The spirits of the more than 2,000 Palestinians who were killed in Israel’s 50-day military operation against Gaza last summer have been immortalized in the posters that have emerged from the conflict. The online Palestine Poster Project Archives contains more than 175 posters on Gaza published in the past year. “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it,” in the words of Berthold Brecht. Ten internationally representative posters created in response to last summer’s attacks, discussed below, demonstrate the power with which artists wield their tools to record history, influence the discourse, and effect action.

Hassona is a prolific young artist from Gaza whose work has been exhibited internationally; he also displays his posters via his website, Taste of Freedom: Posters of Gaza. In this work, Hassona depicts Israeli bombs that drop through vaporous clouds and land intact, seemingly without effect. The children are not annihilated by the bombs; rather, they transform into pinwheels that rise up tall from “GAZA.” The sky may be black, but the sun is breaking through, and birds—symbolizing the dispossessed—are returning home.

Gaza Pinwheels
Mohammed Hassona (Palestine)

Image (R): University of Chicago, 2014 American Friends Service Committee

The American Friends Service Committee adopted this poster’s imagery for its Gaza Pinwheel Project, which memorialized the young victims of Israel’s military operation; according to the United Nation’s Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, 551 children were killed. In one such exhibition at the University of Chicago (below), the lawn was carpeted with black pinwheels, each bearing the name and age of one child killed. This kind of linkage demonstrates the ease by which posters in the Internet era can serve as strategic protest tools.

The Steadfast People
Hafez Omar (Palestine)

Bombs also fall in this stark poster but, as in “Gaza Pinwheels,” their descent is confronted by “the steadfast people,” as represented by the Arabic caption and the throngs standing on the rooftops. These citizens of Gaza are engaged in sumud (Arabic: steadfastness), the Palestinian form of nonviolent resistance. Their bodies against the bombs embody the vast asymmetricality of the struggle, and the human cost is suggested by the caption that is red like blood.

But there’s another way to interpret this poster: the Israeli Defense Forces, in a post entitled, “Hamas Caught Using Human Shields in Gaza,” contorts meaning to justify its war. The IDF translates the caption as “the strong people,” which it says is mere “word play” on the Hebrew name it gave to its military operation against Gaza (Tzuk Eitan, meaning “strong cliff”). Furthermore, IDF claims, “Hamas uses graphics such as [this poster] in order to assure Palestinians in Gaza that that they can become heroes by acting as human shields.” IDF did not do its research; the artist Hafez Omar did not create this poster for Hamas, and this poster is not some macabre celebration of death. Clearly, it is beyond the IDF to understand sumud.

This poster is among many images curated by a French language website, Humaginaire.

Gaza Teddy Bear
Cris Elpasolibre (Basque Country/France)

Because of the particularly heinous nature of the violence wrought by Israel, blood is a common motif in posters responding to the 2014 assault on Gaza. No text appears in Elpasolibre’s depiction of the war. The cute teddy bear appears lost, as if it fell into this scene out of the arms of some child in a picture book. But the stuffing and blood spilling out of the bear’s guts remind us that real children fell from their real mother’s arms and suffered real, gruesome injury. The teddy bear image, standing in for the 551 Gazan children killed and the 3,436 injured, is more painful to contemplate than any one photograph.

The provenance of this poster—Basque Country—speaks to the ties that connect Palestine to other national liberation movements around the world.

Yours Very Truly
Maybe Jairan Sadeghi (United States)

Blood is a motif yet again in this poster. The page is spattered with it, even though the war plane is seemingly stationary. The aircraft is identified as Israeli by the Star of David insignias, which—lest anyone label the artist anti-Semitic—appear on actual Israel Defense Forces aircraft.

The wings serve as the canvases for the bomber’s impact. The left wing presents the injured, the dead, and the bereaved; the right depicts the rubble and the smoke. The clincher is the attached tag, which reads, “Yours Very Truly, XOXO U.S.A.” It symbolizes the gift of $3+ billion in annual military aid from the U.S. to Israel. Americans are the givers of death and destruction to Gaza, by their acquiescence to the “special relationship” between the two countries through which Israel’s weapons of war are financed.

“Yours Very Truly” is one of many posters curated at the Tumblr site, Handela Has A Posse, which is dedicated to “art in solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

Visit Palestine
Matias Roland Decraene (France)

The original intent of the iconic 1936 Franz Krausz poster (below) was to promote tourism to the land that was only redesignated as “Israel” in 1948. A 1995 reprint by Israeli artist David Tartakover has been immensely popular among Palestinians, internationals, and, to some degree, Israelis. “Visit Palestine” has generated so many remixes that it has become a subgenre of posters unto itself. (For more on the iconographic history of this poster, read “‘Visit Palestine’: A Brief Study of Palestine Posters” by Rochelle Davis and Dan Walsh; a gallery of remixes is available at the Palestine Poster Project Archives).

(Image: Franz Krausz)

In 2009, the Ramallah-based artist Amer Shomali created a version (left) that relocates the Apartheid Wall into this setting. The poster was selected in a call for posters by Imaging Apartheid and was distributed internationally by the artists’ cooperative, Justseeds.  In Decraene’s Gaza-inspired remix, the Apartheid Wall remains but Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock are visible behind it, with the bombing of Gaza as backdrop.

Image (R): Amer Shomali

In the foreground Decraene places several tableaus: Israelis who have set up couches on the hillside to be entertained by the spectacle of war; an Israeli-trained attack dog in action; Palestinians resisting with flag and slingshot; and an individual kneeling in prayer. At least one of these images is adapted from a photograph (see Slide 5 in “Sderot Cinema: Bombing of Gaza”); possibly all of them are. The geographic placements are not literally accurate; the juxtaposition suggests that the Wall, the Holy City, Gaza, and interactions with Zionist oppressors form a unified reality for Palestinians.

Gaza Love
Kyle Goen (United States)

Goen’s modus operandi, according to his website, is to use “found imagery and repurposed national symbols” to explore social justice themes. Here, Goen makes use of the iconographic “LOVE” lettering first rendered in a 1970 sculpture by Robert Indiana and later featured on the first stamp on the theme of love to be issued by the U.S. Postal Service, in 1973 (below).

Goen’s transformation of the word “LOVE” into “GAZA” is provocative yet disarming, associating love with a geographical location that Americans have neglected, ignored, misunderstood, and defamed. The familiar, joyful lettering, recast in a bold palette (the Palestinian colors of red, black, white, and green), compels a reconsideration of “Gaza.” For those already in solidarity with Palestine, it affirms the affection. The genius of this poster is that the image can be interpreted from yards away. This made it extremely popular with demonstrators in the summer of 2014 (below).

Silence=Death
Lee Valley (United States)

According to the credits line, this poster was “respectfully created as a remix of the classic poster from the SILENCE=DEATH Project” (below), which launched in 1987 in response to the AIDS crisis.

Silence=Death

The Gaza map stands in for the pink triangle from the original, and the palette has been adjusted to the Palestinian colors. The caption copy also shows deference. The original text reads:

Why is Reagan silent about AIDS? What is really going on at the Center for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Vatican? Gays and lesbians are not expendable…Use your power…Vote…Boycott…Defend yourselves…Turn anger, fear, grief into action.”

The Gaza remix reads in parallel:

Why is America so passive about Gaza? What is really going on between the U.S. and Zionists? Palestinians are not expendable… Use your power… Boycott…Divest…Sanction… Vote. Defend your First Amendment freedom of expression to speak up on Palestine. Resist the use of your taxpayer dollars to mindlessly support Zionism. Turn anger, fear, grief into action.”

The artist says, “I was living in Washington, DC in the late eighties when SILENCE=DEATH posters were pasted up around the city. The image and text were so direct that no one could avoid the message. My idea was to create an equally unavoidable message about the ongoing situation in Gaza.”

Stop Barbaric Attacks On Palestine
Carlos Latuff (Brazil)

The missile targeting the baby carriage suggests the depersonalized warfare on innocents practiced by the Israeli Air Force. Latuff, a political cartoonist, created the original poster (below) in response to Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2009; the above was remixed by an Islamic Bangladeshi student organization following the 2014 recurrence of warfare.

Latuff’s graphics are available through the online community showcase,  Deviant Art; this image has been adopted and adapted by groups and artists around the world. Latuff’s original is a commentary; the Bangladesh group’s addition of a caption, “Stop barbaric attacks on Palestine,” transforms the work into a call to action.

Intifada Everywhere
Mike Flugennock (United State)

This poster fuses three contemporaneous events: the war on Gaza launched by Israel on July 8; Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9; and the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa teachers school after being taken into police custody in Guerrero, Mexico, on September 26. “Ferguson to Palestine” is now a rallying cry (see slogan on the Apartheid Wall, below) and an organizing principle. The ties between these three movements will not likely be undone, and this can only benefit Palestine.

(Photo: STL-PSC)

In Flugennock’s poster, the three men are similar in their stance and determination but unique in their garb and choice of weapon. The caption, “Intifada Everywhere,” can be read in at least two ways: “There are uprisings going on everywhere,” and, “There is a right to rise up wherever there is injustice.”

The large hashtags are a new element for Palestine posters. These direct the audience via social media into specific conversations and actions. In this way the poster becomes more than a statement; it serves as a signpost.

From the Destruction (We Shall Return)
Imad Abu Shtayyah (Jordan)

Like a phoenix rising, a Palestinian woman is re-forming out of the wreckage of Gaza. She has her eyes fixed on Jerusalem as if she gains strength from it. The woman looks so alive that she appears to be the creation of a Hollywood action movie’s computer-generated effects. But in fact the original of this graphic was created in oil; the 59×78-inch painting now hangs in a private museum in Lebanon, and the poster is an electronic reworking.

Abu Shtayyah, who was born in Jordan to a family forced out of Palestine during the Nakba in 1948, has written a poem about this piece. It appears on his Facebook page and reads in part:

From the destruction and hatred you sow
From every inch of our land
That hosted a martyr
We shall return…

We shall return to our land
To the land of our ancestors!

Strong, dignified women are a recurring theme in Palestinian posters, as exemplified by the 2014 poster by Ruba Qumseya (below), which was an entry in the 2014 poster contest of the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. According to the UN report, 299 women were killed and 3,540 injured in the 50-day assault by Israel. These many victims, the poster by Abu Shtayyah suggests, will be redeemed.

(Image: Ruba Qumseya)

The author is indebted to Dan Walsh, curator and founder of the Palestine Poster Project Archives, for his assistance with this article. Catherine Baker is a member of the Advisory Board of the Palestine Poster Project Archives. She is also a mentor in We Are Not Numbers, a project designed to promote the work of Gaza writers.

Iran Nuclear Deal: The Real Battle Begins

July 15th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

It’s not a done deal yet. It has miles to go with stiff congressional and Israeli opposition. 

A previous article discussed Netanyahu and AIPAC vowing in less than so many words to undermine what was achieved. Expect them going all-out by pressuring for congressional rejection and scare-mongering Americans to think Iran’s nonexistent road to the bomb is facilitated.

Two agreements were reached Tuesday. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) begins a lengthy process likely continuing through yearend or longer. Iran must satisfy P5+1 countries and IAEA requirements before implementation of relief in return – including nuclear related sanctions lifted and unblocking its frozen assets.

At the same time, automatic US and Security Council sanctions “snap-back” is mandated if four of the seven countries involved in talks say Iran breached agreement terms – a potentially deal-wrecking setup letting Washington pressure Britain, France and Germany to go along with US officials claiming Tehran reneged on its agreement (almost certainly unlikely).

Why would Iran do anything to undermine what took years to achieve? If at any time, Washington cries foul, for sure it’s evidence of planned intent based on fabricated claims.

It’s common US double-dealing – pledging one thing, doing another, blaming others for its transgressions and getting away with it.

The second agreement lets the US-controlled IAEA decide if Iran satisfies nonexistent concerns about its nuclear program having no “possible military dimensions (PMD).”

Earlier false accusations can resurface – based on forged documents and other bogus materials. A decade earlier, a mysterious laptop contained falsified information – alleging a so-called “green salt project” to provide clandestine uranium, high-explosives testing, and reengineering a Shahab-3 missile to carry a nuclear warhead.

At the time, former IAEA inspector/later department director Robert Kelly called the documents involved forged, saying:

“There is nothing to tell that (they’re) real. My sense when I went through (them) was that there was possibly a lot of stuff in there that was genuine, (but) it was a kind of junk.”

High quality material amounted to “two or three pages (unrelated) to anything else in the package. It was on a different topic, and you just wondered” whether fake evidence was planted.

He recalled 1993 and 1994 when the IAEA got “very complex forgeries” of a nonexistent Iraq nuclear weapons program. “(W)hen we dug into them they were clearly forgeries,” he explained.

After 36 years, unrelenting US anti-Iranian hostility continues. Agreed on terms with Tehran belies Washington’s bottom line intention – regime change. Nothing consummated Tuesday changes things.

Obama straightaway began selling the deal to skeptics – ludicrously saying “we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region…(T)he international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will no develop a nuclear weapon” it has no intention of producing and never did.

Nor will the deal lessen chances for greater regional war. As long as US policy calls for replacing all independent governments with regimes it controls, nations like Iran are threatened – especially with bipartisan lunatics infesting Washington.

A Final Comment

Congress has 60 days to review what was agreed on in Vienna. It’s expected to vote up or down in early September. Obama signed legislation surrendering his executive authority to lawmakers – a potential deal-breaker.

Republicans across the board expressed opposition. House Speaker John Boehner (R. OH) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) said it’ll “be a very hard sell in Congress.”

Obama needs strong Democrat support to keep the deal from unraveling before implemented. Whether possible remains to be seen – especially with intense Israeli and AIPAC pressure already begun.

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.

Image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2012, drawing his own “red line” on how far he will let Iran go in refining nuclear fuel.

In a rare rebuke to his bullying, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to stop the United States and five other world powers from reaching an agreement to constrain but not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. Yet, Netanyahu still is dominating how the U.S. public and congressional debate is being framed, with Iran accused of regional “aggression” in four countries.

On Tuesday, a recurring theme on U.S. news broadcasts, such as Andrea Mitchell’s MSNBC program, was that any lifting of economic sanctions against Iran will give it more money to engage in trouble-making in the Middle East with references to four nations – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen – a central theme in Netanyahu’s speech on March 3 to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

To repeated standing ovations from U.S. senators and congressmen, Netanyahu declared:

“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations. We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”

Netanyahu’s reference to “Iran’s aggression,” which is now becoming a conventional-wisdom talking point in Official Washington, was curious since Iran has not invaded another country for centuries. In 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – at the urging of Saudi Arabia – invaded Iran. But Iran has not invaded any of the four countries that Netanyahu cited.

One of Netanyahu’s citations of Arab cities supposedly conquered by Iran was particularly strange: Baghdad, which is the capital of Iraq where the U.S. military invaded in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government, on Netanyahu’s recommendation. In other words, Iraq was conquered not by Iranian “aggression” but by U.S. aggression with the support of Israel.

After the Iraq invasion, President George W. Bush installed a Shiite-dominated government which then developed friendly ties to Iran’s Shiite government. So, whatever influence Iran has in Baghdad is the result of a U.S. invasion that Netanyahu personally encouraged.

More recently, Iran has helped the embattled Iraqi government in its struggle against the murderous Islamic State militants who seized large swaths of Iraqi territory last summer. Indeed, Iraqi officials have credited Iran with playing a crucial role in blunting the Islamic State, the terrorists whom President Barack Obama has identified as one of the top security threats facing the United States.

So, in the current Iraqi fight against the head-chopping Islamic State, Iran and the United States are on the same side. Yet, Netanyahu calls Iran’s help “aggression” – and American talking heads repeat that refrain.

Netanyahu also cited Damascus, where Iran has aided the Syrian government in its struggle against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. That means that Iran is assisting the internationally recognized government of Syria hold off two major terrorist organizations. By contrast, Israel and Saudi Arabia have provided direct and indirect help at least to Nusra. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Money Seal Israel-Saudi Alliance?”]

The Israeli prime minister also mentioned Beirut, Lebanon, and Sanaa, Yemen, but those were rather bizarre references, too, since Lebanon is governed by a multi-ethnic arrangement that includes a number of religious and political factions. Hezbollah is one and it has close ties to Iran, but it is stretching the truth to say that Iran “dominates” Beirut or Lebanon.

Similarly, in Sanaa, the Houthis, a Shiite-related sect, have taken control of Yemen’s capital and have reportedly received some help from Iran, but the Houthis deny those reports and are clearly far from under Iranian control. The Houthis also have vowed to work with the Americans to carry on the fight against Yemen’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, which has benefitted from a brutal Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi targets, an act of real aggression that has killed hundreds of civilians and provoked a humanitarian crisis.

Indeed, Iran and these various Shiite-linked movements have been among the most effective in battling Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, while Israel’s Saudi friends have been repeatedly linked to funding and supporting these Sunni terrorist organizations.

So, there is little truth and much exaggeration to Netanyahu’s depiction of what is going on in the Middle East. Yet, the U.S. mainstream media mindlessly reprises Netanyahu’s falsehood about Iran “gobbling up” nations.

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.

IMF: Greek Debt Untenable

July 15th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

Overwhelming Greek debt is a time bomb sure to explode. It’s unsustainable. It’s just a question of when the Hellenic Republic implodes – crushed under the weight of a deepening financial burden no nation can bear indefinitely – especially ones with no control over their monetary and fiscal policies.

Brussels and Frankfurt run things – a policy designed for predation. Strong nations like Germany and France wage financial war on weak ones like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and others – stealing their wealth, assets and enterprises, harming ordinary people most, colonizing the countries for profit.

Even the Bretton Woods established/US controlled loan shark of last resort IMF astonishingly called for Greek debt relief. It doesn’t care about force-fed austerity harming ordinary people. It’s concerned about contagion. If Greece implodes, expect continental fallout.

Its leaked memo to the European Commission estimates its debt reaching 200% of GDP in the next two years without relief. In 1980, it was 22.6%. In 2008 – 127%. In 2014 – 177.1%.

Since crisis conditions erupted, Greece’s economy plunged over 25%.  It’s mired in deepening Depression with European Commission and ECB demands sure to make things much worse – a sinkhole of economic decline and horrific human deprivation to pay bankers at the expense of sovereign independence and providing vital social services.

The IMF memo was blunt, saying

“Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far.”

“We have made it very clear that before we go the the (IMF) board (for authorization to release 16.4 billion euros in funding Eurozone officials are counting on as part of their debt relief package), we need a concrete and complete solution to the debt problem.”

IMF rules (breached at its discretion – currently for Ukraine, earlier for Greece) prohibit loaning funds to countries with debt burdens deemed unsustainable – unable to be repaid.

The organization urged a 30% haircut – something European officials (mainly Germany, Greece’s largest creditor) categorically reject so far.

“Greece cannot return to markets anytime soon at interest rates that it can afford from a medium-term perspective,” the IMF memo said.

“The events of the past two weeks – the closure of banks and imposition of capital controls – are extracting a heavy toll on the banking system and the economy, leading to a further significant deterioration in debt sustainability relative to what was projected in our recently published DSA.”

Each week capital controls stay imposed increases Greece’s bailout requirement by another 10 billion euros. Worse still, IMF

“projections remain subject to considerable downside risk, suggesting that there could be a need for additional further exceptional financing from Member States with an attendant deterioration in the debt dynamics.”

“The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date – and what has been proposed by the ESM (European Stability Mechanism).”

The IMF memo exposes the fallacy of European Commission and ECB mandates leading to Greece’s economic recovery. They assure destroying its economy altogether without substantial debt relief.

Grexit, regaining monetary and fiscal control, as well as renouncing its odious debt entirely is its only sensible option – freedom from Eurozone rapaciousness, raping and pillaging Greece for profit.

If modest sustainable growth resumed, (impossible any time soon under European imposed demands), it would take many decades to pay down its debt burden to a much lower manageable level – maybe the rest of the 21st century to pay it all off.

The risk of contagion is huge. Greece’s tiny percentage of Europe’s economy is no protection against it. In September 2008, pushing Lehman Brothers over the edge triggered financial crisis conditions still festering.

Things have gotten so out of hand since then with stock, bond and other financial market bubbles, the next crisis virtually sure to come may be much worse than before with less ammunition to contain it.

Interest rates can’t go lower at near zero levels already. Money printing madness only delays eventual day of reckoning time. The longer it continues, the less effective it becomes.

The late Bob Chapman (International Forecaster editor and publisher, former Wall Street insider) called it virtually certain. Only its timing is unknown. It can happen any time. Tipping points often aren’t recognized until the wisdom of hindsight.

Trapped in the euro straightjacket, Greece is a European Commission/ECB controlled colony – strip-mined for profit at the expense of its sovereignty and essential popular needs gone begging. SYRIZA bears full responsibility for duplicity and betrayal.

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.

Grexit or Jubilee? How Greek Debt Can Be Annulled

July 15th, 2015 by Ellen Brown

The crushing Greek debt could be canceled the way it was made – by sleight of hand. But saving the Greek people and their economy is evidently not in the game plan of the Eurocrats.

Greece’s creditors have finally brought the country to its knees, forcing President Alexis Tsipras to agree to austerity and privatization measures more severe than those overwhelmingly rejected by popular vote a week earlier. No write-down of Greece’s debt was included in the deal, although the IMF has warned that the current debt is unsustainable.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis calls the deal “a new Versailles Treaty” and “the politics of humiliation.” Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos calls it a “coup d’état” done by “blackmailing the Greek prime minister with collapse of the banks and a complete haircut on deposits.”

“Blackmail” is not too strong a word. The European Central Bank has turned off its liquidity tap for Greece’s banks, something all banks need, as explained earlier here. All banks are technically insolvent, lending money they don’t have. They don’t lend their deposits but create deposits when they make loans, as the Bank of England recently confirmed. When the depositors and borrowers come for their money at the same time, the bank must borrow from other banks; and if that liquidity runs dry, the bank turns to the central bank, the lender of last resort empowered to create money at will. Without the central bank’s backstop, banks must steal from their depositors with “haircuts” or they will collapse.

What did Greece do to deserve this coup d’état? According to former World Bank economist Peter Koenig:

[T]he Greek people, the citizens of a sovereign country . . . have had the audacity to democratically elect a socialist government. Now they have to suffer. They do not conform to the self-imposed rules of the neoliberal empire of unrestricted globalized privatization of public services and public properties from which the elite is maximizing profits – for themselves, of course. It is outright theft of public property.

According to a July 5th article titled “Greece – The One Biggest Lie You’re Being Told By The Media,” the country did not fail on its own. It was made to fail:

[T]he banks wrecked the Greek government, and then deliberately pushed it into unsustainable debt . . . while revenue-generating public assets were sold off to oligarchs and international corporations.

A Truth Committee convened by the Greek parliament reported in June that a major portion of the country’s €320 billion debt is “illegal, illegitimate and odious” and should not be paid.

How to Cut the Debt Without Loss to the Bondholders

The debt cannot be paid and should not be paid, but EU leaders justify their hard line as necessary to save the creditors from having to pay – the European taxpayers, governments, institutions, and banks holding Greek bonds. It is quite possible to grant debt relief, however, without hurting the bondholders. US banks were bailed out by the US Federal Reserve to the tune of more than $16 trillion in virtually interest-free loans, without drawing on taxes. Central banks have a printing press that allows them to create money at will.

The ECB has already embarked on this sort of debt purchasing program. In January, it announced it would purchase 60 billion euros of debt assets per month beginning in March, continuing to at least September 2016, for a total of €1.14 trillion of asset purchases. These assets are being purchased through “quantitative easing” – expanding the monetary base simply with accounting entries on the ECB’s books.

The IMF estimates that Greece needs debt relief of €60 billion – a mere one month of the ECB’s quantitative easing program. The ECB could solve Greece’s problem with a few computer keystrokes. Moreover, in today’s deflationary environment, the effect would actually be to stimulate the European economy. As financial writer Richard Duncan observes:

When a central bank prints money and buys a government bond, it is the same thing as cancelling that bond (so long as the central bank does not sell the bond back to the public).

. . . The European Central Bank’s plans to create €1.1 trillion over the next 20 months will effectively cancel the combined budget deficits of the Eurozone national governments in both 2015 and 2016, with a considerable amount left over.

Quantitative Easing has only been possible because it has occurred at a time when Globalization is driving down the price of labor and industrial goods. The combination of fiat money and Globalization creates a unique moment in history where the governments of the developed economies can print money on an aggressive scale without causing inflation.

They should take advantage of this once-in-history opportunity to borrow more in order to invest in new industries and technologies, to restructure their economies and to retrain and educate their workforce at the post-graduate level. If they do, they could not only end the global economic crisis, but also ensure that the standard of living in the developed world continues to improve, rather than sinking down to third world levels.

That is how it works for Germany after World War II. According to economist Michael Hudson, the most successful debt jubilee in recent times was gifted to Germany, the country now most opposed to doing the same for Greece. The German Economic Miracle followed massive debt forgiveness by the Allies:

All domestic German debts were annulled, except employer wage debts to their labor force, and basic working balances. Later, in 1953, its international debts were written down.

Why not do the same for the Greeks? Hudson writes:

It was easy to write down debts that were owed to Nazis. It is much harder to do so when the debts are owed to powerful and entrenched institutions – especially to banks.

Loans Created with Accounting Entries Can Be Canceled with Accounting Entries

That may be true for non-bank creditors. But for banks, recall that the money owed to them is not taken from the accounts of depositors. It is simply created with accounting entries on the books. The loans could be canceled the same way. To the extent that the Greek debt is owed to the ECB, the IMF and other financial institutions, that is another option for canceling it.

British economist Michael Rowbotham explored that possibility in 1998 for the onerous Third World debts owed to the World Bank and IMF. He wrote that of the $2.2 trillion debt then outstanding, the vast majority was money simply created by commercial banks. It represented a liability on the banks’ books only because the rules of banking said their books must be balanced.  He suggested two ways the rules might be changed to liquidate unfair and oppressive debts:

The first option is to remove the obligation on banks to maintain parity between assets and liabilities, or, to be more precise, to allow banks to hold reduced levels of assets equivalent to the Third World debt bonds they cancel.  Thus, if a commercial bank held $10 billion worth of developing country debt bonds, after cancellation it would be permitted in perpetuity to have a $10 billion dollar deficit in its assets.  This is a simple matter of record-keeping.

The second option, and in accountancy terms probably the more satisfactory (although it amounts to the same policy), is to cancel the debt bonds, yet permit banks to retain them for purposes of accountancy.

The Real Roadblock Is Political

The Eurocrats could end the economic crisis by writing off odious unrepayable debt either through quantitative easing or by changing bank accounting rules. But ending the crisis is evidently not what they are up to. As Michael Hudson puts it, “finance has become the modern-day mode of warfare. Its objectives are the same: acquisition of land, raw materials and monopolies.” He writes:

Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other debtor countries have been under the same mode of attack that was waged by the IMF and its austerity doctrine that bankrupted Latin America from the 1970s onward.

Prof. Richard Werner, who was on the scene as the European Union evolved,maintains that the intent for the EU from the start was the abandonment of national sovereignty in favor of a single-currency system controlled by eurocrats doing the bidding of international financiers. The model was flawed from the beginning. The solution, he says, is for EU countries to regain their national sovereignty by leaving the euro en masse. He writes:

By abandoning the euro, each country would regain control over monetary policy and could thus solve their own particular predicament. Some, such as Greece, may default, but its central bank could limit the damage by purchasing the dud bonds from banks at face value and keeping them on its balance sheet without marking to market (central banks have this option, as the Fed showed again in October 2008). Banks would then have stronger balance sheets than ever, they could create credit again, and in exchange for this costless bailout central banks could insist that bank credit – which creates new money – is only allowed for transactions that contribute to GDP in a sustainable way. Growth without crises and large-scale unemployment could then be arranged.

But Dr. Werner acknowledges that this is not likely to happen soon. Brussels has been instructed by President Obama, no doubt instructed by Wall Street, to hold the euro together at all costs.

The Promise and Perils of Grexit

The creditors may have won this round, but Greece’s financial woes are far from resolved. After the next financial crisis, it could still find itself out of the EU. If the Greek parliament fails to endorse the deal just agreed to by its president, “Grexit” could happen even earlier. And that could be the Black Swan event that ultimately breaks up the EU. It might be in the interests of the creditors to consider a debt jubilee to avoid that result, just as the Allies felt it was in their interests to expunge German debts after World War II.

For Greece, leaving the EU may be perilous; but it opens provocative possibilities. The government could nationalize its insolvent banks along with its central bank, and start generating the credit the country desperately needs to get back on its feet. If it chose, it could do this while still using the euro, just as Ecuador uses the US dollar without being part of the US. (For more on how this could work, see here.)

If Greece switches to drachmas, the funding possibilities are even greater. It could generate the money for a national dividend, guaranteed employment for all, expanded social services, and widespread investment in infrastructure, clean energy, and local business. Freed from its Eurocrat oppressors, Greece could model for the world what can be achieved by a sovereign country using publicly-owned banks and publicly-issued currency for the benefit of its own economy and its own people.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

President Gerald R. Ford and the Shah of Iran confer over a map during the Shah’s May 1975 visit to Washington, D.C. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sits in the background. (Photo courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library)

Washington, D.C. – Four decades ago — in the mid-1970s — U.S. and Iranian officials haggled over a range of concerns that uncannily prefigured similar clashes that surfaced prior to today’s history-making nuclear accord between the P5+1 governments and Iran, according to documents posted today by the National Security Archive at www.nsarchive.org.

The documents from the 1970s record the Shah of Iran’s insistence that his country had “rights” under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop such a program. The Shah further claimed his interest was only in peaceful activities, and cited among other justifications the need to be able to compensate for the eventual decline in Iran’s oil reserves. The current Iranian government, whose predecessors overthrew the Shah in 1979, has propounded the same arguments.

For their part, Obama administration officials have expressed concerns — echoed far more sharply by opponents of a deal — about the threat of proliferation inherent in any agreement that allows Iran to develop nuclear energy resources. Doubts have also sprung up from many quarters in recent years that Tehran’s aims are purely peaceful, and skepticism is even more rife about the Islamic Republic’s claim that it needs to address the fact that its oil resources are finite. As during the Ford and Carter years, worries about nuclear weapons being available for supporting terrorism have hampered the current talks.

Of course there are differences between “then and now.” For instance, in the 1970s the U.S. and many other countries objected to Iran having any capability to produce either plutonium or highly enriched uranium whereas in the current era Iran’s abilities in the latter regard are an established fact. The political picture is also vastly different. The U.S. and Iranian governments have been bitter enemies since 1979, in contrast to the close ties that existed between Washington and the Shah.

Despite the basic differences between the two sides, and the degree of mistrust that has characterized their relations, Iran and its negotiating partners managed to reach fundamental nuclear accords in the 1970s — under both a Republican and a Democratic U.S. president, respectively — as well as now in 2015. In the earlier case, the 1979 revolution intervened before the agreement could be signed. Today’s accord still requires congressional approval, among other steps, before it enters into force. But the parallels after so many years and despite the disparity in political outlook inside Iran, then and now, are intriguing.

Today’s posting draws heavily on previous National Security Archive electronic publications compiled and edited by William Burr whose archival research and Freedom of Information Act / Mandatory Declassification Review requests over the years have steadily broken new ground on this critical subject. The descriptions for the 1970s documents below are edited versions of material produced by Dr. Burr.

For purposes of comparison and permanent access, this posting also includes the text of the July 14, 2015, Iran – P5+1 agreement and official remarks by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

For more information, contact:
Malcolm Byrne or William Burr – 202 / 994-7000 or [email protected]

* * * * *

DOCUMENTS

Document 1: U.S. Embassy Paris cable 15445 to Department of State, “Further Remarks by Shah on Nuclear Weapons,” 25 June 1974, Unclassified

Document 2: U.S. Embassy Tehran cable 5192 to Department of State, “Shah’s Alleged Statement on Nuclear Weapons,” 25 June 1974, Confidential

Sources: Mandatory review (MR) request to Department of Defense and Access to Archival Documentation (AAD), National Archives and Records Administration

Not long after the Indian “peaceful nuclear explosion,” the Shah of Iran caused a flap when asked by a journalist whether Iran would have nuclear weapons: “without any doubt, and sooner than one would think.” Iranian officials quickly denied that the Shah had said any such thing; instead, they claimed his point was that Iran was “not thinking of building atomic weapons but m[a]y revise its policy … if other non-nuclear nations do.”

Document 3: Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs to Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Iran (U) – Action Memorandum,” n.d. [Late June 1974], enclosing Atomic Energy Commission and Department of State memoranda, Confidential, with handwritten note attached

Source: Mandatory Declassification Review request

These memoranda provide a sense of the concerns that shaped the U.S. position throughout the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Not only did Defense Department officials observe that the nuclear power plants sought by the Shah would provide a capability to produce hundreds of nuclear weapons, Department of State officials worried that should the Shah’s dictatorship collapse and Iran became unstable, “domestic dissidents or foreign terrorists might easily be able to seize any special nuclear material stored in Iran for use in bombs.” Moreover, “an aggressive successor to the Shah might consider nuclear weapons the final item needed to establish Iran’s complete military dominance of the region.” It was those concerns that made the Ford administration seek special controls to ensure that U.S.-supplied nuclear materials in Iran were safeguarded for peaceful uses only.

Document 4: NSC Under Secretaries Committee to Deputy Secretary of Defense et al, “US Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy,” 4 December 1974, enclosing Memorandum for the President from Robert S. Ingersoll, Chairman, 4 December 1974, and NSSM 202 Study, “Executive Summary,” Secret

Source: National Archives, CIA Research Tool (CREST)

Other Ford administration priorities, including an ongoing interagency nuclear proliferation policy review, temporarily put the pending Iranian nuclear deal on the backburner. The policy review reproduced here, completed in early December 1974, recommended an “intensified program to inhibit the further spread of independent nuclear explosives capabilities.” Worried that inhibitions to nuclear proliferation and security guarantees were weakening, the NSC Under Secretaries recognized that it might be possible only to delay proliferation, but that even a “partially effective strategy” could serve U.S. national security policy. Any action taken, however, had to be cooperative because the United States was beginning to lose its dominant position as a nuclear exporter.

Document 5: National Security Decision Memorandum 292, “U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation,” 22 April 1975, signed by Henry Kissinger, Secret

Source: Digital National Security Archive, Presidential Directives on National Security, Part II: From Harry Truman to George W. Bush, Jeffrey Richelson, editor.

While Henry Kissinger already had signed off on a policy position, the Iranian deal had to go through a major review so that it would have the support of all relevant agencies. During early Spring 1975, before the Shah’s scheduled visit to the United States in May, the agencies considered possible approaches to the reactor sale, trying to secure an optimal balance between proliferation “principles and objectives” and such goals as export business and good relations with the Shah. After reviewing a number of options, ranging from a veto over reprocessing to allowing Iran to “perform reprocessing” with adequate safeguards, the White House issued this National Security Decision Memorandum. While Kissinger took a flexible position on fuel supply issues, the initial negotiating position on reprocessing would be hard: “Continue to require U.S. approval for reprocessing of U.S. supplied fuel,” with the establishment of a multinational reprocessing facility an “important factor” for securing such approval. For a fallback position, the U.S. would approve reprocessing in Iran so long as the supplier of technology and equipment was a “full and active participation in the plant,” with the possibility of U.S. participation to be held “open.” As long as the U.S. was able to ensure additional safeguards, the possibility of a binational option was generally consistent with Richard Helms’ advice that Washington work for a tacit veto by acquiring “a voice in management decisions” in a reprocessing plant.

Document 6: Tehran Embassy cable 11539 to State Department, “US/Iran Nuclear Agreement,” 26 November 1975, Secret

Source: Mandatory Declassification Review request

Discussions at Vienna in 1975 — also the site of the 2015 talks — disclosed serious disagreements over the nuclear cooperation agreement, with Iran’s atomic energy chief rejecting Washington’s insistence that, through a multinational plant, the U.S. participate in decisions on reprocessing of U.S.-supplied spent fuel. Kissinger was not ready to back down from this position; a telegram that he approved asked Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms to explain U.S. motives to the Shah and to make the point that the Ford administration was not singling out Iran in any way but merely focused on protecting regional security and stability. But in this cable, Helms worries “how serious a problem the nuclear deadlock has become,” especially after the Shah observed, in an interview, that the U.S. position conflicted with Iran’s “sovereignty” and that Washington was asking for things “that the French or Germans would never dream of doing.”

Document 7: Memorandum of conversation, “Secretary’s Meeting with the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament,” 6 January [1977], Secret

Source: Digital National Security Archive

As secretary of state, Kissinger held periodic meetings with the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament (GAC), which was the statutorily-mandated advisory body to the late, lamented Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). During this particular meeting, which included reviews of SALT policy and developments in China, the discussion turned to the problem of nuclear proliferation. Worried about loose command-and-control arrangements in new nuclear states and the possibility that nuclear use in an India-Pakistan conflict could “increase temptations for their use elsewhere,” Kissinger asserted that “we should move heaven and earth” to curb proliferation. Adding a comment that would resonate in today’s debate over the Iran deal, Kissinger remarked: “Even if we can buy only a decade [it is] worth it to prevent it.”

Document 8: U.S. Embassy Tehran cable 5397 to State Department, “Audience with Shah,” 20 June 1977, Confidential

Source: Mandatory Declassification Review request

In June 1977, a new ambassador, career foreign service officer William Sullivan, arrived in Tehran, presenting his credentials to the Shah on 18 June. During their meeting, the Shah told Sullivan that he was ready to resume the nuclear power negotiations and expressed hope that the reactors would be sold. As Sullivan explained in his cable, he did not follow up on the Shah’s observations because he wanted the Iranians to “put all their cards on the table” before using the guidance that President Carter had given him. Sullivan did not want to “look too eager” (a charge leveled against the Obama administration by some critics in 2015). The Shah’s “specific disavowal of interest in reprocessing plant” met with a skeptical response from the cartoonist at ISA’s Iran desk who drew a small picture of a bull next to those words.

Document 9: State Department cable 125971 to Embassy Tehran, “U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation Agreement,” 17 May 1978, Confidential

Source: Mandatory Declassification Review request

While State Department officials had hoped that early Congressional action on White House nonproliferation objectives would expedite the agreement with Iran, Carter did not sign the Nonproliferation Act until March 1978. The month before, U.S. and Iranian officials had completed the negotiations, perhaps expedited by a brief conversation that President Carter had had with the Shah during his visit to Iran in late December 1977. (This was the visit where Carter had famously referred to Iran as an “island of stability.”)

In May 1978, the State Department sent a draft agreement to Tehran — notable partly for its brevity (26 pages) compared to the 2015 agreement (159 pages). Like a similar agreement in 1976 under President Ford, the objective was to avoid proliferation risks, but the Carter administration took a slightly different approach to reprocessing. In article 6, Iran would not reprocess spent fuel or enrich uranium supplied by the U.S. “unless the parties agree.” This was not terribly different from the Ford administration’s language that reprocessing must be “performed in facilities acceptable to the parties.” The United States retained a veto. The key differences were in the separate note, which was more detailed than the 1976 version. Besides including language on physical security, expeditious NRC action on licenses, and international fuel cycle studies, the note provided alternative arrangements for spent fuel resulting from U.S.-supplied material: 1) storage in Iran, 2) storage in the U.S., or 3) storage, processing, or other disposition … in accordance with internationally accepted arrangements.”

Document 10: “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” [Agreement between Iran and P5+1 countries], July 14, 2015, Unclassified

Source: Russian Foreign Ministry Web Site

This is the full text of the 159-page joint agreement of July 14, 2015, as posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s web site (from which most media appear to have retrieved the document).

Document 11: State Department, “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” April 2, 2015, Unclassified

Source: State Department

This document breaks down the main issues under consideration by negotiators in Vienna during Spring and Summer 2015. Its aim was to summarize the process but it also unwittingly serves as a point of comparison with the July 14 document. The summary notes pointedly that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Document 12: White House, “Statement by the President on Iran,” July 14, 2015, Unclassified

Source: White House

Released at 7:02 a.m., this statement by President Obama reflects both a sense of accomplishment and determination not to see two years of effort undone by opponents of the accord. “I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies. So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”

Document 13: State Department, “Press Availability on Nuclear Deal with Iran,” July 14, 2015, Unclassified

Source: State Department

Secretary of State Kerry addressed these remarks to the media in Vienna. Calling July 14 “an historic day,” he describes the agreement as “a step away from the specter of conflict and towards the possibility of peace.”

Document 14: Energy Department, “Statement from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” July 14, 2015, Unclassified

Source: Energy Department

Energy Secretary Moniz became a key member of the U.S. negotiating team in Vienna. A theoretical physicist by training, he served as both an expert and a political shield against those inclined to criticize the talks for lacking seriousness.

Tsipras is seeking to build consensus among the 149 Syriza MPs who dominate the 300-strong Parliament, but could splinter in response to a vote on the deal. (Photo: Gerard Francois/flickr/cc)

As a Wednesday deadline loomed for Greece to pass a package of harsh austerity measures in exchange for a fresh €86 billion bailout, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with furious members of his left-wing Syriza party behind closed doors on Tuesday, attempting to sell them on a deal that will undoubtedly cause further economic hardship in the debt-stricken nation.

Tsipras is seeking to build consensus among the 149 Syriza MPs who dominate the 300-strong Parliament. That bloc has threatened to splinter in response to a vote on the deal. Syriza was elected on an anti-austerity platform; already, last Friday, 17 Syriza deputies withheld support in a vote to authorize a bailout that was even less severe than the one currently on the table.

As Campaign for America’s Future blogger Isaiah Poole explained: “A week after the Greek people said resoundingly in a referendum that they wanted an end to the economic brutalization of working-class people that was being wrought by the austerity economics imposed by Germany and European Union economic establishment, Tsipras is left with the task of selling to the Greek parliament, and by extension the Greek people, what a Bloomberg News story called ‘an onerous bailout deal’—one widely reported to be much worse than one that had been rejected.”

Among the rebellious MPs is former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who has been highly critical of the so-called Troika—the European Commission (Eurogroup), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and European Central Bank (ECB)—and German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble in particular, who Varoufakis likened in a recent interview to the director of a “very well-tuned orchestra” that is the Eurogroup.

In a scathing statement posted to his website on Tuesday, Varoufakis wrote of the agreement: “It is purely and simply a manifestation of the politics of humiliation in action. Even if one loathes our government one must see that the Eurogroup’s list of demands represents a major departure from decency and reason.”

While he vowed to reserve judgement on the specifics until “hearing in person from my comrades, Alexis Tsipras and Euclid Tsakalotos,” Varoufakis said the agreement announced Monday ”reads like a document committing to paper Greece’s Terms of Surrender. It is meant as a statement confirming that Greece acquiesces to becoming a vassal of the Eurogroup.”

It “signalled a complete annulment of national sovereignty,” he added. “Europeans, even those who give not a damn for Greece, ought to beware.”

All told, the weekend’s Euro Summit was “indeed nothing short of the culmination of a coup,” Varoufakis concluded, by explaining:

In 1967 it was the tanks that foreign powers used to end Greek democracy. In my interview with Philip Adams, on ABC Radio National’s LNL, I claimed that in 2015 another coup was staged by foreign powers using, instead of tanks, Greece’s banks. Perhaps the main economic difference is that, whereas in 1967 Greece’s public property was not targeted, in 2015 the powers behind the coup demanded the handing over of all remaining public assets, so that they would be put into the servicing of our un-payble, unsustainable debt.

Varoufakis is not the only one expressing frustration with the negotiations.

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis called onTsipras to reverse his position on the reforms, saying in a statement published on the ministry’s website: “The deal … is unacceptable and does not deserve to be charged to a radical political party such as Syriza, and a battling government that promised to abolish … austerity.” Germany, he charged, had treated Greece “as if it was their colony and [behaved] as brutal blackmailers and ‘financial assassins’.”

Meanwhile, an IMF report leaked Tuesday shows that “Greece will need debt relief far beyond what eurozone partners have been prepared to consider due to the devastation of its economy and banks in the last two weeks,” according to aReuters exclusive.Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis called onTsipras to reverse his position on the reforms, saying in a statement published on the ministry’s website: “The deal … is unacceptable and does not deserve to be charged to a radical political party such as Syriza, and a battling government that promised to abolish … austerity.” Germany, he charged, had treated Greece “as if it was their colony and [behaved] as brutal blackmailers and ‘financial assassins’.”Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis called onTsipras to reverse his position on the reforms, saying in a statement published on the ministry’s website: “The deal … is unacceptable and does not deserve to be charged to a radical political party such as Syriza, and a battling government that promised to abolish … austerity.” Germany, he charged, had treated Greece “as if it was their colony and [behaved] as brutal blackmailers and ‘financial assassins’.”

Reuters reports that the IMF’s updated debt sustainability analysis—which states that European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a very dramatic maturity extension, or else make explicit annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept “deep upfront haircuts” on their loans to Athens—was sent to eurozone governments late on Monday, after the bailout deal was struck.

In response to the latest developments, the global anti-austerity movement is organizing solidarity actions “everywhere” on Wednesday.

“The Troika has succeeded in making the Syriza government submit to their demands to implement more devastating austerity measures, by means of financial terrorism and threatening to push the country over the brink of economic collapse,” reads a call to action at Analyze Greece!. ”Some would call this a capitulation by Syriza, some would call ‪#‎ThisIsACoup‬ by the Troika. Whatever it is, if the Troika gets their way, it would amount to a historic defeat for everyone fighting against austerity and for democracy.”

Referencing this month’s overwhelming “No” (“Oxi”) vote to austerity, the call continues:

OXI means OXI!
OXI to austerity!
OXI to capitulation!
OXI to a third memorandum!
YES to democracy and people’s power.

The Guardian continues to provide live updates here. News outlets are reporting that Tsipras will give an exclusive interview to the Greek TV station ERT1 this evening at 10 PM local time (3 PM EDT).

How a Weaker Iran Got the Hegemon to Lift Sanctions

July 15th, 2015 by Gareth Porter

Now that Iran nuclear deal is completed, the attention of western news media and political commentators is predictably focused overwhelmingly on the opposition to the agreement within the US Congress and from Israel and the Saudi-led Sunni Arab coalition.

That media lens misses the real significance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is that Iran succeeded in negotiating an agreement with the United States that upheld its national right to a nuclear programme despite the obvious vast disparity in power between the two states. That power disparity between the global hegemon and a militarily weak but politically influential regional “middle power” has shaped not just the negotiating strategies of the two sides during the negotiations but, more importantly, how they came about in the first place.

The news media have adopted the Obama administration’s view that negotiations were the result of Iran responding to international sanctions. The problem with that conventional view is not that Iran wasn’t eager to get the sanctions removed, but that it was motivated to do so long before the United States was willing to negotiate.

In fact, Iran had long viewed its nuclear programme not only in terms of energy and scientific advancement but also as a way of inducing the United States to negotiate an end to the extraordinary legal status in which Iran has been placed for so long. Even during the Bill Clinton administration Iranian strategists wanted to get the United States to move toward more normal relations, but Clinton was determined to be the most pro-Israeli administration in US history, and instead imposed a complete trade embargo on Iran.

Clinton eventually offered a “dialogue” with Iran but made it clear that he had no intention of giving up the sanctions against Iran. The lesson that Iranian strategists, including then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and now President Hassan Rouhani, learned from the Clinton years was that the United States would only negotiate the end of its sanctions against Iran if was convinced that the cost and risk of refusing to negotiate was too high.

It was during the second Clinton administration that Iranian strategists began to discuss the idea that Iran’s nuclear programme was its main hope for engaging the hegemonic power.

Iranian political scientist Jalil Roshandel, who worked on a research project for the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s think tank in 1997-1998, recalled in an interview with this writer that influential figures (including an adviser to veteran Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati) had told him during that period that they believed a uranium enrichment programme would provide leverage in negotiating a removal of the sanctions.

Iran tried to use what it assumed was US and European concern about its enrichment programme – which had not yet begun enriching uranium – to gain more leverage in negotiations with the British, French and German governments from November 2003 to spring 2005. But those negotiations were fruitless, mainly because the Bush administration was interested in regime change in Iran and therefore disdained the idea of actual negotiations over its nuclear programme. The Bush administration ordered its European allies not to respond to a March 2005 Iranian proposal that offered to limit the Iranian programme to a minimum.

The problem was that the Bush administration still didn’t take the Iranian nuclear programme seriously, so the power disparity between Washington and Tehran was still too great.

And it wasn’t only the neoconservative-influenced Bush administration that believed it was so powerful that it need not reach a compromise with Iran. We now know that President Barack Obama relied on efforts to coerce Iran rather than negotiating with it during his first four years in office. He approved a plan for an unprecedented cyber-attack on Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility in 2009 as the first move in a strategy of pressure on Iran aimed at forcing the Islamic republic to give up its enrichment programme.

For the Obama administration, intrusive financial sanctions were not originally conceived as a way to bring about a negotiated agreement with Iran. In fact Clinton publicly presented the “diplomatic path” with Iran as a way to “gain credibility and influence with a number of nations who would have to participate in order to make the sanctions regime as tight and crippling as we want it to be”. In other words, diplomacy was actually a gimmick to achieve the administration’s real goal of coercion.

In 2012, when Obama was offering talks on Iran’s nuclear programme for the first time, he was still committed to the same strategy of coercion. The effort to bring Iran to the negotiating table was accompanied by yet another US cyber-attack – this time on the Iranian oil and gas industry.

Only in 2013, during his second term, did Obama’s administration give up the aim of forcing Iran to end enrichment entirely and agree to actually negotiate with Iran on the nuclear issue. That decision came only after Iran had increased the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to more than 9,000, with another 9,000 centrifuges installed but never connected, accumulated a large stockpile of low enriched uranium, and – even more alarming to the United States – began enriching uranium to 20 percent.

So the main back story of the nuclear agreement is that it was Iranian counter-pressure on the United States through its nuclear programme that finally compelled the Obama administration to change its strategy of relying mainly on coercion and begin the negotiations that Iran had wanted for more than two decades.

The most important story of the agreement itself, moreover, is how the Obama administration, supported by its European allies, tried to maintain the sanctions for long as possible in the implementation process.  But in the end US negotiators finally gave up that objective, even though, as Iranian diplomats told me in Vienna, they found the American “emotional attachment” to sanctions still manifesting itself in the last days of negotiations in the language of the UN Security Council resolution.

The basic inequality of power of the two main protagonists, which would normally have allowed the United States to prevail on the issue, had been reduced dramatically by two factors: the lifting of sanctions was so central to Iranian interests that its negotiators would undoubtedly have walked away from the talks if the United States had not relented, and the Obama administration had become committed to completing the negotiations simply by virtue of having made such an agreement its central foreign policy initiative.

The Iran nuclear agreement thus illustrates the elemental importance of the distribution of power but also the possibility of a weaker state achieving its vital interests in negotiations with the hegemonic power against what might appear to be very long odds by exploiting their source of leverage to the maximum with patience, courage and careful calculation.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: A nuclear deal was finally reached on Tuesday in Vienna (AFP)

Australian Greens Senator Talks of War with China

July 15th, 2015 by James Cogan

Acting Greens leader, Senator Scott Ludlam, made statements last week that are noteworthy not only for their content, but for the fact that they generated absolutely no controversy or debate within the Australian media and political establishment.

Ludlam was a speaker at the national conference of the recently established Independent Peace and Activist Network (IPAN), held in Brisbane on July 9. IPAN is a coalition of pseudo-left groupings and individuals that advance pacifist and nationalist opposition to the US-Australia alliance and US bases and military activity in the country. Among the issues IPAN discussed was the large-scale, joint US-Australian “Talisman Sabre” military exercise currently taking place across northern Australia.

Speaking after the event with reporters, Ludlam made off-the-cuff remarks that Talisman Sabre was training for “expeditionary wars and invasions.” Most significantly, he stated: “I don’t think we should be preparing for a war with China … I don’t think we should be participating in that kind of provocation.”

It is difficult to think of more newsworthy comments by a public political figure. The acting leader of the third largest parliamentary party, and the Greens foreign affairs spokesman, asserted that Australia, as part of its alliance with the United States, is “preparing for a war with China.”

An Australian Associated Press stringer filed a story on his remarks within hours. The online Guardian and Murdoch media’s news.com.au posted it. Ludlam then posted a link to the Guardian story on his Facebook page, with the text, “our dress rehearsal for world war three.”

And that is where any public reference to Ludlam’s remarks ended. The television news and the major newspapers did not report them. No member of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition government was asked about them. The Labor opposition said nothing. The Greens themselves did not issue a press release about Talisman Sabre and Ludlam has not repeated his statements since.

The explanation for the silence is that what Ludlam said is true and the Australian establishment does not want it discussed. As the WSWS explained in its July 7 article, “Japan joins US-Australian rehearsal for conflict with China,” Talisman Sabre is a “large-scale dress rehearsal for a military confrontation with China in the Asia-Pacific region.” Over 33,000 American, Australian and New Zealand troops, and a small contingent of Japanese personnel, are practising naval assaults and amphibious landings within the context of sharp tensions over the provocative US allegations that China is threatening “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea.

Under the auspices of the US “pivot to Asia” since 2011, Australia is fully integrated into the American strategic plans for war on China. Northern and western Australian airbases and ports are regularly visited by the American military. US Marines are based in Darwin. The Australian military is treated by the Pentagon as an adjunct to its own forces, trained to operate as part of larger US units. Such is the integration that if the US goes to war in the Asia-Pacific, Australia will immediately be involved.

The scope of exercises like Talisman Sabre reflect military calculations that the US is planning for war sooner rather than later, when China could be in a stronger position to oppose an onslaught by the US and its allies like Japan and Australia.

Ludlam’s posture of concern over the war danger is belied by the record of the Greens. They have loyally assisted the former Labor and current conservative governments block any broad public debate about the preparations for a confrontation with China. In parliament, they do not raise any opposition to the US alliance or the military integration taking place as part of the pivot.

Ludlam, as the Greens foreign affairs spokesman, has played a key role in suppressing critical information about the ever-expanding US military activity in Australia. In November 2013, Ludlam asked questions in the Senate foreign affairs committee about plans for greater “rotation” through northern Australian airbases by US aircraft. He obtained an effective admission from senior military commander Air Marshal Mark Binskin that US aircraft, such as B-52 bombers, would neither confirm nor deny whether they were carrying nuclear weapons when operating from Australia.

Following the admission that Australia might be hosting nuclear-armed long-range bombers, behind-the-backs of the population, Ludlam made no attempt to make an issue of it on the floor of the Senate. Likewise, he did not use parliament to condemn Talisman Sabre as a “dress rehearsal for World War Three.”

Ludlam epitomises the cynical manner in which a section of the Greens occasionally pose as “left” and “anti-war” to select audiences, while at all times serving the interests of the Australian ruling class. No less than the rest of the official political establishment, the Greens have worked to keep the working class in the dark and prevent an anti-war movement developing that challenges the militarist agenda of US and Australian imperialism.

The Greens are assisted in their duplicity by the social types that make up organisations like IPAN. A number of the figures who are active in the network are current or former members of the Stalinist Communist Party of Australia (CPA), Socialist Alliance or the fraudulent “left” of the Australian Labor Party. Hostile to the fight by the Socialist Equality Party to develop an anti-war movement in the working class on an internationalist and socialist perspective, IPAN has been established to try and channel opposition to militarism into politically harmless protests and reactionary Australian nationalism.

The “IPAN Statement” asserts that the US alliance has “put our independence at risk” and calls for Australia to have an “independent foreign policy.” Such demagogy, which implies that Australia’s alignment with the US is simply because politicians are Washington’s lapdogs, is intended to obscure that the danger of war arises from the breakdown of global capitalism. It reflects the standpoint of a faction of the Australian corporate elite who believe that supporting the reckless US attempt to reverse its economic decline by military means will end in disaster and undermine Australian capitalism’s substantial economic ties with China, which is now the country’s largest trading partner.

The dominant factions of the Australian ruling class, however, are prepared to tie their fate to US imperialism. Both the government and Labor opposition are committed to the US “pivot to Asia” against China. This political bipartisanship flows from calculations that Australian imperialist interests—strategic influence in the South Pacific, major investments in Wall Street and the prospect of greater market share in Asia and China in particular—are best served by ensuring the US retains its dominant position in the Asia-Pacific and globally.

Only days before the first anniversary of the killing of Eric Garner by a police chokehold in the borough of Staten Island, the New York City Comptroller announced a $5.9 million settlement with his family this past Monday.

The death of Garner at the hands of the police, the result of murderous brutality caught on videotape on July 17, 2014, triggered outrage that was only compounded when, months later, a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict the officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo.

At a press conference Tuesday, Garner’s family called for the officers involved in his death to be prosecuted. Garner’s daughter Erica said that the family will be satisfied “when we get indictments and when we get a fair trial.”

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said the settlement was not a win for anyone. “This is not a victory. The victory will come when we get justice,” she said. “Eleven times my son said he couldn’t breathe. Eleven times. Where is the justice?”

Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, added “They treated my husband like an animal and I think they give animals more respect than humans.”

The news conference was called at the headquarters of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and Sharpton and the Garner family have announced a rally this Saturday afternoon at the office of the US Attorney in Brooklyn to press their demand for the bringing of federal civil rights charges in the case.

The police accused Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, of selling loose untaxed cigarettes. After he was wrestled to the ground and held in the chokehold, a procedure that had been banned years earlier by the New York Police Department, he called out, “I can’t breathe” 11 times. These final words became the watchword in massive protests in New York and around the country.

The settlement involves no admission of liability on the part of the city. Esaw Garner and Gwen Carr had filed a notice of claim with the authorities, preparing to file suit for $75 million in damages. The settlement enables the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to avoid a trial that would likely have resulted in a far larger damages award, but only after a lengthy trial and possible appeals.

Even more crucial than the possible financial savings in the government’s decision to settle was the importance of avoiding the political consequences of a trial in the Garner case. The videotape details and other testimony would have kept the events of last July 17 before the public, but the trial testimony would also have raised crucial issues about the working of the grand jury system.

Testimony would have illustrated the initial cover-up by police officials of the use of the chokehold, and also the manipulation of the grand jury that ended with the exoneration of Pantaleo. Recent reports have confirmed that witnesses before the grand jury were cautioned not to use the term chokehold, and that eyewitness accounts of the death of Garner at the hands of the police were ignored or dismissed in order to avoid bringing an indictment, even on lesser charges such as manslaughter.

The settlement announcement was accompanied by hypocritical platitudes from de Blasio as well as Comptroller Scott Stringer. Their words were almost identical to those that could have come from the mouths of their predecessors in cases of past police murders.

“Mr. Garner’s death is a touchstone in our city’s history and in the history of the entire nation,” Stringer told the New York Times. “Financial compensation is certainly not everything and it can’t bring Mr. Garner back. But it is our way of creating balance and giving the family a certain closure.”

De Blasio spoke in similar terms, referring to hopes for “peace and finality” for Garner’s family. He added, “I think we’ve come a long way, even in the last year, in terms of bringing police and community together.”

De Blasio’s way of accomplishing this goal has been to reaffirm his support for the policy of “broken windows” policing pioneered by current Police Commissioner William Bratton on his first tour of duty more than 20 years ago, and also proposing the hiring of an additional 1,300 cops, in preparation for social unrest in the face of poverty and police abuse.

As far as the corporate elite and the political establishment are concerned, the settlement in the Garner case is part of the cost of doing “police business” in a city that is polarized as never before between a fabulously decadent and wealthy elite on the one hand and millions of working class families struggling to get by on the other.

A look at other financial settlements in police murders in the last two decades demonstrates, despite the justice of the cases brought or threatened by the families of the victims, the cynicism of the authorities when they speak of “turning the page” and putting an end to these atrocities and tragedies.

Abner Louima, sodomized and brutally beaten in Brooklyn in 1997, was awarded $8.75 million in 2001. The family of Amadou Diallo, gunned down on his doorstep in the Bronx in 1999, was given $3 million. The family of Ramarley Graham, killed in his own apartment in 2012, received $3.9 million. The award following the death of Sean Bell in 2006 was $3.25 million. These are only a few of the most prominent cases.

The list goes on an on. There is no peace and there is no “finality” when it comes to the ongoing and escalating attacks on democratic rights and the police abuse of workers and youth, with special emphasis in working class neighborhoods and the poorest sections of the city.

There are still outstanding investigations into the death of Garner, including a probe by state health officials into grossly inadequate treatment as he lay dying. The NYPD had completed its own investigation, but will not release the results pending the announcement by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York on whether federal civil rights charges will be brought against Pantaleo in the Garner case.

The Justice Department is not expected to bring civil rights charges in the case. As various pundits and unnamed observers have indicated, such charges can only succeed if prosecutors can show willful violation of civil rights based on race, and such evidence would be hard to present in this incident. The whole process of a federal investigation is, in this and most other instances, more an attempt to quiet popular anger than it is about actually punishing guilty cops.

We all know that biotech lobbyists spend millions of dollars influencing the political agenda, but the former CEO of Stonyfield Farms and a public supporter of GMO labeling just hosted a $2700-per-person fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in his own home. What were the intentions?

Organiconsumers.org discloses some interesting information about how Hillary is raising funds for her 2016 presidential campaign. You wouldn’t expect the former chairman of the board for JustLabelIt.org, Gary Hirshberg, to be pandering for money for a known GMO supporter, or would you? Let’s hope it wasn’t like that.

According to the Boston Globe, Hirshberg said that the fundraiser didn’t mean he was supporting Hillary for president.

Organiconsumers.org reached out to Hirshberg through Scott Faber, the current executive director of Just Label It, and they have yet to receive a response.

Clinton was recently dubbed “the bride of frankenfood” by former supporters in Iowa who learned that she had deep ties to the biotech industry while she was campaigning there.

Clinton is on record stating that biotech professionals need to continue to promote the case for GM seed:

“I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record. . .There is a big gap between what the facts are, and what the perceptions are.”

Many women voiced strong support for Clinton’s candidacy until the GMO issue brought light to her true character, at which time they were prompted to switch allegiances to Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, a liberal stalwart challenging her for the Democratic nomination who has vocally supported GMO labeling.

According to the Guardian Liberty Voice:

“Clinton has also  declared her desire to get industry representatives around a table to have an “intensive discussion” about “how the federal government could help biotechs with insurance against [financial] risk.”

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Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far right Front National party. (Rémi Noyon/Flickr)

French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen is attempting to win the favor of Israel lobby groups for her far-right Front National party.

According to the website of the pro-Israel group Europe-Israël, Le Pen told the founder of the European Jewish Parliament, a communal organization based in Brussels, that “anti-Semitism has no place in the Front National.”

Le Pen also reportedly told Ukrainian oligarch Vadim Rabinovich at their meeting in the French city of Strasbourg that “she would not accept Front National members who have anti-Semitic opinions” or “who support a boycott of Israel.”

The far-right leader reportedly characterized the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights as “racist.”

Le Pen’s conflation of anti-Semitism, of which her party has a long and notorious tradition, on the one hand, and Palestine solidarity activism, on the other, converges with the strategy being pushed by the Socialist administration of President François Hollande.

The Front National’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim invective are increasingly in tune with mainstream French xenophobia, especially in the wake of the murders at the anti-Muslim magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January.

In the US, there is nothing new in prominent pro-Israel figures, such as Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman, pursuing alliances with notorious anti-Semites and Islamophobes for the sake of Israel.

But in France, the Front National remains saddled with its history of Holocaust denial and of promoting hatred and suspicion of Jews.

Seeking the endorsement of Israel lobby groups is therefore a shrewd way for Le Pen to try to shed that baggage. In that vein, we can expect that the BDS movement will be an increasingly popular target for ambitious French politicians, just as it is for American ones.

Earlier this month, for instance, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton assured Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban of her determination to fight BDS.

Family feud

The meeting also comes amid a bitter family feud between Marine Le Pen and her father, Front National founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. The party has moved to expel the elder Le Pen and strip him of his title of “honorary president.”

At issue is Jean-Marie Le Pen’s off-message comments minimizing the Holocaust, praising France’s wartime collaborationist Vichy regime and referring to Nazi death camps as a mere “detail” of the Second World War.

Earlier this month, a French court overturned a party ballot to dump him, ensuring that embarrassing litigation will persist in the run-up to the 2017 presidential election.

Flirtation

Marine Le Pen’s comments can be seen as a reciprocation of recent flirtations with her party by certain Israel lobby figures.

In February, Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the main pro-Israel umbrella group of Jewish communal organizations in France, raised eyebrows when he appeared to bless the Front National leader.

He acknowledged in a radio interview that the Front National was starting to draw Jewish voters, but said it was a very small minority.

“I think we in the Jewish world are all aware that behind Marine Le Pen, who is personally beyond criticism, there are many Holocaust deniers [and] supporters of the Vichy regime,” Cukierman said, “and therefore for us the Front National is a party to avoid.”

Cukierman’s apparent praise of Le Pen, and his attempt to distinguish her from the rest of her party, drew asharp rebuke from Serge Klarsfeld, the French attorney and activist whose father was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.

Splits

Similarly, Le Pen’s meeting with European Jewish Parliament founder Vadim Rabinovich has highlighted disagreements among some pro-Israel groups.

“She is not her father,” Rabinovich told JTA of Marine Le Pen. “We have had a constructive dialogue where we accepted the need to combat anti-Semitism, and I believe she is sincere about this.”

But Europe-Israël President Jean-Marc Moskowicz resigned from the European Jewish Parliament in protest over the meeting, stating that it was “not the role of the European Jewish Parliament to interfere in the relationship between French political parties and the Jewish community of France.”

Moskowicz, however, does not seem to oppose meeting Le Pen in principle. Rather, he objected on foreign policy grounds, including that “the party of Ms. Le Pen is still unclear regarding Israel.”

He cited statements of Le Pen deputy Florian Philippot “in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state without negotiations with Israel.”

Calling the meeting “more than premature,” Moskowicz said it “would have been better to wait for Marine Le Pen to take positions in support of Israel, against anti-Semitism and to fight the boycott, which she has not done for the moment.”

The implication seems to be that if Le Pen affirms pro-Israel and anti-BDS positions as a matter of party policy, Europe-Israël too might be ready to give her a second look.

Divide and rule

Le Pen’s comments underline the advantage French politicians – even those who head notoriously anti-Semitic parties – see in posing as champions in the fight against anti-Semitism.

But the approach they are taking may only deepen divisions in French society, rather than effectively addressing the problem, according to Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR).

PIR – the Party of the Indigenous Persons of the Republic – is an anti-racist and decolonial political collective that says that Black people, Arabs and Muslims still occupy an inferior place in contemporary France, just as they did in French colonies.

In March, PIR took aim at what it called “state racism” and “state philo-Semitism” that pit Jews against other segments of French society under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism.

“It is true that traditional anti-Semitism exists in France, fueled by the far-right,” PIR observes. “But there is no state anti-Semitism. Jews are not discriminated against in housing or employment, are not harassed by the police and are not subjected to large-scale anti-Semitic propaganda in national media.”

This contrasts with the condition of millions of French citizens and immigrants of Arab and African ancestry or Muslim faith.

But, PIR warns:

There is a state policy, rooted in colonial history, that is being reactivated in light of contemporary issues. This policy is based on the preferential treatment given to the fight against anti-Semitism as against other racisms. This is helping to deepen the tensions between different segments of French society, exposing Jews to the condemnation of the most disadvantaged in the hierarchy of racisms. Based on this logic, we see a racist offensive against young indigenes [people of Arab and African ancestry or Muslim religion], accusing them of being the vector of a new anti-Semitism. [The state] claims to be the protector of the Jews, all the while using them … as a baseball bat to hit Blacks and Arabs.

Since the January attacks in Paris, there has been a big leap in Islamophobic attacks in France, but little government effort to fight the phenomenon.

Many critics accuse the government itself of stigmatizing young Muslims in its fight against “radicalization.”

There has been a fivefold increase in physical attacks against persons and numerous acts of vandalism against mosques, according to a recent report from the nonprofit group Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (Collective Against Islamophobia in France).

In June, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve admitted that the number of anti-Muslim acts “is certainly underestimated because too many victims are reluctant to report them,” fearing that they would not be believed or that nothing would be done.

By contrast, President François Hollande, announcing a raft of new laws and policies aimed at fighting anti-Semitism, stated in February that anti-Jewish statements online should be treated with the same severity as child pornography.

According to PIR, this differential approach is being supported by pro-Israel organizations in the Jewish community – with the effect of further conflating Judaism and Jews, on the one hand, with Israel and Zionism, on the other.

In an expansive essay, PIR’s Houria Bouteldja writes:

Those who use the Jews for Israeli interests are indeed Zionist organizations in complicity with Official France, which attends the CRIF dinner every year and makes Zionist organizations its privileged interlocutors. This attitude of French rulers has been denounced by Jewish organizations – UFJP[French Jewish Union for Peace], IJAN [International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network] and Another Jewish Voice, who rightly see the danger for Jews all over the world. It is important to note that these activists, who previously claimed internationalist and class identities, now feel obliged to identify as Jews to distinguish themselves from those who are confiscating Jewishness for political ends.

Among those now joining in – with the apparent collusion of at least a few pro-Israel activists – is one of France’s most pernicious organizations: the Front National.

For Bouteldja, the message of recent political developments in France is clear: “If one is clearly anti-racist, and worried about the rise of the extreme right that will target first and foremost the populations of the [predominantly Arab and Black] neighborhoods; and if one is concerned about Jews who have become targets of terrorist groups, one must have the courage to attack the current forms of state racism: Islamophobia, anti-Blackness and Romaniphobia, as well as state philo-Semitism, which is a subtle and sophisticated form of anti-Semitism of the nation-state.”

An alarming recent report revealed not only that prominent psychologists colluded with the Department of Defense and CIA to create a framework of justification for appalling and inexcusable torture, but the person heading that partnership was none other than Stephen Behnke, the Ethics Director of the American Psychological Association.

The APA’s collusion with the national security apparatus is one of the greatest scandals in U.S. medical history,” declared a statement by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) following the report’s release. That statement called for a full investigation by the Department of Justice over the APA’s actions—and inactions—that gave the Bush administration the greenlight for cruel and inhumane torture of the highest order.

“The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions,” implored PHR’s executive director, Donna McKay. “Rather than uphold the principle of ‘do no harm,’APA leadership subverted its own ethics policies and sabotaged all efforts at enforcement.”

Acting in concert with DoD officials, the APA became the de facto “PR strategy” [read: propaganda campaign] that sanitized gross human rights abuses in order to “curry favor” with the DoD. Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, stress positions, and other forms of torture were both spuriously justified and allowed to continue through the creative editing and generalization of the very ethics standards that should have prevented any torture from taking place. According to the report:

[K]ey APA officials were operating in close, confidential coordination with key Defense Department officials to set up a task force and produce an outcome that would please DoD, and to produce ethical guidelines that were the same as, or not more restrictive than, the DoD guidelines for interrogation activities.”

The 542-page report, first obtained by the New York Times, resulted from seven months of investigation by a team headed by David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin, at the request of the APA’s board.

Physicians for Human Rights summarized the “overwhelming evidence of criminal activity by APA staff and officials”—whose involvement is evidenced in the report by the following four key conclusions:

  1. Colluding with the U.S. Department of Defense, the CIA, and other elements of the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend the post-9/11 torture program
  2. Allowing military and intelligence personnel to write APA ethics policies regulating their own conduct to ensure they were ‘covered’ in their roles for the torture program
  3. Engaging in a coordinated campaign to cover up the collusion and blocking attempts to oppose these policies within the APA” and
  4. Obstructing and manipulating ethics investigations into psychologists involved in the torture program

Hoffman’s report posits several motives—all with “organizational conflict[s] of interest”—that the APA had for its rather astonishing partnership:

“[The] DoD is one of the largest employers of psychologists and provides many millions of dollars in grants or contracts for psychologists around the country. The history of the DoD providing critical assistance to the advancement and growth of psychology as a profession is well documented . . .”

Further, the group of DoD and APA officials who crafted the laughable ethics policy actively dodged international law of the Geneva Convention, where its strictures were tighter than U.S. law. [I] cannot take a stand opposed to the U.S. government,” said one. Even the APA’s president-elect called it a ‘distraction’ to draw international law into APA’s ethics guidance.” This falls in line with President Bush’s outright rejection of the conventions following 9/11 as a deplorably whimsical way to land al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees in a “legal black hole,” as human rights groups and U.S. allies described it.

In a press release, former APA president Dr. Nadine Kaslow stated, “The actions, policies, and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and consequences that ensued.” Listing adopted and proposed strategies to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of such abhorrent ethics violations, Kaslow also admitted,“This bleak chapter in our history occurred over a period of years and will not be resolved in a matter of months.”

Resolved? For whom, exactly? PHR has called for the APA to change its policies for a full decade now—and has pleaded for a federal investigation for at least as long.

Despite the execrable abuses in the CIA torture report—the entirety of which hasn’t even been fully disclosed—one simple, and utterly indefensible, fact overshadows every new revelation.

Something that appears to be a minutiae from the torture report is, in actuality, a glaringly tragic prediction. One interrogator told a detainee that he would never go to court because, he explained, “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.”

But we do know. The entire planet knows.

And all those who suffered or died, enduring unspeakably heinous crimes at the behest of the U.S. government—know.

Yet no onenot a single personhas ever even been charged for their crimes.

It’s a horrifying prospect:  Greece may have to sell it’s ancient ruins and sights in Athens and elsewhere, as well as nature preserves, and islands as part of it’s deal under the new bailout agreement.  People are very rattled at the part of the seven-page agreement where the Greek government has agreed to sell off 50 Billion Euro’s worth of “valuable Greek assets”.

According to Time.com [1]:

“It’s an affront,” says Georgios Daremas, a strategist and adviser to the Greek Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity. “It’s basically saying sell the memory of your ancestors, sell your history just so we can get something commercial for it,” he tells TIME on Monday. “This is an idea to humiliate Greeks.”

The idea of locking up Greek assets in a special fund emerged on Saturday from Germany, the biggest and one of the least forgiving of the creditor-nations involved in the talks. In order to guarantee repayment on loans to Greece, the German Finance Ministry even suggested moving the titles to Greek assets to an “external fund” [2] in Luxembourg so that Athens could not renege on their sale. On this point, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras managed to fight off the Germans on Sunday, though it was one of the very few concessions he managed to get during the marathon talks.

Greece

“The deal is difficult, but we averted the pursuit to move state assets abroad,” [3] Tsipras said in trying to put a positive spin on the bailout, which would see Greece take more than 80 billion euros in additional loans in order to stave off bankruptcy over the next three years.

Greek payments on its two previous bailouts were also meant come in part from the sale of state assets. Under the terms of its first bailout in 2010, Greece agreed to privatize around 50 billion euros in property and infrastructure as a way of raising money for its creditors. But only 3.2 billion euros have come from these sales to date. So Germany and other creditors have good reason to doubt the Greek commitment to privatization.

Going forward, Greece will have to stash its assets in a specially created fund and prepare them for sale “under the supervision of the relevant European Institutions,” according to the text of the bailout agreement published on Monday [4]. Asked what kinds of assets the fund would include, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, one of the key European negotiators in the bailout talks, said “experts” would be brought in to settle this question. “I won’t give you any examples, because it’s not my specialty,” he told reporters in Brussels on Monday [5].

Most of the examples would have to come from the government’s land and real estate holdings, says Daremas, the government official in Athens. “That may include buildings, possible areas of land, and even islands,” he says. To protect the natural, historical and archaeological value of such real estate, Greece would need to pass laws and empower oversight bodies to make sure that “the new owner does not abuse or damage the property,” says Daremas.

Since Greek islands and plots of land often house ruins from ancient civilizations, some of these may also have to be sold, he added. “Maybe some archeological sites that are not developed,” Daremas says. “But if you have this as a private investment you also have to assume responsibility for developing the site, of course being monitored by [Greek] authorities.”

There are, of course, limits to the privatization of ancient artifacts. The treasures of Greek antiquity, such as the Acropolis in Athens, would never be sold, Daremas says. “That’s impossible. Their value is immeasurable.”

The idea of selling the Acropolis came up early in Greece’s debt crisis. In 2010, two conservative German lawmakers caused a furor [6] in Greece by suggesting that ancient ruins should not be off limits to privatization. “Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors,” Josef Schlarmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, said at the time. Since publishing those remarks, the Bildnewspaper, Germany’s most popular tabloid, has continued to irritate Greeks by asking why the Acropolis cannot be sold to repay debts to Germany [7].

This is black humor,” says Natalia Kosmidou, a tour guide at the Acropolis in Athens. “The Germans must have had too much beer.” Although the last five years of economic turmoil have forced Greece to rely on private donors and foreign foundations to help pay for the maintenance and restoration of the Acropolis, Kosmidou says, “the Greek state will always own these monuments, even as the poorest pauper, even penniless.

Greece has at least been willing to discuss the sale of its islands, however, as many of them are uninhabited and underdeveloped. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize winning economist who has spoken out in favor of debt relief for Greece [8], says the sale of islands could be an important part of the broader privatization campaign. “You could sell them,” he says. “But not a fire sale, because that would be like giving away your patrimony for nothing.”

That would mean waiting until the property market in Greece recovers. “Of course real estate prices are depressed right now,” says Daremas. “It’s very important to have time, and to wait for change in the economic climate to be able to sell them at a fair price.” The Greek promise to sell state assets came with no time limit in the text of the agreement published Monday. But in their hunger for guarantees on this latest package of loans to Greece, creditors in Germany will not be happy to wait much longer.

Sources:

[1] http://time.com/3956017/greece-bailout-selloff/

[2] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/07/12/schaubles-grexit-plan-everybody-is-talking-about-full-document/

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/13/us-eurozone-greece-tsipras-idUSKCN0PN0PU20150713

[4] http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/07/12-euro-summit-statement-greece/

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fyvl3OUfljs

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/mar/04/greece-sell-islands-german-mps

[7] http://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/griechenland-krise/muss-griechenland-die-akropolis-verkaufen-17937616.bild.html

[8] http://time.com/3949954/joseph-e-stiglitz-greece-crisis/

German Company is Top Tax Evader in Greece

July 15th, 2015 by Sotiria Nikolouli

A German company was found to be the biggest tax evader in Greece. A court in Athens found that Hochtief, the German company that was running the “Eleftherios Venizelos” Athens International airport was not paying VAT for 20 years. It is estimated that Hochtief, will have to pay more than 500 million Euros for VAT arrears. Together with other outstanding payments, like those to social security funds, it might have to py more than 1 billion Euros.

It must be noted that under the “Troika” austerity programme Greek employees lost around 400 million Euros from cuts to their salaries.

Hochtief, which is the biggest German Construction company, specializing in airports, was also running the Athens International airport through a subsidiary until 2013, when it sold it’s share to a Canadian company.
(source: neurope)

TEHRAN (FNA)- Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi dismissed media reports claiming that Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have reached an agreement which allows access to Iran’s military centers.

“In the inked roadmap (agreement), no permission has been issued for the IAEA’s access to any military centers and the nuclear scientists,” Kamalvandi said in an interview with the state-run TV on Tuesday.

“We have explicitly announced our positions in this regard during the (past) negotiations,” he added.

Kamalvandi underlined that the agreement, called the ‘Roadmap’ of cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, will settle the past differences.

Iran Dismisses IAEA's Access to Military Sites, N. Scientists

Earlier today, the AEOI Head Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the new agreement signed between Tehran and the IAEA will fully settle all unresolved issues pertaining to Tehran’s nuclear activities in the past.

“All past issues will be resolved completely after Iran and the Agency adopt some measures,” Salehi told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday after signing the ‘Roadmap’.

He said that all agreements, including the measures decided for Parchin military site, will be implemented with full respect to Iran’s redlines.

Iran had earlier announced that inspection of the country’s military sites are one of its redlines.

“I hope that a new chapter in relations and cooperation between Iran and the IAEA will start after the settlement of the past issues,” Salehi added.

Salehi made the remarks in Vienna on Tuesday, just a short time after diplomats acknowledged a sum-up agreement had been made between world powers and Iran.

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano and Salehi signed a roadmap of cooperation earlier today.

Amano, for his part, said the roadmap calls for his agency, with Iran’s cooperation, to make an assessment of issues relating to what is called as possible military dimensions of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program by the end of 2015.

“This is a significant step forward toward clarifying outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program,” Amano said.

On Wednesday July 15th, 2015, the Senate will vote on a measure that would require social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to report suspected terrorist activity to Federal authorities. This is part of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2016.

While the feds say this is to protect social media companies who do report, and not a way to coerce them into spying, the measure specifically calls on social media sites to proactively monitor sites for content instead of just removing it. The vague language of the bill combined with the government’s tendency to paint opponents as dangerous or terrorists leaves enough room for this bill to take on a life of its own very quickly.

“If it becomes law, their natural tendency will be to err on the side of reporting anything that might be characterized as ‘terrorist activity’ even if it is not. And their duty to report will chill speech on the Internet that relates to terrorism.” says Gregory Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Currently these sites remove questionable content as they are made aware of it. That means that if a user reports a post or a comment as a threat, Facebook, for example, investigates the report and then decides if they are going to remove it for breaking their terms of service, or if it can remain on the site. If YouTube users flag a video related to bomb making, YouTube may take it down. However, social media sites could soon be required to report these instances to Homeland Security and 17 other agencies. But the bill also requires social media to look for terrorist activity specifically. What does that mean exactly? Will they search for keywords? Will they monitor people who follow certain websites? Will they target people who speak certain languages or are located in specific areas of the world?

The proposal specifically charges the social media sites to “help intelligence and law enforcement officials detect threats from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups” says an anonymous Washington Post source. What defines “terrorist activity”? The bill doesn’t say. What is a “terrorist group”? Again, it is not clear. It has been reported that the NSA pretends to be Facebook to gain access to the computers of those deemed “threats to homeland”. How long before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube employ bots to analyze behavior, comments, clicks, what we read, who we are friends with, and what we like – then feeds that information directly to the Federal government? It is clear that humans can not possibly review all of the online information, so it would have to be robots. Robots that are not capable of teasing out the intricacies of social chatting and would paint suspicious behavior with broad brush strokes.

If these social media sites don’t perform their surveillance exactly how the government wants them to, then what? If one day a terrorist successfully commits a terrorist act and used social media to plan it, will that be used to justify a higher degree of surveillance? Will Homeland Security generously offer to write its own spyware to take the onus off of Facebook? I can see the headline now: “Social media overburdened with task of monitoring terrorist activity, Homeland Security to provide agents to take over”. What is a threat anyway? Is someone who opposes ObamaCare a threat? Most would agree that they are not. What if they are planning a large demonstration that will interrupt D.C.traffic? What if they are organizing a strike that would cut off healthcare to hundreds of thousands of people?

Or what about a mentally ill person who is paranoid and chatting about delusional plans to thwart conspiracies? What about a non mentally ill person doing the same? What about activists who aren’t paranoid but could be considered extreme, fundamentalist, or radical? What about people reporting alternative news sources? What about those reading alternative news?

Where do we draw the line? At what point do we stop sacrificing civil liberties in the name of national safety? Some would say never; that national security is of top priority and the government is charged with protecting us and can do whatever it needs to do in order to reach that end. Others would say that living in a country where everything you say and do is monitored is not a country worth protecting at all.

“Take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.” – James Madison

Sources

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/congress/item/21239-new-bill-would-make-social-media-sites-flag-posts-from-terrorists

http://news.yahoo.com/senate-bill-social-media-report-terrorist-activity-184825488–finance.html

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/new-terrorism-and-new-media

Kristen Anderson writes for Activist Post and droppingkeys.net

My Congressman Is Wrong on Iran, Yours Might Be Too

July 15th, 2015 by David Swanson

For the United States to sit and talk and come to an agreement with a nation it has been antagonizing and demonizing since the dictator it installed in 1953 was overthrown in 1979 is historic and, I hope, precedent setting. Let’s seal this deal!

Four months ago the Washington Post published an op-ed headlined ‘War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option.’ It wasn’t. Defenders of war present war as a last resort, but when other options are tried the result is never war. We should carry this lesson over to several other parts of the world.

The time has come to remove the “missile defense” weaponry from Europe that was put there under the false pretense of protecting Europe from Iran. With that justification gone, U.S. aggression toward Russia will become damagingly apparent if this step is not taken. And the time has come for the nations that actually have nuclear weapons to join and/or comply with the nonproliferation treaty, which Iran was never actually in violation of.

In addition to the prevention of a massive bombing campaign in Syria that was prevented in 2013, a major recent success in war-lie-preparedness is the holding off, thus far, of a U.S. war on Iran — about which we’ve been told lies for decades now. The longer this debate goes on, the more it should become clear that there is no urgent emergency that might help justify mass killing. But the longer it goes on, the more some people may accept the idea that whether or not to gratuitously bomb a foreign nation is a perfectly legitimate policy question.

And the argument may also advance in the direction of favoring war for another reason: both sides of the debate promote most of the war lies. Yes, some peace groups are talking perfect sense on this issue as on most, but the debate between Democratic and Republican party loyalists and those in power is as follows. One side argues, quite illegally and barbarically, that because Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, Iran should be bombed. The other side argues, counterproductively if in a seemingly civilized manner, that because Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, a diplomatic agreement should be reached to put a stop to it. The trouble with both arguments is that they reinforce the false idea that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. As Gareth Porter makes clear in his book Manufactured Crisis, there is no evidence for that.

Both arguments also reinforce the idea that there is something about Iranians that makes them unqualified to have the sort of weapon that it’s alright to voluntarily spread to other nations. Of course, I don’t actually think it’s alright for anyone to have nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, but my point is the bias implicit in these arguments. It feeds the idea that Iranians are not civilized enough to speak with, even as one-half of the debate pushes for just that: speaking with the Iranians.

On the plus side, much of the push for a war on Iran was devoted for years to demonizing Iran’s president until Iran, for its own reasons, elected a different president, which threw a real monkey wrench into the gears of that old standby. Perhaps nations will learn the lesson that changing rulers can help fend off an attack as well as building weapons can. Also on the plus side, the ludicrous idea that Iran is a threat to the United States is very similar to the idea that Iraq was such a threat in 2002-2003. But on the negative side, memory of the Iraq war lies is already fading. Keeping past war lies well-remembered can be our best protection against new wars. Also on the negative side, even if people oppose a war on Iran, several billionaire funders of election campaigns favor one.

Will Congressman Robert Hurt who claims to represent me, and who got Syria right in 2013, commit to taking no funding from those warmongers? Here’s what Hurt had to say on Tuesday:

The Threat of a Nuclear Iran Persists

Dear Friend,

“The long-running nuclear negotiations with Iran and the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom finally reached a head early this morning. Even with the deal reached, I am skeptical that Iran will keep their word, act in good faith, and abide by the terms of the deal.

The deal is an INSPECTION arrangement, not based in any way on anybody trusting anyone.

I remain committed to the goal of eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities because the prospect of Iran attaining the ability to produce a nuclear weapon is a grave threat to the world, and it is a very real possibility that this deal may only fuel Iran’s ability to expand its nuclear ambitions and facilitate its efforts to spread terror in the Middle East.

What nuclear ambitions? What terror? This from a Congressman who voted for pulling out U.S. forces on June 17th but has taken no further action and has funded the U.S. operation that is currently killing people in the Middle East?

Iranian leaders clearly remain focused on expanding their nuclear capabilities. They only want to do the bare minimum necessary to lift damaging international economic sanctions that have crippled their economy.

What mindreading feat is this based on? Where’s evidence? Haven’t we learned to demand it yet?

Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.

Not according to any world source, but rather the U.S. government which defines terrorism to suit its ends. The world disagrees.

The regime makes no secret of its longstanding commitment to see the demise of the United States and Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.

Then why don’t you point to a single scrap of evidence?

On Saturday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke about the need to continue to fight against the “arrogant” U.S. regardless of the outcome of these talks. Allowing Iran to achieve the nuclear capabilities it seeks would pose an existential threat to Israel and the world.

There’s nothing there about the demise of the United States or Israel or the slightest evidence of Iran pursuing or threatening to use any weapon. Expecting people to believe otherwise seems a bit — if you’ll excuse me — arrogant.

Given Iran’s nuclear ambitions and history, I remain unconvinced that Iran will act in good faith and adhere to any of the terms of a deal. Iran has been unwilling to make necessary compromises to meaningfully limit their nuclear program, and there is little reason to believe this will change. Reaching a deal just for the sake of doing so is not worth putting the safety and security of our allies and our country at risk; no deal is better than a dangerous deal.

Again, what ambitions? What history? Why the steady avoidance of documenting any claims? Iran is complying with restrictions not imposed on any other nation. How is that a refusal to compromise?

If this deal is in fact a bad one, the American people have a role to play in this process. In May, the President signed into law the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which would require congressional review of any final nuclear agreement with Iran before the President can waive or suspend sanctions previously imposed by Congress. Now that an agreement has been reached, Congress has 60 days to review the agreement and pass a joint resolution to approve or disapprove of the deal. Should Congress disapprove the deal, the President would likely veto that measure, but Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote.

The American people, in case you hadn’t noticed, favor the deal, including a majority of Democrats and a plurality of Republicans.

It is my hope that Congress will carefully consider the consequences of a deal with Iran and maintain its focus on the ultimate goal of eliminating the threat of a nuclear Iran. I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enhance the necessary sanctions against the Iranian regime. We must do everything within our power to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities.

Is that a proposal for war?

If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at hurt.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.

Anyone can tell their rep and senators to support the deal here.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org andWarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

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A new FAIR study finds that NPR‘s regular commentary is dominated by white men, predominantly addresses arts and culture, and almost never touches directly on political issues.

This study reviewed transcripts from January 1 to May 31, 2015, looking at regular commentators—that is, voices who were featured twice or more on Morning EditionAll Things ConsideredWeekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday to present their opinions in monologue form.

The study found 25 regular commentators, whose viewpoints were featured in a total of 232 segments. Of these commentators, 21 were men and four were women (84 percent male); 23 of the commentators (92 percent) were non-Latino whites. The two people of color who were regular commentators were Eric Deggans, an African-American writer who critiques TV, and Betto Arcos, a native of Mexico who covers music culture. No women of color were regular commentators.

Betto Arcos (photo: PRI)

Betto Arcos, one of two people of color who are regular commentators on NPR‘s main news programs. (photo: PRI)

Women provided only 9 percent of segments by regular commentators aired during the study period; 9 percent were by people of color.

FAIR has studied NPR‘s commentators twice before, in conjunction with broader studies of NPR‘s sources in 1991 (Extra!4-5/93) and 2003 (Extra!5-6/04). Both these earlier studies looked at four months of commentary, rather than five; the 1991 study looked only at the weekday news shows, not at the Weekend Edition programs.

The total number of regular commentators in 2015 (25) is markedly lower than in 2003 (46) and slightly less than in 1993 (27), despite the earliest study excluding weekend programming.

The 16 percent of regular commentators who were female in 2015 was lower than the 24 percent women in 2003, and only one percentage more than the 7 percent women in 1991. Likewise, the 8 percent of regular commentators who were people of color in 2015 is a big step back from 2003, when 20 percent were non-white or Latino. The latest study was up from the low point of 1991, when just one of NPR’s regular commentators—or 4 percent—was a person of color.

White men were 84 percent of NPR’s regular commentators in 2015, up from 2003’s 60 percent, and practically the same as 1993’s 85 percent.

Jonny Dymond

The BBC‘s Jonny Dymond, the only person we found doing individual political commentary on NPR News. (image: BBC)

Other commentators focused on particular subject areas, like history (Nate Dimeo), linguistics (Geoffrey Nunberg), astronomy (Adam Frank), sports (Frank Deford) or cooking (Bonny Wolf). Greg O’Brien did a series of commentaries talking about his personal experience with Alzheimer syndrome.Most of NPR‘s regular commentators in 2015 can be described as critics or reviewers, evaluating cultural products in the fields of film, TV, literature or music.  Along with a couple of other contributors who looked at arts more broadly, like rock historian Ed Ward, 72 percent of regular commentators focused on these cultural topics.

The only regular commentator who specialized in politics was BBC Washington correspondent Jonny Dymond, who delivered colorful accounts of British electoral campaigns. His focus was on rhetorical styles and personal quirks (like favorite sports teams), however, rather than on actual political issues.

This is a big change from the previous studies, which found politics to be a frequent theme of NPR commentary. In 1991, regular commentators produced 29 segments on international affairs, 21 commentaries on US politics and seven on economics. (Dymond’s five segments of on British politics were the only comparable commentaries.)

The 2003 study recorded subject areas by percentage, not raw numbers; 18 percent of the segments by regular commentators focused on domestic politics, while 4 percent looked at international affairs. Only 9 percent focused on the arts.

E.J. Dionne’s point/counterpoint segments with David Brooks have replaced virtually all political commentary onNPR News. (photo: Amherst)

The regular Week in Politics pundits are Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, representing liberals, and New York Times columnist (and PBS commentator) David Brooks taking the conservative side. Both are white men.The political discussion that used to be incorporated into NPR‘s commentary is now relegated to Week in Politics, a feature on All Things Considered that usually airs on Friday. Rather than having a range of commentators giving their individual perspectives in monologues throughout the week, Week in Politics presents two commentators who represent a conservative and liberal viewpoint discussing trending topics in a point/counterpoint format.

Occasionally Brooks or Dionne takes the week off, and a stand-in takes their place. Suzy Khimm, a senior editor at the New Republic, filled in for Dionne twice in the study period. Ramesh Ponnuru, an Indian-American man and senior editor at the National Review, filled in for Brooks six times, while Reihan Salam, National Review‘s executive director, filled in for Brooks twice. All three of the replacement pundits are Asian-American. As Khimm’s two appearances were the only female representation, Week in Politics‘ punditry was 97 percent male and 83 percent white.

The virtual elimination of political commentary from most of NPR‘s main news shows comes after decades of criticism from Republicans and conservative news commentators who considered NPR to be unworthy of taxpayer support, in part because it failed to include enough conservative voices. (In actuality, back when there was enough political commentary on NPR to evaluate its political slant, FAIR argued that it leaned to the right–see Extra!5-6/04.)

In May 2014, the board of directors of NPR adopted a new strategic plan that aimed, among other things, for  “undisputed leadership” in “stories at the intersection of race, ethnicity and culture,” and a newsroom that better “reflect[s] the fabric of America,” within three to five years. With regular commentators who are 84 percent male and 92 percent white, NPR has its work cut out for it.

Michael Tkaczevski is a student at Ithaca College and a FAIR intern.

Shanghai’s Bull Statue on Its Bund Waterfront (left); Bull Statue in Lower Manhattan (right)

Remember the Super SIV, also known as the Master Liquidity Enhancement Conduit or MLEC? That was a 2007 scheme in the U.S. to create a toxic waste dump where banks could stuff all their bad debts and instantly repair their balance sheets. It didn’t fly, leaving the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to come up with a raft of programs during the 2008 crisis to buy up, guarantee or ring fence hundreds of billions of dollars in bad bank debt. That effort was further enhanced with $13 trillion in secret, super cheap loans to Wall Street and foreign banks by the Federal Reserve.

This produced a dystopian landscape on Wall Street, with Citigroup trading at 99 cents a share during the panic, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns collapsed, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac wards of the government, and Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual and Wachovia succumbing to shot-gun marriages.

China had an equally problematic idea of how to deal with bad bank debts back in 1999 and the fingerprints of Wall Street’s biggest banks are all over that plan today. Given how Wall Street handled its own affairs in the lead up to the crash of 2008, its meddling in China’s bad debt situation today should not be comforting to anyone.

Back in 1999, China set up four asset-management companies (known as AMCs) to hold the non-performing loans of the four biggest banks in China. The state took a majority stake in each. The four AMCs oversaw $229 billion in nonperforming loans, effectively making them the “bad bank” portion of their related bank. China Cinda Asset Management took on the bad debts of China Construction Bank; China Huarong took bad debt from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China; China Great Wall Asset Management Corp. worked with Agricultural Bank of China and China Orient Asset Management Corp. worked with Bank of China. The government gave each distressed asset management company 10 billion yuan of capital and a 10-year period to dispose of assets.

In 2013, China Cinda was the first of the AMCs to go public, listing its IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Here’s how Goldman Sachs, an underwriter of the deal, explains the offering on its web site:

“Goldman Sachs has played a central role in introducing Chinese companies to international equity capital markets. In 2013 we helped nine China-based companies collectively raise $8.8 billion through IPOs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The firm was joint global coordinator, sponsor and book runner for China Cinda Asset Management Company’s (China Cinda) $2.8 billion IPO, in which it became the first Chinese distressed asset management company to go public. The offering prompted high demand in Hong Kong — the stock closed up 26 percent on its first day of trading, the best debut performance among Hong Kong financial institutions IPOs since 2004.”

Tom Holland, a financial writer for the South China Morning Post, had some different thoughts on the deal at the time, headlining his article: “China’s Insolvent Toxic-Waste Dump Cinda for Sale.” Holland said that “by any sensible standards,” all four of the AMCs “are insolvent.” Holland went on to explain what evolved after their creation in 1999…

Continue reading

The Globalization of Poverty: Inside the New World Order

July 14th, 2015 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

In these unprecedented economic times, the world is experiencing as a whole what most of the non-industrialized world has experienced over the past several decades. For a nuanced examination of the intricacies of the global political-economic landscape and the power players within it, pick up your copy of:

The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order
by Michel Chossudovsky

Michel Chossudovsky takes the reader through an examination of how the World Bank and IMF have been the greatest purveyors of poverty around the world, despite their rhetorical claims to the opposite. These institutions, representing the powerful Western nations and the financial interests that dominate them, spread social apartheid around the world, exploiting both the people and the resources of the vast majority of the world’s population.

As Chossudovsky examines in this updated edition, often the programs of these international financial institutions go hand-in-hand with covert military and intelligence operations undertaken by powerful Western nations with an objective to destabilize, control, destroy and dominate nations and people, such as in the cases of Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

To understand what role these international organizations play today, being pushed to the front lines and given unprecedented power and scope as ever before to manage the global economic crisis, one must understand from whence they came. This book provides a detailed, exploratory, readable and multi-faceted examination of these institutions and actors as agents of the ‘New World Order,’ for which they advance the ‘Globalization of Poverty.’

Global Research Price: $19.00
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Global Research Publishers, 2003  |  ISBN 978-0973714708  |  400 pages with complete index

“This concise, provocative book reveals the negative effects of imposed economic structural reform, privatization, deregulation and competition. It deserves to be read carefully and widely.”
- Choice, American Library Association (ALA)

“The current system, Chossudovsky argues, is one of capital creation through destruction. The author confronts head on the links between civil violence, social and environmental stress, with the modalities of market expansion.”
- Michele Stoddard, Covert Action Quarterly

CLICK HERE FOR A SPECIAL INSIDE LOOK AT THE PREFACE

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), which hosts the critically acclaimed website www.globalresearch.ca. He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Image: Funeral of eight members of the Abu Jarad family in Beit Hanoun, July 19, 2014

One year has passed since Israel began its devastating assault on the occupied and besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip. The 50-day attack, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians—more than two-thirds of whom were civilians—including more than 550 children, made last year the deadliest Palestinians have experienced since Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to the United Nations (PDF).

Israel also damaged or destroyed more than 150,000 Palestinian homes in this assault, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge”. Due to the ongoing joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, not a single home has been rebuilt, as more than 100,000 Palestinians remain internally displaced in temporary shelters, in schools, or in others’ homes. The UN has noted that “the extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come”.

Recent reports by Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) and Breaking the Silence (PDF) document extremely disturbing cases in which Israel used US weapons—including F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, Hellfire missiles and Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers—supplied at taxpayer expense, to kill Palestinian children in deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportional attacks and to wantonly destroy Palestinian homes and other civilian infrastructure for no military purpose whatsoever.

In one incident, an Apache helicopter-fired missile hit a residential building in Beit Hanoun on July 18, 2014 killing five children. Older brother Ahmad Abu Jarad told DCIP:

“We found my sister Samar crushed with blood coming out of her nose, ears and head, and her neck was smashed. My other sister, Ahlam, was also dead. She was all charred, only part of her hair was not burned. The scene was excruciatingly painful. We recovered my brother Naim, who was still breathing at the time. His right leg was cut off, his private parts were cut off, too, and his entire body was smashed. He died before we could put him inside the ambulance.”

A first sergeant in an armored corps unit testified to Breaking the Silence that “there’s nothing at all left of Juhar al-Dik,” a village near Gaza City. When asked what caused the destruction, he replied:

“Most of it was D9s (armored bulldozers). They just took down all the orchards. Not a single tree left. They worked on it for three weeks. When they didn’t have a specific job like leading our way or opening up a specific route for us or some other mission, they just went and flattened things. I don’t know what their specific order was, but they were on a deliberate mission to leave the area razed, flattened.”

To date, Israel has predictably failed to hold itself accountable for these atrocities through domestic judicial proceedings. The lack of seriousness of Israeli investigations into “Operation Protective Edge” was displayed most egregiously when the military exonerated itself in the killing of the four Bakr cousins—Ahed and Ismail, aged 9, Zakaria, aged 10, and Mohammad, aged 11—as they played soccer on the Gaza City beach.

Assuming that Israel will hold itself accountable is like appointing the arsonist to investigate the fire he started. Israel can and must be accountable for its actions by outside actors, including Congress and the Obama administration. US laws are designed to prevent foreign countries from using US weapons to commit human rights abuses. The Arms Export Control Act limits US weapons to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense” and the “Leahy Law” sanctions units of militaries that commit grave human rights abuses and prevents individuals associated with these crimes from receiving US visas.

No country should be placed above the law, especially one which is considered an ally of the United States and receives more US military aid (PDF) than all other countries combined. Members of Congress have the opportunity to remedy the impunity that Israel unfairly enjoys by sending this letter (PDF) to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to investigate the findings from these human rights reports and hold Israel accountable, as mandated by US law, for any violations that occurred.

Members of Congress and their staff are also invited to attend a Capitol Hill briefing on Wednesday, July 29 at noon in 121 Cannon, featuring eyewitness accounts of the impact of Israel’s attack from a Gaza-based photojournalist, along with testimony from legal advocates on Israel’s failure to hold itself accountable, and the options and need for the United States and the international community to do so.

Encourage your Member of Congress to support this letter and attend this briefing by taking action.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service. He is author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books). 

Originally posted in November of 2013, the article, “Nuclear Deal With Iran Prelude to War, Not “Breakthrough,”” warned of a premeditated, documented conspiracy to use a monumental “deal” with Iran as a pretext not for peace, but in fact, for war and regime change.

Hysteria now sweeps the headlines across the Western media regarding a “historical nuclear deal” that “Obama made” that vindicates the Nobel Peace Prize he was “prematurely awarded” so many years ago. For those aware of the ruse at play, such sentiments are to be inevitably and completely betrayed by what is sure to follow.

The global public must remember there is currently a war raging in Syria on Iran’s doorstep. The sole purpose of this war, organized and directed by the West, fueled by billions in cash, weapons, and flooded with fighters organized and trafficked from across the globe by NATO and its allies, is to destroy Iran’s chief regional ally before inevitably destroying Iran itself. If the war in Syria is still raging, then one can be assured that the proxy war in turn being waged against Iran is still raging.

The “nuclear deal,” as it was planned to be all along, is a ruse. The 2013 article, “Nuclear Deal With Iran Prelude to War, Not “Breakthrough,”” in its entirety, explains:

“…any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context—both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.”

-Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, page 52.

Which Path to Persia? .pdf
….

Written years ago, as the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel were already plotting to overrun Iran’s neighbor and ally Syria with Al Qaeda to weaken the Islamic Republic before inevitable war, this quote exposes fully the current charade that is the “Iran nuclear deal.”

The West has no intention of striking any lasting deal with Iran, as nuclear capabilities, even the acquirement of nuclear weapons by Iran was never truly an existential threat to Western nations or their regional partners. The West’s issue with Iran is its sovereignty and its ability to project its interests into spheres traditionally monopolized by the US and UK across the Middle East. Unless Iran plans on turning over its sovereignty and regional influence along with its right to develop and use nuclear technology, betrayal of any “nuclear deal” is all but inevitable, as is the war that is to shortly follow.

Exposing the duplicity that accompanies Western “efforts” to strike a deal will severely undermine their attempt to then use the deal as leverage to justify military operations against Iran. For Iran and its allies, they must be prepared for war, more so when the West feigns interest in peace. Libya serves as a perfect example of the fate that awaits nations reproached by the West who let down their guard – it literally is a matter of life and death both for leaders, and for nations as a whole.

Iran Nuclear Talks: Agreement in Vienna

July 14th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

Years of talks brought fruition. It’s all over except for Iran’s continued struggle to be accepted unconditionally as a member in good standing in the world community of nations.

A first step requires full implementation of agreed on terms – no reinterpreting them post facto, a commonplace Washington tactic.

Iran faces enormous obstacles trying to prevent Israel, its Lobby and congressional hardliners from blocking or undermining what’s been achieved. Obama promised to veto congressional rejection of terms agreed on. Whether override is possible remains to be seen.

US, Israeli and other Western accusations about an Iranian road to the bomb were always fraudulent. Tehran abhors these weapons. It wants a nuclear-free Middle East – a world without the threat of mass annihilation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the deal a “historic moment,” a “win-win” solution. “We’re reaching an agreement that’s not perfect for anybody but (the best) we could accomplish,” he said.

“Today could have been the end of hope on this issue…(Instead it begins) a new chapter of hope.” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said it “can open a new chapter in international relations.”

Netanyahu reacted as expected – calling the agreement “a bitter mistake of historical proportions.” He lied claiming “Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons. Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted.”

“Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and the world.”

Tehran is a regional peacemaker, abhorring terrorism in all forms – Israel its leading (nuclear armed and dangerous) belligerent.

Enormous obstacles remain to prevent US and Israeli dark forces from undermining what’s been achieved. They’re relentless and won’t quit even if Congress fails to block it.

Obama signed into law the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015 (INAA) – surrendering his executive authority on an international agreement involving seven countries.

It gives Congress final say up or down on terms reached – 30 days if by July 9, 60 days thereafter, an enormous amount of time to undermine years of hard work.

Expect congressional and Israeli anti-Iranian hardliners to take full advantage. They’ll do everything possible to wreck a major achievement. A done deal isn’t final yet. Here’s what we know so far on its terms.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) comes after over a decade of standoff. It’ll be submitted for Security Council approval within 10 days or less.

It recognizes Iran’s legitimate nuclear program – subject to imposed limits for 10 years, constraints then eased over five years. Security Council sanctions will be lifted once a resolution is adopted.

No Iranian nuclear facilities will be dismantled or decommissioned. R & D will continue on all types of centrifuges – including advanced IR-6 and IR-8 machines.

On implementation of the agreement, US and EU nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions will be immediately lifted – ones relating to banking, finance, oil, gas, petrochemical, trade, insurance and transport sectors.

Others wrongfully imposed for alleged rights abuses, nonexistent terrorist activities, support for Syrian sovereignty and other political reasons remain in place.

An arms embargo will end – subject to certain restrictions, on missiles for eight years, on their sale or purchase for five years. Over $100 billion of frozen Iranian assets will be unblocked. Sanctions imposed against hundreds of Iranian enterprises and individuals will end.

The agreement prevents Iran from producing enough enriched uranium for potential bomb-making for 10 years. Procedures for inspecting Iranian nuclear facilities were agreed on.

Its centrifuges will be reduced from about 19,000 to 6,104 – of these, 1044 will be used for purposes other than uranium enrichment.

Iran must reduce its enriched uranium by 96% to 300 kg – likely shipping at least most abroad to Russia. So-called “breakout time” to a bomb (Tehran doesn’t want) will be extended to a year for a decade.

Iran won’t build new heavy water reactors for 15 years. The underground Fordow site will be converted into a nuclear physics and technology center. Two-thirds of its installed centrifuges will be removed – stored under a monitored program.

Separately, Iran and IAEA head Yukiya Amano agreed on a “roadmap” to resolve so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program.

The text and five annexes are detailed, technical and complex. Disagreements over interpretation and implementation could delay things or derail the deal entirely.

After 36 years of anti-Iranian hostility, it’s hard imagining the dawn of a new era in Washington-Iranian relations.

Regime change remains official US policy – replacing Tehran’s sovereign independence with governance America controls. Nothing suggests a new leaf on this intention, by color revolution or war.

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.

A Post-Dollar World?

July 14th, 2015 by Global Research

The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, also known as HAARP is to be transferred from military operation to “civillian control”, as the site is handed over to the University of Alaska, which will continue to use the mysterious facility for experiments.

“The Air Force Research Lab has control of the HAARP facility until Aug. 11,” Marmian Grimes, a university of Alaska spokesperson, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

“After that, the university will have access to the site under the terms of an agreement between [University of Alaska Fairbanks] and the Air Force. That agreement allows access for two years, which will provide the university and the Air Force time to negotiate an agreement regarding the transfer of the land.”

HAARP was officially constructed with the stated goal of studying the ionosphere. It is made up of a huge array of radio transmitters and antennas, which generate radio waves to heat up portions of the ionosphere, the region of Earth’s upper atmosphere, from about 60 km (37 mi) to 1,000 km (620 mi) altitude, which is ionized by solar radiation.

The heat accelerates electrons, creating conditions for military scientists to conduct experiments.

The facility has long been the subject of intense scrutiny among those who believe the Pentagon constructed and used it to conduct research into everything from weather and natural phenomenon manipulation weapons to more esoteric studies, such as electronic and psychotronic mind control.

As the Intercept report notes, the Pentagon ploughed millions into the facility, mostly via congressional add-ons, and was still doing so as recently as 2007, when HAARP was officially completed.

It consequently seemed dubious to many that just seven years later an announcement came that the Air Force was set to close the site and dismantle the array.

Now it has been revealed that HAARP will live on. The Intercept notes:

“Physicist Dennis Papadopoulos, a professor at the University of Maryland and longtime proponent of HAARP, said the agreement that was worked out would transfer the facility from the Defense Department to the state of Alaska, and then over to the University of Alaska, which has long been involved in research at the site.”

HAARP will then operate, like other ionosphere research sites, as a scientific facility supported by those conducting experiments there. Papadopoulos said that the state of Alaska will put in about $2 million, and some additional funding may come from the National Science Foundation and the Pentagon.

So the facility will likely STILL be funded by the government, and experiments will continue to be conducted there.

This inevitably means that the theories over what HAARP is really used for will not go away, and researchers will continue to be fascinated with the mysterious facility.

Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

report released by the United Nations on Monday reveals a sobering reality of the ongoing war in Iraq: civilians are being targeted en masse. The data shows that the Iraqi conflict has resulted in at least 15,000 civilian deaths and 30,000 injuries since January 2014.

The Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq was compiled by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report specifically examines the time period between December 11, 2014 to April 30, 2015, where 3,345 persons were killed and another 7,423 were wounded. Baghdad suffered the heaviest losses in the roughly five month period, recording at least 1,586 killed and 4,138 wounded.

Those fortunate enough to evade death or injury have been subject to mass human rights violations as well as displacement. A total of 2,834,676 persons have been displaced within Iraq—including an estimated 1.3 million children—between January 2014 and April 2015.

“Civilians continue to be the primary victims of the ongoing armed conflict in Iraq – and are being subjected to human rights violations and abuses on a daily basis,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The findings also determined that “Those who have managed to reach areas of safety consistently reported lack of basic necessities, such as food and sanitary items, and alleged that they were subjected to forced labour, forced religious conversions, ill-treatment, murder, and physical and sexual violence including sexual slavery and the trafficking of women and children.” 

Accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possible genocide are also being levied against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Still, according to the report, “In a number of cases, it has been impossible to identify the perpetrators of violations and abuses committed during the reporting period.”

The reported numbers only account for casualties the U.N. was able to verify and recognizes that the actual count may be much larger.

The overall percentage of U.S. crop acreage exposed to chemical insecticides is significantly higher than regulatory authorities are claiming, warns a shocking new report released by the Center for Food Safety (CFS). Data compiled by scientists from Pennsylvania State University (PSU) reveals that nearly half of all planted soybean seed and up to 100 percent of all corn seed is now treated with or exposed to insecticides.

These figures are astronomically higher than the ones that were publicly released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which together with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been lying to the public about this pertinent issue for years. The two agencies contend that since the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are commonly used as a coating on many crop seeds, insecticide use is down. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Also referred to as “neonics,” neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that recent science has exposed as a major culprit in colony collapse disorder (CCD) among bees. In the mid-2000s, chemical manufacturers came up with a way to coat seeds with neonics rather than spray crops with them, a process that took off in the following decade. However, it turns out that neither the USDA nor the EPA have been calculating neonic use data with these new seed coating technologies in mind.

As a result, official government data greatly underestimates insecticide use across the board, conveying the false notion that chemical use has decreased when it has actually increased at least threefold. The CFS report puts it this way:

“Claims by the pesticide industry that insecticide use has dropped in the United States exclude the most widespread use of neonics,” the report explains, referring to neonic-coated crop seeds. “This leaves a gaping hole in our pesticide data, and greatly underestimates harm to the environment. This is because the planting of seeds coated with a neonic, or other pesticides (such as fungicides), are not considered to be a pesticide application by the EPA, unlike pesticides sprayed on a crop.”

Neonics scientifically shown to harm bees, humans and the environment; time for an absolute ban!

To what extent is the government underestimating crop exposure to insecticides? In 2010, the USDA reported that only 12 percent of corn acres were treated with applied pesticides, when the truth is that between 79 and 100 percent of corn acres were either sprayed with insecticides or planted with insecticide-coated seeds. Similar data anomalies exist for soybean, cotton and wheat seeds.

Part of the problem is that insecticides, and neonics in particular, are environmentally persistent. These chemicals are ever-present in soils, and they are highly mobile in water. Most streams in the U.S. Midwest, in fact, are now contaminated with neonics, according to published data that remains ignored by the USDA and the EPA.

Conservatively speaking, more than 100 million acres of U.S. cropland are now directly exposed to neonic insecticides, but you’d never know this from the official government data. Collectively, more than half of all corn, wheat, cotton and soybean crops are exposed in some way to insecticides like neonics, whether directly or indirectly.

Neonics are known to kill bees, and the data shows that they aren’t even effective at deterring pests. The European Union banned them entirely in 2013, identifying “high acute risks” for bees, which our readers well know are important pollinators. All sorts of beneficial species are harmed by neonics, as are humans and the environment, and yet the U.S. continues to lead the way in allowing chemical companies to poison the food supply and the planet with their indiscriminate use.

Even in very small amounts, neonics are highly toxic to insects as a whole. They’re also residually persistent and extremely water soluble. In other words, they travel far and wide and take an extremely long time to break down, which means they are accumulating rapidly throughout the environment with no end in sight.

Neonics are also systemic, which means they are directly absorbed by the plants on which they are spread or through the seeds they coat. Besides the obvious negative effects of this on bees and other pollinators who feed on the resultant tainted pollen and nectar, humans who consume neonic-contaminated food crops are also harmed.

“Neonics … indirectly harm the crops they are supposed to protect by killing insects that boost crop productivity through consumption of crop pests,” explains the CFS report. “Seed coatings have already been shown to result in lower crop productivity in experiments with soybeans because of harm to protective insects. It is also likely to be causing other indirect harm, such as to farmland birds through loss of insect food sources.”

Sources:

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org

http://www.epa.gov

http://gmwatch.org

http://gmwatch.org

http://pubs.acs.org

http://www.truthwiki.org/The_Green_Revolution_-_Agriculture/

http://www.truthwiki.org/genetically_modifie…

Image: Yanis Varoufakis feels “on top of the world” now his part in the crisis talks is over. Photo: Getty

 The full transcript of the former Greek Finance Minister’s first interview since resigning.

This conversation took place before the deal.

Harry Lambert: So how are you feeling?

Yanis Varoufakis: I’m feeling on top of the world – I no longer have to live through this hectic timetable, which was absolutely inhuman, just unbelievable. I was on 2 hours sleep every day for five months. … I’m also relieved I don’t have to sustain any longer this incredible pressure to negotiate for a position I find difficult to defend, even if I managed to force the other side to acquiesce, if you know what I mean.

HL: What was it like? Did you like any aspect of it?

YV: Oh well a lot of it. But the inside information one gets… to have your worst fears confirmed … To have “the powers that be” speak to you directly, and it be as you feared – the situation was worse than you imagined! So that was fun, to have the front row seat.

HL: What are you referring to?

YV: The complete lack of any democratic scruples, on behalf of the supposed defenders of Europe’s democracy. The quite clear understanding on the other side that we are on the same page analytically – of course it will never come out at present. [And yet] To have very powerful figures look at you in the eye and say “You’re right in what you’re saying, but we’re going to crunch you anyway.”

HL: You’ve said creditors objected to you because “I try and talk economics in the Eurogroup, which nobody does.” What happened when you did?

YV: It’s not that it didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.

HL: When you first arrived, in early February, this can’t have been a unified position?

YV: Well there were people who were sympathetic at a personal level – so, you know, behind closed doors, on an informal basis, especially from the IMF. [HL: “From the highest levels?” YV: “From the highest levels, from the highest levels.”] But then inside the Eurogroup, a few kind words and that’s it, back behind the parapet of the official version.

[But] Schäuble was consistent throughout. His view was “I’m not discussing the programme – this was accepted by the previous government and we can’t possibly allow an election to change anything. Because we have elections all the time, there are 19 of us, if every time there was an election and something changed, the contracts between us wouldn’t mean anything.”

So at that point I had to get up and say “Well perhaps we should simply not hold elections anymore for indebted countries”, and there was no answer. The only interpretation I can give [of their view] is “Yes, that would be a good idea, but it would be difficult to do. So you either sign on the dotted line or you are out.”

HL: And Merkel?

YV: You have to understand I never had anything to do with Merkel, finance ministers talk to finance ministers, prime ministers talk to Chancellors. From my understanding, she was very different.  She tried to placate the Prime Minister [Tsipras] – she said “We’ll find a solution, don’t worry about it, I won’t let anything awful happen, just do your homework and work with the institutions, work with the Troika; there can be no dead end here.”

This is not what I heard from my counterpart – both from the head of the Eurogroup and Dr Schäuble, they were very clear. At some point it was put to me very unequivocally: “This is a horse and either you get on it or it is dead.”

HL: Right so when was that?

YV: From the beginning, from the very beginning. [They first met in early February.]

HL: So why hang around until the summer?

YV: Well one doesn’t have an alternative. Our government was elected with a mandate to negotiate. So our first mandate was to create the space and time to have a negotiation and reach another agreement. That was our mandate – our mandate was to negotiate, it was not to come to blows with our creditors. …

The negotiations took ages, because the other side was refusing to negotiate. They insisted on a “comprehensive agreement”, which meant they wanted to talk about everything. My interpretation is that when you want to talk about everything, you don’t want to talk about anything. But we went along with that.

And look there were absolutely no positions put forward on anything by them. So they would… let me give you an example. They would say we need all your data on the fiscal path on which Greek finds itself, we need all the data on state-owned enterprises. So we spent a lot of time trying to provide them with all the data and answering questionnaires and having countless meetings providing the data.

So that would be the first phase. The second phase was where they’d ask us what we intended to do on VAT. They would then reject our proposal but wouldn’t come up with a proposal of their own. And then, before we would get a chance to agree on VAT with them, they would shift to another issue, like privatisation. They would ask what we want to do about privatisation, we put something forward, they would reject it. Then they’d move onto another topic, like pensions, from there to product markets, from there to labour relations, from labour relations to all sorts of things right? So it was like a cat chasing its own tail.

We felt, the government felt, that we couldn’t discontinue the process. Look, my suggestion from the beginning was this: This is a country that has run aground, that ran aground a long time ago. … Surely we need to reform this country – we are in agreement on this. Because time is of the essence, and because during negotiations the central bank was squeezing liquidity [on Greek banks] in order pressurise us, in order to succumb, my constant proposal to the Troika was very simple: let us agree on three or four important reforms that we agree upon, like the tax system, like VAT, and let’s implement them immediately. And you relax the restrictions on liqiuidity from the ECB. You want a comprehensive agreement – let’s carry on negotiating – and in the meantime let us introduce these reforms in parliament by agreement between us and you.

And they said “No, no, no, this has to be a comprehensive review. Nothing will be implemented if you dare introduce any legislation. It will be considered unilateral action inimical to the process of reaching an agreement.” And then of course a few months later they would leak to the media that we had not reformed the country and that we were wasting time! And so… [chuckles] we were set up, in a sense, in an important sense.

So by the time the liquidity almost ran out completely, and we were in default, or quasi-default, to the IMF, they introduced their proposals, which were absolutely impossible… totally non-viable and toxic. So they delayed and then came up with the kind of proposal you present to another side when you don’t want an agreement.

HL: Did you try working together with the governments of other indebted countries?

YV: The answer is no, and the reason is very simple: from the very beginning those particular countries made it abundantly clear that they were the most energetic enemies of our government, from the very beginning. And the reason of course was their greatest nightmare was our success: were we to succeed in negotiating a better deal for Greece, that would of course obliterate them politically, they would have to answer to their own people why they didn’t negotiate like we were doing.

HL: And partnering with sympathetic parties, like Podemos?

YV: Not really. I mean we always had a good relationship with them, but there was nothing they could do – their voice could never penetrate the Eurogroup. And indeed the more they spoke out in our favour, which they did, the more inimical the Finance Minister representing that country became towards us.

HL: And George Osborne? What were your dealings like with him?

YV: Oh very good, very pleasant, excellent. But he is out of the loop, he is not part of the Eurogroup. When I spoke to him on a number of occasions you could see that was very sympathetic. And indeed if you look at the Telegraph, the greatest supporters of our cause have been the Tories! Because of their Eurosceptism, eh… it’s not just Euroscepticsm; it’s a Burkean view of the sovereignty of parliament – in our case it was very clear that our parliament was being treated like rubbish.

HL: What is the greatest problem with the general way the Eurogroup functions?

YV: [To exemplify…] There was a moment when the President of the Eurogroup decided to move against us and effectively shut us out, and made it known that Greece was essentially on its way out of the Eurozone. … There is a convention that communiqués must be unanimous, and the President can’t just convene a meeting of the Eurozone and exclude a member state. And he said, “Oh I’m sure I can do that.” So I asked for a legal opinion. It created a bit of a kerfuffle. For about 5-10 minutes the meeting stopped, clerks, officials were talking to one another, on their phone, and eventually some official, some legal expert addressed me, and said the following words, that “Well, the Eurogroup does not exist in law, there is no treaty which has convened this group.”

So what we have is a non-existent group that has the greatest power to determine the lives of Europeans. It’s not answerable to anyone, given it doesn’t exist in law; no minutes are kept; and it’s confidential. So no citizen ever knows what is said within. … These are decisions of almost life and death, and no member has to answer to anybody.

HL: And is that group controlled by German attitudes?

YV: Oh completely and utterly. Not attitudes – by the finance minister of Germany. It is all like a very well-tuned orchestra and he is the director. Everything happens in tune. There will be times when the orchestra is out of tune, but he convenes and puts it back in line.

HL: Is there no alternative power within the group, can the French counter that power?

YV: Only the French finance minister has made noises that were different from the German line, and those noises were very subtle. You could sense he had to use very judicious language, to be seen not to oppose. And in the final analysis, when Doc Schäuble responded and effectively determined the official line, the French FM in the end would always fold and accept.

HL: Let’s talk about your theoretical background, and your piece on Marx in 2013, when you said:

“A Greek or a Portuguese or an Italian exit from the Eurozone would soon lead to a fragmentation of European capitalism, yielding a seriously recessionary surplus region east of the Rhine and north of the Alps, while the rest of Europe is would be in the grip of vicious stagflation. Who do you think would benefit from this development? A progressive left, that will rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Europe’s public institutions? Or the Golden Dawn Nazis, the assorted neofascists, the xenophobes and the spivs? I have absolutely no doubt as to which of the two will do best from a disintegration of the eurozone.”

…so would a Grexit inevitably help Golden Dawn, do you still think that?

YV: Well, look, I don’t believe in deterministic versions of history. Syriza now is a very dominant force. If we manage to get out of this mess united, and handle properly a Grexit … it would be possible to have an alternative. But I’m not sure we would manage it, because managing the collapse of a monetary union takes a great deal of expertise, and I’m not sure we have it here in Greece without the help of outsiders.

HL: You must have been thinking about a Grexit from day one…

YV: Yes, absolutely.

HL: …have preparations been made?

YV: The answer is yes and no. We had a small group, a ‘war cabinet’ within the ministry, of about five people that were doing this: so we worked out in theory, on paper, everything that had to be done [to prepare for/in the event of a Grexit]. But it’s one thing to do that at the level of 4-5 people, it’s quite another to prepare the country for it. To prepare the country an executive decision had to be taken, and that decision was never taken.

HL: And in the past week, was that a decision you felt you were leaning towards [preparing for Grexit]?

YV: My view was, we should be very careful not to activate it. I didn’t want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t want this to be like Nietzsche’s famous dictum that if you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss will stare back at you. But I also believed that at the moment the Eurogroup shut out banks down, we should energise this process.

HL: Right. So there were two options as far as I can see – an immediate Grexit, or printing IOUs and taking bank control of the Bank of Greece [potentially but not necessarily precipitating a Grexit]?

YV: Sure, sure. I never believed we should go straight to a new currency. My view was – and I put this to the government – that if they dared shut our banks down, which I considered to be an aggressive move of incredible potency, we should respond aggressively but without crossing the point of no return.

We should issue our own IOUs, or even at least announce that we’re going to issue our own euro-denominated liquidity; we should haircut the Greek 2012 bonds that the ECB held, or announce we were going to do it; and we should take control of the Bank of Greece. This was the triptych, the three things, which I thought we should respond with if the ECB shut down our banks.

… I was warning the Cabinet this was going to happen [the ECB shut our banks] for a month, in order to drag us into a humiliating agreement. When it happened – and many of my colleagues couldn’t believe it happened – my recommendation for responding “energetically”, let’s say, was voted down.

HL: And how close was it to happening?

YV: Well let me say that out of six people we were in a minority of two. … Once it didn’t happen I got my orders to close down the banks consensually with the ECB and the Bank of Greece, which I was against, but I did because I’m a team player, I believe in collective responsibility.

And then the referendum happened, and the referendum gave us an amazing boost, one that would have justified this type of energetic response [his plan] against the ECB, but then that very night the government decided that the will of the people, this resounding ‘No’, should not be what energised the energetic approach [his plan].

Instead it should lead to major concessions to the other side: the meeting of the council of political leaders, with our Prime Minister accepting the premise that whatever happens, whatever the other side does, we will never respond in any way that challenges them. And essentially that means folding. … You cease to negotiate.

HL: So you can’t hold out much hope now, that this deal will be much better than last week’s – if anything it will be worse?

YV: If anything it will be worse. I trust and hope that our government will insist on debt restructuring, but I can’t see how the German finance minister is ever going to sign up to this in the forthcoming Eurogroup meeting. If he does, it will be a miracle.

HL: Exactly – because, as you’ve explained, your leverage is gone at this point?

YV: I think so, I think so. Unless he [Schäuble] gets his marching orders from the Chancellor. That remains to be seen, whether she will step in to do that.

HL: To come back out again, could you possibly explain, in layman’s terms for our readers, your objections to Piketty’s “Capital”?

YV: Well let me say firstly, I feel embarrassed because Piketty has been extremely supportive of me and the government, and I have been horrible to him in my review of his book! I really appreciate his position over the last few months, and I’m going to say this to him when I meet him in September.

But my criticism of his book stands. His sentiment is correct. His abhorrence of inequality… [inaudible]. His analysis, however, undermines the argument, as far as I am concerned. Because in his book the neoclassical model of capitalism gives very little room for building the case he wants to build up, except by building upon the model a very specific set of parameters, which undermines his own case. In other words, if I was an opponent of his thesis that inequality is built into capitalism, I would be able to take apart his case by attacking his analysis.

HL: I don’t want to get too detailed, because this isn’t going to make the final cut…

YV: Yes…

HL: …but it’s about his metric of wealth?

YV: Yes, he uses a definition of capital which makes capital impossible to understand – so it’s a contradiction of terms. [Click here—link to add: http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2014/10/08/6006/—for Varoufakis’ critical review of Piketty’s Capital.]

HL: Let’s come back to the crisis. I really understand very little of your relationship with Tsipras…

YV: I’ve known him since late 2010, because I was a prominent critic of the government at the time, even though I was close to it once upon a time. I was close to the Papandreou family – I still am in a way – but I became prominent … back then it was big news that a former adviser was saying “We’re pretending bankruptcy didn’t happen, we’re trying to cover it up with new unsustainable loans,” that kind of thing.

I made some waves back then, and Tsipras was a very young leader trying to understand what was going on, what the crisis was about, and how he should position himself.

HL: Was there a first meeting you remember?

YV: Oh yes. It was late 2010, we went to a cafeteria, there were three of us, and my recollection is that he wasn’t clear back then what his views were, on the drachma versus the euro, on the causes of the crises, and I had very, well shall I say, “set views” on what was going on. And a dialogue begun which unfolded over the years and one that… I believe that I helped shape his view of what should be done.

HL: So how does it feel now, after four-and-a-half years, to no longer be working by his side?

YV: Well I don’t feel that way, I feel that we’re very close. Our parting was extremely amicable. We’ve never had a bad problem between us, never, not to this day. And I’m extremely close to Euclid Tsakalotos [the new finance minister].

HL: And presumably you’re still speaking with them both this week?

YV: I haven’t spoken to the Prime Minister this week, in the past couple of days, but I speak to Euclid, yes, and I consider Euclid to be very close to be, and vice-versa, and I don’t envy him at all. [Chuckling.]

HL: Would you be shocked if Tsipras resigned?

YV: Nothing shocks me these days – our Eurozone is a very inhospitable place for decent people. It wouldn’t shock me either to stay on and accepts a very bad deal. Because I can understand he feels he has an obligation to the people that support him, support us, not to let this country become a failed state.

But I’m not going to betray my own view, that I honed back in 2010, that this country must stop extending and pretending, we must stop taking on new loans pretending that we’ve solved the problem, when we haven’t; when we have made our debt even less sustainable on condition of further austerity that even further shrinks the economy; and shifts the burden further onto the have nots, creating a humanitarian crisis. It’s something I’m not going to accept. I’m not going to be party to.

HL: Final question – will you stay close with anyone who you had to negotiate with?

YV: Um, I’m not sure. I’m not going to mention any names now just in case I destroy their careers! [Laughing.]

‘Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the deal an “historic surrender”. She said on Twitter that Israel would “act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified”, a clear threat to try to use its influence to block it in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.’ 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/14/us-iran-nuclear-idUSKCN0PM0CE20150714

Nuclear-armed Binyamin Netanyahu, is the puppet-master who pulls the strings that will determine whether or not the pro-Israel Republican Congress will use its veto to abort the deal approved this week by a global consensus representing the Obama White House, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.

Any veto by the US Congress, as demanded by Israel, will significantly endanger global security as Iran will be inevitably forced into bankruptcy and economic ruin in the same way as Israel has turned Gaza into an economic wasteland for the past seven years where families have to turn to violence to obtain daily water, food and shelter. A veto by Congress would also show its extreme contempt not only for the White House but also for the entire six major trading nations of the world.

If Israel succeeds in torpedoing the P5+1 proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, through its control over the U.S. Congress and its agents in European capitals, then the world can expect extreme consequences that will ignite a ferocious firestorm in both the Middle East and Europe and, almost certainly, bring about an attack upon Iran.

Unless the whole Middle East – including both Israel and Iran – is declared by the UN Security Council to be Nuclear Weapons Free Zone under IAEA control, as a matter of urgency, then the West can expect economic meltdown and nuclear war, as a direct result.

No one should entertain any doubt whatsoever – Iran is not Gaza.

As the Ukrainian army squares off against ultra-right and neo-Nazi militias in the west and violence against ethnic Russians continues in the east, the obvious folly of the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy has come into focus even for many who tried to ignore the facts, or what you might call “the mess that Victoria Nuland made.”

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs “Toria” Nuland was the “mastermind” behind the Feb. 22, 2014 “regime change” in Ukraine, plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych while convincing the ever-gullible U.S. mainstream media that the coup wasn’t really a coup but a victory for “democracy.”

To sell this latest neocon-driven “regime change” to the American people, the ugliness of the coup-makers had to be systematically airbrushed, particularly the key role of neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists from the Right Sektor. For the U.S.-organized propaganda campaign to work, the coup-makers had to wear white hats, not brown shirts.

So, for nearly a year and a half, the West’s mainstream media, especially The New York Times and The Washington Post, twisted their reporting into all kinds of contortions to avoid telling their readers that the new regime in Kiev was permeated by and dependent on neo-Nazi fighters and Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who wanted a pure-blood Ukraine, without ethnic Russians.

Any mention of that sordid reality was deemed “Russian propaganda” and anyone who spoke this inconvenient truth was a “stooge of Moscow.” It wasn’t until July 7 that the Times admitted the importance of the neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists in waging war against ethnic Russian rebels in the east. The Times also reported that these far-right forces had been joined by Islamic militants. Some of those jihadists have been called “brothers” of the hyper-brutal Islamic State.

Though the Times sought to spin this remarkable military alliance – neo-Nazi militias and Islamic jihadists – as a positive, the reality had to be jarring for readers who had bought into the Western propaganda about noble “pro-democracy” forces resisting evil “Russian aggression.”

Perhaps the Times sensed that it could no longer keep the lid on the troubling truth in Ukraine. For weeks, the Right Sektor militias and the neo-Nazi Azov battalion have been warning the civilian government in Kiev that they might turn on it and create a new order more to their liking.

Clashes in the West

Then, on Saturday, violent clashes broke out in the western Ukrainian town of Mukachevo, allegedly over the control of cigarette-smuggling routes. Right Sektor paramilitaries sprayed police officers with bullets from a belt-fed machinegun, and police – backed by Ukrainian government troops – returned fire. Several deaths and multiple injuries were reported.

Tensions escalated on Monday with President Petro Poroshenko ordering national security forces to disarm “armed cells” of political movements. Meanwhile, the Right Sektor dispatched reinforcements to the area while other militiamen converged on the capital of Kiev.

While President Poroshenko and Right Sektor leader Dmitry Yarosh may succeed in tamping down this latest flare-up of hostilities, they may be only postponing the inevitable: a conflict between the U.S.-backed authorities in Kiev and the neo-Nazis and other right-wing fighters who spearheaded last year’s coup and have been at the front lines of the fighting against ethnic Russian rebels in the east.

The Ukrainian right-wing extremists feel they have carried the heaviest burden in the war against the ethnic Russians and resent the politicians living in the relative safety and comfort of Kiev. In March, Poroshenko also fired thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky as governor of the southeastern province of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Kolomoisky had been the primary benefactor of the Right Sektor militias.

So, as has become apparent across Europe and even in Washington, the Ukraine crisis is spinning out of control, making the State Department’s preferred narrative of the conflict – that it’s all Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fault – harder and harder to sell.

How Ukraine is supposed to pull itself out of what looks like a death spiral – a possible two-front war in the east and the west along with a crashing economy – is hard to comprehend. The European Union, confronting budgetary crises over Greece and other EU members, has little money or patience for Ukraine, its neo-Nazis and its socio-political chaos.

America’s neocons at The Washington Post and elsewhere still rant about the need for the Obama administration to sink more billions upon billions of dollars into post-coup Ukraine because it “shares our values.” But that argument, too, is collapsing as Americans see the heart of a racist nationalism beating inside Ukraine’s new order.

Another Neocon ‘Regime Change’

Much of what has happened, of course, was predictable and indeed was predicted, but neocon Nuland couldn’t resist the temptation to pull off a “regime change” that she could call her own.

Her husband (and arch-neocon) Robert Kagan had co-founded the Project for the New American Century in 1998 around a demand for “regime change” in Iraq, a project that was accomplished in 2003 with President George W. Bush’s invasion.

As with Nuland in Ukraine, Kagan and his fellow neocons thought they could engineer an easy invasion of Iraq, oust Saddam Hussein and install some hand-picked client – in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi was to be “the guy.” But they failed to take into account the harsh realities of Iraq, such as the fissures between Sunnis and Shiites, exposed by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.

In Ukraine, Nuland and her neocon and liberal-interventionist friends saw the chance to poke Putin in the eye by encouraging violent protests to overthrow Russia-friendly President Yanukovych and put in place a new regime hostile to Moscow.

Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy, explained the plan in a Post op-ed on Sept. 26, 2013. Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward toppling Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

For her part, Nuland passed out cookies to anti-Yanukovych demonstrators at the Maidan square, reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” declared “f**k the EU” for its less aggressive approach, and discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who the new leaders of Ukraine should be. “Yats is the guy,” she said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Nuland saw her big chance on Feb. 20, 2014, when a mysterious sniper – apparently firing from a building controlled by the Right Sektor – shot and killed both police and protesters, escalating the crisis. On Feb. 21, in a desperate bid to avert more violence, Yanukovych agreed to a European-guaranteed plan in which he accepted reduced powers and called for early elections so he could be voted out of office.

But that wasn’t enough for the anti-Yanukovych forces who – led by Right Sektor and neo-Nazi militias – overran government buildings on Feb. 22, forcing Yanukovych and many of his officials to flee for their lives. With armed thugs patrolling the corridors of power, the final path to “regime change” was clear.

Instead of trying to salvage the Feb. 21 agreement, Nuland and European officials arranged for an unconstitutional procedure to strip Yanukovych of the presidency and declared the new regime “legitimate.” Nuland’s “guy” – Yatsenyuk – became prime minister.

While Nuland and her neocon cohorts celebrated, their “regime change” prompted an obvious reaction from Putin, who recognized the strategic threat that this hostile new regime posed to the historic Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. On Feb. 23, he began to take steps to protect those Russian interests.

Ethnic Hatreds

What the coup also did was revive long pent-up antagonisms between the ethnic Ukrainians in the west, including elements that had supported Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War Two, and ethnic Russians in the south and east who feared the anti-Russian sentiments emanating from Kiev.

First, in Crimea and then in the so-called Donbas region, these ethnic Russians, who had been Yanukovych’s political base, resisted what they viewed as the illegitimate overthrow of their elected president. Both areas held referenda seeking separation from Ukraine, a move that Russia accepted in Crimea but resisted with the Donbas.

However, when the Kiev regime announced an “anti-terrorism operation” against the Donbas and dispatched neo-Nazi and other extremist militias to be the tip of the spear, Moscow began quietly assisting the embattled ethnic Russian rebels, a move that Nuland, the Obama administration and the mainstream news media called “Russian aggression.”

Amid the Western hysteria over Russia’s supposedly “imperial designs” and the thorough demonizing of Putin, President Barack Obama essentially authorized a new Cold War against Russia, reflected now in new U.S. strategic planning that could cost the U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars and risk a possible nuclear confrontation.

Yet, despite the extraordinary costs and dangers, Nuland failed to appreciate the practical on-the-ground realities, much as her husband and other neocons did in Iraq. While Nuland got her hand-picked client Yatsenyuk installed and he did oversee a U.S.-demanded “neo-liberal” economic plan – slashing pensions, heating assistance and other social programs – the chaos that her “regime change” unleashed transformed Ukraine into a financial black hole.

With few prospects for a clear-cut victory over the ethnic Russian resistance in the east – and with the neo-Nazi/Islamist militias increasingly restless over the stalemate – the chances to restore any meaningful sense of order in the country appear remote. Unemployment is soaring and the government is essentially bankrupt.

The last best hope for some stability may have been the Minsk-2 agreement in February 2015, calling for a federalized system to give the Donbas more autonomy, but Nuland’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk sabotaged the deal in March by inserting a poison pill that essentially demanded that the ethnic Russian rebels first surrender.

Now, the Ukraine chaos threatens to spiral even further out of control with the neo-Nazis and other right-wing militias – supplied with a bounty weapons to kill ethnic Russians in the east – turning on the political leadership in Kiev.

In other words, the neocons have struck again, dreaming up a “regime change” scheme that ignored practical realities, such as ethnic and religious fissures. Then, as the blood flowed and the suffering worsened, the neocons just sought out someone else to blame.

Thus, it seems unlikely that Nuland, regarded by some in Washington as the new “star” in U.S. foreign policy, will be fired for her dangerous incompetence, just as most neocons who authored the Iraq disaster remain “respected” experts employed by major think tanks, given prized space on op-ed pages, and consulted at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

[For more on these topics, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Obama’s True Foreign Policy Weakness” and “A Family Business of Perpetual War.”]

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.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2016 US presidential election, presented an unabashedly right wing, pro-business economic program Monday in a major policy speech.

Speaking at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, just three miles north of Wall Street, Clinton spelled out in detail a program to slash corporate taxes and regulation. Clinton centered her speech around the free-market buzzword “growth,” saying that her agenda is for “strong growth, fair growth, and long-term growth.”

Taking up rhetoric traditionally associated with the Republican Party, Clinton declared,

“I’ve said I want to be the small business president, and I mean it. And throughout this campaign I’m going to be talking about how we empower entrepreneurs with less red tape, easier access to capital, tax relief and simplification.”

It was was the first major speech by Clinton since she officially launched her campaign with a rally at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island June 13. In contrast to that appearance, a high-profile event that consisted of empty and demagogic rhetoric presented to an audience of trade union officials and Democratic Party functionaries, Monday’s speech contained a clear and specific set of policy proposals.

The central aim of Clinton’s speech was to reassure the American financial oligarchy that, despite her occasional lukewarm denunciations of corporate criminality and social inequality, she is a right-wing, pro-business defender of Wall Street.

The speech makes clear that a Clinton presidency will pursue the same pro-Wall Street policies of the Obama administration, seeking to expand the fortunes of the super-rich at the expense of the great majority of society, while invoking “fairness” and “equality” as window dressing.

Clinton’s speech followed a definite method: on every major social issue, she admitted absolutely damning facts about American social and economic life, then proceeded to spell out pro-business proposals that will only exacerbate inequality and poverty.

For instance, Clinton admitted,

“There are nearly six million young people aged 16 to 24 in America today who are not in school or at work. The numbers for young people of color are particularly staggering. A quarter of young black men and nearly 15 percent of all Latino youth cannot find a job.”

Her response to this outrageous reality was not, even in a rhetorical or demagogic sense, the promotion of a government program to put people to work. Instead, she called for tax cuts for big business. She declared,

“I firmly believe that the best anti-poverty program is a job… That’s why I’ve called for reviving the new markets tax credit and empowerment zones to create greater incentives to invest in poor and remote areas.”

Clinton took the same approach to Wall Street criminality, declaring,

“Stories of misconduct by individuals and institutions in the financial industry are shocking. HSBC allowing drug cartels to launder money, five major banks pleading guilty to felony charges for conspiring to manipulate currency exchange and interest rates.”

Yet she made no call for prosecuting executives, merely sating that she plans to “rein in excessive risks on Wall Street and ensure that stock markets work for everyday investors.” In other words, nothing will change, and Wall Street executives who launder money for drug cartels or manipulate global interest rates will continue to go unpunished.

Clinton then declared,

“Net business investment, which includes things like factories, machines and research labs, have declined as a share of the economy… In recent years some of our biggest companies have spent more than half their earnings to buy back their own stock and another third or more to pay dividends.”

Her proposal for dealing with this reality is more tax cuts and credits for business! She declared, “Workers are assets. Investing in them pays off; higher wages pay off. Training pays off. To help more companies do that, I proposed a $1,500 tax credit for every worker they train and hire.”

Throughout her speech, Clinton addressed every major social issue in America from the standpoint of swelling the bottom line for US corporations. Not even attempting to disguise the fact that her immigration policy is predicated on providing cheap labor to US businesses, Clinton called for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would bring “millions of hard-working people into the formal economy” in order to “increase our gross domestic product by an estimated $700 billion over 10 years.”

Clinton further called for slashing government spending particularly on “big” social programs, i.e. Medicare and Social Security. “It’s time to stop having debates over the small stuff and focus on how we’re going to tackle the big stuff together.” She pledged to “propose ways to ensure that our fiscal outlook is sustainable, including by continuing to restrain health care costs, which remain one of the key drivers of long-term deficits.”

The entire structure of Clinton’s speech made clear that the small handful of policies she nominally supports that do have even the slightest egalitarian character are simply window dressing. She declared, in passing, halfway through her speech that “we do have to raise the minimum wage, and implement President Obama’s new rules on overtime.”

This was the only reference to these two supposedly central planks of the Democratic Party platform. By way of comparison, Clinton referred to “business” 21 times, and “growth” 31 times.

Clinton is relying on her political allies among the trade unions and other apologists for the Democratic Party to gloss over her right-wing policies and sell her candidacy to the American people. Over the weekend, the executive council of the American Federation of Teachers voted to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president, becoming the first national union to endorse any candidate.

The AFT declared, “Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House. She is a tested leader who is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities.” The statement added that a Clinton presidency will help fight “poverty, wage stagnation” and “income inequality.”

Despite such claims, anyone who takes the time to review Clinton’s remarks will immediately see that she fully intends to continue and deepen the right-wing, pro-business and pro-corporate policies of her predecessors, Democratic and Republican alike.

A diagnosis of cancer is devastating. But cancer sufferers who have followed medical provider advice to undergo treatment with so-called cancer-fighting drugs may have unknowingly been exposed to the additional risk of stroke or other life-threatening medical event.

Why is this happening? The danger is due to tainted cancer medication in the form of sterile injectable drugs that the manufacturer began recalling in early June – due to “particulate” matter, as the company described the issue. The recall comes amidst yet another round of big pharma takeovers and acquisitions, leaving consumers to wonder whether drug companies are willing to take any available shortcut – even putting consumer health at risk – to turn a deal and build profit margins.

Multiple recalls of contaminated drugs: A shocking reality within the pharmaceutical industry

In early June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) distributed a media release from drug manufacturer Mylan in which the company recalled seven lots of the cancer drug gemcitabine, two of which carried the Pfizer label. The cancer drugs are typically used to treat breast, ovarian, pancreatic and non-small cell lung cancers.

Mylan noted that while it was not aware of any incidences of patient health reactions to the drugs, a range of serious health threats are possible if particulate from the tainted drugs are injected into a patient. The company admits the risks can be life threatening, including chance of stroke.

In addition, Mylan announced it was recalling a single lot of methotrexate, a drug used to treat severe psoriasis, certain neoplastic diseases and adult rheumatoid arthritis. The June recall follows an earlier recall by Mylan, in April, during which it recalled one lot of the cancer drug carboplatin with a Mylan label, along with seven lots of cancer meds it manufactured for Pfizer. The latter included five lots of gemcitabine in different doses, and one lot each of methotrexate and cytarabine.

Corporate profits are more important than product safety

The recall of tainted cancer drugs comes amidst a swirling environment of FDA warnings, corporate takeovers and acquisitions that bring into question whether pharmaceutical companies are paying as much attention to safe manufacturing practices as they are to orchestrating their next ‘great’ business deal.

The most recently recalled drugs were all packaged in Agila Onco plants. Mylan acquired the Indian facilities in 2013 through its $1.75 billion buyout of the sterile injectables segment of Strides Arcolab, a strategic step in its bid to become a significant player in the sterile injectables sector.

The drug cytarabine, manufactured for Pfizer and recalled in April, was also made at the Agila plant in Bangalore. It is now known that the facility had already been cited with a warning letter from the FDA 2013, just prior to Mylan closing the deal. The FDA warning involved the plant’s use of defective gloves in the aseptic processing area, and noted that the company was not taking the problem seriously enough.

Just last year, Mylan recalled 10 lots of another Pfizer drug traced to the Agila plant for missing labels and for a black particulate.

Mylan is now in the midst of a complex big pharma game of mergers and acquisitions with a deal involving Perrigo, while at the same time Teva is making a bid for Mylan. Meanwhile, Pfizer is making a bid to expand its own sterile injectables business, sinking $17 billion into a buyout deal with the pharmaceutical company Hospira, a company known for its frequent product recalls.

Bottom line, as the saying goes, ‘let the buyer (cancer patient) beware.’

References:

http://www.fiercepharmamanufacturing.com/story/mylan-expands-recall-cancer-meds-made-pfizer/2015-06-09

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm444498.htm

http://www.fiercepharmaasia.com/story/mylans-bangalore-unit-cancer-drug-recall-expanded-firm-works-ma-angles/2015-06-17

The fallout continues in Puerto Rico’s debt crisis following the June 29 announcement by Governor Alejandro García Padilla that the US commonwealth’s $73 billion debt is “not payable.”

Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of the US House of Representatives, Pedro Pierluisi of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, is sponsoring a bill to grant Puerto Rico bankruptcy protection while it negotiates with its creditors and restructures its economy. The bill envisions a bankruptcy process for the island similar to that imposed on the city of Detroit in 2013.

The House Judiciary Committee has sidelined Pierluisi’s bill. A statement issued jointly by the chairman of the committee, Bob Goodlate, and committee member Tom Marino, both Republicans, declared the general consensus on the committee to be that providing “Puerto Rico’s municipalities access to Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code would not by itself solve Puerto Rico’s problems, which are associated with underlying structural problems.”

Filing for bankruptcy would put creditors—Wall Street hedge funds, mutual funds and wealthy speculators—at the head of the repayment line at the expense of pensions, social programs and infrastructure investments. Government-owned assets could be auctioned off and utilities privatized. However, it would also likely entail losses for Wall Street firms that have invested in the island’s bonds.

Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank (GDB) announced last week that it would begin efforts to refinance the debt in private negotiations with selected, unnamed bond holders. According to the GDB announcement, the bank will offer a mix of cash and securities in return for a modification of bond terms and interest rate reductions. The current yield on GDB bonds hovers around 15 percent, double the rate for Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds and equal to the yields for the failing public electric utility, PREPA.

The aim of the negotiations is to reduce the heavy interest rate burden that Puerto Rico, its municipalities, pension funds and public agencies bear. According to the International Business Times, an online journal:

“The island is trying to lower its interest rates after years of borrowing under restrictive terms. For example, a $3.5 billion bond issue in 2014 will require the island to pay $4.22 billion in interest payments alone over the next 20 years, and it won’t begin to pay down the principal until 2021.”

On Monday, to launch the negotiations with creditors, GDB President Melba Acosta made a presentation to bond holders at Citigroup’s auditorium in New York City. Also giving presentations on behalf of the GDB were Anne Krueger and Andrew Wolfe, who co-authored a paper entitled “Puerto Rico—A way forward.” Krueger is a former official with the International Monetary Fund.

The paper proposes a series of “pro-growth supply-side” measures to lower the cost of doing business in Puerto Rico, including elimination of the federal minimum wage for Puerto Rico, tightening of welfare eligibility, gutting of job-protection regulations, and “relaxation” of labor laws for youth and new entrants into the jobs market.

Noting that the US minimum wage of $7.25 accounts for 77 percent of average per capita income in Puerto Rico (compared to 28 percent on the US mainland), the report calls it a “binding constraint on employment.” The report identifies other “binding constraints” such as holidays, paid vacations and local rules that make it harder to dismiss workers than on the mainland.

The report demands “up front action and new institutional mechanisms such as a fiscal oversight board,” code words for an unelected authority, dominated by the banks and hedge funds, that will dictate government policy on the island.

In return for renegotiation of the outstanding debt, the Puerto Rican government is to impose sweeping cuts in wages, medical care, welfare benefits and education, coupled with an increased tax burden on working people. The plan also calls for “introducing competition,” i.e., privatization, of the electricity system.

Puerto Rico has had more than a decade of consistent trade surpluses with the rest of the world, exporting pharmaceutical products, medical equipment, computers, military equipment, and agricultural and fishing products, generating substantial profits for foreign corporations. Profits repatriated back to the US, $35 billion annually, are taxed by Puerto Rico at the low rate of 4 percent.

This essentially colonial relationship between the US and its former colony will continue under the plan being advanced by the GDB and the García Padilla government, but on the basis of a brutal lowering of Puerto Rican workers’ already depressed living standards.

“Valuable Greek assets of [EUR 50 bn] shall be transferred to an existing external and independent fund like the Institution for Growth in Luxembourg, to be privatized and decrease debt.”

The idea of a foreign fund in Luxemburg, with up to 50 billion euros in Greek public assets, stands at the center of a decision taken by leaders at the summit. In the event of no agreement, Greece could be offered negotiations for a “timeout” from the Eurozone, with a likely restructuring of the debt

“Valuable Greek assets of [EUR 50 bn] shall be transferred to an existing external and independent fund like the Institution for Growth in Luxembourg, to be privatized and decrease debt.”

 Aris Oikonomou

Aris Oikonomou / SOOC

The Institution for Growth counts German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble on its board, as anyone can see here . Its chairmanship alternates between the German Minister of Finance and the Minister for Economic Affairs.

Discussion of this matter began back in 2014 (see here ), with no mention of a funds transfer. Just what is this bank? It was created to manage Marshall Plan resources for reconstructing the German economy, and it is involved in more than 1600 projects in developed economies abroad. This is a German national bank worth half a trillion – in other words, about twice as much as the World Bank. In 2011 it loaned 70 billion, drawing from international markets with low interest rates thanks to its AAA rating. Leon Macioszek has explained that the government invests 1.5 billion in the fund and yields 3-4 billion

In Greece the Institution for Growth is already involved in funding the lignite plant in Ptolemaida, which has been the object of environmental concerns .

But the most important piece of information is that the fund gave 300 million euros to Lehman Brothers the same day that the firm went bankrupt. Bild, which we all know and love, wrote at that time that “it is the most idiotic German bank.” But not everyone was convinced this was mistaken.

We’re sure that our own money is in good and trustworthy hands.

Greece: Germany Just Killed Its Golden Goose

July 14th, 2015 by Tyler Durden

Personally, like most of you, I always thought Germany, besides all its other talents, good or bad, was a nation of solid calculus and accounting. Gründlichkeit. And that they knew a thing or two about psychology. But I stand corrected.

The Germans just made their biggest mistake in a long time (how about some 75 years) over the weekend. Now, when all you have to bring to a conversation slash negotiation is bullying and strong arming and brute force, that should perhaps not be overly surprising. But it’s a behemoth failure all by itself regardless.

First though, I want to switch to what Yanis Varoufakis told the New Statesman in an interview published today, because it’s crucial to what happened this weekend. Varoufakis talks about how he was pushing for a plan to introduce an alternative currency in Greece rather than giving in to the Troika. But Tsipras refused. And Yanis understands why:

Varoufakis could not guarantee that a Grexit would work …

…[he] knows Tsipras has an obligation to “not let this country become a failed state.

What this means is that Tsipras was told by the Troika behind closed doors, to put it crudely: “we’re going to kill your people”. He was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. And Tsipras could never take that upon himself, even though the deals now proposed will perhaps be worse in the medium to long term, even though it may cost him his career.

Criticism of the man is easy, but it all comes from people never put in that position. Varoufakis understands, and sort of hints he might have had second thoughts too if he were ever put in that position.

There’s not much that separates Schäuble and the EU from the five families that rule (used to rule?!) New York City. If you need proof of that, come to Athens and check out the devastated parts of the city. Germany and the Troika are as ruthless as the mob. Or, rather, they’re worse.

My point is, their attitude and antics will backfire. You can’t run a political and/or monetary union that way. And only fools would try.

The structure of the EU itself guarantees that Germany will always come out on top. But they can only stay on top by being lenient and above all fair, by letting the other countries share some of the loot.

To know how this works, watch Marlon Brando, as Don Corleone, talk to the heads of the five families in the Godfather. You need to know what to do to, as he puts it, “keep the peace”. He’s accepted as the top leader precisely because the other capos understand he knows how.

The Germans have shown that they don’t know this. And therefore, here comes a prediction, it’ll be all downhill from here for them. Germany’s period of -relative- economic strength effectively ended this weekend. The flaws in its economy will now be exposed, and the cracks will begin to show. If you want to be the godfather, the very first requirement is you need to be seen as fair. Or you will have no trust. And without trust you have nothing. It is not difficult.

Germany will never get a deal like the EU has been for them, again. It was the best deal ever. And now they blew it, and they have no-one to blame but themselves. And really, the Godfather metaphor is a very apt one, in more ways than one. Schäuble could never be the capo di tutti capi, no-one would ever trust him in that role. Because he’s not a fair man. But he still tries to play the role. Big mistake.

The people here in Greece are being forced to pay for years for something they were never a part of, and that they never profited from. The profits all went to a corrupt elite. And if there’s one thing Don Corleone could tell you, it’s that that’s a bad business model. Because it leads to war, to people being killed, to unrest, and all of that is bad for business.

I must admit, I thought the Germans were smarter than this. They’re not. That much is overly obvious now. No matter what happens next, deal or no deal on Greece, and that’s by no means a given yet, don’t let the headlines fool you, no matter what happens, Germany loses.

It’s not just about Greece, it’s about the whole EU. The Troika thinks that by scaring the living daylights out of the periphery, its power will increase. They even think it’ll work with France. Good luck with that. They’ll be facing Marine Le Pen soon, and Podemos, and M5S, and these antics will not work on them.

I guess the main thing here is that Don Corleone was not a psychopath or sociopath, and that’s more than you can say for Schäuble and Dijsselbloem and Juncker and their ilk. These people simply lack the social skills to lead any organization, because all they understand is power and force, and that is simply not enough. While brute force may look attractive and decisive and all, in the end it will be their undoing.

I’m sure the vast majority of them have seen the Godfather films, but they’ve just never understood what they depict; they don’t have the skillset for it.

Germany just killed its golden goose. And boy, is that ever stupid. They could have had -again, relative, we’re in a recession- peace and prosperity, and they’re blowing it all away.

Tsipras for obvious reasons cannot talk about the threats he’s been receiving, but he did give up some hints early this morning:

  • “We took the responsibility for the decision to avert the most extreme plans by conservative circles in Europe..”
  • “I promise you that as hard as we fought here, we will now fight at home, to finish the oligarchy which brought us to this state.”
  • “We resisted demands for the transfer of state assets abroad and averted a banking collapse which had been meticulously planned.”
  • “… decision to avert the most extreme plans by most extreme circles in Europe”

The Italians and Spanish and French have noted every word of this, and more. Europe as it is, is already over. Everything from here on in is a mere death rattle.

Image: Still from RT video

New data shows that America’s war in Afghanistan is costing taxpayers roughly $4 million an hour, despite the Obama administration’s drawdown of troops leaving only 10,000 soldiers in the country.

Despite the colossal cost, the Obama administration and Afghan leadership both recognize the war will only end with peace negotiations, according to observers.

More than $700 billion has been spent on the Afghan war since the George W. Bush administration authorized the invasion in 2001, including more than $35 billion in fiscal year 2015, according to figures from the National Priorities Project, a non-profit, non-partisan federal budget research group.

The initial budget for the Afghan war was over $20 billion for 2001/02. The budget dropped to $14 billion over the next two years as spending was shifted to the war in Iraq. Expenditures on the Afghan war took a back seat to Iraq war spending before ballooning to more than $100 billion in 2010 when the cost of the Iraq war began to decline. Spending in Afghanistan continued to top $100 billion annually until 2013, when it began falling by increments of $10 billion, finally reaching the current budget of $35 billion.

The cost of deploying just one solider in Afghanistan is approximately $1 million a year, far higher than the $390,000 congressional researchers estimated in 2006, according to a New York Times article. Military analysts said the increase in expenditure reflects a surge in the cost of mine-resistant troop carriers and surveillance equipment. Unique to Afghanistan is the additional cost of as much as $400 a gallon to deliver fuel to troops moving through mountainous terrain.

Even so, the $700 billion price tag for the Afghan War is misleading, according to NPP, as it doesn’t include a full accounting of all the costs of the war. Missing is potential future spending on medical care for wounded soldiers and veterans. Additionally, the budget doesn’t include interest payments on national debt resulting from war spending.

NPP uses research from the Congressional Research Service as well as assessment and budget documents from relevant federal agencies to compile their data.

Harvard economist Linda Bilmes calculated in 2013 that the Afghan and Iraq wars have become “the most expensive wars in the US history,” with additional medical and care costs looming before the wars even end.

Since taking office in September, Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani has made it a priority to find a peace settlement with the Taliban. Peace talks between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives lasting one day have recently ended, with both sides agreeing to meet again after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. American foreign policy observers say the next step will involve negotiations with the US.

“The government of President Ghani has been attempting for a while to engage in these talks, although it is politically controversial. This has been his position for some time and this has been the US position,”Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, said to RT.

“The Obama administration has recognized for some time that eventually the only end to the war in Afghanistan is going to have to come with some kind of negotiations. The question is at what cost, and after how many more Afghanistan lives.”

South African Communist Party (SACP) leaders held a special congress July 7-11 where a broad discussion was held on the contemporary situation inside the country as well as internationally.

As a close ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the SACP has been a leading component of the struggle which overthrew the racist apartheid system of settler-colonialism. In the present government of President Jacob Zuma, Communists hold leading positions in various portfolios and departments.

SACP Secretary General Dr. Blade Nzimande is also the Minister of Higher Education and Training. Nzimande delivered a major report to the Congress outlining the present situation inside the country and globally.

The party says that it has experienced significant growth in the recent period due to the consistency of its ideological orientation but faces challenges related to the political fragmenting of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the ongoing economic crisis which is international in scope.

In the Secretary General’s report it says that “It is no secret that we are confronting a very challenging period in our national democratic revolution with risks, threats and but also important opportunities and responsibilities. It is also no secret that across our ANC-led Alliance more and more comrades are turning to the SACP to engage with our collective analysis of the global, regional and national conjuncture and to point to a programmatic line of action. It is no secret that of the different components that constitute our ANC-led alliance, the SACP is the most stable and relatively the most ideologically coherent. The rapid and historically unprecedented growth of our membership – now standing at some 240,000 members attests to this. It is no accident that there are increasing complaints in the right-wing media about the growing influence of the SACP within government and within our Alliance.”

Transforming the National Democratic Revolution in the Current Phase

Nonetheless, the party acknowledges that since the realization of majority rule in South Africa, the ideological trajectory of the world capitalist system has been dominant. The Secretary General’s report reviews the notions of “The End of History” which were being advanced by pro-capitalist intellectuals and the corporate media after the collapse of the socialist systems in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Saying that there was no alternative became a standard phrase utilized during the early years of the ANC ascendancy to political power. The SACP reiterated that there has to be an alternative to capitalism which is socialism.

In the report the party is calling for a renewed radical phase of the National Democratic Revolution. Recognizing that this view is labelled as “utopian” by the proponents of globalization, which is imperialism in its modern context, the SACP Secretary General’s report called for a total break by South Africa from the world capitalist system.

The SACP analysis stresses that “In the course of this Political Report we have argued that the changing global, regional and national realities underline the correctness of a strategic path of anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly capital struggle, anchored in an ongoing National Democratic Revolutionary strategy. However, this NDR strategy has to be “radical” in the sense that it has to radically transform the systemic features of our political economy that continue to reproduce our semi-colonial positioning within the global imperialist system. And this requires building state and popular power capacity to increasingly de-link the fate of our country and its peoples from an imperialist system that is carrying us all into barbarism and irreversible planetary destruction.”

This can only be done according to the Secretary General through the unity of the working class. In emphasizing unity in action the party realizes that the current factional problems which have split COSATU is a major obstacle in advancing the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle moving towards socialist revolution and reconstruction.

Saying “The fragmentation of the working class due to, inter-alia, labor brokerage, casualization, outsourcing and retrenchments has shaped the social landscape and dynamics of our urban townships and rural villages. The increased unemployment and the growth of those marginalized from the mainstream economy, provides the crucial link between the restructuring of the workplace and the working class with the political economy of African townships and rural villages. Women, not least because of the critical social reproduction role they play within these localities, constitute an important part of the dynamism of townships and villages. The offensive directed at the organized working class in general, and COSATU in particular, has not only weakened the strength of the trade union movement, but will contribute to the already weakening link between workplace and community struggles.”

COSATU Holds Special Congress As Well

Internal problems within the largest of South African trade union federation are being discussed at a special national congress convened on July 13. The expulsion of the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA) along with the former Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi has created tensions within COSATU.

NUMSA was the largest affiliate within COSATU breaking with many within the national leadership over its alliance with the ANC and its failure to campaign for the ruling party in the 2014 national elections. Vavi was suspended and then reinstated during 2014. Earlier in 2015, he was expelled by a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the federation.

Both NUMSA and Vavi claim that their expulsions were at variance with the federation’s constitution. At the current COSATU special national congress the leadership is saying that there will be no appeals presented on behalf of NUMSA and Vavi.

A new Liberated Metalworkers Union (LIMUSA) was created several months ago and validated at the special national congress. In addition Second Deputy President Zingosa Logi was also accredited to attend the meeting.

However, expelled members of COSATU warned that failure to address their concerns could destroy the federation. Vavi told Eyewitness News that the federation is at risk of final irreparable destruction and that it would not be easy to achieve unity. The former Secretary General continues to say that he is dismayed at the current situation in the federation.

Vavi noted that “There is no shortcut to unity unless you have an agenda to split the federation. You can’t dismiss ordinary workers from the federation and then make a claim that you are still interested in unity.” (Eyewitness News, July 13)

Current leaders of COSATU refute the views of Vavi saying that the source of the problems is with those unions and leaders who have been expelled. Meanwhile, COSATU’s First Deputy President Tyotyo James has appealed to divided factions to remain calm during the debate.

“Those who have said that today we are digging COSATU’s grave, we must tell them ‘not so’. If you have to differ on any issue do so with respect.” (Eyewitness News, July 13)

Efforts by the SACP along with the ANC to repair the damage done to COSATU, a key constituency within the Tripartite Alliance, will prove to be critical in any efforts to renew the National Democratic Revolution. Unless a politically united trade union movement comes into existence it will be impossible to effectively fight international finance capital and its remaining holds over the South African people.

Detroit to Flint Water March Ends

July 14th, 2015 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Michigan residents still subjected to health hazards and termination of service

On July 10 the state water march ended in Flint. This demonstration which lasted for one week was organized under the theme “CLEAN, AFFORDABLE WATER FOR ALL: Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey.”

Several organizations sponsored the walk including the People’s Water Board, the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) in Detroit, and other groups throughout the state. Other activists from Highland Park, Pontiac and Flint joined in the march and the periodic rallies held in all four cities.

Marian Kramer, co-chair of the MWRO, who lives in Highland Park, noted that the struggle for water in this small municipality surrounded by Detroit has been a protracted battle. Kramer reported how Highland Park residents did not receive bills for their water services for three years due to the lay-offs of meter readers.

The system in Highland Park now is connected with Detroit. The current City of Detroit administration is claiming huge debts owed to it by neighboring Highland Park. Massive shut-offs could be imminent.

In Flint where the water situation is perhaps the worse in the state people marched and gathered at City Hall. The march started in Detroit on July 3 when activists came together to launch the initiative.

Under emergency management and bankruptcy, the banks and corporate interests sought to shield the real forces which are responsible for the current crisis in access and safety. In Detroit $537 million was taken out of the system in order to terminate interest-rate swaps issued by some of the leading financial institutions including Chase, Bank of America, Loop Financial and Morgan Stanley.

From Emergency Management and Bankruptcy to Social Ruin

Although both Flint and Detroit have been taken out from under emergency management, the State of Michigan is still overseeing the finances of both municipalities. Water shut-offs in each of these cities continue but in Flint residents are faced with an extreme deterioration of the quality of their service.

Outside City Hall in Flint residents discussed the health problems they are facing due to contaminated water. The Flint water system was connected to Detroit’s massive infrastructure until under emergency management it was broken off in 2014 under the guise of a “cost-cutting measure.”

Water flowing into residential homes is coming directly from the Flint River and testing by outside experts indicate that the use of high levels of chlorine and ferric chloride could be causing corrosion in the lead and iron piping system. At least half of the homes in Flint were constructed over 50 years ago where then use of lead was common.

New regulations based on the United States Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 are not being enforced in the city. The State of Michigan Environmental Quality Department has been criticized for not exercising its authority in response to complaints coming from residents of Flint.

Today families in Flint are suffering from cooper and lead poisoning as well as skin rashes and hair loss among other health issues.  Water from the local system has been described as not only undrinkable but unfit for washing and cooking.

Melissa Mays of Flint, who chaired the rally at City Hall on July 10, said that she and her children have been suffering from cooper poisoning which was diagnosed in March. The family is now in a detoxification process under medical supervision.

An investigative report published by the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggests that the testing methods of the local water department is designed to conceal the level of lead residents are being exposed to on a daily basis. Before samples for testing are taken by local authorities residents are told to run water for a period in an effort to flush out the build-up of toxics near the faucets.

The ACLU report says that “Flint’s water contained corrosion-control chemicals until April 2014, when Flint’s ties to the Detroit water system were severed….Discontinuing the use of the anti-corrosion chemicals allowed the toxic scale built up on the insides of pipes over the past decades to be released into water flowing into people’s homes, explained Miguel Del Toral, a regulations manager for the Ground Water and Drinking Water Branch of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5.”

LeeAnne Walters, a homemaker and mother of four children whose father is in the Navy, requested two city tests of her water. It revealed dangerously high levels of lead charting 104 parts per billion (ppb) and 397 ppb, respectively.

Nonetheless, in a separate independent test, the levels of lead were shown to be astronomically higher than the city’s results. A professor at Virginia Tech University (VT) Marc Edwards said that he was astonished when the results came in from their test.

VT researchers found lead levels in Walters’ water had reached 13,200 ppb—more than twice the amount at which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declares water as hazardous waste. “When I saw those numbers I was shocked,” Edwards said. This VT scholar is a former MacArthur Fellow who is recognized as an expert on corrosion in drinking-water systems.

Another Flint resident who rallied outside City Hall brought with her a container with water which was run out of her tap. The water was brown in its coloration.

This same woman also held a fist-full of her hair which she said fell off after washing with this contaminated water. The woman was extremely angry and blamed the local and state authorities for their failure to protect the people of Flint.

Disinvestment by Capitalism at Root of the Crisis

Flint has been hit over the decades by plant closings and financial ruin caused by the banks and corporations. The birthplace of the UAW is now a source of underdevelopment and political oppression.

Much like Detroit, the city’s landscape is covered with abandoned factories and commercial structures. The foreclosure rates were extremely high at the height of the Great Recession several years ago.

Local officials are crippled by the constraints placed on politicians under state supervision.

Michigan has a right-wing multi-millionaire governor. Rick Snyder had presidential aspirations but recently failed miserably when he placed a statewide referendum on the ballot to raise sales taxes aimed ostensibly to repair the roads in Michigan, perhaps the worse in the country.

Immediately after the referendum went down in an 80 percent no vote, Snyder announced that he was not going to pursue the nation’s highest office. Even a corporate media television outlet revealed during the failed campaign that most of the money during the first year would go towards paying off bond debt on previous road construction financing schemes that never worked.

The water march gained a significant amount of media coverage. Participants submitted a petition to the State Capitol in Lansing demanding clean and affordable water for the people of Michigan.

However, with the capitalist interests of the banks and corporations being dominant, including the firm formerly known as Veolia, which has a contract with the Flint water department, every effort is being made by the ruling class to privatize the system so that large profits can be made from the people of Flint and other municipalities throughout the state. It will require vigilance on the part of the people of Michigan to fight the corporate and financial interests seeking to deny them safe water, guaranteeing access free from the threat of termination and excessive fees.

The Connecticut General Assembly last week passed legislation banning toxic lawn pesticides on municipal playgrounds, effective October 1, 2015. In the omnibus budget implementation Bill 1502 at Section 448 (p.563 at line 17579). The bill also improves the existing parents’ pesticide notification system by requiring school districts to provide at least 24-hour electronic notification any time a pesticide application is schedule to occur on school property (Secs. 445 and 446), as well as requiring and tracking the use of pesticides and integrated pest management (IPM) methods to reduce pesticide use on state properties (Sec. 449).

“As we have recognized for many years in Connecticut, children are particularly endangered by pesticides – because these chemicals accumulate in kids’ growing bodies faster than for the rest of us,” Playgroundsaid Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, House Chairman of the Education Committee, which drafted the 2005 and 2009 laws prohibiting pesticide use on school fields.  “This measure represents a great step forward for our state, safeguarding our children from these toxic chemicals on town playgrounds – and ensuring that parents get notice when pesticides are used at public schools,” he added.

“Time and time again pesticides have been shown to have serious health and environmental consequences, and it is critical that we begin limiting their use,” said State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., Chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “By keeping pesticides off of playgrounds and school property, we limit [children’s] exposure to those who are most likely to become ill as a result of them. Improving our state’s notification procedures will better inform parents about pesticide and herbicide applications at their children’s schools.”

The bill bans lawn pesticides which are defined as “a pesticide registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and labeled pursuant to the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act for use in lawn, garden and ornamental sites or areas. “Lawn care pesticide” does not include (A) a microbial pesticide or biochemical pesticide that is registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, (B) a horticultural soap or oil that is registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and does not contain any synthetic pesticide or synergist, or (C) a pesticide classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as an exempt material pursuant to 40 CFR 152.25, as amended from time to time.”

In 2005, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of lawn care pesticides on school athletic fields serving grades K-6 schools and daycare centers.  The original law was expanded in 2009 to include middle school fields (Grades 7 and 8). Activists and concerned parents have been working for years in Connecticut to extend the current prohibition of pesticide use to include high schools, athletic fields, municipal parks and town land, but to no avail. Strong opposition from many municipalities and the pesticide industry has prevented the inclusion of language that would extend the ban to high school grounds and fields, despite calls from parents and local activists.

Other previous attempts to extend the ban have also fallen short over the years. In 2013, the then-proposed Bill 6385 to extend a pesticide ban from pre-K through eighth grade to include high schools stalled and a task force to study pesticides was set up, despite a favorable vote in the education committee to move the bill along. Another bill to extend the ban, which also included a ban on the use of genetically engineered (GE) lawn and turf seed, passed the Senate last year, but was eventually stalled in the House. There have even been attempts to repeal the existing ban for daycare centers and K-8 schools, with legislation allowing pesticide use as part of a weak “integrated pest management” (IPM) system. Current state law, adopted in 2005 and amended in 2007 and 2009 to cover facilities from day care centers up through grade 8, prohibits pesticides on playgrounds and playing fields at schools (except under emergency situations), allowing instead for non-toxic pest and fertility management.

Industry groups and local land managers advance the myth that banning pesticides from fields would cost schools and municipalities more money because of pest damage and could make playing fields hazardous. However, these myths have been debunked by studies and real world successes of organically managed fields. First, fields that are intensively managed with chemicals are at greater risk for disease and weed infestation (leading to a dependence on chemical inputs), compared with those whose practices build healthy, balanced soil. Similarly, chemically-managed fields are generally harder and more compacted due to a loss of natural soil biology, while organic management focuses on cultural practices, such as aeration, that alleviates compaction and provides a softer, better playing surface. Any field with irregular surfaces, whether organically managed or not, can lead to falls or twisted ankles. Banning pesticides from playing fields also will not cost more in the long-term. While initial costs to transition a chemical-dependent field to organic care can be higher, in the long-run costs will be lower as inputs, like fertilizer and water, decrease, along with the absence of the cost of annual chemical treatments. Read the factsheet: Pesticides and Playing Fields.

The need for legislation to protect vulnerable children from the hazards of toxic pesticides is clear. Studies show that pesticides are associated with several human health risks including cancer, learning/behavioral disabilities and reproductive and sexual dysfunction. The Pesticide-Induced Disease Database documents the association between pesticide exposures and the onset of disease. This is supported by the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which concluded in December 2012 that, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” The report went on to discuss how kids are exposed to pesticides every day in air, food, dust, and soil. Children also frequently come into contact with pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications.

Source: The Ridgefield Press

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

It sounds almost unimaginable, but it isn’t the script of a new Hollywood movie: the Pentagon has literally forced movie producers to turn villains into heroes, add U.S. Military rescues, as well as changing scenes that they deem “sensitive.”

Producers and directors say they are literally being forced to re-write scripts. If the United States Department of Defense deems their content ­inappropriate, the changes are strongly “suggested.”

The relevant files about this military involvement in Hollywood, from the California-based Department of Defense Entertainment Liaison Office were released after a Freedom of Information Act request by Bath University’s Dr Matthew Alford, whose research focuses on the relationship between entertainment, political power, and propaganda in the United States.

The 1,400-page military document can be downloaded as the 2004-5 weekly reports here and the 2005-6 weekly reports here.

The sheer size of the DOD’s involvement in the entertainment industry is mind-boggling. The full DOD film list details just how much the military has involved itself in Hollywood.

Such involvement includes altering scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests, many have in ­exchange gained inexpensive access to militarylocations, vehicles and gear they need to make their films.

One switch that was reported on by the British newspaper, The Mirror, which involved directors re-working a ­character in the 2001 war film Black Hawk Down. In the original script, the character was a pedophile, but the Pentagon asked them to change this to portray soldiers in a better light.

The US military has also shown interest in the Transformers series, as well as shows ­including American Idol, Hawaii Five-0 and even Cupcake Wars.

“It is shocking that the Pentagon is poking its nose into a mind-boggling range of TV shows. Many have nothing to do with the military,” Dr Alford said.

“It is alarming that the Pentagon keeps secret the changes it makes, leaving it open to accusations that it’s waging a pernicious PR campaign to recruit TV-addict kids and rewrite history.”

Your mobile phone is not only a carcinogenic, radiation emitting device, but may alter the structure and function of the brain, including brain wave activity that is intimately connected to cognition, mood and behavior.  

A concerning new clinical study published in PLoS One titled, “EEG Changes Due to Experimentally Induced 3G Mobile Phone Radiation,” has revealed that so-called 3rdgeneration (3G) cell phone technology has widespread brain wave disrupting activity in subjects exposed to real-world like conditions, i.e. 15-minute “talk time” exposure to the ear area.

The study abstract describes the experimental design and results:

The aim of this study was to investigate whether a 15-minute placement of a 3G dialing mobile phone causes direct changes in EEG activity compared to the placement of a sham phone. Furthermore, it was investigated whether placement of the mobile phone on the ear or the heart would result in different outcomes. Thirty-one healthy females participated. All subjects were measured twice: on one of the two days the mobile phone was attached to the ear, the other day to the chest. In this single-blind, cross-over design, assessments in the sham phone condition were conducted directly preceding and following the mobile phone exposure. During each assessment, EEG activity and radiofrequency radiation were recorded jointly. Delta, theta, alpha, slow beta, fast beta, and gamma activity was computed. The association between radiation exposure and the EEG was tested using multilevel random regression analyses with radiation as predictor of main interest. Significant radiation effects were found for the alpha, slow beta, fast beta, and gamma bands. When analyzed separately, ear location of the phone was associated with significant results, while chest placement was not. The results support the notion that EEG alterations are associated with mobile phone usage and that the effect is dependent on site of placement. Further studies are required to demonstrate the physiological relevance of these findings.”

While previous research has found that mobile phone exposure affects alpha brain wave activity, and subsequent behavior (insomnia), this is the first placebo-controlled, single-blinded study of its kind to show that as little as 15 minutes of 3G cell phone technology exposure directly to the ear, “is associated with increased activity of the alpha, beta, and gamma frequency bands in nearly every brain region.” In other words, typical mobile phone exposure resulted in electrophysiological changes that resulted in measurable alterations in nearly the entire brain’s structure/function. Even though it is now common knowledge that cell phone radiation is powerful enough to disrupt sensitive equipment within an airplane (think: airplane mode) or hospital, there is still resistance to acknowledging it may adversely affect the human brain, an electrical impulse sensitive organ.

Moreover, since brain waves are believed to encode rules for behavior, altering brain wave activity could have considerable downstream effects on behavior and consciousness.  To learn more about the potential of mobile phone and related electromagnetic radiation to affect cognition and behavior, read the Scientific American article, “Could certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves or radiation interfere with brain function?“, which explains why these concerns are valid.

There is also the fact that even more powerful radiation emitting devices are being developed, including 4th generation (4G) phones, which were recently found to significantly alter brain neural activity after only 30 minutes of exposure. We can only presume that these more powerful devices may alter brain wave activity even more than the 3G technology observed in the present study.

Why are we only now learning about the potentially mind-altering properties of mobile phone radiation?

The independent study pointed out that 87% of brain wave studies looking at the effects of electromagnetic radiation from cell phones are funded by the mobile phone industry,1 which may explain why most of the literature on cell phone exposure reveals either null or inconclusive, and in in some cases even positive findings on cognition. Considering that in 2013, 6.8 billion mobile phone subscriptions were registered globally,2 the resistance both by the communications industry and its users to identifying health concerns associated with their use is massive.

Even if the concerns raised about the psychiatric consequences of mobile phone exposure do not provide sufficient reason to reduce usage, the radiation emitted from these devices have already been acknowledged to be dangerous enough to justify a high level of precaution. Mobile phone radiation has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, since 2011, as “possibly carcinogenic.” Watch the video by radiation expert Dr. Chris Busby to learn about the mechanism behind cell phone carcinogenicity:

Also, to learn more about the oft minimized or repressed research on cell phone carcinogenicity, read our article: 44 Reasons Cell Phones Can Cause Cancer

Mobile phones have become an almost necessary evil for many of us in the modern world. This does not, however, mean you can’t reduce exposure, and certainly always avoid putting one up to your head. You can use a headset, for instance, and also remember that you can put your phone on airplane mode if ever you or your child is handling it. Simple precautions like this can greatly reduce you and your loved one’s risk of adverse health effects associated with exposure.

For additional related research read my article, “Ways To Reduce The Cancer-Causing Effects of Cell Phones,” or take a look at our database on research that reveals natural ways to mitigate mobile phone toxicity.

References

1 The effects of mobile-phone electromagnetic fields on brain electrical activity: a critical analysis of the literature. Marino AA, Carrubba S Electromagn Biol Med. 2009; 28(3):250-74. [PubMed]

 1. International Communication Union (2013) ICT facts and figures

KPL plant and fields. © Greenpeace

A flagship rice plantation in Tanzania run by UK investors has allegedly destroyed the livelihoods of local smallholder farmers, driven them into debt and impacted the local environment, according to a new report published by the Oakland Institute. The report was co-authored with Greenpeace Africa and Global Justice Now.

In 2008, Agrica, a UK company run out of the island of Guernsey, acquired the 5,818 hectare Mngeta farm in Kilombero, one of Tanzania’s most fertile agricultural regions. Agrica set up a company called Kilombero Plantations Limited (KPL) and cleared the land to grow rice using a mechanized method of farming developed in Madagascar. In addition KPL started to supply local smallholder farmers with training, seeds and supplies to engage in intensive rice cultivation.

In the last seven years, KPL has become the largest single rice producer in East Africa. KPL markets its own “Mama Mchele” (Mrs. Rice) brand of rice from Mgneta and 5,000 smallholder farmers working on contract.

The project is regularly touted as an example of the Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First) initiative, launched by President Jakaya Kikwete. (Some 75 percent of the country’s 45 million citizens are farmers)

“For 50 years aid agencies have been trying to lift the smallholder from subsistence to surplus – and they’ve failed,” Carter Coleman, CEO of Agrica, told the BBC. “We’re the sort of showcase project,” he added to the UK-based Centre for Investigative Journalism.

“Before, life was so tough – but after joining the group and being trained this started to improve my life,” Betrida Kiganga told the BBC. She says that she is able to support herself and her five children with the income from the company. “Now we’re harvesting more. We were only getting ten sacks, now we’re getting up to twenty in the same plot,” she added.

With such glowing results, international investors such as the Capricorn Investment Group and Norfund, the Norwegian government-owned investment company have been happy to put money into the project. In 2013, Justine Greening, the UK Secretary of State for International Development, announced a £6.7 million ($10.7 million) loan to the company to help finance a rice husk gasification plant to support KPL and the contract smallholders.

But complaints soon started to surface in the community, making development aid watchers suspicious. “When the Oakland Institute researchers initiated the work, they did expect to come across positive stories bearing in mind how the company had been portrayed internationally,” writes Mikael Bergius, a fellow at the Oakland Institute in California. “It was therefore surprising to experience the strong sense of negativity among respondents, and in the villages in general, towards KPL.”

Irresponsible Investment” – the Oakland Institute’s new report – estimates that as much as a quarter of the 5,800-hectare farm was essentially taken from some 230 households who live in the surrounding villages of Lukolongo, Mngeta and Mkangawalo. The activists interviewed 40 community members who say that they were given just three acres of substitute land in exchange plus a maximum supplement of just 30,000 Tanzanian shillings ($17) for anyone who claimed to have farmed more than three acres. By comparison, the costs of renting land in the area is 100,000 Tanzanian shillings ($55) a year per acre.

Coleman disagrees with the conclusions of the report, saying that KPL had compensated local farmers in a fair manner.

“Claims of land ownership beyond 3 acres were difficult to substantiate if they were not under cultivation and had no paper trail. Anyone could point at an area of bush and call it his own,” Coleman wrote in a reply to the Oakland Institute. “Perhaps these families may have been fraudulently allocated more than 3 acres of land by the village government which had no authority to allocate land; or perhaps they purchased an area from someone who had no right to sell the land.”

Coleman also noted that that KPL built a total of 82 concrete houses with raised floors and tin roofs and separate outhouse for the displaced households. All told, he claims that Agrica spends almost $700,000 a year in the community in salaries and subsidized health care.

But the activists say that this is not good enough. “Building school rooms and a health centre are positive of course,” wrote Anuradha Mittal, executive director of Oakland Institute, in a response to Coleman. “But true development is about ensuring communities and future generations have the means to live a life with dignity in a healthy environment. By taking away land and undermining the livelihoods of local farmers, the Agrica project jeopardizes the ability of local communities to enjoy sustainable development.”

In particular the new report alleges that Agrica foisted an expensive and unsustainable agricultural model on the local farmers.

One interviewee, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Oakland Institute: “Life now is very bad as compared to before. Previously I was able to earn money from my own farm, but now I have to earn money by doing various small jobs for cash. Before, I was able to cultivate my own food. Now I need to buy the food with the small income I have.”

Yet other local farmers complained that KPL was using chemicals that were polluting neighboring farms: “The chemicals from KPL drifted into my farm and destroyed my maize,” another Oakland Institute interviewee said. “That season I was not able to harvest anything because the whole farm was destroyed… our household economy was negatively affected and it also led to a shortage of food in the household that year.”

Coleman says that the company is not to blame for this but Greenpeace Africa says that such examples prove that Agrica’s very development model is flawed.

“In an area known as Tanzania’s food basket due to its fertile soil, this uncovers the real agenda of Agrica,” Glen Tyler, agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, said in a press release. “They have opened up new markets for the products of international agribusiness that are damaging for both people and the environment.”

Destroying Syria to Make It Safe for American Values

July 13th, 2015 by Eric Margolis

“The Turks have passed by here; all is in ruins and mourning. “

So wrote France’s great writer, Victor Hugo,  of the horrors he had witnessed during the Balkan liberation wars of the 1880’s.  If Hugo were alive today, he might well have used the same haunting lines to describe the smoking wreckage of the Mideast.  Except this time it was the  United States, France and Britain who wrought havoc in the Arab world, assisted by modern Turkey.

The UN’s refugee czar, Antonio Guterres, just asserted that there are now 4,013,000 Syrian refugees outside their homeland, and another 7.6 million as internal refugees from the war raging there since 2011.

That total’s some 11.6 million refugees- a staggering 50% of Syria’s population.  Over a quarter million are refugees in Europe; the rest spread across the Mideast with the largest numbers in Lebanon and Jordan.

Some of the millions of people who have fled Syria. Photo credit: The UN Refugee Agency / G. Gubaeva

This flood of displaced people is the largest number of refugees in the past 25 years, according to the   UN’s Guterres. In fact, Syria’s refugees now exceed in number the 5.5 million Palestinian refugees.   At least the Syrians may one day return home; by contrast, Palestinians, stateless for over six decades,  have no realistic hope of returning to their former homes in what is today Israel.

Before the 2011 war, Syria used to be a vibrant, growing  nation with beautiful old cities and a rich, ancient culture going back over 2,500 years.  Damascus is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.

Syria was always regarded as the beating heart of the Arab world and its intellectual epicenter.  It was also the progenitor of Arab nationalism, a long-time defender of the Palestinians, and a determined foe of Israel – though in recent years the Israeli-Syrian border has been very quiet.  Damascus, two generations behind Israel in military strength, dared not confront the powerful Jewish state directly.

For the past four decades, Syria has been ruled by its Alawi minority, an offshoot of Islam’s Shia faith.  Alawi, like their fellow Shia in Lebanon, were the nation’s poorest, most marginalized people.  The only work many could get was in the military. Eventually, an iron-fisted Alawi air force general, Hafez al-Assad, seized power.  After Assad’s death, his second son Bashar took charge of the regime, backed by a strong army and  ruthless security organs.

The Bush administration, prompted by Israel, toyed with the idea of toppling Syria’s Assad regime but it backed down when a few smart minds in Washington asked who would the US get to replace the existing government?  Syria’s main opposition came from the outlawed, underground Muslim Brotherhood that spoke for Syria’s long-repressed Sunni majority.  Washington wanted no part of the Muslim Brothers. Better the Asads, who quietly cooperated with Washington in spite of being backed by Iran.

But in 2009-2010, Washington changed policy.  As anti-Iranian war fever in the US mounted, the White House demanded that Tehran renounce its alliance with Iran, or else.   The plan was to isolate Iran prior to its being attacked.   But Syria refused to cut its vital ties to Tehran.

So Syria was marked for regime change.  Washington was fed up with Arab leaders who defied  the writ of the American Raj.  The Assads would meet the same grisly fate as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Khadaffi.

In spring, 2011, anti-Assad guerillas, armed and trained in Jordan by CIA, infiltrated from Lebanon into southern Syria at Derna. This was the squalid little town in which Lawrence of Arabia was captured by the Turks.  Derna was a hotbed of anti-government agitation.   Soon, more US proxy rebels infiltrated across the Lebanese border.   British and French special forces joined the rebels.  Saudi Arabia provided the financing.

France, former colonial ruler of Syria and Lebanon, was particularly interested in re-asserting its influence in the Levant and the oil-rich Gulf states.  Israel was convinced that overthrowing the Asad regime in Damascus would isolate its two main enemies, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbullah movement, leaving the latter vulnerable to a new Israel attack.

A propaganda blitz was unleashed  against Syria’s President Assad, branding him the butcher of the Middle East.  This was nonsense.  The mild-mannered Assad was a former London-trained ophthalmologist who became Syria’s leader when his older brother Basil was killed in a car crash.  The Assad regime had some very tough, nasty senior figures, but certainly no worse or more brutal than many other American Mideast allies like Egypt, Iraq, Algeria or Morocco.

No matter.  Bashar Assad became America’s new Mideast devil and the object of western-engineered regime change.  The means was to be a replay of the 1980’s Afghanistan jihad against the Soviets that this writer had covered.

An Arab army of young man ranging from idealists to malcontents was formed by western intelligence services.  But unlike Afghanistan, the new Arab force was mostly composed of fanatical, Salafist jihadists created by Saudi Arabia and aided by Turkey and Jordan to pass into Syria.

“America’s Salafists” were the cutting edge of Washington’s grand Mideast strategy, developed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to divided and rule by turning Sunni Muslims and Shia against one another.  Results in Iraq were spectacular.  The idea was to do the same again in Syria, where  a minority Shia regime ruled a sullen, restive Sunni majority.

The result, as we have seen, is the relentless destruction of Syria by civil war.  The entire nation has become a patchwork of warring groups similar to Germany during the 30 Year’s War of the 1600’s.  Salafist jihadis fight al-Qaida-aligned jihadis who fight ISIS forces who fight Kurdish militias, French, Turkish and British special forces are deep in the fray.

Syria’s Christians, about 10% of the population, are backing the Assad government.  They saw the destruction of Iraq’s ancient Christian communities, that had been formerly protected by President Saddam Hussein, after the US invasion of 2003 unleashed fanatical Salafists.

The massacres and butchery in Syria is unprecedented in the Mideast.  The carnage  even exceeds the many horrors of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Street fighting is destroying many of Syria’s villages, towns and cities.  Beautiful Aleppo, a world heritage sight, is being blown apart.

Syria’s anti-regime groups could not continue fighting without arms, munitions, medical supplies, radios and cash from the western powers.  Washington’s fatuous claims it is deploying “moderate” jihads is a sour joke.  The US is fully backing the region’s extremists against one of its oldest secular regimes.      Who will finally win this multi-faceted civil war remains unclear.

But it is clear that Syria has been largely destroyed. It joins Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia in ruins and mourning – all examples of states that defied the American Raj.  The plight of some 11 million Syrian refugees huddled in tents, drowning in the Mediterranean, or fleeing for their lives must be laid directly on Washington’s doorstep.

The nation of the Statue of Liberty is supposed to welcome and shelter  huddled masses fleeing hunger and danger, not cause millions of refugees because of its ruinous Mideast policies.

Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs is raising eyebrows on Wall Street with its unchecked bullish stance on the stock markets in China, as other major Wall Street firms issue investor cautions or take outright negative outlooks. Communist government intervention in Chinese markets is reaching unprecedented levels of meddling. Companies have been allowed to simply stop trading their shares to halt further price declines; the government has barred executives and key shareholders from selling; margin rules have been lifted; and the central bank is funneling liquidity to brokerage firms.

Since the rout began in June, $3.2 trillion has been shaved from the Chinese stock market with almost 2,800 stocks down 50 percent or more according to Wind Information.

Despite these obvious fault lines, Goldman Sachs has remained steadfastly bullish. But what Goldman Sachs isn’t volunteering to investors is that the company holds stakes itself in Chinese companies which it has yet to unload. Mark Schwartz, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia Pacific, also sits on the Board of Directors of a registered lobbyist, the U.S.-China Business Council, which is trying to ram through a Bilateral Investment Treaty with China.

This past February, Goldman sponsored a big conference in New York City to push the treaty and has devoted part of its web site to laudatory videos from the conference. According to Bloomberg Business, Goldman sponsored a similar conference last July in Beijing where Goldman Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other execs met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

What is less known to the general public is that Goldman Sachs has taken significant stakes in a dizzying array of Chinese companies, buying up pieces of everything from poultry farms to a meat-processing company, a drug maker, cement company, banks, insurance company, and even an online gaming and entertainment company.

Goldman has already exited some of these deals with outsized profits. In 2013, the Financial Times reported that Goldman Sachs had exited its stake in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China with a profit of $7.3 billion for the bank, its private equity partners and some senior partners.

One large position Goldman is not out of, however, according to media reports, is its stake in Taikang Life Insurance. Reuters reported in 2011 that Goldman had acquired a 12 percent stake in the insurance company at a cost of approximately $900 million. Goldman was part of the syndicate planning to launch the company’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the fourth quarter of this year. Typically, Goldman would sell part of its stake at that time.

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Nur wenige Tage nach der bedingungslosen Kapitulation der Syriza-Regierung in Athen haben die Kreditgeber an diesem Wochenende alle Zurückhaltung über Bord geworfen und eine klare und unmissverständliche Botschaft an die Weltöffentlichkeit ausgesandt. Sie kommt einem Total-Ausverkauf Griechenlands und einer Kriegserklärung an das griechische Volk gleich.

Wirtschaftliche Erholung? interessiert uns nicht.

Die Forderungen gehen weit über das Kompromissangebot, das Syriza vergangene Woche vorgelegt hat, hinaus und machen vor allem eines klar: Es geht nicht um eine Erholung der griechischen Wirtschaft und auch nicht um die Wiederherstellung der Zahlungsfähigkeit des Landes. Es geht einzig und allein um die Absicherung internationaler Großbanken und um die rücksichtslose Plünderung eines Landes vor seinem endgültigen Zusammenbruch. Leidtragende werden in erster Linie wieder die schwächsten und hilfsbedürftigsten Mitglieder der Gesellschaft sein.

Entgegen dem von Politikern wie Jean-Claude Juncker oder Martin Schulz in zahlreichen Talkshows geheuchelten Mitleid mit der humanitären Katastrophe in Griechenland wird dem Land eine weitere Reform der Altersrenten zugemutet, die viele griechische Senioren endgültig in Armut und Hunger treiben wird. Selbst die unfassbare Zahl von siebentausend Selbstmorden verzweifelter und durch sechs Sparprogramme um ihre Existenz gebrachter Menschen hält die Bürokraten aus Brüssel, Frankfurt und Washington nicht von dieser Maßnahme ab, die auch noch von einer Erhöhung der Mehrwertsteuer – von der die Ärmsten immer am härtesten betroffen sind – begleitet wird.

Privatisierung – wider alle Erfahrungswerte

Die geforderte Privatisierung des staatlichen Stromnetzbetreibers Admie wird nicht nur Rentner und Sozialhilfeempfänger, sondern sämtliche Bezieher kleiner Einkommen in noch größere Not bringen. Wie diverse Beispiele dieser vom IWF in zahlreichen Ländern bereits erprobten Maßnahme zeigen, werden die ausländischen Konzerne, die diesen Wirtschaftsbereich übernehmen, alles daran setzen, in kürzest möglicher Zeit höchstmögliche Profite zu erwirtschaften. Ein Blick nach Nigeria, wo diese Maßnahme zuletzt durchgeführt wurde, zeigt zudem, dass sich die Versorgungslage nach der Privatisierung erheblich verschlechtert.

Im übrigen dient dieser Schritt wie auch die Einrichtung des Treuhandfonds, an den griechisches Staatsvermögen im Werte von 50 Mrd. Euro übertragen werden soll, einer ganz bewussten Schwächung und Demütigung der durch ihren Wahlbetrug am griechischen Volk ohnehin angeschlagenen Syriza-Regierung. Der Versorgungsbereich in Griechenland wird nämlich weitgehend von den Gewerkschaften beherrscht. Syrizas erzwungene Zustimmung zu seiner Privatisierung kommt einem erzwungenen Selbstmord auf Raten gleich und bereitet einen Regime-Wechsel in Athen vor. Grund dafür ist die Tatsache, dass die Troika an Syriza ein Exempel statuieren möchte: Auch wenn Tsipras und seine Weggefährten in der vergangenen Woche bedingungslos kapituliert haben, wird die Troika ihnen ihre fünfmonatige – wenn auch nur halbherzig und zur Täuschung griechischer Wähler durchgehaltene – Auflehnung gegen die Austeritätspolitik niemals verzeihen.

Darauf zielt auch die ausdrückliche Forderung ab, alle ins Parlament eingebrachten Gesetzesentwürfe in Zukunft Wort für Wort mit der Troika abzusprechen – eine Maßnahme, die die seit 2010 nicht mehr vorhandene Souveränität des Staates Griechenland noch einmal drastisch unterstreicht.

Die Mittelschicht wird stranguliert

Die geplante Erhöhung der Mehrwertsteuer (vor allem der im gastronomischen Bereich) ist der Todesstoß für zahllose Familienbetriebe, von denen einhundertachtzigtausend bereits mit dem Bankrott kämpfen. Sie wird die Zahl der siebzigtausend bereits in den Konkurs getriebenen Betriebe dramatisch erhöhen. Lokal gefärbte Cafés, Bistros und Restaurants werden globalen Ketten wie Starbucks, McDonalds oder Subway weichen und das Gesicht der Städte grundlegend verändern.

Die geplanten Arbeitsmarktreformen, die die Ausbeutung der ohnehin ums Überleben kämpfenden Beschäftigten noch weiter verschärfen und auch auf den ersten Blick weniger wichtige Maßnahmen wie die Ausweitung der Ladungsöffnungszeiten auf den Sonntag werden vor allem kleine und mittelständische Betriebe treffen und zeigen symbolisch, wohin die Reise geht: Im Hintergrund lauern bereits hunderte große international operierende Konzerne, um alles, was sich ihnen in Griechenland an mittelständischen Betrieben bietet, zu schlucken oder nach deren Konkurs durch eigene Filialen zu ersetzen.

Aber nicht nur Investoren warten: Auch Spekulanten aus aller Welt stehen Gewehr bei Fuß, um demnächst auf Einkaufstour zu gehen und die finanzielle Not der Inländer und der griechischen Banken auszunutzen, um ihnen Aktien, Immobilien und andere Vermögenswerte zu Spottpreisen abzukaufen. Währungsspekulanten rechnen bereits durch, in welcher Höhe sie sich in Griechenland verschulden sollen, um ihre Kredite nach der Einführung einer Parallelwährung, deren Wert um mindestens 50 Prozent unter dem Euro liegen wird, zurückzuzahlen und auf diese Weise auf Kosten des griechischen Volkes Kasse zu machen.

Die endgültige Katastrophe wird nur aufgeschoben

Die abgrundtiefe Bösartigkeit, die sich hinter diesem Szenario verbirgt, ist kaum fassen, denn selbst wenn Griechenland alle Maßnahmen erfüllen sollte, die ihm von den Geldgebern aufgezwungen werden, so wird das seinen Untergang nicht verhindern. Der Schuldenberg ist so riesig, dass er niemals zurückgezahlt werden kann. Und alle jetzt angeordneten Maßnahmen werden dazu führen, dass die Wirtschaft weiter in die Knie gezwungen und die Einnahmen des Staates weiter verringert werden.

Das heißt: Die Finanzsituation Griechenlands wird sich auch zukünftig von Tag zu Tag verschlechtern und mit unerbittlicher Logik zum finalen Crash führen. Aber selbst diesen Fall haben die Geldgeber bereits in ihren Master-Stufenplan integriert: Auf Stufe 1 lautet die Devise: Die Folgen der Krise so lange wie möglich auf das griechische Volk abwälzen, um sich selbst, so weit es irgend geht, daran zu bereichern. Stufe 2 soll gezündet werden, wenn die Katastrophe eingetreten ist. Dann wollen die Geldgeber mit prall gefüllten Portemonnaies über ein zerstörtes und am Boden liegendes Land herfallen und es „wieder aufbauen“.

Zwei unberechenbare Faktoren

Es gibt in diesem Kalkül jedoch zwei unberechenbare Faktoren: Zum einen die Tatsache, dass ein jederzeit möglicher Zusammenbruch des globalen Finanzsystems alle Zukunftspläne zunichte machen könnte. Um diesen Crash zu verhindern, tun die Zentralbanken in aller Welt derzeit alles, was in ihrer Macht steht: Das Zinsniveau wird immer weiter nach unten (bis in den Minusbereich) gedrückt und es wird ohne Rücksicht auf (zukünftige) Verluste immer mehr Geld erzeugt und den Großbanken zur Spekulation an den Finanzmärkten zur Verfügung gestellt – alles Maßnahmen, die nur noch begrenzt wirken werden und zwangsläufig zur Zerstörung des globalen Finanzsystems führen.

Der zweite unkalkulierbare Faktor ist der Widerstand des griechischen Volkes. Den haben Tsipras und seine politischen Helfershelfer durch ihren historischen Verrat vorerst einmal schwer erschüttert. Die Menschen in ganz Griechenland befinden sich seit Tagen in einer Art Schockstarre. Doch wenn die Bilanz von zweitausend Jahren menschlicher Geschichte auch nur eine bedeutende Lehre enthält, dann diese: Kein Volk ist auf Dauer bereit, seinen eigenen Untergang kampflos hinzunehmen. Auch Griechenland nicht. Und auch Menschen nicht, die bis vor einer Woche den Lügen von politischen Falschspielern wie Tsipras und Varoufakis geglaubt haben. Deshalb wird die Durchsetzung der von den Geldgebern geforderten Maßnahmen in den kommenden Tagen dazu führen, dass sich das griechische Volk nicht nur gegen sie, sondern auch gegen deren Verbündete in der Regierung in Athen erhebt.

Was dann geschieht, lässt sich derzeit nur erahnen. Brennende Ministerien und Banken, Straßenschlachten, ein Eingreifen des Militärs und die Errichtung eines faschistischen Regimes in Athen sind ebenso möglich wie ein auf andere südeuropäische Länder übergreifender Flächenbrand, der sich in länderübergreifende Bürgerkriege verwandeln könnte.

Doch ganz egal, ob globaler Crash oder soziales Chaos: Auf jeden Fall wird der Lauf der Ereignisse schon sehr bald in eine neue und überaus dramatische Phase der Zeitgeschichte münden. Sie wird vom nackten Überlebenskampf verzweifelter, erniedrigter und gedemütigter Menschen gegen die an diesem Wochenende einmal mehr öffentlich zur Schau gestellte eiskalte Arroganz von politischen Betrügern geprägt sein und zeigen, dass deren Allmachtsphantasien inzwischen zu komplettem Realitätsverlust geführt haben.

New video footage has emerged of the moments before an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier shot and killed 17-year old Mohammed al-Kasbah on July 3, 2015 in the West Bank village of al-Ram near the Qalandia checkpoint. The recording was captured by a security camera posted at a gas station and contradicts Col. Yisrael Shomer’s account where he said he fired at the Palestinian teen because his life was in imminent danger.

In the footage an Israeli army vehicle stops on a busy street near the gas station. Palestinian youth are seen approaching and stone throwing. Two soldiers then exit the Jeep and pursue the youth on foot as they flee out of frame. A third solider also stepped out of the vehicle, but remained by the side of the car. Thirty seconds later, the soldiers return, pile into the car, and speed off.

During the brief moment when the soldiers are off-camera Shomer shot al-Kasbah three times in the chest, head, and back.  Al-Kasbah was then taken to a public hospital in Ramallah. His heart had already stopped beating. Hospital staff told Mondoweiss he was then resuscitated, but died 15 minutes later around 7am due to blood loss from the injuries.

The video was released by the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem that also conducted an investigation. “According to several eyewitnesses, Col. Shomer shot Ali-Kosba [Kasbah] from a distance of some ten meters and then went up to him and moved him with his leg. Then, instead of obtaining medical aid for the injured youth, the soldiers drove off,” said B’tselem in a statement today.

Al-Kasbah’s two older brothers were also killed by the Israeli army when they were teenagers.

Following the shooting Central Command Maj. Gen. Roni Num said he “fully backed the brigade commander and the way he handled the incident, in which the force was faced with real mortal threat.”

The IDF spokesperson’s office told Mondoweiss the officer shot al-Kasbah because he posed “immediate danger” to the soldiers. They added that a verbal warning was given in Arabic first, to stop throwing stones. Next a warning shot was fired in the air. Then shots were aimed at al-Kasbah. While the B’tselem video does dispute if cautions were given before the officer opened fire, it does counter the claim of threat to life because al-Kasbah and the other Palestinian youth were running away from the Israeli forces.

The Israeli army opened an investigation Shomer’s conduct on the day the shooting occurred.

Greece: Tsipras Surrenders to Troika Bandits

July 13th, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

Greece is being systematically raped and pillaged. It’s painful to see how easily powerful monied interests can destroy a nation without firing a shot. Financial war is as cruel and ruthless as naked aggression.

Long-suffering Greeks understand better than establishment economists – paid to con people to believe destructive policies benefit them.

Harder than ever hard times awaits Greeks and ordinary people throughout Western societies. Regimes in Europe and America serve their privileged elites alone at the expense of most others, especially their most vulnerable and needy.

Their governments are their worst enemies – in bed with dark forces destroying their welfare and futures. SYRIZA was elected on a pledge of no more austerity. Betrayal followed. It’s just a question of how bad things will be once the dust settles. What’s happening isn’t pretty.

On Sunday, Eurogroup president/Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem gave Greece the Troika’s take-it-or-leave-it harsh ultimatum – a list of stiffer austerity measures than earlier proposed and other tough ones as a condition for more bailout help – now reportedly for 86 – 87 billion euros over three years (10 billion euros immediately for bank recapitalizations).

Greece’s parliament must approve the deal and legislate Troika diktats into law with Tsipras’ signature by July 15. Terms agreed on include:

Higher regressive VAT taxes hitting millions of impoverished Greeks hardest along with broadening the tax base affecting ordinary people most.

Stiff pension cuts (on top of 40% eliminated earlier) including for poor retirees cut no slack.

Adopting a Code of Civil Procedure to streamline procedures and reduce costs – in other words, continued stiff budget cuts harming millions of Greeks already suffering hugely from earlier imposed austerity.

Full implementation of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’s key provisions – including mandated spending cuts gutting social services more than already.

Giving foreign investors freer access to plunder Greece’s economy.

Privatizing power generation and transmission along with other state enterprises previously off-limits.

Neutralizing labor rights ahead of eliminating them altogether – including restricting collective bargaining and right to strike as well as eliminating hiring and firing restrictions.

Rescinding SYRIZA enacted laws not agreed on by the European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Transferring up to 50 billion euros worth of Greek assets to a Troika controlled fund based in Athens to contribute to servicing debt and recapitalizing Greek banks.

Possible debt restructuring by extending maturities, not write-downs.

Troika officials will monitor Greek implementation of demands.

Bottom line: they mandate Athens entirely surrendering its sovereign rights to the European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Greater than ever austerity will be imposed, hitting millions of impoverished/unemployed Greeks hardest, including poor pensioners to receive less than their already meager payments en route to eliminating them altogether.

Privatizing state enterprises earlier considered off-limits. Plans are to transform Greece into an nightmarish dystopian wasteland.

It’s hard imagining any government accepting what’s demanded. No responsible one would. Tsipras sold out. His signature on the final deal alone awaits.

Word from Brussels is all parties agreed on a deal. It’s official. Tsipras handed Greek sovereignty to Troika bandits, agreeing to all their unacceptable demands.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “Euro summit has unanimously reached agreement. All ready to go for ESM (European Stability Mechanism) program for Greece with serious reforms and financial support.”

Greece’s parliament must accept the deal and enact demanded legislation by July 15 complying with Troika diktats. It’s almost but not entirely certain – defying overwhelming public opposition according to polls.

A Final Comment

Greeks suffered horrifically under Nazi occupation during WW II. It took a terrible toll on millions. Tens of thousands of Athenians alone perished from starvation.

Many thousands more endured barbarous Nazi persecution. Greece’s economy was destroyed. A Berlin-installed collaborationist regime brutalized it own people.

Around half a million perished – from starvation, massacres, assassinations and other forms of brutality. People were shot on sight for no reason. Women and young girls were raped, many then savagely murdered.

Greece is again occupied, a Troika controlled colony, its sovereignty lost. Tsipras is a modern-day quisling – selling out to monied interests disgracefully. He’ll be remembered for agreeing to a Greek Versailles.

This time financial predators are villains – force-feeding pain and suffering their way. Human need and welfare are sacrificed for unrestricted profit-making the old-fashioned way – pillaging an entire nation, wrecking its economy more than already.

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.

Obama’s Deadly Cold War Legacy

July 13th, 2015 by Robert Parry

Image: President Barack Obama and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine talk after statements to the press following their bilateral meeting at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, June 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Whatever positive legacy that President Barack Obama might point to – the first African-American president, the Affordable Care Act, the changed social attitudes on gay rights, etc. – his ultimate legacy may be defined more by his reckless stewardship guiding the United States into a wholly unnecessary new Cold War.

The costs of this Cold War II will be vast, emptying out what’s left of the U.S. Treasury in a new arms race against Russia, assuming that the new East-West showdown doesn’t precipitate a nuclear war that could end all life on the planet. Already, the United States military has altered its national security policies to treat Russia as the principal foreign threat.

“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” said General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., at Senate hearings on his nomination to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “And if you look at their [the Russians’] behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

Dunford also recommended shipping U.S. weapons to the post-coup regime in Ukraine so it can better prosecute its war against ethnic Russian rebels in the east who have resisted the overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and have been deemed “terrorists” by the U.S.-backed government in Kiev.

“Frankly,” Dunford said on Thursday, “without that kind of support, they [the new powers-that-be in Ukraine] are not going to be able to defend themselves against Russian aggression.”

Which may prove that no one in Official Washington grasps the concept of irony any more. While Dunford sticks to the propaganda line about “Russian aggression” and the Kiev regime wages its “anti-terror operation” against the ethnic Russians in the east, we now know that Kiev has dispatched a military force spearheaded by neo-Nazis, who are eager to ethnically cleanse those ethnic Russians from Ukraine, and Islamic jihadists with links to Islamic State terrorists.

So, if you want to talk about “aggression” and “terrorism,” you might start with the inconvenient truth that the U.S.-beloved government of Ukraine – which supposedly “shares our values” – is the first European state since World War II to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to kill other Europeans – and arguably the first ever to create a combined military force of Nazis and Islamic militants (described as “brothers” of the Islamic State). [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine Merges Nazis and Islamists.”]

Yet, when Russia helps these endangered ethnic Russians, who saw their elected president illegally ousted from office in a coup supported if not sponsored by the United States, that’s “Russian aggression.” And, when the ethnic Russians resist the new order, which has now sent Nazis and jihadists to kill them, it’s the ethnic Russians who are the “terrorists.”

To push the irony even further, while Dunford decried “Russian aggression” in connection with a civil war on Russia’s border, he openly declared that the U.S. military stands ready to bomb Iran — halfway around the world — to destroy its nuclear facilities. Asked if the U.S. military had that ability, Dunford said, “My understanding is that we do, senator.”

An Up-Is-Down World

In the up-is-down world that is now Official Washington, such extraordinary and profoundly dangerous statements draw only nodding approval from all the Important People. In part, that’s because President Obama has allowed so many false narratives to take hold regarding Russia, Iran and other nations that there is a Grimm’s Fairytale quality to it all.

But the most serious false narrative today is the one about “Russian aggression.” Whatever one thinks of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he did not initiate the Ukraine crisis; he reacted to a provocation by neoconservatives in the U.S. government, especially Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who sought a “regime change” on Russia’s border.

And, while there’s plenty of evidence to support the fact that the U.S. intervened in Ukraine, there is no evidence that Putin sought out this crisis or had any designs to recreate the Russian Empire, two key elements of the U.S. propaganda campaign. The truth is that by encouraging and instigating the violent Ukraine coup on Feb. 22, 2014, the Obama administration struck first.

Putin, who had been preoccupied with the Sochi Winter Olympics at the time, was caught off-guard and responded with an emergency national security meeting on Feb. 23 to decide on what steps were needed to protect the Russian strategic interests in Crimea, including the historic naval base at Sevastopol. He was reacting, not instigating.

It may be that President Obama was also surprised by the political crisis in Ukraine, since he also was preoccupied by a variety of other international hot spots, especially in the Middle East. Possibly, he and Secretary of State John Kerry had given too much leeway to Nuland to press for the destabilization of the Yanukovych government.

Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan who famously promoted “regime change” in Iraq as a founder of the Project for the New American Century, pushed the envelope in Ukraine in the cause of achieving her own “regime change.” She even passed out cookies to anti-government protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square in fall 2013.

In December 2013, Nuland reminded  a group of Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.” Then, in early February 2014, Nuland was caught in a pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing which Ukrainian politicians should be elevated in the new government.

“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who indeed would become the post-coup prime minister. Dismissing the less aggressive European Union approach to the crisis, Nuland exclaimed, “F**k the EU!” and pondered how to “glue this thing.” Pyatt wondered how to “midwife this thing.”

Based on this and other evidence, the reality of what happened in Ukraine was never hard to figure out. It was a coup with President Yanukovych forced to flee for his life on Feb. 22, 2014, and extra-constitutional steps then used to remove him as the nation’s leader. It was reminiscent of similar U.S.-orchestrated coups – Iran, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, etc.

But the increasingly unprofessional mainstream U.S. news media had already ditched even a pretense of journalistic objectivity. The media stuck white hats on the coup-makers and black hats on Yanukovych (and his ally Putin). The word “coup” became virtually forbidden in the U.S. news media along with any reference to the neo-Nazis who spearheaded the coup.

Any deviation from this “group think” opened you to charges of “Moscow stooge” or “Putin apologist.” Yet, there were a few people who still spoke frankly. George Friedman, the founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, described the overthrow of Yanukovych as “the most blatant coup in history.”

Why the Coup?

The motive for the coup was also not hard to divine. It was to deliver a powerful blow to Russia by forcing Ukraine out of Russia’s economic orbit and thus undermine popular support for Putin, all the better to build toward another “regime change” in Moscow.

The plan was laid out on Sept. 26, 2013, by National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, a major neocon paymaster who distributes more than $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine governments disfavored by the U.S. — or in Official Washington speak to engage in “democracy promotion.”

On the op-ed page of the neocon Washington Post, Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward toppling Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

It’s also important to remember that in 2013 Putin had offended Washington’s powerful neocons by working with President Obama to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria over the mysterious sarin gas attack on Aug. 21, 2013, and by helping to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. In both cases, the neocons wanted to bomb those countries to provoke more “regime change.”

So, Putin’s peacemaking made him the new target – and especially his cooperation with Obama to reduce international tensions. Ukraine, with its neuralgic sensitivity for Russians as the historic route for bloody invasions, was the perfect wedge to drive between the two leaders.

Obama could have directed the confrontation in a less hostile direction by insisting on a more balanced presentation of the narrative. He could have recognized that the violent right-wing coup in Kiev provoked an understandable desire among the ethnic Russians of Crimea to secede from Ukraine, a sentiment reflected in the 96 percent vote in a referendum. The ethnic Russians in south and east Ukraine also had reason to fear the extreme Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev.

Instead, Obama bowed to the neocon storyline and bought into the rhetoric about a “Russian invasion.” Obama also could have told the American people that there was no credible intelligence suggesting that Putin had aggressive designs on eastern Europe. He could have tamped down the hysteria, but instead he helped fuel the frenzy..

Before long, the full firepower of U.S. propaganda arsenal was blasting away, enflaming a new Cold War. That effort was bolstered by the U.S. government pouring tens of millions of dollars into propaganda outlets, often disguised as “bloggers” or “citizen journalists.” The U.S. Agency for International Development alone estimates its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually.

USAID, working with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society, also funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what was clearly the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Leveling with Americans

Obama could have neutralized much of this propaganda by revealing details about what U.S. intelligence agencies know about some of these pivotal events, but instead he has withheld any information that undercuts the preferred propaganda theme.

Regarding Ukraine, for instance, Obama could disclose what the U.S. government knows about whether the coup-makers, not Yanukovych, carried out the bloody sniper attack on Feb. 20, 2014, that killed dozens of police and protesters and set the stage for the coup on Feb. 22.

Obama also could release what the U.S. intelligence community knows about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down on July 17, 2014, an incident that killed 298 people and further escalated tensions. In the first five days after the crash, Obama let his administration put out sketchy information implicating the ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government.

However, as the CIA collected and analyzed more detailed data, the administration shut up. One source briefed on the findings told me that the reticence resulted from the intelligence analysts seeing evidence implicating a “rogue” element of the U.S.-backed Kiev regime, not the rebels. The source said that if Obama let the full story out, the entire Ukraine narrative might collapse.

So, by staying silent on these key questions – and preventing the U.S. intelligence community from telling the public what it knows – Obama has protected the earlier narratives that put the ethnic Russians and Moscow in the worst possible light. That propaganda has fed the fires of a new Cold War and exacerbated dangerous tensions between the two biggest nuclear powers.

Unless Obama somehow decides to change course – and level with the American people, rather than manipulate them – he will leave behind a grim legacy of a bloated military-industrial complex and a new Cold War.

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 andbarnesandnoble.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 includesAmerica’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Putin Leads BRICS Uprising

July 13th, 2015 by Mike Whitney

There’s been a virtual blackout of news from this year’s seventh annual BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia.  None of the mainstream media organizations are covering the meetings or making any attempt to explain what’s going on.  As a result, the American people remain largely in the dark about a powerful coalition of nations that are putting in place an alternate system that will greatly reduce US influence in the world and end the current era of superpower rule.

Let’s cut to the chase: Leaders of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) realize that global security cannot be entrusted to a country that sees war as a acceptable means for achieving its geopolitical objectives.  They also realize that they won’t be able to achieve financial stability as long as Washington dictates the rules, issues the de facto “international” currency, and controls the main levers of global financial power. This is why the BRICS have decided to chart a different course, to gradually break free from the existing Bretton Woods system, and to create parallel system that better serves their own interests. Logically, they have focused on the foundation blocks which support the current US-led system, that is, the institutions from which the United States derives its extraordinary power; the dollar, the US Treasury market, and the IMF. Replace these, the thinking goes, and the indispensable nation becomes just another country struggling to get by.  This is from the Asia Times:

“Leaders of the BRICS… launched the  New Development Bank, which has taken three years of negotiations to bring to fruition. With about $50 billion in starting capital, the bank is expected to start issuing debt to fund infrastructure projects next year. They also launched a foreign-exchange currency fund of $100 billion.

The two new endeavors are statements that the five largest emerging markets are both looking out for each other and, simultaneously, moving away from the western financing institutions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“The BRICS states intend to actively use their own resources and internal resources for development,” Putin said, according to Reuters. “The New (Development) Bank will help finance joint, large-scale projects in transport and energy infrastructure, industrial development.”…..Birthing the two initiatives in Russia had been Putin’s top priorities.”

(“Russia’s Putin scores points at Ufa BRICS summit“, Asia Times)

Can you see what’s going on? Putin has figured out the empire’s vulnerabilities and he’s going straight for the jugular.  He’s saying: ‘We’re going to issue our own debt, we’re going to run our own system, we’re going to fund our own projects, and we’re going to do it all in our own currency. Kaboom. The only thing you’re going to be doing, is managing your own accelerating economic decline. Have a good day.’ Isn’t that the gist of what he’s saying?

So can you see, dear reader, why none of this is appearing on the pages of US newspapers or on US television.   Washington would rather you didn’t know how they’ve bungled everything by alienating the fastest growing countries in the world.

The Ufa conference is a watershed moment. While the Pentagon is rapidly moving troops and military hardware to Russia’s borders, and one bigwig after another is bloviating about the “Russian threat”; the BRICS have moved out of Washington’s orbit altogether.  They are following the leadership of men who, frankly speaking, are acting exactly like US leaders acted when the US was on the upswing. These are guys who “think big”; who want to connect continents with high-speed rail, lift living standards across the board, and transform themselves into manufacturing dynamos. What do America’s leaders dream about: Drone warfare? Balancing the budget? Banning the Confederate flag?

It’s a joke. No one in Washington has a plan for the future. It’s all just political opportunism and posturing.  Check this out from The Hindu:

“China and Russia have described BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) as the core of a new international order…

Russian President Vladimir Putin said… “There is no doubt — we have all necessary premises to expand the horizons of mutually beneficial cooperation, to join together our raw material resources, human capital and huge consumer markets for a powerful economic spurt.”

Russia’s Tass news agency also quoted Mr. Putin as saying that the Eurasian continent had vast transit potential. He pointed to “the construction of new efficient transport and logistics chains, in particular, the implementation of the initiative of the Silk Road economic belt and the development of transportation in the eastern part of Russia and Siberia. This may link the rapidly growing markets in Asia and Europe’s economies, mature, rich in industrial and technological achievements. At the same time, this will allow our countries to become more commercially viable in the competition for investors, for creating new jobs, for advanced enterprises,” he observed.”….

The summit also acknowledged “the potential for expanding the use of our national currencies in transactions between the BRICS countries.”   (“BRICS, SCO, EAEU can define new world order: China, Russia“, The Hindu)

The dollar is toast. The IMF is toast. The US debt market (US Treasuries) is toast.  The institutions that support US power are crumbling before our very eyes. The BRICS have had enough; enough war, enough Wall Street, enough meddling and hypocrisy and austerity and lecturing. This is farewell. Sure, it will take time, but Ufa marks a fundamental change in thinking, a fundamental change in approach, and a fundamental change in strategic orientation.

The BRICS are not coming back,  they’re gone for good, just as Washington’s “pivot to Asia” is gone for good. There’s just too much resistance. Washington has simply overplayed its hand, worn out its welcome. People are sick of us.

Can you blame them?

WikiLeaks last week published more than one million emails from the Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, shedding further light on the extent of the spying being conducted by governments around the world against their populations.

Emails in the searchable database disclose the company’s negotiations with intelligence and police agencies to supply some of the advanced technology used to secretly hack into, take control over and monitor computers and smart phones.

In its emails, Hacking Team boasts that its programs can “attack, infect and monitor target PCs and smart phones, in a stealth way” and “bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain.”

At least 46 countries are identified as purchasing, or preparing to purchase, Hacking Team software. The list features Western powers, such as the United States, Britain and Australia, along with openly repressive regimes around the world, including military dictatorships such as Egypt and Thailand.

On July 5 the company’s Twitter account was reportedly compromised. Over 400GB of data, featuring internal emails, invoices and source codes were revealed via BitTorrent. Revelations so far include that Hacking Team works with the major imperialist spy agencies, together with police units such as Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion, a paramilitary agency notorious for torture and extrajudicial killings.

The US is a customer via the FBI, the military and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Police agencies in the United Kingdom have trialled Hacking Team’s technology, despite acknowledging that its use could be illegal. Australia’s purchasers include the main domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

According to a survey of the database published by the Intercept web site, Hacking Team’s biggest sales in recent years have come from these countries, in descending order of sales: Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Hungary, Malaysia, UAE, the US, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Panama, Ethiopia, Egypt, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, South Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Spain, Ecuador, Oman, Switzerland, Thailand, Russia, Nigeria, Turkey, Cyprus, Honduras, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Poland, and Bahrain.

The company was pushing for contracts in Brazil, Belarus, Guatemala, Israel, Kuwait, Finland, Georgia, Greece, India, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere. Several intelligence and police agencies in India sought technology that was not just target-specific, but could create a sweeping net of surveillance.

One Hacking Team email sent to Maharashtra police provided an insight into the far-reaching capabilities of the company’s Remote Control System (RCS) to manipulate and monitor computer networks and smart phones.

“It allows you to covertly collect data from the most common desktop operating systems, such as: Windows, OS X, Linux,” the email claimed.

“Furthermore, Remote Control System can monitor all the modern smart phones: Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows phone. Once a target is infected, you can access all the information, including: Skype calls, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Line, Viber and many more—device location, files, screenshots, microphone, virtual currencies and much more.”

A brochure for RCS stated: “Take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility … Remote Control System is invisible to the user, evades anti-virus and firewalls, and doesn’t affect the devices’ performance or battery life.”

Other promotional material emphasised that RCS could remotely activate microphones and cameras and send the data back for analysis, and monitor people logging in to Gmail and Facebook.

Emails relating to Australia showed company representatives identifying state and territory police forces, and a Victorian state anti-corruption body, as well as ASIO and the AFP, as being in confidential negotiations with Hacking Team. Victoria’s anti-corruption commission was considering signing a $500,000 contract for monitoring software as recently as two weeks ago.

Another email chain named a Canberra company, Criterion Solutions, signing a non-disclosure agreement for access to information about the RCS program last November. The Hacking Team’s Singaporean representatives later said Criterion Solutions was acting for ASIO.

For further exposing the surveillance being conducted against millions of people internationally, WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, will come under renewed assault by the governments and agencies involved. WikiLeaks is already being branded as “criminal,” while the anti-democratic operations of the so-called security agencies are regarded as legitimate.

Eric Rabe, the chief marketing and communications officer for Hacking Team, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the hacking of the company’s data was “reckless and dangerous.” It was “a criminal attack” conducted with “no regard for public safety.” Rabe insisted that Hacking Team’s services helped police and investigators “keep the rest of us safe.”

In reality, as documented by previous WikiLeaks releases, the US and its allies are engaged in criminal activities on a worldwide scale, including massacres, torture, regime-change operations and illegal bugging. In addition, their mass surveillance operations, spanning the globe, have been laid bare by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The UK-based Privacy International expressed shock at the scale of the Hacking Team’s operations disclosed by WikiLeaks. The organisation suggested that Western governments had not realised the “full picture” and needed to “ensure the integrity of their contractors.” It urged them to confine access to surveillance technology to “governments with strong human rights records,” rather than “governments with awful human rights records.”

The truth of the matter is that the US and other Western imperialist powers are leading the establishment of police-state conditions, ripping up basic legal and democratic rights in the process. Amid mounting political and social discontent, they are the most intent of all governments on utilising the technology now available to establish the scaffolding of a police state.

In Australia, the Abbott government, with the Labor Party’s bipartisan support, has pushed through parliament four major surveillance bills in the past six months, on the pretext of combating the threat of ISIS terrorism. The very first bill, brought forward last September, specifically allows ASIO to use listening, optical and tracking devices without warrants, and hack into and “disrupt” entire computer networks, while imposing lengthy jail terms for whistleblowers and journalists who alert the public to the undercover operations.

The fourth bill, passed this year despite widespread popular opposition, compels all Internet providers and social media platforms, including Google and Facebook, to retain vast amounts of data for two years so that the security services can trawl through it, permitting them to compile a full picture of everyone’s spending habits, political views, friends and associates and geographical locations.

In a stepped up effort to provide government spies with “backdoor” access to privately encrypted information, FBI Director James B. Comey gave testimony on July 8 to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and—along with Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates—to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a prepared speech titled “Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and the Challenges of Going Dark,” Comey argued that US laws should be updated to give the FBI, NSA and CIA special access mechanisms into all forms of data and electronic communication. “Going dark” refers to the inability of the state to monitor the communications of those who use encryption or other modern Internet privacy protection techniques.

In his joint statement with Yates to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said, “Our goal at the Department is to work collaboratively and in good faith with interested stakeholders to explore approaches that protect the integrity of technology and promote strong encryption to protect privacy, while still allowing lawful access to information in order to protect public safety and national security.” In other words, the FBI and Obama administration want to establish a legal and technical framework—with the support of Congress and powerful corporate interests—to further undermine democratic rights by breaking into widely used security methods with special access technologies.

Image: FBI Director James B. Comey

As he has done in the past, Comey stated that “going dark” was a life and death matter. He also specifically said that access to encrypted data was needed to monitor the communications of US citizens. This was the case because “upwards of 200 Americans have travelled or attempted to travel to Syria” and join the ranks of ISIL and “homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within.”

For her part, Yates said in her testimony that the Obama Administration is looking for a mandate with industry support, but it “may ultimately be necessary” to force companies to comply with government access to encrypted content.

As expected, there were Congressional leaders who agreed with Comey. John McCain had no problem, for example, speaking forcefully in favor of police-state measures, “I’ve heard my colleagues, with all due respect, talking about attacks on privacy and our constitutional rights et cetera, et cetera, but it seems to me that our first obligation is the protection of our citizenry against attack, which you agree is growing.”

None of these assertions should be accepted at face value. For 15 years, the threat of imminent terrorist violence has been used by the US government to bully the public and justify a sustained assault on democratic rights. Meanwhile, the relationship of the same state agencies demanding anti-democratic measures to those who have actually carried out terrorist attacks—from 9/11 to the Boston marathon bombing—has never been seriously investigated.

Image: Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates

The Obama administration and the domestic and international spying organizations of the US government are alarmed because commonly used data encryption methods are very effective at keeping them—and others, like hackers,—from accessing live communications streams and data at rest.

The most commonly used data encryption technologies involve the creation of both a public key and a private key. The public key is shared by a user with their email correspondents. The correspondents then use the public key to encode messages intended only for the user who, in turn, decodes the received messages with their private key. Access to the private key requires a password only known to the user.

Due to the development of supercomputers, government agencies have acquired the ability to crack the private key password of “weak” encryption technologies with a so-called “brute force attack.” Such attacks involve a mass of successive password guesses until the correct one is found. With “strong” encryption, more complex passwords and longer encryption keys are used such that the brute force capabilities of current supercomputers are exceeded.

What the FBI and Obama Justice Department are demanding is access to private keys without the permission or knowledge of users.

The real drivers behind the US government’s intensified push for universal data access are two important developments:

1) The popular awareness and response to the revelations by former NSA employee Edward Snowden in June 2013 that the US government had built an infrastructure for storing and analyzing all data communications internationally and was spying on individuals, organizations and governments all over the world.

2) The decisions of tech companies such as Apple and Google to integrate strong encryption technologies into the operating systems of their smartphones by default, making it impossible for the government to access any information on the devices without the user’s passcode.

According to Pew Research, in the two years since Snowden’s revelations, 87 percent of Americans are aware of the government’s illegal data surveillance activities and 34 percent of those who are aware of the programs have taken measures to hide or shield their information from the government. Additionally, the Pew study—published in March of this year—found that 22 percent of all US adults say they have “changed the patterns of their own use of various technological platforms ‘a great deal’ or ‘somewhat’ since the Snowden revelations.”

The Pew study flies in the face of Comey’s testimony when he attacked the public’s concern for privacy rights. “I don’t exactly know where the great demand for this is coming from,” he said. “I haven’t met ordinary folks who say, ‘I really want a device that can’t be opened even if an American judge finds it ought to be opened.’”

Also, data maintained by PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)—the most commonly used data-encryption software for securing private email—shows a steady growth in encryption implementation. The number of people using PGP took a sharp turn upward following the Snowden revelations and has sustained double the rate of daily adoption since then.

Other encrypted communications platforms, such as the popular mobile texting tool WhatsApp, is being used by increasing numbers of people worldwide over the past few years. Reaching more than 800 million users as of April 2015, WhatsApp has been adopted by three-quarters of all mobile users in South Africa, Malaysia, Argentina and Singapore and more than half of mobile users in 12 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America.

There has been a vocal opposition by many in the high tech industry to the demands for government access to encrypted data. In the days leading up to and following Comey’s testimony at the Capital, industry representatives and advocates for information privacy defended the present data security approach and objected to proposals for any kind of “backdoor.” Many of these experts focused on the negative impact on American tech companies in the world market should the US force through any measures to undermine established security practices. Other technology specialists have criticized the Obama administration for having a flawed conception of the data security technology and for putting forward ideas which cannot be effectively implemented.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading organization that defends civil liberties in the digital world, focused a portion of its analysis on the constitutional implications of the Obama administration’s plans. The EFF wrote,

“In both hearings the witnesses representing law enforcement trotted out scary hypothetical situations and terrifying anecdotes about how encryption could stifle investigations and let ‘bad guys’ go free. But when asked by Senators if they had any actual numbers on how often strong encryption thwarted investigations, neither Director Comey nor DAG Yates had any idea.”

To the extent that business concerns or “bad science” are advanced as the primary objections to the anti-democratic operations of the US government, the front door is being flung wide open for a compromise on fundamental political rights. Some technologists have already suggested that the government should go back to the drawing board with its “exceptional access” effort and design technical requirements that can be reviewed by academic and industry communities for “weaknesses and hidden costs.”

It should be pointed out that the encryption measures taken by Apple and Google, among others, were largely for self-preservation purposes. After the Snowden leaks, major American tech companies spent billions of dollars building overseas data centers in order to combat the impression that the US government would have access to foreign customer data. Meanwhile, the encryption protections that have been implemented on the Apple and Google mobile devices do not apply to the cloud storage services that they offer which remain open to government surveillance.

Recently, some tech industry representatives have circulated the idea of a “golden key” or “split-key” that would store a special key with the government or some third party organization that could be used to decode data and communications at the request of law enforcement. This proposal also includes a court review process much the same as that which has been in place under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Another proposal would require tech companies to hand over email metadata—details about communications such as who is being contacted and when the messages are being sent—without looking at the content of the messages.

The differences between the current initiative and what is already in place is that it would officially sanction spying by the US government on its own citizens. Finally, it should not be assumed that because the FBI has renewed its campaign for a sanctioned solution to the “going dark” problem, that something is not already being put in place behind the backs of the American people.

Thousands of military veterans will soon divvy up a ten-year installment of about $47.5 million in disability benefits recently awarded by the federal government as compensation for harm caused by exposure to Monsanto’s Agent Orange herbicide.

As many as 2,100 Air Force reservists and active-duty forces who sprayed the toxic herbicide during the Vietnam War will have access to the benefits, which are meant to cover health damage caused by exposure to Agent Orange residue on Fairchild C-123 aircraft flown over Southeast Asia between 1969 and 1986.

The award is long overdue, especially as the federal government has insisted for many years that residues of Agent Orange couldn’t possibly be responsible for the various cancers, diabetes and leukemia suffered by thousands of former military men and women who handled the chemical at the bidding of the U.S. government.

Since June 19, eligible servicemen have been able to file for Agent Orange-related disability benefits, including survivor benefits and ongoing medical care. Any veteran who can prove that he or she worked on a contaminated plane and developed one or more of 14 qualifying medical conditions as a result, including prostate cancer, diabetes, and leukemia, is eligible for payment.

“Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” announced Bob McDonald, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in a recent statement.

One in six federal disability checks covers Agent Orange-related health damage among veterans

Although they are reluctant to admit that Agent Orange was in any way responsible for harming American military servicemen during the Vietnam War, the federal government has been quietly paying out benefits to thousands of them for years. The White House Office of Management and Budget, which approved the new disability benefits, admits that one in six disability checks issued by the VA is for Agent Orange-related health damage.

This is striking in light of the fact that this same federal government, through its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arm, recently approved Dow Chemical’s “Enlist Duo” herbicide, which contains an Agent Orange component known as 2,4-D. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently announced that 2,4-D is a “possible human carcinogen,” along with Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide.

With 2,4-D’s approval, millions of acres of American farmland will now presumably be carpet-bombed with the same chemical defoliant ingredient used as a weapon of mass destruction during the Vietnam War. However, for today’s American consumers, there likely won’t be any federal compensation for damages caused by exposure to this noxious poison.

“2,4-D, produced by Dow Chemical, was a component of ‘Agent Orange,’ the toxic defoliant used in Vietnam,” warns the Center for Food Safety (CFS). “It is the 7th largest source of dioxins in the U.S. 2,4-D and other herbicides of its class have been independently associated with deadly immune system cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems, with children at particular risk.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to respond to a petition to ban 2,4-D, which was rushed to the market by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with no consideration for how it might affect the environment and humans, particularly young children.

“Over the past 40 years, dozens of studies have shown the connection between 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancers of the blood) and soft-tissue sarcoma in people,” warns NRDC. “Other research reveals that 2,4-D enters breast milk and semen where it disrupts normal hormone functions, which can also cause serious and lasting effects during fetal and infant development.”

Sources:

http://theantimedia.org

http://www.nbcnews.com

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org

http://www.naturalnews.com

http://www.nrdc.org

A judge recently halted the merging of two of the largest food corporations in the world – Sysco and US Foods. Think of Sysco and US Foods like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Were they to merge, the global market would be under the control of two corporations who already distribute ‘food’ to the masses which likely causes diabetes, obesity, digestive disorders, and neurological disease – only with twice the power to do so.

Sysco and US Foods have been trying to merge for over a year now, but just weeks ago, a judge filed a preliminary injunction to halt the proposed merger. This amounts to a fatal blow to two companies that have already done more than their part to ruin the food supply.

The decision is also a victory for the Federal Trade Commission, which sued in February to block the deal on the grounds that it would lead to higher prices and worse service for customers like restaurants and schools.

The FTC failed to mention the practice of Big Food to serve up absolute garbage to our school children, or to stock grocery store shelves with brands that contain health-damaging ingredients such as MSG, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, artificial colorings and flavors, and about ten thousand other ingredients that don’t belong in what we eat. (For a list of US Foods brands, click here.) To see what kind of nutrition-lacking goop Sysco serves up, click here.

 

Sadly, there are really only ten food companies that control almost every brand we buy in traditional grocery stores. Instead of growing organically on small farms and practicing sustainable agriculture, these mega-companies look for the cheapest way to call some chemicals in a pretty box ‘food’ and pass it off to us consumers.

If you see your favorite brand in the infographic above, look for alternatives. You can be a part of dissolving the non-food food empire.

Additional Sources:

Featured image sourced from: IconImageGraphics

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Jeb Bush, one of the leading Republican candidates for the presidency, is in the news again—and not in a good way. During a meeting with the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader, he reportedlysaid the following:

“My aspiration for the country — and I believe we can achieve it — is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see…Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

There are so many delusional statements in this paragraph that one is hard-pressed to know how to make sense of it. First, the problem is not the productivity of the American workforce. The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) says that “Labor productivity measures output per hour of labor.”According to the chart below, the United States has the third highest productive work force among similarly advanced countries. Only Norway and Luxembourg have a more productive workforce than the U.S. among OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

If the American workforce is third in productivity among advanced economies, more productivity will not to solve the ills—wage stagnation being the biggest one—that beset the American workforce.

Second, the decline in workforce participation (labor force participation rate) is not the problem that Jeb Bush and the Republicans want to make it out to be. As the chart below shows, labor force participation peaked in April 2000 at 67.3% and has been declining ever since. In June of 2015, it stood at 62.6%. If the decline was due to poor economic policies on the part of President Obama, then Jeb Bush must explain why it declined under the policies of his brother, President George W. Bush as well.

The majority of economists who analyzed the the problem of declining labor force participation found the cause to be structural and not in the control of a certain person or a certain institution.FactCheck.org suggested three reasons for the decline:

“1) The aging of baby boomers. A lower percentage of older Americans choose to work than those who are middle-aged. And so as baby boomers approach retirement age, it lowers the labor force participation rate.

2) A decline in working women. The labor force participation rate for men has been declining since the 1950s. But for a couple decades, a rapid rise in working women more than offset that dip. Women’s labor force participation exploded from nearly 34 percent in 1950 to its peak of 60 percent in 1999. But since then, women’s participation rate has been ‘displaying a pattern of slow decline.’

3) More young people are going to college. As BLS noted, ‘Because students are less likely to participate in the labor force, increases in school attendance at the secondary and college levels and, especially, increases in school attendance during the summer, significantly reduce the labor force participation rate of youths.”

All three reasons for the decline in labor force participation are outside the control of Jeb Bush or any other Republican or Democratic candidate running for office. These are structural problems that cannot be solved by adopting one policy over another.

If the U.S. workforce is productive and the declining labor force participation rate is not reversible through government action, then what is the cause for the income stagnation that Jeb Bush correctly identifies?

The chart below shows the relationship between compensation (wages and benefits) and productivity in the U.S. since 1948. Between 1948 and 1973, hourly compensation tracked improvement in worker productivity. The productivity trace line increased in an almost equal amount to the compensation and wage trace line. Basically, as U.S. workers became more productive, they received a compensation that is somewhat in line with the improvement in productivity. In other words, corporations were willing to share more of their profits that came by way of productivity with their workers.

In contrast, from 1973 to 2013, worker productivity increased by 74.4%%, but compensation increased by only 9.2%. Put differently, compensation and productivity diverged from each other. This has had a very damaging effect on the wage growth of 90% of Americans. Due to changes in the taxation system and the trading system (corporate trade agreements), American corporations were no longer sharing the fruits of productivity with the working class and were either moving profits overseas or passing on the profits to CEOs with massive compensation packages. The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio increased from 20:1 in the early 1970s to 303.4:1 in 2014.

The American working class is one of the most productive in the world. Increasing its productivity will not help improve its stagnant income as long as the profits from it accrue overwhelmingly to corporations. Many would argue that corporations should be incentivized—through the tax system and corporate trade agreements—to share rising rates of productivity with the workers, as they were between 1947 and 1979. These were the years of shared prosperity that made the United States the envy of the world.

German newspaper Bild found that the US military used deadly anthrax spores in chemical weapons defense training on a military base in Germany.

In an article with the headline “US Army operated biological weapons in Germany,” Berlin daily Bild revealed that the US military used deadly live anthrax spores in military exercises.

The investigation revealed that several of the US military exercises on German soil involved “incidents” in which live anthrax spores were released. The incidents took place in the town of Landstuhl, near France, Luxembourg and the Ramstein military base. The US military previously sent live anthrax spores to South Korea.

A member of the US Army Technical Escort Unit (TSU) demonstrates a hazmat suit as they show some of their response capabilities to chemical and biologicial operations in support of the US Department of Defense, federal, state, and local agencies 12 November 2002

© AFP 2015/ Paul J. Richards

The German defense ministry told the newspaper that the spores were not sent to any German military laboratories. The US military previously admitted that since 2005 it sent anthrax spores to South Korea, Australia and Canada, but not Germany.

“According to current information, Bundeswehr servicemen were not put in danger,” the German defense ministry claimed in an inquiry to Bild.

The spores were supposed to be neutralized at the Dugway Proving Ground in the US state of Utah before being sent to the exercises, but the incident made “some spores even more active,” according to the newspaper.

US-Israeli Imperialists Plot Downfall of Syria and Iran

July 13th, 2015 by Brandon Martinez

U.S. officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel…

The United States has been running a particularly reckless and transparent bluff on the world.

‘We must defeat ISIS’ has been the repetitive mantra bellowed from pulpits and podiums by deceitful US officials. But this bit of shameless Orwellian newspeak is coming from the very same rogue policy makers who have been the primary source of arms and largesse to that group and its sordid affiliates across Syria, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere.

Republican Senator Rand Paul called his own party’s bluff in a summer 2014 interview with CNN, telling the incompetent host that “we [the US government] are allied with ISIS in Syria.”[1]

nsnbc : U.S. Senator Rand Paul told the TV channel CNN that the U.S. armed ISIS because it supported its allies in Syria. Paul forgets mentioning that a source close to former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri told that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara functions as headquarter for ISIS operations and that prominent U.S. citizens and members of the Atlantic Council are behind its war on Iraq. READ MORE

nsnbc : U.S. Senator Rand Paul told the TV channel CNN that the U.S. armed ISIS because it supported its allies in Syria. Paul forgets mentioning that a source close to former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri said that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara functions as headquarter for ISIS operations and that prominent U.S. citizens and members of the Atlantic Council are behind its war on Iraq. READ MORE

“[ISIS] would not be empowered in Iraq if we hadn’t been providing them a safe haven in Syria by arming their allies,” the Senator said, adding that “we are where we are because we armed the Syrian rebels,” the preponderance of whom are Wahhabi-Salafist extremists.

Paul recently doubled down on that line of reasoning, informing another interviewer in May 2015 that “hawks in my party” are responsible for the rise of ISIS because of their purposefully intransigent policy of “distributing arms indiscriminately” to Syrian and Libyan militants in their fanatical drive to depose Gaddafi and Assad.[2]

Paul’s words were confirmed by a recently unearthed US Defense Intelligence Agency report that, in true Machiavellian style,welcomed an ISIS-controlled “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” to serve as a buffer to “isolate the Syrian regime” and roll back Iran. The US defense analysts, writing at the outset of the rebel insurgency in Syria in 2012, acknowledged that the anti-Assad coalition of militants that Washington was enthusiastically supporting were dominated by Salafist extremist elements linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda.[3]

A June 2015 Washington Post report revealed the extent of the CIA’s covert campaign to train, arm and deploy mercenaries against Assad in Syria, pegging it as one of the Agency’s “largest covert operations, with a budget approaching $1 billion a year.”[4] The article’s authors Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung write:

“At $1 billion, Syria-related operations account for about $1 of every $15 in the CIA’s overall budget, judging by spending levels revealed in documents The Washington Post obtained from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

isis CIA agents

“U.S. officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.

The CIA declined to comment on the program or its budget. But U.S. officials defended the scale of the expenditures, saying the money goes toward much more than salaries and weapons and is part of a broader, multibillion-dollar effort involving Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to bolster a coalition of militias known as the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army.

John McCain, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham

“Much of the CIA’s money goes toward running secret training camps in Jordan, gathering intelligence to help guide the operations of agency-backed militias and managing a sprawling logistics network used to move fighters, ammunition and weapons into the country.”

After weeding through all the phony anti-ISIS bluster emanating from the White House, it becomes clear that Washington’s overarching strategy is to play all Muslim groups and factions in the Middle East off against each other in what amounts to a sinister divide and conquer gambit that ultimately serves the interests of Israel. In 2007, years before the present crisis in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah identified this genocidal US/Israeli-led scheme against the region in an interview with American journalist Seymour Hersh. He told the award-winning reporter that the Bush administration was working in tandem with Israel to instigate a cataclysmic civil war – something akin to the Thirty Years’ War in Europe – in the Muslim world. Nasrallah said that this fitna, an Arabic term which means “insurrection and fragmentation within Islam,” was being deliberately fomented by US and Israeli intelligence agencies to significantly weaken the region and allow the Zionist-American imperialists to achieve full-spectrum dominance.[5]

Neocon idealogue Kimberley Kagan - The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a think tank founded in 2007 by Kimberly Kagan.

Neocon idealogue Kimberley Kagan – The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a think tank founded in 2007 by Kimberly Kagan.

According to Hersh’s excellent March 2007 reportage published in the New Yorker under the title “The Redirection,”the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia began laying the groundwork for a rebel invasion of Syria that same year.[6] The US and Israel planned to enlist radical Wahhabi-Salafist elements backed by Saudi Arabian largesse as proxy mercenaries against Damascus in a wider effort to undermine Assad and precipitate the demise of Iran.Hersh outlined the criminal plan in these terms:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.[7]

Citing officials close to the Bush administration, Hersh explained that the CIA sought to employ radical anti-Syrian militants clandestinely “by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process.”

Hersh’s sources told him that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria.” Using the Saudis as a conduit would, in turn, give Washington plausible deniability. “The Israelis,” Hersh wrote,“believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.”[8]

In an article titled “The Pentagon plan to ‘divide and rule’ the Muslim world,” security scholar Nafeez Ahmed highlighted the contents of a 2008 RAND Corporation report which openly elucidated this belligerent strategy of tension.[9] The Pentagon-backed study group advocated playing all sides and every side in the Muslim world against one another in order to fracture and disorient opposition to Western and Israeli imperialism in the region. The Orwellian strategists identified essentially all Arabs and Muslims – Salafists, Shiites, Sunnis, secular Arab nationalists, communists, Baathists, etc. – as adversaries to be pitted against each other. Already-existing rivalries and fissures would be stoked up and exploited to their maximum potential.

RAND’s divide and conquer objectives are eerily similar to the vile prescriptions of Oded Yinon, an Israeli strategist who authored a geopolitical screed entitled “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s, published in 1982, which called for the break-up of all Arab states surrounding Israel into fragmented polities along ethnic and religious lines. “Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run,” Yinon expounded in his Machiavellian manifesto, “and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon.”[10]

The Israeli militarist gleefully cited the Iran-Iraq war as a prime example of the type of internecine conflict Israel hopes to ignite, exacerbate and capitalize on to achieve its Zionist imperium. In a June 2014 television interview, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a dedicated Jewish imperialist, explicated his Yinonite ideology, emphasizing Tel Aviv’s desire to have Sunni and Shiite Muslims fight each other and thereby cancel each other out while Israel reaps the spoils.[11]

Will the Iran Deal-Wreckers Prevail?

Will the Iran Deal-Wreckers Prevail?

It’s impossible to ignore the primacy of Israel in all of this unscrupulous intrigue. Netanyahu’s Likud Party is not only committed to eliminating what’s left of Palestine, but they also harbor expansionistic aspirations that go beyond Israel’s current borders – what some have called “Greater Israel.” Netanyahu’s seminal role in conceiving the rancid doctrines of the ‘war on terror’ itself, alongside the inescapable reality that the neocons who dominate the US foreign policy establishment are first and foremost loyal to Israel, is paramount in understanding the ‘method to the madness.’

Dismembering Syria

While Western-backed ISIS militants behead their way to Damascus, US foreign policy hawks are now plotting the literal dismemberment of Syria as a whole in accordance with the Zionist neocons’ balkanization plan.

Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby, John Bolton, Michael Ledeen. Zionist authors of  'A clean break'.

Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby, John Bolton, Michael Ledeen. Zionist authors of ‘A clean break’.

In its latest diabolical screed, the Brookings Institution, an influential pro-Israel, pro-US Empire think tank,has audaciously called for the break-up of Syria, advancing an incremental strategy to facilitate a stealth US invasion and takeover of the Arab country in the service of Israel.

Neocon ideologue -Michael O’Hanlon

Neocon ideologue -Michael O’Hanlon

In the June 2015 report titled “Deconstructing Syria: Towards a regionalized strategy for a confederal country,”[12]neocon ideologue Michael O’Hanlon outlines his hopes for a weakened “confederal” Syria “made up of autonomous zones rather than being ruled by a strong central government.” (Pg. 3)Such “safe zones” are to be controlled by US Special Forces and their trained foot-soldiers of the “Syrian opposition.” Specifically, O’Hanlon calls for the US and its regional proxies,“to help defend local safe areas using American air power as well as special forces support once circumstances are conducive, the Syrian opposition fighters would then establish safe zones in Syria that they would seek to expand and solidify. The safe zones would also be used to accelerate recruiting and training of additional opposition fighters who could live in, and help protect, their communities while going through basic training.” (Pg.3)

O’Hanlon admits that the US has spent upwards of a billion dollars in “arms flows and other assistance to [Syrian militants]” and later suggests that the so-called ‘moderates’ are ineffective fighters, “a collection of groups with no unity, common vision, or survivability on the battlefield.”

O’Hanlon proposes that moderation would not be a prerequisite for US support, something that has never been an issue for Washington anyway which has been covertly sponsoring some of the most unsavory characters imaginable.

Later in the document O’Hanlon identifies the anti-Assad orientation of the strategy, envisioning the “safe zones” as buffers to launch operations against Assad and to eventually push the Syrian president out of power. He writes:

The plan would be directed in part against Assad. But it would not have the explicit military goal of overthrowing him, at least not in the first instance or the near term. Rather, it would seek to constrict the territory that he governs. And if he delayed too long in accepting a deal for exile, he could inevitably face direct dangers to his rule and even his person. The plan would still seek his removal, but over a gradual time period that allowed for a negotiated exit if he were smart enough to avail himself of the opportunity.”(Pg. 10)

O’Hanlon ponders the “outright partition of the country.” (Pg. 11) This partition scheme is evidently aimed at pressuring Assad and perhaps provoking him to strike at one of the US-controlled “safe zones” which would, O’Hanlon contends, give Washington an excuse to attack Damascus directly.“If Assad sought to attack the enclaves,” writes O’Hanlon,“where moderate forces were being aided by American and other outside powers … the United States would need to be ready to escalate quickly and powerfully—even disproportionately.” (Pg. 13)

This Brookings plan typifies an advanced phase of the destruction of Syria, something in the works since at least 2007. Washington’s anti-Syrian, anti-Iranian and broader anti-Muslim agenda clearly transcended both the Bush and Obama administrations, underscoring the existence of a permanent ‘shadow government’ – the neocon-dominated Military-Industrial Complex – that stays in place behind the curtain no matter who is elected. Obama’s ascendance to the White House was merely a public relations face lift, serving to make the American-Zionist Empire’s bloodthirsty aims more palatable to a war-weary public.

Ed. note: Islamic State operative confesses to receiving funding through US – report

Notes

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e_4tUYc6ag

[2] “Rand Paul says GOP hawks ‘created’ ISIS,” New York Post, May 27, 2015. http://nypost.com/2015/05/27/rand-paul-says-gop-hawks-created-isis/

[3] Brad Hoff, “2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State ‘in order to isolate the Syrian regime’,” The Levant Report, May 19, 2015.  http://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/

[4] Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut,” Washington Post, June 12, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/lawmakers-move-to-curb-1-billion-cia-program-to-train-syrian-rebels/2015/06/12/b0f45a9e-1114-11e5-adec-e82f8395c032_story.html

[5] Seymour Hersh, “The Redirection,” The New Yorker, March 5, 2007. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection?currentPage=all

[6]Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Nafeez Ahmed, “The Pentagon plan to ‘divide and rule’ the Muslim world,” Middle East Eye, April 3, 2015. http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/pentagon-plan-divide-and-rule-muslim-world-1690265165

[10] http://www.scribd.com/doc/155650153/A-Strategy-for-Israel-in-the-Nineteen-Eighties-Oded-Yinon#scribd

[11]http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/meet-the-press/benjamin-netanyahu-full-interview-on-meet-the-press-286451779858

[12] Michael O’Hanlon, “Deconstructing Syria Towards a regionalized strategy for a confederal country,” Brookings Institute, June 2015. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2015/06/23-syria-strategy-ohanlon/23syriastrategyohanlon.pdf

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says that authorities in Kiev are driving the country into the depths of economic depression, while brainwashing ordinary Ukrainians into believing that their political predecessors and ‘Russian aggression’ are to blame for their troubles.

In a comment posted Saturday on his Facebook page, Azarov stated that “the Kiev regime is brainwashing Ukrainians using several myths. Let’s take a look at a couple of them: [The first is that] the economy is collapsing, and the people are worse off because Russia is an aggressor and there is a war going on.”The second myth, according to the former prime minister, is that “‘our predecessors stole everything.’ However, as the folk saying goes, ‘he who shouts ‘get the thief!’ the loudest is a thief himself’, and so it is in this case. The economic results of the first half of 2015 have been compiled. Raw statistics show that the country’s exports have fallen by 40 percent (!) compared with the first half of 2013, in quantitative terms by $12 billion. That is, in one year, exports have fallen by approximately $25 billion.”

Mykola-Azarov-Former-Ukraine-PM

© RIA Novosti. Alexei Furman

With these figures in mind, Azarov poses a simple question: “Who has reduced the inflow of exchange into the country? The old government, Russia, or [current Prime Minister] Yatsenyuk?”

The former prime minister follows on with a series of worrying questions: “What will happen to the incomes of our people? What about the exchange rate? If exports continue to fall at the current rate, what will happen to our export-oriented economy? The regime in Kiev, instead of fixing the economy, is running around the world with its hand outstretched, begging for loans, while the country’s enterprises have stopped. And who will repay the loans? How much longer can the people believe in these myths?”

The PM leaves a postscript, referring to the lost markets in Russia and the other countries of the Eurasian economic space. He notes that “losing export markets is easy, but regaining them can be impossible. Competitors occupy them quickly and sometimes, forever.”Ukraine is presently in the depths of a deep political and economic crisis. Hit by a decline in trade with neighboring Russia, civil war in the country’s east, and financial panic brought on by the collapse of the country’s currency, the Ukrainian economy is presently teetering on the verge of default. Earlier this month, the country’s National Bank announced that the country’s debt will reach 95 percent of GDP this year, with debt presently standing at roughly $70 billion, of which some $40 billion is owed to international lenders.

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared aGuardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades.  They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.

For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy – in accordance with European “neo-liberal” values — and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp.

Greece’s debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, “is illegal, illegitimate and odious”. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose “bailout” in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.

For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor “leftists” nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their “secret austerity plans” in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands – which he has now accepted.

When the Greek electorate voted “no” on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, “Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people”. Greeks had not voted for “better terms”. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.

The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the “illegal and odious” debt – as Argentina did successfully — and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be “at the table” seeking “better terms”.

The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than “leftist” or “far left” or “hardline” – the usual misleading spray. Some of Syriza’s international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these “radicals”? What do they believe in?

In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote:

“Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism …

“I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated …. Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatcher’s victory].

“What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself  …?”

Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain “scorned socialist change” – when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change – he echoes Blair.

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind – but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among those former social democratic parties still describing themselves as “liberal” or even “left”,  Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, “schooled in postmodernism”, as Alex Lantier wrote.

For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syriza’s luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but “better terms” of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with “identity politics” and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. “Mainstream” political life in Britain exemplifies this.

This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.