Iran in which it hopes to persuade the United States to deploy, on its behalf, thousands of American troops.

Apart from a potentially huge loss of life, such a war on behalf of an oil-deficient, nuclear Israel against a non-nuclear, oil-rich Iran would lead to the destabilisation of the entire Middle East and the Gulf with catastrophic consequences for the rest of the world. Such a scenario must be prevented at all costs by putting Mr Netanyahu firmly back in his box and screwing down the lid, tight.

The British political and media establishment is aware that Jeremy Corbyn’s win in the Labour leadership election would present a very significant obstacle to the political and militarist business as usual. Having a leading peace campaigner as leader of the opposition puts the anti-war argument centre-stage and can potentially help to mobilise vast swathes of the public against social injustices and endless wars. His popularity demonstrates that there is a great hunger for change.

The potential is shown by the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has called for the Labour Party to apologise for the Iraq War. The invasion of Iraq clearly broke international law and was based on concocted intelligence dossiers, as Dr David Kelly noted shortly before his unexplained death. The invasion led to the death of around a million Iraqis, and an unquantifiable amount of suffering. It also set off the cycle of hatred and violence which is still enveloping the Middle East and North Africa. Hear Lindsey German speak on Channel 4 News in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s call for the Labour Party to apologise for the war.


Don’t miss Stop the War’s national conference

2015 National Conference

Stop the War’s AGM for members and delegates

10am – 5pm 19th September 2015

University of London Union

Malet Street

London WC1E 7HY

Jeremy Corbyn will be speaking at the Stop the War national conference, which is where we discuss the politics of the present situation, the risks of the spread of war and our campaigning priorities. The conference is open to members and group delegates. The deadline to become a member of Stop the War so you can attend the conference is the end of this month. Please make sure you book early to secure your place.

Full details of the AGM can be found on our web site.


Don’t Bomb Syria public meeting

Thursday 10 September, 6.30pm

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

235 Shaftsbury Avenue

London WC2H 8EP

Speakers include:

Diane Abbott MP

Seamus Milne, journalist

Andrew Murray, UNITE chief-of-staff

Details and booking »

See the action page for more details about how you can get involved.


The West’s guilt for refugees fleeing war can’t be washed away by calling them migrants

The UN confirmed that the overwhelming majority of people fleeing are refugees from Anglo-American wars. Instead of welcoming these people with care and hospitality, they are being “greeted” with heartless xenophobia. Stop the War Coalition advocates for the compassionate treatment of all refugees, and for an end to vicious military interventions which have created this immense refugee crisis.


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Unbeknown to many, most of human history took place in Africa, where women were equal, if not superior, to men. For thousands of years, African societies were matriarchal and they prospered. By bringing an oppressive form of Colonial Christianity to Africa, Europeans replaced millennia of prosperous matriarchy with oppressive patriarchy.

The world’s first civilizations arose from the spiritual, economic and social efforts of African women and African women, in turn, went on to lead those Matriarchal societies.

Feminist artist Lauren Webber’s works on traditional fabrics at the First Floor Art Gallery in Zimbabwe explore the complex relationship between the past and present condition of African women, by exposing the continent’s long history of female dominance and how it has been subverted by Christian patriarchies.

The rituals and culture of African matriarchy did not celebrate violence; rather, they promoted fecundity, exchange and redistribution. Matriarchy in ancient Africa was not a mirror image of patriarchy today; because, it was not based on appropriation and violence.

Frantz Fanon once remarked, “Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state”. Webber illustrates how for centuries, Christianity has been the shield that justifies colonialism; what is less known, is that it has also served as the sword, up and down the African continent, leaving piles of bones in its wake. Just as violence cannot be separated from colonialism, Christianity cannot be separated from colonial violence.

Early man was unaware of the link between sexual intercourse and birth; they thought only women created life. Consequently, women were the first Gods, which formed the basis of gender equality in Africa.

Historian, Cheikh Anta Diop illustrates how as early as 10,000 BC women in Africa pioneered organized crop and livestock cultivation, thereby creating the pre-conditions for surplus, wealth and trade. African women are responsible for the greatest invention for the well-being of human kind, namely, food security. It is the practice of organized agriculture that made population expansion, food surpluses and civilization possible.

Pre-capitalist, matriarchal civilizations in Africa included: the Nigerian Zazzau, Sudanese Kandake, Angolan Nzinga, and Ashanti of Ghana, to name but a few. The quintessential African matriarchal system was most evident and most enduring in Black Ancient Egypt.

Women in Ancient Egypt owned and had complete control over both movable and immovable property, such as real estate in 3000 BC. As late as the 1960s, this right could not be claimed by women in some parts of the United States.

A close look at ancient Egyptian papyrus’ reveals that society was strictly matrilinial and inheritance and descent was through the female line. The Egyptian woman enjoyed the same legal and economic rights as the Egyptian man, and the proof of this is reflected in Egyptian art and historical inscriptions. Egypt was an unequal society, but the inequality was based much more upon differences in the social classes, rather than differences in gender.

From ancient legal documents, we know that women were able to manage and dispose of private property, including: land, portable goods, servants, slaves, livestock, and financial instruments, such as endowments and annuities. A woman could administer all her property independently and according to her free will and in several excavated cemeteries the richest tombs were those of women.

The independence and leadership roles of ancient Egyptian women are part of an African cultural pattern that began millennia ago and continued into recent times, until Europeans brought Colonial Christianity to Africa.

In the 1860s, the colonial explorer and Christian missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, wrote of meeting female chiefs in the Congo, and in most of the monarchical systems of traditional Africa, there were either one or two women of the highest rank who occupied a position on a par with that of the king or complementary to it.

Professor of Ancient African History, Barbara Lesko, illustrates how anthropologists who have studied African history and records of early travelers and missionaries tell us, “everywhere in Africa that one scrapes the surface one finds ethno-historical data on the authority once shared by women.”

In the years just before colonization, African women were largely equal to men. The significant value of African women’s productive labour in producing and processing food created and maintained their rights in domestic, political, cultural, economic, religious and social spheres, among others. Because women were central to production in these pre-class societies, systematic inequality between the sexes was nonexistent, and elder women in particular enjoyed relatively high status.

With the advent of Colonial Christianity, the marginalization of women came in several ways. Firstly, the true history of Jesus Christ was whitewashed, in order to subjugate Black Africans and promote a European male patriarchy. The Jesus that Africans were introduced to by European missionaries was a white skinned, blue eyed man.

It is a historical and Biblical fact that Jesus was actually a dark skinned man.The Bible itself offers evidence of Jesus’ dark skin; and The Book of Revelation likens Jesus’ feet to “fine brass, as if burned in a furnace.” In the Book of Daniel, it says the hair of the Messiah’s head would be “like the pure wool” of a lamb. The scholarly consensus is that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, a dark-skinned man. According to The New Testament, Mary and Joseph travelled South among dark skinned people to hide baby Jesus from Herod. Clearly hiding a white baby amongst dark skinned people would not have been possible.

Jesus’ race is important because the historically false image of a white Jesus has been utilized to justify slavery and the genocide of millions of indigenous peoples in Africa and beyond.

Patriarchal Christianity, and its masculine fundamentalism, have brought to Africa the monogamous nuclear family unit, whose sole purpose was to pass on private property in the form of inheritance from one generation of males to the next. Under Colonial Christianity, the modern nuclear family is founded on the somewhat concealed domestic slavery of the wife.

A glance at the dictionary will reveal that the word family, has rather telling Latin origins. “Famulus” literally means domestic slave; and “familia,” signified the total number of slaves belonging to one man.

Colonial Christianity also brought to Africa the concept of the Victorian woman: a woman who should stay in the private domain and leave the “real work” to the men. Due to the Victorian concept of women held by colonialists, African women were excluded from the new religious, political, and socioeconomic systems.

The imported patriarchal religion does not allow women to play the leading roles they have in the indigenous African religion. In Ancient African religions it is not only God who is a “She”, but also the main guardian spirits and sacred principles are of the female gender. The concept of a Supreme Mother is also documented by Rosalind Jeffries, who, in a paper entitled “The Image of Woman in African Cave Art”, shows how in the African Creation stories, the Primordial Mother created woman then man.

Clearly, Europeans manipulated true Christianity for profit and plunder. If the colonialists’ understanding of Christianity could be used to justify rape, theft, murder and empire, then their understanding of Christianity is completely wrong. The barbarism of colonialism in Africa was committed in the name of Christianity, in clear violation of the teachings of Jesus Christ, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom pushed for just and equitable treatment of all of God’s children.

The greatest threat towards African women having a glorious future is our people’s ignorance of African women’s glorious past. Armed with knowledge, Africans must now fight to restore African women to a position of respect and dignity that exceeds that which she enjoyed before colonialism.

Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on [email protected] 

People are not equal in death, either. Some deaths are more newsworthy than others. The media and politicians love spectacular acts of terror, fires, disaster, the death of the wealthy and privileged, a death conducive to a cause. Such is the death of 300 passengers and crew of the Malaysian airliner flight 17 in the crash in Donbass, near Russian-Ukrainian border. Their deaths, regrettable as they were, are deemed to be of much greater importance, or at least newsworthiness than those of some ten thousand local people killed by the indiscriminate shelling of Donbass towns by Kiev regime troops, or that of a million Arabs. It is conducive to the cause of pushing Russia into a corner.

The US and its allies wanted Russia branded with a scarlet letter. They manoeuvred Putin into a no-win situation: appear submissive or appear a mass murderer. Heads I win, tails you lose. They introduced into the UN Security Council a draft resolution on the formation of a special tribunal for the crashed Malaysian liner, containing a reference to Chapter VII, the deadliest of all, dealing with “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and authorising use of force. If such a resolution would pass, it would mean Russia gave up its sovereignty. Even in the unlikely case of fair trial, the impact of such a submission would be huge. And the trial would be by a hostile court for whom Truth Is No Defence.

It would be a miracle for Russia to escape condemnation at such a court. You say, but Russia is clearly innocent in the disaster. So what? These guys are not after truth at all – they hanged Saddam, they brutalised Qaddafi, they keep Palestinians locked in Gaza, they want to destroy and subjugate strong-minded Russia. And what would be a better gambit than a resolution with the magic words “Chapter VII”. Their magic can unleash the dogs of war.

However the worst consequence would be the surrender of Russian sovereignty. If they accepted this, they could be trampled upon at will. No great state ever agreed to be tried and judged. This is a sign of “limited sovereignty”, of submission to supreme authority.

The US never did. The US did not agree to join the International Criminal Court, so its citizens could never be tried. There were a hundred cases in which the US could and should have been brought to trial, but it never happened.

As I write this, the sad anniversary of Hiroshima reminds us of the greatest crime of the last century, never brought to trial, but it happened a long time ago.

In 1980s the US mined harbours of Nicaragua, and in 1986 the ICJ (International Court of Justice) found the US guilty. The US refused to comply. They did not recognise the Court’s right to judge them.

In 1989 they invaded Panama, kidnapped its president and locked him up in the dungeon of Barad Dur, Florida. The majority of the Security Council voted for theresolution condemning the invasion, in clear and unambiguous language: “The Security Council …strongly deplores the intervention in Panama by the US Armed Forces which constitutes a fragrant violation of the international law and demands immediate cessation of the intervention” but the US and its allies vetoed the resolution.

Since then, there have been many wars and invasions, but the US never agreed to be judged, always refused to comply with judgements and vetoed any draft implying a check upon its sovereignty.

Now, all of a sudden, they have become adepts of international law.

It would be a deadly error for the Russians to submit. Such tribunals are highly political, and they decide as they are ordered. The Russians had recently had an unpleasant experience: they agreed to a tribunal in the Hague to arbitrate with the run-away oligarchs who claimed Putin had stolen their hard-earned winnings. They thought their case was so clear, and they believed in the impartiality of the tribunal. They were surprised when the Hague tribunal ordered them to pay fifty billion dollars to the fugitives. They are not likely to step on the same rake a second time.

Poets describe such tribunals better than lawyers: “I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury… I’ll try the whole case, and condemn you to death”, in the words of Lewis Carroll.

Russia vetoed the draft, and there was a deafening media scream condemning Russia for non-compliance. None of these screamers bothered to demand US compliance in a single case of transgression. They knew it would not work. Not only the US: even the smaller Jewish state of Israel has never agreed to face a tribunal.

Why does Israel refuse? Justice is a great concept, and Jews are natural born lawyers, so the Jews know: a judge can always rule the way he finds fit and find reasons for the judgment he likes.

The law is so quirky, and changes so fast! Fifty years ago, an American would get a jail sentence for having sex with a person of a different race or the same sex. Nowadays, race is no objection, but a woman of 30 gets 22 years in jail for her amorous affair with three 17-year old kids in Florida. Why, she would get less if she were to kill them.

Vladimir Lenin, a lawyer by education, considered the courts and lawyers to be a tool of the ruling class. He did not believe in objective justice. Indeed, the judges do the will of the rulers. As the rulers want to find Russia guilty, so they will, given a chance.

Granting all that, what actually happened in the air over Donetsk? There are many versions: it was a bomb planted on board the plane, the plane was hit by a ground-to-air-missile, it was shot down by an fighter jet. There are complicated conspiracy versions aplenty, combining these causes, that would provide strong competition to 9/11. The more elaborate versions connect this crash with the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 a few months earlier.

There is no doubt that the Russians did not want to hit the passenger airliner. The Donetsk rebels could not, for this feat of hitting a plane flying at such altitude is above their grade. It is said that Kiev regime, or the then lord of Dnepropetrovsk, the Chabad tycoon Kolomoysky did it in order to implicate Russians, but I doubt that.

There are witnesses to the flight of a Ukrainian Su-25 jet fighter based in Dnepropetrovsk that possibly could have shot down the airliner, believing it was the Russian airliner Rossiya carrying President Putin. They give even the pilot’s name: captain Vladislav Voloshin.

Alternatively, there are witnesses that saw a ground-to-air missile battery belonging to Kiev or even to the rebels (which is quite unlikely: they are not that sophisticated). Who knows the truth? Such things happen in wartime, and that was a time of intensive warfare between the rebels and the Kiev regime.

I’ll tell you an old soldier’s tale. In 1973 my battalion of Israeli paratroopers seized the Egyptian Ataka Heights, in the desert between Suez Canal and Nile Valley. We had sent a group of our best fighters out for a reconnaissance raid. A friend of mine took command. It was a dark night in October. On their way back, my friend forgot to signal his return, and our sentries opened fire. My friend and three soldiers were killed. Friendly fire is not a rare thing. If friends die of friendly fire, strangers who got into wrong place in the wrong time are also likely to suffer.

I would not blame anybody in the plane disaster, excepting those who had sent the plane over the fighting zone – Kiev or Dnepropetrovsk flight dispatchers.

Neither the Ukrainian nor Russian SAM operators, nor the rebels wanted to shoot down a civilian aircraft. Even if the Ukrainian jet fighter downed the plane, he did it without understanding the nature of the target. But in war, things happen. In 1988, the Americans shot down a civilian Iranian airliner Airbus A-300. 300 people were killed, including 52 women and 66 children – same as in the Donetsk tragedy.

Initially, the Americans denied their responsibility – they said the aircraft flew in a forbidden area, and the pilot did not respond to friend/foe request. President Reagan acquitted the commander of the cruiser that shot down a civilian airliner. Later it turned out, the airliner flew at a permitted altitude, gave the right responses to the query, but the ship’s missile defence system, the Aegis, misinterpreted the signals, and the captain pushed the red button.

In February 1973, Israel shot down a Libyan civilian airliner and killed more than a hundred passengers. The airliner strayed from its route during a sandstorm and Israeli fighter-interceptors shot it down. Israelis said the flag of Libya looked similar to the flag of Egypt, or the plane could be hijacked by terrorists, for it flew towards Israel … In the end, Israel has been deemed guilty, the state never conceded its guilt but paid for the insurance.

In these two cases, there was no real war, even though it was a tension in the area. But Donbass has had a full-scale war at the time. Anyone of the combatants could bring down the ill-fated aircraft, mistaking it for an enemy – if they had technical means.

The sloppy Ukrainians could do it even in peace time out of sheer recklessness as they downed the Siberia flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk ten years ago. To this very day the Ukrainians haven’t admitted their fault.

Conspiracy theories can be useful – they calm media-induced frenzy. But I would not take them seriously. At war, the qui prodest rule is not working. People and planes can be destroyed just by chance. Israel was a beneficiary of the tragedy, as it diverted the world’s attention from the bloody war in Gaza. Kolomoysky, an Israeli citizen, fiery Zionist, a tycoon and the ruler of Dnepropetrovsk, a man capable of anything, was a man partly responsible for the crash, as his dispatchers ordered the liner to lower its altitude, and the captain Vladislav Voloshin was under his command. But this does not mean that Zionists downed the plane.

I am certain the Russians weren’t knowingly involved, for they opened all their secret communications for the investigators to see. If they were involved, the Americans would see it via their satellites, and they would spread the word right away. But the US keeps mum; they did not present their data. Nor did the Kiev regime: they sit on the recordings of the dispatchers with the plane. Will they publish their records? I wonder.

One thing is certain – peace be upon the victims. Allah Yerham, Lord have mercy on them, as our Arab brothers say in such cases. Anton Chekhov, the playwright, said: a gun hanging on the wall in the first act will be shot by the last act. So is a resolution referring to Chapter VII. Good that the Russians had guts to veto the draft and postponed a war for another time. Otherwise, we would have to ask for the Lord’s mercy on great many people.

Israel Shamir can be contacted at [email protected]

 

In an anti-democratic decision that is clearly bad politics and which colludes in serious human rights violations, David Cameron is currently ignoring the demand of 85,000 British citizens for the arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu on alleged war crime charges, regardless of diplomatic immunity, should the Israeli Prime Minister enter Britain. 

 

Netanyahu is an Israeli born, American educated politician who is alleged to have committed a serious war crime by having authorised the killing of over 2000 unarmed civilian men, women and children, in 2014, during Israel’s reprisal attack against dissidents in Gaza.

However, the Cameron government is apparently now so dependent on the supply of Israeli drugs for the NHS plus Israeli-made drones and military equipment for Britain’s armed forces, that it finds itself in the invidious position of having to welcome and entertain a suspected war criminal.

If Mr Cameron had any political sense he would cancel this proposed visit by a politician who is probably less welcome in Britain than Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

One obvious lesson to be drawn from this dangerous and unsavoury situation is that Britain should in future source all pharmaceutical supplies and military equipment from one or more of the 28 member states of the European Union and not from a country in the Middle East that is not a member of NATO, nor a party either to the IAEA or the NPT, or the Chemical / Biological Weapons Conventions.

For any EU government to ignore these vital facts by acting otherwise, is to contribute to a high-level, future security risk to Europe.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105446

Last week, NATO headquarters announced Exercise Swift Response-15, the largest Allied airborne training event on the European continent since the end of the Cold War. About 5,000 soldiers from 11 countries in the alliance will take part in the maneuvers, which will last until Sept. 13.

This is neither the first nor the last drill to be conducted by NATO, the largest military alliance in the world.

Over the past year and a half, NATO armed forces have almost doubled the number of military exercises they have staged near the Russian border: between 2012 and 2013 they conducted an average of 95 such training events per year, but there have already been 150 so far in 2015, and flights by reconnaissance aircraft along the Russian frontier have increased tenfold.

But in an attempt to unfairly place the blame on Russia for such exercises, the London-based European Leadership Network issued a report on Aug. 12 that uses a flawed methodology to compare one type of exercise held in Russia in 2015 with another kind of military drill organized by NATO this year. Criticism was only leveled at the large number of troops involved in the Russian exercise, because the alliance’s drill was smaller on that scale. The report’s purpose was obvious: to shift the entirety of the West’s own culpability for war preparations in Europe onto the Russians.

  • First of all, it makes no sense to compare only two military drills conducted by opposing sides; one needs to take into account all the exercises that are being held, including the sum total of their scope and focus (the scenarios being rehearsed). In this regard, it should be noted that the aggregate number of NATO personnel taking part in the alliance’s military maneuvers is significantly greater than the estimate of troops involved in the Russian military exercises.
  • Second, in regard to this matter, one must also acknowledge that it was not Russia who initiated this upsurge in military drills. The US and its closest NATO allies took that first step under contrived pretenses. For this reason, the European Leadership Network’s proposals to limit the number and scope of military exercises in Europe should be primarily directed at Washington and the alliance, not at Russia.
  • Third, one cannot overlook the fact that many NATO members (the US, UK, France, Germany, and others) conduct their military drills far from their own borders. The Russian armed forces almost always oversee this training within their own country.
  • Fourth, it should be noted that in addition to periodic military maneuvers, a special NATO Response Force has been created that will consist of up to 40,000 soldiers who can be quickly airlifted to wherever they need to be. In addition, the US Navy must now be able to instantly mobilize the resources to form “expeditionary forces” that can be rapidly deployed to any part of the world (for example, as part of a Marine brigade including up to 17 amphibious ships or a joint Marine Air-Ground Task Force with as many as 75,000 personnel). For comparison, a recent NATO Baltops naval exercise in the seas around northwestern Europe involved 49 warships and support vessels from 17 countries within the alliance.
  • Fifth, it is important to note that while NATO has 24,000 combat aircraft and 800 ocean-going ships at its disposal, Russia does not own nearly so much equipment of that type. What’s more, the Pentagon is planning a further expansion of the forward deployment of its armed forces. That would station US troops, on a permanent or temporary basis, within more than 100 nations. There are plans to begin prepositioning weapons and military equipment in these countries, as is “needed to equip troops fighting in forward combat zones.”
  • Sixth, during these military drills, the Pentagon is rehearsing scenarios for armed intervention intended to overthrow undesirable regimes. For example, throughout the post-war period, the United States and its allies have employed military force more than 50 times, and six times that has escalated into regional armed conflicts.
A Polish Air Force MIG-29 fighter (top) and Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighters participate during a NATO air policing mission patrol over the Baltics from the Zokniai air base near Siauliai February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

A Polish Air Force MIG-29 fighter (top) and Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighters participate during a NATO air policing mission patrol over the Baltics from the Zokniai air base near Siauliai February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Even NATO’s leaders have acknowledged the alliance’s military buildup on Russia’s doorstep. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in 2014 these numbers have quintupled since 2013. And NATO member states’ naval operations have increased fourfold during this period.

In particular, the air forces of the 15 NATO countries that take part in the Baltic Air Policing operation over the Baltic states ramped up their activities more than 1240 times (when calculated in flying hours) since it was launched 11 years ago. This operation is underway 24/7, year-round. Four of the types of planes used in this drill are considered “dual-capable” aircraft that can carry either conventional or tactical nuclear weapons.

At the same time the United States is refusing to adopt the new Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), proposing to revive the former act, which also never went into effect through the fault of its NATO signatories. New talks on CFE-2 have not even begun. At the same time, eight additional military bases in Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as seven command and administrative centers, plus American heavy weaponry and AEW&C aircraft have been added to the 150 military bases belonging to the United States and its allies that are immediately adjacent or relatively close to Russia’s borders.

Without exception, every military exercise that the alliance has recently staged in Europe has had very focused objectives. They are rehearsing scenarios that test the use of the Rapid Reaction Force, which includes the transportation of personnel and heavy equipment over long distances, the interaction between different varieties and formats of armed forces, and the operational “coupling” between the command and control structures. There is no doubt that such exercises have an anti-Russian bias, mainly because, as already noted, they are primarily (up to 55%) conducted in zones adjacent to the Russian borders.For example, an exercise that included 140 armored vehicles and 1,400 troops near the Estonian city of Narva in February of this year was held only 300 meters away from the Russian border.

In mid-February of this year the Pentagon shipped twelve A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to Spangdahlem Air Base (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany), which will be deployed in Eastern Europe. There is no doubt about the identity of the potential enemy. Eight of these aircraft were flown to the Ämari Air Base (Estonia) in June of this year. And five USAF B-52H and B-2 strategic heavy bombers were sent to RAF Fairford in Great Britain to participate in NATO military exercises.

In March of this year NATO organized the Joint Viking military exercises in northern Norway near the Russian border, which was an event unprecedented since 1990. Over 5,000 troops and 400 units of military equipment were involved. During these drills, the naval and air forces of the region’s NATO countries were placed on alert. The last time a similar drill was conducted was in 1967.

In March and April of 2015 the US, Swedish, and Finnish air forces directed military maneuvers near the Finnish town of Pori, flying sorties with Gripen, F-16, and Hornet fighter jets. In May, the air forces from eight NATO member states staged the Arctic Challenge Exercise in Norway, which included more than 100 aircraft. In early May of this year major military drills known as Siil-2015 were held in Estonia, involving 13,000 troops. This was the first time such large-scale drills had been conducted inside Estonia.

The Pentagon is planning to set up warehouses of military equipment in NATO’s eastern flank in order to conduct “ongoing exercises on a rotational basis.” For these purposes, 1,200 armored vehicles, including 250 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as well as artillery systems, are to be stockpiled in Eastern Europe. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims that Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland have already agreed to house this military equipment within their borders. Some types of weaponry can also be stationed in Germany, where, just like after WWII, large numbers of American troops are already concentrated.

In light of the increased US military aid to the regime in Kiev that will be used in the genocide of Ukrainian citizens, these military preparations are taking on a plainly anti-Russian flavor.

Nor can we ignore America’s tactical nuclear weapons, which since the early 1950s have been deployed in four European countries (Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany), as well as the Asian part of Turkey. Furthermore, a US missile defense system will be installed in Romania in 2015, and then another three years later in Poland. These military forces and infrastructures are certainly not aimed at Iran. So how should Russians react to all of this, and who is actually rattling his saber in Eastern Europe?

Prof. Vladimir Kozin is the leading Russian expert on disarmament and strategic stability issues, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.

I have written recently about Israel’s efforts to wipe off the map the 1,000-strong Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev (Naqab) so that Jews can live in their place. Dozens of other Bedouin communities in Israel – known as “unrecognised villages” and representing tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens – are facing similar fates.

The short animated film below adds another absurdist angle to the Umm al-Hiran story.

Appealing to racist assumptions about the Bedouin, Israel has claimed that it cannot provide services such as electricity and water to what it calls “scattered” communities like Umm al-Hiran, even though the Bedouin have been settled in Umm al-Hiran in large numbers and in permanent homes for decades after their forced removal from their own ancestral lands at Israel’s creation.

Right next to Umm al-Hiran is one of what Israel terms Negev “ranches” – usually run by a single (Jewish) family and styled on the huge ranches familiar from Texas. Ariel Sharon owned a famous one in the Negev. Despite the tiny number of (Jewish) people living on these ranches, and their scattered nature, they are instantly connected to water and electricity by the state.

The family running the one next to Umm al-Hiran has made it a dog hotel (and a pet cemetery), where the dogs have more rights than the inhabitants of Umm al-Hiran. You can visit the dog hotel’s website here.

As the film concludes, there’s a word for this: it’s called apartheid.

Which U.S. Senators Really Want War on Iran

August 26th, 2015 by David Swanson

This is an update to “Which U.S. Senators Want War on Iran.” But Blumenthal is still undecided, so it’s 15.

I’ve found there isn’t really any way to touch on this topic without misunderstanding, but here’s a try. Iran has never had a nuclear weapons program or threatened to launch a war against the U.S. or Israel. Many opponents of the Iran deal in the U.S. Congress and nearly every, if not every single, proponent of the agreement in the U.S. Congress has proposed war as the alternative. Some examples are here. The White House is even telling Congress that the agreement will make a future war easier — as a selling point in favor of the deal.

Of course, war is NOT the only alternative to the agreement. The threat of war comes from the U.S. An alternative to that would be to simply stop threatening it. No deal is actually needed. The purpose it serves is to slow down a U.S. push for war.

Of course, many ordinary supporters and opponents of the agreement do not want a war. But with Washington offering two courses of action toward Iran: a deal that imposes tougher inspections than anyone else has to deal with, or bombs, one has to choose the inspections.

That is, a moral person does. The “I want a better deal” argument is cynically put forward by people who want no deal at all, even if supported by well-meaning people who have the misfortune to own televisions or read newspapers.

Of course, the Iranian government can be criticized in many areas, none of which are subject to improvement by bombing.

Here are people who have said they oppose the agreement or can’t make up their mind about it yet:

Every Republican in the U.S. Senate plus these Democrats (the first two have said No, the rest Undecided):
Menendez (NJ)
Schumer (NY)
Wyden (OR)
Bennet (CO)
Booker (NJ)
Cantwell (WA)
Cardin (MD)
Casey (PA)
Coons (DE)
Heitkamp (ND)
Mikulski (MD)
Murray (WA)
Peters (MI)
Stabenow (MI)
Warner (VA)

This is a much shorter list than what it was when I previously wrote on this topic. In fact, it’s at 15, which is almost down to the 13 needed to kill the agreement. Get it down to 12 and the agreement survives. That means two more Democratic senators can come around to the Yes position on the Iran deal and the deal still die. Almost certainly at least those two will. Whether a third does, or more do, is the real question.

When measures voted on are popular with funders but unpopular with the public, they very often pass with no more than exactly the votes needed. Sometimes word leaks out about the deals that have been cut. Senators and House members take their turns giving the unpopular votes demanded by funders and “leadership.” The trick here is that the “leadership” is split between Obama’s and Biden’s YES and (would be Senate leader) Schumer’s NO.

The fifteen people named above have had PLENTY of time to conclude that many of their colleagues want to risk a war and to understand that the agreement is preferable to that. It’s time for us to let them know we will not stand for them getting this wrong and will never forget it if they do. Here’s what I’m asking about my senator, Mark Warner:

Here’s what World Beyond War is doing to try to correct the myth that Iran is the origin of the threat of war in this affair:

iranthreatSITE

We must uphold the Iran agreement, but upholding it while pretending that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, or is threatening anyone, will not create a stable and lasting foundation for peace. Upholding an agreement with both proponents and opponents threatening war as an alternative is perilous as well as immoral, illegal, and — given the outcome of similar recent wars based on similar recent propaganda — insane.

You can spread the above message on Facebook hereTwitter hereInstagram hereTumblr here, and Google+ here.

In the U.S. sign these petitions: onetwo, and join these events.

More events all over the world, and tools for creating your own are here.

Outside the U.S., people can contact the nearest U.S. Embassy.

The means, motivation, and opportunity have all already long been established linking last week’s unprecedented terror attack in Bangkok to ousted US-backed “dictator” Thaksin Shinawatra and his foreign sponsors. It has also been established that nearly all of the potential suspects these interests may have used to carry out the bombings are also linked to US interests.

The bombing occurred as Thailand prepared to move forward with a new national charter and as additional measures were being put in place to fully uproot Shinawatra’s political networks once and for all.

The bombing also follows a February double bombing just down the street in the popular Siam shopping district – both incidents involving nearly identical bombs and using identical means to put them in place before they detonated.

Eager to exonerate Thaksin Shianwatra – leader of a client regime, the West has spent a decade and billions of dollars propping up – narratives involving  foreign terrorists have been promoted across the Western media. The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) – a collection of foreign journalists from prominent Western news networks – conducted a panel to specifically lay the blame upon an obscure Turkish-based terror organization called the “Grey Wolves.”

Forbes in their report, “Thailand’s Shrine Bombing – The Case For Turkey’s Grey Wolves,” claims:

The most likely perpetrators of the deadly Bangkok bombing last week were militant members of a right-wing Turkish organization infuriated by the Thai government’s forcible repatriation of Uighur refugees back to China. Anthony Davis, a veteran security analyst with IHS-Jane’s, made a persuasive case for the Grey Wolves on a panel at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand Monday evening.

And while Forbes assures readers that domestic groups, including “political dissidents” could not have been responsible, neither Forbes nor the “experts” they cite qualify this claim.

Images: Side-by-side comparison of a recreated pipe bomb used in last week’s bombings (left), and a pipe bomb recovered last year (right) after two of Shinawatra’s “red shirt” terrorists accidentally killed themselves while transporting explosive devices.

In fact, large pipe bombs almost identical in make and material to those used last week and in the double Siam bombing, have been at the center of an ongoing investigation stretching as far back as 2010 where an apartment exploded in Nonthaburi as Shinawatra’s “red shirts” were attempting to assemble explosive devices. A similar incident occurred in 2014 amid anti-Shinawatra protests, where two of Shinawatra’s “red shirt” terrorists accidentally killed themselves when a large pipe bomb they were carrying exploded.

The fact that all of these apparently linked incidents occurred at high-points of Thailand’s internal political struggle, suggests strongly that last week’s bombings were a continuation of pro-Shinawatra terrorism. The inclusion of foreign terrorists to carry out these attacks – if true – would suggest that Shinawatra has been furnished with assistance from foreign intelligence. Claims that the little-known “Grey Wolves” may have been involved, and the suspicious insistence almost immediately after the bombing by Western news outlets including the BBC that “Uyghurs” may have been involved, only further indict Shinawatra and his foreign sponsors.

The US-Ugyhur Connection is Direct 

Forbes’ attempt to portray the “Grey Wolves” as being behind the blasts in Bangkok include several obvious omissions. First, the Siam bombings in February occurred months before the alleged slight the “Grey Wolves” supposedly attacked Bangkok for last week. Uyghurs Thailand detained were extradited to China in July, months after the Siam blasts. Forbes and the “experts” they cite never so much as mention the Siam bombings.

Forbes does mention the attack on Thailand’s consulate in Istanbul in the wake of the extraditions. It claims:

Some of the strongest evidence in favor of the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves was the fury throughout Turkey that followed the Thai repatriaton on July 9 of 109 Uighurs and the Grey Wolves’ visibility during the attacks on the Thai Embassy in Istanbul. A violent wing of the loosely organized pan-Turkic organization in recent years has taken up the cause of the Uighurs. The Uighurs are persecuted fellow Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang province, which Uighurs call “East Turkestan.” 

Forbes fails to mention that the attack on the Thai consulate was led by the World Uyghur Congress, a political front for China’s armed Uyghur terrorist groups, that is based both in Washington D.C. and Munich and is funded annually by the US State Department via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

After the attack on the Thai consulate, Reuters would report in their article, “Thai PM defends decision to send Uighurs back to China,” that:

“We are here to protest Thailand’s and China’s human rights abuses. The Chinese cruelty has spread to Thailand,” Seyit Tumturk, vice president of the World Uighur Congress, told Reuters outside the Thai Embassy.

Far from a “conspiracy theory,” the World Uyghur Congress’ official website lists Washington D.C. and Munich as the official locations of their organization’s headquarters, while the US NED openly admits to funding them. NED lists the organization on its official website with the following description:

World Uyghur Congress Human Rights – $275,000 –  Uyghur Human Rights Advocacy and Training To enhance the ability of Uyghur prodemocracy groups and leaders to implement effective human rights and democracy campaigns. The World Uyghur Congress will organize three training seminars for pro-democracy Uyghur groups and leaders and conduct international advocacy campaigns on human rights for Uyghurs.

One wonders whether the “experts” at the FCCT panel intentionally omitted this information, or never bothered to look into who in fact funds these groups. In addition to the World Uyghur Congress, there is documented evidence tying the “Grey Wolves” terrorist organization directly to both NATO and the United States military itself.

If the Grey Wolves were present at the consulate attack taking part in the World Uyghur Congress’ protest and responsible for the recent bombing in Bangkok – yet another US-funded political front finds itself allied with terrorists literally mass murdering people around the world.

The US-NATO Created the “Grey Wolves” 

A perhaps forgotten 1998 LA Times article titled, “Turkish Dirty War Revealed, but Papal Shooting Still Obscured,” would explicitly lay out the genesis of the “Grey Wolves” terrorist organization. It would claim (emphasis added):

In the late 1970s, armed bands of Gray Wolves launched a wave of bomb attacks and shootings that killed hundreds of people, including public officials, journalists, students, lawyers, labor organizers, left-wing activists and ethnic Kurds. During this period, the Gray Wolves operated with encouragement and protection of the Counter-Guerrilla Organization, a section of the Turkish Army’s Special Warfare Department. Working out of the U.S. Military Aid Mission building in Ankara, the Special Warfare Department received funds and training from U.S. advisors to establish “stay behind” squads of civilian irregulars who were set up to engage in acts of sabotage and resistance in the event of a Soviet invasion. Similar Cold War counter-guerrilla units were created in every member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But instead of preparing for foreign enemies, these operatives often set their sights on domestic targets. 

How this “origins” story was omitted from Anthony Davis’ FCCT presentation and why the implications that a US backed terrorist organization may have been involved in a terrorist bombing aimed at undermining a government that has ousted a US-backed client regime – deserves an answer from both Davis himself and the FCCT and the multitude of Western networks repeating these claims without question.

Attempts to ask why this information is repeatedly omitted have resulted in either silence or personal insults leveled by prominent Bangkok-based journalists, including the BBC’s Jonathan Head.

According to a 2009 New America Media report, the “Grey Wolves” are alleged to also be operating training camps in western China to train armed terrorists – fitting in nicely with the United States’ own stated “grand strategy” of maintaining “primacy over Asia” by encircling, undermining, and containing the rise of China. Targeting Thailand as it makes unprecedented strides away from dependency on the US and toward stronger ties with Beijing also exposes a common “motivation” between proxy attacks on both China and Thailand carried out by clearly US-NATO backed political and terrorist organizations.

It is clear that for decades, as a matter of documented fact, the “Grey Wolves” served a tool of both internal and geopolitical coercion on behalf of the US-NATO carried out through asymmetrically warfare – another example of US state-sponsorship of terrorism not unlike its role in creating Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan in the 1980s to advance its geopolitical ambitions in Central Asia.

If the “Grey Wolves” were indeed linked to the latest in a string of terror attacks carried out on behalf of the ousted US-backed Shinawatra regime, this would indicate that indeed, the US “pivot to Asia” has turned into a bloody brawl.

Demand Tsarnaev Trial Juror Names; Continue to Ignore Real Questions about the Bombing

The Boston media are furious at information being withheld about the Boston Marathon bombing. But wait — it isn’t what you think. No, they have not suddenly gotten curious about the sorts of inconsistencies, anomalies and outright lies that WhoWhatWhyhas documented in approximately 80 articles now.

No, they just want access to jurors, presumably to tease out still more maudlin “human interest” stories rather than probe for the truth that appears to be hiding in plain sight.

What are they in a huff about? In yet another example of the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing prosecution, the presiding judge still hasn’t released the names of jurors three months on. This has raised the ire of at least two Boston area news outlets.

U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. (left) Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (right) Photo credit: U.S. District Court

U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. (left) Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (right) Photo credit: U.S. District Court

And in a parallel development, convicted Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers have uncovered evidence of “inflammatory images, headlines, and comments” on those same jurors’ social media feeds —  raising questions about their impartiality.

But the media pursuit of the still-unreleased juror names is not just a statement on what the extreme secrecy surrounding Tsarnaev’s prosecution means for oversight of our public institutions. It is also a statement on the establishment news media’s priorities.

Horrified By The Judge–But for the Wrong Reasons

Boston’s WBUR reported Tuesday that the US District Court trial judge, George O’Toole, has so far not responded to multiple motions filed jointly by the Boston Globe and WBUR requesting that the jurors’ names be released. So far, the jury list has already  been withheld for over 90 days.

Experts cited in media accounts were decidedly critical of the judge’s decision. Phrases like “unprecedented”; “an aberration”; “no possible rationale” — abounded.  The longest delay experts could remember for the release of names was 14 days, after jurors convicted the notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.

***

And in a related matter, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys filed an appeal Monday on behalf of their client. They  alleged that the government did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and reiterated their argument that the trial should have been moved out of Boston because of a public prejudiced against their client.

More than 12 pages of the appeal have been completely blacked out —  presumably because they contain personal information about the jurors.

Most notably, the motion also documents “the breadth and depth of inflammatory images, headlines, and comments that regularly passed through their [the jurors’] social media feeds,” Tsarnaev’s attorneys wrote.

In other words, Tsarnaev’s attorneys argue, that even if the jurors tried to adhere to the court’s admonitions to refrain from communicating about the trial, “the breadth and depth” of what they found on jurors’ social media feeds made that unlikely if not impossible. Because Tsarnaev’s attorneys only have access to “publicly-available” social media posts, there may be even more such “inflammatory” remarks in jurors’ feeds.

The appeal also cites several other factors as reasons to overturn the verdict and sentence and hold a new trial in a different venue.  These include leaks from law enforcement; the numerous memorial events held at subsequent marathons;  media coverage of victims and survivors and the circus surrounding Tsarnaev’s family’s visit to the United States to attend the trial.

Judge O’Toole has steadfastly refused to move the trial despite repeated attempts by the defense. He’s also ultimately responsible for releasing the names of jurors, but has so far taken the unprecedented step of delaying the release for months. Regardless of O’Toole motives, the decision has resulted in less scrutiny of the inner workings of justice.

There’s Gold in Them-The’re Jurors

It will be interesting to see exactly what approach The Globe and WBUR might take should they interview these jurors. Chances are, we’ll likely see a lot of front page “human interest” stories, but little scrutiny of the merits of Tsarnaev’s appeal.

After all, these are the same outlets who displayed a lack of curiosity about the manyanomaliesinconsistencies, and outright falsehoods in the bombing investigation–yet are now in a tizzy because they have not been granted access to the former jurors.

We will inevitably hear emotional stories about the gravity of being on a death penalty jury and having to witness, front and center, all of the gruesome and heart-wrenching evidence.

But that won’t help us determine what’s behind all of the secrecy, including nearly 900 sealed court motions. And it certainly won’t answer the many lingering questions about the bombing and its aftermath, including how two novices were able to build and successfully detonate sophisticated and perfectly timed bombs at a public event swarming with anti-terrorism specialists. And it certainly won’t help us discern whether the machinery of justice is operating as advertised.

Will the establishment media, clamoring for the release of jurors’ names, have any interest whatsoever in the merits of Tsarnaev’s appeal? Will they question the jurors about their social media activities during the trial? Will they demand that Judge O’Toole unseal the hundreds of secret court motions that ultimately decided what was presented to jurors?  Not so likely.

How U.S. Courts Abet Societal Conflict

August 26th, 2015 by John Kozy

A legal system that can confer rights but not ensure that they can be enjoyed is a cruel hoax.

Thinkers are rare, but stinkers abound in the legal profession.

Consider the sentence, Ours is a nation of poems. Do you have any idea of what it means? Or the sentence, Ours is a nation of clichés. Or the sentence, Ours is a nation of aphorisms. These sentences can be likened to Rorschach inkblots. People can ascribe meanings to them but no one can possibly know if the ascribed meanings are in any way similar to those I had in mind when the sentences were written. Every combination of English words does not produce a meaningful sentence. So what about, Ours is a nation of laws? Its form is exactly like the form of the previous three. Does it have meaning? Some lawyers, including President Obama, believe it does. They also believe it says something about America that distinguishes this country from others. Yet it might not have any meaning at all.

Wikipedia puts it this way: “The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.” But does America exemplify this normative principle? Certainly not in any clear way.

First of all, nothing definitive can be concluded from how a law is enacted. Sure, monarchs can issue very arbitrary laws. So can legislators. A law’s definitive characteristic is whether or not it is just or fair or morally right. A law promulgated by a group (a legislature or a court) that is none of these is not an appropriate rule in any society, autocratic or democratic. Secondly, the laws being promulgated by our legislators and judges are clearly ideologically motivated. So is the opposition to them, and those whose objections to any case or enacted law are not likely to willingly obey it. Therein lies the foundation for enduring conflict.

The legal system in America came into being in a haphazard fashion in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. England at the time was an absolutist monarchy. The system of law that came into being is called the common law. It was brought to this country by the colonists in a pushcart age. Pushcarts have not endured but the common law has. It has no affinity to democratic principles whatsoever. The federal courts are not staffed by elected officials. They are appointed by ideological politicians and they usually serve for life. When the Supreme Court decides a case, it cannot be challenged. No recourse exists except Constitutional amendment.

In addition to the Supreme Court, there are twelve circuit courts, which introduces a great deal of arbitrariness into the system. For instance, if a law is declared unconstitutional in one circuit, say the ninth, the law is only unconstitutional in the states in that circuit, not in the rest of the country. So the result is a law that is both constitutional and unconstitutional at the same time. Does that describe a country ruled by law rather than men? If so, what law rules it?

But look at what is revealed if the situation is embellished slightly. Suppose that the constitutionality of the same law is brought before two circuit courts and they issue diametrically opposed opinions. How is that possible? The ninth and fifth circuits do it frequently. That can only happen when the justices on these courts base their opinions on different “rules.” That possibility exists because the choice of rules is done arbitrarily. No list of rules for justices to choose from exists. What they do is search through opinions issued by courts previously and pick those that serve their purposes.

The practice of basing opinions on such rules is derived from a common law principle called stare decisis which in Latin means let the decision stand. The principle was used in an attempt to ensure the consistency of the body of common law. In America, the expression has a different meaning—relate each opinion to a previous opinion. The Latin expression has come to mean this because from time to time, opinions have been motivated by different ideologies. After more than two hundred years of opinions, justices can select whatever rule that conforms to their own ideologies from the many that have been held by justices in the past. The process is totally arbitrary and subjective. Does it describe a nation being ruled by law or a nation being ruled by men? There is but one possible answer. Perhaps since its inception but certainly since 1803 when Justice John Marshall issued the decision in Marbury v. Madison, this country has been a sixteenth century judicial oligarchy masquerading as an enlightenment democracy, and the oligarchy has led this nation deeper and deeper into a state of decadence.

Despite the founding fathers having warned against it, America is now an ideologically fractured nation. The number of its factions is too large to easily count. More than a score of religious factions exist, each differing from the others in some ideological respect. Political factions exist as do legal, economic, social, and commercial factions. I personally have no hope of even mentioning them all. Most have ideological objections to some opinions issued by the Supreme Court. Various lists of “the Worst Decisions” are easily found. Ideologies clash even in the courts, and those with ideologically motivated objections to a decision are not likely to try to make it easy for those favored by the decision to benefit from it.

After the Civil War, a number of amendments to the Constitution were ratified that gave freedom, citizenship, and all the rights available to whites to former slaves. Those in the defeated states of the Confederacy who continued to hold a master-slave ideology set out to prevent the former slaves from enjoying those rights. Jim Crow, his siblings, and their children traveled far and wide inducing legislators to enact legislation for that purpose. The concept of Jim Crow legislation was born. Laws requiring separate facilities for each race, poll taxes, employment regulations, and many others were enacted to make it difficult for former slaves to attain their rightful places in society. That practice endures. The Crow family is very large. More than a century has passed and Lincoln’s house divided is still divided, and the politicians and courts have done very little to unite it. The Supreme Court has even recently exacerbated the divide in its decision of Shelby County v. Holder (2013) by again making it possible to question the voting rights of many individuals who have voted for decades. Jim Crow’s children are alive and well! Enacting Constitutional Amendments did not resolve the issue. It continues to this day.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of the public schools is unconstitutional. Those in America with a racial purity ideology began enacting Jim Crow legislation meant to keep the races separate. The long-held principle of neighborhood schools was abandoned and the establishment of alternative schools was encouraged. Done under the guise of educational reform, integration was effectively blocked and the segregation of school children is greater today than in 1954. Although school reform is still a topic of discussion in educational and political circles, the quality of education has not improved markedly. Jim Crow’s children have won again! For sixty years, they have frustrated the Court’s decision, and the conflict continues.

In 1973 a decision in Roe v. Wade gave women the right to abortion under certain conditions. Roe v. Wade challenged the constitutionality of Texas’ abortion laws, but even today, women in Texas cannot easily acquire an abortion. The Texas legislature has enacted such stringent requirements for clinics that offering abortions must meet that few such clinics exist. Forty years have passed and the women of Texas cannot access a constitutional right to which they are entitled. Oh, that Jim Crow family! Despite the ruling, the dispute between pro-life and pro-choice groups continues. The Court decided a case but did not resolve the issue.

The upshot is that trying to use the law to resolve ideologically motivated disputes can be likened to trying to smooth rough waters by using sandpaper. The sanding only irritates the antagonists.

Yet a legal system that can confer rights but not ensure that those rights can be enjoyed is a cruel hoax. No black person in this country is a full-fledged citizen, not even Clarence Thomas who sits on the bench of the highest court. No woman in Texas or any person anywhere whose right to vote can be questioned is a full-fledged citizen of this country either. Numerous such groups of quasi-citizens exist and the courts stand by seemingly helplessly. Members of the judiciary and perhaps the entire legal profession don’t care if the system’s results are just or unjust. Their only concern is implementing a seventeenth century legal ideology without subjecting it to critical scrutiny. They are caught is a web of thoughtless conventionality.

Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison established the standard for the operation of the courts in America. He not only made the Constitution into whatever the Court wants it to be (“It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is”) and he refused to grant Marbury his commission that even the Court deemed he was entitled to. Most people would consider that some weird kind of justice, even an injustice, but America’s courts have been practicing it for over two centuries. Why did Marshall do it? Because he wanted to. Why do the courts still do it. Because the justices who sit on their benches want to. It’s as simple as that.

Is this country ruled by law? Not by a longshot! It is not the country that Americans pledge their allegiance to. That nation is one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Is it a myth? If so, shouldn’t those who are called upon to shed their lives for it know?

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

Two headline stories dominate discussion of China’s energy trajectory right now. The first is that reports from three agencies all point to the continuing decline in use of coal in the first half of 2015, continuing a trajectory already notable in 2014. These are not declines in the rate of growth, but absolute declines in the amount of coal consumed in power generation as well as in energy-intensive industries like steel and cement production. This points to the possibility that coal consumption may be peaking much earlier than anticipated in official government statements – and so pointing to an early peaking of carbon emissions. If continued, this would be a ‘Great Reversal’ of China’s recent dominant role in consumption of dirty fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases.

The other side of this story is the determination to enforce pollution regulation. Not only did a new Environmental Protection Law take effect from 1 January 2015, but a new draft environmental tax law was recently aired for public consultation. Accompanying the development of formal laws are new accountability measures issued on 17 August 2015 by the Communist Party Central Committee that directly target the conduct of officials with respect to pollution and ecological damage.1 Such administrative measures are sometimes even more powerful in China than the law. In 2015, a former vice-minister for the Environment, Mr Zhang Lijun, has been caught up in the ongoing anti-corruption drive, becoming the highest-ranking environment official to be investigated. These are strong indications that the ‘Great Reversal’ is likely to be further supported by institutional developments.

The decline in coal production and consumption cannot come soon enough in China. The Guardian ran a full photo-news story in June on China’s shocking levels of pollution from use of coal, focusing on the toll taken in the health of coal miners and their families. (See here) There is indeed a coal boom choking China – and it would spell ruin for the country in the absence of a determined campaign to reverse the worst effects. The jury is still out as to whether China’s dramatic shift in trajectory towards a greening of its energy system will be able to counter-balance the heavy reliance on coal with all its deleterious effects.

Coal consumption and production

The most important fact in the first half year results for 2015 is nevertheless the continuing decline in dependence on coal by China’s electric power system and energy-intensive industries like cement production. This continues a trend already apparent in 2014 (see our earlier article).

Statistics from three agencies – the China National Coal Association, the China Electricity Council and the National Energy Administration – all bear this out.2 The China National Coal Association (CNCA) revealed that in the first half of 2015 (1H 2015) domestic coal sales fell by 8.1% compared with 1H in 2014 to 1.6 billion tonnes coal. Domestic production was also down by 5.8% on 1H 2014, to 1.79 billion tonnes. Imports of coal fell even more dramatically, down 37.7% from the level of 1H 2014, to just on 100 million tonnes. This of course is bad news for coal exporters like Indonesia and Australia.

The curb in coal consumption is clearly evident in data on China’s energy trends since 2011, as shown in Fig. 1, taken from our new book on China’s Renewable Energy Revolution.

Fig. 1. Chinese thermal power generation and rising coal consumption up to 2014
Source: Mathews and Tan (2015). Primary data for total coal consumption (up to 2012) and thermal electricity generation (up to 2011) from the US EIA. Data on coal consumption for thermal power up to 2012 from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of China. Data on total coal consumption for 2013 and 2014 from the China Coal Industry Association and NBS3 respectively. Data on thermal electricity generation in 2012 to 2014 from the China Electricity Council. Data on coal consumption for thermal power in 2013 from chinapower.com.cn,4 a website maintained by the China Electric Power Promotion Council

The 2015 first half figures reinforce the trend already evident in the flattening of coal usage in leading heavy industries such as power generation. Consumption of coal in electric power production, cement and steel production all fell – by 6.4%, 8.8% and 2.3% respectively. This shows that tightened regulation of coal consumption in these energy-intensive industries is having a significant impact.

The CNCA also reported meaningful declines in investment in both the production and use of coal. Investment in coal mines has been falling since 2013, and was down by 12.8% in 1H 2015 compared with 1H 2014. Revenues for coal companies that are included in the official statistics also fell, declining 13.6% in the first five months of 2015, while profits plunged by 66.8%. The 90 largest coal mining companies that report their activities to the Association experienced a total loss of RMB 485 million in the first five months of 2015, compared with a profit of RMB 26.5 billion over the same period in 2014. The largest coal miner, the Shenhua group, saw revenues fall by 32% and profit plunge by 45.6% in the first half of 2015 compared with 1H 2014.5 This is the fourth consecutive half-year that Shenhua has seen its net profits fall (from RMB 25.1 billion in 1H 2012 to 24.4 billion in 1H 2013, 21.5 billion in 1H 2014 and just 11.7 billion in 1H 2015).

Electric power production

The China Electricity Council released its results for 1H 2015 on July 21.6 The headline results are that China’s electricity consumption increased by just 1.3% on a year-to-year basis, much lower than China’s economic growth of around 7%. This means that China is decoupling its energy system from the wider economic system, allowing industrial growth to continue without a corresponding impact in terms of energy consumption. Half-year electric power generation reached 2700 TWh, with thermal power generation (mainly burning coal) reaching 2,087 TWh, down by 3.2% on the level for 1H 2014. Meanwhile green power generation increased markedly: hydro was up 13.3% to 423.4 TWh, wind generation was up 26.2% to 99 TWh, while solar PV was up 77% to 19 TWh.7 Nuclear generation was also up 34.4% to reach 77.2 TWh. Overall, thermal sources accounted for 77% of China’s electric power generation – a total which is declining each year – while non-thermal sources rose to 23%.

China’s electric energy generation trajectory over the past 35 years, revealing a strong upward spurt from 2001 when China joined the World Trade organization, is shown in Fig. 2a. The data for 1H 2015 demonstrate a continuation of the trend already visible in which total energy, and total electric energy generation, are starting to flatten. The contrast with the US is shown in Fig. 2b. China’s electric generation system is now by far the largest in the world, approximately 37% larger than the US system. What China does in its power generation system has global significance.

Fig. 2a. China electricity generation (1980 – 2014)
Source of primary data: China Electricity Council

Fig. 2b. US generation of electric energy, 1980 to 2014
Source of primary data: US EIA
Source: Mathews and Tan (2015)

Power generating capacity

Total power capacity of the China electric power system rose 8.7% in 1H 2015 to reach 1360 GW 8, with 43.4 GW of new capacity added. Here the data are less favorable to renewables. Thermal sources added new capacity of 23.4 GW in 1H 2015 (whereas the level of generation actually fell), but new capacity of just 16.7 GW was added for hydro, wind and solar and 3.3 GW for nuclear. Thus non-thermal capacity of 20 GW was added in 1H 2015, or 47% of the total – down from the result in full-year 2014 when more capacity from renewables was added than for thermal. These are of course preliminary data – and are based on the capacities that are connected to the grid and are in use. The total added capacities were larger. For example, NEA data indicated that new capacity added in wind power and solar power in 1H 2015 reached 9.2 GW and 7.7 GW additional capacities respectively, but with increased curtailment (meaning generating capacity that is not feeding power to the grid) 9; this underlines the point that caution needs to be exercised in interpreting these data.

Nevertheless, the rising dependence of China’s electric power generation system on renewable sources – water, wind and solar – is the most striking feature of its energy transformation. The 2015 results are a continuation of the trend shown in Fig. 3 up to the year 2014, showing that the target for 2015 has already exceeded.

Fig. 3. Proportion of installed power capacity from renewable sources (hydro, wind and solar): 1990 -2014, and 2015 target based on the 12th FYPms1
Source: Mathews and Tan (2015). Primary data: for wind and solar power capacity up to 2013 from BP 2014 Review of Statistics, data for total electric capacity and the hydroelectric capacity up to 2012 from the US EIA; other historical data from the China Electricity Council. The 2015 target is based on the Energy Development 12th Five Year Plan released by the State Council in 2013.

 

Total energy consumption

Overall, according to the National Energy Administration, China’s primary energy consumption in 1H 2015 increased by just 0.7%, again much less than overall economic growth – further reinforcing the sense that China’s economic growth is decoupling from its energy consumption. While coal production declined, oil production increased by 2.1% and gas production (both conventional gas and coal seam gas) increased by 4.3%. Oil consumption increased 3.2% and gas consumption 1.4%. The NEA data also make a point of underscoring the decline in coal consumption overall, and notably in the critical industries including power generation, steel and cement.

The real issue is this: Is the recent decline in coal consumption and coal dependence a cyclical phenomenon (down today but up again tomorrow) or a structural phenomenon? Our view is that this is indeed a structural shift, because of the complementary changes in buildup of renewable power generation that has begun to oust coal in its primary applications. This is in fact an irreversible shift to renewables as a reliable and clean source of power that is dependent not on random geopolitical fortune (coal or oil found here but not there) but on manufacturing capabilities and capacities – as argued in our new book on China’s renewable energy revolution (see here)

The global implications of China’s energy choices are evident in data recently published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on global carbon intensity over recent decades. (Carbon intensity refers to carbon consumed per unit of energy produced, i.e. tonnes of carbon per unit energy.) The gradual fall for the previous century (reflecting improved energy efficiency and carbon efficiency in the advanced countries) was reversed or flatlined over the two decades from 1990 to 2010 – despite all the discussion of reducing carbon emissions and the UN’s Kyoto Protocol. The disturbing data are shown in Fig. 4, taken from the IEA’s Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013report. In the words of the IEA, this carbon intensity index “shows that the global aggregate impact of all changes in supply technologies since 1970 has been minimal” (IEA 2013: 8).

The IEA carbon intensity index can be seen to fall a little from 1970 to 1990 as a result of oil shocks and some initial clean energy programs, e.g. in Japan and California. But these were dissipated during the 1980s by the plunging price of oil. By 1990 the index stood at 57.1 tonnes CO2 emitted per terajoule energy consumed (tCO2/TJ) and by 2010, twenty years later, it stands at 56.7 tCO2/TJ. In other words: no change between 1990 and 2010. China was certainly a contributor to this depressing result, with its sharply rising consumption of coal over the decade from 2000 to 2010. Now with the ‘Great Reversal’ it might be possible for China to play a role in reversing this global trend.10

Fig. 4. Static global carbon intensity, 1990-2010
Source: The authors, based on data from International Energy Agency (2013), Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013, OECD/IEA, Paris. 6DS: a trajectory assumed to result in temperature increase of 6 degrees C by the end of the 21st century (an end to life as we know it); 4DS a trajectory corresponding to 4 degrees C (an end to human civilization); and 2 DS (major disruptions) corresponding to 2 degrees C.j

Improvement and enforcement of laws in the area of environmental protection

Recent development in laws and policies in China is likely to reinforce the trends that make up the Great Reversal. The most significant development has been the enactment of a new Environmental Protection Law (EPL). The new EPL makes some significant amendments to the original EPL, which was introduced in 1989, and includes a number of new provisions. The aim is to provide more effective mechanisms to protect the environment, including increased transparency of environmental information, harsher punishments for polluting enterprises such as fines imposed on a daily basis and possible detention of their executives, and recognition of the right of social public interest organizations to file claims regarding environmental and ecological damage. For the first half year in 2015, under the new Law, the operations of more than 15,000 polluting enterprises have been suspended, and 9,325 companies were actually shut down; in total RMB 230 million in fines were issued according to the new rule of ‘fines on a daily basis’, and there were 782 cases in which individuals were detained for their responsibility in pollution emanating from their enterprises. There are no fewer than 740 individuals under criminal investigation, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection,.11

However, the new Law is not without flaws. As Zhang & Cao (2015)12 discuss, the deficiencies include a lower status of the Law compared with other legislation, the fragmented and sometimes vague governance involving the law enforcement, a still limited scope to empower individual citizens and NGOs in taking action on environmental protection, and the lack of capacity exercised by the environmental protection agency.

Another important development is the release of a draft environmental tax law that specifies the levies on pollutants permissible in water, air, solid waste and noise (Table 1). The draft law sent a strong message that energy consumption and pollution would be associated with much heavier financial costs, and would have a significant impact on energy intensive and highly polluting industries such as steel, non-ferrous metals, cement, and chemicals.

Table 1 Proposed Environmental Tax Rates

Pollutant item Taxable Unit Rate (RMB)
Air Pollutant Pollutant unit 1.2
Water Pollutant Pollutant unit 1.4
Solid Waste
Smelting slag Ton 25
Coal Ash Ton 30
Slag Ton 25
Gangue Ton 5
Tailings Ton 15
Other solid wastes Ton 25
Noise
Construction noise Meter squared 3
Industrial noise Decibel above the standard Starting from RMB 350 / month

Source (in Chinese)

Finally, it seems that administrative and disciplinary measures are also being enforced. Insofar as China’s coal boom was fuelled in part by graft and corruption, it appears that this too is now being curbed. The recent disciplinary measures issued by the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council placed greater accountability on all party and government officials above the county level for the environmental performance in their areas or departments (in addition to economic performance). China’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) also announced on July 30 that the retired vice-minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), Zhang Lijun, was under investigation. (See here) Zhang retired from the MEP two years ago – but under the new rules for anti-corruption investigations, officials are to be held accountable for their past actions. He is accused of taking advantage of his position to influence policy decisions in favor of persons or firms looking for special favors. As part of the attempt to enforce rules for environmental protection that are already on the books, in May this year the State Council issued its Opinions on Further promoting the Development of Ecological Civilization (the equivalent of a White paper in the British parliamentary system) which called for officials to be held to account for damage to the environment that occurs during their term of office, and into their retirement. The investigation of Zhang Lijun suggests the possibility that a more stringent approach is now in operation. If so, this is good news for China and for the planet.

The anti-corruption probe at the Ministry of Environmental Protection has already spread, and three more officials are being held for questioning. According to a report by Prism, the financial news portal of the Tencent internet company, three senior ministerial officials who reported to Zhang have also been detained by the authorities. The emphasis in this broadening investigation is focused on the charges that some officials had profited by running risk-assessment agencies, or that their relatives had intervened to influence the outcome of reviews in favor of companies in which they held interests. Citing numerous environmental protection officials, the Prism report said Zhang was accused of abusing power for personal gain involving a large sum of money that he gave to his subordinates and family members. The ability of the Chinese state to curb emissions in the end will rest heavily on its ability to enforce tougher environmentall laws and crack down effectively on violators and profiteers.

Recommended citation: John Mathews and Hao Tan, “The Greening of China’s Black Electric Power System? Insights from 2014 Data”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 34, No. 1, August 24, 2015.

John A. Mathews is professor of strategy at Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Macquarie University, Sydney. He has taught at MGSM for the past 15 years, and was from 2009 to 2012 concurrently the Eni Chair of Competitive Dynamics and Global Strategy at LUISS Gardi Carli University in Rome. He has specialized in the catch-up strategies of firms and countries in East Asia.

For the past several years he has focused on the greening of business systems. He has published several books based on this research, including Tiger Technology: The Creation of a Semiconductor Industry in East Asia (Cambridge UP 2000; co-authored with Cho, Dong-Sung); Dragon Multinational: A New Model of Global Growth (Oxford UP, 2002); and Strategizing, Disequilibrium and Profit (Stanford University Press 2006) which discusses the theoretical foundations of catch-up strategies. In 2014 his new book, Greening of Capitalism: How Asia is Driving the Next Great Transformation, was published by Stanford University Press. His article “Manufacture renewables to build energy security” was published in Nature in September 2014.

Hao Tan is senior lecturer at Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, Australia. He currently serves as an acting Head of the International Business Discipline and a Program Convenor of Master of International Business. He is an associate of the Centre of Asian Business & Economics at University of Melbourne, and was a visiting professor at National Tsinghua University in Taiwan in 2014.

Hao Tan’s current research interest is in China’s energy transition. Since 2009, he has published over 20 scholarly journal articles and book chapters, including a commentary article in the leading science journal ‘Nature’ (co-authored with John Mathews). With John A. Mathews he is the author of China’s Renewable Energy Revolution published by Palgrave in 2015. He is a frequent contributor to both English- and Chinese-language media channels such as UK Financial Times’ Chinese website, China’s Caixin and Australia’s theconversation.com, on energy and environment-related issues in China.

Related articles

• John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, The Greening of China’s Black Electric Power System? Insights from 2014 Data

• John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, China’s renewable energy revolution: what is driving it?

• John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, “China’s Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution: Global Implications”

• John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, “Jousting with James Hansen: China building a renewables powerhouse”

• Andrew DeWit, Distributed Power and Incentives in Post-Fukushima Japan

• John A. Mathews, The Asian Super Grid

• Andrew DeWit, Japan’s Energy Policy at a Crossroads: A Renewable Energy Future?

• Sun-Jin YUN, Myung-Rae Cho and David von Hippel, The Current Status of Green Growth in Korea: Energy and Urban Security

Notes

1 See news report for the measures.

2 See here (in Chinese)

3 See here (in Chinese)

4 See here (in Chinese)

5 See here.

6 See here (in Chinese)

7 See here. According to the China Electricity Council, electricity generation based on grid-connected solar accounted for 10.7 TW in 1H 2014

8 For plants with an electric generation capacity of 6GW or over

9 See here (in Chinese); and here (in Chinese)

10 See the discussion of these issues in the recent paper from Van Aken and Lewis (2015): Van Aken, T. and Lewis, O.A. 2015. The political economy of non-compliance in China: The case of industrial energy policy, Contemporary China, 24 (95): 798-822.

11 See here (in Chinese)

12 Zhang, B. & Cao, C. 2015. Four gaps in China’s new environmental law. Nature, 517: 433-434.

 

Panic Grips Financial Markets

August 26th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

Monday trading showed Dow stocks plunging 1,089 points in minutes at the opening before rebounding sharply, then closing down 588 points – the single largest intraday point move in one of the most volatile trading days in stock market history, the most volatile ever for Nasdaq stocks.

The Dow fluctuated in a 7% trading range – an unprecedented 9% for Nasdaq stocks. Volatility was so extreme, the VIX S&P 500 index options volatility measure (the so-called fear index) couldn’t open during the first 30 minutes. Values of options its based on couldn’t be calculated.

For the first time ever, the index closed up over 40% two consecutive days. At its Monday peak, it was up an astonishing 90%.

Until August, stocks stayed in a narrow trading range. In recent days, things changed dramatically. Valuations are extremely overextended.

It was just a matter of time before turbulence ended calm. Is it a correction or end to the bull market dating from March 2009?

Overnight, China’s Shanghai Composite lost another 7.6%. It’s down over 40% year to date. Monday, the Stoxx Europe 600 plunged 5.3% – its largest single day decline since December 2008.

All bear markets have sharp reversal days. Most Asian bourses stabilized overnight. Perhaps US and European ones will be positive on Tuesday.

In early March, famed investor Jeremy Grantham warned of a “major decline” coming in 2016. Maybe it arrived sooner than he expected. He anticipates a “very different” kind of crash this time because of extremely high government debt levels.

Maybe central banks will able to print their way out of trouble again, he said. “(O)n the other hand,” greater money printing madness “might just break the system,” he warned.

He’s worried about 10 threats able to “ruin the world,” he explained:

1. Pressure on GDP growth in the US and the balance of the developed world: count on 1.5% US growth, not the old 3%.

2. The age of plentiful, cheap resources is gone forever.

3. Oil.

4. Climate problems.

5. Global food shortages.

6. Extreme income inequality.

7. Trying to understand deficiencies in democracy and capitalism.

8. Deficiencies in the Fed.

9. Investment bubbles in a world that is, this time, interestingly different.

10. Limitations of homo sapiens

Grantham sees protracted slow global growth, much less than needed, poor economic and political governance, not enough food to keep face with population growth, reduced amounts of easy to access oil and other resources, as well as a world controlled by a flawed homo sapiens. Not a positive outlook.

He explains history shows all market bubbles burst. They correct to their mean levels, usually overshooting downward before stabilizing – the same way they rise well above fair value going up.

International investor Marc Faber expects a greater market decline – 40% or more with protracted bear market conditions correcting years of extreme excess.

On July 30, he said “(w)e are on the cusp of a major global financial crisis.” Global economies are slowing. “That’s why the markets are selling off and emerging markets (have been declining) for a long time.”

China’s growth is “maximum 2% and maybe even negative” – not the 6 or 7% claimed. “The US was in lalaland to believe that their economy and their corporate earnings would not be affected.” Crashing commodity prices are an important bear signal.

Market analyst Graham Summers asked if the “crisis of our lifetimes” began last week. Perhaps it’s payback time for years of monetary excess – money printing madness assuring trouble.

According to Summers, “the REAL crisis hasn’t even started yet.” It remains to be seen if he’s right.

The late Hyman Minsky’s “financial instability hypothesis” showed how speculative bubbles grow from outsized greed. The term “Minsky Moment” refers to when euphoria turns to panic. Investors bail out and market meltdowns ensue.

His seven-stage framework explains as follows:

1. Displacement: Market disruptions change investor perceptions – perhaps in reaction to higher interest rates, weak or negative growth or other unsettling factors.

2. Rising prices: Following displacement, markets bottom, stabilize and rise as fundamentals improve. Investors create momentum on the upside.

3. Easy credit: Recovery and growth need plentiful, cheap credit to propel them. Animal spirits aim to capitalize on opportunities – fueling speculation as more investors jump in.

4. Overtrading: Cheap credit is the greatest speculative driver. Rising valuations generate easy profits.

5. Euphoria: Greed triumphs over caution.

6. Insider profit taking: Market professionals sell to greater fools. It’s the beginning of the bull market’s end, said Minsky.

7. Revulsion: When cheap credit ends, insider selling reaches peak levels, and/or bad news rattles markets, bull markets end. Euphoria can turn to panic quickly.

Downward momentum is far greater and faster than upswings. Recent days bear witness.

The question for investors today is whether we reached another Minsky Moment. Have inflated markets finally burst after an overextended bull run? Are they in normal correction mode or something greater? Hindsight will explain best of all.

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

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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.

 

The dramatic collapse of the Shanghai stock exchange has been presented to public opinion as the result of a spontaneous “market mechanism”, triggered by weaknesses in China’s economy.

The Western media consensus in chorus (WSJ, Bloomberg, Financial Times) portend that Chinese stocks tumbled due to “uncertainty” in response to recent data “suggesting a downturn in the world’s second-largest economy”.  

This interpretation is erroneous. It distorts the workings of stock markets which are the object of routine speculative operations. An engineered decline in the Dow Jones, for instance, can be precipitated in various ways: e.g. short selling, betting on the decline of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the options market, etc. 1

Amply documented, financial markets are rigged by the megabanks. Powerful financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, et al and their affiliated hedge funds have the ability of “pushing up” the stock market and then “pulling it down”. They make windfall gains on the upturn as well as on the downturn. This procedure also applies to the oil, metals and commodity markets.

It’s financial fraud or what former high-level Wall Street insider and former Assistant HUD Secretary Catherine Austin Fitts calls “pump and dump,” defined as “artificially inflating the price of a stock or other security through promotion, in order to sell at the inflated price,” then profit more on the downside by short-selling. “This practice is illegal under securities law, yet it is particularly common,”  (See Stephen Lendman, Manipulation: How Financial Markets Really Work, Global Research, March 20, 2009

The Shanghai Stock Exchange Collapse

The Shanghai SSE Composite Index  progressed over the last year from approximately 2209 on August 27, 2014 to more than 5166 on June 21st, 2015 (circa 140% increase); then from June 21st it collapsed by more than 30 percent in a matter of two weeks to 3507 (July 8).

A further collapse occurred starting on August 19, in the week immediately following the Tianjin explosions (August 12, 2015) culminating on Black Monday August 24th (with a dramatic 7.63 percent decline in one day).

Did the Tianjin Explosion contribute to exacerbating “uncertainty” with regard to the Chinese equity market?

Shanghai SSE Composite index.2015-08-25 at 14.08.58

 

The evolution of the SSE over that one year period has nothing to do with spontaneous market forces or real economy benchmarks. It has all the appearances of a carefully engineered speculative onslaught, an upward push and a downward pull.

The possibility of market rigging was investigated by the Chinese authorities in July 2015 following the June 21 meltdown of the Shanghai Stock Exchange (see graph above):

The regulator said [Report July 3] that it would be looking into whether parties were mis-selling financial products.  ….

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said it would base its investigation on reports of abnormal market movements from the stock market and futures exchanges.

…. Some reports have accused overseas investors of driving prices down by short-selling stocks on Chinese bourses, meaning they were betting on stocks falling.

…  Any criminal cases will be transferred to the police, the regulator said.

The China Financial Futures Exchange (CFFEX) has suspended 19 accounts from short-selling for a month, reports Reuters news agency, citing unnamed sources. (BBC, August 25, 2015, emphasis added)

The media consensus (as well as statements emanating from the Chinese authorities) was that Chinese financial actors rather than foreign banks could have been behind the process of stock market rigging: “Overseas investors have limited access to Chinese markets”. Market manipulation did not emanate from foreign sources, according to the Global Times.

This assessment, however, does not take into consideration that Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC et al are major financial actors within China, operating in Shanghai through Chinese financial proxies in partner joint ventures.

Moreover, these Western financial institutions are known to have played an overriding role in manipulating stock markets as well foreign exchange markets:

Regulators fined six major banks a total of $4.3 billion for failing to stop traders from trying to manipulate the foreign exchange market, following a yearlong global investigation.

HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, UBS AG and Bank of America Corp all faced penalties resulting from the inquiry, which has put the largely unregulated $5-trillion-a-day market on a tighter leash, accelerated the push to automate trading and ensnared the Bank of England.

Dealers used code names to identify clients without naming them and swapped information in online chatrooms with pseudonyms such as “the players”, “the 3 musketeers” and “1 team, 1 dream.” Those who were not involved were belittled, and traders used obscene language to congratulate themselves on quick profits made from their scams, authorities said. (Reuters, November 11, 2014).

Goldman Sachs among other major financial institutions operates out of Shanghai since 2004 under a joint venture arrangement with the Beijing Gao Hua Securities Company.

Goldman is known to use so-called “high frequency trading programs” in stock market transactions:

“Markets can be rigged with computers using high-frequency trading programs (HFT), which now compose 70% of market trading; and Goldman Sachs is the undisputed leader in this new gaming technique. (See Ellen Brown,  Stock Market Collapse: More Goldman Market Rigging, Global Research, May 8, 2010)

Another factor which has facilitated speculative operations on the Shanghai Stock Exchange has been the integration of the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets in 2014 under the so-called “Stock Connect” link.  The procedure enables foreigners to buy Chinese A shares listed on the Shanghai exchange out of Hong Kong, with “limited restrictions”, namely full access to China’s equity market.

Financial Warfare

These engineered upward and downward swings of the Shanghai Composite Index ultimately result in the confiscation of  billions of dollars of money wealth including Chinese State funds provided by the People’s Bank of China to prop up the Shanghai Stock Market. Where does the money go. Who are the recipients of this multi-billion dollar trade?

In response to the August meltdown, the People’s Bank of China “offered 150 billion yuan ($23.43 billion) worth of seven-day reverse repurchase agreements, a form of short-term loans to commercial lenders.”. This money was wasted. It did not result in reversing the meltdown of the Shanghai stock exchange.

Geopolitics

Geopolitical considerations are also relevant. While the Pentagon and NATO coordinate military operations against sovereign countries, Wall Street carries out concurrent destabilizing actions on financial markets including the rigging of the oil, gold and foreign exchange markets directed against Russia and China.

Is the “possible” rigging of the Shanghai Stock Exchange part of a broader package of US actions against China which consists in weakening China’s economy and financial system?

Does China’s financial collapse serve broader US foreign policy interests which include routine threats directed against China, not to mention US military deployments in the South China Sea?

Are we dealing with “financial warfare” directed against a competing World economic power?

It is worth noting that speculative procedures (rigging) have also been used in the oil and foreign exchange markets against the Russian Federation. Combined with the sanctions regime, the objective was to push down the price of crude oil (as well as the value of the Russian rouble),  with a view to weakening the Russian economy.

“Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ directed against China is reinforced through concurrent destabilizing actions on the Shanghai stock exchange. The ultimate intent is to undermine –through non-military means– the national economy of the People’s Republic of China.” (Michel Chossudovsky, US-NATO Military Deployments, Economic Warfare, Goldman Sachs and the Next Financial Meltdown, Global Research, August 8, 2015

Note 

 1. The latter is one among several instruments used by speculators. There is no buy sell transaction of shares of company listed on the stock exchange: a bet is placed on an upward or downward movement of the DJIA. It’s an index fund:  ask and put options.

Today, Global Research brings to the attention of its readers a selection of recent GR articles dealing with major economic and political issues including the Shanghai stock market meltdown, the Migration Crisis  and the broader issue of the “America’s system of “capitalist governance”.   

SELECTED ARTICLES

The Economic Elite Versus The People of the USA:  In our Nation’s History, the Stakes have Never been Higher

By Robert Abele, August 23, 2015

By now it is nearly commonplace that the specific American system of capitalist governance has resulted in a hollowing-out of U.S. democracy, which now serves the interests of economic elites rather than the people…

RefugeeThrongs

The Migration Crisis: Victims of Western Wars Forced to Flee Their Countries

By Amari Roos, August 25, 2015

The ‘immigration crisis’ in Europe continues to worsen as a result of Western-instigated chaos in the Middle East and African countries. Several EU nations are facing a drastic influx of desperate people, with little resources available to help them.

Labour_Party

Labour’s Lost Soul: Britain and the Labour Party Leadership Election

By Lesley Docksey, August 24, 2015

Corbyn’s presence in this election has shown one thing – that there are thousands of UK citizens looking for a better society, a fairer world. That is something they ceased to hope for when none of the main parties offers it. ‘Right’ or Left’, all we are presented with is some form of austerity.

us-vs-chinaChinese Central Banker Blames Fed for Market Crash

By Tyler Durden, August 25, 2015

While the western mainstream media meme is that “this is all China’s fault” – despite the fact that the real break happened after the FOMC Minutes last week - Xinhua reports that China central bank blames wide-spread expectations of a wide-spread expectations of a Fed rate hike in September for the global market rout… demanding The Fed “remain patient.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called the foreign-backed terrorists operating in Syria as the agents of Israel, saying that their crimes are much more hazardous than what the Tel Aviv regime is doing.

During a Monday interview with Lebanon’s al-Manar news channel, Assad said that to confront the Israeli regime, the Syrian government needed to primarily fight its agents inside his country.

The Syrian leader said the crisis in Syria resembles the conflict in Lebanon, since some Syrian militant groups are collaborating with the country’s enemies.

More details from the interview, which is set for broadcast on Tuesday evening, are yet to be released by the al-Manar website.

Syria has been plagued by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The conflict is estimated to have claimed more than 240,000 lives up until now.

More than 7.2 million Syrians have been internally displaced and more than four million others have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon.

President Obama’s surprise announcement last December to normalize relations with Cuba has produced a flurry of media interest in this island nation that has been off-limits to Americans for more than half a century. Much of the coverage has focused on the arduous negotiations that have transpired in the effort to re-establish a level of discourse between the long-time adversaries.

While concrete accomplishments have been attained, including the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana as well as the removal of Cuba from the specious list of state’s that sponsor terrorism, the discussions have been frustratingly slow and challenging, regularly mired in misunderstanding and misperceptions. The root of the problem is unquestionably determined in the long and contentious history between the stubborn little socialist enclave and the capitalist giant to the north. That past, unlike how the mainstream U.S. media usually reflects upon it, cannot be viewed solely through the window of the 1959 revolution when Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista dictatorship along with American hegemony. In order to attain a precise understanding of why the two sides consistently talk past each other as they struggle to reach consensus, a more rigorous historical examination is required.

Long and contentious history stands in the way of normalization

To start, it is imperative to understand that Batista was the means and not the ends; a concept almost universally misunderstood by the American political and media elite who concern themselves with Cuban matters. The purpose of Castro’s revolution was to establish true Cuban independence; a still noble goal regardless of how one feels it has turned out. Batista provided the symbol, as the American-supported dictator became the lightning rod for everything that was wrong and corrupt with pre-revolutionary society. Under American authority Cuba was permitted to sink under the weight of an economic and social system that put foreign interests first, at the same time debasing the political process to the extent that it tolerated a strongman like Batista to brutalize the population. The fraudulent conditions that characterized the Cuban reality created Batista – and he took full advantage of it.

It should also be remembered that Castro was but one element in the anti-Batista movement of the late 1950s. Other organized opposition wanted Batista removed but were willing to acquiesce to the perpetuation of American dominion. Concurrently the powers in Washington reluctantly realized the inevitability of replacing Batista, as long as it was with another strongman still under their control. Castro, however, was an obdurate nationalist whose vision was radicalized by his own intransigence reacting in synchronicity with America’s imperial hubris that could not comprehend the dynamics of the young revolutionary’s historical awareness. Castro’s early inclination to negotiate with the United States soured when his national policies, initiated on extensive rural land reform, defied American power structures in a country they felt very much their own. Within but a few months of the triumph, those American interests made it clear the revolution had to go.

Strategies to achieve that included isolation, economic punishment, non-stop propaganda, the creation of an artificial internal dissident faction and an unknown war of terrorism against the Cuban population, all in order to create conditions so terrible the citizens would rise up and throw out their own government. Many of those policies and objectives remain to this day.

So while Batista became the rallying cry that ended in Castro’s vision of national autonomy, the original shout for Cuban independence was heard 100 years prior, during the first conflict against the Spanish in 1868. Ten years later the war was lost to the revolutionaries, but they took up the struggle again in 1895, which led to the direct involvement of the United States military. This begins the critical divergence of Cuban and American historiographies.

The American mythology sprung from the belief that the Cuban independent fighters were urgently calling for U.S. assistance, nobly responded to, resulting in Spanish defeat and the island’s liberation. Not unpredictably, the American side considered their six-week intervention to be more important than the three-year struggle of the rebels, and having expended considerable blood and treasure, expected to be accorded their just due. To extract what was owed, America imposed a military occupation for three years from the end of the war in 1898, during which time the liberators established economic and political structures for their own benefit, lasting until Batista’s downfall.

From 1902 to 1959 those institutions included a Cuban Republic and multi-party political systems, all under the guidance, control and arbitration of the power brokers in Washington. The United States brought political democracy and economic modernity to what they considered the intellectually unprepared and emotionally indisposed Cubans, thus entrenching the concept of benign intervention, a short turn from vilifying the excesses of the Castro revolution and his ending of all the perceived benefits America imposed.

From the Cuban historical perspective, the nationalists purport the Americans had been determined to take control of the island since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. The chance came in the final stages of the 1895 second rebellion against Spain, with the U.S. side intervening just as the Spanish colonial power was prepared to concede independence to the rebels. While the assistance was appreciated and significant, the expectation was the Americans would leave the Cubans to their victory, as was politically stated by such legislation as the Teller Amendment. What was not welcome was the United States prohibiting any Cuban representation at the Treaty of Paris peace talks that determined the conditions of the Spanish defeat. Less acceptable was the military occupation and the imposition of the onerous Platt Amendment that established the ground rules for decades of American domination, circumventing the establishment of authentic Cuban self-determination.

These two discourses contain the minor similarities and major differences that naturally occur when forcing chronological events to conform to ideologically opposed viewpoints. Nowhere is that more evident than in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, resulting in the flight of those who had supported and benefitted from the American directed Batista regime. It was this influential first generation of anti-revolutionaries that shaped both the fiction of Cuba in the 1950s and the demonization of the Castro regime. With American endorsement, the exiles declared that since Havana compared favorably to some first-world social indices, the revolution triumphed solely due to Fidel’s base duplicity combined with ruthlessly oppressive civil controls, forcing an unsuspecting citizenry into the arms of the Soviet Union.

Conveniently ignored is the utter desperation of the rural Cuban population, where revolutionary support still remains the strongest, and the overwhelming aspiration for an authentic national identity. Also disregarded is the actualization that the revolution traded Soviet security and economic integration to ensure the idealization of sovereignty – a consequence designed and anticipated by policy makers in Washington in order to easier denigrate Castro as a dangerous communist adherent residing right on America’s doorstep.

America saw Cuba’s revolution as a defiance of its Latin American hegemony, and so defined it as anti-democratic, communist and dictatorial. Cuban revolutionaries saw their fight as an assertion of its own history and a rejection of U.S. neo-colonialism, by its very designation anti-capitalist.

Until those divergent perspectives are placed in their proper historical context, negotiations for the future of normalization will remain elusive, complicated and needlessly problematic. Resolution will continue to be challenging on issues such as ending the embargo and permitting two way trade (not just increasing U.S. exports), terminating the funding for regime change programs, lifting all travel restrictions for Americans, permitting Cuba access to international financial institutions, charges of human rights violations, settlement of compensation claims and the continuation of America’s possession of Guantanamo Bay.

Intuitively it should be the American side that should move the furthest towards reconciling the two historical accounts, if only to acknowledge Cuba’s right to establish their own national mythology. Cuban revolutionary tradition was delayed for 60 years under American hegemony, during which time the U.S. version was imposed on the nationalist side. No other country would think of telling the United States that their revolutionary history is illegitimate, much less dare to impose economic sanctions and unrelenting hostility to suppress and deny that historiography. The United States has been pursing such a strategy against the island since 1959; to do its best to ensure Cuba’s version of its own historical events is discredited and repudiated in those rare occasions when it is heard by the American public.

Despite the pronouncements of respect by those working to finalize the normalization process, Cuba’s position has often been disparaged by the American negotiators. Until there is a basic understanding of the other side of the story, then negotiations will continue to be problematic. The Americans, however, have never been good at admitting Cuba has the right to its own historical interpretation, much less the legitimacy of its contrary social/economic system. The Cubans have simply longed for a relationship that recognized their country’s sovereignty and dignity.

Now that both Washington and Havana are committed to normalization, it is imperative to establish common ground. The art of negotiation is designed to resolve discrepancies; and the long-entrenched differences present a particularly difficult challenge. Without at least the attempt to reconcile these conflicting historical versions and stop talking past each other, true normalization will remain an elusive goal.

Keith Bolender is a freelance journalist author of Cuba Under Siege (Palgrave 2012); and Voices From the Other Side; An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba (Pluto Press 2010).

IMF: Greece Needs “Significant Debt Relief”

August 25th, 2015 by Constantin Gurdgiev

With the global economy in shambles, IMF’s Ms. Christine Lagarde’s statement on Greece is particularly revealing:

To read Ms. Lagarde’s statement, click image to enlarge


Key points are:

1) Per Lagarde, “of critical importance for Greece’s ability to return to a sustainable fiscal and growth path”, “the specification of remaining parametric fiscal measures, not least a sizeable package of pension reforms, needed to underpin the program’s still-ambitious medium-term primary surplus target and additional measures to decisively improve confidence in the banking sector—the government needs some more time to develop its program in more detail.”

In other words, the path to Eurogroup’s 3.5% long term primary surplus target on which everything (repeat – everything) as far as fiscal targets go, hinges is not yet specified in full. The Holy Grail is not in sight, yet…

2) “…I remain firmly of the view that Greece’s debt has become unsustainable and that Greece cannot restore debt sustainability solely through actions on its own. Thus, it is equally critical …that Greece’s European partners make concrete commitments in the context of the first review of the ESM program to provide significant debt relief, well beyond what has been considered so far.”

In simple terms, for all the lingo pouring out of the Eurogroup tonight, Greece has not been fixed, its debt remains unsustainable for now and the IMF - which ESM Regling said tonight will be expected to chip into the Bailout 3.0 later this autumn - is still unsatisfied with the programme.

“Significant debt relief” – off the table so far per Eurogroup – is still IMF’s default setting.

With the failure to find “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, and the disastrous outcome of that war, one would think the War Party would be so discredited that they’d never make a comeback – that they’d never be able to recover from the horrific results of their misguided policies and that no one outside of an insane asylum would ever listen to them again.

And remember, it wasn’t just that little matter of “faulty intelligence.”

  • They said it would be a “cakewalk.”
  • They said our mission had been accomplished and that the Iraqi resistance was a bunch of “dead-enders” who wouldn’t put up much of a fight.
  • They said the region – and the globe – would see a new era of democracy and peace.
  • They said the war would pay for itself.

In short, they were wrong about absolutely everything.

Normally, when someone gives you consistently bad advice you tend to discount their subsequent pronouncements. Say your investment counselor tells you to buy stocks that lose enormous amounts of money – you’d fire him or her, wouldn’t you?

Except, when it comes to the policymakers and pundits who led us into the Iraqi quagmire, it didn’t turn out that way.

Why is that?

There are three big reasons for the War Party’s remarkable persistence.

First, they represent entrenched interests. The arms lobby and the Israel lobby have entered a marriage of convenience that has served them very well, although it hasn’t served the country. These two groups fund and otherwise support the politicians who have led us down the primrose path in the Middle East, and neither is going away any time soon.

The interest of the armaments industry is all too obvious: they profit directly from the policymakers’ militaristic policies. If war is always the answer, then their profit margins are guaranteed to continually rise – even as the United States teeters on the brink of financial ruin.

The Israel lobby’s interests are less obvious: Israel doesn’t really benefit from constant warfare and turmoil in the region, as several supporters of the Jewish state have pointed out. Yet the trajectory of Israel’s political class has taken a sharp turn toward ultra-nationalism and militarism until, today, it is the world’s Sparta, a state dedicated to a single-minded expansionism that threatens the peace of the region – and the world.

These powerful lobbies are, in effect, permanent fixtures on the American political landscape. So, in spite of the repeated havoc they wreak, they just keeping on keeping on – relentlessly promoting their agenda of perpetual war.

Secondly, these two lobbies have tremendous resources. While they may be a minority within the population of this country, they wield influence way out of proportion to their actual numbers. You may have noticed that a whole platoon of the richest people in the country are supporting the War Party’s presidential candidates this time around, single-handedly spending enormous amounts of money in the GOP presidential primaries – and  wielding a less obtrusive but no less decisive influence on the Democrats.

A good example of their outsized effect is the current campaign to sabotage the President’s deal with Iran, which is opposed by both the Israel lobby and the military-industrial complex. No sooner had the deal been announced then anti-deal television ads attacking it went up all over the country. AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, launched a massive campaign to pressure lawmakers to nix it, literally marching on Capitol Hill to intimidate Congress into voting no.

The budget for this coordinated campaign: upwards of $145 million.

The third reason for the War Party’s persistence is a longstanding assumption on the part of our policymakers that the United States has a “responsibility” to police the world. This has been the basis of a bipartisan foreign policy consensus that has dominated the discourse since the end of World War II. It is, in part, a holdover from the cold war era, when the alleged threat from a supposedly advancing Soviet Union and its international proxies was portrayed as inexorable.

When the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed, and its international partners evaporated into ineffectuality, the lesson was not learned: instead of withdrawing from our forward position, US policymakers decided the time was ripe to emphasize – and implement – the idea of American “global leadership.” With the main obstacle to US worldwide dominance out of the way, Washington – including partisan leaders on both sides of the aisle – began to talk openly of a “world order” policed by US force of arms. Neoconservative pundits began to rhapsodize about the glories of an “American empire.” It was the Age of American Hubris.

And then came 9/11.

That signal event threw the US ruling elite into a frenzy of warmongering, and they have yet to relent. It gave Washington the green light to unleash a series of military campaigns in the Middle East and North Africa, the consequences of which we have only just begun to experience. The neoconservatives, ideologically predisposed to a foreign policy of constant aggression, had speculated in their propaganda about the potential uses of a “new Pearl Harbor.” And so the wish became the deed.

As the momentum of the War Party began to run out, new “threats” – largely the creation of our own misplaced policies – arose: the so-called “Islamic State,” and relatively small-scale terrorist incidents in Europe and the United States, provided fresh fuel to stoke the engines of war. In a process that feeds on itself, US intervention abroad causes “blowback,” which justifies yet more intervention, which in turn generates more blowback – as the wheel of war continues to spin.

Can we stop the wheel from turning – or even slow it down?

We can – and we must.

Constant war threatens us with a permanent national security apparatus that is slowly but surely creating a police state in this country. The government tries to justify universal surveillance of American citizens – spying on our private communications – on the grounds that we’re at war. Yet if we’re always at war, then the alleged threat to the homeland will never abate – and the tentacles of government control will continue to insinuate themselves into every aspect of American life, until there is nothing left of our Constitution or the civil liberties it guarantees.

Yes, we can turn the situation around – by challenging the bipartisan foreign policy consensus that has dominated Washington for over half a century. That may seem like a tall order, but polls show the American people are ready for change. They’re tired of the endless futile crusade to make the world safe for American corporations: they’re weary of war, and want our leaders to focus on the problems we face here in this country.

Although the War Party commands considerable resources – including a veritable lock on the “mainstream” media – the Peace Party isn’t at a complete disadvantage. The Washington consensus and popular sentiment have been diverging radically in recent years, until the yawning gap between the two is all too apparent. The War Party is forced to constantly ratchet up the threat level so as to keep the war hysteria at the highest possible level, but that old trick is wearing a bit thin. People are catching on.

That’s why Antiwar.com is so important at this crucial moment in our history. We’ve been educating the American people since 1995 about the many ways in which the War Party snares us into overseas conflicts that are basically none of our business. And polls show that the people want a new foreign policy that consists largely of minding our own business.

This scares the Washington elites – and fills us with hope.

But before hope can translate into solid gains – into actually changing US foreign policy – we have a lot of work to do. And we can’t do it without your financial support.

That’s the one area where the War Party has an undisputed – and very significant – advantage over us: they have the money to flood the country with war propaganda at a moment’s notice. All we have is the truth – and yet that may be enough to win our battle, provided we can get our message out there.

Whether we can do that depends entirely on you, our readers and supporters. Antiwar.com has been reader-supported since our inception. We don’t have any billionaire backers: we get what we need to continue our work from thousands of small donations.

We appeal to our readers four times a year for the money required to keep going, and we’re right in the midst of one of those fundraising campaigns. As America stands on the brink of yet another extended conflict in the Middle East, the country could go either way – and Antiwar.com could make all the difference in the world.

That’s why this may be our most important fundraising campaign ever – and why it’s imperative that you make your tax-deductible donation today – right now.

Your donation, if made today, will have double its usual impact: that’s because we’ve raised $32,000 in matching funds. For every dollar you give, a group of generous donors will match it – but you have to make the first move.

 

Tourism Disaster Temptation: The Case of Nepal

August 25th, 2015 by Binoy Kampmark

It reads like the idealisation of tourism. Enthusiastic, intrepid traveller goes to an impoverished state marred by natural disaster to encourage currency, consumption and travel. In this sense, it is a global phenomenon, involving a good deal of hustling, and a good deal of moralising, about preventing a supposedly bad deal from going worse. The locals are treated as desperate for the money; the tourist, for the daredevil sightseeing.

Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is one such figure, setting out to be the first to make the summit of Everest since the disastrous April earthquake that cut, and here, the emphasis is important, the climbing season short. “Nepal’s tourism minister, Kripasur Sherpa, gave Kuriki his climbing permit at a ceremony in Kathmandu on Sunday.”[1]

That such an event needed a ceremony suggests sacralisation on the one hand, edification on the other. But much of it is plainly material, rooted in Mammon’s temptation and tourism’s allure – each Everest climbing permit costs $11,000, in addition to a range of other government levies. These go into the coffers of the tourist ministry, and various private hands.

Kuriki is also keen to remind his audience that his climb is not self-centred bravado, a narcissistic binge that will involve sherpas and a Japanese film crew. He really is, so goes the suggestion, risking his neck for the betterment of Nepal. “The main purpose of my climb is to spread the message that Nepal was safe for climbers and trekkers even after the earthquake.”

Very good of him to do so, especially given the media rosiness of his courage in the face of nature’s ravaging elements – he, we are told, lost nine fingers to frostbite in an effort in 2012. This is meaty, dangerous stuff.

Coverage of disasters varies on nationality and purchase value. Anonymous, dead locals do not make good copy, tending to vanish in the statistical margins as boring matter. Suitably cashed-up saints, generally from developed states with an intention to salve their conscience, do. They inject “capital” into the impoverished economy and remind others that they do.The networks, with appropriately tuned antennae, get busy when the fatalities come in, more interested in capturing the photogenic mountaineer, somewhat foolhardy but supposedly courageous, into circulation. Stories, with heavy pockets, are personalised. The sentimental narrative of humankind against mother nature is also mobilised. The locals take not so much second place as last in the pecking order of discussions.

The April earthquake made no such distinction, killing some 8,600 people. There were slivers of discussion noting the trite point that most who suffered were the same who tend to suffer in natural disasters: the indigent and the vulnerable. A Guardian piece onApril 27 suggested that “what the thousands of victims share is that they are poor.”

A few personal snippets are documented – that of Garima Saha, to take one example, a twelve-year old who spent 36 hours in darkness. She only regained consciousness after nine hours, having suffered multiple fractures to her shoulder.[2]

Victims of natural disasters occasionally become, in the overly active media cycle, demons of anger and dissatisfaction. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, much emphasis was placed on the elements of medieval styled brigandage and looting. Suddenly, those who were suffering were no longer human. Ditto the case of Haiti, victimhood became the alibi for socialised theft and stern counter-measures by the state.

Even after the Nepalese earthquake, the disgruntlement was noted in The Hindu. The Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, on visiting relief camps, met rage in the form of people “seizing food and water supplies, four days after a devastating earthquake”.[3] A certain Rajana, a survivor, was quoted in anger: “We’ve been left starving in the cold and the best this government can give us is this queue. Why are they so slow?”

The coverage, however, has granted a different forum to the climbing fraternity, slanted, eager to highlight when the tourism industry would revive. National Geographic highlighted the question many on the climbing side were asking: “Will Everest’s Climbing Slow Down After Disasters?”[4]

The climbing takes precedence like a romantic thrill. Would there be more climbers this year? Would there be any in autumn, a period regarded as particularly difficult by the climbing fraternity? Well, things did certainly cease till Kuriki’s project.

“This Japanese daredevil,” goes the headline in Quartz, “will be the first to risk climbing Mount Everest after the Nepal earthquake.”[5] The author also concedes that he was at Everest Base Camp on April 25 and “sustained minor injuries from the avalanche.” In the struggle with nature, he prevailed while others did not.

Al-Jazeera’s headline pays tribute to the Japanese climber and the avalanche victims – those 19 tourists killed. The vast numbers of the locals are otherwise buried, both literally and symbolically – as they will continue to be done. In the lottery of life, such climatic catastrophes tend to do their worst to the worse off.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Notes

[1] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/nepal-opens-everest-time-earthquake-150823135310283.html

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/27/nepal-earthquake-victims-poor-homeless

[3] http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/nepal-quake-toll-tops-5000-as-aid-reach-area-near-epicentre/article7153904.ece

[4] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150513-everest-climbing-nepal-earthquake-avalanche-sherpas/

[5] http://qz.com/486198/this-japanese-daredevil-will-be-the-first-to-risk-climbing-mount-everest-after-the-nepal-quake/

 

Chinese Central Banker Blames Fed for Market Crash

August 25th, 2015 by Tyler Durden

While the western mainstream media meme is that “this is all China’s fault” – despite the fact that the real break happened after the FOMC Minutes last week - Xinhua reports that China central bank blames wide-spread expectations of a Fed rate hike in September for the global market rout… demanding The Fed “remain patient.

As Xinhua reports, 

A researcher with China’s central bank on Tuesday blamed wide expectation of a Fed rate rise in September for the global market rout.

Yao Yudong, head of the People’s Bank of China’s Research Institute of Finance, said the expected Fed rate hike next month had been the “trigger” for the wild market swings.

Analysts worried that the Fed rate hike could accelerate the plunge of U.S. stocks and trigger a sell-off of assets worldwide and even a new global credit crisis.

Yao said the Fed should remain patient before the U.S. inflation reaches 2 percent.

Earlier, analysts said the devaluation of Chinese currency the Renminbi triggered the plunge and the weakening of bulk commodities and currencies in other countries.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank 7.63 percent to close at 2,964.97 points on Tuesday. It has lost 26 percent in the past six trading days.

Overnight, the Dow tumbled 588 points, or 3.58 percent, to 15,871, after sliding more than 1,000 points, or 6 percent at the opening.

Li Qilin, analyst with Minsheng Securities, said the small devaluation of Renminbi could have slightly weighed on stock marketsbut it could not explain the huge sell-off in the United States and other countries.

Li said the liquidity crunch is a bigger culprit.  

The global rout has little to do with economic fundamentals and the Asian financial crisis would not be repeated, Capital Economics said in a research note.

But it said if the market plunge continues worldwide, the Fed might postpone its rate hike.

Which of course is supremely ironic since Goldman Sachs explains the biggest reason for the China rate cut overnight is the market rout, implying PBOC only cut because of The Fed’s expected hike actions.

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aiding and abetting criminal companies.

There are various solutions to this ongoing catastrophe that would depend on the basic honesty of Big Pharma. That honesty doesn’t exist. And the Dept. of Justice has no interest in waging a big-time war against Pharma.

Even in a society where Libertarian philosophy was the guide, government, however limited, would still have the role of protecting citizens from poisoning and rank fraud.

You could, of course, completely eliminate the government from having any say-so in the approval of medical drugs. You could have the Wild West. Let the buyer beware. Whether this would result in more deaths per year is an open question. It’s quite possible such a free system would eventually make people more cautious about what drugs they ingest; and thus the number of deaths would diminish. People wouldn’t be able to rely on the government to tell them what’s safe and what’s dangerous. In the long, long run, I believe this is so: no FDA is better than FDA.

I’ve been writing and speaking about dangerous medical drugs for almost 30 years, and I haven’t seen any limits placed on the basic FDA-Pharma partnership. This isn’t case of seeing a) government or b) corporations as the basic criminal. They’re both criminals, in collaboration with each other.

In a half-sane society, the big drug companies would have been prosecuted to the sky long ago. Their charters to do business in any state would have been revoked. Their CEOs, executives, and scientists would have been put behind bars for life. Even a limited federal government would have done that.

Here is where I’m in accord with Libertarians: people have the right and the freedom to refuse medication, under any circumstances, even where the experts claim death will be the inevitable outcome. And people have the right to ingest any compounds they decide might help them.

If that were the basis for the system, then government couldn’t overwhelm the population with rules about mandatory vaccines (see also) and drugs.

In case you hadn’t noticed, all national health insurance plans, in whatever countries they’ve been established, are the road to perdition, because they can be manipulated to coerce citizens into accepting designated toxic medical treatments.

The freedom of refusal is the only protection when crime bosses rule both government agencies (like the FDA) and pharmaceutical companies.

Trying to reform Pharma or the government is a losing proposition.

In countries other than the US, the FDA-type agencies are likewise stacked with Pharma-favoring allies. These people have no conscience and no accountability. They are dangerous criminals who should be locked up.

But how is that possible when they are embedded within government?

If benign UFOs from another solar system were stationed above Earth, observing civilization at work, one of the first things they would notice is the mass-poisoning operation I’m writing about in this article, especially because it is taking place under the cover of delivering health to the planet’s population.

Someone aboard one of the ships would say, “Oh yes, this is a typical ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ cover story, concealing a war against the people. We see that everywhere.”

Save the village by destroying it.

If you want a clue about the FDA’s brazen attitude, search the phrase, “FDA why learn about adverse drug reactions.” You’ll find a page where the FDA readily admits, in capital letters, that 100,000 people die every year from the effects of medical drugs. (The page was still there the last time I checked.) Yet the FDA, the sole government agency responsible for certifying these drugs as safe and effective before they can be prescribed, takes zero responsibility for the death toll.

You would think this is a major story for mainstream media, to say the least. But you would be wrong.

A million deaths per decade doesn’t register on their radar, because they are in bed with the drug companies and the FDA.

There are several sources for the 100,000 death statistic in this article. The primary citation is: Dr. Barbara Starfield, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Journal of the American Medical Association, July 26, 2000, “Is US health really the best in the world?” Not long before her death, I interviewed Dr. Starfield. She told me no US government agency had ever contacted her about her findings.

Why would the federal government get in touch with her? It would be tantamount to confessing to mass murder.

Macedonian Government Cracks Down on Refugees

August 25th, 2015 by Markus Salzmann

The Macedonian government opened its border with Greece on Sunday after several thousand refugees broke through the police barricades there on Saturday.

Prior to this, a state of emergency had been imposed in the border region. For three days, Macedonian police and military had cordoned off the border with Greece using barbed wire fences, employing stun grenades and rubber bullets against the refugees assembled there. The police also deployed tear gas and used their batons against the crowds.

According to eyewitnesses, several people were injured, including children. Thousands were forced to spend their nights alongside the border without food in open fields.

On Saturday night, the refugees then succeeded in overcoming the police barricades at the border and were able to walk to the railway station in the border town of Gevgelija. According to the Macedonian online news siteTelegraf.mk, it was not possible for the police to keep back the onrush of refugees. The situation only calmed down once the border was reopened.

Emina, a Syrian refugee described the brutal actions of the Macedonian security forces: “It was very hard in Macedonia,” she told WirtschaftsWoche. “I have not slept for three days and did not eat. Just as we arrived at the border, they closed it. It was horrible.”

Serbian state television reported that many refugees were ill or had been injured by the police at the weekend. One woman gave birth under appalling conditions.

Macedonia is a transit country for most of the refugees from the Middle East, who travel on by way of Serbia to Hungary and thus into the European Union (EU). Most of them are fleeing from the consequences of the destructive policies of the US and the European powers in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and arrive in Greece via Turkey. More than 160,000 refugees have arrived via this route this year. In the past two months, about 45,000 refugees have crossed into Macedonia.

The brutality of the right-wing government in Skopje is a sharp expression of the inhumane policy that all European governments follow against refugees. A veritable competition has opened up between the various governments in dealing with refugees as abhorrently as possible so that they move on to other countries. The refugee crisis is also deliberately exploited to mobilize right-wing forces and distract attention from domestic and foreign policy crises.

This assumes particularly repulsive forms in the Balkans, where the governments operate as stooges of the EU. The Macedonian government of Prime Minister Nicola Gruevski and his right-wing VMRO-DPMNE are in a deep political crisis. Like many parties in the former Yugoslavia, VMRO-DPMNE is deeply involved in criminal activities, has no social base in the population and ingratiates themselves with the EU in order to benefit economically.

The analyst Fejzi Hajdari from Skopje located the motivation for the border closure in both domestic and foreign policy interests. On the one hand, the government is trying to force more resources and help from the EU through the closure of borders to refugees. On the other hand, Premier Gruevski is “a master” in the art of diverting public attention at home and abroad from his own problems with surprising manoeuvres. “The EU’s pressure is great, so that the agreement achieved in June by the government with the opposition to prepare new elections is also implemented,” Hajdari said.

In other Eastern European countries too, the measures against refugees are particularly dramatic. The Slovakian government recently announced it would not accept Muslim refugees.

Ivan Metik, spokesman for the Slovak Interior Ministry, justified this with the fact that there were no mosques in the country. “How can they be integrated with us, if they don’t feel good here?” he asked cynically. One day later, the government backtracked and said that migrants from Muslim countries could apply for asylum in Slovakia, but the government’s rejection is clear.

The situation is similar in other Eastern European countries. Government officials in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia speak out publicly against the admission of refugees. The ruling politicians, whether Conservative or Social Democrats, reject a quota system and refuse to accept the distribution of refugees across the various EU countries.

The Hungarian government is acting particularly harshly in undertaking the “management of external borders” in the EU’s interest. The government in Budapest is currently building a four-metre high border fence, which is designed to prevent refugees from Serbia entering into the EU. This is being done with the tacit consent of the EU. “The European Commission is against the construction of border fences in Europe as a matter of principle,” said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand, but would not interfere with Budapest’s decision.

Manfred Weber, Christian Social Union politician and leader of the European Peoples Party group in the European Parliament, called on his parliamentary colleagues to declare all the EU candidate states collectively as “safe third countries”, and therefore anyone arriving from these countries into the EU could be denied a claim to asylum and be deported as quickly as possible.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned on Sunday of the need for a quick fix in the refugee crisis on the Greek-Macedonian border. The Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek spoke of an “extraordinary burden” for the government in Skopje, and expressed understanding for the brutal repression against the refugees.

The refugee issue will also be a topic at the Western Balkans conference on Thursday in Vienna. Thirty government leaders are meeting in the Austrian capital to discuss the large surge of asylum seekers from the region to Germany, Austria and other EU states. Among others, government heads from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo will participate.

The Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (Austrian Peoples Party, ÖVP) travelled to Macedonia on Monday in order to obtain a picture of the situation in advance of the conference. In addition to meeting with his counterpart Nikola Poposki, a site inspection at the border with Greece was also planned. Kurz said that “more activity by the EU [was] needed” because of “huge challenges.”

What the government in Vienna means by “activity” was made clear just a few months ago, when the Foreign Ministry initiated a large-scale campaign in Kosovo to deter potential asylum seekers already there from entering Austria.

World stock markets continued to plummet Monday, fueled by another steep decline in Chinese shares and concerns over a marked slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy and turmoil in emerging market economies.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 8.5 percent, its sharpest fall since February 2007, bringing its losses since June to nearly 40 percent. Major stock exchanges across Asia followed suit, with Japan and Hong Kong falling 4.6 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively.

The panic spread to Europe, with the British, German and French indexes plunging between 4.6 percent and 5.2 percent. Stocks also sank across the Middle East and in Latin America.

But the meltdown was most intense in the United States. With pre-market futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 700 points, the Dow collapsed at the opening bell, along with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes.

Within four minutes of the trading start, the Dow had sunk by 1,089 points, or 6.6 percent, the biggest single-day point drop in US history. The Nasdaq dropped 400 points, or more than 8 percent, and the S&P 500 fell over 100 points, about 5 percent.

The massive and seemingly unstoppable wave of selling shocked market experts and commentators and provoked comparisons to the “Black Monday” trading disaster of 1987, when the Dow plunged 22 percent in one day. There were many indications that a full-scale meltdown was in progress.

Apple stock plunged 13 percent at the opening, prompting CEO Tim Cook to go on CNBC television to reassure Apple investors that the company’s business in China was not threatened. Apple ended the day with a 2.47 percent loss.

Online brokerage firms TD Ameritrade and Scottrade were swamped by a wave of sell orders, blocking many investors from gaining access to their accounts. Scottrade said that it experienced a 230 percent spike in trading volume at the opening.

The VIX, a market index that measures volatility and is known as the “fear index,” hit 53. The last time it was over 50 was in March 2009, when the market hit bottom following the September 15, 2008 Wall Street crash.

The atmosphere of panic was also reflected in a large-scale move from stocks to US government bonds. The yield on US ten-year Treasury notes, considered a safe haven, fell below 2 percent for the first time in months, reflecting a surge in demand for the bonds.

Yet five minutes after the initial US market collapse, a wave of buying cut the losses in half. At one point the Dow came within 115 points of breaking even. The selloff resumed later in the day and the Dow ended the session with a loss of 588 points, or 3.6 percent. The S&P 500 ended down 77 points, or 3.94 percent, and the Nasdaq closed with a loss of 179 points, a decline of 3.82 percent.

All three indexes are in “correction” territory, having declined by more than 10 percent from their recent highs.

There can be little doubt that the Federal Reserve Board and related government agencies intervened behind the scenes to organize the massive buying spree that halted the opening market plunge. Reports emerged later that the New York Stock Exchange had invoked an obscure and rarely used rule to preempt panic selling. Rule 48 speeds up the opening of trading by suspending a requirement that stock prices be announced at the beginning of the session. This may have been used to facilitate an intervention by the Fed.

Given the role of the Fed in financing the tripling of stock prices since the 2008-2009 crash by holding interest rates at near-zero and pumping trillions of dollars into the financial markets, such an intervention to once again rescue the financial elite would not be an aberration. The entire policy of the Fed and other major central banks and governments since the eruption of the crisis seven years ago has been focused on engineering a vast redistribution of wealth from the working class to the corporate-financial elite through a combination of austerity and record high stock prices.

The unprecedented bull market has been the main mechanism for further enriching the world’s multimillionaires and billionaires, even as the real economy was starved of productive investment and remained mired in stagnation. The current stock market panic reflects the growth of deflationary pressures in the global economy that are overpowering the efforts to inflate and maintain financial bubbles for the benefit of the rich and the super-rich.

The slowdown in China, marked by a decline in manufacturing and falling exports and investment, is itself an expression of a global downturn. China is hit particularly hard because it has been the main impetus for global economic growth since the 2008 crisis and is heavily dependent on expanding world production and markets for its industrial exports. Its attempts to stimulate growth through infrastructure projects, real estate speculation and an expansion of its stock markets have foundered against a general climate of stagnant or anemic growth in the US, Europe and Japan.

Analysts attributed Monday’s further decline in Chinese stocks to disappointment over the government’s failure to intervene more strongly to prop up the market after a series of sharp falls last week. The regime gave approval for Chinese pension funds, with some $550 billion in assets, to invest in the stock market, but failed to lower the level of bank reserves, which would free up cash to plough into the market.

“The pension fund signal didn’t work, which proves that investors have entirely lost confidence in the market,” said Wu Xianfeng, president of Longteng Asset Management in Shenzhen. “The market has been in a panic since last week.”

The slowdown in China and in the world economy more broadly, along with a rise in the US dollar, has undermined so-called emerging market economies from Brazil and Mexico to Turkey, Russia, Indonesia and South Africa, which depend on China as a market for their commodities exports. The financial markets and currencies of these countries have been plunging for weeks, exacerbating the international tendencies toward slump and threatening to spark a financial crisis.

A definitive expression of economic stagnation is the ongoing decline in commodity prices. US oil prices on Monday fell another 5 percent to six-year lows, dipping below $38 a barrel. Brent crude oil fell below $45 for the first time since 2009. London copper and aluminum futures also hit their lowest levels since 2009.

Since China devalued its currency two weeks ago following poor data on exports and industrial activity, trillions of dollars in market value worldwide have been wiped out as a result of falling stock prices. Germany’s DAX index has lost 22 percent since its April high.

“Until we have some sign that China and the emerging markets aren’t being sucked into some vortex from which they can’t recover…it is unlikely this selloff will stem,” Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, told Reuters.

A former adviser to ex-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was more apocalyptic. Damian McBride tweeted advice on “the looming crash,” stressing the need to put “hard cash in a safe place” and not assume that banks will be open. Suggesting the eruption of civil strife and state repression, he counseled the need to stock up on “bottled water, tinned goods & other essentials at home to live a month indoors.”

He further advised the preparation of a “rally point” for loved ones “in case transport and communication get cut off.”

World fate cannot be determined by one country, Russian Foreign Minister stressed

Attempts to falsify the history of the Second World War offend peoples and undermine the foundations of modern world order, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote in an article titled “Lessons of History and New Milestones” published on Sunday in Russia’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily and China’s Renmin Ribao daily.

“The current year goes by under the mark of celebrating the 70th anniversary of ending the Second World War.

For Russia and China, this jubilee bears special significance,” Lavrov wrote. “Our countries were allies in fight against Nazism and Japanese militarism, they took the main blow of aggressors, bore the biggest losses,” he continued. “Our peoples managed to withstand that dreadful fight and win thanks to outstanding courage, self-sacrifice and mobilization of all forces,” he said.

“Tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers gave their lives for the freedom and independence of China. We are glad that Beijing carefully cherish the memory of our compatriots,” the foreign minister stressed. One of the best examples of cooperation in the military-memorial sphere is “the first joint search expedition that took place this year in the Heilongjiang province in which the remains of Soviet soldiers were found,” Lavrov said.

“Today, we face undisguised attempts to falsify the history of war, to equal the victims and the executioners,” he noted. “All of this not only offends our peoples, but also undermines the foundations of the modern world order enshrined in the UN Charter,” he explained.

“That is why it is very important that our countries are united in their striving to continue decisively defending the historical truth, to defend the results of the Victory,” Lavrov wrote. In this context, the foreign minister noted, “it is hard to overestimate the importance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s participation in the anniversary celebrations in Moscow, of the fact that a unit of China’s armed forces was part of the parade on Red Square,” he concluded.

Lessons of Second World War

The lessons of the Second World War are evidence that it is necessary to approach collectively the resolution of international problems, Lavrov continued.

“The spirit of alliance and in general the lessons of Second World War confirm that there is no alternative to collective work in the interests of looking for efficient answers to large-scale threats that the international community is facing, underscore the value of equal mutually respectful partnership which is in fact the only way to prevent new conflict,” Lavrov noted.

The foreign minister stressed that “in today’s uneasy international situation, which is characterized by high level of turbulence and accumulating crises, we should not forget the lessons of the past to avoid irreparable mistakes in the future.” “The fate of the world cannot be determined by one country or a narrow group of countries,” he said.

“Bombardments of Yugoslavia, occupation of Iraq, chaos in Libya, fratricidal war in Ukraine clearly demonstrate what tragic consequences can departure from elementary truth entail – the striving to capture and retain global dominance at any cost, impose one’s opinion, will and values on other countries,” Lavrov concluded.

Russian-Chinese relations at their highest

Relations between Russia and China “are at the highest over their history and continue to develop consistently,” Lavrov stressed.

“Their basis is in feeling of sincere friendship and sympathy between our peoples, deep mutual respect and trust, consideration of key interests of each other, interest in prosperity of our countries,” Lavrov wrote. “In fact, we are talking about inter-state relations of new type, a kind of cooperation model in the 21st century,” he continued.

Lavrov stressed that cooperation between Moscow and Beijing on the international arena has become an important of maintaining international and regional stability.

“Russia and China adhere to equal or close approaches on key modern problems, consistently stand for forming a new polycentric world order with reliance on international law, respect to self-identity of different peoples, their right to choose independently the way of development,” the foreign minister said. “We are resolute opponents of imposing one’s will on sovereign countries, including by military means, of unilateral sanctions pressure, and in general of employing the practice of ‘double standards’,” Lavrov noted.

If someone has had the good fortune not to encounter the world of U.S. police and prisons, and the misfortune to learn about the world from U.S. schools, entertainment, and “news” media, a great place to start understanding one of the worst self-inflicted tragedies of our era would be with James Kilgore’s short new book, Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, followed up by Radley Balko’s longer Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.

Both books tell a story of gradual change over the past half-century that has resulted in the police going to war against people they were supposed to serve (call it a war on crime, a war on drugs, a war on terror, it’s always in fact a war on people). And what do you do with people captured alive during a war? You lock them away as prisoners of war until the war ends. And if the war never ends? Well, then you bring back the death penalty, create life sentences for lots of crimes including for kids, impose mandatory minimums and three-strikes, and transform parole and probation from rehabilitation to reincarceration services.

The story of this gradual change is one of legal changes (court rulings and legislation), behavior, and popular belief — with each of these influencing the other two in a vicious cycle. You can’t quadruple a prison population in 40 years without instituting a different belief system. You can’t ship black prisoners to be guarded by rural whites employed by for-profit companies, or lock up immigrants indefinitely while they await hearings, and not alter the belief system further. You can’t run several successive election campaigns as contests in meanness and not see changes in policy and behavior. You can’t give police military weapons and not expect them to adopt military attitudes, or give them military training and expect them not to want military weapons. You can’t give crime 10 times the coverage on the “news” and not expect people to imagine crime is increasing. You can’t start smashing in doors without alienating the police and the people from each other.

Kilgore reminds us that the popular movements of the 1960s had an impact on popular thought. Opposition to the death penalty peaked in 1965 and was over 50% from 1957 to 1972, dropping to 20% in 1990. In 1977 only 37% of people polled rated police officers’ ethics as high, a number that rose to 78% in 2001 for no apparent substantive reason. As late as 1981 most Americans thought unemployment was the main cause of crime. We’ve since learned of course that crime is caused by evil demonic forces that possess the bad people of the earth.

The creation of the world’s largest ever collection of permanent prisoners of war — a trend that would translate perfectly to the war “on terror” abroad — developed through cycles, including partisan cycles. That is to say, Nixon had a horrible impact, Carter briefly slowed the mad rush to prisonville, and Reagan and Bush built on Nixon’s policies. The war on drugs was created as a means to militarize the police and involve the federal government in more local law enforcement, not the other war around. Reagan’s attorney general announced early on that, “the Justice Department is not a domestic agency. It is the internal arm of the national defense.” The end of the Cold War saw the military looking for new excuses to exist, and one of them would be the war on drugs.

When Clinton came along it again made a difference to have a Democrat in the White House, only this time for the worse. Bill Clinton and his would-be president wife and allies such as would-be president Joe Biden accelerated the march to suburban Siberia rather than slowing it. Under Clinton it became possible to throw people out of public housing for a single drug offense of any kind by anyone in the house. And yet Clinton was never evicted from his public housing despite the near certainty that someone in the White House used some kind of drug. Clinton brought us huge increases in incarceration, war weapons for police, and the shredding of social supports.

When the War on Terra began in 2001 whole new pathways to profit and police militarization opened up, including the beloved Fatherland’s Department of Homeland Security, which has handed out tens of billions of dollars in “terror grants” that fund the terrorizing of the U.S. public. In 2006 the Buffalo, NY, police staged a series of drug raids they called “Operation Shock and Awe.” Adding truly military grade incompetence to meanness, the New York Police Department raided an elderly couple’s home over 50 times between 2002 and 2010 because their address had randomly been used as a placeholder in a computer system and remained in any report that had failed to include an address.

The arrival of Captain Peace Prize at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue continued the trends and added an escalation of the war on immigrants, as well as of the war weapons for the police programs.

But the partisan cycles are more subtle as well. As Balko recounts, Congress members and others opposed police militarization when the president was of the other party and supported it when he was from theirs, or opposed it when the discussion focused on drugs but supported it in matters of gun-control (or vice versa). Yet, each acceptance was two steps forward and each resistance one step back, so that what was outrageous one decade became the norm in the next.

National partisan tides and vicious cycles of ever increasing militarization interacted over the years with local advances. Los Angeles, and the leadership of Darryl Gates, brought SWAT teams to U.S. policing. The name originally stood for Special Weapons Attack Teams and the tactics were literally a bringing of the war on Vietnam home as Gates consulted with the military to learn what was supposedly working in Vietnam.

Let me close with the question with which Balko begins his book: Are police constitutional? The police, prisons, parole, and probation did not exist when the U.S. Constitution was created any more than did drones or the internet. The first thing in the United States like police was the slave patrol. The first modern police force in the United States was begun in New York City in 1845. I’ve argued at length elsewhere that drones are incompatible with the Bill of Rights. What about police?

The Third Amendment grew out of resistance to allowing soldiers to engage in any of the abuses that constitute the work of police. Need we accept those abuses? I think we can at the very least radically reduce them. To do so we will have to declare an end to the wars abroad and the wars at home. Balko quotes former Maryland police officer Neill Franklin on what changing police attitudes will require:

“Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on others’ rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect.” But that would mean not being at war with people.

US Campaign against Racism, Police Violence and Poverty

August 25th, 2015 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Organizing is continuing for the Charleston, South Carolina “Days of Grace, Love’s Work is Justice” which will be held over Labor Day Weekend on Sept. 5 to 6 in commemoration of the nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church parishioners killed on June 17by a white racist as well as the police killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston two months before in early April.

Special tribute will be paid to state senator and church minister, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was gunned down by Dylan Roof, a white supremacist who was photographed with confederate flags and wearing the insignia of the former racist apartheid and settler colonial regimes in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the Republic of South Africa. Roof had sat among the attendees of a bible study for one hour when he stood up and said he had to kill African Americans because they were assaulting white women and taking over the United States.

This event is being coordinated by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1422, which has engaged in numerous labor actions over the recent period.

In a statement posted on the ILA website it says “Guns inflicted the fatal wounds of April and June, but racism, poverty and the politics of rancor and discord have long inflicted grave wounds on the State’s poor and most vulnerable people. This Labor Day, people of faith and conscience will come together in Charleston to remember our fallen friends and to reflect on the racism and hatred that lay at the root of their deaths, as well as the violence that tears away at the fabric of our communities.”

In addition to being a center in the struggle against racism, Charleston has been a focal point for a burgeoning worker’s movement lead by African Americans. Since the days of slavery, the African population in South Carolina has been a source of labor exploitation by the ruling class and the resistance to injustice.

African American workers are seeking to link the escalation in police and vigilante violence against the community with the need to rejuvenate the movement for jobs and living wages. A protracted struggle to remove the confederate flag from the state capitol building in Columbia culminated in the aftermath of the Mother Emanuel massacre when thousands demonstrated demanding that the symbol of slavery and racism be taken down.

According to Leonard Riley Jr., Vice-President of the ILA Local 1422, “There is a feeling that the people of good will need to be heard in this moment. The removal of the Confederate flag was a hopeful sign that the state is ready to move forward. But we need to back that up with policies that make this a better state to live in for everyone” (Charleston Post & Courier, Aug. 21)

Riley also noted that “Nearly 70 organizations have joined the call for a march and strategy conference … to help build a more fair, tolerant and peaceful South Carolina.” These endorsing and sponsoring groups include churches, student organizations, social clubs and civil rights activists.

Thousands of people from the local area and from around the U.S. are expected to travel to Charleston over this Labor Day weekend for the gathering.

On Sept. 5, a demonstration and rally will be held in downtown Charleston. The action is scheduled to start at Wragg Square and then march to Mother Emanuel and finally ending in Marion Square.

After the demonstration and rally a conference will convene that afternoon beginning at 2:00pm. The conference continues the following day Sept. 6. (daysofgracecharleston.org)

Focus on Police Violence

In addition to the massacre at Mother Emanuel, just several weeks before, Walter Scott, who was gunned down April 4, the 47th anniversary of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King, Jr., by a white police officer Michael Slager after a traffic stop in North Charleston, rallied the community against law-enforcement violence against the people.

“We have to heal and we have to do better,” Riley said. “That’s the challenge we face, and that’s the mantra of this call to action.”

Scott was stopped supposedly for a traffic violation and was shot repeatedly in the back by Slager. A Dominican worker walking through the area videotaped the killing on his cell phone capturing a horrendous crime which is all too common on the streets of the U.S.

Due to the video documentation of the killing and the mass demonstrations taking place throughout the country surrounding police misconduct, the officer was arrested and charged with murder. It remains to be seen if he is actually convicted and receive sentences commensurate with his crimes.

This event comes amid an escalation in demonstrations and rebellions against racist violence and economic exploitation directed towards African Americans. The two largest rebellions over the last year have taken place in the southern states of Missouri (Ferguson and St. Louis) and Maryland (Baltimore City).

Anti-Racist Activities Come Under State Scrutiny

Ruling class forces and law-enforcement agencies are concerned over the rising militancy and intolerance for racism among African American youth and workers. Consequently, efforts are well underway to neutralize the growing struggle to end police violence against the people.

Allegations have been recently made that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and other organizations have come under surveillance by the state. Such charges were made in Charleston, when BLM was one of the first groups to protest against the killing of Scott demanding that his killer be arrested and prosecuted.

Black Lives Matter Charleston organizer Muhiyidin d’Baha told the Charleston City Paper that they had to enforce “a no-cameras policy at its meetings after the Scott shooting when newcomers started showing up and snapping pictures.” (Aug. 21)

We were aware that there were new people coming into the meetings that were asking a bunch of questions,” d’Baha said. “We were aware that there were people coming into our initial meetings right after Walter Scott that were just taking pictures.(Aug. 21)

This same activist continued stressing “These things were definitely happening and definitely scared people away with the knowing or not knowing of who was behind these cameras and what their intention was. There was a lot of fear, and there’s still a lot of fear, among the people that need to rise up right now.”

The Charleston City Paper reported that “Recently released emails from North Charleston city employees show that the actions of protest groups including Black Lives Matter Charleston were being monitored by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the American Red Cross, both of which sent emails to city staff informing them about upcoming organizational meetings and the arrival of Ferguson, Mo., residents at a hotel in Summerville. D’Baha says he does not know if the newcomers at the meetings were working for a law enforcement agency, but the effect of their presence was palpable.”

These efforts by law-enforcement agencies are clearly being coordinated on a national level due to the current atmosphere prevailing in many cities throughout the U.S. Unrest broke out recently in St. Louis City after the police killing of 18-year-old African American Mansur Ball-Bey.

A heavy police presence and the use of teargas and pepper spray triggered the stoning of police and the burning of an abandoned building and a vehicle. Demonstrations are also continuing in nearby Ferguson where the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown ignited further demonstrations and civil unrest.

Until the federal government addresses the police brutality and killings directed against African Americans and other oppressed people, these demonstrations and rebellions will likely grow and become more militant and politically directed against the state and the corporate ruling interests.

Protests about the lack of proper city sanitation services have quickly escalated into full-blown calls for regime change.

Lebanese protesters demonstrated in Beirut this weekend as part of the “You Stink” movement, which was organized by citizens fed up with the garbage that had been piling up in their streets for weeks.

What began as an expression of legitimate grievances, however, quickly spiraled into the world’s latest Color Revolution attempt.

Some radical youth started throwing rocks and petrol bombs at police officers (uncannily reminiscent of the earlier hijacking of the peaceful-intentioned “Electric Yerevan” protests), which resulted in a forceful counter-response that was then immediately used to ‘justify’ the movement’s transformation into one of open regime change ends.

The thing is, however, Lebanon doesn’t really have a functioning government to begin with, having been without a President for over a year. If the Prime Minister steps down as he threatened to do, then it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that might bring the formerly civil war-torn and multi-confessional state back to the brink of domestic conflict.
Protestors set uncollected garbage on fire and block a road as they protest against the ongoing refuse crisis in Beirut, Lebanon July 25, 2015.

© REUTERS/ Aziz Taher

Any significant destabilization in Lebanon is bound to have a serious impact on Syria, which would be put in a difficult position by the potential cutoff of the strategic Beirut-to-Damascus highway and the possible redeployment of valuable Hezbollah fighters back to their homeland.

A Little About Lebanon

The tiny Middle Eastern state of about four and a half million people is marked by a demographic and political complexity that could hinder a speedy resolution to the current crisis. It’s necessary to be aware of some of its specifics in order to better understand the origins of the current stalemate and where it might rapidly be headed.

Unilaterally sliced out of Syria during the early years of the French mandate, the territory of Lebanon hails what is generally recognized as the most diverse population in the Mideast. Eighteen religious groups are recognized in the country’s constitution, including Alawites, Druze, Maronite Catholics, Sunnis, and Shiites.

This eclecticism of religious communities is presided over by something referred to as the National Pact, an unwritten understanding that the President will always be Maronite, the Prime Minister will be Sunni, and the Speaker of Parliament will be Shiite, among other stipulations (and with a few historical exceptions).Complementary to this concept is the country’s unique political system called confessionalism, whereby Christians and Muslims share equal seats in the unicameral parliament, but each group’s respective composition is determined proportionally by sect. Originally meant to be a temporary solution when it was first enacted in the 1920s, it was later refined by the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the lengthy civil war and has remained in place to this day.

Crawling To A Crisis

The current crisis in Lebanon was long in the making, and it’s the result of many embedded problems that spilled over with the garbage protests. The economy has always been fragile, in that it’s highly dependent on tourism and banking – hardly the prerequisites for a stable system.

The overwhelming influx of over 1 million Syrian refugees over the past couple of years (on top of the nearly half a million Palestinian ones already present in the country) contributed to the country’s economic malaise, with the International Labor Organization quoting a 34% unemployment rate for youth between the ages of 15-24. It’s thus of no surprise then that there were plenty of disaffected young people eager and available to protest when the “You Stink” opportunity finally arose.

Lebanon’s economic troubles have been exacerbated by its enormously high debt-to-GDP ratio that has the dubious honor of being one of the world’s worst at 143%. It’s of such magnitude that Prime Minister Tammam Salam just announced that the government might not be able to pay salaries next month.

This economic dysfunction persists despite the discovery of large amounts of offshore oil and gas that have yet to be extracted. Part of the reason for this is that the country is in the midst of a political impasse stemming from parliament’s inability to agree upon a new president after the former one finished his term in May 2014.

Since the president appoints the prime minister, if Salam resigns like he threatened to do if Thursday’s upcoming Cabinet meeting yields no results, then the country would enter completely uncharted territory that might prompt more pronounced unrest and guarantee a period of heightened uncertainty.The arrangement of political forces is thus that two men have the possibility to be president – Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea. Each represents one of the two main trans-religious political coalitions, the 8 March Alliance and the 14 March Alliance, respectively, and both want parliament to end its impasse as soon as possible.

Their similarities end there, however, since Aoun is in an alliance with multipolar-oriented Hezbollah, while Geagea is closely tied to former Prime Minister and dual Lebanese-Saudi billionaire powerbroker Saad Hariri.

Wikileaks’ latest releases from the Saudi Foreign Ministry prove that Hariri still has intimate contacts with the Saudi royal family and intelligence services, and that Geagea once begged the kingdom to bankroll his party’s finances. Therefore, although the presidency itself is largely ceremonial, it’s the diametrically competing visions of these two parties and the potential for street clashes between their supporters during the Color Revolution tumult that creates serious concern about Lebanon’s future, and consequently, could be expected to have negative repercussions for Syria.

Sabotaging Syria

The regional backdrop in which all of this occurs is that the US and its allies are in a ‘race to the finish’ to ‘win’ their various Mideast wars before the tens of billions of dollars of frozen Iranian funds are returned to Tehran, which would then partially disseminate it to its regional allies Hezbollah and Syria.

Additionally, Russia has made remarkable diplomatic progress in trying to reconcile all sides in Syria and assemble a coordinated anti-ISIL coalition, raising the US’ fears that its window of ‘opportunity’ for accomplishing regime change there may unexpectedly be drawing to a close.

It’s thus under these conditions that the organic protests in Beirut were almost immediately hijacked by radical Color Revolutionaries in order to create chaos along Syria’s western border.

The intent behind the calculated state collapse being attempted at the moment in Lebanon is to disrupt the Beirut-to-Damascus highway that serves as one of the two main lifelines to the Syrian capital, the other being the Damascus-to-Latakia highway. Shutting down the Lebanese route would make Syria wholly dependent on the Latakian one that’s vulnerable to an “Army of Conquest” offensive, which if successful, would cripple the country by de-facto blockading the capital.At the same time, in the event that Beirut reaches its breaking point, some Hezbollah units currently deployed to Syria would be compelled to return back to the home front to assist in the inevitable power struggle there. The withdrawal of part (or all) of this valuable fighting contingent would make the military situation much more difficult for the Syrian Arab Army, both in defending the Damascus-to-Latakia corridor and in securing the Lebanese border from becoming a ‘second Turkey’ of terrorist infiltration.

Conclusively, it’s for these strategic reasons why it strongly appears that externally directed forces were ordered to exploit Lebanon’s existing tensions at this specific time. They engineered a Color Revolution attempt by using the “You Stink” protests as a semi-plausible cover, and this was timed to coincide with the ‘race to the finish’ being played out all across the Mideast.

Lebanon can still pull away from the brink, provided that Thursday’s upcoming Cabinet meeting resolves the presidential crisis and placates the country’s main political parties, but it will have to tread very carefully in containing sectarian temptations and avoiding the trap of escalatory Color Revolution provocations.

A conference sponsored by the United States State Department began on Aug. 24 in Libreville, Gabon to further promote trade between Wall Street and Africa.

Gabon, a former French colony, is an oil producer which has maintained friendly relations with both Paris and Washington. French troops are still stationed in Gabon and have been activated under conditions of mass demonstrations and instability in recent years.

This event is designed to promote the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), a program in place since 2000 designed ostensibly to facilitate trade between Africa and U.S.-based firms. The U.S. says that AGOA represents the cornerstone of its economic policy in Africa and the Congressional authorization for the continuation of this program was recently granted.

In a press release issued by the State Department it said “The theme of this year’s Forum is ‘AGOA at 15: Charting a Course for a Sustainable U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Partnership.’ The 2015 Forum will celebrate the recent reauthorization and the important role of women, civil society, and the private sector in promoting trade, expanding inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and generating prosperity.” (Aug. 21)

The State Department continues saying “Representatives from the private sector, civil society, and the U.S.-sponsored African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) will participate in Forum activities from August 24-25. Ministerial plenaries will follow on August 26-27, bringing together senior government officials from the United States and the 39 African beneficiary countries. A trade exhibition will run throughout the official program.”

U.S. Wages ‘Cold War’ Against China in Africa

There has been considerable international focus over the last few years examining the increasing economic and political role of the People’s Republic of China with African Union (AU) member-states. At present China is the largest trading partner with the continent emphasizing the construction and maintenance of infrastructural projects related to national affairs, medicine, science, transportation and other sectors.

Washington’s emphasis in Africa has been characterized by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which has thousands of troops stationed in Djibouti as well as other low-profile intelligence stations, airstrips and naval operations. Despite this escalating presence of AFRICOM, the overall security situation is deteriorating in key states such as Nigeria in the West and Kenya in the East, both close allies of successive administrations both Democratic and Republican.

There a multitude of joint projects between Beijing and AU member-countries including the construction of the new state-of-the-art conference center for the continental organization based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was from this podium at the AU headquarters that President Barack Obama delivered his speech in July at the conclusion of his visit to both Kenya and Ethiopia.

Although Obama hosted a trade conference emphasizing African entrepreneurship during his visit to Kenya, China is currently constructing a new railway line covering vast areas across East Africa. This project will enhance trade and employment opportunities for people living in the region where the legacy of colonialism and imperialism has hampered the free flow of people and goods.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service reported last year that “Formal agreements for plans to build a new railway line in East Africa with Chinese help have been signed in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. It is to run from Mombasa to Nairobi and will extend eventually to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.” (May 12, 2014)

This article continues saying “In Kenya, the line is to replace a narrow-gauge track built more than 100 years ago during British colonial rule. China is to finance 90% of the first stage, put at $3.8bn (£2.3bn), with work carried out by a Chinese firm.”

Despite these joint projects with China, the overall trade between Africa and the U.S. has drastically declined under the Obama administration. The decline in oil and commodities prices are a significant aspect of this phenomenon while simultaneously the emphasis of Wall Street and Washington has been the maximization of profits at the expense of working people and their communities.

Critics of the AGOA strategy indicate that it empowers already large multi-national corporations and further marginalizes local producers and workers. Through AGOA clothing factories and other light industrial projects have been established in Kenya and other states including Lesotho in Southern Africa.

These production centers attract people from the rural areas into urban life with working class employment. Nonetheless, during conditions of declining demand and gaps within the funding from AGOA in the U.S., people are periodically laid-off and forced to return to the villages.

Also Washington utilizes AGOA funding to exercise its policy imperatives in attempts to influence the internal and regional affairs of African states. Consequently, the Act is a tool to exert the political will of U.S. imperialism on the continent.

Criticism Mounts Against Foreign Direct Investment Strategy

Although Africa is designated as a rapidly growing region and a center for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), there are structural issues that emanate from the continuing dominance of the capitalist mode of production. Most of the western investment is designed to enhance the profit margins of the multi-national corporations and banks and not to empower the workers, farmers, youth and local business interests.

In a recent article written by Jostein Lohr Hauge, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Cambridge, he pointed out that “Africa is now the fastest growing region for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world. From 1990 to 2013, FDI inflows in Africa increased 19-fold from $3 billion to $57 billion. This trend, and FDI in general, is typically seen as a good thing for low-income countries. And especially in Africa, where most countries have small stocks of savings, attracting FDI in order to grow the economy and create jobs can be crucial.” (African Arguments, Aug. 20, 2015)

Hauge’s report assesses the benefits of this rapid expansion of FDI and concludes “This trend is all well and good for the huge companies involved – and usually for the economies of the countries in which they are based. But the problem with the expansion of powerful multinationals is that it can allow a small number of actors to capture larger shares of profits over larger markets. They do this so easily particularly because they have dominant technologies (often fortified by strong intellectual property protection) and brand name recognition.”

Independent Economic Program Must Be Informed by Politics

A continental strategy independent of imperialism is the only medium and long term solution to capitalist domination of economic development in Africa. This can only be carried out when African states place the needs of their people above those of the global corporations and banks.

Enhancing the industrial, agricultural, educational, medical and scientific capacity within the post-colonial African states is a prerequisite for genuine independence. Dependency upon the West is a by-product of the legacy of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

Socialist economic construction in Africa could pose an alternative to the world capitalist system. In China, where the country gained liberation from imperialism nearly 66 years ago, tremendous strides have been made through a state-controlled economy that allows private capital but under the direction of the government led by the Communist Party.

Revolutionary Cuba in the Caribbean has outstripped U.S. imperialism in the areas of medical services despite a 54 year blockade and numerous attempts to overthrow their socialist government.

With considerably more natural resources and agricultural potential, a socialist Africa could become a bulwark for economic growth setting standards for the rest of the world.

 

European Union (EU) spokesperson Maya Koijanic’s recent outburst against a planned Russian, Belarusian and Serbian military exercise, is hypocritically ironic, in line with an ongoing bias against Russia – prevalent among some key elements within Western foreign policy strategizing and media. This slant targets those outside Russia, who’re sympathetic to reasoned mainstream Russian views. (Related to this subject, is my July 7, 2014 Global Research article “Twisted History Against Russia And Serbia” and the July 9, 2015 Sputnik News piece “UN Srebrenica Resolution Shows Double Standards, Justifying Russia’s Stand“.)

Along with some other former Soviet areas, there has been open Western military involvement in the strategic flash points of Moldova and Ukraine – a point leading to whataboutism on the Russian troop presence in the disputed former Moldavian SSR territory of Pridnestrovie, Crimea and the Donbas conflict.

In the role as peacekeepers, the limited Russian troop presence in Pridnestrovie, involves a mostly pro-Russian area that isn’t so historically a part of Moldova. Rather ironically, the support for having Pridnestrovie in Moldova and Crimea as a part of Ukraine, is something that was Soviet initiated. Crimea’s changed territorial status doesn’t conflict with the majority in that region, who were aghast at the violent street demonstrations in Kiev (some of it caused on the anti-government side), which led to an increased Russia unfriendly influence in the Ukrainian capital. Kosovo has essentially been taken away from Serbia, in contradiction to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the preference of Belgrade. There’s a good basis to believe that the Donbas situated rebels are overwhelmingly native to the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR – a term used to include Crimea. Numerous polls in the Donbas show negativity towards the Kiev regime.

That region’s close historical and cultural ties to neighboring Russia makes it perfectly understandable why the Kremlin is concerned with what happens there. Some on the Kiev regime side have openly spoken of an Operation Storm like action in the Donbas. The aforementioned Croat military operation saw the ethnic cleansing of at least 150,000 Serbs from Krajina in 1995. In the event of such an action in Donbas, the Russian government would be perceived as weak for letting it happen. As is, the Kiev regime military activity has resulted in noticeable civilian casualties, infrastructure damage and the creation of many refugees.

For the likes of Kocijanic, Western military activity in the former Communist bloc isn’t provocative, unlike when Russia, Serbia and Belarus announce a planned military exercise. Mind you that the Belarusian and Serb governments exhibit policies which simultaneously reach out to the West and Russia. Reaching out to the latter is what continues to be scorned in some influential Western circles.

This advocacy meshes with the EU’s zero sum game stance, in the lead-up to the ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Prior to his overthrow, Yanukovych and Russia sought joint Russian, Ukrainian and Western talks on how to best develop Ukraine, at a time when Ukraine’s population was closely split over viewing the EU and the Russian involved Eurasian Union. The EU and the Obama administration opposed this three way approach, in preference to a zero sum game option, that sought to limit Russian involvement.

In dire need of support, the post-Yanukovych Kiev regime isn’t getting the degree of aid it needs on account of its hostility towards the Kremlin and the EU’s exhibited limits that include being suspect of an entity that has corrupt aspects linked to it. Rather than face reality, there remains further posturing against Russia and the pro-Russian constituency in the former Ukrainian SSR. In a way, this unreasonable position comes as no surprise, given how Russia related issues are frequently covered in Western mass media.

An August 20 NATO affiliated meeting in Riga, highlighted support for a concerted Western effort to combat “Russian propaganda”. This advocacy is an overkill to the already overhyped imagery about a perceived evil seeking to misinform many. Downplayed in that mindset, is the effort for an evenhanded approach in understanding the differences of opinion on Russia related matters.

The tag on Russians at large having a limited knowledge of events related to their country can be easily applied to its nay sayers. A case in point relates to Eugene Bai’s commentary. His opinions are indicative of the kind of minority Russian perspectives that have been favored at such outlets as Newsweek and The New York Times. In turn, many in the West (especially those with a secondary interest in Russia) have an overly negative impression of Russia, which (to a certain extent) is subconsciously based on what they’re prone to regularly get from their preferred news sources.

Bai’s January 21, 2015 Russia Direct article “What Is Behind The Kremlins Sensitive Response To Obama’s Speech?” includes this introductory header:

 Russia’s emotional response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech might be accounted for by both Russia’s historic inferiority complex and the mounting toll of the country’s current economic difficulties.

Later on this contradictory thought appears in his piece:

 Furthermore, such an emotional reaction can be explained psychologically. One can suggest that the Russian political elite is trying with all its force to attract America’s attention to Kremlin politics. Their calls for equal relations conceal a profound inferiority complex that was formed after the fall of the Soviet Union. How far they are prepared to go with this rhetoric is difficult to divine.

The introductory header says a “historic inferiority complex“, with the excerpted follow-up stating that this manner “was formed after the fall of the Soviet Union.” Either way, both characterizations constitute psychobabble. Role reversal could reasonably argue a superiority complex among Russia’s detractors, which has a level of arrogance, ignorance and hypocrisy. This attitude seems to believe that it’s in the right, without looking at the full picture.

In some influential to relatively influential Western circles, it appears acceptable to:

- believe that Russia needs to pay a price for Crimea, when the examples of Kosovo and northern Cyprus suggest otherwise

- give disproportionate inaccurate accounts of extreme Russian nationalists, while downplaying the nationalist anti-Russian variant

- highlight the LGBT situation in Russia, while being mum on the LGBT issue when the US president visits Saudi Arabia and Lithuania

- use terms like “Kremlin troll” against sources utilizing facts and fact based opinions in formally presented commentary.

Human nature at large tends to not take kindly to repeated insults in one form or the other. Mainstream Russians are answering back in ways that fluctuate in terms of accuracy and sophistication – as some others choose to not provide substantively direct counter-replies.

In his April 7, 2015 article “Sorry, But Soft Power Isn’t A Part Of The Rusisan Tradition“, Bai writes of an RT network “with a huge budget” that “has the clout to hire top Western presenters and pay them more than the likes of CNN.” (RT is the Russian government funded 24/7 TV news station, which broadcasts in several languages.) Those familiar with the Anglo-American 24/7 TV news media scene, know that RT hasn’t hired away well established Western TV personalities, who command high salaries in their field.

To a degree perhaps, Larry King serves as an arguably possible exception. King has presented himself as his own boss, whose show appears on RT and another network in a contractual arrangement. Thom Hartmann seems to have this relationship with RT as well – a show that’s currently available in a contracted agreement with more than one network. Without knowing for sure King’s annual income over the years, one gets the impression that he might’ve willingly taken a pay cut upon leaving CNN, for the purpose of having greater flexibility. From a distance, he seems to be in a good position to pursue that option, if that’s indeed the case.

Overall, RT’s presenters, reporters and hosts, typically appear younger and less experienced (in terms of media employment experience) than those of numerous Western TV news networks – thereby suggesting a lower pay scale. That said, RT has some adept professionals with Western mass media and non-Western mass media experience. At RT, Max Keiser, Kevin Owen, Afshin Rattansi and Bill Dod, appear to be among the most (if not most) tenured, when it comes to prior Western mass media TV experience.

Al Jazeera/Al Jazeera America has hired a good number of seasoned North American TV/radio professionals (like John Siegenthaler, Ray Suarez, Sheila MacVicar, Soledad O’Brien, Ali Velshi, Randall Pinkston, Jennifer Glasse, Antonio Mora and some others), whose respective salary level are most probably greater than what RT has tended to offer. In short, RT doesn’t come close to having the same track record as Al Jazeera/Al Jazeera America, when it comes to hiring high profile North American TV/radio professionals.

Upon further review, one can find additional evidence which indicates that RT isn’t the recipient of greater funding than its main Western competitors. In his article concerning RT, Bai’s idea of objectivity is shown by his uncritical admiration for John O’Sullivan and David Remnick – two individuals who don’t come across as being more objective than RT. (For a different impression of RT, see my December 29, 2014 Eurasia Review piece “With Room For Improvement, RT Gives Time To Diverse Views“.)

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic

In July, China regained its status from the U.S. as the world’s biggest crude oil importer. Overseas purchases by China rose to 29.49 million metric tons in June, a 27 percent increase from May. That’s equivalent to about 7.2 million barrels a day. The most of this oil China imports through the Malacca Strait which Chinese navy doesn’t control. This fact impacts China into a complex situation when it has to militarize the South China Sea to control the Malacca Strait or resigns oneself with the fact that its energy market is controlled by foreign countries.

Meanwhile, the USA adds muscle, seeks friends in the South China Sea standoff against China.

Washington’s aim is to maintain full control on the all crucial maritimes routs and it isn’t ready to make an exception on the Malacca Strait.

So far this year, the U.S. has conducted joint exercises with naval forces in Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. All those countries have territory that borders the disputed South China Sea. Other joint exercises are planned later this year. While no one mentioned China by name, the increasing number and complexity of joint exercises in the region forms a part of the U.S. strategy to counter China’s interests in the region.

Click to see the full-size high resolution map

This article was originally published by Who What Why

This article was originally assigned, accepted, and paid for in full by Vanity Fair — which never got around to publishing it, and graciously released it to the author. It tells the story of the cronyism, corruption, ineptness, contempt for the public and utter shamelessness of the Bush family apparatus and its extensive network. With yet another Bush now contesting the White House, and with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina upon us, we would do well to study this closely. It documents unequivocally how greed and self-interest in high places can tear apart the very fabric of American society. Originally written within months of Hurricane Katrina, it will still make your blood boil.

This week we publish it in five parts. It has been slightly updated from the original.

Days after Louisiana’s Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency and the National Hurricane Center warned the White House that Hurricane Katrina could top the New Orleans levee system, the only FEMA official actually in the city itself — Marty J. Bahamonde — was not even supposed to be there. He had been sent in advance of the storm and was ordered to leave as it bore down, but could not because of the clogged roads.

Michael Brown, the head of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), was known to have made it as far as Baton Rouge but seemed out of reach.

With tens of thousands trapped in the Superdome and looting out of control in the parts of the city still above water, FEMA was headed up by the least qualified person imaginable — Michael Brown. Photo Credit: Andrea Booher / FEMA Photo Library

With tens of thousands trapped in the Superdome and looting out of control in the parts of the city still above water, FEMA was headed up by the least qualified person imaginable — Michael Brown. Photo Credit: Andrea Booher / FEMA Photo Library

On Wednesday, August 31, with tens of thousands trapped in the Superdome and looting out of control in the parts of the city still above water, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown directly: ”I know you know, the situation is past critical … Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water”’

The response, when it came several hours later, was from a Brown aide, and did not address the warnings, but noted Brown’s desire to appear on a television program that evening. It included this key caveat: ”It is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner.”

A week later, Brown would be replaced as on-site manager of the disaster.

Blamed for his role in one of the largest domestic debacles in American history, Brown was still thinking of his own comfort: “I’m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night’s sleep,” he told the AP.

In the midst of America’s worst natural — and manmade — disaster, it became clear that Brown was indeed lost in Margaritaville.

Katrina showed that much of the Bush-appointed federal leadership was every bit as unqualified as Brown. Each new crisis seemed to expose still more cronyism, patronage and nepotism at the very top of the country’s leading agencies: a Medicare administrator who came from the hospital association and stayed just long enough to do its bidding; judicial nominees without appropriate experience; dubious appointments  to agencies touching everything from mine safety to immigration and customs. The list of shame goes on and on.

We still do not know the true extent to which the government was filled with Michael Browns. This is in part because of the media. At one time, major news organizations had a reporter assigned to each large federal bureaucracy, making it harder to sail these appointments through, and harder to hide incompetence and malfeasance. Now it takes a disaster to expose these things — when it is too late.

But Michael Brown will forever remain the poster child for federal incompetence — and worse. So a central question remains: who is Michael Brown, and how did he end up at the helm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency?

Indeed, how did he and his predecessor and mentor, Joe Allbaugh, a Bush political operative, manage to turn FEMA, a once proud and effective disaster-relief agency, into a national disaster?

A Secret Relationship

On any level, it makes absolutely no sense that Michael Brown should have been holding any major government post. He had been a failed lawyer whose previous job ostensibly consisted of scrutinizing the ethics of judges in Arabian Horse competitions. In his highest pre-FEMA governmental job, he had been the quintessential neophyte: assistant to a city manager in a small Oklahoma city — and that had been decades before he came to Washington.

“Brownie” lacked any of the other usual connections or qualifications one might expect to see in such an appointee. He had done no known political work for George W. Bush — a typical path to patronage jobs.

He had no real background in emergency or logistics work of any kind. He was not a major donor. He was not even among the untold number of Bush family associates, allies and friends.

The only answer the public has ever gotten as to why Michael Brown headed FEMA is peculiar and highly dissatisfying: Joe Allbaugh wanted him there.

Joe Allbaugh and Bush

George W. Bush and his buddy Joe Allbaugh managed to turn FEMA, a once proud and effective agency, into a national laughingstock.

Allbaugh is the brash and powerful but little-known Bush confidant who preceded Brown as FEMA director. When Allbaugh came to Washington, he brought Brown with him and rapidly promoted him until Brown was positioned to take over the agency.

But why Michael Brown? When pressed, the taciturn Allbaugh tersely replied that Brown was a lifelong friend in whom he had confidence. To this moment, that has remained the official, indeed only, explanation of how and why Michael Brown was running FEMA when Hurricane Katrina struck.

But a thorough investigation, encompassing scores of interviews and hundreds of documents, has uncovered another reality.

It begins with this astonishing fact: nearly all of Joe Allbaugh’s friends and acquaintances say they had never heard of Michael Brown, never met him, never even seen the two men in each other’s presence. To them, Brown was a complete stranger.

The truth, as we have learned, is that the relationship between the two men had beenhidden. The secret, decades-long partnership was designed to advance both men’s business and personal interests.

By all appearances, that explains why Allbaugh asked Bush to let him run FEMA, and why he then turned the place over to Brown. Indeed, as soon as Allbaugh left the agency, he began cashing in.

FEMA after the Allbaugh-Brown era was staffed by people put into position by the two men, and run by David Paulison, best known for advising Americans to stock up on duct tape as protection against future terrorist attacks.

Is this really just about incompetence? Or has a debilitating “culture of corruption” become deeply embedded in agencies like FEMA on which we literally rely for our lives?

Qualifications? Very Secret

In a more perfect world, the media, Congress and engaged citizens would have wanted to know a great deal about Joe Allbaugh and Michael Brown before they were confirmed to serve in important positions. Even just a hard look at Brown’s last job before FEMA would have set off alarms.

For a decade, Brown was Commissioner of Judges and Stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA). It is unclear what his qualifications were for that job; nonetheless it was the longest employment he ever had, and his most prestigious. But Brown knew it was a singularly inappropriate qualification for the leadership of FEMA: FEMA’s official Brown biography, posted on its website, did not mention this job at all. It turns out that Brown had good reason to be quiet about this chapter of his life.

When the new IAHA post was created, members were told that their leadership had sought a person with several key characteristics: competency, experience, — and total independence from the cronyism of the horse world.

In fact, what they got was the opposite. In retrospect, it looks like the fix was in for this position too.

Brown’s job was to address concerns about the integrity of the horse judging process. But the main thing Brown did was to pursue an “investigation” of the sport’s most successful trainer, a man who had angered powerful people with connections at the top of the Republican Party.

Karl Hart, a Florida lawyer and longtime IAHA member who headed the group’s legal review committee, describes Brown’s efforts in this regard as an “obsessive vendetta.”

The trainer, David Boggs, was accused of cosmetically altering the appearance of a horse, a serious violation of competition rules. Brown ordered Boggs banned from the show circuit for five years, a Draconian punishment tantamount to putting the trainer out of business. Boggs’s competitors were delighted.

Boggs (who did not respond to interview requests) was, by most accounts, a talented and dedicated trainer. But according to Hart and others, he was hated by several Arabian Horse owners — who also happened to be very large Republican donors, including the late Bob Magness, a founder of the TCI cable giant; David Murdock, the Dole food company billionaire; and the late Alec Courtelis, a Florida developer.

Courtelis had been one of George H.W. Bush’s major fundraisers, and the elder Bush was a frequent overnight guest at Courtelis’s horse farm during his presidency. This was a very, very close relationship.

At an April 1990 fundraising dinner, Bush introduced Courtelis with the words “Here’s a man who breeds racehorses for the same reason he works so hard for the party: only one place will do for Alec — first place.”

It is impossible to overstate the significance of George H.W. “Poppy” Bush’s taking a strong interest in helping this prominent backer. (As readers of my book Family of Secrets will know, the elder Bush had a well-concealed involvement with CIA covert operations throughout his life, long before his brief stint as a “civilian” CIA director — and long after.) Poppy Bush’s ability to make things happen and make certain problems disappear must be considered as one ponders how and why Michael Brown was moved into IAHA and proceeded to demolish Courtelis’s foe.

In any case, Hart and other IAHA elders say they’re not sure whether Boggs was guilty, but since the horse in question became the preeminent sire of the breed, Hart thinks genetics may have been a more likely factor in its near-perfect profile than cosmetic surgery. In any case, Boggs filed a battery of lawsuits against both the association and Brown, the financial toll of which contributed to the association’s near-bankruptcy.

There is no evidence that the big donors knew in advance about plans to hire Brown; Courtelis and Magness are deceased, and Murdock did not respond to an interview request. Yet, Brown’s performance clearly pleased influential sectors of the IAHA, as is apparent from the special treatment he was accorded.

While other staffers had to report to work each day, Brown, on a full salary, was allowed to work from his sprawling, mountain-air home in Lyons, a distant suburb of Denver, the city IAHA was located. His lifestyle was so pleasant and relaxed that some in Lyons assumed him to be semi-retired. James Van Dyke, chef-owner at Lyons’ Gateway Café, says Brown had leisurely lunches at the restaurant almost daily. “He seemed to have a lot of time on his hands,” says Van Dyke.

“He … pushed me Into a closet”

Brown’s single-minded pursuit of Boggs contrasted sharply with a pronounced reluctance to pursue another case that seemed to have considerable merit — one involving Murdock’s trainer, who was accused of filing false papers for a show horse.

Ironically, it would be Murdock himself, in his zeal to help Brown, who would eventually sink him. One day, he mentioned to Hart that, at Brown’s request, he’d written him a $50,000 personal check, ostensibly for a legal-defense fund to deal with Boggs’s suits. Hart was staggered to hear this, since the association was already paying Brown’s legal bills.

Hart took Brown aside at an IAHA board meeting and told him what he knew. Brown panicked. “He grabbed me, literally, and pushed me into a closet,” says Hart. “He said, ‘Is there any way you and I can work this out?’”

There wasn’t, and Brown was terminated immediately.

But only a few months later, in February, 2001, he resurfaced as general counsel, and later deputy director and chief operating officer, of the vast bureaucracy at FEMA.

While most folks who knew Brown over the years were startled to see a person of such modest accomplishments in a high Washington post, the IAHA brass was not. As Hart recalls, “Brown had been saying for six months or more that, if Bush was elected, he was going to have a high position in Washington because he was very close to someone who was very active in Bush’s campaign.”

Preventing Gun Violence in America

August 25th, 2015 by William John Cox

 When the men of Concord assembled at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775 to confront the British Army, it was not so much that they possessed firearms that carried the day. Rather, it was their discipline from having been drilled as a militia that provided the victory. Later, when the Bill of Rights was enacted, the Second Amendment was included to ensure that the People—fearful of a standing army—retained the power to organize in resistance to tyranny and to preserve their new republic. Moreover, the southern states demanded the right to maintain state militias to control their slaves.

Initially, in most states, and excepting a few officials, all white men were required to join the militia and equip themselves with a musket. Records were kept and officials knew who had firearms and how well they were trained to perform their public duty. Later, in the Wild West—contrary to movie images—cowboys had to deposit their guns at the sheriff’s office on entering most towns.

As America evolved to become a more urban and industrialized society, militias were replaced by National Guards in every state, and the percentage of Americans who personally owned firearms dropped. States began to legislate against the possession of dangerous weapons, such as sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, and prohibited carrying concealed handguns. Regarding these laws, the courts consistently ruled that the Second Amendment preserved the right of states to organize National Guards, rather than an unlimited personal right of gun ownership.

In 2009, the Congressional Research Service estimated there were more than 310 million firearms in America. In the absence of reliable records and based on background checks made on those who purchase from licensed dealers, it appears the total number of guns in America has been increasing by almost ten percent each year. Today, there could be as many as 350 million privately-owned guns, far in excess of the current population of 319 million.

Polls show that only 32 percent of all Americans own a firearm, including half of all Republicans and a quarter of Democrats. At 47 percent, southern whites have the highest percentage of guns, and less than 16 percent of all households keeping guns are occupied by a hunter.

While the overall recorded rate of violent crime has also been decreasing in the United States, the vast increase in the total number of guns may be driven by a residual fear of crime; the consequences of the wars on drugs and terrorism; criminal gangs; glorified violence in movies and video games; and disquiet about growing governmental power and the loss of freedoms.

Legal restrictions on the purchase of guns are largely ineffective for a number of reasons. The process imposed by law on purchases from licensed dealers is unwieldy, and there are statutory limitations on the maintenance of records by law enforcement. Individuals who would otherwise be denied the right to purchase guns can easily use “straw men” to make purchases on their behalf. Many corrupt licensed gun dealers are involved in the illicit trafficking of weapons. It is not difficult to purchase firearms at gun shows and from private individuals. Finally, the hundreds of thousands of guns which are stolen each year during burglaries and other property crimes become readily available on the streets. Astoundingly, more than a quarter of the guns purchased from federally-licensed gun dealers end up seized by law enforcement in connection with crimes committed within two years of the original purchase.

Police officers undergo rigorous training in the use of the firearms they carry, including the law and policy; alternatives to gun deployment; awareness of the background of targets; and self control of physical and mental faculties during highly stressful situations. Even so, viral videos of contagion shootings—wherein multiple officers fire off a fuselage of shots at unarmed or mentally impaired individuals—and other out-of-policy and illegal shootings by officers regularly appear on the Internet and television. With the proliferation of open-carry laws and the authorization of concealed weapons for untrained people, the United States is also experiencing a vast increase in accidental and unjustifiable deliberate shootings by untrained civilians armed with the same weapons carried by law enforcement officers.

Insanity:  With the highest level of gun ownership in the developed world, the U.S. also suffers the greatest gun violence—by far. Americans are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than the citizens in all other developed nations. We recognize the names and stories of the most violent and senseless incidents—Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Binghamton, Killeen, Tucson, Charleston, and now Lafayette; however, these media sideshows represent only a small percentage of the mind-boggling totals. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were a total of 33,636 firearms deaths and 84,258 firearm injuries in 2013, the last year for which complete statistics are available.

As horrible as these numbers are, the insanity of a modern urban society allowing itself to become saturated with deadly firearms is demonstrated by the harm done to children. Almost 75 percent of all children murdered each year in the entire developed world are killed in the United States—American children have a 17 times greater chance of dying of gunshot wounds. Children between the ages of five and fourteen in the U.S. commit suicide at twice the average of other developed countries, with firearm-related suicides being ten times the average. About one-third of all American children live in a household with a gun, and one in five have witnessed a shooting.

In addition to the murder of children is the horrific rate they suffer from accidental deaths and serious injuries in the United States as a result of the prevalence of firearms. Children younger than 15 years are nine times more likely to die from gun accidents than in other developed nations—mostly at the hands of friends and relatives. Guns are now killing three thousand American children and injuring seven thousand each year.

Just one of these cases demonstrates the craziness of allowing deadly weapons in the hands of children. Small .22-caliber “Crickett” rifles—as many as 60,000 per year—are marketed with colorful stocks as “my first rifle,” and a Kentucky family presented one to their five-year-old son. Believing the weapon was unloaded, the boy’s mother left him in the house playing with his gun. Unsurprisingly, the boy shot and killed his two-year-old sister—the children’s grandmother said it was “God’s will.”

Added to the tragedy suffered by these families in the increasingly punitive American society is the prosecution of grieving parents for having failed to prevent the deaths of their own loved ones. The greater crime is the one committed by society as a whole—which shares the responsibility for allowing the grave risk of danger to little children to continue unabated.

The insanity of the murder and mayhem inflicted on the children of America is easily verifiable—a more difficult question is the effect high levels of actual gun violence and imaginary gun violence seen on television and played out in computer games will have on future generations. It may be that, as a republic, America is sowing the seeds of its own destruction as gun violence overwhelms its ability to protect public safety in a manner consistent with the values of a free and democratic society.

Fantasy. Following the Civil War, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was organized by former Union generals to improve rifle marksmanship, since only one-in-a-thousand shots fired by Union soldiers hit their targets. The NRA organized rifle clubs and advised state National Guards on how to improve marksmanship. It supported the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, and the Gun Control Act of 1968—which collectively regulated machine guns and other “gangster” weapons and established a system of federally-licensed manufacturers and dealers. Since that time, however, the leadership of the NRA has become increasingly radicalized, and it has become one of the most powerful political lobbies in the nation. It obstructs all gun control measures and defends the right of individuals to possess the weapons of their choice, including assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and armor-piercing bullets. Financially contributing to more than half of all members of Congress, the NRA opposes regulation. Instead, it promotes gun-safety education and increased sentences for gun-related offenses—since “people, not guns, commit crimes.” The NRA believes society would be safer if more, better-trained people owned more firearms to defend themselves against gun attacks. To this end, the NRA encourages children as young as five years to own firearms and participate in gun sports.

The NRA’s Eddie Eagle program teaches children to not touch found guns and to inform an adult. Evaluation of the program reveals that young children cannot resist picking up and playing with guns, irrespective of their indoctrination. All too often in families that keep firearms, children accidentally shoot their playmates, siblings and parents.

In 2012, a mentally disturbed 20-year-old boy shot his mother—a gun enthusiast who had taught him target shooting—and then went to the Sandy Hook school where he shot 20 children and six teachers before killing himself. The NRA’s response was to oppose gun-free zones at schools and to advocate arming teachers and deploying armed police officers in all schools.

After 32 students and faculty were murdered at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting by one person in U.S. history, the NRA recommended that students be allowed to carry concealed weapons on their campuses. Its lobbyist said, “Police can’t stop the crime, only the victim has a chance to stop it.” Instead of calling for more guns on campuses, survivors and the families of the Virginia Tech victims established a foundation to “address issues that contribute to violence such as bullying and mental health.”

As a result of the NRA’s efforts, eight states now allow their college students to be armed. The deadly combination of youth, alcohol, and guns has forced affected colleges to divert funding from education to security. Confronted with the same high risk factors, the military prohibits most troops from being armed on bases outside of combat zones, or during recruiting duties.

According to the Small Arms Survey, the manufacture of personal firearms in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry with thousands of businesses holding federal licenses. The industry produces most of the guns and accessories sold in America and is the world’s leading small arms exporter. Manufacturers and dealers have organized the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to lobby against government regulation. The foundation claims the gun industry contributes $33 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

On the other side of the equation, it is impossible to accurately calculate the financial impact gun violence has on American society when justice system costs, security procedures, and reductions in the quality of life are added to medical care expenses. The best estimate by the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation places the annual economic cost of the gun industry at $174 billion—more than five times its contribution.

It is pure fantasy to imagine that arming everyone—even assuming improved screening, a high level of training, and owner responsibility—will significantly improve public safety. By every measure, having a gun in a household increases the risk of death and injury. Research reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that living in a home with guns increased the risk of homicidal death by between 40 and 170 percent. Another study more precisely concluded that the presence of guns increased the risk of homicidal death by 90 percent. Women are more than three times as likely to be murdered by guns in the hands of their husbands or intimate acquaintances than by guns, knives, or other weapons wielded by strangers.

Rather than providing protection, possessing a gun actually increases the risk that a person will be shot during an assault. Armed victims of assault are 4.5 times more likely to be shot than unarmed persons. The possession of a gun by a victim escalates, rather than reduces, the potential of violence. Relying on the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Violence Policy Center found that for every homicide case in which a gun was justifiably used, there were 44 criminal homicides.

Despite these facts, the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—which advocates the interests of big business in state and federal legislatures—has promoted “stand-your-ground,” or “shoot-first” laws around the country. The law, drafted by the NRA, provides a statutory defense for people who use guns in self defense during confrontations in which they feel threatened. (George Zimmerman used the Florida statute to escape conviction after he killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager.) According to NRA official, Wayne LaPierre, the law has “a big tailwind” as it has been adopted, in one form or another, by 25 states.

Following every mass shooting, one of the first questions asked is the mental state of the shooter and how he was able to obtain firearms. There are no easy answers since differing levels of mental competency are involved. Criminal defendants can rely on the defense of insanity only if they are found to be incapable of determining right from wrong. This is very difficult to prove, as people can exhibit a wide range of personality, emotional, and mental problems, while retaining the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of their actions.

Many Americans receive psychiatric care and psychological counseling, and the willingness and ability to confront and resolve one’s emotional issues is considered a healthy thing to do. What is hard to determine is whether an individual’s mental problems pose a risk of harm to themselves or others to the extent it justifies a deprivation of the right to own firearms. This is because most interactions between patients and their therapists are necessarily privileged and confidential, and due process considerations make it very difficult to involuntarily commit mentally ill people.

Examining the two most recent mass killings, we find evidence that both shooters had mental problems. Given the ready availability of firearms—legal and illegal—could these massacres have been prevented?

Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old high school dropout who shot and killed nine people in a Charleston church had been arrested several times for drug possession and was convinced black people were “taking over the world.” He said he wanted to start a “race war” and was “looking to kill a bunch of people.” He posted that “N—— are stupid and violent.” Using birthday money, he legally purchased a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. As he shot down his black victims while they prayed in church, he said, “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.” As bigoted as his statements may have been, it is unlikely they would have been sufficient to have had him civilly committed, or to now serve as a legal defense at his criminal trial.

John R. Houser, the 59-year-old bar owner who shot and killed two women and wounded nine others in a Lafayette theatre had once been hospitalized for psychiatric care. Hatred of women and domestic violence compelled his family members to hide his guns and obtain court protective orders. He ranted about white supremacy, displayed a swastika, and wrote about the power of a “lone wolf.” Despite this threatening behavior, he was able to legally purchase a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Following the shooting, he committed suicide rather than be arrested.

These and other mass shooting cases are exceptional only because of the number of victims. The vast majority of gun assaults and homicides are committed by individuals who are emotionally disturbed, but who could not be committed or locked up. In cases of armed assaults and suicides, it is the ready availability of a firearm that allows an angry or depressed person to use a gun under conditions where otherwise there would be a much lower risk of harm to the individual or to others. It is fantasy to believe these troubled people could ever be properly identified and effectively deprived of access to firearms.

Only 32 percent of Americans own guns—but they own a lot of guns. If one-third of the population were infected with a contagious deadly disease, would the majority of the people, and their representatives, be justified in taking preventative steps to protect the public health?

Responsibility. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States with the CDC reporting 33,804 deaths during 2013, but firearm-related deaths are closely tied at 33,636. In a number of states, there are now more deaths from firearms than automobile accidents. Overall, while the rate of firearm deaths has been rising, the rate and number of traffic deaths has been falling as a result of effective government safety regulations for both drivers and vehicles.

Few people doubt the wisdom of requiring seat belts and air bags in cars; for transporting young children in approved car seats; that cars are registered; that drivers are educated, tested, and licensed; that they obey the rules of the road; and that they are required to have liability insurance. However, any legislative or executive action to regulate the safety of firearms or the ability of individuals to obtain and carry them is met with defiant resistance by the politically powerful gun lobby—and the politicians they bribe with campaign contributions.

Using a vehicle as a weapon is considered to be an assault with a deadly weapon (ADW) in most jurisdictions; however, one rarely hears about cars being used in that manner. All too often, road rage manifests itself with one driver shooting another. Automobile ADW is so rare that there are no readily available statistics to determine its frequency. Just imagine, however, the fear and outrage if there were 21,175 intentional fatal traffic collisions each year in the United States—which is the number of firearm suicides recorded by the CDC in 2013. Or, if cars were used as weapons almost a half million times each year—which is the number of Americans who reported they were victims of a crime involving a firearm in 2011 during a survey by the National Institute of Justice. Would drivers feel safe knowing that cars approaching from the opposite direction at a high rate of speed were being operated by unlicensed ten-year-olds?

Guns are the only consumer products that are not subject to federal regulation, and it is not the Second Amendment that prevents the registration of guns in the same manner as vehicles and the testing and licensing of gun owners as is required for all drivers. This fact was made clear by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 when it struck down a ban on the possession of handguns (District of Columbia vs. Heller) as violating the right to personally bear firearms. Regarding regulation, the court said its “opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

The Court explicitly did not address the District’s licensing requirement that had been upheld in the lower court, which ruled: “Reasonable restrictions also might be thought consistent with a ‘well regulated militia.’ The registration of firearms gives the government information as to how many people would be armed for militia service if called up.” From this, it would appear that, while the Court now says the Second Amendment confers a right to personally own a gun outside of a militia, the right is subject to reasonable regulation.

The Court’s opinion was delivered by Justice Scalia, who interprets constitutional meaning as it was understood at the time of enactment. Since militia members and their weapons were subject to government inspection and regulation at the time the Amendment was enacted, it would not seem unreasonable to expect that even the conservative branch of the Court would uphold firearm registration and licensing of owners similar to that presently imposed on the ownership and operation of automobiles, or the carrying of concealed handguns. Necessarily, reasonable regulations would have to preserve due process and could not be so onerous as to constitute prohibition.

Since a small minority of Americans actually own guns, the primary obstacle to responsible regulation of firearm ownership is the combined power of the NRA, NSSF and ALEC, which have mastered the political tactics of legal bribery, negative campaigns, and intimidation litigation. Even so, state and federal legislators brave enough to endure the wrath of the gun lobby would undoubtedly find broad public support for firearm registration and owner licensing. In a survey conducted in 2014, 72 percent of respondents said they would favor “a law which would require a person to obtain a police permit before he or she could buy a gun,” although other surveys indicate growing support of gun rights.

Even with reasonable registration and licensing, firearms would continue to pose a significant danger to public safety due to their overwhelming proliferation throughout American society. Therefore, additional, constitutionally acceptable, steps would have to be taken to further reduce the threat.

It is far too quick and easy for an angry person to point a finger wrapped around the trigger of a gun and apply slight pressure—thereby destroying the lives of the victim and the shooter. Efforts to protect both must deal with the fact that gun violence is often a consequence of other psychological and social issues, such as domestic violence, child abuse, and bullying of the perpetrator. Even without guns, these causative factors can manifest themselves in violence, albeit at a far less deadly level.

In addition to teaching small children to avoid picking up a gun, they must also learn to respect the equality of others and to avoid violent behavior. Children are more capable of acquiring empathy and experiencing positive interpersonal relations, than resisting playing with an attractive deadly toy. There is clear evidence that children can be taught to resolve conflicts and problems without resorting to violence. School-based anti-bullying programs have become widespread and have been successful in reducing violence among students.

Just because Americans have a right to own firearms does not mean that they have to do so. The percentage of individuals who own firearms continues to decrease. People can continue to freely choose to give up their firearms and to live, more safely, without them—both personally and as a society. There have been some successes with “buy back” programs whereby people are paid for their guns. All too often, however, the guns turned in are old, defective, or obsolete. What is needed is a broad-based grassroots movement to encourage the American people to participate in achieving a voluntary and massive reduction of operable firearms in their own homes and communities.

Imagine an innovative national program whereby surrendered and confiscated guns are welded into massive peace sculptures in front of local courthouses, police stations, and other public buildings.

Competitions could be held for artists to design unique works of art for each location. Instead of blood running down the sidewalks, let it be rust, as these monuments to nonviolence slowly grow with discarded weapons and become more interesting over the years. Just as those who fight and die for freedom are honored, those who nonviolently strive to achieve peace should also be memorialized. Perhaps, some day Americans will look at these sculptures in amazement and recall a time in when people owned machines designed to kill other people and how they voluntarily overcame their addiction.

A legal case to sue the United Kingdom for its role in handling the state of Palestine and the subsequent suffering of the Palestinian people will receive a verdict on 28 September.

Activists involved with the campaign, which is currently going through the Egyptian legal system, say they believe the court will rule in their favour.

A South Cairo court is overseeing the case initiated by the ‘Popular Palestinian Campaign to Sue the United Kingdom’ and who say they are attempting to “restore the right of the Palestinian people to their land, robbed from them in the infamous Balfour Declaration”. In May, the court decided that it had the authority to make a ruling on the case.

The lawsuit calls on the defendants to recognise their responsibility for the suffering and loss of the Palestinian people and pay symbolic compensation to the Palestinian people of EGP 1m.

Awani Selim Habet, leader of the campaign, told Daily News Egypt that the legal opinions they have consulted on the case believe that a ruling will be made in the campaign’s favour.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration was a letter from the UK’s then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to the Zionist movement in Britain. In the letter, he stated the government “favour[s] the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.

Despite Balfour’s statement that the rights of Palestinians should not be harmed, the subsequent transfer of the Jewish diaspora to Palestine resulted in the collapse of Palestinian communities, massacres, and displacement.

Commenting on the case to Daily News Egypt earlier this year, a British Embassy spokesperson said that they were aware of the case, but denied that they had sent any legal representative to an earlier session.

“Britain is proud of the role it has played over many years pursuing peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Egyptians should be in no doubt about Britain’s enduring commitment to this goal,” the spokesperson said.

“We want return and compensation,” Habet told Daily News Egypt, referring to the campaign to give long displaced Palestinian communities the right of return to family homes on land now claimed by Israel.

“One of the reasons for this case is that the UK claims to be the vanguard of freedoms; this is a test to prove if they are really a democracy-supporting country or not,” Habet continued.

In April, Palestine was admitted to the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority has stated they hope to take Israel to court for war crimes they hold the government responsible for.

The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki reported the deadly firebombing attack that killed a baby and his father to the ICC earlier in August. The report covered wider attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians, in addition to the arson attack on the Dawabshe family.

First time in US history, an American president dares to oppose the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC. The crisis deepening day by day upon the Iran nuke deal between the US and its biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel

U.S. President Barack Obama gave a strong message to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel group that has been strongly opposing the Iran nuclear deal, in his meeting this week at the White House with the two executives of AIPAC.

President Obama invited two directors of AIPAC to the White House this week and gave strong messages regarding AIPAC’s cold stance on the nuclear deal. The president accused AIPAC of “spending millions of dollars against the nuke deal and spreading delusive claims regarding the agreement.”


According to a report by the New York Times, the president said that he will strongly oppose the AIPAC leader’s attitude regarding the deal.

Obama described the ones against the nuke deal as, “Lobbyists spending millions of dollars for the liberal hawk rhetoric that got the US involved in the Iraq war,” in a speech he gave in the American University after his meeting with the AIPAC directors.

It is reported that AIPAC has spent 20 million dollars and has put aside some 25 million dollars more to advertise against the nuke deal. While hundreds of AIPAC activists are lobbying against the deal in Congress where it will be put to vote, 700 AIPAC members are working to persuade Congress members against the deal. The Republicans are expected to oppose the nuclear agreement.

AIPAC is also trying to persuade Obama’s party, the Democrats against the deal. It is also important that one of the most prominent Democratic leaders, Chuck Schumer declared that he was against the deal just after his meeting with 60 AIPAC volunteers, which struck Obama.

It is said that Obama is very angry at the posters in which he is likened to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who signed the Munchen Agreement with Adolf Hitler in 1938. AIPAC denies that it is behind the posters.

The New York Times also reminded in the story that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also had some minor issues with AIPAC but never dared to oppose the lobby that is the second most effective after the gun lobby. According to the New York Times, some democrats think that Obama “has gone too far” with his remarks against the AIPAC and they are concerned about a possible permanent damage in relations between the government and the Jewish lobby in a time when the 2016 presidential elections are near.

AIPAC is considered the most powerful lobby after the gun lobby in the United States. Former president George H.W. Bush once said “I’m just a little, alone man opposing thousands of lobbyists in Capitol Hill” regarding a disagreement with AIPAC on mortgage loan guarantees to be given to Israel.

The ‘immigration crisis’ in Europe continues to worsen as a result of Western-instigated chaos in the Middle East and African countries. Several EU nations are facing a drastic influx of desperate people, with little resources available to help them. 

Approximately 39,000 migrants, mostly Syrians, passed through Macedonia in July – twice June’s figures. This is an alarming number and Macedonia is running out of trains to transport these people onward to the European Union. Not that they will fare much better there.

On Thursday the country declared a state of emergency and Macedonian police used tear gas and stun grenades against these desperate people, injuring several. The border has been sealed with razor wire around the town of Gevgelija, where approximately 3,000 to 4,000 people, including children, are stranded. Is this how desperate men, women and children from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq – countries that have been ravaged by NATO’s wars of aggression – should be treated by NATO member states?

Several people were injured when hundreds of men, women and children tried to board a train to Serbia, the nearest country to the European Union (EU) member-state of Hungary, at the station of Gevgelija in Macedonia, Friday.

The number of refugees trying to cross through Macedonia is expected to increase as the number entering Greece continues to grow. Around 21,000 refugees arrived in Greece just last week, that’s 50% of all migrants who entered the country in 2014. Since the beginning of the year, Greece has received 160,000 migrants, according to the UN Refugee Agency, a 750% increase compared to the same period in 2014.

© Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters
A migrant reacts as he carries a child during clashes with Macedonian police at the Greek-Macedonian border, August 21, 2015.

In response to this human deluge, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked the EU for help. “Now is the time to see if the EU is the EU of solidarity or an EU that has everyone trying to protect their borders,” the Greek PM said after a meeting at the Interior Ministry in Athens on Friday 7th August. “The immigrant flow to Greece is beyond what our state infrastructure can handle … We have significant problems and that’s why we have asked for help from EU” he added.

But no serious help for Greece is forthcoming from the EU. The UN appears to be following suit, with the UN Refugee Agency spokesman William Spindler saying“The government of Greece has responsibility for what happens on its territory. We are ready to help them… but they need to show much more leadership,”

But Greece refuses to follow the official EU ‘fencing’ and anti-migration policy. In response to the above call from the UN, PM Tsipras said: “Greekswill do what we can to meet our humanistic obligation, by giving what little we have.” Greece, a country recently economically crippled by the greed of the psychopaths running the EU, is doing more with less than the rest of the EU combined, and shames them all.

The crisis we are seeing unfold is just the tip of the iceberg, because the vast majority of Syrian refugees are still in the Middle East. 1.2 million are currently stuck in Lebanon, a country with a total population of 4.5 million. As Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian noted: “To put that in context, a country that is more than 100 times smaller than the EU has already taken in more than 50 times as many refugees as the EU will even consider resettling in the future.

With Lebanon buckling under the strain, the UN has taken the same approach to refugees there as it has in Greece; ‘the Lebanese are responsible’. This feckless policy virtually assures that many of those 1.2 million refugees in Lebanon will try to make their way to Greece, at which point the UN will no doubt still expect the Greeks to deal with them. Filmmaker and investigative journalist, Andre Vltchek, of the New Eastern Outlook journal had the following to say about the UN’s Syrian refugee policy in the Middle East:

Periodically, I drive to Bekaa Valley to talk to Syrian refugees. I do it simply because it appears that almost no one else does. The UN docks its battle ships at Beirut port and it pampers thousands of its staff members on the entire territory of Lebanon. But the refugees, the victims of the war, are often neglected, even abandoned. 

These are no hard-core anti-al-Assad warriors. Most of them crossed the border into Lebanon because of the dire hardship in their country, hardship provoked by the West, by its allies and by its offshoots - the most terrible terrorist organizations money can buy. [...]

Lebanon is not in a position to offer much more than its solidarity and its land to suffering Syrian neighbors. It is understood thathelp should come from those who are fueling the war and consequently turning millions of Syrian people into refugees, or internally displaced persons (IDPs). But it doesn’t, or it is not sufficient. [...]

People speak over each other: “The UN gave us their cash cards so we could buy at least some fuel and food. But the cards are either empty, with no credit or with only partial credit of US $18 per month, instead of US $30. However, the worst thing is that many of us never even made it to the refugee list; some of us are not registered at all.

France’s and Britain’s fascistic measures against a “swarm of marauding people”

© AFP
‘The Channel Tunnel is a 50.5-kilometre (31.4 mi) rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent, in the United Kingdom, with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, near Calais in northern France, beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover.’

Approximately 5,000 immigrants – a five-fold increase since April this year – are in a refugee camp named the “Jungle” near the French port town of Calais. Hundreds of refugees have tried to enter Britain by boarding trains at the Eurotunnel terminal near the town.

5,000 may sound like a lot, but it’s just 2.5% of the number of immigrants that have arrived in Greece and Italy this year alone. Despite this, the hysterical British government reacts as if these unfortunate souls will turn into “marauding millions” and destroy Europe’s “social order”. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, for example, said:

The gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe.

So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants maraudingaround the area, there always will be a threat to the tunnel security. We’ve got to resolve this problem ultimately by being able to return those who are not entitled to claim asylum back to their countries of origin. …

Now that is not a sustainable situation because Europe can’t protect itself, preserve its standard of living and social infrastructure if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa.

Kingsley of The Guardian had the following to say on Hammond’s last comment:

Hammond said that the migrants would speed the collapse of the European social order. In reality, the number of migrants to have arrived so far this year (200,000) is so minuscule that it constitutes just 0.027% of Europe’s total population of 740 million. The world’s wealthiest continent can easily handle such a comparatively small influx.

Indeed, Hammond’s demeaning comments and ‘warning’ amounts to nothing more than political fear-mongering. Singing from the same psycho hymn sheet, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV: “This is very testing, I accept that, because you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live. But we need to protect our borders by working hand in glove with our neighbours the French and that is exactly what we are doing.

The pusillanimous Cameron also promised British holiday-makers that they will have a “safe and secure” holiday, because as everyone knows, starving and homeless immigrants forced out of their countries by British bombs are a clear threat to slovenly, drunken Brits languishing on Southern European beaches. Notice also the despicable hubris from Cameron and other British and EU politicians who try to spin the situation into one where the refugees are sitting in squalid camps in the North of France because the UK is such a wonderful place to live. The reality, however, is that these people would be only too happy to go back to their homelands and families. But they can’t, because psychopaths like David Cameron destroyed them.

But the British and French criminal elite have a solution: instead of helping the refugees, 1,000 extra border guards will be stationed near Calais and a new fence complete with CCTV and infrared detectors will be erected. In total, Britain has pledged £22 million towards these security measures. That’s over £4,000 for each refugee spent on military equipment and personnel. The goal, it seems, is to keep refugees living in conditions not very different from those they fled.

A sincere helping hand

© Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center
Joint Russian-Serbian delegation in the refugee camp near Preševo, Serbia

While most Western countries spend much time and effort on the pretense of being helpful, Russia has taken a more practical and productive approach, in particular towards the migration crisis in Serbia. Refugees travel through Serbia on their way to Western Europe, with approximately 2,000 migrants crossing the Serbian border every day. Russia has helped with setting up camps and has delivered equipment for accommodation for the migrants, including: diesel power stations, stoves, blankets and beds, enough equipment for around 1,000 people. Yet again, this illustrates that, while Western countries’ use stone-walling and aggression to ‘help solve’ the refugee crisis that they created, Russia helps by providing direct humanitarian aid to the people in need.

Another rare, sincere helping hand is found in the west German town of Goslar. While Germany plans to ban re-entry permits for 94,000 migrants, Mayor Oliver Junk of Goslar is welcoming refugees, hoping that his town’s economy and population will increase and benefit as a result. As Mayor Junk said: “We have plenty of empty housing, and rather than see it decay we could give new homes to immigrants, helping them, and so give our town a future.” According to Mayor Junk, Germany is a “rich country, and we have a duty to help those in need.” 

These are genuine words that are rarely spoken, and much less often acted on, by the majority of the supposed leaders of the free and democratic world.

الشرق الأوسط الجديد

August 25th, 2015 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

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Unrest in Arabia: What is Behind the Saudi War on Yemen?

August 24th, 2015 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Kerry-anne Mendoza explains how Labour Party leaders have banned her and many others from voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

The first wave of the UK Labour Party’s purge of registered supporters has begun, and I and many others outside of the Blairite wing of the Labour movement were disenfranchised by our own party on Thursday.

At a little after 5:00 am yesterday, an email arrived in my inbox from Labour HQ.

I read it once, then again. Then I just sat there.

First of all I was embarrassed, like I’d been caught out, even though I’d done nothing wrong. It’s being made out that voting for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race is an act of sabotage, rather than an expression of my democratic rights. Once I realized that, I got angry. Really angry. I shared the news on my Facebook page and Twitter, and found that I was far from alone.

In a purge being referred to internally as ‘Operation: Ice Pick’, Labour HQ is purging the party of suspected ‘entryists’. The name is a particularly sick joke, referencing the weapon of choice in the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky by Stalinists. Supporters of Corbyn have been consistently derided as ‘Trots’ throughout the campaign.

Comedians Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy, along with renowned author Marcus Chown and ‘Spirit of ’45’ director Ken Loach – all have been banned from voting in the Labour purge. Why? Marcus Chown joined the executive of the National Health Action Party in the 2015 election because his priority was saving the NHS, and he felt that was the best way to highlight the issue. Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel have supported fundraisers for the Green Party in the past. Ken Loach was once a member of the now-defunct Socialist Alliance. As Mark Steel so aptly puts it: ‘Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member.’

In the first wave of the wider purge on Thursday, many more lost their vote. In a process reminiscent of the US McCarthy witch hunts of the 1960s it appears that anyone with (or suspected of having) leftwing sympathies is being ousted from the party. Twitter user Rebecca Day reported this appeal among members of the Oxford University Labour club:

Hundreds took to the #LabourPurge hashtag to share their stories of rejection. Peter Sinclair summed up the story of many.

In April, Sinclair donated £20 ($31) to Labour. In response, party official Iain McNicol sent him a note of thanks. McNicol told Sinclair that ‘The Labour Party is built on donations like the one you just made.’

But Iain McNicol sent him a decidedly frostier email this morning.

So what changed in that time?

In the hours I have been scrolling through the hundreds of rejections, I have yet to find a single person who had not already voted for Jeremy Corbyn, or would have once their ballot papers arrived. Some are pulling together a database of all those hit by the purge, which will give us a better idea of numbers in coming days. But this is merely the first wave.

For what it’s worth, I have never raised funds or been a member of another political party. Like many who have been rejected in the purge, I felt Labour left me rather than the other way round. While we stayed true to the ‘aims and values’ of the Labour Party, others ran it as a neoliberal Conservative-lite option.

The Blairism of the Labour Party, in honour of former party leader and British prime minister Tony Blair, means the curtailment of civil liberties, illegal foreign wars, privatization of the NHS, and more; things that are not aims and values to be supported by any self-respecting social democrat.

First they lost us in government, then in opposition. After losing all but one seat in Scotland to the Scottish National Party, 4 million votes to working-class populists the United Kingdom Independence Party and 1 million to the Green Party (where my vote went in 2015) – Labour responded by swinging right in hopes of picking up the 24% of the electorate who voted Conservative, not the 76% who didn’t.

In their first act of the new parliament, the Conservative Party’s Welfare Bill brought forward plans for another $19 billion of cuts to public services. The Labour leadership whipped their MPs to abstain. To abstain! Of the 4 Labour MPs running for the leadership, only Jeremy Corbyn defied that order and voted against the cuts.

This man of principle, in politics and in life, presents the kinds of policies that many of us disillusioned Labour voters had been dreaming about.

His policies are a progressive prescription, rather than the Victorian-era poison chalice on offer to date:

  • Quantitative Easing for people, as opposed to the $588 billion that New Labour, the Coalition and the Conservative Party have printed and handed to banks since 2009. 
  • A National Investment Bank, dedicated to developing our national infrastructure and housing. This would bring Britain’s public transport networks into the 21st century, while beginning to deal with a housing crisis that is becoming the Number One issue facing working and middle-class families.
  • He would seek to lower the welfare bill, but by creating sustainable and worthwhile jobs, not just kicking poor people off their benefits.
  • He would bring the railways and energy sector back under public ownership, ending the debacle of exponential fare and rate rises.

On every measure, Corbyn is bringing the principles of social democracy to bear on today’s problems. He is progressive on civil liberties, a humble and collegiate worker, and an award-winning peacemaker. He is the anti-Blair. He is the 21st-century Clement Attlee, bearing both a radical programme of change and the fidelity of principle to actually deliver it if we grant him mandate. I want to vote for him now, and I want to vote for him in 2020.

But Labour HQ says no. Without producing a single shred of evidence, the Party has asserted that I and countless others ‘do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party.’

So what do we do? Well, I suggest we give them the biggest fight of their lives. We appeal, we pester, we argue, and we get our damn vote. They silenced us once; let’s never let them do it again.

You can get involved now:

  • Tweet @UKLabour and tell them what you think about this.
  • Tell Labour what you think on their Facebook page.
  • Appeal your rejection by calling 0845-092-2299
  • Send your details to Matt Beresford so they can be included in his database.
  • To establish what information or investigation the Labour Party has made against you to come to its decision, you can make a subject access request. To do so, the Information Law Blog explains that you will need 3 things:

1. A written request, setting out your name, address and the email address you registered with as a supporter.

2. Proof of your ID. Send a copy of a passport or driving licence and ask them to destroy it when they have validated your request. They can refuse to deal with your request without proof of ID, so don’t give them the opportunity to delay by asking for it.

3. A cheque for £10. Having already lost the £3 supporter fee, this will be annoying, but I doubt Labour will accept a subject access request without the statutory fee, and they can refuse to process the request without it. If you want to know what happened (or find out that it was a flawed process), you will have to sacrifice the tenner. If they are feeling generous, they won’t cash the cheque. The Information Commissioner cannot order them to waive the fee, so don’t waste your time asking them.

Kerry-anne Mendoza is author of Austerity, published by New Internationalist. A version of this blog first appeared on the author’s website.

It’s not your imagination …

This Came hot on the  Heels of the largest weekly increase in volatility in history.

GR Editor’s Note

Brilliant analysis by Washington Blog: the figures speak for themselves. 

Monday August 24, 2015: Massive Decline of the Dow and then Partial Recovery on the same day,

The free market mechanism or a carefully engineered speculative rebound?

The Confiscation of Financial Assets resulting from stock market manipulation. The Massive Appropriation of Savings.

Billions of dollars of wealth moving from one hand to another.  

Michel Chossudovsky, GR Editor.

Dow

The U.S. stock market just took the largest roundtrip ever.    Specifically, in the first 3 hours and 40 minutes of trading today, the Dow posted the largest intraday swing in history:

Intraday

Malaysia’s “Bersih” movement – an umbrella organization for various opposition groups opposed to the current government of Prime Minister Najib Razak – plans its fourth street demonstration in 8 years to unfold at the end of August.

While Bersih’s alleged goal is “clean and fair elections,” it is openly led by the government’s opposition headed by the now imprisoned US-proxy Anwar Ibrahim and a myriad of US-funded and directed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The US State Department, through its US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Open Society Institute (OSI) among others, have funded both Bersih directly, and many of the NGOs that constitute Bersih’s core leadership.

Several NGOs currenlty openly funded by the US NED - i.e. Islamic Renaissance Front and Lawyers for Liberty - can be found also listed on Bersih’s current “endorsees” list.

Despite years of immense US-funding, Bersih has recently pleaded for donations and now claims they’ve received over a half million Ringgit (over 100,000 USD). More recent reports claim the amount could be as high as 1.2 million Ringgit.

And while they claim they seek simply to reform Malaysian politics, Bersih’s new leader, Maria Chin Abdullah openly admitted their goal for “Bersih 4.0″ is to call for the resignation of Malaysia’s current government. In a Facebook post she claimed:

Reforms – we will continue to demand and this time Yes it’s a tall order to ask the PM to resign but if we dont try we will never push the boundaries for clean & fair elections.

Apparently by “clean & fair elections,” Bersih’s leadership means elections in which their opponents have been undermined and otherwise eliminated, and in which they can take power – or in other words, another textbook case of US-backed regime change.

Image: To Berish, “clean and fair elections” means eliminating
all of your opponents through a US-backed campaign of sedition and seizing power.

Bersih’s core leadership seeks to seize power in Malaysia from behind a facade built upon alleged reforms. It is seeking donations from the Malaysian public despite immense funding from the United States government and demonstrable support from across the West’s extensive global media network. It is difficult to discern how a movement built on lies, fraud, thievery, and sedition represents a step forward for Malaysia which might explain why, after three previous staged demonstrations, those behind Bersih have yet to succeed in their true goal of overthrowing the current political order.

US’ Bersih and America’s Wider War in Asia

Malaysia’s Bersih movement is yet another example of so-called American “soft power” in action. The use of US-organized and funded street mobs to carry out political destabilization and regime change has likewise transpired in similar fashion in Thailand through the use of US-backed Thaksin Shinawatra and his “red shirt” street mobs, and in Myanmar with Aung San Suu Kyi and her legions of anti-Rohingya, violent “saffron monks.”

The goal is to string together a united front across all of Asia with which to encircle and contain China’s rise. US policy papers openly admit this, with the most recent published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) declaring America’s goal in Asia is to maintain primacy over all other nations – especially China.

Titled, “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China,” the report states in no uncertain terms:

Because the American effort to ‘integrate’ China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia—and could result in a consequential challenge to American power globally—Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy.

The report admits that China’s rise will benefit the Chinese people, their regional neighbors, and bring stability along China’s peripheries – and also admits this must be stopped in order to maintain US “primacy in Asia.”

Many of the report’s recommendations involve US “allies” expending significant amounts of money and political capital to confront China on Washington’s behalf. Many of the recommendations are already being carried out by America’s few remaining allies in the region – to little effect. Trade agreements like the unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are admittedly being implemented for the sole purpose of bolstering US hegemony in Asia versus China’s growing economic clout – not for any perceivable benefits – if any – the deal actually brings to its signatories. The report states:

…[the TPP will be] a vivid demonstration that the United States is determined to compete on the Asian economic playing field. By the same token, U.S. grand strategy toward China will be seriously weakened without delivering on the TPP. 

It is no wonder the “pivot toward Asia” has stumbled, where every option facing America’s “allies” or potential “allies” include unattractive compromises made simply to bolster US hegemony. Regional leaders genuinely interested in their respective nation’s best interests have attempted to walk a tightrope between provoking the US and forgoing the obvious benefits of doing business with China.

Malaysia, who has jailed US-proxy Anwar Ibrahim and has resisted or ignored attempts by the US to coerce Malaysian foreign and domestic policy, in particular has suffered recently a rash of suspicious incidents, including the lost of 3 passenger airliners in a single year, including MH370 lost mysteriously while en route to China, MH17 shot down during NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, and an AirAsia plane crash which claimed 162 lives.

Reuters would report in their article, “Bodies, debris from missing AirAsia plane pulled from sea off Indonesia,” that:

Three airline disasters involving Malaysian-affiliated carriers in less than a year have dented confidence in the country’s aviation industry and spooked travelers across the region.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board and has not been found. On July 17, the same airline’s Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board 

Other nations resisting US attempts to install client regimes include Thailand, which recently suffered the worst terrorist attack in Bangkok in recent memory, with 20 killed and over 100 injured in a bombingalmost identical to smaller incidents carried out by supporters of US-backed, ousted dictator Thaksin Shinawatra.

It appears the much vaunted US “pivot to Asia” has disintegrated into a brawl where violence, terrorism, and street mobs bent on regime change have taken the place of the US’ initially optimistic, positive, if not entirely disingenuous rapprochement to the region.

Gaza in Ruins a Year After Israeli Aggression

August 24th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

A year after Israel launched premeditated aggression on Gaza last July, the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement said:

“(T)he Strip remains in ruins, light years away from the reconstruction many had hoped for.

Despite the growing recognition amongst the Israeli security establishment that Gaza’s rehabilitation is a precondition to regional stability and security, Israel continues to impose sweeping, arbitrary restrictions on travel and on movement of commercial goods. Today, access remains the exception, rather than the rule.”

Unemployment exceeds 40% – for youths around 60%. “(N)o significant rebuilding is taking place and civilian infrastructure has not even been restored to its state prior to the operation. Poverty and aid dependence are rampant.” Widespread destruction was overwhelming.

File photo of Palestinian homes and buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes.

Weeks later in late August, little changed. Gisha’s new report is titled “Where’s the housing boom?”

From last August’s ceasefire to end of July this year, “Israel allowed (sparse amounts) of construction materials into Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing,” said Gisha.

Only about 22% of them were intended for the repair of homes that were damaged during the fighting. The rest were intended for international aid agency projects.

Destruction last summer was so extensive, Gaza needs an astonishing “22 million tons of construction materials” for destroyed or damaged houses, infrastructure, public and private buildings.

If unimpeded reconstruction began today, it would take a generation or longer to replace what was lost – assuming the unlikely possibility of no more Israeli wars.

On the one hand, its officials want Gaza kept isolated, largely in ruins. On the other, they have sole authority on what companies may participate in the limited reconstruction permitted – monitored by Israeli cleared guards and round-the-clock security camera surveillance.

The entire process is designed to obstruct. Gisha explained, saying “(c)onstruction on one destroyed home began about a month and a half ago. The families who want to rebuild submit their documents to the Palestinian Housing Ministry, which transfers them to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee and from there, the list is transferred to Israel for approval.”

A contractor whose building project in Gaza was approved by Israel told Gisha that he had to provide Israel with the location of the building, the building owner’s ID card, the building plans and the amount of construction materials required.

The contractor said it took four months for the project to be approved, and he decided to invest elsewhere in the meantime.

Every reconstruction detail needs Israeli approval. Weeks are required to accomplish what should only take a day or two. Israel’s obstructionist process makes it unprofitable for private contractors to rebuild Gaza. One construction company owner explained as follows:

As a businessman, I wouldn’t want to build now. To build I’d need to hire people and sign contracts with workers and with other companies.

It’s not worth my while because I can’t be sure my project is going to get approved, and until it does, I lose money because I have to pay the workers I signed on.

If the project does get approved and then there’s a cement shortage, I also lose. So then the question is if the construction materials approved for the project enter quickly or not, whether they come in all at once or in batches, which would force us to wait a long time at every stage of the construction.

Cement has to be available on the market for the private sector to start building and working, and for the people who have the money and are not waiting for donations, to be able to build – not just the people whose homes were destroyed, but anyone who wants to build additions to their house, add another story, or build a home to get married.

The UN/PA/Israeli established Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is so complex and hard to navigate, it’s “more hurdle than help,” said Gisha. The only rebuilders able to deal with Israeli bureaucracy are international agencies and Qatar – and not easily.

Other near-impossible hurdles to overcome include a severe lack of funding. October 2014 Cairo donor country pledges never materialized.

Impoverished Gazans can’t afford material and other costs to rebuild on their own. Outside help is essential. Progress proceeds at a snail’s pace.

Israel bans materials it claims have “duel use” – allegedly for military purposes or (legitimate) tunnel construction – to provide Gazans with essential goods not available otherwise or in short supply.

Gisha criticized Israel’s “definition of a basic civilian commodity such as construction materials as ‘dual use,’ thus paving the way for blanket bans, especially when considering the fact that the ban has not proven effective in preventing tunnel building.”

GRM obstructionism “prove(d), once again, to what extent Israel exercises control of civilian life in Gaza, while largely disavowing responsibility – this combination harming a beleaguered population,” Gisha explained.

“(I)t’s time to put the GRM to rest.” It slows things down, increases costs, and obstructs rebuilding. A year after summer 2014 Israeli aggression, reconstruction restrictions have to be entirely removed, Gisha stressed.

Israel turned large parts of Gaza to rubble, massacred or injured thousands, contributes nothing to rebuild vast devastation it caused, and obstructs legitimate efforts of others.

What better definition of a racist rogue regime – a genocidal one with more wars in mind.

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

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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.

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A woman in a black and white dress stood with a huge pot on her head. She had walked for days, with her two young children also carrying goods, to reach the camp for internally displaced persons in Bentiu, South Sudan. They were all exhausted by the time they registered with the International Organisation for Migration at the facility that then housed 100,000 men, women and children.

Six months before I visited in July, there were fewer than half that number. Today, there are more than 124,000. About 200 people arrive each day, fleeing a civil war that has engulfed the world’s newest nation since 2013.

Tens of thousands are dead and many more have suffered sexual abuse and torture after an ethnic and power conflict between president Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar unleashed a brutal war.

Hundreds of thousands of children in South Sudan are on the verge of starvation. Tony Karumba / AFP

The economy has collapsed. Millions are dependent on aid groups for food and water. Hundreds of thousands of children are on the verge of starvation. Only 10 per cent of boys and girls are in primary school and most of the teachers are untrained. Infrastructure, already in a parlous state during the 2011 independence celebrations, remains unfinished and broken.

It’s the civilians in South Sudan who are paying the highest price for this man-made humanitarian disaster. When I visited Bentiu, I saw suffering on an enormous scale.

It’s the rainy season, so rivers of mud flowed through makeshift huts and shops. Women who had left their husbands behind in remote villages to escape the marauding troops said they faced the risk of rape while searching for firewood.

The UN is overwhelmed by the surge of people seeking its protection.

A senior UN official in the capital Juba told me that he feared South Sudanese officials could kick out his organisation entirely, as happened in Eritrea, leaving millions of civilians homeless. “But I think the authorities still want international support,” he said.

There’s no evidence yet, but if Al Shabaab or Boko Haram start operating here, the conflict will change and massive amounts of counter-terrorism money will start flowing to support the government.

August 17, the deadline set by African and US negotiators for a peace agreement to be reached between the warring parties, has been and gone with no settlement. On the day itself, Juba was eerily quiet. One woman told me that she feared for the safety of her young daughter, so they both stayed at home.

The streets of Juba are a dusty, jumbled mess. Barely any roads are paved and thousands of people live in tin-sheds along the main streets. The airport will be closed every weekend until April 2016, while construction work funded by the Chinese government is undertaken. This essentially cuts the country off from the outside world for two days every week.

Empty water bottles and other rubbish are strewn around the city. Clean drinking water is difficult to find – leading to the current cholera outbreak – and hope is in short supply.

Although I haven’t met any locals who regret South Sudan’s break from Sudan in 2011, they despair at the inability and unwillingness of their country’s leadership to care for their people who they constantly praise as heroes of the liberation struggle. These are noble words with a bitter sting.

Canon Clement Janda, a former member of parliament and lead government negotiator in the peace talks, told me in the southern town of Yei that the international community had an “overemphasis on accountability over resolution”. He continued: “I need a solution first and then we can set up an accountability mechanism” to address alleged war crimes.

This is not a view shared by global human rights groups.

Mr Janda argued, as many do across Africa, that the International Criminal Court is a flawed body that is “always after the vanquished, never the victors”.

However, many civilians in Bentiu and elsewhere told me that their patience for delaying justice was over and they wanted military officers and leaders to be held to account now for abuses against them and their families.

The inability to rescue a failed state reveals the great limitations and interests of 21st century diplomacy. International media attention is rightly focused on the disasters in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and yet this implicitly frames South Sudan as just another typical, African mess, featuring tribal violence without meaning.

Civilians in South Sudan know better. First the guns must fall silent, then health and education services must be built and sustained. Integrating South Sudan’s economy into greater Africa – right now, the country barely exports anything and hardly attracts revenue from its copious oil reserves – will require patience and long-term commitment.

This may be impossible until a younger generation of leaders emerges.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist in South Sudan and author of the forthcoming book, Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe

I’ve done it, pushed out my boat on to uncharted seas and voted for Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of Britain’s Labour Party. I thought I should do it before the notorious ‘they’ took away my chance to vote because I wasn’t a genuine Labour supporter. I support Corbyn because of the policies he wants to push through, policies that used to represent the Labour Party. It was what was ‘genuine’ about Labour. But no more.

The media are totally obsessed by Labour’s leadership elections, and all due to the ‘leftwing’ candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Without him it would have been one big yawn, of no interest to anyone but the inner circle. With him as a candidate, people are suddenly thinking and talking about politics – real politics and real conversations.

James Corbyn

Like many of my generation I’ve done my best to vote in general elections, having seen a fair number of them. I have never belonged to any political party and when voting, my choice was made on the current situation, the constituency I was living in, and the individual candidate rather than the party he/she stood for.

And like many others I always considered myself as being somewhere in the middle. There were some conservative policies I could agree with, just as there were some labour policies that were worth supporting – and please note the absence of capital letters there. But over the years, while I stayed in that same political space, everything moved way to the right of me. I am not alone in this, though it’s taken until now for many political commentators to recognise what’s happened. This is another good reason why many of us want Corbyn to lead the Labour Party.

We are so tired of hearing him and his policies being described as ‘far left’ or ‘hard left’. If the policies he is putting forward aresupported by the majority of people (which they are), then surely that would make the UK ‘far left’? And we’re not. Like many states we have our prejudices and what can appear to be very right-wing views. But…

The majority of people also want many things that will add to the public good. We want none of our treasured National Health Service to be in private (aka corporate) hands. We want an end to the ‘austerity’ measures hurting so many countries across the world, put in place by the World Bank, the IMF and the corporate greedy wanting to hoover up our national assets.

In a wealthy, and let’s face it, self-satisfied country like the UK it hurts to find so much poverty and homelessness, so much callous treatment by authorities that are paid to look after us. In the last few months I have met a carer of the housebound elderly and disabled paid so little that he is living in someone’s garage; a disabled woman on the verge of committing suicide because of the cuts to her benefit payments; and a policeman whose wages couldn’t, through no fault of his own, cover his rent and other expenses, and who, on the advice of his Sergeant, had to make use of a food bank.

We the majority want to see an end to the UK possessing nuclear weapons. We want peace, not war. We want dialogue, not insults. We want our transport system to be back in public ownership. We want the same for our energy supplies. Why should we pay for electricity or gas when the profits go to a corporate foreign company, and when the tax payer subsidises the infrastructure? Why should our housing market be dominated by rich investors when people can’t afford the rent, let alone the purchase price, of basic accommodation for themselves and their families?

Regardless of personal politics, the majority want these things. We – the majority – are the centre, because the majority always forms the centre ground.

At the moment the parliamentary Labour Party, as opposed to Party members, local councillors and unions, is fighting tooth and nail not to recognise any of the above – except for leadership candidate Andy Burnham, who keeps playing catch-up on Corbyn’s announced policies. It does not bode well that supposedly serious leadership contenders are reduced to crying “Well, I want to do that too!”

The Party does not want to admit that, in its efforts to be in the ‘centre’ (‘Tory-light’, or as Scotland describes it, ‘red Tory’) it has seriously misread public opinion. It has failed to listen to its members; it failed to listen to all those people who left Labour after a lifetime of being committed to the Party because of Blair’s lies about Iraq and his government putting corporate interests before the interests of the people.

In constantly reminding people that Blair ‘won three elections’, it refuses to see that with each election fewer people turned out to vote and the last election was won on the votes of around 22 percent of the electorate.

The Blair years, despite Blair’s government enacting some very good policies, were inherently dishonest. All the major party figures were guilty of lying about one thing or another. It was not just a case of the ‘dodgy dossiers’ used to force a case for invading Iraq. As one example: David Miliband, scheduled to make a ‘come back’ speech just after the leadership election, when Foreign Secretary made several statements to Parliament along the lines of:

“The UK unreservedly condemns the use of torture; has not been complicit in the use of torture and inhumane treatment; that the UK did not condone, authorise or cooperate in the use of torture.”

The last was backed by Gordon Brown, as Miliband and the FCO fought to stop the Binyam Mohamed evidence being made public. And the evidence in the Baha Mousa inquiry made it clear that the UK was not only complicit, it was instructing its soldiers in torture techniques.

I am not saying that only Blairite MPs lied to Parliament. There have been several occasions in the last 5 years of Tory MPs being guilty of the same behaviour. And the majority of the public find this offensive, particularly when the lies cover up UK actions resulting in the death and displacement of countless people. Under an inherently honest leadership, as Corbyn’s would be, such actions would not take place; and there would be far more transparency, something many voters would welcome.

Yet thousands of people wanting to vote in this election, including some long-standing but vociferous Party members, have been told they can’t vote as: “We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party.” The fact that it appears to be only those who would vote for Corbyn are being taken out demonstrates the absence of any respect for democracy by those at the top of the Party.

And ‘values’? To quote candidate Yvette Cooper’s campaign literature: “Let’s stand up for our timeless Labour values, take on the Tories, and change the world…” What aims and values would those be then?

Because, to the public it seems that it is the MPs who head Labour that no longer support Labour values. How else can you interpret their abstention when they were asked to vote on the Tory Welfare bill last July? Too cowardly to vote with the Tories and too gutless to vote with their conscience (as Corbyn and his colleagues did) and join the Scottish National Party MPs in voting it down, they allowed the Bill, with all its inbuilt cruelty towards the powerless poor, to pass into law because they wouldn’t vote at all.

That single act has shown Britain that the Labour Party has lost its way, lost sight of its founding principles, lost its soul. Apart from Corbyn, all the leadership contenders abstained, and they want to lead the Party? To what end?

Given the chance, and backed by the people, Jeremy Corbyn and his team might help the Party, and the country, retrieve those principles. And maybe that could get rid of a lot of rubbish politics along the way.

Labour used to stand for something; it was a people and social justice focused party opposing the Tory property and money focused party. And here is something that the Labour grandees, the Blairites and the politicians who want power rather than good governance have utterly failed to understand. For all their hostility towards Corbyn, their desperate digging up of the past in the hope they will find something to trash his reputation as an honest, decent and committed man, in the end it would not matter if he personally wasn’t the leader of the Party. All the people and Party need is someone to head the move to a caring and peaceful society.

Corbyn’s presence in this election has shown one thing – that there are thousands of UK citizens looking for a better society, a fairer world. That is something they ceased to hope for when none of the main parties offers it. ‘Right’ or Left’, all we are presented with is some form of austerity. What everyone backing Corbyn is voting for is a hope, and it is surely Corbyn’s hope too, that whatever happens after the election, whatever turmoil, quarrels and infighting the MPs see fit to indulge in, the Party itself will emerge reformed, led by its membership and supporters, and espousing the ‘timeless’ values and social vision that is needed for our country’s future.

How “Liberalism” Creates Islam as its Enemy

August 24th, 2015 by Yasmin Nair

The West today is thought of as the home of liberal values: tolerance, women’s and gay rights, compassion and empathy in democratic spheres. Islam has been positioned as liberalism’s other: intolerant, misogynistic, homophobic and cruel.

Joseph Massad’s new book Islam in Liberalism argues that all of these qualities have been “projected onto Islam and that only through this projection could Europe emerge as democratic, tolerant, philogynist and homophilic, in short Islam-free.”

Massad is not interested in providing a genealogy of liberalism or Islam. Rather, the book considers the ways in which “Islam” has been fixed by liberalism as a single, knowable entity while also signifying different ideologies across time. In the early Cold War period, particularly the 1950s, he points out, the US supported “the issuance of religious fatwas against local and international communism.” In this period, Islam was a tool to be deployed in the interests of US imperialism: a “good” Islam, if you will.

In more recent decades, but especially after 9/11, Islam was turned into the demonic, evil other and became the more or less explicit target of the “War on Terror.” The West’s commitment to “democracy,” a primary liberal value, is as malleable as the Islam it creates to further its ends, he writes. Islam in Liberalism is at its heart a study of knowledge production, an analysis of how liberalism “constitutes Islam in constituting itself.”

In five chapters, Massad considers the histories of concepts and movements that define liberalism: democracy, women’s rights, gay rights, psychoanalysis and the notion of the “Semite.” It is a complicated task because Massad does not approach these terms as self-evident but shows how they are created through histories of power and domination.

One of the sustained threads in his work is the rise of the discourse of human rights and the parallel rise of a world-wide web of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). “Human rights” is far from being a universal category, but it is certainly a universalizing one. Quoting the historian Samuel Moyn, Massad points out that the notion of human rights in the 1940s “implied a politics of citizenship at home” but in the 1970s came to mean “a politics of suffering abroad.”

The American will to export “human rights” is evident in recent speeches by President Barack Obama to Kenyans where he excoriated them for their supposed lack of support for gay rights. Such proclamations are often accompanied by explicit threats: in 2011, Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, promised to the United Nations that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights” and that the Obama administration would “consider a country’s record on LGBT rights when making decisions about foreign aid.”

Erasing women’s labor

Domestically, Western liberalism has enabled the US and European countries to stem or control immigrant populations and to effectively render them unfit for benefits the rest of the population enjoys, all under the guise of furthering rights for the marginalized.

What Massad terms the “self-making” of the West is expressed in, for instance, its need to continually assert that its women are fundamentally freer and more liberated than Muslim women. One consequence is that the West will depict Muslim migrant women only within issues like veiling while erasing their labor — critical to many Western economies — as migrant workers.

An economic matter — the neoliberal flow of migrants moving to Europe and being exploited — is folded into a set of cultural problems, symptoms of “Islam” that must be cured by compelling immigrants to hew to the West’s perception of its better nature.

In contrast, evidence of endemic domestic violence against women in the Westprovokes no panic about “cultural” issues. Instead, the violence is translated into the language of individual pathologies and problems.

For Massad, the critical imperative is to engage society and culture in the “Islamic world” without the intention of recreating Muslim lives and people in the image of liberal Christians. Rather, he insists, scholars should “attend to the social and economic factors, to the geographic and historical factors and actors, to culture as a dynamic entity that produces and is produced by social, economic, historic and geographic factors and actors.”

This is a dense and densely argued book, in the best way, full of lively histories of the political, intellectual and cultural twists and turns that have enabled Western liberalism to so clearly dominate the discourse on Islam, and to claim it as the evil opposite while in fact feeding off that projection in order to strengthen itself.

Islam in Liberalism provides a sophisticated set of analyses and critiques for those wrestling with the liberalism that overlays international matters, especially on Israel and Palestine.

Liberal gays and lesbians everywhere are urged to support Israel and its politics of destruction because of its purported support for gay rights, in contrast to what is claimed to be Palestinian homophobia. But this ignores the realities of widespread Israeli homophobia, or the fact that Palestinian “gay refugees” are still persecuted for being Palestinian.

If we pay attention to contexts and histories, as Massad’s work entreats us to do, we are more effectively able to counter pinkwashing as yet another tool in Israel’s machinations to shore up support for its policies under cover of a liberal agenda.

In the same vein, he is also critical of groups like the Palestinian queer NGO alQaws which, he points out, never references resisting Israeli military occupation in its basic statement of “Who we are,” choosing instead to emphasize liberal notions of “diversity.” The point in all this is to examine how deeply embedded liberalism has become and how its language might dictate the politics of work on all sides.

“Muscularity”

Where Massad falters occasionally is in the sense of how the exportation of that liberalism might have played out in non-Western contexts and in the West itself. Using Helem, the Lebanese LGBT nongovernmental organization, as an example, he writes that 1970s-style feminism exported from the US, “shifted existing strategies and goals of local activism” in much of the Third World and that local organizations still embedded in it effectively operate in a time capsule, “oblivious to the critiques leveled by queer theory since the 1990s.”

While that may be true of some places, if liberalism survives outside the US and Europe, it is precisely because its muscularity, to borrow a ghastly phrase from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, is such that it quickly accommodates to changes. The NGO structure in places like India, for instance, is run by people perfectly well versed in the most up-to-date analytic registers of contemporary queer theory and who produce some of the most cutting-edge analysis.

Some of that is deployed against the NGO-ification of queer activism, and some of that used to further it. Similarly, many queer scholars and activists in the US have no problem using liberal causes like gay marriage to further an ultimately neoliberal agenda of “human rights” and “equality.”

The gay movement’s win on marriage came at the cost of ending its struggle to expand the range of family structures outside the nuclear model and its fight, rooted in the 1980s AIDS crisis, to demand universal healthcare for all.

In its place today is a capitulation that “normal” and nuclear gay families deserve protection and that gays should be allowed to marry in order to access healthcare and other benefits. All of this strengthens a system of privatization of resources where the family is the sole guarantor of benefits: the hallmark of neoliberalism.

Furthermore, a feminism inflected with contemporary critiques is not necessarily a feminism that separates itself from the interests of the state. Every year in the US alone, thousands of graduates from very queer and transnationalist gender studies programs join the insidious network of nonprofits like the Human Rights Campaign and The Feminist Majority Foundation devoted to “equality” for women, gays and lesbians and for assorted other minority interests at home and abroad.

They may as individuals be critical of the work they do, but the fact that such organizations exist and flourish even after decades of critique says a lot about the hold of classic liberalism on the nonprofit sector.

If we are to heed Massad’s call and be attentive to how liberalism works to continually other Islam, we are better off understanding that it is not a static entity but one capable of adapting quickly and effectively to assume power.

All that being said, this remains a profoundly important book, one that ought to be studied and its contents endlessly discussed in order to understand the true dangers of liberalism.

The soft calls for rights and reform disguise the fact that liberalism and its construction of Islam damn us all to perpetual war and terror.

Yasmin Nair is a Chicago-based writer, academic, and activist. She is a co-founder of the editorial collective Against Equality and a member of Gender JUST Chicago. She is currently working on a book, Strange Love: Neoliberalism, Affect, and the Invention of Social Justice. Her work can be found atwww.yasminnair.net.


Global Research Top Stories: Stock Market Collapse, Imperial Wars

August 24th, 2015 by Global Research News

This week is a period of geopolitical and financial turmoil. 

We bring to the attention of our readers a selection of Global Research News and Analysis

SELECTED ARTICLES

malaysia-airways-boeing777-300x200 (1)

Disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: Investigators Fail to Link Reunion Aircraft Debris to MH370

By La Dépeche, August 24, 2015

Investigators who have been examining the flaperon of a plane  found on Reunion have been unable to find any evidence linking it to MH370

Syria Air Defense

Syria Shoots Down Israeli Warplane F-16 Bomber, Using Russian S-300 Air Defense System

By Ziad Fadel, August 23, 2015

The shooting down of an Israeli warplane by Syria has not been reported by Western and Israeli media sources. On August 21, “the Israeli Air Force resumed airstrikes on Western Syria, targeting a government…

Chinese stock market crash

The China Stock Market Collapse: Summarizing The “Black Monday” Carnage So Far

By Tyler Durden, August 24, 2015

It’s officially Black Monday, We warned on Friday, after last week’s China meltdown.  This morning, the Dow Jones plummeted by more than 1000 points.

usa-war-crusade

The Age of Imperial Wars

By Prof. James Petras, August 22, 2015

Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity. Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.

Three weeks ago, when we last looked at the collapse in trade along what may be the most trafficked route involving China, i.e., from Asia to Northern Europe, we noted that while that particular shipping freight rate Europe had crashed some 23% on just one week, there was some good news: at least the Baltic Dry index was still inexplicably rising, and at last check it was hovering just above 1,100.

That is no longer the case, and just as with everything else in recent months, the Baltic Dry dead cat bounce is now over, with the BDIY topping out just above 1200 on August 4, and now back in triple digit territory, rapidly sliding back to the reality of recent record lows which a few months ago we suggested hinted that much more is wrong with global trade, and the global economy, than artificially manipulated stock markets would admit.

More importantly, a major source of confusion appears to have been resolved. Recall that as we noted on August 3, “many were wondering how it was possible that with accelerating deterioration across all Chinese asset classes, not to mention the bursting of various asset bubbles, could global shippers demand increasingly higher freight rates, an indication of either a tight transportation market or a jump in commodity demand, neither of which seemed credible. We may have the answer.”

We did. To wit:

Should the dead cat bounce in shipping rates indeed be over, and if the accelerate slide continues at the current pace, not only will shippers mothball key transit lanes, but the biggest concern for global economy, the unprecedented slowdown in world trade volumes, which we flagged a week ago, will be not only confirmed but is likely to unleash yet another global recession.

As expected, on Friday, we got confirmation that the BDIY has indeed become a lagging indicator to actual demand, when Reuters reported in its latest weekly update using data from the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index, that key shipping freight rates for transporting containers from ports in Asia to Northern Europe fell by 26.7 percent to $469 per 20-foot container (TEU) in the week ended on Friday.

The collapse in rates is nothing short of a bloodbath: “it was the third consecutive week of falling freight rates on the world’s busiest route and rates are now nearly 60 percent lower than three weeks ago.

Freight rates on the world’s busiest shipping route have tanked this year due to overcapacity in available vessels and sluggish demand in goods to be transported. Rates generally deemed profitable for shipping companies on the route are at about $800-$1,000 per TEU.

Other Europe-focused freight rates did even worse, with container freight rates from Asia to ports in the Mediterranean plunging 32.1%, while those to the US West and East coast slid by 7.9% and 9.9%, respectively.

This should not come as a surprise: it was back in March when we first reported that “Global Trade Volume Tumbles Most Since 2011; Biggest Value Plunge Since Lehman.”

It took the no longer discounting “market” about 6 months to figure this out. As for the culprit, no question who is at fault.

 

 

 

What happens next?

Well, some, such as the world’s largest container shipping company, Maersk Line, will desperately try to no longer lose money on every transit, with a plan to raise spot freight rates by $1,000 from ports in Asia to ports in northern Europe, with effect from Sep 1. Other major container shipping companies have similar plans.

The virtually guaranteed outcome of this “strategy”, as there is simply not enough demand as the world careens off the global recession cliff to offset a surge in freight costs, will be an even greater collapse in trade volumes.

The alternative, is just as bad: as we sarcastically hinted first in March:

… none of the above should alarm anyone: remember - central banks can just print trade with just the flick of a CTRL-P switch.

And then again three weeks ago when we said no need to worry because it is just a matter of time before “central planners learn how to print trade.”

For now, however, printing money no longer equates to boosting global trade. In fact, easy monetary policy now appears to be backfiring, as even the “market” has figured out.

 

 

So, sarcasm aside, what really happens next, to both shipping, trade, the global economy and markets? Sadly, unless central planning finally works after 7 years of failing ever upward… this.

Black Monday… “Full On Market Crash Phase”

August 24th, 2015 by Clive P. Maund

We are now in the “full on” market crash phase which was predicted many weeks in advance. It comes as no surprise to us whatsoever. The purpose of this update is to consider what is likely to happen over the next few days and especially tomorrow, Monday.

When a market tips into a crash on a Friday, what typically happens is that the thousands or even millions of investors who believed the mainstream media and didn’t see it coming spend the weekend “stewing” over their investments – and many of them decide to bail out come Monday. Thus we may see a massive down day tomorrow, possibly the worst of the crash phase, and it would not be that surprising to see the Dow Jones Industrials drop by 800 – 1000 points in one day, perhaps even more. Remember that the Dow Jones Industrials “only” dropped 3% on Friday, which is no big deal by the standards of past crashes. What we need to see before this is over is a headline grabbing day where the market collapse is THE big story, and is not relegated to 2nd place by three fellows tackling a terrorist on a French train, as was the case with BBC World News on Friday – Saturday. It will take something like a 800 – 1000 points down day to achieve this which will probably be the worst crash day, and while we might see one or two more down days immediately afterwards, we would soon be at a high volume selling climax marking exhaustion of the panic phase. Thereafter an erratic rally would probably ensue that would be followed by a more measured decline as the market settles into a bearmarket downtrend.

A 2-year chart for the Dow Jones Industrials enables us to see to advantage what is going on. The market plunged on Friday by over 530 points to the black dot above the black arrow, and is obviously in full blown panic mode. The magnitude of the preceding bullmarket and the magnitude of the top area with a huge choppy trading range forming over many months implies that there is more heavy downside to go before the crash phase has exhausted itself. A scenario that looks likely is that the market plunges even harder tomorrow, perhaps as mentioned above by as much as 800 – 100 points tomorrow, before the decline slows on very heavy volume and choppy volatile trading near the support level shown, where it seems likely that a selling climax will occur, followed by a sharp snapback rally. We will be looking to ditch our bear ETFs and Puts in this area. Here we should note that if there is a premature attempt at a rally tomorrow, it would be expected to be followed by renewed decline.

Observe how the crash was presaged by a deterioration in the Dow Jones Transports and the Junk Bond market, among other things, for quite some time before it occurred. These are shown at the top and bottom of the chart.

What should now happen is that Asia becomes a “sea of red” tonight as the crash rolls around the world in a self-perpetuating “Mexican wave” for a few days, and losses in Asia feed further losses in first Europe and then Canada and the US and Latin American markets later and then back to Asia.

 

A profound and significant change has just occurred in the Levant – the Russian army has begun to engage against terrorism in Syria. Although Russia has been absent from the international scene since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and although it is moving with care, it has just created a Russo-Syrian Commission, has begun supplying weapons, sharing intelligence, and sending advisors. All of this is more or less coordinated with the White House.

After having negotiated a regional alliance against the Islamic Emirate which implied Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, Russia suddenly had to abandon its strategy after the Turkish turn-around. Ankara has in fact decided to break off its ties with Moscow, and has cancelled, without genuine motive, the contract for the gas pipe-line Turkish Stream, created, in partenership with Ukraine, an international Islamic Brigade intended to destabilise Crimea [1]. It has also come to the help of the Islamic Emirate in their fight against the Kurds of the PKK and the YPG.In the same way, the White House has been obliged to change its own strategy after the manœuvers by General John Allen, who agreed to help President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to create a « security zone »for the Islamic Emirate in Northern Syria [2].Finally, Moscow and Washington have coordinated:

- the removal of Patriot missiles stationed in Turkey ;
- the creation of a Russo-Syrian military Commission.

The end of the no-fly zone

The Patriot missiles had been installed by NATO in Turkey as from January 2013, in order to prevent the Syrian Air Force from deploying on the frontier. As a result, the jihadists of the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaïda) were able to seize the North of the country, and as from the summer of 2014, this no-fly zone was occupied by the Islamic Emirate.

Thus, during the battle of Kobane, the Syrian Air Force were unable to bomb the Islamic Emirate, and Syria was obliged to attempt a land attack to save the city. Since it was unable to advance the last thirty kilometres, the Atlantist Press presented the Kurdish forces of the YPG as being independent of Damascus, although the Syrian Arab Republic had supplied it with weapons and was paying its soldiers.

The Patriot missiles, initially deployed by Germany and Holland, are today German and Spanish. They will first of all be revised and modernised, then redeployed in Lithuania, at the Russian frontier.

The entrance of the Russian army into the war against Syria

Although Russia had abstained from participating in military operations since the beginning of the conflict, it has now created a Russo-Syrian Military Commission. And yet, NATO had organised all the events concerned in what was called the « Arab spring », including the war against Syria, and coordinated foreign jihadist groups and their Libyan and Syrian collaborators, called « rebels », from the Turkish base in Izmir [3], now also the location of LancCom (command of the land troops of the 28 member states of the Atlantic Alliance).

Within a few weeks, many military advisors arrived in Damascus.

Six Mikoyan-Gourevitch MiG-31’s were delivered. These planes are the best interceptors in the world. They had been bought in 2007, but the contract had been frozen. Their delivery is not affected by the arms embargo, since they can not be used in operations concerning the maintenance of law and order, but only for national defence, in this case, possible incursions by Israël or Turkey. Under various pretexts, these two states acted many time during the war to support the jihadists whenever they were in difficulty.

So, on the 30th January 2013, Tsahal bombed the Centre for Military Research in Jemraya, under the pretext of destroying weapons that were destined for Hezbollah. In fact, the attack was intended to destroy a communications brief-case captured by the Syrian Arab Army, containing NATO satellite data, before they were able to decipher it [4]. The operation had been commanded by the Israeli Air Force in coordination with the Free Syrian Army, which in turn was directed by officers of the French Foreign Legion under the supervision of NATO’s LandCom.

Simultaneously, and for the first time, the Russian army has just supplied satellite images to Syria. This decision, awaited for five years, inverses the military situation. Indeed, so far the jihadists have often escaped the Syrian Arab Army thanks to satellite images supplied by NATO in real time. Even though, over a six-month period, it would seem that NATO no longer shares its intelligence with the Islamic Emirate, but only with the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaïda).

Finally, the Russian military advisors possess a wealth of information which they use in order to study the possibility of an international deployment under banner of the UNO. They have to present a report to the Kremlin which would also study the possibility of a Russian operation as well as a joint operation by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The CSTO will be meeting in Douchanbe, Tadjikistan, on the 15th September. A deployment by the CSTO had aleady been envisaged, in June 2012, during the preparation for the « Geneva Conference 1 » [5]. Indeed, this military alliance includes three states with a Muslim population – Kazakhstan, Kirghizistan, and Tadjikistan, who are better prepared than Russia to fight terrorists who claim to be Islamist. However, at the time, the CSTO had no agreement with the UNO to carry out peace operations. This situation was resolved on the 28th September 2012 – it could also be applied as well in Afghanistan as in Syria [6].

The limits of the cooperation between the Kremlin and the White House

In any event, the cooperation between the Kremlin and the White House has its limits – Russia wants to eradicate the jihadists before they turn against her, while the United States hope that some of them could be re-activated in other conflicts, as was earlier the case in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya and Kosovo.

Already, certain elements of Daesh have arrived in Kherson (Ukraine), where a so-called « Crimean Government in Exile » already exists.

It is apparent that from the US side, the withdrawal of the Patriot missiles is a trap. Washington would be happy for Russia to reduce the number of active jihadists, but at the same time, it would not be dismayed if it were to get bogged down in Syria. That is why the Russian bear is advancing prudently.

Thierry Meyssan is founder and chairman of Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace Conference. His columns specializing in international relations feature in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic, Spanish and Russian. His last two books published in English : 9/11 the Big Lie and Pentagate.

Translation

Pete Kimberley

 

Global Derivatives: $1.5 Quadrillion Time Bomb

August 24th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

When investing becomes gambling, bad endings follow. The next credit crunch could make 2008-09 look mild by comparison. Bank of International Settlements(BIS) data show around $700 trillion in global derivatives. 

Along with credit default swaps and other exotic instruments, the total notional derivatives value is about $1.5 quadrillion – about 20% more than in 2008, beyond what anyone can conceive, let alone control if unexpected turmoil strikes.

The late Bob Chapman predicted it. So does Paul Craig Roberts. It could “destroy Western civilization,” he believes. Financial deregulation turned Wall Street into a casino with no rules except unrestrained making money. Catastrophic failure awaits. It’s just a matter of time.

Ellen Brown calls the “derivatives casino…a last-ditch attempt to prop up a private pyramid scheme” – slowly crumbling under its own weight.

For years, Warren Buffett called derivatives “financial time bombs” – for economies and ordinary people.

Unless collateralized or guaranteed, their worth depends on the creditworthiness of counter-parties. Earnings on derivatives are “wildly overstated,” Buffett explains – because they’re “based on estimates whose inaccuracy may not be exposed for many years.”

When corporate bosses ask financial executives how profits look in any quarter, they, in turn, ask how much do you want, then manipulate things to oblige when told.

Since 2008, too-big-to-fail banks consolidated to much greater size than ever. They’re financial and political powerhouses controlling world economies to their own advantage.

Civilization’s only hope is smashing them – dismantling them into small, impotent pieces, or ideally putting money back in public hands where it belongs.

It’s too important to be privately controlled. Financial predators entrap small/weak nations into unrepayable debt peonage like Greece, bleed them dry, and thirdworldize developed ones into dystopian backwaters – while they grow richer and more powerful than ever ahead of the whole corrupt system going bust, decimating billions worldwide in greater human misery than already.

Washington Post editors support what demands condemnation. Don’t worry, be happy, they say. On July 23, they headlined “The Fed’s stance on banks and capital makes good sense.”

Half-intelligent economics students know better. The Wall Street owned, controlled and operated Fed is the problem, not the solution. Monied interests buy politicians like toothpaste. They write business friendly legislation, getting Congress to pass it in return for generous campaign contributions and other special favors.

America’s economy and financial system are house-of-cards disasters waiting to happen. Not according to WaPo editors.

“(T)he US financial system has made significant progress toward being less bailout-prone since” the dust settled on the 2008-09 crisis, they said.

“(B)ig banks are considerably better capitalized than” half a decade earlier – enough to “withstand (another) ‘Great Recession.”

The source: The Wall Street controlled Fed’s last ‘stress test’ assessment made public in March – ignoring the monstrous derivatives ticking time bomb weighing them all down along with the entire financial system.

WaPo editors endorse too-big-to-fail banks. They tout so-called “economies of scale and greater ‘soft power’ for US foreign policy.

Near the end of his tenure, Bill Clinton signed legislation repealing Glass-Steagall (the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – letting insurance, investment and commercial banking merge) and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (permitting unregulated commodity and derivatives trading).

A casino culture of anything goes persists. When counter-parties don’t have funds to pay on demand, bubbles begin deflating. It’s just a matter of time before current market mania ends.

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

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” 

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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. 

It’s officially Black Monday, if only in China for now.

We warned on Friday, after last week’s China rout, that the market is getting ahead of itself with its expectation of a RRR-cut by China as large as 100 bps. “The risk is that there isn’t one.” We were spot on, because not only was there no RRR cut, but Chinese stocks plunged, with the composite tumbling as much a 9% at one point, the most since 1996 when it dropped 9.4% in a single session. The session, as profile overnight was brutal, with about 2000 stocks trading by the -10% limit down, and other markets not doing any better: CSI 300 -8.8%, ChiNext -8.1%, Shenzhen Composite -7.7%. This was the biggest Chinese rout since 2007.

The worst news is that the 3,500 level in the SHCOMP which until recently had been seen as a “hard barrier” for the PBOC, has now been breached, and not only is the Shanghai Composite red for the year after being up 60% a little over 2 months earlier (don’t worry though: just like on Yahoo Finance Twitter everyone took profits at the highs), but nobody knows why the Politburo let stocks tumble and worst of all, how much further will it allow stocks to drop.

Elsewhere in Asia, equity markets traded with significant losses on what is being referred to as ‘black Monday’ amid increased growth concerns coupled with commodities falling to fresh 6 year lows and US stocks in correction, sparked a further sell-off in the region . The ASX 200 (-4.1%) declined by the most in 4 years, Nikkei 225 (-4.6%) and Hang Seng (-5.2%) also saw considerable losses with energy dragging the index lower. 10yr JGBs saw relatively muted trade and are up by 3 ticks.


Risk averse sentiment has dominated the price action in both Asia and Europe as the week kicks off, with Chinese equities again under heavy selling pressure as market participants were left disappointed by the lack of action by the PBOC to ease monetary conditions further. As a result, equity indices in Europe opened sharply lower (Euro Stoxx: -2.3%) and in spite of coming off the worst levels of the session, remain broadly lower, with materials and energy sectors underperforming amid the continued slump in commodity prices. The Dax was well below 10,000 at last check.

In FX markets today, JPY benefited from risk averse and interest rate differential flows as market participants scale back Fed rate hike expectations, which in turn saw the pair fall below the 200DMA line and hit its lowest levels since mid-July.

The short-sterling curve has been seen flatter in trade so far in European amid the ongoing risk averse sentiment, which as pointed out by David Smith of The Times is set to put interest rate rise on hold by both the Fed and the BoE. Consequently, EUR outperformed GBP, which in turn saw EUR/USD hit 1.1500 level for the first time since February 2015, while EUR/GBP gradually edged towards the 200DMA line as USD continued its recent trend lower (USD-Index: -0.7%).

Fixed income products reside in positive territory, bolstered by the global risk off sentiment as T-Notes head into the North American open in positive territory, albeit off their best levels. Elsewhere, Eurozone 5y5y inflation forward rate fell to its lowest level in 6 months.

In the US, the 10-year Treasury yields traded below 2 percent for the first time since April, precisely what Goldman said in its Top Trade #2 for 2015 would not happen.

The rout in energy and base metals markets continued today, seeing WTI fall to its lowest level since February 2009 and Brent crude to its lowest level since March 2009 below the USD 40/bbl and USD 45/bbl respectively as Iran continues their recent rhetoric regarding an increase in supply. Elsewhere in base metals, iron ore and steel hit limit down overnight and traded around 9 year lows, with nickel reaching its lowest level for 6 years. Gold has also seen soft price action today, reversing some of last week’s gains. Some more key commodity headlines courtesy of RanSquawk

  • Iran oil minister has stated that the country will increase oil output at any cost and oil prices would benefit from an emergency OPEC meeting, according to Iranian press . (Shana/BBG/RTRS)
  • Oil production in Libya seen at between 350-400KBPD according to the Eastern State oil firm head . (RTRS)
  • Kuwait’s Shuaiba oil refinery, which has a capacity of 200k, reopened on Saturday according to the head of Kuwait National Petroleum Company after the refinery saw a fire last Monday. (RTRS)
  • BP’s Whiting Refinery, which has a capacity of 405k bpd, continues to see a fall in operational levels as has been the c\se sin ce August 8th (Genscape)
  • CFTC data shows that hedge funds and money managers switched to a net long position in COMEX gold contracts in the week to Aug 18th, after four consecutive weeks of net short positions . (RTRS)
  • World Gold Council forecasts strong demand from India and China in H2, citing stock market weakness and devalued CNY for increased demand in China and festivals boosting demand in India. (BBG)
  • Bankers suggest that Indian gold lenders are unwilling to increase interest rates on gold deposits more than 1 %, which could scupper government strategy to reduce imports. (RTRS)
  • The world’s biggest gold refiner Valcambi states Indian gold demand could reach 950 tons this year amid low prices during peak festival season. (RTRS)
  • Rio Tinto’s China managing director announces Co. are to increase shipments of iron ore to China by 20% this year for a total of 240m1n ton while Fortescue CFO state they have great confidence in China’s long term growth. (BBG/RTRS)

Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index, as well as look out for comments by Fed’s Lockhart. Be very careful for unexpected comments by Bullard because it was just around a -10% correction that the St. Louis Fed president hinted at QE4 last October.

Biggest selected cross-asset moves via Bloomberg

  • Equities: Shanghai Composite (-8.5%), MSCI Asia Pacific (-4.8%)
  • Bonds: Greek 10Yr yield (+2.4%), Portuguese 10Yr yield (+2%)
  • Commodities: LME 3m Nickel (-5.7%), WTI Futures (-3.8%)
  • FX: Yen spot (+1.6%), Dollar Index (-1%)
  • Chicago Fed activity index due later

Markets

  • 19 out of 19 Stoxx 600 sectors fall; chemicals is the most active -2.8% on 233% 30-day avg. vol., followed by construction -3.1% on 229% avg. vol.; travel & leisure is the least active sector -3.4% on 162% avg. vol.
  • FTSE 100 down -2.8%, CAC 40 down -2.9%, DAX down -2.9%, IBEX 35 down -2.8%, FTSE MIB down -3%, S&P 500 futures down -2.4%, Euro Stoxx 50 down -2.9%
  • Bonds: German 10yr yield up 1bps to 0.57%, Greek 10yr yield up 23bps to 9.98%, Portugal 10yr yield up 5bps to 2.68%, Italian 10yr yield up 3bps to 1.89%,
  • Credit: iTraxx Main up 4 bps to 77.49, iTraxx Crossover up 18.1 bps to 364.81
  • FX: Euro spot up 0.93% to 1.1492, Dollar index down -0.96% to 94.093,
  • Commodities: Brent crude down 3.7% to $43.78/bbl, Gold down 0.4% to $1156.25/oz, Copper down -.3% to $4936.5/MT, S&P GSCI down 2.4%

Equities

  • Top Stoxx 600 Outperformers: Abengoa SA +3.6%, Modern Times +2.3%, RSA Insurance +0.3%, AA PLC -0.1%, Pirelli -0.2%, MAN SE -0.2%, Sulzer -0.3%, Kabel Deutschland -0.4%
  • Top Stoxx 600 Underperformers: National Bank of Greece SA -10.2%, Seadrill -7.2%, Tullow Oil -7%, BB Biotech AG -7%, ArcelorMittal -6.2%, Glencore -6.1%, Henderson -6.1%, Genmab A/S -5.9%
  • About 1% of Stoxx 600 members gain, ~99% decline
  • Asian stocks fall with the Kospi outperforming and the Shanghai Composite underperforming
  • Nikkei 225 -4.6%, Hang Seng -5.2%, Kospi -2.5%, Shanghai Composite -8.5%, ASX -4.1%, Sensex -5.9%
  • 0 out of 10 sectors rise with staples and utilities outperforming and energy and financials underperforming

Bulletin Headline Summary from Bloomberg and RanSquawk

  • Asia equity markets traded with significant losses on what is being referred to as ‘black Monday’ amid increased growth concerns, with European equities following suit
  • The rout in energy and base metals markets continued today, seeing WTI fall to its lowest level since February 2009 and Brent crude to its lowest level since March 2009 below the USD 40/bbl and USD 45/bbl respectively
  • Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index, as well as look out for comments by Fed’s Lockhart
  • Treasuries gain, 10Y breaks below below 2% level as China’s stocks plunged the most since 2007, commodities and EM currencies routed amid concern slowdown in world’s second-largest economy is deepening.
  • Global stocks have lost $5t since China devalued the yuan on Aug. 11, with the carnage raising doubt about the ability of the global economy to withstand a eventual liftoff in U.S. interest rates this year
  • The volatility “will certainly keep the Fed on hold for the rest of 2015. Look for 10yrs to break 2% successful this week and possibly head back towards 1.86%,” ED&F Man head of rates ED&F Man Tom DiGaloma writes in note
  • PBOC, with ~$3.9t of bank deposits locked up as reserves and benchmark 1Y interest rate at 4.85%, may be the only central bank around the world with the firepower to arrest the rout
  • However, traders say the slowing economy has left the state fighting a losing battle; the government is “trying to defy market forces at overvalued levels,” says CMB Intl Securities strategist Daniel So
  • RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said Monday central banks should avoid giving “booster shots” to stock markets; Japan’s Abe acknowledged that the central bank’s 2% inflation target is getting more difficult to achieve
  • Taiwan slapped a ban on short-selling of borrowed stocks at prices lower than the previous day’s close, while South Korea’s finance ministry said it will act “pre- emptively” after the nation’s largest ETF suffered the biggest weekly withdrawal since its inception 15 years ago
  • Vice President Joe Biden is gearing up for a packed September schedule in his day job that could showcase him as the politician best poised to carry on Obama’s policies -– or open him up to new lines of attack if he stumbles.
  • Sovereign 10Y bond yields mixed. Global stocks and U.S. equity-index futures plunge. Crude oil, copper and gold fall

US Event Calendar

  • Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index, July (prior 0.08)
  • Fed’s Lockhart speaks in Berkeley, California
  • 11:30am: U.S. to sell $24b 3M bills, $24b 6M bills

DB’s Jim Reid Completes the overnight recap

This morning’s rout in Asia comes after hopes that more government support in China could be around the corner, although the lack of any state intervention first thing this morning is seemingly exaggerating the pain in markets. As per the WSJ, the PBoC is set to make another move to cut the RRR, possibly as soon as this week in a bid to flood the Chinese banking system with as much as $106bn in liquidity. Meanwhile, a second story doing the rounds is a report that China’s State Council has published a plan allowing for pension funds managed by local governments to invest in the stock markets for the first time. According to Reuters, the report suggests that pension funds will be allowed to invest up to 30% of their net assets in stocks, funds and balanced funds having only previously been able to invest in bank deposits and treasuries.

Elsewhere, echoing similar moves by the Chinese regulators, yesterday Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission made the move to ban traders from short-selling borrowed stocks and depository receipts at lower prices than the previous day’s close in a bid to stabilize the Taiwanese stock market. There’s also news out of South Korea where the Financial Services Commission Chairman has urged authorities to make timely actions when deemed necessary in markets and act ‘pre-emptively’ after the nation’s largest ETF saw its biggest weekly withdrawal since inception in 2000 last week.

These reports have clearly done little to help sentiment this morning however and it’s looking like the rout is set to extend into DM markets with S&P 500 futures down some 2.5% already.

Back to markets on Friday. With the S&P 500 tumbling to its lowest level now since October last year, the Dow (-3.12%) saw a similar sharp decline on Friday and as a result officially entered correction territory with a now 10% retreat from the May highs. It was a similar story in Europe also. The Stoxx 600 tumbled 3.26%, while the DAX (-2.95%) and CAC (-3.19%) also moved a steep leg lower. Peripheral bourses were not immune to the moves either, with a 2.98% fall for the IBEX in particular taking it into negative territory (-0.08%) for the year. That’s after the index was up as much as 15% just four months into the year. Credit also had a poor day. In the US CDX IG finished nearly 2bps wider while in Europe we saw Crossover and Main leak 15bps and 3bps wider respectively. All-told that saw the VIX jump 46.5% to 28 on Friday and in turn marking the highest level since December 2011. Amazingly, last week’s 119% surge in the index (albeit from a low base) was the largest in the history with data going back to 1990.

Oil markets once again generated plenty of headlines on Friday as WTI finished down 2.11% on the day at $40.45/bbl and has in fact tumbled another 2% in trading this morning taking it below $40 in the process. Brent (-2.49%) also weakened on Friday while the complex wasn’t helped by the latest Baker Hughes oil rig count which showed an increase in the number of operating rigs last week. Combined with the sell-off on Friday, we’ve seen a fresh wave of selling across equity markets in the Middle-East this weekend and a number of fresh cycle lows reached, particularly in the more Oil-sensitive countries. The Saudi-Arabian equity market tumbled into a bear-market yesterday after plummeting nearly 7%, Dubai saw its biggest one-day loss this year, Egypt fell the most in three years and Israel saw its biggest slide in nearly four years. Saudi Arabia in particular – seen as something of a bellwether for the Gulf – has now tumbled 24% from its April peak and in turn entered its second bear market in less than a year.

Much of the rest of the commodity complex also suffered on Friday with the likes of Aluminum (-1.71%), Copper (-1.25%) and Silver (-1.61%) all sliding. Gold (+0.74%) continues to be one of the few beneficiaries from the selloff in risk while Treasuries also benefited from a decent bid on Friday with the 10y (-3.1bps) yield down for the third consecutive day to 2.037%. Fed Funds contracts continue to slide too with the Dec15 contract down another 1.5bps to 0.275% having been as high as 0.340% earlier in the month.

There was a similar move lower for Bunds too with the 10y down another 1.9bps to 0.562% while the peripherals ended 2-4bps higher. Dataflow largely played second fiddle to the sharp moves on Friday. In the US the flash August manufacturing PMI declined 0.9pts from July to 52.9 after expectations for no change. There was better news in Europe however where we saw the Euro area flash composite PMI rise 0.2pts to 54.1 (vs. 53.9 expected), led higher by the services reading in particular (0.3pts to 54.3; 54.0 expected) while the manufacturing print stayed unchanged at 52.4 (vs. 52.2 expected). Regionally, Germany led the gains with the composite rising 0.3pts to 54.0 (vs. 53.6 expected) after a surge higher in the manufacturing print (+1.4pts to 53.2; 51.6 expected) which was more than enough to offset a slightly weaker services print (-0.2pts to 53.6; 53.7 expected). Meanwhile in France we saw the composite drop slightly to 51.3, from 51.5 last month.

Before we turn over to the week ahead, the St Louis Fed President Bullard reiterated his stance on Friday that the outlook for US growth remains relatively good and that the expansion in the second half is likely to be ‘above trend’. Bullard also noted ‘there has been a lot of cumulative progress in labour markets and I think you can look through the decline in oil’ before saying that he is more sanguine about the outlook for global growth relative to markets. Bullard is a non-voter this year but as we noted earlier, with markets seemingly in freefall mode at the moment there will be plenty of attention on the Fedpseak this week for us to gauge how the Fed is viewing the recent volatility.

Turning over to this week’s calendar now. It’s a very quiet start to the week today with no data due out this morning in Europe and just the Chicago Fed’s national activity index this afternoon. Tomorrow is set to be busier though and in particular there will be much focus on the final reading for Q2 GDP in Germany along with the IFO survey and trade data. In the US we get more housing data with the S&P/Case Shiller house price index, July new home sales and FHFA house price index. The flash composite and services PMI’s are also due along with the consumer confidence reading and Richmond Fed manufacturing activity index. We start in Asia on Wednesday where we get Japan PPI and China consumer sentiment data. There’s nothing of note in Europe on Wednesday while in the US there’ll be much focus on the durable and capital goods orders data for July. In Europe on Thursday we’ll get UK house price data along with various confidence indicators out of France. The afternoon session is particularly data heavy in the US with the second reading of Q2 GDP and Core PCE likely to be front and centre, while pending home sales and the Kansas City Fed manufacturing activity index are also due. Closing out the Asia session on Friday will be Japan CPI and retail sales, along with China industrial profits and conference board leading indicators. It’ll be a particularly busy end to the week in Europe too where we get French PPI, German CPI, UK Q2 GDP and Euro area confidence indicators. It’s also a busy end in the US where we get the PCE core and deflator readings for July, personal spending and income prints and finally the University of Michigan consumer sentiment print for August.

* * *

To summarize:

China Stocks in Sharpest Fall Since 2007

August 24th, 2015 by Zhang Yixi

The Chinese stock markets had their worst day in eight years with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbling 8.49 percent to close at 3209.91 points.

This is the steepest dive since Feb. 27, 2007, and comes less than a month after a similar plunge on July 27 this year, when the stock market lost 8.48 percent.

The astonishing loss came one day after the government’s approval to allow the state pension fund to invest in the stock market, which analysts said should boost the market.

Nearly 2,200 shares tumbled by the daily limit of 10 percent. The overall loss was narrowed to around 6 percent in the afternoon as shares in blue chip companies, such as PetroChina and China Life Insurance, rose sharply. The index quickly fell back after 2 p.m.

China stocks in sharpest fall since 2007

An investor looks through stock information at a trading hall of a securities firm in Luoyang, central China’s Henan Province, Aug. 24, 2015. China stocks nosedived on Monday with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropping 8.49 percent to close at 3209.91 points, the sharpest decline since Feb. 27, 2007. The smaller Shenzhen Component Index fell 7.83 percent to close at 10,970.29 points. The ChiNext Index, tracking China’s Nasdaq-style board of growth enterprises, lost 8.08 percent to end at 2,152.61 points. Near 2200 shares tumbled by the daily limit of 10 percent. (Xinhua/Zhang Yixi)

Asia stocks across the board dived, too. The Hong Kong Hang Seng Index slumped more than 5 percent on Monday, its lowest point in 17 months. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index closed down 4.61 percent, hitting a six-month low. Singapore’s Straits Times Index also tumbled almost 4 percent.

Monday’s sharp decline almost wiped out all of this year’s gains, despite government intervention, such as pouring in funds and restricting sell-offs.

In its latest move to prop up the market, pension funds were given permission to invest a maximum of 30 percent of net assets in stocks and equities.

The pension fund is worth an estimated 3.5 trillion yuan, however, but it is still unknown at this moment how much the sector will decide to invest, said Industrial Securities in a research report.

The report said that this entry by the pension fund is more of a psychological move by the government to assure investors that the A-share market is not an “abandoned child,” the report said.

The future of the stock market still depends on the fundamentals. Overvaluation is one of the main factors stoking fears among investors, said Guolian Securities.

The price-to-equity ratio of the ChiNext Index has been lowered but still stands at 76, similar to the level in November 2010, the highest point before this round of bull market.

Weak economic data also dampened investor confidence. The Caixin flash China general manufacturing PMI retreated to 47.1 in August, the lowest reading since March 2009.

The flash index is the earliest available indicator of manufacturing sector conditions in China. The continuous fall in the index in recent months indicates that the economy is still bottoming out, said He Fan, chief economist at Caixin Insight Group.

As the market continues to struggle, speculation is rife over whether the central bank will cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR), again. The China International Capital Corp. (CICC) predicts that the central bank will “aggressively lower RRR” by at least another 150 basis points by the end of this year.

On Monday, the Shenzhen Component Index fell 7.83 percent to close at 10,970.29 points. The ChiNext Index, tracking China’s Nasdaq-style board of growth enterprises, lost 8.08 percent to end at 2,152.61 points.

In early December 2014, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., released a summary of her staff’s five-year investigation of the CIA’s interrogation programs following 9/11.

Best known as the “Torture Report,” the document revealed searing details of ghastly abuses ranging from “rectal feedings” to “near drowning” on the waterboard.

But, for the American Civil Liberties Union, the report also raised a whole new set of questions.

CIA Director John Brennan takes questions from reporters about the Senate torture report in December 2014.

“For all its revelatory, gruesome details, [the report] also revealed more about what we don’t know,” Eliza Relman, an ACLU legal assistant wrote in a blog post.

The ACLU has obtained over 100,000 pages of torture-related documents through FOIA requests and legal action over the last 10 years. But the Senate report helped identify some specific gaps.

“Many of the questions we are hoping that the documents will answer involve filling out the picture,” says Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU who spoke with The Intercept.

The ACLU’s National Security Project filed a new Freedom of Information Act request, seeking documents it hopes will answer these questions, and others:

Q. What else was in an email sent by the CIA’s chief of interrogations telling the CIA he would have nothing to do with the detainee interrogation program? And who was he?

The Senate report hints at some dissension in the ranks when it came to the extreme interrogation tactics, but does not go into much detail about who was concerned, how widespread the concern was, or how the concern was handled.

In a 2004 email, the then-CIA chief of interrogations expressed disgust with the program, writing that he would “no longer be associated in any way with the interrogation program due to serious reservations,” calling it a “train wreack [sic] waiting to happen” and stating that he wanted to “get the hell off the train.”

He was responding to a written plan to interrogate an inmate named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was revealed to have been taken to five different CIA “black sites” and tortured with mock executions, waterboarding, and having a drill held up to his head. CIA officers on the ground, according to the Senate report, told the federal government that he had given up all information he had — but higher-ups insisted they keep torturing him.

The report does not indicate who wrote the angry email, or what the rest of the email may have contained.

The ACLU is asking for the rest of the email, which was sent between three redacted sources with the subject Re: CONCERNS OVER REVISED INTERROGATION PLAN FOR NASHIRI, date: January 22, 2003.

Q. What concerns did the CIA’s Office of Medical Services raise about its role in the torture program?

The Office of Medical Services, a small department of the CIA employing staff physicians, was revealed to be intimately involved in observing torture sessions and enforcing guidelines it compiled. The medical personnel were meant to be the “institutional conscience and limiting factor” on the severity of interrogations, according to an internal email between agency medical officers in 2003.

The medical professionals’ involvement in the program triggered outrage from the medical community, even before the full Senate report was released.

When the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel was asked to weigh in on the legality of certain “enhanced interrogation” methods in 2005, the OMS balked at being responsible for any ethical standards in the program: “Simply put, OMS is not in the business of saying what is acceptable in causing discomfort to other human beings, and will not take on that burden,” wrote OMS personnel in an April 2005 email. “OMS did not review or vet these techniques prior to their introduction, but rather came into this program with the understanding of your office and DOJ that they were already determined as legal, permitted, and safe.” The rest of the email has not been released.

The ACLU wants to see a CIA memo on the OMS guidelines on medical and psychological support for the CIA program, an email between two redacted sources about OMS concerns with the OLC’s legal decisions, and a 2007 document titled “Summary and Reflections of Chief of Medical Services on OMS Participation in the RDI Program.”

Q. What is in the still-hidden sections of the CIA’s 2004 Inspector General report?

The CIA Inspector General for Investigations conducted a special review of the agency’s interrogation program from September 2001 to October 2003, which was released in part in May 2004. While the visible parts of the report delve into the abstract legal definitions of torture, policy considerations, and some description of the training the CIA officers had prior to starting the program, the majority of the report is redacted. There are sections of dozens of pages that were “denied in full,” while some pages include one- to two-word phrases such as “waterboarding” surrounded by blacked-out text.

The Senate report included previously unknown responses to the report. For instance, the deputy director of operations, James Pavitt, wrote in reply that the IG should have concluded that “EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) (including waterboarding,) have been indispensible [sic] to our successes.”

The ACLU is seeking the Inspector General’s full report on unauthorized interrogation techniques at “detention site blue,” the IG’s draft special review of the counterterrorism detention and interrogation program and interrogation activities, a memorandum for the inspector general relating to the investigation, and the full contents of Pavitt’s comments on the draft.

Q. What were the techniques the CIA used to get around restrictions on waterboarding?

The Office of Medical Services provided specific guidelines on waterboarding for the CIA to ensure the prisoner is “not likely to suffer any severe mental or physical pain or suffering as a result of interrogation,” and staff attempted to enforce those guidelines by attending interrogations.

However, on at least one occasion, an OMS agent expressed concerns that waterboarding had gone too far, and failed to stop it. A CIA interrogator managed to get approval anyway, prompting the OMS agents to question whether their role had changed from “institutional conscience” to “keeping everyone’s butts out of trouble.”

The ACLU is asking for a memorandum for the record sent by a redacted source on a meeting with the Department of Justice in 2004 regarding interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is continuing his effort to distance himself from the austerity memorandum Syriza Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has agreed to impose. In doing so, he is succeeding only in confirming the bankruptcy of the entire Syriza project, which has been embraced by pseudo-left groups internationally.

Varoufakis became finance minister following Syriza’s election in January. He was removed by Tsipras on July 6, immediately following the landslide vote against austerity in the referendum that had been called by the Syriza-led government.

In an interview last week in the Observer, Varoufakis said Tsipras had decided to “surrender” to the European Union and Greece’s other creditors, and was seeking to become a “new De Gaulle”.

He provided further details of how Tsipras, on the very evening of the overwhelming vote by the Greek electorate against the European Union’s austerity demands, moved to conclude a deal accepting all of the measures demanded by the EU.

Tsipras justified this on the basis that it is

“better that a progressive government implement terms of surrender that it despises than leave it to the local stooges of the troika [European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund], who would implement the same terms of surrender with enthusiasm.”

As events have demonstrated, the main “stooge” of the troika is Syriza, with Varoufakis himself having played a leading role.

The former finance minister describes how in the negotiations with the troika, he proposed “standard Thatcherite or Reaganesque” economic policies, including tax reductions and privatisations. These were not accepted, he complains, because the troika wanted only total capitulation and “regime change.”

Syriza came to power with the notion that it would seek to win alliances in Europe, including with Italy, France and other heavily indebted countries, behind its proposal for a negotiated settlement over Greece’s €300 billion foreign debt.

However, they were most concerned with winning the support of Germany. To this end, Varoufakis personally travelled to Berlin and hailed the architect of EU-wide austerity, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, as one of the greatest political leaders of his age.

When it became clear that Schäuble was opposed to making any concessions to Greece and was plotting for Greece to be forced out of the euro zone, the attention of Syriza and Varoufakis swung to convincing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to rein Schäuble in.

Varoufakis told the Observer, “It wasn’t that we ever expected the troika to see the error of their ways… We expected the European partners to intervene, and, in particular, Chancellor Merkel.”

Last week, Varoufakis published the documents he presented to the troika during negotiations in May and June. His proposals were co-authored by a “Board of International Advisors,” including Lord Norman Lamont, whom Varoufakis describes as a “close friend.”

Lamont was chancellor of the exchequer in the UK Conservative government of John Major. He held a number of senior positions in the government of Margaret Thatcher. He recently wrote that his friendship with Varoufakis was based on shared economic views:

“Yanis and I were participating in a debate in Melbourne in Australia about the euro and we were on opposite sides of the debate, but as the debate went on we realised that fundamentally we both agreed and that there wasn’t much difference between us in our views…”

Also advising Varoufakis was Thomas Mayer, a former chief economist at Deutsche Bank, and Lawrence Summers, a Harvard University professor and former US treasury secretary. An academic on the Board of International Advisers, Mariana Mazzucato, is a permanent member of the European Commission’s expert group on innovation for growth.

James K. Galbraith from the University of Texas is a long-time associate of Varoufakis. Prior to taking up his post in the Greek government, Varoufakis authored several versions of “A Modest Proposal for Resolving the Eurozone Crisis,” the first of which was written with former UK Labour Party MP Stuart Holland. The final version, released in July 2013, was published jointly with Galbraith. In June 2013, Varoufakis and Galbraith wrote an op-ed piece in the headlined “Only Syriza Can Save Greece.”

Varoufakis and Galbraith assured the ruling elite internationally that a Syriza government “wouldn’t be a bad thing for Europe or the United States.” Were Syriza to be elected, they wrote, “nothing vital would change for the United States… Syriza doesn’t intend to leave NATO or close American military bases.”

The documents Varoufakis presented to Schäuble and company in May and June were entitled “A policy framework for Greece’s fiscal consolidation, recovery and growth,” and “Ending The Greek Crisis: Structural Reforms, Investment-led Growth & Debt Management.”

They called for privatisations and the creation of a “bad bank,” such as that established by the pro-austerity Irish government, to channel state spending into the hands of the very banks that had brought the economy to the brink of collapse. The June document assured the troika that Syriza’s proposals “[W]ill cost Greece’s European and international partners not one euro of additional financing.”

Varoufakis concluded his Observer interview by again insisting that there is no prospect for socialism. “I don’t believe that the time of depression is a revolutionary time,” he stated, adding, “The only people who benefit are the Nazis, the racists, the bigots, the misanthropes.” [Emphasis added]

Tsipras, who handpicked Varoufakis for the most important position in his government, even though Varoufakis was never a member of Syriza, would disagree with none of this.

Varoufakis’ documentation of the reactionary, anti-socialist perspective of Syriza exposes the lies of the Left Platform and all of the pseudo-left groups the world over, which, after hailing Syriza for months as the way forward, now provide the same service to the party’s belated dissident faction.

Many of the Left Platform’s representatives, including their leader Panagiotis Lafazanis, occupied senior posts in the Syriza government and throughout the party. The Left Platform claimed at certain points to have a majority of the party’s Central Committee and held four seats out of 11 on the party’s Political Secretariat. They were the most enthusiastic supporters of Syriza’s coalition with the right-wing, xenophobic Independent Greeks.

Varoufakis maintained close connections with Lafazanis throughout his time in office. Shortly after Syriza agreed in February to extend the austerity programme that had been accepted by the previous New Democracy government, Varoufakis was photographed having a late-night discussion with Lafazanis in the Greek parliament’s café.

Lafazanis and his cronies knew everything Varoufakis and Tsipras were discussing with the troika and at critical stages ensured with their votes that Syriza remained in office.

A section of the Left Platform has now split from Syriza, having been forced out by Tsipras, who will no longer tolerate even their half-hearted opposition, to form Popular Unity (Laiki Enótita). In this guise they will continue to devote their efforts to opposing the development of a revolutionary movement by the working class in Greece.

The United States is providing a thinly-veiled cover virtually legitimising the use of cluster bombs – banned by an international convention – by Saudi Arabia and its allies in their heavy fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Asked if cluster bombs are legitimate weapons of war, “if used appropriately”, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters: “If used appropriately, there are end-use regulations regarding the use of them. But yes, when used appropriately and according (to) those end-use rules, it’s permissible.”

These weapons can’t distinguish military targets from civilians, and their unexploded sub-munitions threaten civilians, especially children, even long after the fighting. — Ole Solvang of HRW

But Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch told IPS the State Department official makes reference to “end use regulations.”

“Any recipient of U.S. cluster munitions has to agree not to use them in populated areas.  Saudi Arabia may be violating that requirement.  State and Defence Department officials are looking into that,” he said.

Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi (right), Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN, speaks to journalists on July 28, 2015 following a Security Council meeting on the situation in Yemen. At his side is Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Yemen. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi (right), Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN, speaks to journalists on July 28, 2015 following a Security Council meeting on the situation in Yemen. At his side is Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Yemen. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, which has been uninterruptedly bombing rebel-controlled Yemen, includes Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

The 80 non-signatories to the convention include all 10 countries, plus Yemen. The United States, which is providing intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition, is also a non-signatory.

Asked whether it would be alarming or disconcerting if the coalition, is in fact, using American-supplied cluster bombs, Kirby told reporters early this week: “I would just tell you that we remain in close contact, regular contact with the Saudi Government on a wide range of issues in Yemen.

“We’ve urged all sides in the conflict – you’ve heard me say this before – including the Saudis, to take proactive measures to minimize harm to civilians. We have discussed reports of the alleged use of cluster munitions with the Saudis,” he added.

Goose said a U.S. Defence Department official has already said the U.S. is aware that Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions, so there is no real need for the State Department to confirm or deny.

“Cluster munitions should not be used by anyone, anywhere, at any time due to the foreseeable harm to civilians,” Goose added.

He also said the States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions are meeting for the first Five Year Review Conference of the convention next month and are expected to condemn Saudi use and call for a halt.

Cluster bombs have also been used in Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and by a non-state actor,

the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), among others.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was adopted in 2008, entered into force in 2010. A total of 117 states have joined the Convention, with 93 States parties who have signed and ratified the treaty.

The convention, which bans cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiles, clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants, and assistance to victims.

Human Rights Watch, a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, the civil society campaign behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions and publisher of Cluster Munition Monitor 2014, said last May that banned cluster munitions have wounded civilians, including a child, in attacks in Houthi-controlled territory in northern Yemen.

HRW is preparing another report on new use of cluster munitions, scheduled to be released next week.

On Sep. 3, the Cluster Munition Monitor 2015, which provides a global overview of states’ adherence to the ban convention, will be released in Geneva.

An HRW team, in a report released after a visit to the Saada governorate in northern Yemen, said the Saudi-led coalition and other warring parties in Yemen “need to recognise that using banned cluster munitions is very likely to harm civilians.”

Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at HRW, said, “These weapons can’t distinguish military targets from civilians, and their unexploded sub-munitions threaten civilians, especially children, even long after the fighting.”

In one attack, which wounded three people, at least two of them most likely civilians, the cluster munitions were air-dropped, pointing to the Saudi-led coalition as responsible because it is the only party using aircraft.

In a second attack, which wounded four civilians, including a child, HRW said it was not able to conclusively determine responsibility because the cluster munitions were ground-fired, but the attack was on an area that has been under attack by the Saudi-led coalition.

In these and other documented cluster munition attacks, HRW has identified the use of three types of cluster munitions in Yemen and called upon the United States to denounce their use.

HRW also said the discovery of cluster munitions in Houthi-controlled territory that had been attacked by coalition aircraft on previous occasions and the location within range of Saudi artillery suggest that Saudi forces fired the cluster munitions, but further investigation is needed to conclusively determine responsibility.

German “Investors” Begin the Looting of Greece

August 24th, 2015 by Darrell Delamaide

Fraport, which ironically is majority-owned by state and local governments in Germany, has cherry-picked among Greece’s network of regional airports to take over only those that make a profit. It is happy to leave the 30 other loss-making airports in the hands of a bankrupt state.

Greek Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis told German television that this deal to take away the profitable airports and leave the ailing government with only those requiring subsidies “is more fitting for a colony than for an EU member state.”

The official memorandum of understanding approved this week specifically mentions the airport deal and that it must be made with the buyer already agreed upon, even though the bulk of the privatizations that Greece must make will be finalized only in March of next year.

Sven Giegold, a German member of the European Parliament who represents the environmentalist party, the Greens, called this isolated provision “bizarre.”

Even with the announcement of the concession by the Greek government, however, the German company indicated that it might seek better terms than those previously agreed upon.

This same pattern of taking over profitable assets at depressed prices will no doubt become evident in the other sales mandated by the agreement.

Other assets to be sold will include the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki and valuable waterfront properties for hotel and casino development. State-owned electricity and train operations are also targeted for privatization.

How anyone can view this blatant profiteering as furthering the process of European integration is a mystery. How any European can look at this naked German aggression with equanimity is also baffling.

The irrepressible Yanis Varoufakis, unbowed after his resistance to capitulation ended his brief tenure as finance minister, notes in an annotated version of the MOU that the Greek government in May had proposed an alternative path to privatization that would have leveraged the public assets to promote more investment and growth.

Under that plan, Greece would upgrade the public assets, fully utilizing aid available from EU sources like the European Investment Bank, to help drive growth and then privatize them at its own pace at a much higher price.

Like every other suggestion from the Greek side, this proposal was dismissed out of hand by the German-led EU negotiators.

The war is over; let the occupation begin.