Los imperios genocidas occidentales (IGO), en franco retroceso –aunque debido a una especie de espejismo parecería lo contrario en distintos aspectos–, diseñaron varios planes para detener su marcha atrás y volver a ubicarse en el papel de absolutos mandamases del planeta. Dos de esos planes se ocuparon centralmente del control total, de ser posible, de la variante energética y de un nuevo “divide y reinarás” a ser implementado en particular en Medio Oriente.

El primero se enfocó en el manejo del petróleo y la reducción vertiginosa de su precio (la primera caída significativa fue alrededor del 2010), con dos objetivos centrales: a) que cese, e incluso se derrumbe, el crecimiento económico y financiero que se producía gracias a la renta petrolífera en distintas zonas y países, especialmente Rusia, Venezuela y Medio Oriente; b) tratar de impedir el desarrollo de energía renovable (solar, eólica, hídrica), pues en la práctica sería mucho más difícil controlarla monopólicamente.

El segundo, en estrecha relación con el anterior, perseguía volver a rediseñar toda la geografía política de Medio Oriente y algunas zonas de Africa con el objeto de robar a manos llenas las riquezas minerales y otras de esos lugares, a través de nuevos gobiernos proclives a los planes de los IGO . Deberíamos pensar que no es casual que las acciones destinadas a producir ese rediseño comenzaron en el 2010 bajo la denominación de “Primavera Árabe” (“PA”), ya que alrededor de esa fecha se produce la caída del precio del petróleo.

Para la ejecución artificiosa de la “PA” se tomaron medidas y se llevaron adelante preparativos y estudios con bastante antelación, como lo hizo conocer el general yanqui a cargo de la OTAN en Kosovo, Wesley Clark. Vale la pena escuchar a este general en distintos videos que se encuentran en la web.

La puesta en marcha de la “PA” se inició con cierto éxito, pero enseguida sufrió los avatares de la realidad, los cuales la fueron estancando. Pero el desastre económico, militar, ecológico y de la infraestructura de los países afectados que ya provocó y sigue provocando, fue y es realmente catastrófico. Como dijo el presidente constitucional de Siria, en pocos meses su país retrocedió más de 25 años en su desarrollo e infraestructura. Y ni hablemos de Libia, el país con la mejor calidad de vida de Africa, que ha “retrocedido”, por medio de un bombardeo asesino implacable de los IGO, prácticamente a las épocas de las cavernas, del hombre primitivo.

Al principio parecía que las cosas marchaban bien para los IGO. La “PA” arranca en Túnez y avanza a través de Líbano, Egipto, Libia, para dirigirse luego hacia Irak, Siria, Yemen y otras zonas.

Cuando todo parecía indicar que el plan artificioso culminaría exitosamente según lo diseñado, aparece en escena un actor al que seguramente no se tuvo en cuenta o se subestimó. Me refiero a la Rusia de Putin. Lo que siguió es conocido por todos. Los IGO no pudieron avanzar como tenían planeado y entonces empezó una multiplicada agresión demencial contra Siria e Irak, extendida luego a Yemen, por medio de bandas terroristas mercenarias, para borrar del mapa no solo los gobiernos del área sino las fronteras de los países. Como dijimos, el plan de los IGO era rediseñar las fronteras de toda la zona a través de la creación de “nuevos estados” que servirían como “estados tapones” o “estados inestables” o “estados clientes” o “estados de conveniencia” para distintas trapisondas, de modo que siempre jueguen a favor de los IGO. Se intentaba repetir la aplicación, de manera redoblada, del “divide y reinarás” que tanto les había beneficiado anteriormente. Se intentaba crear nuevos “pakistanes”, como con tanto éxito lo hizo el imperio inglés. Se crearían estados kurdos, estados cristianos, estados sunnitas, estados shiitas, de manera de tener a mano fuerzas que luego llevarían a que choquen entre sí para beneficio indefinido de los IGO.

Además de esos dos planes centrales, había y hay otro objetivo que para los IGO es muy importante, quizás más importante que lo antes mencionado: hacer desaparecer el Islam.

El Islam: La piedra en el zapato

En la historiografía argentina hay un dicho respecto a la importancia revolucionaria de Perón y su doctrina primigenia que reza así: el peronismo es el hecho maldito del país burgués. De la misma manera, para los IGO y su pandilla de lacayos y serviles, el Islam es el hecho maldito de la supuesta democracia occidental. Había que terminar con Perón y el peronismo –que es prácticamente lo  mismo que desnaturalizarlo– para terminar con la “maldición” que pesaba sobre los oligarcas, criminales y explotadores en la Argentina: esa “maldición” era que la política de Perón impedía a las clases parasitarias y chupasangre seguir saqueando las riquezas que pertenecían a todo el pueblo argentino.  Es necesario terminar con el Islam –que es prácticamente lo  mismo que desnaturalizarlo– para terminar con una religión-ideología-filosofía-práctica-economía que en su  esencia primigenia resulta absolutamente lo opuesto a lo que persiguieron y persiguen los IGO. Por lo tanto, es imprescindible para los IGO reducir el Islam primigenio a una mínima expresión. O adulterarlo completamente de modo que, en todo caso, solo quede la carcaza de un cuerpo que se llamaba “islam”, desprovisto de todo contenido islámico o pervertido hasta tal punto que de ahí en adelante se llame “islam” a principios, políticas y filosofías absolutamente antiislámicas. Y sumado a ello, atomizar ese supuesto cuerpo que lleva por nombre “islam” en incontables grupúsculos opuestos entre si pues, como dice el refrán, “a río revuelto ganancia de pescadores”. O centralizar todos sus componentes férreamente bajo una conducción falsamente islámica, como pretendieron hacer los IGO con la creación primero de Arabia Saudita y luego de los grupos terroristas tipo ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, etc. De máxima, su intención es enviar al Islam al basurero de la historia.

La combinación de los cuatro aspectos mencionados por parte de los IGO –control del precio del petróleo para destruir las economías que dependían en gran medida del mismo; impedir la amplia implantación de las energías alternativas sustentables; rediseño de la geografía política, especialmente en el Medio Oriente; destrucción o desnaturalización de prácticamente todo el Islam– tuvo, no obstante, consecuencias no esperadas:

1) China se transforma en uno de los países poseedores de la mayor cantidad de petróleo extraído y/o refinado.

2) El principal lacayo y marioneta de los IGO en la zona de Medio Oriente, es decir, Arabia Saudita, sufre una notable pérdida de poder económico y político debido a varias causas.

3) Rápida readecuación de Rusia a la nueva situación en el tablero internacional y puesta en marcha de renovados procesos económicos-industriales que la colocan indiscutiblemente a la cabeza del desarrollo e influencia en los acontecimientos mundiales, cosa que molesta de manera muy aguda a los IGO. Estos trazan entonces distintos planes para sofocarla-reprimirla-atacarla, pero se llevan la gran sorpresa que el pato le salió gallareta o, lo que es lo mismo, fueron a cazar y se ven frustrados una y otra vez.

4) Proyección con gran fuerza de la urgente necesidad de un orden socio-económico-ecológico distinto al instaurado en el mundo por los IGO. A la cabeza de esa propuesta se presentan centralmente Rusia y China.

5) Ante la nueva situación entre Rusia y EEUU debido al notabilísimo papel que jugó y juega Rusia en Siria, intensificación  de la relación económica-financiera entre Rusia y China.

6) Surgimiento de importantes acuerdos entre la OPEP y Rusia, lo cual resalta más la importancia de Rusia en la geopolítica internacional.

7) Situación insostenible y/o crítica de la seguridad de EEUU a nivel geológico, ecológico y de salud ambiental, debido a la extracción de petróleo por medio del fracking (Son muchos los temores que esta práctica despierta, puesto que produciría cáncer y temblores de tierra y deja el agua contaminada con elementos radiactivos o tóxicos).

Los siete puntos mencionados no estaban en los cálculos de los IGO –por lo menos con el vigor que tienen–, lo que hace que estos, ante un fracaso de hecho, vean como única salida para seguir manteniendo su hegemonía maléfica, la tercera guerra mundial. Pero aquí vuelve a darse otra paradoja para los IGO: hasta no hace mucho estaban absolutamente seguros que no tenían rivales en un posible enfrentamiento armado a nivel mundial. No obstante, ya se sabe que eso no es así. Ya se sabe que Rusia y China pueden deparar sorpresas increíbles también en ese plano, mal que les pese.

A los siete puntos anteriores hay que sumarle una octavo elemento, que entiendo muy pocos lo tendrían en cuenta. Algo que puede significar una implosión que terminaría por socavar los pilares de los IGO y derrumbar su poderío irremediablemente: el proceso desatado con una virulencia nunca vista por los genocidas occidentales dentro de lo que se conoce como “Islam”.

Breve historia para ubicarnos en el contexto

Apenas muerto el profeta del Islam se inicia una etapa de destrucción del mismo, no desde el exterior sino desde su interior. Quienes eran enemigos mortales del profeta y del Islam, habían fingido islamizarse y pasar a ser, supuestamente, “íntimos” de Muhammad, con el único objeto de salvar sus vidas y sus riquezas. Pero mantenían, bajo el manto de la hipocresía más abyecta, todos sus deseos e intereses antihumanos y un odio sin igual hacia quien les dio cobijo. Apenas fallecido Muhammad sabotean el Islam de distintas formas con el objeto de volver a la época en la que ellos reinaban, marcada por: la explotación inicua de sus súbditos; el robo de las riquezas perteneciente a la gente y a sus pueblos; reducción a la servidumbre de los habitantes de esas tierras  (trata de personas, amenazas, coacciones, abuso de autoridad, detención ilegal, exacción, extorsión, rapto, reclusión en aislamiento, estupro violento); aplicación de la tortura como algo normal; asesinatos masivos e individuales o destierro de cualquiera que reclame justicia o realice críticas, etc.

Esos enemigos del Islam, disfrazados de musulmanes y pasando distintas vicisitudes, se imponen sobre los seguidores sinceros del profeta Muhammad, luego de la muerte de este, mediante la fuerza, la compra de voluntades, los asesinatos en masa, la tortura y cuanta bestialidad puedan realizar. Y con distintas variantes, en más y en menos, tal cosa dura….. ¡1400 años!

Esa situación no pasó desapercibida para los IGO. En la época contemporánea, Napoleón primero, luego el imperio británico y el imperio alemán, a continuación el nazismo y muy poco después los EEUU, se aprovecharon plenamente del hecho de que el “Islam” había pasado, en gran medida, a ser un elemento hueco, vaciado de casi todo el contenido provisto por el profeta Muhammad. Lo que hicieron entonces, paso a paso, fue llenar ese elemento hueco con un nuevo contenido: el que les convenía. Por lo tanto, la representación oficial y mayoritaria del “Islam”, de hecho, la pasaron a tener los imperios occidentales. Y la principal banda de pillos utilizada para sus planes fue la constituida por Arabia Saudita: bajo la bandera del Islam se engendró la más espantosa política antiislámica.

Siempre existió una resistencia a esa degeneración. Pero un tenue cambio con buenas perspectivas recién empieza en 1979 con la revolución islámica en Irán. Y en menos de 40 años (¡después de 1400 años!), los hechos conducen a la situación actual, cuya expresión más álgida, si se quiere, se refleja en los acontecimientos de Medio Oriente y Africa.

Al evaluar los IGO las nuevas posibilidades propicias para el verdadero Islam que aparecían en el horizonte, elaboran un “reordenamiento de las cosas” para seguir dominando. Y en ese “reordenamiento” ven imprescindible no perder el manejo de las fuentes de energía pues  es de importancia estratégica y entraña poder hegemónico. Deciden entonces una jugada bien planificada para no solo quedarse, de ser posible, con las importantísimas reservas de hidrocarburos, sino para terminar también con el resurgir del Islam primigenio que, como espada de Damocles, pondría en peligro permanente todos sus saqueos y robos. Y a ello agregan el peligro que les representa una nueva y dinámica Rusia. Y como en los planes de los IGO está quedarse con todo Medio Oriente para luego fagocitarse Irán, de tener éxito darían un gran paso en la dirección de cerrar un cerco de acoso y destrucción de Rusia.

Si se quiere plantearlo muy resumidamente, este es el disparador de la llamada “Primavera Árabe”.

Como base para el lanzamiento de la “PA” toman la experiencia relativamente exitosa de los ingleses con la separación de territorio de la India para crear Pakistán y el triunfo de EEUU sobre los soviéticos en Afganistán. Y el golpe mortal al Islam pensaban darlo presentando las más brutales y repugnantes acciones preparadas por ellos mismos (es decir, por los IGO), como si fuesen “islámicas”. Ese es uno de los principales motivos para que los IGO creen, pertrechen y lancen a una tropelía de sangre y fuego al ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, Boko Kharam, Al Shabaab, Jemaah Islamiyah, Emirato del Cáucaso, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Abu Sayaf, etc. De esa manera los IGO pensaban arrasar con el Islam intelectual, política, ideológica, doctrinal y religiosamente. Para ese fin reclutan mercenarios en más de cien países del mundo, a los que disfrazan de musulmanes y les ponen jefes norteamericanos, franceses, belgas, ingleses, israelíes, turcos, etc, así como árabes antiislámicos. Todos ellos, subrayo para que quede claro, disfrazados de musulmanes: atuendos, estandartes, pendones, consignas, frases, algunas prácticas rutinarias y cosas por el estilo. La escenificación (pour le galerie) se montaba lo mejor posible  para engañar a la mayor cantidad de gente posible con el objeto de desvirtuar el Islam primigenio de la manera más amplia posible y destruirlo lo más profundamente posible. Esta es una cuestión de primerísima importancia para los IGO, porque lo que quieren es que la población mundial piense que si el Islam es eso, merece ser despreciado, odiado y liquidado. Y de conseguirse tal cosa, pasarían a manejar, de modo incontestable, cientos de millones de personas.

Resultado de imagen para arab spring

La “Primavera Árabe”, uno de los acontecimientos más relevantes de la historial mundial contemporánea

Los cuarteles generales para las operaciones terroristas del ISIS y demás, se establecieron en Arabia Saudita, Turquía, Qatar y Jordania. Allí se armaron y arman, prepararon y preparan, entrenaron y entrenan, adoctrinaron y adoctrinan en el falso islam los mercenarios de más de cien países, a los que se lanzaron y lanzan a cometer las peores infamias y canalladas posibles con el objeto de, mediante la triquiñuela explicada, desprestigiar al Islam primigenio para siempre.

De todos modos, en esto hay un dato que no se puede pasar por alto: una importante parte de esos mercenarios se dicen musulmanes. ¿Por qué? ¿Qué es lo que les hace creer que son musulmanes y que su atroz conducta es propia de la doctrina islámica? Esto es algo que hay que dilucidarlo perfectamente.

Formalmente, las personas musulmanas en el mundo son unos mil quinientos millones. Alrededor del 90% son los llamados “sunnitas”. Arabia Saudita ejerce en muy amplia medida la tutela de las dirigencias  de esa masa o de los que responden a las mismas, centralmente, por motivos económicos.

De aquellos vientos son estas tempestades. De la dominación-instrumentación del wahabismo (fines del siglo XIX hasta nuestros días) por parte de los IGO, surgen las primeras bandas terroristas bajo la supuesta bandera del Islam en Medio Oriente.

Para verlo mejor, cito algo de lo escrito en la materia en el libro del Dr. John A. Morrow titulado “El Minarete y el Campanario. Los Pactos del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos del mundo” (University Press of the South, 2015, EEUU):

“Moritz, quien había servido como director de la Biblioteca Khedivial en El Cairo, no podía ser un hombre objetivo, imparcial, pues era un agente y propagandista del imperio alemán (88, 92, 96, 147, 372, nota 12). En opinión de Leo Frobenius (1873-1973 C.), otro agente político y espía celoso, Moritz “despreciaba a los pueblos orientales en lo más profundo de su corazón” (citado por McMeekin 147). Moritz perteneció a una pequeña camarilla de agentes alemanes que empujó el mundo islámico al conflicto con el fin de satisfacer sus propios fines políticos, económicos y militares. De la misma manera que los británicos encabezaron la creación del extremismo “islámico” y el salafismo durante la revuelta árabe con el fin de destruir lo que quedaba del Imperio Otomano, los alemanes apelaron también al nacionalismo árabe y al sentimiento religioso musulmán para conseguir apoyo a su causa. Agentes como Moritz debían convencer a los árabes de que los intereses alemanes y los intereses islámicos eran uno. Mediante el pago a las autoridades religiosas …. obtenían fatwas en apoyo de la jihad alemana contra los Aliados (McMeekin 200, 201-209, 214-15, 233).

Aunque los clérigos corruptos decían que esos dividendos tenían un carácter religioso, todos sabían de qué se trataba: sobornos a cambio de colaboración con los poderes colonialistas. Si los alemanes estaban recabando apoyo de los turcos, de los bereberes, de los persas y de algunos árabes, los británicos estaban diseminando el salafismo ─en el que ahora se encuentra inmerso (el gobierno) de Arabia Saudita─ con el objeto de expulsar de Medio Oriente a los otomanos. Al ocupar EEUU el papel de poder imperial en el siglo XX, heredó de los británicos  el salafismo y lo pasó a usar en sus planes para el mundo musulmán. Para mayor información sobre esto, los lectores pueden recurrir a The Two Faces of Islam de Stephen Suleyman Schwartz (1948 – …. C) y a God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabbi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad de Charles Allen”.

Este es el origen contemporáneo, guste o no, de los grupos terroristas disfrazados de musulmanes. Y esos grupos eran terroristas porque cometían las mismas atrocidades que cometen hoy día el ISIS y sus parecidos. Y estaban disfrazados de musulmanes porque sostenían ideas y prácticas absolutamente contrarias a la doctrina del Islam de Muhammad. Ninguna duda cabe, repito, que de aquellos vientos en el mundo sunnita, muy bien aprovechados por los IGO, son estas tempestades. (Ver, por ejemplo, en http://www.voltairenet.org/article186380.html, lo que dice Jean-Michel Vernochet: Si nos tomamos el trabajo de consultar a los innumerables doctores del islam cuyos trabajos podemos encontrar en internet, notaremos que el wahabismo [1], que es la ideología de los degolladores de Daesh [2], constituye una verdadera ruptura epistemológica con la tradición islámica clásica, al igual que en relación con lo que podemos llamar el islam popular. Cuando hablé de eso, personalmente y cara a cara, con el erudito militante Sheikh (jeque) Imran Hossein, este se mostró totalmente de acuerdo con esa definición de la doctrina wahabita. Estuvimos de acuerdo en que se trata de una herejía cismática que los sabios musulmanes, y también los intelectuales laicos árabes, designan con el término dajjál, ¡cuya traducción más exacta sería el anticristo! [3]”).

Es decir, centralmente, el antiislam disfrazado de Islam proviene de lo que al efecto inventaron a fines del siglo XIX y principio del XX los IGO. Y esa centralidad prende y echa raíces en el mundo sunnita. Dicho en otras palabras, es en el mundo sunnita donde tiene lugar lo que Jean-Michel Vernochet define como “herejía cismática”. 

Aquí resulta interesante responder otro interrogante para que todo se comprenda de la manera más clara posible. ¿Realmente el wahabismo domina-maneja-tutela a la gran mayoría de los musulmanes sunnitas? El wahabismo tiene puntos flojos. El más importante es que para llamarse “islámico” debió mantener, muy a pesar suyo, la integridad del Corán. No puede evitar que los sunnitas lean, estudien el Corán. Eso lleva a que cierta cantidad de ellos vean las contradicciones entre el wahabismo y el Corán. Pero prácticamente no se manifiestan por miedo a las consecuencias. Los wahabís son conscientes de esta realidad y le temen. Y eso es parte de lo que ha conducido a los wahabitas –siempre obedientes a los IGO– a implementar los actuales atropellos criminales y montaje de bandas mercenarias asesinas con el objetivo central –entre otros también importantes– de intentar extinguir el Islam. El numen de ese plan es tratar de convencer al mundo que el Islam es, por naturaleza, malo, caótico, salvaje, criminal, atroz, sanguinario y absolutamente negativo. Se les ocurrió pensar a los wahabitas que de ese modo lograrían también que la mayoría de los musulmanes renuncien al Islam. Al efecto relato una anécdota que grafica lo dicho.

Me encontré con alguien que no veía hacia un tiempo y era musulmán. Le pregunté la manera en que lo afectaba todo lo que estaba sucediendo, especialmente la presentación del Islam como sinónimo de terrorismo. La respuesta, que no la esperaba, fue la de una mente colonizada, ganada para el consenso antiislámico: “por suerte hace algo más de un año que abandoné el Islam y todos lo saben. No tenía idea en dónde estaba metido”. Si el sistema de los IGO consiguiese que esa forma de pensar se extendiese en las sociedad musulmana de norte a sur y de este a oeste, ya no les haría falta ninguna banda de sus mercenarios terroristas, pues tendrían el control, la hegemonía cultural sobre unos mil quinientos millones de seres humanos. Y el que controla las ideas controla las acciones, el que controla las mentes crea e impone el consenso y maneja a las sociedades.

Conclusión

Los IGO y sus lacayos trazaron diversos planes para destruir el Islam y se valieron del disfraz de “islámico” de Arabia Saudita para luego intentar hacer jugar a su favor a la masa sunnita.

Pero con la intervención providencial de Rusia frente a los terroristas, todo lo planeado empezó a fallar, resquebrajarse y, al igual que un buque averiado, empieza a hundirse.

Y esto abre la puerta de lo más inesperado para el wahabismo y para los IGO: los llamados sunnitas estarían despertando de un sopor masivo y se percatarían, descubrirían qué es el wahabismo y quiénes lo dirigen y utilizan. En consecuencia, estarían descubriendo el Islam primigenio, el Islam del profeta Muhammad, que es exactamente lo contrario a lo que hacen los wahabitas.

La perspectiva socio-histórica-política de ello tiene una importancia de consecuencias que  creo son pocos aún los que llegan a vislumbrarla.

Se produciría en el sunnismo una implosión que barrería con unos mil quinientos años del falso islam forjado por los traidores a Muhammad y puesto en marcha globalmente por los IGO. Si la implosión se concreta, a la lucha en contra de los IGO se sumarían unos mil quinientos millones de seres humanos, a la vez que estos recuperarían para sus propios fines los amplísimos territorios que ocupan. Se estaría preanunciando un nuevo reordenamiento del planeta a escala mundial como, justamente, lo proponen Rusia y China. Y también Lyndon Larouche con sus cuatro leyes [restablecimiento de la Ley Glass-Steagall en la forma precisa en que Franklin Roosevelt la puso en vigor; retorno a un sistema de Banca Nacional, estilo Alexander Hamilton –primer secretario del Tesoro de G. Washington– y al sistema de moneda única (Greenback) de Abraham Lincoln; instituir un sistema de crédito federal que genere mejoras altamente productivas en el empleo; adoptar un programa (de desarrollo) intensivo impulsado por la fusión (nuclear)], adaptadas a las nuevas circunstancias mundiales.

Entiendo que esta sería una consecuencia absolutamente inesperada para los inventores de la llamada “PA”. Estoy convencido que si los IGO, aunque más no sea, hubiesen soñado con algo así, jamás se habrían animado a transitar ese sendero. Por eso digo al principio, “Intrigaban ellos e intrigaba Dios, pero Dios es el Mejor de los que intrigan” (Corán, 8:30).

Roberto Verttuti

Roberto Verttuti: Maestro, activista, escritor, traductor y periodista independiente argentino y musulmán.

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Ford: perspectivas del efecto Trump

January 4th, 2017 by La Jornada

En la mañana de ayer el presidente electo de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, amenazó a la empresa General Motors (GM) con hacerla pagar un impuesto fronterizo si continuaba produciendo en México uno de sus modelos de automóvil.

Unas horas más tarde, Ford Motor Company, rival de GM, anunció su decisión de cancelar inversiones por mil 600 millones de dólares en una fábrica que había programado construir en el estado de San Luis Potosí y canalizar tales recursos a la planta que ya posee en Michigan.

Aunque el presidente de la Ford, Mark Fields, negó que la decisión hubiera obedecido a un acuerdo con Trump, y afirmó que había sido tomada con el propósito de mejorar la rentabilidad, lo cierto es que durante su campaña presidencial el magnate neoyorquino amenazó a la empresa en reiteradas ocasiones con fuertes sanciones fiscales si persistía en sus planes de trasladar una parte de su producción a nuestro país.

El episodio, que provocó una fuerte depreciación del peso mexicano frente al dólar y obligó al gobierno federal a descartar –por conducto de Alfonso Guajardo, secretario de Economía– una reacción en cadena de retiros y cancelaciones de inversión extranjera, particularmente estadunidense, tiene sin embargo un precedente cercano: a finales de noviembre pasado la empresa Carrier, fabricante de equipos de aire acondicionado, desistió de trasladar parte de sus procesos productivos a México –que implicaban unos 2 mil puestos de trabajo– y, tras un acuerdo con el presidente electo, optó por mantenerlos en Indiana.

La determinación de la Ford es indicativa de lo que les espera a las economías de ambos países: a la del nuestro, una severa disminución de las inversiones procedentes del país vecino, y a la estadunidense, un notable encarecimiento de sus procesos de producción.

Si bien es cierto que Trump difícilmente podrá cumplir en su totalidad con sus amenazas de deportar a tres millones de migrantes indocumentados en sus primeros meses de gobierno y de regresar a territorio de Estados Unidos las fábricas que se han establecido al sur del río Bravo, debe considerarse que llevará ambos propósitos tan lejos como pueda, lo que va a generar una dislocación significativa en la economía mexicana.

Es necesario, en consecuencia, reconocer que el modelo de desarrollo instaurado en nuestro país a partir del salinato y de la firma del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte, del que la integración con Estados Unidos ha sido columna vertebral, se ha quedado sin fundamento, y es apremiante emprender con urgencia la reconfiguración económica del país, con la mirada puesta en el mercado interno y en la diversificación comercial.

La Jornada

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Trump y la renegociación del TLCAN

January 4th, 2017 by Alejandro Nadal

Aprovechando el descontento provocado por la pérdida de empleos en el sector manufacturero de la economía estadunidense, una de las más insistentes promesas de campaña de Trump fue la de renegociar el Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN). La ironía es interesante porque uno de los principales objetivos del gobierno mexicano al negociar ese tratado fue consolidar el modelo neoliberal que se estaba imponiendo en nuestro país. Reformar la legislación mexicana podía ser fácil de lograr, pero renegociar un tratado internacional con Estados Unidos siempre sería visto como una barrera infranqueable. Hoy la presión para renegociar proviene directamente de Washington.

El TLCAN fue un tratado pionero que precedió a los Acuerdos de Marrakech que dieron origen a la Organización Mundial de Comercio (OMC). Temas como derechos de propiedad intelectual, subsidios, medidas sanitarias y fitosanitarias, energía, servicios financieros y los derechos de los inversionistas, fueron incluidos en el TLCAN y sirvieron de ejemplo para los acuerdos medulares de la OMC. El resultado fue un acuerdo que sólo benefició a las grandes corporaciones de los tres países.

En el caso de México el superávit comercial con Estados Unidos (58 mil millones de dólares en 2015) no ha sido suficiente para mantener un equilibrio en la balanza comercial con el resto del mundo. Por su parte, los 600 mil empleos generados en las manufacturas en los primeros 15 años de vida del TLCAN no sirvieron para compensar la pérdida de aproximadamente 2 millones de empleos en la agricultura en ese mismo plazo. Ese saldo comercial superavitario se explica en buena medida por las exportaciones del sector energético y de las maquiladoras (que al no estar conectadas con el resto de la economía son incapaces de fungir como motores de la economía). Por eso los objetivos sobre empleo y crecimiento con equilibrio se convirtieron rápidamente en un espejismo inalcanzable para México.

Los planes específicos de Trump para renegociar el TLCAN no son claros. Durante su campaña habló de imponer un sobre arancel de 35 por ciento a las exportaciones de autos ensamblados en México y algunos otros productos. Pero una medida de ese tipo no puede justificarse ni imponerse unilateralmente sin modificar la arquitectura del tratado. Las corporaciones estadunidenses que se instalaron en México lo hicieron en respuesta a la norma salarial de hambre que ahí existe y no porque estuvieran buscando beneficiarse con subsidios distorsionadores del comercio internacional. De hecho, en caso de imponerse ese sobre arancel México podría accionar los mecanismos de solución de disputas previstos en el TLCAN o de un panel de solución de controversias de la OMC y lo más probable es que el veredicto le sería favorable. La razón es sencilla: el sobre arancel que propone Trump es ilegal.

Si Trump quisiera cambiar ese estado de cosas debería buscar imponer estándares de compensaciones para el trabajo que reduzcan el diferencial existente entre salarios en México y Estados Unidos. Habría que ver si el acuerdo paralelo (al TLCAN) en materia de trabajo pudiera llegar a convertirse en un instrumento eficaz para mejorar las condiciones laborales en México. Pero no hay que olvidarlo: aquí los principales afectados serían las corporaciones para las cuales el TLCAN fue negociado.

Por cierto, Trump tampoco podrá argumentar que Estados Unidos está sufriendo una crisis de balanza de pagos y que por lo tanto se justifica imponer un sobretasa arancelaria. El artículo 2104 del TLCAN (en el capítulo XXI sobre Excepciones) especifica que no se puede invocar una crisis de balanza de pagos para imponer ese tipo de medidas. Es decir, en su capítulo sobre excepciones, el TLCAN establece que… no habrá excepciones. Por cierto, ese precepto estuvo dirigido a México y no a Estados Unidos.

Si se reabren negociaciones sobre el TLCAN, los gobiernos de México y Canadá buscarán concesiones en rubros que fueron objeto de tensiones en el pasado. Por ejemplo, México podría buscar una ampliación de la cuota azucarera y Canadá podría aprovechar para exigir poner fin a la disputa sobre sus exportaciones madereras hacia Estados Unidos (las empresas estadunidenses argumentan que la industria maderera canadiense recibe un fuerte subsidio que aumenta su competitividad artificialmente). Y tanto Canadá como México podrían exigir una mayor participación en las compras del sector público estadunidense que hoy sigue protegido con reglas de compra nacional que contradicen el TLCAN.

En síntesis, la postura de Trump en materia de política comercial implica un rechazo a décadas de negociaciones multilaterales y bilaterales sobre acuerdos de libre comercio. Pero Trump es un magnate que se ha dedicado a los desarrollos inmobiliarios. Es una actividad lucrativa, pero no tiene nada que ver con el comercio internacional en manufacturas. Ya veremos qué cara pone cuando las grandes corporaciones le expliquen por qué se instalaron en China y México.

Alejandro Nadal

Alejandro Nadal: Profesor e investigador de economía en el Colegio de México (COLMEX).

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EEUU han preparado los golpistas del golpe militar de Brasil en 1964, a partir de la fundación de la Escuela Superior de Guerra, fundada por Golbery do Couto e Silva y Humberto Castelo Branco, que habían convivido con las tropas norteamericanas durante la participación de Brasil al final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, en Italia. Junto a la Escuela de las Américas, en Panamá, se formó así la generación que preparó y puso en práctica el golpe militar de Brasil en 1964. La Doctrina de Seguridad Nacional y los métodos de tortura fueron las dos claves esenciales del régimen de terror que fue implantado en Brasil y en los otros países del Cono Sur de América Latina.

En la pos-guerra fría los EEUU buscaron su nuevo enemigo, figura esencial para exorcizar hacia lo exterior, los problemas de la sociedad norteamericana. Junto al narcotráfico, se fijaron en el terrorismo

Como parte de la lucha en contra del terrorismo, con toda la amplitud que George W. Bush pasó a dar al tema, se desarrolló un campo de actividad llamado de “contraterrorismo”, como parte de la función de “policía del mundo” que EEUU han asumido.

El blanqueo de dinero pasó a ser parte de esa acción, en la creencia de que el terrorismo lavaba sus recursos en los mecanismos bancarios. Se pasó a la “investigación y castigo en los casos de blanqueo de dinero, incluyendo la cooperación formal e informal entre los países, confiscación de bienes, métodos para extraer pruebas, negociación de delaciones, uso de examen como herramienta y sugerencias de cómo tratar con las Organizaciones No Gubernamentales (ONGs), sospechosas de ser usadas para financiamiento ilícito”.

En el seminario “proyecto Puentes: construyendo puentes para la aplicación en Brasil” – cuyo tenor fue revelado por WikiLeaks -, realizado en octubre de 2009, en Rio de Janeiro, contó con la presencia de autoridades norteamericanas encargadas de la formación del nuevo personal al servicio del Imperios, para consolidar el entrenamiento bilateral de aplicación y habilidades prácticas de contraterrorismo. Han participado promotores y jueces federales de 26 provincias brasileñas, además de 50 policías federales de todas las provincias, en la más grande delegación, reunión que contaba también con representantes de México, Costa Rica, Argentina, Panamá, Uruguay y Paraguay.

En el trascurso de la reunión intervino nada más que Sergio Moro, el hoy muy conocido promotor brasileño, que pretende ser un “justiciero, al margen de la ley, en contra de la corrupción”. El habló sobre los “cinco punto más comunes de lavado de dinero en Brasil”. Los participantes han solicitado entrenamiento adicional, sobre la búsqueda de evidencias, entrevistas e interrogatorios. Ese interés se daría porque “la democracia brasileña no tiene todavía 20 años de edad. Así, los jueces federales, los promotores, los abogados son novatos en el proceso democrático, no fueron entrenados en cómo lidiar con largos procesos judiciales (…) y se encontraron incapaces de utilizar eficazmente el nuevo código criminal que fue completamente alterado”.

El informe pide, en los resultados de la reunión, que se realicen cursos más profundos en Sao Paulo, Curitiba y Campo Grande. El informe concluye que “el sector judicial brasileño claramente está muy interesado en la lucha en contra del terrorismo, pero necesita herramientas y entrenamiento para empeñar fuerzas eficazmente. (…) Promotores y jueces especializados han conducido en Brasil los casos más significativos de corrupción de individuos de alto nivel”.

El surgimiento de gobiernos que contrarían las orientaciones de EEUU fue la oportunidad para adaptar esas orientaciones a proyectos de desestabilización de esos gobiernos, apoyados en acciones que se concentran en la denuncia reiterada de supuestas irregularidades cometidas por esos gobiernos, por los partidos que los apoyan y por sus líderes. La contribución de Moro y de sus comparsas es la de usar los métodos que aprendieron con los norteamericanos – que incluían ya el uso de las delaciones, entre otros métodos -, para destruir la democracia, reconstruida después del agotamiento de las dictaduras militares, instaladas por la generaciones anteriores de golpistas, igualmente formados por los EEUU.

Los datos revelados por WikiLeaks ya habían demostrado que la información fruto del espionaje hecho por el gobierno de los EEUU en la presidencia de la república de Brasil, en el Ministerio de Minas y Energía y en Petrobras, fue suministrada a Sergio Moro y su comparsa, para que dieran inicio a las denuncias en contra del gobierno del PT. Esa reunión de 2009 es significativa de los nuevos métodos de desestabilización política generados por EEUU, con intervención escandalosa en los asuntos internos de los otros países, violando su soberanía y contando para ello con miembros del Poder Judicial y de la Policía. Esa fue un episodio preparatorio de EEUU de la nueva violación de la democracia brasileña, apoyado en personajes que representan directamente los intereses del Imperio, como Sergio Moro y su comparsa.

Emir Sader

Emir Sader: Sociólogo y científico político brasileño, es coordinador del Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas de la Universidad Estadual de Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).

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In remarks delivered during the opening session of the 115th US Congress, top Democrats emphasized their willingness to work with the incoming Trump administration. Rather than warn the American people—including the majority of voters, who cast ballots for Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton—the Democrats signaled their desire to collaborate with Trump and his cabinet of right-wing ideologues, billionaires and retired generals.

The tone was set in the speech delivered by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer after he was formally installed as top Senate Democrat during the upper chamber’s opening session. With the Republicans holding only a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, where most actions require a 60-vote super-majority, Schumer will be the most powerful Democrat in Washington after Obama leaves the White House.

Schumer has already signaled his desire to work cooperatively with the new Trump administration, giving a series of interviews in which he recalled his past friendly relations with the Manhattan billionaire, who was a regular donor to Schumer’s congressional and US Senate campaigns.

A profile published in Politico noted that Schumer has created a much broader leadership structure for Senate Democrats than his predecessor Harry Reid, incorporating figures on the right wing of the Democratic caucus, including Mark Warner of Virginia, a telecommunications multimillionaire before winning a Senate seat, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who was interviewed several times by Trump for a potential cabinet appointment.

Joining Manchin and Warner are former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts liberal Elizabeth Warren, chosen to provide a “left” cover for any deals the Democrats make with Trump on such issues as infrastructure or trade. Schumer himself has expressed enthusiasm for an infrastructure deal, telling ABC News, “We think it should be large. He’s mentioned a trillion dollars. I told him that sounded good to me.”

On a parallel track, the AFL-CIO and several House Democrats said Tuesday they were urging Trump to go forward with his pledge to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called NAFTA “a political failure and a policy disaster,” declaring, “We are ready to fix it.”

The union executive is urging American workers to see workers in Canada and Mexico as their enemies, not the billionaire capitalist who is about to enter the White House, and his coterie of semi-fascists, fellow billionaires and ex-generals.

Schumer has ostentatiously distanced himself from the Obama administration’s most recent policy initiative on Israel, joining with Trump in denouncing the decision not to veto a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and blasting the speech delivered by Secretary of State John Kerry in which he criticized Israel’s policy on settlements.

In his speech Tuesday, Schumer combined rhetoric about defending “the American people, the middle class and those struggling to get there” with advice to Trump on how to explain and carry out his policies more effectively. While he claimed that the Democrats would hold Trump “accountable,” Schumer suggested that there was considerable “common ground” for action, including infrastructure investments and protectionist trade policies. He lent credence to Trump’s cynical campaign talk of protecting Medicare and Social Security, offering to work with him on the issue.

The Democratic leader warned Trump against adopting ready-made the policies of the congressional Republican right, saying these were “pro-corporation, pro-elite policies diametrically opposed to the many campaign themes that helped you win working class votes.” Schumer lectured that if Trump were to do that—as though there was any question about it—“your presidency will not succeed.”

The New York Post reported last weekend that Trump had told Schumer he liked him better than the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, or Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. Asked about this report, Schumer told CNN that Trump said “something close to it.”

Most notable about Schumer’s first speech as Democratic leader was the fact that he criticized Trump mainly on a relatively minor question—his obsessive use of Twitter—not on the substance of his policies. He denounced “government by Twitter,” but not the most right-wing government in American history, pledged to destroy social programs, slash taxes for the wealthy, attack democratic rights and build up the military-police apparatus.

Schumer seemed most concerned that Trump’s occasional Twitter outbursts in the early morning hours could destabilize world financial markets, something the New York senator’s Wall Street backers find unsettling. Schumer has collected more campaign contributions from the financial industry than any nonpresidential candidate in modern history.

Senate Republicans have clearly taken Schumer’s measure, suggesting he will be a far more cooperative figure than Reid. McConnell, speaking with reporters after the November 8 election, said, “I think what the American people are looking for is results. And to get results in the Senate, as all of you know, it requires some Democratic participation and cooperation.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was equally conciliatory in her briefer and less publicized remarks, delivered in the form of a salute to House Speaker Paul Ryan after the right-wing Republican defeated her by a margin of 239 to 190 in the contest for the leadership of the House of Representatives.

Pelosi hailed Ryan’s supposed intellectual abilities (he is a long-time devotee of ultra-right writer Ayn Rand) and his long service in the House, as an intern, employee and congressional aide before winning a seat at the age of 28. The simpering tone of her tribute reflected the fundamental unity of the two capitalist parties, whose conflicts represent, in President Obama’s words, an “intramural scrimmage” between teams that are on the same side: the side of the financial oligarchy.

Pelosi herself is married to a real estate mogul and venture capitalist, Paul Pelosi, worth more than $50 million. Whatever happens in Washington, no matter how devastating for the working class, Madame Pelosi will go unscathed, and her husband will likely profit.

Both Pelosi and Ryan, though of different generations, have spent a combined 46 years in the House of Representatives without ever facing a significant challenge at the polls. The stagnant and inbred character of this body is shown by the fact that in 2016, despite the political upheavals in the presidential campaign, 380 of the 393 House incumbents won reelection, a victory rate of nearly 97 percent.

Like Schumer, Pelosi declared that House Democrats would seek common ground with Trump “wherever they can,” based on the incoming president’s demagogic pledges to help American workers. She vowed to “stand our ground” on Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare, the environment and civil rights—an empty pledge that she and her fellow Democrats are preparing to break in the coming weeks and months. Significantly missing from her litany was Medicaid, the government health program for the poor, which is believed to be the first major target for budget cutting by the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress.

The sole concrete action of the first day of the 115th Congress was an incident that could be indicative of the future. The House Republican caucus sparked a media firestorm by voting Monday night to effectively dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent agency set up in 2008 to investigate charges against sitting congressmen, referring them for action, if necessary, to the House Ethics Committee.

Even the limited powers of this body were too much for the now-ascendant Republicans, who voted by 119-74 in a closed-door meeting to gut the OCE’s investigative authority. Congressional Democrats immediately denounced the action as a “betrayal” of Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, a piece of demagogy employed at the candidate’s rallies during the final month of the presidential campaign. Trump himself joined the attack, deploring the House Republican action in two Twitter posts. By Tuesday afternoon, the House Republicans had unanimously reversed themselves.

While the episode had a somewhat farcical character, it showed the potential for future collaboration between the Democrats and the Trump White House on issues of much greater importance.

Another clear signal of the Democrats’ readiness to collaborate with the ultra-right Trump administration was the announcement Tuesday that Bill and Hillary Clinton would attend Trump’s inauguration.

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The Top Ten Under-Reported News Stories of 2016

January 4th, 2017 by Neil Clark

What would George Orwell have made of 2016? Some of the biggest news stories of the year, promoted by pro-Establishment media, were either false, such as the claims made in December that a ‘Holocaust’ was taking place in eastern Aleppo, or not backed up by any hard evidence, such as the allegations that Russia interfered in the US election.

Ironically, these stories were pushed most aggressively by media outlets that expressed the most concern about ‘fake news’ and the urgent need to take action against it!

At the same time some very important real news was either ignored altogether — or given only the scantiest coverage.

Here are ten of the biggest under-reported news stories of 2016. I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions as to why they didn’t get the coverage they should have.

The War in Yemen

BBC describes Yemen as a forgotten war, yet the reason it’s forgotten is failure of BBC etc to cover it @The45Storm @medialens @markcurtis30 — Charles Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeC) December 9, 2016

While Syria made the front pages, the US-backed war in Yemen received nowhere near the same attention.

Documented atrocities carried out by the Saudi-led coalition have been largely ignored. British Blairite MPs, so keen to show their concern about a non-existent ‘Holocaust’ in Aleppo in December, failed to support a Labour motion — calling for an independent UN investigation into violations of international law in Yemen, in October.

And the ‘Something Must be Done’ media brigade weren’t too interested either. “Since the rejection of the motion, ‘Do something!’ crusaders like Aaronovitch, Freedland and Cohen have printed not a word about ‘our’ ‘responsibility to protect’ civilian life in Yemen,” noted Media Lens on 3rd November.

Libya in Ruins

In early 2011, Libya was ‘the’ big news story as concerned ‘liberal interventionists’ urged NATO to enforce ‘no-fly zones’ to stop the “New Hitler Colonel Gaddafi.”

The son of a retired Libyan academic who spoke out against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime says he fears the worst for his father and three of his brothers after they were “killing his own people” and carrying out “a Srebrenica-style massacre in Benghazi.”

Well, NATO did intervene and Libya was destroyed. And guess what? The ‘Do Something’ crusaders in the western media are silent. The transformation of the country which had the highest standards of living in Africa into a terrorist-ridden “failed state” is not deemed to be newsworthy. In the words of Leslie Nielsen in the film Naked Gun, it’s a case of: “Nothing to see here- please disperse!”

Tunisia — failed state
Libya — failed state
Yemen — failed state
Syria — failed state
Obama admin had a hand in shaping each one. — Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) December 21, 2016

Reconciliation in Syria

Good news from Syria doesn’t get much, if any coverage- particularly if it shows the Syrian authorities in a positive light. But the Syrian government has implemented truce and reconciliation programs in and around Homs and Damascus and in other parts of the country too.

In July, President Assad offered an amnesty to antigovernment ‘rebels’ laying down their arms — and this was repeated in October.

@ianbremmer Moreover, Assad is being astonishingly lenient. Most of the “rebels” captured have been given amnesty straight-away @manosiat — Stavros Hadjiyiannis (@StavrosHadjiyia) November 30, 2016

Many rebels have taken up the offer and resumed their lives as civilians. The fact that reconciliation was underway in Syria should have been a big news story in 2016, but — surprise, surprise — given the pro regime-change bias of much of the media, it wasn’t.

#2017 could be beginning of end for #ISIS. But w/o political reconciliation in Iraq/Syria, another violent entity, or entities, will arise — Colin P. Clarke (@ColinPClarke) January 1, 2017

62 People Owning Half of the World’s Wealth

Yes, that’s right — 62. Surely this is something news channels should have been giving major coverage to in 2016?

Surely Oxfam’s Davos report should have kicked off debates about how the world’s economy needs to be restructured in order to make the distribution of wealth more equitable? But the story didn’t have legs.

How very convenient for the 62 people!

The Exoneration of Slobodan Milosevic

In 2016, the man who neocons and Blairites labeled “the Butcher of the Balkans”  and whose “genocidal crimes” were used to promote the globalist doctrine of “liberal interventionism” was effectively declared “not guilty,” by the very court which tried him.

The exoneration of a man accused of genocide made no headlines this month. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it… https://t.co/x2RIM1SAQe — John Pilger (@johnpilger) August 23, 2016

As I wrote in August:

“The ICTY’s [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] conclusion, that one of the most demonized figures of the modern era was innocent of the most heinous crimes he was accused of, really should have made headlines across the world. But it hasn’t. Even the ICTY buried it, deep in its 2,590 page verdict in the trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who was convicted in March of genocide (at Srebrenica), war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The exoneration of the western elite’s number one bogeyman of the late 90s did make front page news in Serbia, but in the western MSM the news was ignored, and those, like Andy Wilcoxson, John Pilger and myself, who did dare to write about it, were subject to vicious personal attacks by Establishment gatekeepers.

Rather like Sherlock Holmes’ dog that didn’t bark in the night-time, the non-coverage of this very important story told us everything we needed to know.

Global Warming: Another Record-Breaking Year for Temperatures

2016, according to the UN, is “very likely” to be the warmest year on record — meaning that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been in the 21st century. In July, NASA revealed that each month from January to June in 2016 had been the warmest respective month globally — since modern temperature records began in 1880.

#ClimateChange

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Can Trump Fix The Economy In 2017?

January 4th, 2017 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The Western world and that part of the world that partakes of Western explanations live in a fictional world. We see this everywhere we look—in the alleged machinations of Russia to elect Donald Trump president of the US, in claims that Saddam Hussein and his (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the United States (a mushroom cloud over American cities), that Assad of Syria used chemical weapons against his own people, that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, that a few Saudi Arabians outwitted the entirety of the US, EU, and Israeli intelligence services and delivered the greatest humiliation to the “world’s only superpower” in the history of mankind, that Russia invaded Ukraine and could at any moment invade the Baltics and Poland, that the US rate of unemployment is 4.6%, that China’s trade surplus with the US is due to Chinese currency manipulation, and so on and on.

Allegedly we live in a scientific era of information, but what good can come from faulty orchestrated information? As long as fake news delivered by presstitutes serves powerful private and governmental interests, how can we know the truth about anything?

For example, consider the claim found everywhere in US government and US media statements that the massive US trade deficit with China is the result of Chinese currency manipulation, keeping the yuan underpriced relative to the US dollar.

This false claim, which is widely accepted as truth even by Russian writers on Russian websites is nonsense. China’s currency is pegged to the US dollar. It moves with the dollar. China pegged its currency to the US dollar in order to create confidence in the Chinese currency. Over the past decade China has adjusted the peg of its currency to the dollar and permitted a rise in the value of the Chinese currency from 8.1 yuan to 6.9 yuan to the US dollar. (The yuan reached a strength of 6 to the dollar, but a rising dollar was pulling up the yuan, causing China to widen the float in order to avoid undue appreciation because of the US dollar’s rise to other Asian and European currencies.)

How is a rising yuan “currency manipulation”? Don’t expect an answer from the presstitute financial media or the junk economists who comprise the neoliberal economics profession.

The function of the myth of Chinese currency manipulation is to hide from view the fact that the massive US trade deficit with China is due to US corporations offshoring their production for US markets to China. When US corporations bring goods and services produced offshore back to the US for sale, they enter as imports, thus swelling the trade deficit. The myth about currency manipulation shifts the blame from US corporations to China, while in fact it is the return of offshored production, such as Apple computers, for sale to Americans that swells the US trade deficit.

US corporations produce offshore because the much lower labor costs result in higher profits, higher stock prices for shareholders, and in performance bonuses for executives. One of the main causes for the high Dow Jones averages and the worsened income and wealth distribution in the US is the offshoring of jobs. In 2016 the richest people added $237 billion to their wealth, while the rise in student loan, auto loan, and credit card debt combined with stagnant or declining income left ordinary Americans poorer. During the 21st century, household indebtedness has risen from about 70% of GDP to about 80%. Personal income has not risen in keeping with personal debt.

The offshoring of jobs benefits only a small number of shareholders and executives, and it imposes massive external costs on American society. Former prosperous manufacturing states are in long term depression. Median real family incomes have fallen. Real estate values in abandoned manufacturing areas have fallen. The tax base has eroded. State and local government pension systems cannot meet their obligations. The social safety net is unraveling.

To get an idea of the external costs that offshoring imposes on the American population, go online and look at the pictures of decrepit Detroit, formerly an industrial powerhouse. Schools and libraries are abandoned. Public buildings are abandoned. Factories are abandoned. Homes are abandoned. Churches are abandoned. Here is one 4 minute video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcTYqnL2Bgw

And it is not only Detroit. In my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism (Clarity Press, 2013), I report the 2010 US Census data. The population of Detroit, formerly America’s fourth largest city, declined by 25 percent in the first decade of the 21st century. Gary, Indiana, lost 22 percent of its population. Flint, Michigan, lost 18 percent. Cleveland, Ohio lost 17 percent. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania lost 7 percent. South Bend lost 6 percent. Rochester, New York, lost 4 percent. St. Louis, Missouri, lost 20 percent. these cities were once the home of American manufacturing and industrial might.

Instead of telling the truth, the presstitute financial media and the corrupt US economics profession have hidden the massive social and external costs of jobs offshoring under the totally false claim that offshoring is good for the economy. In my book, I take to task corporate shills such as Dartmouth’s Matthew Slaughter and Harvard’s Michael Porter, who produced through incompetence or complicity erroneous reports of the great benefits to Americans of having their jobs given to Chinese and American cities left in ruins.

Throughout its history the US has suffered from public lies, but not until the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama regimes did lies become so ubiquitous that truth disappeared.

Consider the November jobs report. We were told that the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6% and that 178,000 new US jobs were created in November. The recovery is on course, etc. But what are the real facts?

The unemployment rate does not include discouraged workers who have been unable to find employment and have ceased job hunting, which is expensive, exhausting and demoralizing. In other words, unemployed people are being pushed into the discouraged category faster than they can find jobs. That is the explanation for the low official unemployment rate. Moreover, this reported low rate of unemployment is inconsistent with the declining labor force participation rate. When jobs are available, people enter the work force in order to take advantage of the employment opportunities, and the labor force participation rate rises.

The reporting by the financial presstitutes adds to the deception. We are given the number of 178,000 new jobs in November. And that is it. However, the data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows many problematic aspects of the data. For example, only 9,000 of the claimed 178,000 jobs are full time jobs (defined as 35 hours or more per week). October saw a loss of 103,000 full time jobs from September, and September had 5,000 fewer full time jobs than August. No one explains how an economy losing full time jobs is in recovery.

The age distribution of the November new jobs is disturbing. 77,000 of the jobs went to those 55 and over. Only 4,000 jobs went to the household forming ages of 25-34.

The marital status distribution of the jobs is also troubling. In November there were 95,000 fewer employed married men with spouse present and 74,000 fewer employed married women with spouse present than in October. In October there were 331,000 fewer married men and 87,000 fewer married women employed than in September.

One can conclude from these large differences month to month that the official statistics are not good, which might well be the case. For example, as I have stressed in my reports on the monthly payroll employment releases, there is always a large number of new jobs for waitresses and bartenders. Yet restaurant traffic has declined for 9 consecutive months. Why do restaurants hire more employees as traffic declines?

As John Williams (shadowstats.com) has informed us, the monthly payroll jobs claims might consist entirely of add-ons from estimates from a flawed birth/death model and manipulations of seasonal adjustments. In other words, the reported new jobs might only be statistical illusions.

John Williams also emphasizes that the claimed real GDP growth numbers might be entirely the products of the under-measurement of inflation. Some years ago the inflation measures were “reformed” in order to cheat those on Social Security out of cost-of-living adjustments. In place of a weighted index that calculated the cost of a constant standard of living, substitution was introduced. In the reformed index, if the price of an item in the index rises, a lower-priced item is substituted in its place, thus negating the inflationary impact of the price rise. Also, price rises are defined away as “quality improvements.” Clearly, this is an index designed to under report rising prices.

The bottom line is that the recovery allegedly underway since June 2009 might be a statistical illusion produced by a flawed measure of inflation.

What can Americans expect from the economy in 2017? First, some perspective. The defeat of stagflation by President Reagans supply-side policy gave the Clinton regime a good economy. The improved US economy was not entirely a good thing, because it masked the adverse consequences of jobs offshoring that began in earnest after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

The Soviet collapse encouraged the change in attitude of the Indian and Chinese governments toward foreign capital. Wall Street and big box retailers such as Walmart forced the relocation of much of US manufacturing to China, to be followed after the rise of the high speed Internet by offshoring professional skill jobs such as software engineering to India. These relocations of US economic activity to foreign locations hollowed out the US economy and reduced the job opportunities for Americans.

The growth of real median family income ceased. Without increases in consumer spending to drive the economy, the Federal Reserve substituted a growth in consumer debt for the missing growth in real median family income. But the growth of consumer debt is limited by the lack of growth in consumer income. Thus, an economy dependent on debt expansion is limited in its ability to expand. Unlike the federal government, the American people cannot print money with which to pay their bills.

Alone among those contending for political office, president-elect Trump has fingered jobs offshoring as a blow to the American people and the US economy. It remains to be seen what he can do about it, as jobs offshoring serves the interests of the global corporations and their shareholders.

For many years now the monthly payroll jobs reports show the US descending into Third World status, with the vast bulk of the claimed new jobs in lowly paid, non-tradeable domestic services. The BLS 10-year job projections show few new jobs that require a university degree. If high value-added, high productivity middle class jobs cannot be brought back to the US, the American economic future is one of continuing decline into Third World status.

Considering the constraints on the consumer, a large share of corporate profits has come from labor cost savings from jobs offshoring. For corporations such as Apple, whose products are almost entirely produced in Chinese factories, there are no more profits to be secured from jobs offshoring. To keep the profits flowing, Apple plans to replace the inexpensive Chinese labor with robots, which do not have to be paid any wage. What better shows the disconnect between capital and labor than to robotize Chinese factories in the face of an excess supply of labor?

Paul Samuelson’s economic textbook taught the fallacy of composition, what is good for the individual might not be good for the group. The Keynesian economists applied this to savings. Saving is good for the individual, but if aggregate saving exceeds investment, aggregate demand falls, pulling down income, employment, and saving.

This is the case with jobs offshoring. It can increase profits for the firm, but in the aggregate it decreases aggregate income of the population and limits sales growth. What jobs offshoring does in this respect will be done in spades by robotics.

When I read economists and financial presstitutes glorifying the cost savings of robotics, I wonder where their mind is or if they have one. Robots don’t purchase housing, home furnishings and appliances, cars, food, clothing, vacations, entertainment. When robots have the jobs, where do humans get the incomes with which to purchase the products produced by robots?

This unexamined question has extraordinary implications for property rights and the social organization of society. Ralph Gomory told me a few years ago that a handful of people hold the robotic patents. Therefore, in a robotized world, the distribution of income and wealth would be concentrated in the hands of a few dozen people. Indeed, would there be any income or wealth of any magnitude? The only way humans could survive would be to again become self-sufficient farmers with no monetary income to purchase products made by robots. As few would be able to purchase products made by robots, there would be no source for income and wealth for the patent holders.

I am convinced that if robotics is going to supplant human labor, the patents will have to be socialized, and income distributed on a relatively equal basis throughout society.

So, can Trump fix the economy in 2017?

There can be no fix unless the ladders of upward mobility that made the US an opportunity society can be put back in place. This will require bringing home the offshored middle class jobs or, assuming that new high value-added jobs could somehow be created, preventing the new jobs from being moved offshore.

There is a way to do this: Base the corporate tax rate on the geographical location where corporations add value to their product. If corporations add value domestically with US labor, the tax rate would be low. If the value is added abroad, the tax rate would be high. The tax rate can be adjusted to offset the benefits of lower costs abroad.

Despite the progaganda about globalism and free trade, the US economy was built on protection, and its strength was the domestic market. US prosperity was never dependent on exports. And as the US dollar is the world reserve currency, the US doesn’t need exports in order to pay for its imports. This is why the US can tolerate the trade deficits caused by jobs offshoring.

Globalism is a concoction by the neoliberal junk economists in complicity with the big banks, Wall Street, and multinational corporations. Globalism is a disguise for the exploitation of the many in behalf of the few. The alleged benefits of globalism were used to justify the offshoring of jobs and to enrich corporate executives and shareholders.

It is the domestic economy that is important, not the global economy. The suffering population in flyover America finally learned this lesson and elected Trump.

Can Trump script “The Escape From Globalism?” He could lose the fight. Globalism has been institutionalized. The large corporations that have offshored their production for US markets would oppose moves against jobs offshoring. So would all their shills in the economics profession and financial media. I don’t know the extent to which globalism has taken root in people’s minds in Asia, Africa, and South America, but in Europe—even some in Putin’s Russia—people are brainwashed in the belief that they can’t exit globalism without paying a large economic price.

Consider, for example, the Greeks. For the sake of the balance sheets of a handful of northern European (and perhaps US) banks, the Greek and Portuguese peoples have been forced into extreme austerity, resulting in such high unemployment and plummeting living standards that women have been forced into prostitution in order to survive. This totally unnecessary outcome has occurred because the Greek and Portuguese peoples and governments are so brainwashed that they believe they cannot survive as independent countries without globalism and the entry to globalism provided by EU membership. In the UK 45% of the population suffers from the same misconception.

Globalism is the latest technique by which capitalism loots and destroys. In the Western world it is the working and middle classes that are looted of their jobs and careers. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America self-sufficient farming communities are looted of their land and forced into monoculture as laborers who produce an export crop. Countries formerly self-sufficient in food become dependent on food imports, and their currency, which carries that burden, is subject to endless speculation and manipulation.

Was it universal ignorance or bribes that compelled governments everywhere to ransome their populations to globalism?

Frontline journalists, such as Chris Hedges, who have seen and reported a lot, have concluded that the fate of the world is in such few hands that act only in their narrow self-interests that only revolution can correct the imbalance between the interest of a handful of oligarchs and the mass of humanity. Hedges’ position is not an easy one with which to argue.

Trump descending into the snakepit that is Washington, D.C., needs to remember what happened to President Jimmy Carter. In fact, the best thing Trump can do for his presidency is to go spend some time with Carter prior to taking office.

Carter was an outsider, a principled person, and the Washington establishment did not want him. They reduced his effectiveness by framing up his budget director and chief of staff. The same thing can happen to Trump, assuming he is able to get his appointees confirmed by the Senate, members of which are allied with the CIA against Trump.

Reaganites had a similar experience in the Reagan adminisration. Reagan had political experience as governor of California, the largest state, but he was an outsider to the Republican establishment, whose candidate for the presidential nomination was George H.W. Bush.

Reagan defeated Bush for the nomination, but was advised by Republicans, who remembered the Goldwater wipeout when the Rockefeller forces turned on Goldwater for not choosing the defeated Rockefeller as his VP running mate, costing Goldwater the election, to select Bush as VP. Otherwise, Reagan would find himself, like Goldwater, running against both the Democratic and Republican establishments.

Reagan’s first term took place with George H.W. Bush’s main operative as chief of staff of the White House. This confronted me with problems as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy where I was the point man for Reagan’s supply-side economic policy.

Both political party establishments are more interested in controlling the party than in doing well for the country. During President Carter’s four years, the main concern of the Democratic establishment was in regaining control of the party from the forces that had sent an outsider to the White House. During Reagan’s eight years, the main concern of the Republican establishment was in regaining control of the Republican party from Reaganites.

It is likely that Trump will now experience in spades what presidents Carter and Reagan experienced. The effort will be made to force him into compromises and to neuter his agenda. Ironically, this determined attack on Trump is being aided by the leftwing, progressive forces that stand to gain by Trump’s standing up for the working and middle classes and for peace with Russia. Many of the liberal, progressive, leftwing websites are already soliciting donations in order to fight against Trump.

So, even when we get a president who might try to represent the interests of the American people, those who claim to speak in behalf of the people join in the oligarchs’ attack on Trump. The left side of the spectrum seems always, like the extreme rightwing side, to defer to their hatreds: Trump is a billionaire = hatred. Trump appointed an energy magnate = hatred. Trump appointed two 3-star generals = warmonger and more hatred.

The liberal, progressive, leftwing cannot get beyond their bogeymen. Of course, they might be correct. However, as I have emphasized, Trump has chosen mavericks who have gone against the establishment. Moreover, these are strong men, like Trump, which is what it takes to bring change from above. The Exxon CEO wants energy deals, not war, with Russia. Gen. Flynn is the one who exposed on TV Obama’s use of ISIS to overthrow Syria against the recommendation of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Gen. Mattis is the one who challenged the effectiveness of torture.

Trump’s main appointments are people who have challenged the Establishment. The usual assortment of establishment-approved appointees cannot bring change to Washington.

The liberal, progressive, left-wing should be happy at the prospect of a government on the outs with the Establishment. Instead, the liberal, progressive, left has aligned with the Establishment in opposition to Trump.

Every day I receive a half dozen requests for donations to “help us fight Donald Trump.” What are these people thinking? Why do they want to fight someone that the entire US political establishment opposes? What they should first try is to gain Trump’s confidence and win him to their agenda, as General Mattis did.

I cannot assure you that Trump is not another fake like Obama. But it is a mistake to begin with this assumption. Why write off in advance the only person with the courage to put his life on the line and take on the corrupt and evil Washington establishment?

Why help the Establshment defeat Trump? If Trump sells out Americans, we can turn on him then, or we can decide whether Chris Hedges is correct that only revolution can rectify the situation.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the WestHow America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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Just 17 days from todayDonald Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th President and deliver his inaugural address. Trump is expected to announce priorities in the areas of education, infrastructure, border security, the economy and curtailing the outsourcing of jobs. But Trump’s agenda will be derailed on all fronts if the big Wall Street banks blow up again as they did in 2008, dragging the U.S. economy into the ditch and requiring another massive taxpayer bailout from a nation already deeply in debt from the last banking crisis. According to a report quietly released by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research less than two weeks before Christmas, another financial implosion on Wall Street can’t be ruled out.

The Office of Financial Research (OFR), a unit of the U.S. Treasury, was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010. It says its role is to: “shine a light in the dark corners of the financial system to see where risks are going, assess how much of a threat they might pose, and provide policymakers with financial analysis, information, and evaluation of policy tools to mitigate them.” Its 2016 Financial Stability Report, released on December 13, indicates that Wall Street banks have been allowed by their “regulators” to take on unfathomable risks and that dark corners remain in the U.S. financial system that are impenetrable to even this Federal agency that has been tasked with peering into them.

At a time when international business headlines are filled with reports of a massive banking bailout in Italy and the potential for systemic risks from Germany’s struggling giant, Deutsche Bank, the OFR report delivers this chilling statement:

“U.S. global systemically important banks (G-SIBs) have more than $2 trillion in total exposures to Europe. Roughly half of those exposures are off-balance-sheet…U.S. G-SIBs have sold more than $800 billion notional in credit derivatives referencing entities domiciled in the EU.”

When a Wall Street bank buys a credit derivative, it is buying protection against a default on its debts by the referenced entity like a European bank or European corporation. But when a Wall Street bank sells credit derivative protection, it is on the hook for the losses if the referenced entity defaults. Regulators will not release to the public the specifics on which Wall Street banks are selling protection on which European banks but just the idea that regulators would allow this buildup of systemic risk in banks holding trillions of dollars in insured deposits after the cataclysmic results of similar hubris in 2008 shows just how little has been accomplished in terms of meaningful U.S. financial reform.

Adding to the potential for another epic crash on Wall Street taking down the entire U.S. economy is data within the OFR report showing how interconnected the big Wall Street banks have become to the largest U.S. insurers through derivatives. This has been allowed to happen despite the fact that the giant insurer, AIG, required a government backstop of $182 billion following the 2008 crash because it had sold credit default protection via derivatives to the big Wall Street banks.

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The Geopolitics of Turkey’s About-Face

January 4th, 2017 by Thierry Meyssan

President Vladimir Putin has announced that he has concluded a cease-fire agreement for Syria, with Turkey, which until now has been the main operational support for the jihadists. How may we explain this astonishing turn of events? Will President Erdoğan be able to turn his country away from the influence of the United States and towards that of Russia? What are the causes and the consequences of this dramatic reversal?

Turkey is a member of NATO, an ally of Saudi Arabia, a patron of international jihadism since the hospitalisation of prince Bandar ben Sultan in 2012, and godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi and the quarrel between Doha and Riyad in 2013-14. Besides this, it attacked Russia in November 2015, destroying a Sukhoi-24 and causing the interruption of diplomatic relations with Moscow.

And yet this is the same Turkey which has just sponsored the cease-fire in Syria, imagined by Russia [1]. Why?

Since 2013, Washington no longer considers Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a trusted partner. The CIA has therefore launched various operations, not against Turkey, but against Mr. Erdoğan personally. In May-June 2013, it organised and supported the Taksim Gezi Park protest movement. During the general elections in June 2015, it financed and supervised the party of the minorities, the HDP, so as to limit the power of the President. It played the same tactic during the elections of November 2015, which the Power had rigged. The CIA then moved on from political influence to secret action. It organised four assassination attempts, the last of which, in July 2016, turned ugly, forcing the Kemalist officers to attempt a coup d’etat for which they were unprepared.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan therefore finds himself in a position similar to that of the Italian Prime Minister of the 1970’s, Aldo Moro – both men heading a NATO member-state, and both having to face the hostility of the United States. NATO managed to eliminate the Italian by manipulating an extreme left-wing group [2], but has failed to kill the Turk.

Moreover, in order to win the elections in November 2015, Erdoğan flattered the Turko-Mongol supremacists by unilaterally expanding the conflict with the Kurdish minority. By doing so, he added the alleged «nationalists» of the MHP to his Islamist electoral base (AKP). In a few months, he caused the deaths of more than 3,000 ethnically-Kurd Turkish citizens, and destroyed several villages, even certain neighbourhoods of major cities.

Finally, by transmitting arms to al-Qaïda and Daesh which were sent by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO, he wove close relations with the jihadist organisations. He did not hesitate to use the war against Syria to make money for himself. First of all by dismantling and pillaging the factories of Aleppo, then by trafficking the oil and antiques stolen by the jihadists. Progressively, his entire clan became linked with the jihadists. For example, his Prime Minister, mafia gangster Binali Yıldırım, organised factories for the confection of counterfeit goods in the territories administrated by Daesh.

However, the intervention of Hezbollah in the second war against Syria, from July 2012, then that of the Russian Federation, in September 2015, turned the fortunes of war. From this moment on, the gigantic coalition of the «Friends of Syria» lost a lot of the terrain they had occupied, and encountered increasing difficulty in recruiting new mercenaries. Thousands of jihadists deserted the battle-field and fled to Turkey.

But in fact, most of these jihadists are incompatible with Turkish civilisation. Indeed, the jihadists had not been recruited to form a coherent army, but simply to swell the numbers. There were at least 250,000 of them, perhaps even many more. At first, these men were Arab delinquants supervised by the Muslim Brotherhood. Progressively, were added Naqshbandi Sufis from the Caucasus and Iraq, and even young Westerners in a quest for Revolution. This implausible mixture can not hold together if it is displaced to Turkey. First of all because now, what the jihadists want is a state of their own, and it seems impossible to proclaim another Caliphate in Turkey. And then for all sorts of cultural reasons. For example – the Arab jihadists have adopted the Wahhabism of their Saudi benefactors. According to this desert ideology, History does not exist. They have therefore destroyed many antique vestiges, allegedly because the Qu’ran forbids idolatry. While this has not caused problems in Ankara, there is no question of allowing them to touch the Turko-Mongol patrimony.

Thus, today Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has to face three simultaneous enemies – not counting Syria ;

- The United States and their Turkish allies, the FETÖ (Fethullah Terrorist Movement) of the Islamist bourgeois Fethullah Gülen;
- The independentist Kurds, and more particularly, the PKK;
- The Sunni state ambitions of the jihadists, particularly Daesh.

While the main interest of Turkey would be, as a priority, to dial down the interior conflicts with the PKK and the FETÖ, Erdoğan’s personal interest would be to find a new ally. He was the ally of the United States when their influence was at its height, and presently hopes to become the ally of Russia, now the leading conventional military power in the world.

This about-face would seem all the more difficult to navigate since his country is a member of the Atlantic Alliance, an organisation that no-one has ever been able to leave. Perhaps at first he could leave the integrated military command, as France did in 1966. At that time, President Charles De Gaulle had to weather an attempted coup d’etat and numerous assassination attempts by the OAS, an organisation which was financed by the CIA [3].

Even supposing that Turkey might manage to handle this evolution, it would still have to deal with two other major problems.

First of all, although we do not know precisely the number of jihadists in Syria and Iraq, we may estimate that they are are now no more than between 50,000 and 200,000. Given that these mercenaries are massively irrecuperable, what is to be done with them? The cease-fire agreement, the text of which is deliberately imprecise, leaves open the possibility of an attack against them in Idleb. This governorate is occupied by a bevy of armed groups who have no links with one another, but are coordinated by NATO from LandCom in Izmir, via certain «humanitarian» NGO’s. Contrary to Daesh, these jihadists have never learned how to organise themselves correctly, and remain dependent on aid from the Atlantic Alliance. This aid comes to them across the Turkish border, which may soon be closed. However, while it is easy to check trucks which travel on well-defined routes, it is not possible to control the passage of men crossing the fields. Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of jihadists could soon flood into Turkey and destabilise it.

Turkey has already begun changing its rhetoric. President Erdoğan accused the United States of continuing to support the jihadists in general and Daesh in particular, suggesting that if he had done the same in the past, it was under the evil influence of Washington. Ankara hopes to make money by handing over the reconstruction of Homs and Aleppo to his construction and public works company. However, it is difficult to imagine how Turkey can escape from its responsibilities, after having paid hundreds of thousands of Syrians to leave their country, after having pillaged the North of Syria, and after having supported the jihadists who have destroyed this country and killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

Turkey’s about-face, if it is to be confirmed in the months to come, will provoke a chain-reaction of consequences. Beginning with the fact that President Erdoğan now presents himself not only as the ally of Russia, but also as the partner of Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in other words, the hero of the Chiite world. The end, therefore, of the mirage of Turkey as leader of the Sunni world, fighting the «heretics» with Saudi money. But the artificial inter-Muslim conflict launched by Washington will not end until Saudi Arabia also lets it go.

The extraordinary shift by Turkey is probably difficult to understand for Westerners, according to whom politics are always public affairs. Leaving to one side the arrest of Turkish officers in a NATO bunker in East Aleppo, two weeks ago, it is easier to understand for those who remember the personal rôle of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the first Chechen war, when he was director of Millî Görüş; a rôle which Moscow has never mentioned, but concerning which the Russian Intelligence services have conserved a quantity of archives. Vladimir Putin has preferred to transform an enemy into an ally, rather than taking him down and having to keep fighting his country. President Bachar el-Assad, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have gladly followed his lead.

Keep in mind:
- After having hoped to conquer Syria, President Erdoğan now finds himself – due only to his own policies – opposed on three fronts – by the United States and Fethullah Gülen’s FETÖ; by the independentist Kurds of the PKK; and by Daesh.
- These three adveraries might once again be joined by Russia, which has in its possession a wealth of information concerning Erdoğan’s personal record. So President Erdoğan has chosen on the contrary to ally himself with Moscow, and may leave the integrated command of NATO.

Translation
Pete Kimberley

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US Aid Package to Israel Incentivizes War

January 4th, 2017 by Grant Smith

On September 14, 2016, the United States and Israel signed a “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) pledging $38 billion in “security assistance” to Israel over ten years. The agreement replaces a similar MOU signed by the Bush administration.

However, the Obama administration claimed two key differences on its MOU web page. First, Israel is not allowed to lobby Congress for hundreds of millions in additional funds from its embassy and US affinity organizations. Second, more of the ten-year allotment must be spent on US military contractors rather than inside Israel. However, “escape clauses” in the written agreement – which the White House never released – make such limitations unlikely. Most worrying, the MOU dangles Israel a blank check if it launches war on its neighbors, while continuing to provide the IDF with the free food and fuel it would need to sustain such a conflict.

MOU spending in Israel vs US if “escape clauses”
are implemented ($ million)

Fiscal Year

Israel

US

Total

Israel %

US %

2019

$1,315.3

$2,484.7

$3,800.0

35%

65%

2020

$1,305.3

$2,494.7

$3,800.0

34%

66%

2021

$1,295.3

$2,504.7

$3,800.0

34%

66%

2022

$1,285.3

$2,514.7

$3,800.0

34%

66%

2023

$1,275.3

$2,524.7

$3,800.0

34%

66%

2024

$1,225.3

$2,574.7

$3,800.0

32%

68%

2025

$950.3

$2,849.7

$3,800.0

25%

75%

2026

$750.3

$3,049.7

$3,800.0

20%

80%

2027

$750.3

$3,049.7

$3,800.0

20%

80%

2028

$500.0

$3,300.0

$3,800.0

13%

87%

Total

$10,652.7

$27,347.3

$38,000.0

28%

72%


“Off shore Procurement (the arrangement under the current MOU through which Israel has been uniquely permitted to spend 26.3 percent of its annual FMF package within Israel on non-U.S. products) and Israel’s use of FMF funds to purchase fuel – means that Israel will spend more funding, as much as $1.2 billion per year, on the advanced military capabilities that only the United States can provide. The acquisition of additional U.S.-produced capabilities and technology provide the best means to ensure Israel preserves its Qualitative Military Edge (QME).”

On December 22, 2016 the Office of the Legal Advisor of the US Department of State released the MOU (PDF) under a Freedom of Information Act request and pressure from a lawsuit challenging the legality of the aid. Detailed annual aid schedules and escape clauses within the MOU appear to refute claims that more of the package must absolutely be spent in the United States, in contrast to a September White House announcement:

The Obama administration cites the discontinuance of “anomalies” such as aid funding Israel’s export-driven arms industry and facilitating Israeli purchases of US commodities, rather than high-tech US military hardware. However, under the new MOU, up to 28% of total funds could be spent in Israel over the life of the agreement. That is because Israel could insist on receiving 100% of missile defense funds – rather than the recommended 50% – in “production memoranda of agreement” for such systems. Further, if only $1.2 billion per year are spent on “advanced military capabilities” from the US as mentioned in the MOU, it would allow Israel’s “purchases” of low value-added US commodities, such as food and fuel, to be $1.2-2.1 billion per year. Put another way, Israel could “gear up” for military conflicts by spending 52-64% of its “aid” allocation sourced from the US on food for the IDF and fuel for ground vehicles and aircraft. Whether US military contractors, which have inconsequential direct Israel revenues, even receive the $1.2 billion is in doubt, because the MOU is silent whether US based subsidiaries of Israeli military contractors, such as IAI North America and Elbit Systems of America, count as “Israeli” or “US” vendors.

That MOU, like its predecessor, continues to permit lavish subsidies for basic supplies – food and fuel – core to the offensive needs of the IDF, rather than the purely high-tech “defensive” infrastructure touted by the White House, is troubling. At its worst, the MOU could incentivize Israel to engage in offensive war, in order to be permitted to lobby congress for funding framed as “key to its survival.” In the MOU, Israel pledges not to seek additional funding “except in exceptional circumstances…such as in the event of a major armed conflict involving Israel.” The MOU is silent on whether Israel is allowed to seek addition funding if it is clearly the aggressor. The only requirement is that it is “jointly agreed by the US administration and Israel” that there are indeed “exceptional circumstances” that demand MOU limits be broken. In the decades spanning Israel’s existence since 1948, military conflicts have been much more the rule than exception.

Grant F. Smith is the director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington and the author of the 2016 book,Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby moves America. On August 8, 2016 he filed a lawsuit in federal court to block US foreign aid to Israel and claw back aid illegally delivered since 1976.

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Inexhaustible Memories of Palestine

January 4th, 2017 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It had been five years since I last ventured into the Occupied Territories, the shrinking Palestinian homelands. I had stood speechless at the misnomered separation wall, essentially a cement corral and a menacing blight on the landscape of the Holy Land.

I had seen the oasis of Jericho become barely more than an imposing hotel where peace conferees and aid agents hide in style from the peace they are unarguably not advancing.

I had witnessed how a simple crossroad, Qalandia, outside Jerusalem had become a fenced-in channel through which Palestinians waiting to be inspected by young Israeli guards are humiliated and delayed, only to sometimes be turned back.

I had noted increasing numbers of women covering themselves in colorless, suffocating garb. (What their message was and to whom it was addressed, I couldn’t understand.)

I had found it embarrassing to revisit families living under occupation who’d earlier spent hours with me remembering martyrs and imprisoned sons, detailing routine violence by an encroaching Jewish population, the armed colonists, and explaining the unpredictability of Israeli military procedures.

I had stood with neighbors gazing helplessly as a family’s dwelling was demolished by a three-story high Israeli bulldozer. I‘d sat in a van with anxious Palestinians waiting to enter their homeland at the Jordan-Israeli border, watching in pained silence while happy travelers from a busload of American students casually tossed a football back and forth while their passports were processed.

Following the 1993 Oslo Accord—we can’t call it a peace treaty — one might have glimpsed the tricolor Palestinian banner posted somewhere on the dry hills between the Allenby Bridge and Abu Dis at the entry to Jerusalem. By 2010, there was no sign of that flag, except perhaps one painted on that foreboding cement wall– on the Palestinian side.

Even with bleak news continually seeping from inside the occupation, even with the risks of reporting on Israel’s suffocation and murders of Palestinians, I had promised a dear friend that I’d revisit her this winter. Laila remains there year after year. A psychologist, her skills are in increasing demand by the traumatized population.

Travelers not Palestinian can reach Ramallah and return to Amman in Jordan in one day. Within two days I’d be able to witness the latest changes, encroachments and destructions, and also pass an evening with Laila, this extraordinarily cheerful and resolute soul.

I never reached Ramallah, not physically. Resting after my arrival from Abu Dhabi at a friend’s home in Amman, I picked up a newly published volume her book club had recently discussed, Return: A Palestinian Memoir, by Ghada Karmi. I knew the author’s earlier work but I‘d not expected this, her second memoir, to be so gripping.

There are numerous memoirs by Palestinians, most notably Out of Place by Edward Said, another by his own sister, one by poet Suheir Hammad, by Randa Jarrar and many others, now extending into three generations. (Most are in English, the majority by women.)

One wonders how many more impassioned, compelling chronicles we need to inform us of the ongoing drama and injustices in their homeland. Yet, opening the pages of this ‘return’ I found myself following Karmi’s chronicle as if it were a crime story. (At one level it is a crime story.) Unlike many narrators of Israeli crimes, this book begins as an account of ‘soft’ crimes, those by Palestinian officials and the United Nations in complicity with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in their charade of possessing power and winning justice.

I myself had witnessed the gradual transformation of returned Palestinian leaders into a corrupt and impotent club of (mainly) men hanging out in Ramallah pretending to lead, but actually serving as front for independence, their putative authority extending no further than the boundary of this city of NGOs, foreign schools and upscale restaurants. I also witnessed diaspora Palestinians returning to Gaza City after 1993, investing in their forthcoming state, “a Mediterranean Hong Kong”, only to depart within a decade, embittered and often more deeply religious, returning to homes in Austin, Texas and Brooklyn, New York.

Here was a well informed doctor and an experienced leader in the Palestinian diaspora coming to Ramallah not as a visiting correspondent, but with a prestigious insider’s ID. Karmi left a medical career in London to take a job as a UN appointee in the PA’s Ministry of Media and Communications. She was eager to join her compatriots, reasoning, “I would be at the heart of things, and would learn the inner workings of the institution that organized life in the Occupied Territories, although they were under Israeli control” …. happy she “would not join the host of marginal researchers, foreign experts and hangers-on who cluttered the numerous non-governmental organizations in the West Bank.” That was 11 years ago, in 2005, when both Gaza and the West Bank were under the new PA. Surely as a Palestinian born in Jerusalem to a well regarded family, a longtime activist for justice and statehood, Karmi had reason to be optimistic.

“What the hell was I thinking of?” is the opening line of the first chapter of Return uttered as her plane was touching down. This trip would be the culmination of many visits to Karmi’s mythical homeland. Her misgivings and evidence of a doomed mission on her first day at work aside, Karmi persisted, perhaps deciding early on that this could at least be the basis of another book, although this memoir appeared in 2015, a full decade after the assignment she describes–surely an indication of the time the author needed to come to terms with what she experienced and to recount them with such candor. (Anyone committed to the Palestinian cause would have difficulty abandoning it, even when facing censure and personal loss.)

With commendable skill, Karmi forges ahead detailing the routine of Palestinian Authority life, recalling word-for-word dialogues among sophisticated dining businessmen, diplomats, drivers and office colleagues that reveal the competition, the conflicts, the jealousies, the pretenses and disillusionment, the jockeying for favors, and just keeping one’s job. And keeping aid flowing.

The malice of Israeli policy is well known, so too the incompetence and duplicity of Palestinian officials. Karmi is not the first to admit the PA is dysfunctional and an utter failure in the quest for statehood. But she exposes the problems with such candor and literary skill that the reader is committed to follow her to the end.

I found myself feeling emotionally involved, without rancor or impatience, in the personalities Karmi introduces me to. Perhaps this is the result of the author’s respect for these people and her genuine curiosity in the issues they discuss, whether with an office worker, or with a co-founder of the Hamas movement who himself comes across to us as more sincere than Mahmoud Abbas or other PA officials. (Even while questioning this Gaza leader’s strategies, Karmi offers a stunningly convincing rationale for the resistance to which he and his compatriots are committed.)

Our author employs the same technique when chronicling her exchanges with her father in Amman. A learned man in religion, history and culture, Hassan Karmi held Britain and the USA largely responsible for the success of the Zionist plan; he argues with his daughter in defense of the heightened role of religion in Arab lives. In her recounted dialogues, the author expresses genuine doubts about the Hamas leader’s or her father’s positions on the subject at hand, while allowing their argument to prevail, at least for the purpose of edifying us, her readers. This literary strategy Karmi applies throughout her memoir, and with striking affect.

Karmi also invokes those visits with her ailing father to record her personal history and to expose problems she finds with Arab family values, exploring the expectations and challenges of women like herself. In this respect, this memoir is not only the story of a professional woman, but also the chronicle of a daughter, a wife and a mother.

As I proceed though this Palestinian memoir, I happen to be reviewing two very different productions related to Palestinian life– one a film, the other a theoretical analysis. The documentary film, Speed Sisters, opening February 2017, is by the Arab-Canadian director Amber Fares. Speed Sisters features five young and feisty Palestinian women who while living under occupation, become car racing enthusiasts–the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East–independent, bold, and free. The women’s indulgence in cars is understandable, given the bleakness of Israeli occupation, but hard to imagine alongside what’s in Karmi’s story. The other production is the ninth book by Steven Salaita whose brilliance and insight were evident even before he was denied a university appointment by a Zionist-influenced discriminatory university dean. Salaita’s Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine is an exploration of shared experiences of Palestinians and Native Americans where the author lays out conceptual ground between American Indian and Indigenous studies and Palestinian studies through concepts of settler colonialism, ‘indigeneity’, and state violence. It’s a groundbreaking study into what should have been obvious decades ago

These three stories may seem at odds with one another. Yet we can see them as continually evolving meanings of what it means to be Palestinian.

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On this date, January 4, in 1960, Albert Camus died in a car crash at a point when he thought his true work had not even begun.  He was 46 years old.  He had already written The Stranger, The Fall, and The Plague, among other works.  He had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Yet he felt that in his writing he had to hide behind a mask that stifled him.  After all these successes, as well as  criticism from the left and right French intelligentsia, he was looking forward to a time when he would be able to speak his own truth without the mask of depersonalization –  to enter a period of création en liberté

He was finding a new voice beyond the prison of a classical form he felt he needed to escape.  In his briefcase was the uncompleted manuscript of that effort, the autobiographical and posthumously published novel, The First Man, written in a new lyrical and powerfully emotional style.  It is a beautiful book.

A true artist, Camus tried to serve both beauty and suffering. Quintessentially a man of his era, he was haunted by the image of the world as a prison, exemplified in his novel, The Plague, the tale of a town cut off from the world by a pestilence, whose residents lack the imagination to foresee.  Even as it happens, they remain oblivious, for they “work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich.”  Bored by their habits, heavily drugging themselves with drink, and watching many movies to distract themselves, they fail to grasp the significance of “the squelchy roundness of a still-warm body” of the plague-bearing rats that emerge from their underworld to die in their streets.  “It was if the earth on which our houses stood were being purged of their secret humors; thrusting up to the surface the abscesses and pus-clots that had been forming in its entrails.”  To them the plague is “unthinkable,” an abstraction, until all their denials are swept aside as the truth emerges from the sewers and their neighbors and families die from the disease.  “Stupidity has a way of getting its way;” the narrator, Dr. Rieux tells us, “as we should see if we were not always so wrapped up in ourselves …. plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”

The Plague is often read as a metaphorical depiction of the German occupation of France during World War II.  While this is true to the extent that Camus had lived through that experience as a member of the French Resistance and writer and editor of the underground newspaper Combat, his artistry makes it a revelatory read for today, especially for citizens of the United States, the greatest purveyor of the plague of violence in the world.  We are all infected with the soul-destroying evil that our leaders have loosed upon the world.

For we live in plague time, and the plague lives in us.  Like the inhabitants of the novel’s French-Algerian city of Oran, the United States is “peopled with sleep walkers,” pseudo-innocents, who are “chiefly aware of what ruffled the normal tenor of their lives or affected their interests.”  That their own government, no matter what political party is in power (both working for deep-state, elite interests led by the organized criminals of the CIA), is the disseminator of a world-wide plague of virulent violence, must be denied and divorced from consensus reality.  These plague-stricken deaths visited on millions around the world – by Clinton, by the Bushes, by Obama, and potentially by Trump – must be denied by diverting attention to partisan politics that elicit outrage after outrage by the various factions and their minions. The true plague, the bedrock of a nation continually waging wars against the world, is avoided. Presently, it is the liberals that are “shocked” that Trump was elected President. These are the same people who went silent for the last eight years as Obama ravaged the world and lied about his cruel policies. Their shock over the Trump victory reeks of bad faith, with most of them supporting Hillary Clinton, Obama’s presumed heir apparent and a neo-liberal war-monger par excellence. Further “shocks” will follow when Trump leaves office and the latest neo-liberal avatar succeeds him; conservatives will resume their harangues and protestations, just as they have done during Obama’s reign. The two war parties will exchange insults as their followers are outraged and the American Empire, built on the disease of violence, will roll along.  The plague will rage on and the main stream corporate media will play along.

For “decent folks must be allowed to sleep at night,” says the character Tarrou sarcastically; he is a man who has lost his ability to “sleep well” since he witnessed a man’s execution where the “bullets make a hole into which you could thrust your fist.”  He awakens to the realization that he “had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of people.”  He loses any peace he had and vows to resist the plague in every way he can.  “For many years I’ve been ashamed,” he says, “mortally ashamed, of having been, even with the best intentions, even at many removes, a murderer in my turn.”

The rats are dying in the streets. They are our rats, diseased by us. They have emerged from the underworld of a nation plagued by its denial.  Unconscious evil bubbles up.  We are an infected people. Worry and irritation – “these are not feelings with which to confront plague.” But we don’t seem ashamed of our complicity in our government’s crimes around the world. Camus knew better. He warned us, “It’s a wearying business being plague-stricken.  But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it. That’s why everybody in the world looks so tired; everyone is more or less sick of plague. But that is why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness.”

Yet the fight against the plague must go on.  Tarrou puts it thus,

“All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, as far possible, not to join forces with the pestilences. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can’t judge if it’s simple, but I know it’s true. You see, I’d heard such quantities of arguments, which very nearly turned my head, and turned other people’s heads enough to make them approve of murder; and I’d come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clear-cut language.  So I resolved always to speak – and to act – quite clearly, as this was the only way of setting myself on the right track.”

Camus, although his life and work were cut short by an absurd automobile accident with an unused train ticket in his pocket, stood with the victims. He was on the right track. He left us a living lesson in integrity in the face of violence.

Refuse it always.  If not, you will be destroyed by your own complicity in evil. You will be plagued by your own hand, was his message to us.

On this date of his death, I wish to celebrate such a man, a great artist who tried to heal and “bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”

That is surely true of the victims.  Let us hope the supporters of the executioners cure themselves.

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.  His website is edwardcurtin.com

 

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The Trump Way

January 4th, 2017 by Leo Panitch

In the runup to November’s presidential election, commentators from across the political spectrum predicted a round defeat for Donald Trump, not least because of the palpable disgust he elicited from elites. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was the recipient of a number of moneyed defections from the Republican Party and soaring capitalist confidence.

Trump’s hostility to free-trade; the threat his xenophobia posed to the maintenance of a cheap and precarious labour force for capital; and his general instability all seemed inimical to the interests of today’s globalized ruling class. Yet since the election, he’s seamlessly assembled a coterie of corporate bosses into his transition team, and markets, after wobbling initially, have stabilized and even risen. Meanwhile, the Left is trying to make sense of his infrastructure proposals and promises to workers.

Arun Gupta spoke to Leo Panitch about Trump’s economic agenda, his relationship to transnational elites, and how neoliberalism’s crisis could mean revitalization for the Left.

Arun Gupta was an editor of the Guardian Newsweekly and founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and author of the upcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food-Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste. He blogs at arunkgupta.com. Leo Panitch is a professor of political science at York University and the co-editor of the Socialist Register. His latest book, with Sam Gindin, is The Making of Global Capitalism.

This interview was first published by Jacobin.

Arun Gupta (AG): Are there positive outcomes from this election? Can we say corporate free-trade deals are no longer a sure thing?

Leo Panitch (LP): Certainly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is over, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is too, I would imagine. That said, I don’t think this spells the end of neoliberal international trade arrangements that allow for the free flow of capital and the protection of that capital when it lands in another state, which is the main point of the free-trade and investment treaties now. And I don’t think we are going to see the introduction of massive import controls that would interrupt the integrated global production network we have.

The Trump administration has an enormous interest in keeping the flow of capital and trade going. I expect we will see a diminution of the labour and environmental side agreements that go with these international arrangements, not that they were worth very much, including those that are a part of NAFTA.

As for any positive dimension to the outcome of the election I am thanking goodness it wasn’t Bernie. Suppose Sanders won the nomination and then was defeated by Trump. I am agnostic on whether Sanders would have won or not. But had he lost after Trump’s campaign was structured not in terms of “Crooked Hillary” but in terms of “Socialist Sanders,” it would have set the Left back a generation at least.

The Clintonites and the whole left-liberal establishment would have piled on, like they did against Jeremy Corbyn after the referendum on Brexit, and would have blamed the Sanders left, and socialists in much more general terms, for opening the way to Trump. It would have been absolutely disastrous for building a genuine alternative.

AG: One of the few positive outcomes seems to be the end of Clintonism, of which Obama was the last gasp.

LP: Yes. I do think this is the nail in the coffin of the Third Way, that is, the social-democratic line of progressive competitiveness, globalization, and the free movement of capital inaugurated by the Clinton administration in the 1990s and followed by the Blairites in the United Kingdom and Europe in general. The Third Way is attached to the promise that through retraining, workers in the United States could compete with Vietnamese women workers earning a dollar a day. I think that’s over. We see the utter hollowing out of the Third Way project. It’s a negative positive, but it’s a positive.

AG: So far Trump’s economic agenda appears to be warmed-over supply-side economics, such as massive tax cuts. But it appears to be neoliberalism with a white nationalist face.

LP: I think that’s right, and it’s not a small thing. Perry Anderson said in 2000 that neoliberalism was the most successful ideology in world history. Even then that needed to be taken with a grain of salt because NAFTA was not all that popular in the United States. In fact, the United States was the most difficult country to get it passed in. It was easier in Canada, after the very close defeat of the opposition to its predecessor bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada that took effect in 1989, but still not easy. NAFTA was the first multilateral free-trade agreement, the model one. One needs to remember it wasn’t brought in on a wave of popularity, especially from the quote-unquote “white working class.”

After NAFTA became law, you had the Zapatista uprising in Mexico in 1994, the revolt of peasants in India against free-trade in 1995, and the Seattle protests in 1999 against the World Trade Organization followed by the wave of anti-globalization protests around the world. In practice, of course, so long as there was no other option inside the state, neoliberalism swept everything before it.

But it was never as popular ideologically among the masses as it was among policy makers, economists, and social-democratic leaders looking for a way out of their dilemma of not being able to reconcile a capitulation to free-market orthodoxy with historical commitments to social welfare and protecting the Western working class from the worst effects of capitalism.

What this moment represents – and it’s been coming for some time since the 2008 global financial crisis – is a delegitimization of the practice of neoliberalism as to whether it can actually deliver the economic goods, rather than its ideological popularity, which aren’t quite the same thing. We’re specifically seeing the delegitimization of the institutions – from mainstream parties to the bodies of the European Union – that attached themselves to neoliberalism. The claim from these institutions that “the nation” can benefit from neoliberal globalization is now all but dead, even as they continue to impose neoliberal austerity measures to keep the old arrangements going.

In this context, there has been a notable shift from protest to politics on the Left in recent years. The focus of protest itself visibly shifted to emphasizing class inequality in the wake of the financial crisis, from Occupy Wall Street to the indignados in Spain. But since then it’s taken a turn, to recognizing that you can’t change the world without taking power and the reentry of the radical left into electoral politics. This could be through new parties, as in Greece and Spain, or through old parties, as in the United Kingdom and the United States, where this shift surprised and roiled the old discredited political establishment of those parties.

But the delegitimization of mainstream institutions also involved a much more powerful rise of the xenophobic right, which claims to represent the national interest in cultural and ethnic terms.

The big question is whether this nationalist political right represents a turn away from transnational capital accumulation. These forces sometimes express themselves as a protector of domestic manufacturing jobs. But I don’t think that’s their main thrust. Their main thrust is to define the nation again in xenophobic terms, which also combines with protection of old cultural values that would restore hierarchies of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Peter Gowan used to say of Sam Gindin’s and my analysis of the American state’s leading role in facilitating and coordinating global capitalism that this might come undone by a nationalist right taking power in Germany. Astonishingly, this happened first in the United States. We need to see if this xenophobic right, which is coming to prominence not only in the Western capitalist world – look at India, Turkey, and the Philippines – will oppose being open to and involved in capital accumulation on a global scale. Or we could see it start constructing a continuation of global capital accumulation that is deliberately asymmetric in terms of closing the mobility of labour.

That’s another important question: Is closing off international labour mobility feasible amid economic globalization and capital mobility? I think that it could be feasible, tragically. It won’t just be trickle-down economics, though that will be a large part of it. It may entail “brown” infrastructure capitalism, meaning brownshirts.

AG: Trump is talking about a Keynesian-style proposal, a trillion-dollar infrastructure program. But it’s not a traditional program in which the government funds it directly. He is talking about tax breaks to incentivize the building.

LP: I think it could be a really big infrastructure program. Yes, it will probably involve public-private partnerships (PPPs), and massive taxes, subsidies, and pork-barrel spending for the construction companies involved. After all Trump is a developer, and that industry often forms the main base of the Republican Party across the country. Their modus operandi is to accumulate at public expense while ideologically biting the hand that feeds them. The state currently funds infrastructure through private construction companies rather than direct public employment.

PPPs will likely entail the floating of corporate debt on an even more massive scale than we are already seeing, on the premise that the state will underwrite it. It will cost more money by virtue of being at higher rate of interest than what Treasury bills can be floated at to cover a federal budget deficit.

That’s also part of the inegalitarian nature of this. Insofar as it’s underwritten by a right-wing government, and as long as interest rates don’t shoot through the roof, the U.S. Treasury can borrow at close to zero per cent, and these corporations can borrow at 3 per cent or more. And the government will subsidize that in various ways, such as tax forgiveness and even covering private interest payments.

But it could involve mass employment on a big scale. We need to remember Trump is a construction capitalist, a developer. He hires construction companies, and I think we are going to see that applied in a significant way.

AG: Trump’s infrastructure ideas essentially involve the material moving economy, building roads, ports, rails, bridges, airports, so it does integrate with transnational capital and goods. So do you think it could actually work?

LP: Well, what does that mean, work? It could involve putting workers dispossessed of their old jobs in manufacturing, or those who used to be employed by the state itself, to work building bridges and paving highways. And that involves a hell of a lot of movement of people around and disruption of communities. If Trump expels three million more Mexican immigrants, lots of whom work in construction, will his white working-class supporters take these jobs? Heck, they may be needed to work on golf courses, mowing the grass in Palm Beach or Palm Springs.

The logic in this infrastructure promise combined with a xenophobic threat to foreign labour is this: where the only option before for laid-off workers in Ohio was McDonald’s or Walmart, maybe now they’ll take a job doing construction, as labourers, and that would involve a lot more internal labour mobility within the United States for these workers.

This may end up involving more than old trickle-down economics, where the state offers the wealthy tax breaks in the hope they will invest without any state guidance to what they invest in, or whether to invest at all. It’s so rational to have massive state-led investment. Without our side coming to power, it will never be anything other than a means of facilitating capital accumulation, of course. Can this type of investment be done without direct state employment and the direct state movement of labour? I don’t know.

As for the international context for the rise of this new right, will we see states, led by the American state, reintroduce import controls, capital controls, and so on? I am not so sure. We don’t see bourgeoisies who want to accumulate only within their own territory. Can you keep globalization going via the cooperation of right-wing governments that are anti-immigration?

Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, articulates this as, “We are not against any culture, we just believe in cultural apartheid. They belong over there and we belong here.” Can we have an asymmetric globalization that keeps capital accumulation going but which closes off labour mobility, certainly that closes off economic and political refugees, which a lot of Latinos in the United States are.

If you look at the integration of China into American-led global capitalism, it notably does not involve the international movement of labour. Although it has involved huge migration of labour inside China, there aren’t the hordes of Chinese migrants that people were made so afraid of in the imperialist phase beginning in the late nineteenth century. So long as the Chinese capital flows can keep coming in, so long as Walmart can keep its production chains going, whether with China or other countries in East Asia, it won’t mean the revival of the American-based manufacturing industry.

But it might mean the continuation of American-led global capitalism on xenophobic nationalist grounds. Remember capitalist globalization never bypassed the nation-state. The nation-state was always attached to the informal American empire and capitalist globalization. We are in a new conjuncture that will try to keep capitalist globalization going while denying international mobility for the reserve armies of the working classes even as mobility is preserved for the professional and business classes.

AG: Is it possible to move the Democratic Party more toward the Sanders and Warren wing, or democratic socialism to become the left wing of capitalist politics within the United States?

LP: Starting from the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, the Corbyn example is an extremely positive phenomenon that indicates possibilities for similar developments in the U.S. Democratic Party. That said, it’s clear the insurgency behind Corbyn won’t succeed without a recalibration of what the Labour Party is organizationally. That would involve a split from the party of those members of parliament whose first loyalty is to NATO, the monarchy, the current institutions of the British state, and the practice of class harmony with the financial capitalists in the City of London.

More fundamental, the insurgency has to remake Labour’s apparatus outside parliament into a vehicle for transforming the party branches into centers of working-class life once again. They would need to engage in organization, education, and class formation on a scale not seen in a long time, indeed perhaps never seen in that party in much of the country.

In the case of the Democrats, the possibility of organizational and ideological recalibration runs up against the loyalty of party leaders to the existing state and their deep links to Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the military-industrial complex. But there is an additional obstacle. The Democratic Party’s organizational structure is so diffuse and its links to the working class, or at least the active elements of it, are much less organic than is the case with the Labour Party. For Labour, the connections to the working class has always gone beyond the links of the political leadership to the union bureaucracy.

It’s a harder thing to change the Democratic Party from a donkey into a gazelle and it’s bloody hard already in the Labour Party. In my view that could only occur with a split and a fundamental reorganization of what that party is. There will be an attempt to recalibrate the Democratic Party. There is no stopping this, so let’s see what happens.

More than that, given the ecological crisis as well as the capitalist crisis, this recalibration needs to actively involve working-class people in imagining and developing capacities for alternative forms of production and consumption in their own communities as well as nationally and eventually internationally, and showing that this can be done only through democratic economic planning.

I really think this has to involve the construction of new socialist parties with this central to their agenda, but they won’t come out of nowhere. They will come out of the reconstitution of forces inside and outside of old parties. The actual organizational form it will take right now is hard to predict, but I do think there is a real opening which we already are seeing with the shift from protest to politics.

AG: What about the role of organized labour and the timidity most labour leaders are showing thus far toward Trump?

LP: I think organized labour leaders will throw themselves heavily behind the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party, the wing critical of Wall Street. Labour leaders may try to pull working people behind someone like Kamala Harris, the woman of color just elected U.S. senator from California, as the standard-bearer.

Perhaps such Democrats will not simply use unions in a purely instrumentalist way and will offer real labour protections and reforms. Plus, they will adopt the line of Democratic Party economic guru Larry Summers that we need fiscal deficits and direct public spending on massive infrastructure. To some extent Hillary Clinton adopted this in her campaign, but her ties to the rich and Wall Street made it much more difficult for her to be credible.

AG: The Democrats, because they’re spineless, may back Trump’s infrastructure jobs program. If it’s really a trillion dollars, that could boost the economy and help Trump consolidate the control he needs to carry out his overt white nationalist agenda. It’s not that the Democrats would support Trump’s ethnic-cleansing policies, but by helping him create jobs, Trump gets all the credit and could use the political capital to implement mass deportations and even a Muslim registry.

LP: Well, such an infrastructure program will be done with the type of labour rights, or rather lack thereof, that you describe so well in your great research on Walmart. Insofar as an infrastructure program involves workers moving from Akron, Ohio to build a bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, or to Palm Springs, California, to water a golf course, this is not an attractive option for workers.

I fear the Democratic Party and unions will line up behind a soft-left globalization and more progressive domestic policy while leaving an organizational structure intact that continues to demobilize the working class rather than organize them as a class-conscious force.

I think this is what Sanders says needs to be changed. But what kind of contestation will it involve, and will it be possible within the frame of the Democratic Party to build people’s capacities in the ways that are needed? Sooner or later there will have to be a break with Democrats. The break has to be not just from the party as a vehicle for the union alliance with the ruling classes and the policies of the old class alliance that incorporates large parts of Wall Street, but from the anti-socialist substance of it.

The Democratic Party of the Clintons and Obama redefined equality in aspirational identity politics terms that ostensibly promotes upward mobility for a relatively small number of women, blacks, Latinos, LGBTs. But inevitably even that is limited mobility.

AG: We have an organized labour that doesn’t organize labour in that class society.

LP: Quite right, that’s the main problem. But they haven’t been helped much, you have to admit, by successive Democratic presidents. They did not push legislation to make organizing any easier, even on the unions’ limited terms. Labour leaders will now demand this in more vociferous terms than before, and will really expect they would get it from a future Democratic president and Congress. But in the meantime, things are going to go very badly for the unions once Trump fills the two open positions on the National Labor Relations Board and the Supreme Court seat.

AG: After Trump was elected, Doug Henwood joked that the bourgeoisie have lost control. It seems there are two ways of reading 2016. I’ve been saying this was America’s most Marxist election ever. Pure ideology against pure material force.

LP: In a way that’s very right. Nevertheless…

AG: I was surprised by how the markets went up after Trump’s victory because speculators don’t like uncertainty and instability, which are the hallmarks of Trumpism.

LP: Yeah, that’s why I say “nevertheless.” If he starts imposing import controls and capital controls, then the U.S. bourgeoisie as a leading global class force will have lost. I think that’s extremely unlikely. There might be some marginal measures around imposing tariffs, but it would not amount to anything significant.

AG: How about labeling China a currency manipulator?

LP: Well that’s his deal-making lingo. Big deal. We’ve heard that a million times. The more significant question is whether a Trump administration goes so far as to interrupt global value chains. The rhetoric itself may be a means of keeping them going. It would be a profound disruption, much, much greater than what happened in the interwar period, what the British Empire engaged in when it introduced import controls and broke with free-trade in 1931. It would be immensely more disruptive.

Capitalists, I think, will kiss the asses of an authoritarian, repressive Trump administration in order to keep that global capitalism going. That’s the scary thing. They may abandon all their liberal principles in order to keep global accumulation going.

AG: If those liberal principles are bad for profits, then of course.

LP: Yes and no. Insofar as Trump’s economic program involves mobilizing large parts of the university-technology apparatus behind infrastructure projects, explicit racism, antisemitism, and sexism will be a problem. Then the Right may close down dissent and organization, which is what we especially need to fear.

I have to admit I found myself surprised that I was increasingly anxious, in the last few weeks of the election, that Hillary Clinton might not be president. I was so anxious mainly because I feared there might be a closure of political space under Trump. In a context where a Trump administration underwrites with greater and more arbitrary coercive powers the Blue Lives Matter forces against the Black Lives Matter movement, this could spill over into a generalized repression of dissent, and repression of class-oriented mobilizations as well.

That said, freedom of assembly is not going to be easily foreclosed, of course. It’s too deeply entrenched legally and culturally. Freedom of speech is even more difficult to foreclose because of the private media and communications corporations that accumulate capital through it. That’s not to say the capitalists who own and control the media won’t kowtow to Trump, but there is a limit as to how far the state can go in closing off dissent.

If political space stays open, then we may see a sudden upsurge of radical political activity. We may also see real progress toward the kind of long-term new socialist organization-building that is so necessary. There are manifold arenas for discussion, including amazing communications channels, and some new organizational ones – though they are less developed. If the political space remains open, will a more cohesive class-focused and class-rooted radical left in the United States be able to take advantage of this? Who knows? But there is certainly plenty of hunger and some real potential for this.

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Good News: Washington Frozen Out of Syria Peace Plan

January 4th, 2017 by Rep. Ron Paul

As the US mainstream media obsessed last week about Russia’s supposed “hacking” of the US elections and President Obama’s final round of Russia sanctions in response, something very important was taking place under the media radar. As a result of a meeting between foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey last month, a ceasefire in Syria has been worked out and is being implemented. So far it appears to be holding, and after nearly six years of horrible warfare the people of Syria are finally facing the possibility of rebuilding their lives.

What is so important about this particular ceasefire? It was planned, agreed to, and implemented without the participation of the United States Government.

In fact it was frustration with Washington’s refusal to separate its “moderates” from terrorist groups and its continued insistence on regime change for the Syrian government that led the three countries to pursue a solution on their own for Syria. They also included the Syrian government and much of the opposition in the agreement, which the US government has been unwilling to do.

We have been told all along by the neocons and “humanitarian interventionists” that the United States must take a central role in every world crisis or nothing will ever be solved. We are the “indispensable nation,” they say, and without our involvement the world will collapse. Our credibility is on the line, they claim, and if we don’t step up no one will. All this is untrue, as we have seen last week.

The fact is, it is often US involvement in “solving” these crises that actually perpetuates them. Consider the 60-plus year state of war between North and South Korea. Has US intervention done anything to solve the problem? How about our decades of meddling in the Israel-Palestine dispute? Are we any closer to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians despite the billions we have spent bribing and interfering?

Non-intervention in the affairs of others does not damage US credibility overseas. It is US meddling, bombing, droning, and regime-changing that damages our credibility overseas. US obstruction in Syria kept the war going. As the Syrians and Russians were liberating east Aleppo from its four year siege by al-Qaeda, the Obama Administration was demanding a ceasefire. As Syrians began to move back into their homes in east Aleppo, the State Department continued to tell us that the Russians and Syrian government were slaughtering civilians for the fun of it.

So why all the media attention on unproven accusations of Russian hacking and President Obama’s predictable, yet meaningless response? The mainstream media does the bidding of Washington’s interventionists and they are desperate to divert attention from what may prove to be the beginning of the end of Syria’s long nightmare. They don’t want Americans to know that the rest of the world can solve its own problems without the US global policemen in the center of the action. When it is finally understood that we don’t need to be involved for crises to be solved overseas, the neocons will lose. Let’s hope that happens soon!

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A memo from the Department of Homeland Security, which was recently reviewed by Reuters, suggest that the Trump administration plans to hit the ground running on the construction of that U.S.-Mexico border wall when they move into the White House later this month.  The memo apparently summarized a meeting held between DHS officials and Trump’s transition team on December 5th in which requests were made for an assessment of “all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.”

In a wide-ranging request for documents and analysis, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security last month to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.

The requests were made in a Dec. 5 meeting between Trump’s transition team and Department of Homeland Security officials, according to an internal agency memo reviewed by Reuters. The document offers a glimpse into the president-elect’s strategy for securing the U.S. borders and reversing polices put in place by the Obama administration.

The Trump transition team also allegedly took aim at Obama’s executive actions, requesting “copies of every executive order and directive sent to immigration agents since Obama took office in 2009.”

The transition team also asked for copies of every executive order and directive sent to immigration agents since Obama took office in 2009, according to the memo summarizing the meeting.

Trump has said he intends to undo Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including a 2012 order to allow children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to remain in the country on temporary authorizations that allow them to attend college and work.

The program, known as DACA, collected information including participants’ addresses that could theoretically be used to locate and deport them if the policy is reversed. Another request of the transition team was for information about whether any migrant records have been changed for any reason, including for civil rights or civil liberties concerns, according to the internal memo seen by Reuters.

Trump

Among other immigration-related questions, the Trump transition team also hinted at expanding an aerial surveillance program and growing detention capacity for captured illegal immigrants.

One program the transition team asked about, according to the email summary, was Operation Phalanx, an aerial surveillance program that authorizes 1,200 Army National Guard airmen to monitor the southern border for drug trafficking and illegal migration.

The program once deployed 6,000 airmen under President George W. Bush but was downsized by Barack Obama, a move blasted by some conservatives who argue the surveillance is vital to border security.

The team also asked about the department’s capacity for expanding immigrant detention and about an aerial surveillance program that was scaled back by the Obama administration but remains popular with immigration hardliners. And it asked whether federal workers have altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties.

Which sent two of the largest publicly-traded operators of private detention centers soaring even higher.

Immigration

Now, it seems the only question left to answer is if/how Mexico will pay for the “f**king wall”?  Cash or credit, Mr. Fox?

 

 

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Late on the evening of December 23, when the attention of the public was fixed on the consumerist excesses of the holiday season, President Obama signed into law the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Like the other NDAAs that President Obama signed into law during his administration, this one further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state.

Buried deep in the provisions of the NDAA was language from a bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman ostensibly to protect the public from the effects of “foreign propaganda.” As previously reported by Black Agenda Report, the bill, originally introduced last March, was passed by the Senate on December 8 as the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act”and then inserted into the NDAA.

According to Senator Portman, the intent of the law is to “…improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.”

For Senator Portman, the U.S. is the innocent victim of ruthless propaganda efforts on the part of foreign governments to slander and discredit the altruistic objectives of U.S. global activities.

In the face of the Neo-McCarthyism represented by this legislation and the many other repressive moves of the Obama administration to curtail speech and control information — from the increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers — one would reasonably assume that forces on the left would vigorously oppose the normalization of authoritarianism, especially in this period of heightened concerns about neo-fascism.

Unfortunately, the petit-bourgeois “latte left” along with their liberal allies have been in full collaboration with the state for the past eight years, with the predictable result that no such alarm was issued, nor has any critique or even debate been forthcoming.

So there has been very little “mainstream” liberal/left discussion around the fact that, as the political blog Zero Hedge noted, “long before ‘fake news’ became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label ‘fake news.’ ”

As Black Agenda Report publisher Glen Ford framed it, “When the narrative at the heart of a system of rule falls apart, when the flow of history runs counter to the story told by those in power, then we know the entire edifice is crumbling under the weight of its own contradictions. The political crisis arrives when the people sense that the prevailing order is built on a foundation of oppressions and lies. The rulers panic, scrambling to reweave the matrix of fables and myths that justify their waning supremacy. At such points in history, the truth is up for grabs – and a change of regime is in the offing.”

The dangerous and cynical moves by the Clinton campaign during the presidential campaign to paint Trump as an agent of a foreign government in order to project Hillary as the real, tough alternative, has morphed into a commonsense narrative that has a dual purpose.

First, it is meant to weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm. The liberal, transnational financial and corporate rulers are especially concerned by Trump’s economic and social base that is demanding an alteration of the neoliberal order in favor of small, mid-size and large business interests still dependent on the U.S. domestic market. They see this demand as a threat to the neoliberal logic that has been largely unquestioned in the West over the last three decades.

Secondly, by narrowing the scope of acceptable political discourse in relation to U.S. global strategies that are heavily dependent on militarism and the strategic commitment to suppress regional capitalist rivals, the neocons and liberal interventionists can expect to avoid mass opposition to continued imperialist adventures. Similar to the McCarthyite period when the ideological commitment to containment abroad required the destruction of any domestic opposition, the neo-McCarthyism of today is geared toward ideological conformity. In this sense, Trumpism is becoming a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus.

The potential danger of the unfolding order is not lost on those of us who take a consistent oppositional stance to the bi-partisan games being played on the people. The set-up piece that ran in the Washington Post that supposedly identified news outlets that were supposed to be involved in questionable or outright “fake news” included a number of outlets to which I contribute, including Counterpunch and the only all-black outlet on the list, Black Agenda Report.

When you have supposedly respectable liberal outlets pushing this kind of madness, we are not expecting much support from liberals or even left forces when the repressive knives are sharpened.

The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner has even suggested that Trump is guilty of treasonbecause of what he calls the President-elect’s “dalliance” with Vladimir Putin.

With the left’s attention fixed on Trump and its fear of the “new” authoritarianism that he is supposed to introduce, it has failed to confront or even be aware of the fact that the foundation for any kind of “neo-fascism” that might emerge in the U.S. was constructed over the last 15 years of the combined Bush and Obama administrations.

But even more dangerous for authentic oppositional forces in the U.S., collaboration from the left with the new McCarthyism is providing an opening for the isolation and repression of those of us who represent and are part of oppressed communities/peoples who were going to have to fight no matter who would have been elected.

This is not a new situation for us. When the repressive apparatus of the state focused on radical black organizations like the National Negro Congress and Civil Rights Congress, and on such individuals as Paul Robeson, W.E. B. Dubois, William Patterson and Claudia Jones, to the systematic assault on the radical Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, we were largely required to fend for ourselves against the state after being abandoned by white liberals and significant numbers of white leftists. I fully expect that to happen again.

Neo-fascism is not a new existential phenomenon for us or for people around the world who have suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project. So save your hysterical concerns about Trump for others and either commit yourself to building a revolutionary movement or get out of the way.

Ajamu Baraka was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. His latest publications include contributions to Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (Counterpunch Books, 2014), Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA (HarperCollins, 2014) and Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral ( CODESRIA, 2013). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com

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President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, will leave office in a few weeks with the dubious honor of having sold more weapons than any other American president since World War II. And experts say President-Elect Donald Trump will most likely sell even more.

Most of the arms deals totaling over $200 billion in the period from 2008 to 2015 have ended up in the Middle East, according to a Congressional Research Service reportpublished in December. The report, produced by the non-partisan government agency attached to the Library of Congress, breaks down the weapons sold which included surface-to-air missiles, tanks, and supersonic combat aircraft.

Focusing on arms deals to developing nations, the extensive report found that Saudi Arabia was the top arms importer with deals worth around $94 billion from 2008-2015. Under Obama the overall sales, pending delivery of equipment and specialised training for troops, to Saudi Arabia alone has ballooned to $115 billion.

Saudi Arabia is spearheading a coalition of Arab nations in a bombing campaign closing in on two years against the insurgent Houthi militias in Yemen, who took over the capital Sanaa in September 2014. The United States has sent special operations forces to assist the Arab coalition in a grinding war that has seen over 10000 killed,2.2 million displaced and nearly half a million children on the brink of famine from the ensuing crisis.

Earlier this month, the United States decided to halt future sales of precision-guided munitions, which are supposed to hit specific targets and minimize collateral damage, to the Gulf kingdom citing civilian deaths in Yemen. But experts are skeptical this will deter Saudi Arabia from continuing to fuel its regional proxy wars.

“Frankly it was a really minor and temporary punishment. I don’t view it as a major consequence and it is more symbolic than anything,” said Cole Bockenfeld, deputy director of policy at Project on Middle East Democracy.

He pointed to the US partially suspending military aid to Egypt after the military overthrew the unpopular government in July 2013 as another example of the lack of political will of the Obama administration to rock relations with its allies. The Congressional report, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2008-2015, noted that Egypt was the biggest recipient of arms deliveries last year worth $5.3 billion.

Although the highly lucrative global market for arms dipped to around $80 billion in 2015 compared to $89 billion in 2014, the US still ranked first in weapons sales with $40 billion in inked deals.

“What’s changed during the Obama administration is that increasing arms sales has become a standardized component of diplomacy at all levels of government, not just in the defense department,” Bockenfeld told Motherboard. “For US diplomats to become the salesmen, that has been a new element which really increased exports.”

Russia remains the United States’ closest competitor with around 20 percent share of the market. Its most important client is India, which was the second largest arms importer behind Saudi Arabia at $34 billion over a period of seven years, as well as Latin American countries such as Venezuela.

Under Putin, Russia has ramped up its military footprint in the Middle East by supporting Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria, driving the Qatari and Saudi-backed rebels out of Aleppo earlier this month with multiple civilian casualties. It has been accused of using incendiary weapons such as TOS1A and BETAB-500 that burn their victims and have flattened whole areas of eastern Aleppo.

As the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran involving Syria and Yemen continue to devastate the region, there is hardly any sign of demilitarization. Qatar alone signed deals for more than $17 billion last year and has vowed to continue supporting the battered rebels, even if president elect Donald Trump pulls back military support for them.

Trump recently lambasted defense firm Lockheed Martin for their $400 billion F-35 fighter jet program with the Pentagon as ‘out of control’ spending on Twitter, but Bockenfeld sees no major change in policy from the outgoing Obama administration.

“I do expect US arms exports to increase under Trump,” he said. “I don’t see the use of arms sales as leverage as very likely in the next administration.”

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“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society…is the true ruling power…we are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed…it is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

Thus wrote Edward Bernays in his book Propaganda, the nephew of Sigmund Freud and the father of modern propaganda, at whose suggestion, the United States’ War Department, at the time called the National Military Establishment, was renamed the Department of Defence in 1949.

In the ‘age of the corporate media’, where 90 percent of the American media is owned by six corporations — General Electric, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS — down from 50 back in 1983, it is not difficult to understand how what the majority of the ‘public see and doesn’t see’ depends and is controlled by the agenda of a small number of corporations and ultimately, by those who control them. This is especially the case as it is also the ‘age of the repeater journalists’. Where you have the majority of mainstream journalists worldwide simply ‘repeating the narrative’ portrayed in the powerful quarters of the world media, namely the Western (American) media, and the information they receive from the biggest news agencies (Western mostly), instead of doing their job — ‘questioning what happened’ and ‘investigating how’ it did.

When such impervious power rests in the hands of a handful of individuals, you will of course have a select number of stories being regularly reported by the media. And some stories, never. So what were some of those stories worthy of being covered in the news that were not?

Well one of them is related to the story perhaps most covered in the world media — the US elections. Or rather one who contested the elections — Hillary Rodham Clinton. Throughout 2016, as she was campaigning to become the next US President, Wikileaks constantly proved to be a thorn in her side. But the revelations made public by Wikileaks have largely gone unreported in the mainstream press.

And one of the main reasons is because they involved the media itself. For example, according to Wikileaks, 65 mainstream reporters were working “hand-in-glove with the Hillary Clinton campaign to rig the US elections” (Wikileaks exposes secret list of 65 mainstream media reporters who are part of the Clinton mafia, The Duran, October 28, 2016).

And for those who find it hard to believe that she, or the Democratic Party itself, would dare to do something so un-democratic, 20,000 e-mails released by Wikileaks also showed how the Democratic Party worked against Bernie Sanders and “derailed his campaign” (Wikileaks Proves Primary Was Rigged: DNC Undermined Democracy, The Observer, July 22, 2016). Despite the near media blackout, the incident was so scandalous that the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was quietly forced to step down from her position.

The leaks also revealed that CNN’s political commentator Donna Brazile had sent Presidential Debate questions to Ms. Clinton prior to the debate which, again, forced CNN to drop her. But, perhaps the most important revelations came during an interview of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, by John Pilger, when he said that Hillary Clinton had urged John Podesta, the then advisor to Barack Obama, to “bring pressure” on Qatar and Saudi Arabia, “which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Islamic State, IS, ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups”.

He further said, “All serious analysts know, and even the US government has agreed, that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIS and funding ISIS… But that email says that it is the government of Saudi Arabia, and the government of Qatar that have been funding ISIS.” In the same vein, he added that what is most ironic is that some of the biggest donors to the Clinton campaign also happen to be the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The next story which has criminally gone underreported also involves the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is the war being waged ‘on’ Yemen. Journalist Rose Delaney wrote on September 2, 2016, for the Inter Press Service that “The sheer gravity of Yemen’s conflict should subsequently ignite a deafening global cry for justice, however, as long as the public are ‘strategically’ kept in the dark, little change can realistically be implemented.”

I have already written a piece highlighting the scale of the violence taking place in Yemen in a previous article titled ‘The Tragedy in Yemen’ published by The Daily Star on August 29, 2016. The article also includes facts and figures which show the massive amounts of weaponry being supplied by the US and the UK to Saudi Arabia that have been used on the Yemeni people. But what I would like to highlight now is the fact that no Saudi airstrikes would be possible without the help of the US and UK as Saudi Arabia has no means to refuel its own warplanes (also US and British manufactured) mid-air. Once you understand how damaging it would be for the US to have people learn about what is really going on in Yemen, it is not difficult to unravel why the media has so blatantly failed to cover it.

And while underreporting is what is most often used to shape public perception, one which is even more effective, is misdirecting the public through false reporting. And 2016 revealed further, the extent of the misconception created in the public mind by the media, in regards to the Syrian crisis.

And this relates to another topic that has gone underreported — the mountain of evidence that has come out in 2016 showing that the Syrian crisis, rather than being a civil war, is a proxy war being waged against Syria by outside forces. Some of these ‘evidences’ were presented at the United Nations on December 9 by activist Sara Flounders, lawyer and human rights and peace activist Donna Nassor, Member of the Coordinating Committee for the Hands Off Syria and Organisation Secretary of US Peace Council Dr. Bahman Azad, and independent Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett, ‘who have all visited Syria’ themselves, including Aleppo, recently.

At the conference, Bartlett, who has visited Syria six times in the past two years and has spoken with Syrians in Arabic, in agreement with the other panellists said, “whatever you hear in the corporate media is exactly the opposite of reality [of what is happening in Syria]… our media and the Gulf media has made Syria out to be sectarian which is something the Syrians themselves have denied…it’s a tool to make people confused…believe it’s Sunnis against Bashar al-Assad.”

When the truth, according to the panellists, was that people in Syria overwhelmingly support the government and the army. And they “are tired of the lies and are very well aware of the lies that our [Western mainstream] media and human rights groups are reporting”.

The last, but not least, important topic that has not been reported in the mainstream press has been the collapse of public confidence in the mainstream media. People across the world, as more and more stories are underreported or falsely reported by the media, have shown, more than ever in 2016, that they have lost all faith in the sincerity of the mainstream press to be truthful and unbiased.

Hence, we have had organisations such as Wikileaks filling the vacuum created by the absence of an unbiased press, attracting more and more people to look towards it for information. And although it is a real shame that these stories and so many others have gone unreported in 2016, what 2016 has taught us is that they can no longer be blacked out completely, largely because of organisations such as Wikileaks and others. And that, dear reader, is the biggest story of 2016, regardless of whether it was reported, or not.

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US Police Killed More than 1,150 in 2016

January 4th, 2017 by Gabriel Black

At least 1,152 people were killed by police in the United States in 2016 according to the tracking site killedbypolice.net. While the total number of killings documented is slightly down from 2015’s total of 1,208, police continued to kill at the rate of three people every day.

The number of people killed by police every year in the United States far dwarfs those killed by police in every other major advanced capitalist country. In 2015, for example, US cops killed 100 times more people than German police, despite the US having only about four times Germany’s population. Meanwhile in the UK only 14 people were killed by police in 2014.

Paul Hirschfield, a sociologist at Rutgers University, found that the US police shot and killed at a ratio of 3.42 people per million inhabitants per year. In contrast, Denmark had a ratio of 0.187; France, 0.17; Sweden, 0.133; Portugal, 0.125; Germany, 0.09; Norway, 0.06; Netherlands, 0.06; Finland, 0.034; and England and Wales, 0.016.

The overwhelming and often deadly violence meted out by American police is, among other things, an expression of the brutal and tense state of class relations in the US. Large sections of the working class live in or near poverty with basic needs like clean water, nutritious food, a job, healthcare, a good place to live and an education beyond reach.

The state, in turn, has responded with brute force, cutting access to basic social services and spending billions of dollars upgrading and militarizing the nation’s police force. This has included the mobilization of the National Guard and the imposition of states of emergencies to quell protests against police violence in recent years.

The United States is a country where fraud, bribery, deception and outright theft, all on a massive scale, are standard business practices for the major banks and corporations. Meanwhile the working class is held to an entirely different standard, in which execution without trial by a police officer is an increasingly common punishment for the smallest of misdemeanors.

The end of the year is an opportunity to assess this mass loss of life and clarify the political issues at stake in this state sanctioned murder.

According to the Washington Post, which runs its own database on the amount of people shot and killed by police (not just killed), 24 percent of the victims of police shootings and killings were black in 2016. That is 232 people out of 957 total shot and killed. In 2016 African Americans were shot at a rate double their percentage share of the total population.

While the media discussion around police killings and the protests by the Black Lives Matter organization has focused on the disproportionate rate at which blacks are killed by police, the largest share, 48 percent, are white.

As the World Socialist Web S ite has emphasized, “Blacks are killed by police at a much higher rate than their proportion in the population, an indication that racism plays a significant role, but the number of white victims demonstrates that class, not race, is the more fundamental issue.”

The exclusive focus on race by the pseudo left and the Democratic Party establishment conceals the most fundamental issue, that of class.

While the Post does not track the class of those killed going through each killing, though, case-by-case, one would be hard pressed to find people from the upper classes, let alone better off sections of workers and professionals, regardless of the color of their skin. Those who are killed are often from the lowest sections of the working class, and often its most vulnerable layers: the unemployed, the mentally ill, those living in the poorest neighborhoods, both rural and urban, and the homeless.

For example, of the 957 killed, 240 had clear discernible signs of mental illness—that is, 25 percent of the victims.

Of the victims, 441 were not armed with a gun, 46 percent of those killed. One-hundred seventy people were armed with a knife. And, 44 had a toy weapon of some kind. Forty-seven were neither armed nor driving a car in a way the police deemed dangerous.

Sixty-five were driving cars, causing the police to categorize the vehicle as a weapon. However, in many instances there is no evidence to show that a vehicle acted as a weapon. For example, Christian Redwine, a 17-year-old white male, was shot after a car-chase in which Redwine crashed. He was unarmed and was suspected of stealing the vehicle.

Another notable fact is that 329 of the victims were fleeing, about 34 percent of the victims.

These cumulative statistics show the willingness of police to quickly kill people who pose little to no threat to them.

Police killings should be considered in the broader context of punishment for the most vulnerable and impoverished. In the United States, over 2 million people are in federal or state prisons. Furthermore, 4.75 million are on probation or parole. This means that about 7 million people, 3 percent of the adult population, have been or are in prison.

As in the case of police killings, many of these people have been locked up for shoplifting, grand theft auto and robbery. Many others are incarcerated for drug possession and use.

While millions of destitute and hopeless people in the US are brutally punished for relatively minor infractions, the real criminals, those in the Bush and Obama administrations responsible for wars of aggression that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands in the Middle East, as well as the bankers who crashed the economy in 2008, have reaped the benefits of their much more serious crimes.

No amount of police training, community engagement or racial bias classes will end police killings. The deaths are borne out of much more fundamental political and economic realities than what this or that police officer feels and thinks. In 2017, amidst a worsening political and economic crisis, the state will be even more ready to kill, harass and imprison the poorest section of the population.

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We live in times where the non-working rent collectors and speculators have emerged as the richest billionaires.

As 2017 begins and we flounder in our mad rush to force all of India into a digital economy overnight, it is worth pausing and reflecting on what the digital economy is, who controls the platforms and lines as well as some basic concepts about money and technology which have moulded our lives and freedoms, based on patented systems that are failing the people of “West”. Obsolete systems are moulding our patterns of work and our wellbeing — as a very large country, and as an ancient civilisation — into a cast that is observably too small.

We live in times where the non-working rent collectors and speculators have emerged as the richest billionaires. Meanwhile, the hard working honest people, like farmers, workers in self-organised economies (mistakenly called unorganised and informal) are not just being pushed into deep poverty, they are, in fact, being criminalised by labelling their self-organised economic systems as “black”. The Swadeshi economy is being labelled as the “shadow economy”.

“Short term pain for long term gain” has become the slogan for the dictated transition to a digital economy. But the pain is not just short term, the pain of millions of honest Indians who contribute to a truthful economy, wasting days on end, sacrificing their work, their livelihoods, their means of living, to standing at ATMs and juggling denominations and news reports. In rural India daily mile-long walks to banks have become commonplace, whereas rural communities would interact with the “financial world” a handful of times annually.

In Venezuela — where the exact same circus has come to town — there have been riots. On the contrary, in India, we have stood patiently in lines, in the misguided hope that the fabric of the Indian economy will be cleansed of the black money. The economy has been laundered, and the stains have spread.

To assess the long-term gain, we need to ask basic questions: Who will benefit from this so-called long-term gain?

Ten of the richest billionaires have made money riding on patents and monopolies over the tools of information and network technology. In effect, they are rent collectors of the digital economy, who have collected very large rents, at very high frequency, in a very short time.

Bill Gates and company made money through patents on software that were developed by brilliant people; they merely own the “workshop” — owning all the work that happens under their roof. Mr Gates used his monopoly to eliminate rivals and then to ensure that no matter what kind of computer you wanted it had to have Microsoft windows. If at this point, you think to yourself: “What about Apple Inc?” a quick search will enlighten you — Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft controlling shares are held by the same handful of private investment funds. This VC-armada is led by Vanguard Inc.

In an honest economy, such behaviour would be illegal, but in India we have baptised it as “smart”.

Do we need a Mark Zuckerberg to have friends and be able to talk to them?

No.

Communication and community, friendships and networks are the very basis of society. Facebook has not provided us with “the social network”.

Mr Zuckerberg has crowd-sourced the social network of the world from us. Our relationships are the source of “big data”, the new commodity in the digital world. Information technology seeks to rent information, sourced from us to us.

Digitalisation has spread to all areas. Let us not forget that many multi-national companies are playing a big role in pushing chemicals and GMOs on Africa, and patents on new GMO technologies and digital patents on the biodiversity of life on earth. This big seed grab was stalled at the recent convention on biodiversity meetings in Cancun.

John Naughton, a professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University and author of From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet has named the digital moghuls “robber barons” of our age.

As he perceptively observes in the Guardian: “In social networking Mark Zuckerberg has cunningly inserted himself (via his hardware and software) into every online communication that passes between his 900 million subscribers, to the point where Facebook probably knows that two people are about to have an affair before they do. And because of the nature of networks, if we’re not careful we could wind up with a series of winners who took all: one global bookstore; one social network; one search engine; one online multimedia store and so on.”

It already is one digital dictatorship. And we need to be asking far more questions than we are asking. We have blindly elevated means — which should be democratically chosen — into an end unto themselves. Money and tools are means, they need to be utilised with wisdom and responsibility to higher ends such as the protection of nature, the wellbeing of all and the common good.

Two sets of means come together in what is now declared the real reason for demonetisation — the digital economy. Money making and tools for money making have become the new religion and the government policy has been reduced to the facilitation of the imposition of the digital empires of the new moghuls. Why else is every department of government directing its energy at making Indians “digitally literate”, precisely at a time where people in technological societies are turning to India to learn her wisdom, her deep values of “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhna”, and the ability to live in community as one Earth Family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam? We haven’t learnt from the atomised, alienated, lonely individuals that the souls of Western societies have been reduced to. The digital economy is a design for atomisation, for separation, to allow Indians to become individual consumers with abundant “red money” — credit.

Imposing the digital economy through a “cash ban” is a form of technological dictatorship, in the hands of the world’s billionaires.

Economic diversity and technological pluralism are India’s strength and it is the “hard cash” that insulated India from the global market’s “dive into the red” of 2008.

Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings about resisting empire non-violently, while creating truthful and real economies in the hands of people, for regaining freedom, have never been more relevant. Wealth is the state of wellbeing; it is not money. It is not cash. Money has no value in and of itself. Money is merely a means of exchange, it is a promise. As the notes we exchange state: “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of…” and the promise is made by the governor of the Reserve Bank. On that promise and trust rests an entire economy, from the local to the national level. At the very least, the demonetisation circus has “busted the trust” in the Indian economy.

In the digital economy there is no trust, only one-way control of global banks, of those who own and control digital networks, and those who can make money mysteriously through digital “tricks” — the owners of the global exchange. How else could the exchange traded funds like Vanguard be the biggest investors in all major corporations, from Monsanto to Bayer, from Coca Cola to Pepsi, from Microsoft to Facebook, from Wells Fargo to Texaco?

When I exchange Rs 100 even a 100 times it remains Rs 100. In the digital world those who control the exchange, through digital and financial networks, make money at every step of the 100 exchanges. That is the how the digital economy has created the billionaire class of one per cent, which controls the economy of the 100 per cent.

The foundation of the real economy is work. Gandhi following Leo Tolstoy and John Ruskin called it “bread labour” — labour that creates bread that sustains life. Writing in Young India in 1921, he wrote: “God created man to work for his food, and said that those who ate without work were thieves.”

Writing in the Harijan, in 1935, he cited the Gita and the Bible, for his understanding of the duty of bread labour. For him ahimsa (non-violence) were intimately linked to work, he identified “wealth without work” among the seven deadly sins. It is the bills of domination that the government should be banning, not merely the bills of denomination.

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We live in times where the non-working rent collectors and speculators have emerged as the richest billionaires.

As 2017 begins and we flounder in our mad rush to force all of India into a digital economy overnight, it is worth pausing and reflecting on what the digital economy is, who controls the platforms and lines as well as some basic concepts about money and technology which have moulded our lives and freedoms, based on patented systems that are failing the people of “West”. Obsolete systems are moulding our patterns of work and our wellbeing — as a very large country, and as an ancient civilisation — into a cast that is observably too small.

We live in times where the non-working rent collectors and speculators have emerged as the richest billionaires. Meanwhile, the hard working honest people, like farmers, workers in self-organised economies (mistakenly called unorganised and informal) are not just being pushed into deep poverty, they are, in fact, being criminalised by labelling their self-organised economic systems as “black”. The Swadeshi economy is being labelled as the “shadow economy”.

“Short term pain for long term gain” has become the slogan for the dictated transition to a digital economy. But the pain is not just short term, the pain of millions of honest Indians who contribute to a truthful economy, wasting days on end, sacrificing their work, their livelihoods, their means of living, to standing at ATMs and juggling denominations and news reports. In rural India daily mile-long walks to banks have become commonplace, whereas rural communities would interact with the “financial world” a handful of times annually.

In Venezuela — where the exact same circus has come to town — there have been riots. On the contrary, in India, we have stood patiently in lines, in the misguided hope that the fabric of the Indian economy will be cleansed of the black money. The economy has been laundered, and the stains have spread.

To assess the long-term gain, we need to ask basic questions: Who will benefit from this so-called long-term gain?

Ten of the richest billionaires have made money riding on patents and monopolies over the tools of information and network technology. In effect, they are rent collectors of the digital economy, who have collected very large rents, at very high frequency, in a very short time.

Bill Gates and company made money through patents on software that were developed by brilliant people; they merely own the “workshop” — owning all the work that happens under their roof. Mr Gates used his monopoly to eliminate rivals and then to ensure that no matter what kind of computer you wanted it had to have Microsoft windows. If at this point, you think to yourself: “What about Apple Inc?” a quick search will enlighten you — Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft controlling shares are held by the same handful of private investment funds. This VC-armada is led by Vanguard Inc.

In an honest economy, such behaviour would be illegal, but in India we have baptised it as “smart”.

Do we need a Mark Zuckerberg to have friends and be able to talk to them?

No.

Communication and community, friendships and networks are the very basis of society. Facebook has not provided us with “the social network”.

Mr Zuckerberg has crowd-sourced the social network of the world from us. Our relationships are the source of “big data”, the new commodity in the digital world. Information technology seeks to rent information, sourced from us to us.

Digitalisation has spread to all areas. Let us not forget that many multi-national companies are playing a big role in pushing chemicals and GMOs on Africa, and patents on new GMO technologies and digital patents on the biodiversity of life on earth. This big seed grab was stalled at the recent convention on biodiversity meetings in Cancun.

John Naughton, a professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University and author of From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet has named the digital moghuls “robber barons” of our age.

As he perceptively observes in the Guardian: “In social networking Mark Zuckerberg has cunningly inserted himself (via his hardware and software) into every online communication that passes between his 900 million subscribers, to the point where Facebook probably knows that two people are about to have an affair before they do. And because of the nature of networks, if we’re not careful we could wind up with a series of winners who took all: one global bookstore; one social network; one search engine; one online multimedia store and so on.”

It already is one digital dictatorship. And we need to be asking far more questions than we are asking. We have blindly elevated means — which should be democratically chosen — into an end unto themselves. Money and tools are means, they need to be utilised with wisdom and responsibility to higher ends such as the protection of nature, the wellbeing of all and the common good.

Two sets of means come together in what is now declared the real reason for demonetisation — the digital economy. Money making and tools for money making have become the new religion and the government policy has been reduced to the facilitation of the imposition of the digital empires of the new moghuls. Why else is every department of government directing its energy at making Indians “digitally literate”, precisely at a time where people in technological societies are turning to India to learn her wisdom, her deep values of “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhna”, and the ability to live in community as one Earth Family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam? We haven’t learnt from the atomised, alienated, lonely individuals that the souls of Western societies have been reduced to. The digital economy is a design for atomisation, for separation, to allow Indians to become individual consumers with abundant “red money” — credit.

Imposing the digital economy through a “cash ban” is a form of technological dictatorship, in the hands of the world’s billionaires.

Economic diversity and technological pluralism are India’s strength and it is the “hard cash” that insulated India from the global market’s “dive into the red” of 2008.

Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings about resisting empire non-violently, while creating truthful and real economies in the hands of people, for regaining freedom, have never been more relevant. Wealth is the state of wellbeing; it is not money. It is not cash. Money has no value in and of itself. Money is merely a means of exchange, it is a promise. As the notes we exchange state: “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of…” and the promise is made by the governor of the Reserve Bank. On that promise and trust rests an entire economy, from the local to the national level. At the very least, the demonetisation circus has “busted the trust” in the Indian economy.

In the digital economy there is no trust, only one-way control of global banks, of those who own and control digital networks, and those who can make money mysteriously through digital “tricks” — the owners of the global exchange. How else could the exchange traded funds like Vanguard be the biggest investors in all major corporations, from Monsanto to Bayer, from Coca Cola to Pepsi, from Microsoft to Facebook, from Wells Fargo to Texaco?

When I exchange Rs 100 even a 100 times it remains Rs 100. In the digital world those who control the exchange, through digital and financial networks, make money at every step of the 100 exchanges. That is the how the digital economy has created the billionaire class of one per cent, which controls the economy of the 100 per cent.

The foundation of the real economy is work. Gandhi following Leo Tolstoy and John Ruskin called it “bread labour” — labour that creates bread that sustains life. Writing in Young India in 1921, he wrote: “God created man to work for his food, and said that those who ate without work were thieves.”

Writing in the Harijan, in 1935, he cited the Gita and the Bible, for his understanding of the duty of bread labour. For him ahimsa (non-violence) were intimately linked to work, he identified “wealth without work” among the seven deadly sins. It is the bills of domination that the government should be banning, not merely the bills of denomination.

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Ban Ki-moon: Requiem for a UN ‘Yes Man’

January 4th, 2017 by Joe Lauria

After ten years of almost total obedience to Washington, Ban Ki-moon stepped down Sunday as United Nations Secretary-General, leaving behind a sorry legacy that has undermined the U.N.’s legitimacy, which rests on its real and perceived neutrality in overseeing world affairs.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers remarks during the special Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) segment. Sept. 20, 2016 (UN Photo)

The U.N.’s second secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold defined the job’s role as a diplomat who has the ability and courage to navigate a course independent of the major powers and in defense of the world’s population.

“The right of the Secretariat to full independence, as laid down in the Charter, is an inalienable right,” Hammarskjold said shortly after his election in 1953. The U.N.’s purpose, he said, was not to submit to the major powers but to seek “solutions which approach the common interest.”

Despite his elite background, his defense of the “common interest” distinguished Hammarskjold and alarmed many of the world’s elites who wanted a more pliable secretary-general who would reliably take their side, especially in management of the Third World. After only one year in office, he condemned the U.S.-led coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected president. No secretary-general since has publicly criticized a CIA covert operation.

Hammarskjold’s championing of the common interest of Africans and other colonized people put him at odds with the white rulers of apartheid South Africa as well as colonial Britain and the United States.

“The discretion and impartiality required of the Secretary-General may not degenerate into a policy of expedience,” Hammarskjold responded.

When he also angered the Soviet Union, which demanded his resignation, he responded: “It is very easy to resign. It is not so easy to stay on. It is very easy to bow to the wishes of a Big Power. It is another matter to resist.”

By navigating an independent course amid the major powers, Hammarskjold set the standard for the job of secretary-general – and, as I reported in 2014, it may have led to his death in a mysterious plane crash on Sept. 18, 1961, during a conflict over mineral-rich Congo.

Bending to Power

No other Secretary-General has come close to Hammarskjold’s independence or his inventiveness in creative peacekeeping and personal mediation. The few others who tried to follow in his footsteps also found their U.N. careers cut short. For instance, Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s insubordination to Washington in defending developing countries in the face of America’s post-Cold War, unilateralist expansion into spaces vacated by the Soviet Union cost him a second term. He had the temerity to tell Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., that Washington was his “problem.”

United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. (Photo from Wikipedia)

“Coming from a developing country,” Boutros-Ghali wrote in his memoir, “I was trained extensively in international law and diplomacy and mistakenly assumed that the great powers, especially the United States, also trained their representatives in diplomacy and accepted the value of it. But the Roman Empire had no need of diplomacy. Neither does the United States.”

Others learned their lesson. Boutros-Ghali’s successor, Kofi Annan, the only sub-Saharan secretary-general, was a major proponent of U.S. initiatives, including the controversial “responsibility to protect” doctrine of military intervention (as applied in Kosovo) and a U.N. partnership with private corporations, the so-called Global Compact, ultimately giving U.N. cover for neoliberal and multi-national misdeeds.

Though a darling of Washington, Annan got himself into hot water when he admitted to an insistent BBC interviewer that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was “illegal.” The Bush administration made the remainder of his second term miserable and tried to pin the Oil-for-Food scandal on him, though it was a program run by the Security Council.

By contrast, Ban, a South Korean, was seen by the Americans as their man from the start. We “got exactly what we asked for,” an administrator and not an activist, said John Bolton, America’s irascible U.N. ambassador when Ban was elected in 2005. The U.N. charter doesn’t call the secretary-general “president of the world” or “chief poet and visionary,” Bolton said sarcastically in an interview with me and a colleague for The Wall Street Journal.

Ban said his “biggest blunder” until then had been in 2001 when, as South Korea’s chairman of its nuclear test-ban treaty organization, he wrote a letter in favor of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty just a few months after George W. Bush pulled the U.S. out of the treaty. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung issued a public apology and fired Ban for his impertinence. It was the act of a vassal state and marked Ban’s evolution into a servile diplomat.

State Department Advisers

Once Ban was installed at the U.N. in 2007, he broke with tradition by naming Americans — two former State Department diplomats — to be his chief political officers during his ten-year tenure. They brought with them a State Department perspective to the most politically influential job in the organization.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed his case for the military offensive against Gaza in a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2014. (Israeli government photo)

Ban carefully toed the U.S. line in his public pronouncements. Though he privately fumed over the Saudi military bombardment in Yemen and Riyadh’s haughty dealings with the U.N., he dared not blame America’s ally.

Likewise, on occasions when Ban sharply criticized Israel for its bombardment of U.N. schools in Gaza, killing scores of innocent people, he spoke only after the State Department had made the same criticism, almost word for word.

When the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed U.S. mass surveillance of people all over the world, Ban condemned Snowden rather than defend the common interest of the world’s population to be protected from the U.S. intelligence community’s pervasive violations of their privacy.

Regarding the geo-strategic battle of our times — America’s unilateral push for global hegemony versus an emerging multi-polar world, led by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the U.N. as the world’s premier multilateral organization would have seemed like a natural ally of the BRICS, which held its first formal summit in 2006 just months before Ban took office. But Ban backed the U.S. in every geo-strategic question against Russia and China during his time in office.

On Syria, Ukraine and the South China Sea, Ban parroted Washington’s rhetoric and made no effort to mediate the disputes. He never condemned the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev or Washington’s support for violent extremists in Syria, which Russia has confronted. He called for regime change in Damascus (after Obama did.)

Regarding sensitive concerns about Western interference in Africa, Ban failed to distinguish himself on a single African issue, merely endorsing whatever the U.S., Britain and France were up to on the continent. Ban was a prominent champion in the struggle to combat climate change, but it was a position fully endorsed by the Obama administration.

The new secretary-general, Antonio Guterres of Portugal, is inheriting crises that bedeviled Ban. Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister and head of the U.N.’s refugee agency, whom I interviewed a couple of years ago for an hour without any handlers present, is smart, realistic and outspoken in favor of multilateralism. It won’t be long before it’s known if he will cross swords with the Trump administration, in the tradition of Hammarskjold, or go the way of Ban and let Washington always get its way.

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

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He is one of Australia’s truly singular politicians, relentlessly zealous, hewn from the granite of an older fanaticism. Despise him, loathe him, but consider him for one fundamental point: he has escaped the management artists, the curbing focus groups, and the broad political classes in a way unusual for the modern Australian politician.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has gotten, of late, into the business of clairvoyance. At the very least, he is having a punt at the idea of what the United States is going to do next, notably in certain realms of foreign policy. Where they go, he wishes Australia to adoringly follow.

In many ways, he has grounds for being irritatingly smug. Refugee policies globally are hardening, a testament to his mania against the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers by sea; the obsession with radicalisation and the Islamic enemy within is gaining pace in the most tolerant societies. Data retention laws are being passed in other countries in a vain effort to combat supposedly exceptional threats.

Of late, the policy on Israel, notably in how ambassadorial relations are handled, looms large. Even as other countries were repeatedly affirming that Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories were illegal, Abbott preferred to fob off such legal scruples. In this, he chimes with US president elect Donald Trump, who has made his stance clear with the appointment of pro-settler supporter David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel.

Abbott’s most recent effort, conveyed publicly by a piece in the Australian version of The Spectator, have centred on a similar theme, suggesting with religious intensity that Australia relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The pugnacious stance is intended to anticipate the position of the incoming Trump administration while also dismissing the darker cynicism of the outgoing Obama administration. In Friedman’s words last month, he hoped to “strengthen the unbreakable bond between [the United States and Israel] and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”[1] Peace, it would seem, through colonial conquest.

The Spectator contribution oozes with violent, well fed patriotism – and the sense that others have forgotten Australia’s previous roles in Middle Eastern politics, long before Israel became an internationally recognised state. (He should actually hope for amnesia on this score, though the Middle East is replete with elephantine memories of dangerous consequence.) “We often forget the role that Australians have played in this part of the world long before our FA18s and our military trainers joined today’s fight against the death cult in Syria and northern Iraq.”[2]

There is much pseudo-colonial assertiveness, with delight taken in the role played by the Australian Light Horse “that liberated Beersheba, Jerusalem and Damascus from the Ottoman Turks.” This, despite the fact that the Australians were simply doing the bidding of another empire, meddling to such an extent the whirlwind continues to be reaped. Without the vaguest hint of irony, Abbott happily recounts an imperial project while defending Israel’s own colonial enterprise and regional muscularity. For him, these are all pursued in the name of a bully boy styled liberation.

In the fashion of the bully, modern Australian foreign policy, argues Abbott, should focus on cutting the $40 million a year in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority: such money was far better spent elsewhere than funding “pensions to terrorists and their families.”

While rubbing the Palestinians out of the equation of help, Abbott insisted that Australia “demonstrate its unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy” through joining “any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem.”

The pro-Israeli hardline in Australia’s parliament have agreed, though much of that is also based on anticipating Trump’s next jaw dropping action. “Given the indications by [Mr] Trump,” suggested the lopsidedly reactionary Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz, “there is a gaining momentum, and so in those circumstances I would invite the executive of our government in Australia to give very serious consideration to following suit if that does develop into a trend.”

There will, of course, be no trend in that direction, but the lust to imitate the strong remains potent, though on this score, Australia’s current foreign minister is holding firm. “The Australian government,” according to Julie Bishop, “does not have any plans to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”[3]

Israeli Parliament MP Sharren Haskel of the governing Likud Party was already familiar with Abbott, having met him during a trip in December as part of the Australia-Israel-UK Dialogue. As Haskel noted, the relocation matter came up, close on the heels of Trump’s own promise that his administration would move ambassadorial offices to the holy city.

Such discussions were blithely indifferent to the effects such a move would make: “we discussed that there’s no real reason why the Australian embassy shouldn’t be in Jerusalem as well.”[4] In actual fact, the reasons are manifold, thickened by historical angst, sentiment and terror.

East Jerusalem, comprising the Old City, fell to Israeli forces in the lighting Six-Day War of 1967. For that reason, it has been designated occupied territory. But for Abbott, as it is with Trump, the jarring detail is inconsequential. Israel’s neighbours, and most of the members of the United Nations, will think otherwise.

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

Notes

[1] http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/trump-appoints-pro-settlement-adviser-ambassador-israel-1714512453
[2] http://spectator.com.au/2016/12/jerusalem-diary/
[3] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/01/02/bishop-rejects-tony-abbotts-criticism-palestinian-aid
[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-03/abbott’s-embassy-stance-welcome-news-in-israel/8158098

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Germany’s Role in Africa

January 4th, 2017 by Abayomi Azikiwe

There are numerous efforts taking place internationally aimed at strengthening economic and political links with African nation-states.

From the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation to Turkey, Iran and Japan, many governments are seeking to form partnerships in order to share in the vast mineral resources and consumer market that Africa represents. Although these various Western, Middle Eastern and Asian states have different backgrounds and therefore distinct economic trajectories and consequently motivations differ, the fact of the engagements are profoundly significant.

Germany, which in the 19th century had established colonies in Southwest Africa, Tanganyika, Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon and Togo, was in late 2016 designated the leader of the G20 Summit. The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel announced initiatives for enhanced relationships between the continent, Berlin and other industrialized and emerging economies.

Nonetheless, there is at least one major impediment to this apparent emphasis on the part of Germany to exert a more proactive role in African affairs. Germany not only hosted the historic West Africa Conference of 1884-1885 where the stage was set for the colonization of the continent, it also under Otto von Bismarck during the Empire period after 1870, sought to realize its imperial ambitions which dated back to at least the Confederation era extending from 1815 to 1866.

During this period in the mid-19th century, Germany advanced its world influence through industrial production, scientific application, railway expansion and military prowess where it became a key competitor with Britain for the domination of Europe. These ambitions led to the acquisition of colonies in both Africa and Asia where their interests collided with other European imperialist powers such as Britain, France, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

Historical Background on the Role of Germany in World Imperialism

On November 15, 1884, the Berlin West Africa Conference was convened in an effort to carve up spheres of influence and cooperation among various European states in relationship to their political and economic dominance over the continent.

The Atlantic Slave Trade had been ostensibly outlawed in the first decade of the 19th century although the involuntary servitude was expanding inside the Caribbean, South America and North America. In Britain and the United States in 1807-1808, laws were passed outlawing the importation of Africans.

Nonetheless, the trade continued “illegally” from outside the U.S. and “legally” inside of the country. The number of enslaved Africans grew rapidly so by the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) approximately 4.5 million people were said to have been residents of the U.S. In other states such as Brazil and Cuba, slavery was not abolished until the 1880s. Britain had passed the Prohibition of Slavery Act in 1833 covering its colonies within the Western Hemisphere including Canada.

Although slavery had been abolished in many areas by 1884, the continuation of colonialism which was born in the system of human bondage made tremendous profits through the exploitation of land and labor. In Africa, a source of vast natural and human resources, the European colonial powers were in a monumental struggle for control of the territories. This level of competition would erupt full blown in 1914 with the advent of the First World War which was not concluded until 1918.

This Berlin West Africa Conference deliberated until February 26, 1885. By the time it had ended the continent had been divided among the-then leading imperialist states.

According to brittanica.com,

“The conference, proposed by Portugal in pursuance of its special claim to control of the Congo estuary, was necessitated by the jealousy and suspicion with which the great European powers viewed one another’s attempts at colonial expansion in Africa. The general act of the Conference of Berlin declared the Congo River basin to be neutral (a fact that in no way deterred the Allies from extending the war into that area in World War I); guaranteed freedom for trade and shipping for all states in the basin; forbade slave trading; and rejected Portugal’s claims to the Congo River estuary—thereby making possible the founding of the independent Congo Free State, to which Great Britain, France, and Germany had already agreed in principle.” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Berlin-West-Africa-Conference)

German Colonization of Namibia (Southwest Africa)

Beginning in 1884, Germany had established a colony in what was called South West Africa which bordered South Africa, Angola, Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and Botswana (Bechuanaland). This vast area was both heavily arid with two deserts, the Namib and the Kalahari, as well as being rich in natural resources such as copper, gold, diamonds, uranium and lead.

Due to its dry conditions Namibia’s population was forced to adapt to its environmental situation. A number of nationalities existed in the territory including the San, Damaras, Ovambos, Namas, Hereros, Oorlams, Kavangos, East Caprivians, Rehoboth Basters, Kaokovelders, Tswanas and eventually, a growing number of German European settlers.

A South African historical source describes the intervention of German settlers as a violent process of colonization and repression of the indigenous people, noting that:

“In 1886 the border between Angola and what would become German South West Africa was negotiated between the German and Portuguese nations. In 1890 the first German military fort was built at Windhoek and, in July of the same year, the British government also apportioned the Caprivi Strip to the Germans. This would give Germany access to the Zambezi River and its other East African territories, and it would give up its claims on Zanzibar.”

(http://www.sahistory.org.za/places/namibia)

This same report goes on emphasizing:

“The reason Germany selected Namibia as its ‘protectorate’ was influenced by the fact that a tobacco merchant from Bremen, Franz Luderitz, bought up coastal land in the area in 1882. This resulted in Germany actively establishing itself in the African country by 1884. They occupied Herero lands. Initially the Herero accepted the ‘treaties of protection’, but the Nama people resisted. In 1888 the Germans confiscated Herero lands and large numbers of their cattle. The aim was to turn South West Africa into a settler colony. In 1890 German soldiers attacked the Nama and by 1892, despite efforts by the Nama and Herero to put up a united front, they were crushed.”

However, the encroaching colonial ambitions of the Germans sparked resistance among the Herero and Nama peoples of Southwest Africa. Beginning in January 1904, Samuel Maherero led the Herero military forces into a war against German imperialism. The war raged for seven months as the Germans deployed thousands of its troops into the country.

Eventually, the Germans prevailed militarily forcing the Herero into concentration camps where 80 percent of their people perished. The Germans then faced a similar uprising among the Nama. Chief Hendrik Witbooi of the Nama people led a war of resistance against colonization until 1908. Both the Herero and Nama people were subjected to the German extermination order of General Luther von Trotha who stated that:

“Within the German borders every Herero, whether armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall not accept any more women or children. I shall drive them back to their people – otherwise I shall order shots to be fired at them”.

Later the German imperialist forces poisoned the water resources of the Herero and killed thousands of their women and children. Both the Herero and Nama became dispossessed people forced to work in the labor camps of the Germans and later British colonialists after the conclusion of World War I. Britain maintained dominance in South Africa and its neighboring colony of Namibia after World War I. In 1948, the Boer-based Nationalist Party won control of the government in South Africa continuing the settler-colonial occupation of Namibia until 1989 when a United Nations monitored referendum was held on national independence.

The Southwest Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) led the armed and mass struggle of the Namibian people between 1959 and 1989 when the party won the first non-racial elections. These developments followed the tremendous war for the total independence of neighboring Angola, a former Portuguese colony, where Cuban Internationalists forces in the hundreds of thousands assisted the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) secure sovereignty after a protracted struggle which lasted from 1975 to 1988.

Germany Still Harbors Imperialist Aims in Africa

It is within this historical context that the current diplomatic efforts by Germany should be viewed. The negotiation process with descendants of the Herero and Nama people in Namibia has been marred in difficulties.

The government of Chancellor Merkel does not want to pay compensation for the genocide which destroyed the traditional African societies that lived in the region for centuries. At the same time Germany is attempting to reassert its political and economic influence on the continent amid burgeoning relations between African Union (AU) member-states and China.

An article published by Deutsch Welle (DW) on this issue noted:

“Recent efforts at dialogue between self-styled representatives of the victims of German colonialism and (Ruprecht) Polenz (the German envoy for negotiations with the indigenous people of Namibia) ended badly. The representatives hurled insults at the German commissioner in interviews in local newspapers. Namibia’s government has refrained from intervening but in the past it has expressed muted criticism of Germany’s negotiating position. Berlin refuses to budge on one particular point. ‘The mere use of the term genocide does not mean any additional legal obligations for Germany. Germany has political and moral obligations to heal the wounds of the past, but is not legally obliged to pay reparations,’” Polenz was quoted by DW. (Dec. 29, 2016)

Today Germany has reemerged as the leading economy on the European continent. After its losses in the First and Second World Wars where its infrastructure and political influence was destroyed, with the advent of the European Union (EU) the country is now serving as a source of financial influence and industrial might hovering over smaller economies in Europe.

The approach of the Conservative government under Chancellor Merkel in regard to the migrant crisis has placed it at variance with neighboring former socialist states such as Hungary as well as creating internal political problems from the populist right, which could pose a serious electoral challenge in the upcoming national elections. German military involvement under the banner of the UN in Mali is yet another indication of its imperialist ambitions.

Africa must reexamine the colonial period of its history when Europeans were not always trustworthy in their diplomatic overtures. Offers of assistance often conceal underlying objectives of exploitation and national oppression.

Ultimately, the AU member-states are required to work for continental unification and economic independence. It is through this political model that genuine growth and development can be achieved.

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Obama’s Deadly Afghan Acquiescence

January 4th, 2017 by Ray McGovern

Occasionally a New York Times writer like Mark Landler will be permitted to step up to the plate and write a sensible article about President “No Guts Obama” and how he caved in to folks whom he lacked the political courage to cross.

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, attends a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Landler’s Jan. 1 article shows, among other things, how Obama’s bowing to heavyweights like Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up getting thousands of people killed and prolonging the fool’s-errand Afghan war.

The pity, of course, is that Landler’s piece, “The Afghan War and the Evolution of Obama,” comes eight years too late. There is a lot of numbness out there today about how we were all had by “NGO,” together with attempts to blame bad decisions on his benighted advisers. But you know where the buck is supposed to stop. And a number of us, including Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), spared no effort to get through to him in “real time.”

I can understand that some of you will not want to risk being further depressed. Others, however, may wish to be reminded of our efforts to warn President Obama before he let himself be conned into doubling down on the Afghan folly. Those others may want to skim through the re-runs (linked below) of early warnings in March 2009 and January 2010, together with some retrospective comments.

On March 28, 2009, as Obama was beginning his plunge into the Afghan War swamp, I wrote an articled entitled, Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President,” which Consortiumnews.com republished last year with the intro: “With still no end in sight for the Afghan War, President Obama can’t say he wasn’t warned. Barely two months into his presidency in 2009, ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern welcomed Obama to his own Vietnam quagmire.”

Included in that piece was this passage: Equally relevant to Obama’s fateful early decision on Afghanistan, Gen. Douglas MacArthur told another young President in April 1961: ’Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined.’”

The truth of that advice even eventually sunk into the fellow whom we at the CIA used to call “windsock Bobby Gates” in the days when he was starting his bureaucratic climb to the top by tailoring his positions to please his superiors.

Though Gates helped maneuver Obama into a pointless Afghan “counterinsurgency surge” in fall 2009, Gates later told aspiring officers at West Point: Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it.”

My “Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President” article of March 28, 2009, also noted: “When JFK’s top military advisers, critical of the President’s reluctance to go against [MacArthur’s] advice, virtually called him a traitor  — for pursuing a negotiated solution to the fighting in Laos, for example — Kennedy would tell them to convince Gen. MacArthur first, and then come back to him. (Alas, there seems to be no comparable Gen. MacArthur today.)”

Leaked Doubts

On Jan. 27, 2010, I was back at it again, citing the belated disclosure that U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry had tried to warn President Obama against escalating the Afghan War. I wrote:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 1, 2011, watching developments in the Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Neither played a particularly prominent role in the operation. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

“I imagine that in years to come, Eikenberry will proudly show his cables to his grandchildren. Or maybe he won’t, out of fear that one of them might ask why he didn’t have the guts to quit and let the rest of the country know what he thought of this latest March of Folly.”

Eikenberry is an interesting case study showing, among other things, that lack of guts on the part of a commander-in-chief can be contagious. A retired Lt. General and then Obama’s ambassador in Kabul, Eikenberry knew more about Afghanistan than the so-called “Gang of Five” – Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Defense Secretary Gates, Secretary of State Clinton, and special envoy Richard Holbrooke – put together.

Eikenberry sent back to Washington some very important, sensible advice, though we don’t know whether Clinton forwarded the cables on to her boss. Nor do we know whether Eikenberry exercised his ambassadorial prerogative to contact the President directly.

Eikenberry had served three years in Afghanistan over the course of two separate tours of duty. During 2002-2003, he was responsible for rebuilding Afghan security forces. He then served 18 months (2005-2007) as commander of all U.S. forces stationed in the country. Surely, he could see the toll in killed and wounded that would inevitably result from the hopeless counterinsurgency strategy being urged on “NGO” by the “Gang of Five.”

And Eikenberry’s cables show that he felt strongly about it. He also knew, of course, that Obama was about to let himself be sandbagged by the Gang and its clever use of the media. So he sent two SECRET NODIS (“NODIS” means No Dissemination) cables to Clinton, who was his boss (and who – along with Gates – was one of what Gates called the “un-fireables”). Eikenberry surely doubted that Clinton would share his advice with Obama, but did Eikenberry ever think of resigning loudly on principle? Apparently not.

So, what did he do when he was overruled? He trod up to Congress and fully supported the feckless surge of troops launched out of the cowardice/stupidity of “NGO” in bowing to the “Gang of Five.” It probably never occurred to Eikenberry to blow the whistle on the “tough guy/gal” policy which would end up getting a thousand or so U.S. troops killed along with a much larger number of Afghans.

For many a graduate of West Point, the academy’s motto seems to get garbled as they climb the ladder of success. Instead of “Duty, Honor, Country,” it becomes “Career, President, Sinecure Retirement.” Perhaps blowing the whistle did occur to Eikenberry. But if you challenge the Establishment in that way, you seldom end up with a cushy job like running a Research Center at Stanford.

Presumably, Eikenberry takes some gratification now in the fact that he turns out to have been correct in his bleak assessment of the surge” in Afghanistan. He may even have been the one behind eventually leaking his cables to The New York Times, thus earning him applause from his academic colleagues.

But his burnished credentials didn’t save the lives of the soldiers tossed into the Afghan meat grinder or the many civilians who died needlessly as senior U.S. government officials put ideology and careerism – the need to look tough – ahead of what made sense for either Afghanistan or the United States.

In the end, however, the bloody futility of the past eight years in Afghanistan rest most heavily on the “Gang of Five” and the easily outmaneuvered “NGO,” who sits at the desk where the buck stops. 

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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SyriaRussiaFlag

On Syria’s Continued Resistance, Russia and the Threat to Western Power

By Ghada Chehade, January 03 2017

As a new year begins I wish to reflect on the Syrian government’s continued resistance and impending victory—with the help of the Russian military—against western backed terrorist forces. The defense of Syria, after an almost six-year-long proxy offensive against it, has served a blow to the western imperial agenda while greatly strengthening Russia’s position globally.

russia-usa-bomb

The Democratic Party Line That Could Torch Civil Liberties… and Maybe Help Blow Up the World

By Norman Solomon, January 03 2017

Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

rupee--621x414

A Well-Kept Open Secret: Washington Is Behind India’s Brutal Demonetization Project

By Norbert Haering, January 03 2017

In early November, without warning, the Indian government declared the two largest denomination bills invalid, abolishing over 80 percent of circulating cash by value. Amidst all the commotion and outrage this caused, nobody seems to have taken note of the decisive role that Washington played in this. That is surprising, as Washington’s role has been disguised only very superficially.

Conflicting Views on Climate Change: Fire and Ice

Demystifying the Climate Change Debate

By Wayne Hall, January 03 2017

President Obama, just a few weeks before leaving office and handing over to his despised (by leftists, ecologists, liberals) successor  Donald Trump, made a much publicized gesture of banning drilling for new oil and gas reserves in US waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.  His presidency thus ended on a  grandiloquent note comparable to the way it had started, when he made equally widely publicized (and in practice totally ignored, by himself) gestures of nuclear disarmament. Left-wing supporters of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) typically criticize this kind of hypocrisy, and indeed the related hypocrisy of “greenwash”, but how many of them appreciate how truly deep the hypocrisy goes?

Injectable-Drugs-Medicine-Vaccine-Bottle-Virus-Vial

Medical Communication Companies and America’s Medical Propaganda Machine

By Dr. Gary G. Kohls, January 03 2017

I recently ran across an important 2013 JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) article, the content of which is printed below. It is about a new form of medical propaganda, physician conflicts of interest, the cunning of Big Pharma’s advertising and how most physicians are at risk of being mis-informed and mis-educated at a time when they are being pressured to spend less and less time with their patients and to rely on the over-prescribing of Big Pharma’s synthetic chemical drugs. As I often told my patients, it only takes 2 minutes to write a prescription but it takes 20 minutes to NOT write a prescription.

Robert_Walter_Weir_-_Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims_-_Google_Art_Project

Civilization at a Standstill

By John Kozy, January 03 2017

America’s college graduates, even those who graduate from America’s elite institutions, graduate while believing the same dogmas and holding the same attitudes they held when they matriculated. Ted Cruz, the Koch brothers, and Franklin Graham are obvious examples but others are easy to cite. Apparently professors no longer (perhaps never did) make any attempt to teach students how to evaluate ideas or even the importance of doing so. Education has become merely vocational training. Any ideas taught are those which are conventionally believed. The result is that no new ideas can emerge from this culture, and human progress is impossible.

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The blockade of water from Wadi Barada to 5 million people in Damascus is taking an interesting turn. The U.S. and UK financed White Helmet organization seems to be directly involved in it. This increases the suspicion that the illegal blockade of water to civilians in Damascus is part of a organized campaign under U.S. command. The campaign is designed to block utilities to government held areas as revenge for the liberation of east Aleppo.

As we described it yesterday:

After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.

Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.

The Syrian government is ready to send repair teams to rehabilitate the water flow to the millions of civilians in Damascus. But access to the site is denied and the Syrian army is now trying to push al-Qaeda and its allies away from it.

Curiously some “civil” groups today offered access under several (not agreeable) conditions:

Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha – 2:10 AM – 3 Jan 2017W

adi Barada statement: we will let teams to fix water spring if SAA-Hezb stop attack, siege lift & monitor ceasefire by intl observers
[attachment]

EHSANI2 @EHSANI22 – 6:43 AM – 3 Jan 2017

Offer by opposition to trade access to water source for #Damascus with halting of military operations by army
[attachment]

Here is the attachment to both tweets. Note who signed it:


bigger

Check the logos of the undersigning organizations You will probably recognize the middle one in the second row. Here it is magnified.

And here is the original of that logo taken directly from the website of the Syrian Civil Defense organization aka The White Helmets:

The organizations who make an offer to lift the water blockade of Damascus obviously think they have the power to do so. They then must also be held responsible for keeping the blockade up. They must also have intimate relations with the al-Qaeda fighters who currently occupy the damaged water facilities.

The U.S. and UK government created and paid White Helmets are “impartially”, “neutrally” and “for all Syrians” blocking the water supply to 5 million Syrians in Damascus. U.S. military and CIA officers run the “operations rooms” in Jordan and Turkey that direct the insurgency.

This increases suspicion that the blockade is part of an organized response by the enemies of Syria to the recent liberation of east-Aleppo. As noted yesterday:

This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts of lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut.

Even after 14 days of water crisis in Damascus the “western” media are not reporting about the al-Qaeda blockade of water for 5 million Syrians. We can be sure that not a word will be written by them about this illegal hostages taking of millions of civilians in Damascus by their favorite propaganda organization White Helmets.

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Global Research Editor’s Note

This incisive and carefully documented article by Prof. Thomas Nagy was first published by Global Research in September 2001.

It confirms the criminal nature of US intervention.

A similar and comparable operation in Syria has now been launched by using US supported Al Qaeda “opposition rebels”, with the help of the White Helmets to undermine and destroy the system of water supply in Damascus; this issue has been casually ignored by the Western media and the self proclaimed “international community”.

While, the modus operandi in the case of Syria differs from that described by Prof. Nagy, it nonetheless confirms a pattern.  In Syria, this diabolical operation carried out by US backed terrorists, constitutes the ultimate crime against humanity.  

In regards to Iraq, Professor Thomas Nagy of George Washington University, D.C., revealed the existence of Defense Intelligence Agency documents “proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country’s water supply after the Gulf War.

“The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway.” On May 12, 1996 some of the horrible consequences of this policy were revealed when the CBS news program 60 Minutes reported that roughly half million Iraqi children had died as a consequence of U.S. imposed sanctions.

This led to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s infamous answer to the question, “is the price worth it?” Her reply was yes “we think the price is worth it.” Albright later apologized, not for the murderous policy for which she was partially responsible, but rather for the fact that her answer to the above question had “aggravated our public relations problems” in the Middle East.

As to domestic reaction, her comment “went unremarked in the U.S.” Subsequently, in 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq using the strategy of “rapid dominance” (more popularly known as “shock and awe”). The object of this strategy was to “paralyze” the enemy’s “will to carry on” through the disruption of “means of communication, transportation, food production, water supply, and other aspects of infrastructure.” One of the targets of the bombing campaign that led off the invasion was Iraq’s electrical grid. That directly impacted the country’s ability to process clean water.”

See also Lawrence Davidson, Loopholes in International Law

This important study by Professor Nagy was among the first articles published by Global Research. It was part of the launch of the site on September 9, 2001. The article was dated August, 29 2001.

The original URL of this article is: http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/NAG108A.html

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research Editor, January 3, 2017

 

*       *      *

How the US Deliberately Destroyed Iraq’s Water Supply

by Prof Thomas J. Nagy

August 29, 2001

Confirmed by documents of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), “the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country’s water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway.”

Over the last two years, I’ve discovered documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country’s water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway.

The primary document, “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,” is dated January 22, 1991. It spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its citizens.

Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish to saline,” the document states. “With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent United Nations Sanctions to import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease.

The document goes into great technical detail about the sources and quality of Iraq’s water supply. The quality of untreated water “generally is poor,” and drinking such water “could result in diarrhea,” the document says. It notes that Iraq’s rivers “contain biological materials, pollutants, and are laden with bacteria. Unless the water is purified with chlorine, epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid could occur.”

The document notes that the importation of chlorine “has been embargoed” by sanctions. “Recent reports indicate the chlorine supply is critically low.”

Food and medicine will also be affected, the document states. “Food processing, electronic, and, particularly, pharmaceutical plants require extremely pure water that is free from biological contaminants,” it says.

The document addresses possible Iraqi countermeasures to obtain drinkable water despite sanctions.

Iraq conceivably could truck water from the mountain reservoirs to urban areas. But the capability to gain significant quantities is extremely limited,” the document states. “The amount of pipe on hand and the lack of pumping stations would limit laying pipelines to these reservoirs. Moreover, without chlorine purification, the water still would contain biological pollutants. Some affluent Iraqis could obtain their own minimally adequate supply of good quality water from Northern Iraqi sources. If boiled, the water could be safely consumed. Poorer Iraqis and industries requiring large quantities of pure water would not be able to meet their needs.

The document also discounted the possibility of Iraqis using rainwater.

Precipitation occurs in Iraq during the winter and spring, but it falls primarily in the northern mountains, it says. Sporadic rains, sometimes heavy, fall over the lower plains. But Iraq could not rely on rain to provide adequate pure water.

As an alternative, Iraq could try convincing the United Nations or individual countries to exempt water treatment supplies from sanctions for humanitarian reasons, the document says. It probably also is attempting to purchase supplies by using some sympathetic countries as fronts. If such attempts fail, Iraqi alternatives are not adequate for their national requirements.

In cold language, the document spells out what is in store: “Iraq will suffer increasing shortages of purified water because of the lack of required chemicals and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease, including possible epidemics, will become probable unless the population were careful to boil water.”

The document gives a timetable for the destruction of Iraq’s water supplies. “Iraq’s overall water treatment capability will suffer a slow decline, rather than a precipitous halt,” it says. “Although Iraq is already experiencing a loss of water treatment capability, it probably will take at least six months (to June 1991) before the system is fully degraded.”

This document, which was partially declassified but unpublicized in 1995, can be found on the Pentagon’s web site at www.gulflink.osd.mil. (I disclosed this document last fall. But the news media showed little interest in it. The only reporters I know of who wrote lengthy stories on it were Felicity Arbuthnot in the Sunday Herald of Scotland, who broke the story, and Charlie Reese of the Orlando Sentinel, who did a follow-up.)

Recently, I have come across other DIA documents that confirm the Pentagon’s monitoring of the degradation of Iraq’s water supply. These documents have not been publicized until now.

The first one in this batch is called “Disease Information,” and is also dated January 22, 1991. At the top, it says:

Subject: Effects of Bombing on Disease Occurrence in Baghdad.” The analysis is blunt: “Increased incidence of diseases will be attributable to degradation of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water purification/distribution, electricity, and decreased ability to control disease outbreaks. Any urban area in Iraq that has received infrastructure damage will have similar problems.

The document proceeds to itemize the likely outbreaks. It mentions “acute diarrhea” brought on by bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, and salmonella, or by protozoa such as giardia, which will affect “particularly children,” or by rotavirus, which will also affect “particularly children,” a phrase it puts in parentheses. And it cites the possibilities of typhoid and cholera outbreaks.

The document warns that the Iraqi government may “blame the United States for public health problems created by the military conflict.”

The second DIA document, “Disease Outbreaks in Iraq,” is dated February 21, 1990, but the year is clearly a typo and should be 1991. It states:

Conditions are favorable for communicable disease outbreaks, particularly in major urban areas affected by coalition bombing.” It adds: “Infectious disease prevalence in major Iraqi urban areas targeted by coalition bombing (Baghdad, Basrah) undoubtedly has increased since the beginning of Desert Storm. . . . Current public health problems are attributable to the reduction of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water purification and distribution, electricity, and the decreased ability to control disease outbreaks.

This document lists the most likely diseases during next sixty-ninety days (descending order): diarrheal diseases (particularly children); acute respiratory illnesses (colds and influenza); typhoid; hepatitis A (particularly children); measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis, including meningococcal (particularly children); cholera (possible, but less likely).

Like the previous document, this one warns that the Iraqi government might “propagandize increases of endemic diseases.”

The third document in this series, “Medical Problems in Iraq,” is dated March 15, 1991. It says:

Communicable diseases in Baghdad are more widespread than usually observed during this time of the year and are linked to the poor sanitary conditions (contaminated water supplies and improper sewage disposal) resulting from the war. According to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)/World Health Organization report, the quantity of potable water is less than 5 percent of the original supply, there are no operational water and sewage treatment plants, and the reported incidence of diarrhea is four times above normal levels. Additionally, respiratory infections are on the rise. Children particularly have been affected by these diseases.

Perhaps to put a gloss on things, the document states:

There are indications that the situation is improving and that the population is coping with the degraded conditions.” But it adds: “Conditions in Baghdad remain favorable for communicable disease outbreaks.

The fourth document, “Status of Disease at Refugee Camps,” is dated May 1991. The summary says:

Cholera and measles have emerged at refugee camps. Further infectious diseases will spread due to inadequate water treatment and poor sanitation.

The reason for this outbreak is clearly stated again.

The main causes of infectious diseases, particularly diarrhea, dysentery, and upper respiratory problems, are poor sanitation and unclean water. These diseases primarily afflict the old and young children.

The fifth document, “Health Conditions in Iraq, June 1991,” is still heavily censored. All I can make out is that the DIA sent a source “to assess health conditions and determine the most critical medical needs of Iraq. Source observed that Iraqi medical system was in considerable disarray, medical facilities had been extensively looted, and almost all medicines were in critically short supply.”

In one refugee camp, the document says, “at least 80 percent of the population” has diarrhea. At this same camp, named Cukurca, “cholera, hepatitis type B, and measles have broken out.”

The protein deficiency disease kwashiorkor was observed in Iraq “for the first time,” the document adds. “Gastroenteritis was killing children. . . . In the south, 80 percent of the deaths were children (with the exception of Al Amarah, where 60 percent of deaths were children).”

The final document is “Iraq: Assessment of Current Health Threats and Capabilities,” and it is dated November 15, 1991. This one has a distinct damage-control feel to it. Here is how it begins: “Restoration of Iraq’s public health services and shortages of major medical materiel remain dominant international concerns. Both issues apparently are being exploited by Saddam Hussein in an effort to keep public opinion firmly against the U.S. and its Coalition allies and to direct blame away from the Iraqi government.”

It minimizes the extent of the damage.

Although current countrywide infectious disease incidence in Iraq is higher than it was before the Gulf War, it is not at the catastrophic levels that some groups predicted. The Iraqi regime will continue to exploit disease incidence data for its own political purposes.

And it places the blame squarely on Saddam Hussein. “Iraq’s medical supply shortages are the result of the central government’s stockpiling, selective distribution, and exploitation of domestic and international relief medical resources.” It adds: “Resumption of public health programs . . . depends completely on the Iraqi government.”

As these documents illustrate, the United States knew sanctions had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq. It knew what the consequences would be: increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality. And it was more concerned about the public relations nightmare for Washington than the actual nightmare that the sanctions created for innocent Iraqis.

The Geneva Convention is absolutely clear. In a 1979 protocol relating to the “protection of victims of international armed conflicts,” Article 54, it states: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”

But that is precisely what the U.S. government did, with malice aforethought. It “destroyed, removed, or rendered useless” Iraq’s “drinking water installations and supplies.” The sanctions, imposed for a decade largely at the insistence of the United States, constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention. They amount to a systematic effort to, in the DIA’s own words, “fully degrade” Iraq’s water sources.

At a House hearing on June 7, Representative Cynthia McKinney, Democrat of Georgia, referred to the document “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities” and said: “Attacking the Iraqi public drinking water supply flagrantly targets civilians and is a violation of the Geneva Convention and of the fundamental laws of civilized nations.”

Over the last decade, Washington extended the toll by continuing to withhold approval for Iraq to import the few chemicals and items of equipment it needed in order to clean up its water supply.

Last summer, Representative Tony Hall, Democrat of Ohio, wrote to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright “about the profound effects of the increasing deterioration of Iraq’s water supply and sanitation systems on its children’s health.” Hall wrote, “The prime killer of children under five years of age–diarrheal diseases–has reached epidemic proportions, and they now strike four times more often than they did in 1990. . . . Holds on contracts for the water and sanitation sector are a prime reason for the increases in sickness and death. Of the eighteen contracts, all but one hold was placed by the U.S. government. The contracts are for purification chemicals, chlorinators, chemical dosing pumps, water tankers, and other equipment. . . . I urge you to weigh your decision against the disease and death that are the unavoidable result of not having safe drinking water and minimum levels of sanitation.”

For more than ten years, the United States has deliberately pursued a policy of destroying the water treatment system of Iraq, knowing full well the cost in Iraqi lives. The United Nations has estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions, and that 5,000 Iraqi children continue to die every month for this reason.

No one can say that the United States didn’t know what it was doing.

See for Yourself

All the DIA documents mentioned in this article were found at the Department of Defense’s Gulflink site.

To read or print documents:

  1. go to www.gulflink.osd.mil
  2. click on “Declassified Documents” on the left side of the front page
  3. the next page is entitled “Browse Recently Declassified Documents”
  4. click on “search” under “Declassifed Documents” on the left side of that page
  5. the next page is entitled “Search Recently Declassified Documents”
  6. enter search terms such as “disease information effects of bombing”
  7. click on the search button
  8. the next page is entitled “Data Sources”
  9. click on DIA
  10. click on one of the titles

It’s not the easiest, best-organized site on the Internet, but I have found the folks at Gulflink to be helpful and responsive.

 

A herança do democrata Barack Obama

January 3rd, 2017 by Manlio Dinucci

Às vésperas da transmissão de poder na Casa Branca, o ano de 2017 se abre com o massacre terrorista na Turquia, duas semanas depois do assassinato do embaixador russo em Ancara, perpetrado um dia antes do encontro em Moscou entre Rússia, Irã e Turquia para um acordo político sobre a Síria. Encontro do qual os Estados Unidos foram excluídos.

Nos últimos dias da administração Obama, os EUA estão empenhados em criar a máxima tensão possível com a Rússia, acusada inclusive de ter subvertido, com os seus “malignos” hackers e agentes secretos, o êxito das eleições presidenciais que Hillary Clinton deveria ter vencido. Isto teria assegurado a continuidade da estratégia neocon, da qual Clinton foi a artífice durante a administração Obama.

Esta termina sob o signo do fracasso do principal objetivo estratégico: a Rússia, jogada às cordas pela nova guerra fria desencadeada com o golpe na Ucrânia e pelas decorrentes sanções, pegou Washington de surpresa intervindo militarmente em apoio a Damasco. Isto impediu que o Estado sírio fosse desmantelado como o líbio e permitiu às forças governamentais libertar vastas áreas controladas durante anos pelo Isis (o chamado Estado Islâmico na sigla em inglês), Al Nusra e outros movimentos terroristas funcionais à estratégia dos EUA e da Otan. Abastecidos com armas, pagos com bilhões de dólares pela Arábia Saudita e outras monarquias, através de uma rede internacional da CIA (documentada pelo New York Times em março de 2013) que chegavam à Síria através da Turquia, posto avançado da Otan na região.

Mas agora, diante do evidente fracasso da operação, que custou centenas de milhares de mortos, Ancara se retira, abrindo uma negociação com o intento de obter o máximo de vantagem possível. Com essa finalidade, recostura as relações com Moscou, que estavam a ponto de ruptura, e toma distância de Washington. Uma afronta para o presidente Obama. Este, porém, antes de passar o bastão de comando ao recém eleito Trump, dispara o último cartucho.

Escondida nas dobras da autorização das despesas militares para 2017, assinada pelo presidente, está a lei para “contrastar a desinformação e a propaganda estrageira”, particularmente atribuída à Rússia e à China, conferindo ulteriores poderes à tentacular comunidade de informação, formada por 17 agências federais. Graças também a uma alocação de 19 bilhões de dólares para a “cyber-segurança” essas agências podem silenciar qualquer fonte de “falsas notícias”, segundo o incontestável julgamento de um “Centro” especial coadjuvado por analistas, jornalistas e outros “experts” recrutados no exterior. Torna-se realidade o orwelliano “Ministério da Verdade” que o presidente do parlamento europeu, Martin Schultz, prenuncia como algo que deveria ser instuído pela União Europeia.

Ficam assim potenciadas pela administração Obama também as forças especiais, que estenderam as suas operações secretas de 75 países em 2010 para 135 em 2015.

Nos seus atos finais a administração Obama reafirmou em 15 de dezembro o próprio apoio a Kiev, à qual fornece armas e cujas forças treina, inclusive os batalhões neonazistas, para combater os russos na Ucrânia.

E em 20 de dezembro, com propósitos antirrussos, o Pentágono decidiu fornecer à Polônia mísseis de cruzeiro de longo alcance, com capacidade de penetração anti-bunker, equipáveis também com ogivas nucleares.

Do democrata Barack Obama, Prêmio Nobel da Paz, fica para a posteridade a sua última mensagem sobre o estado da União: “A América é a mais forte nação da Terra. Dispendemos para o setor militar mais do que dispendem as oito seguintes nações somadas. As nossas tropas constituem a melhor força combatente na história do mundo”.

Manlio Dinucci 

Artigo em italiano :

obama-cold-eyes

L’eredità del democratico Barack ObamaL’arte della guerra

Fonte: il Manifesto;

Traduzido por José Reinaldo Carvalho para Resistência

Manlio Dinucci : Jornalista e geógrafo

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L’eredità del democratico Barack Obama

January 3rd, 2017 by Manlio Dinucci

Alla vigilia del passaggio di poteri alla Casa Bianca, il 2017 si apre con la strage terroristica in Turchia, due settimane dopo l’assassinio dell’ambasciatore russo ad Ankara, compiuto il giorno prima dell’incontro a Mosca tra Russia, Iran e Turchia per un accordo politico sulla Siria. Incontro da cui erano esclusi gli Stati uniti. Impegnati, negli ultimi giorni dell’amministrazione Obama, a creare la massima tensione possibile con la Russia, accusata addirittura di aver sovvertito, con i suoi «maligni» hacker e agenti segreti, l’esito delle elezioni presidenziali che avrebbe dovuto vincere Hillary Clinton. Ciò avrebbe assicurato la prosecuzione della strategia neocon, di cui la Clinton è stata artefice durante l’amministrazione Obama.

Questa termina all’insegna del fallimento dei principali obiettivi strategici: la Russia, messa alle corde dalla nuova guerra fredda scatenata col putsch in Ucraina e dalle conseguenti sanzioni, ha colto Washington di sorpresa intervenendo militarmente a sostegno di Damasco. Ciò ha impedito che lo Stato siriano fosse smantellato come quello libico e ha permesso alle forze governative di liberare vaste aree controllate per anni da Isis, Al Nusra e altri movimenti terroristici funzionali alla strategia Usa/Nato. Riforniti di armi, pagate con miliardi di dollari da Arabia Saudita e altre monarchie, attraverso una rete internazionale della Cia (documentata dal New York Times nel marzo 2013) che le faceva arrivare in Siria attraverso la Turchia, avamposto Nato nella regione.

Ora però, di fronte all’evidente fallimento dell’operazione, costata centinaia di migliaia di morti, Ankara se ne tira fuori aprendo un negoziato con l’intento di ricavarne il massimo vantaggio possibile. A tal fine ricuce i rapporti con Mosca, che erano giunti al punto di rottura, e prende le distanze da Washington.

Uno smacco per il presidente Obama. Questi, però, prima di passare il bastone di comando al neoeletto Trump, spara le ultime cartucce.

Nascosta nelle pieghe dell’autorizzazione della spesa militare 2017, firmata dal presidente, c’è la legge per «contrastare la disinformazione e propaganda straniere», attribuite in particolare a Russia e Cina, la quale conferisce ulteriori poteri alla tentacolare comunità di intelligence, formata da 17 agenzie federali. Grazie anche a uno stanziamento di 19 miliardi di dollari per la «cybersicurezza», esse possono mettere a tacere qualsiasi fonte di «false notizie», a insindacabile giudizio di un apposito «Centro»  coadiuvato da analisti, giornalisti e altri «esperti» reclutati all’estero. Diviene realtà l’orwelliano «Ministero della Verità» che, preannuncia il presidente del parlamento europeo Martin Schultz, dovrebbe essere istituito anche dalla Ue.

Escono potenziate dall’amministrazione Obama anche le forze speciali, che hanno esteso le loro operazioni coperte da 75 paesi nel 2010 a 135 nel 2015.

Nei suoi atti conclusivi l’amministrazione Obama ha ribadito il 15 dicembre il proprio appoggio a Kiev, di cui arma e addestra le forze, compresi i battaglioni neonazisti, per combattere i russi di Ucraina.

E il 20 dicembre, in funzione anti-russa, il Pentagono ha deciso la fornitura alla Polonia di missili da crociera a lungo raggio, con capacità penetranti anti-bunker, armabili anche di testate nucleari.

Del democratico Barack Obama, Premio Nobel per la pace, resta ai posteri il suo ultimo messaggio sullo Stato dell’Unione:

«L’America è la più forte nazione sulla Terra. Spendiamo per il militare più di quanto spendono le successive otto nazioni combinate. Le nostre truppe costituiscono la migliore forza combattente nella storia del mondo».

Manlio Dinucci

 

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New US Congress to Launch Assault on Social Programs

January 3rd, 2017 by Patrick Martin

The 115th US Congress assembles in Washington today, with the ceremonial swearing in of new senators by outgoing Vice President Joe Biden, and the swearing in of the entire House of Representatives by House Speaker Paul Ryan. For the first time in a decade, the Republican Party will be in control of the House and Senate alongside a Republican president, Donald Trump, set to be inaugurated January 20.

The new government being formed in the US capital is like nothing that has ever been seen in Washington. It carries the reactionary policies of the Obama administration and previous Congresses, whether under Democratic or Republican control, to new political depths.

The incoming Congress, working with the Trump administration, is preparing an assault on whatever remains of social programs implemented under the New Deal and Great Society programs. The true content of Trump’s call to “make America great again” is to roll back social conditions for the working class to those that existed at the end of the 19th century, the era of child labor, unlimited working hours and “robber barons.”

Entire federal departments like Education, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency have been turned over to right-wing ideologues committed to scrapping all restraints on business operations and ending all protections for workers, consumers and those who need social services.

Trump set the tone for the week at a New Year’s Eve party at his luxury estate at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, where he toasted his well-heeled guests with the promise that the new Trump administration would “lower your taxes, cut regulations and repeal Obamacare,” to thunderous applause.

The taxes to be lowered will be those of the super-rich. The regulations to be abolished are those that restrict in any way the operations of big business and the financial swindling of Wall Street, at the expense of working people.

In calling for a repeal of Obamacare, Trump is demagogically appealing to broadly felt popular opposition to the program, which is seen as a boondoggle for health insurance companies, pharmaceutical conglomerates and giant hospital chains. But the actual content of his proposals will be to slash subsidies included in Obamacare as “sweeteners,” while using revisions of the program to make substantial inroads into Medicare and Medicaid, the health insurance programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.

Despite Trump’s promises during the election campaign to replace Obamacare’s hated “individual mandate” and provisions that limit the choice of doctors and hospitals with “something great,” there is not the slightest effort in that direction. On the contrary, the Republican-controlled Congress will make the repeal of Obamacare the starting point for a further onslaught on Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other federal healthcare provisions.

According to press reports Monday, the congressional Republican leadership plans to make repeal of Obamacare the first legislative action of the new session of Congress, although the timing is still uncertain because of the complexities of the law, enacted in 2010.

Obedient to the financial interests involved, the House and Senate Republican leaders aim to repeal Obamacare in a way that does not damage the profits that these giant corporations have begun to reap from the program. This likely means that repeal of the individual mandate, which compels millions to buy private insurance or pay an increasingly stiff tax penalty, will be pushed back, lest it abruptly deprive the insurance companies of paying customers.

The planned repeal of Obamacare will proceed in several stages, beginning with passage of a budget resolution that will include so-called “reconciliation” rules that require only a 51-vote majority in the Senate, rather than the 60 votes required to overcome the expected Democratic filibuster.

Because the reconciliation process is limited to fiscal provisions that impact the budget, the actual dismantling of healthcare.gov and the federal exchange through which more than 10 million people have purchased insurance will require winning the support of at least eight Senate Democrats. The same procedure applies to rolling back the expansion of Medicaid, which extended the federal health insurance program for the poor to an additional 10 million lower-income working-class families.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to combine Obamacare repeal with far-reaching attacks on both Medicaid and Medicare. Vice President Mike Pence is a leading advocate of destroying Medicaid as an entitlement program—one for which people are automatically eligible based on their income—and transforming it into a block grant to the states. This would limit the program in each state to the amount of the block grant, regardless of the number of people who apply for aid, forcing states to set up increasingly restrictive systems to ration assistance.

As for Medicare, Obamacare was actually financed in part by cuts in the program’s reimbursements to hospital and other providers, estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. These funds, if recaptured through Obamacare repeal, will not be returned to Medicare, but will be made available instead for the real priorities of the Trump administration, increased military spending and a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

Trump’s appointment of Representative Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Medicare and Social Security, was a clear signal that he has discarded his campaign promise that there would be no cuts in either of these critical federal programs, which underwrite health care and retirement income for more than 70 million elderly and retired workers.

Price and House Speaker Paul Ryan have long advocated privatization of Medicare, transforming it into a voucher system modeled on the Medical Savings Accounts used by corporate employers to put a lid on healthcare spending by their employees.

The other major legislative initiative—and the one that has attracted the greatest attention from corporate lobbyists and Wall Street—is the gigantic tax-cutting package, likely to be the largest in history, exceeding even the windfalls for the wealthy enacted under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Trump has promised to slash the corporate tax rate from the present (largely nominal) rate of 25 percent to only 10 percent, as well as cutting higher-end individual tax rates and abolishing the estate tax, paid only by a tiny fraction of extremely wealthy families—those like Trump himself, and his cabinet of billionaires and multimillionaires.

A reactionary provision expected to be incorporated either into the Obamacare repeal or the budget and tax legislation is an outright ban on any federal funds going to Planned Parenthood, which provides health services, including cancer screening, contraception and abortion, to millions of working-class women. The organization has been targeted by the Christian fundamentalist right because it is one of the few providers of abortion services in many states, and because it aggressively defends women’s rights to the full range of family planning services.

While the Trump administration and the congressional Republicans prepare an unprecedented onslaught against social programs for working people, the Democratic Party is engaged in cynical posturing to give itself a political cover for its inevitable capitulation to the demands of Wall Street and the financial oligarchy.

The incoming leader of the Senate Democrats, Charles Schumer, declared that the Democrats would fight “tooth and nail” against the overhaul of Medicare, carefully avoiding any such pledge in relation to Medicaid, the more immediate target.

Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to congressional Democrats called for a “day of action” on January 15, “to vigorously oppose the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it and throw our health care system into chaos.” Again, the calculated downplaying of the attack on Medicaid.

Sanders has played a particularly rotten and demagogic role, issuing a series of appeals to Trump to “keep your promise” made during the campaign, not to cut Medicare and Social Security.

Donna Brazile, the interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, made her own appeal to Trump, saying that he had an “enormous” opportunity to obtain Democratic support, and urging him “to show that he’s eager to find common ground, to meet with Democrats.”

None of these Democratic leaders will state the obvious—that Trump cares nothing for his campaign promises, and is carrying out the program of the financial aristocracy, which seeks to plunder the resources of the federal Treasury to enrich themselves, while building up the police and the military to lay waste to enemies both foreign and domestic. That is because the Democrats serve that same financial aristocracy, and in many cases are charter members of it.

Genuine resistance to the program of Trump, the Republicans and Wall Street will come only from the working class, from the great majority of the American people, who were ignored, betrayed or misled in the course of the 2016 election campaign, and now face an attack on their jobs, living standards, social benefits and democratic rights on a scale that has no parallel in history.

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Yesterday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia claimed a bloody terror attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub. Around 700 people were celebrating the New Year at the nightclub when, at 1:30 a.m. on January 1, an individual armed with an assault rifle shot unarmed security guards at the nightclub and entered the premises, shooting and killing 39 patrons, including 15 foreigners. Sixty-five others were wounded.

Police operations had been stepped up in Istanbul in the two weeks before the attack, after Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) received warnings that ISIS was preparing attacks on nightclubs or parties in Istanbul, the capital city of Ankara, or other major Turkish cities. A total of 147 ISIS suspects were detained, including at least 63 ISIS members, according to Interior Ministry sources. Eight ISIS members were detained in Ankara while planning an attack on New Year’s Eve.

On New Year’s Eve itself, amid a state of emergency in Turkey, some 25,000 police officers were on duty and patrolling the streets in Istanbul to guard against a possible terror attack. The US embassy warned of terror attacks on New Year’s Eve and recommended that American citizens in Turkey not celebrate the New Year in crowded places.

Astonishingly, a lone gunman nevertheless was able to take a taxi to a location near the upscale nightclub, which is across the street from a police station. He then walked to the club, pulled an assault rifle from his bag, and launched an assault that killed or wounded over 100 people—largely Turks and tourists from other Muslim countries.

ISIS hailed the horrific attack in a statement it released, denouncing Turkey for allying with the United States and the European powers against it in the fighting in Iraq and Syria. It declared, “In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday.”

“We let infidel Turkey know that the blood of Muslims that is being shed by its airstrikes and artillery shelling will turn into fire on its territories,” the statement added.

Immediately after the attack, Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) announced a gag order, submitting reporting of the attack to state censorship. A massive man-hunt is still underway across Turkey to locate the shooter and identify potential accomplices.

Anti-terrorism experts who looked at footage of the security cameras at the nightclub said that the shooter seemed well-trained and efficient in the use of his assault rifle and shot wounded victims in the head, execution-style. He cleaned his weapon and changed his clothes, spending 13 minutes in the nightclub’s kitchen, and later escaped the scene by hailing a taxi. Police who examined the videos are working on the hypothesis that he is an ISIS fighter aged roughly 25, from the ex-Soviet republics of Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, or the Xinjiang region of western China.

The initial account of the attack that is emerging raises serious political issues, however. How was a lone gunman, who was carrying out a mass shooting near a police station amid a high alert and under a state of emergency, allowed to slaughter people undisturbed for over a quarter of an hour, and then to escape?

In the aftermath of the attack, rumors spread that police deployments to secure the area around the nightclub had been deliberately scaled back just before the attack—raising the issue of whether some section of the authorities had foreknowledge of the shooting.

Yesterday, the US Embassy in Ankara felt compelled to react to these rumors by issuing a statement denying any US foreknowledge that an ISIS attack would target the Reina nightclub. “Contrary to rumors circulating in social media, the US government had no information about threats to specific entertainment venues, including the Reina Club, and the US government did not warn Americans to stay away from specific venues or neighborhoods,” it said.

Turkish and international officials simply issued statements condemning the attack, however. Turkeys ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) promised to “end” terror, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the goal of the attack was to spread chaos. The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called for intensifying the security crackdown in Turkey and attacked recent Islamist statements by some AKP deputies denouncing New Year’s celebrations.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said that US President Barack Obama “expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted.”

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini condemned the attack from her Twitter account, writing: “2017 starts with an attack in Istanbul. Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies.”

In fact, this horrific shooting flows from the military intervention of the United States and the EU into the Middle East and Turkey and, in particular, the AKP government’s collaboration with the US-led proxy war in Syria. If ISIS has a large network of dozens or even hundreds of operatives inside Turkey, this is because the CIA and its European and Middle East allies used Turkey as a staging ground to arm and support Islamist opposition militias operating across the border in Syria.

The Turkish ruling elite’s decision to turn Turkey into a major staging post to arm opposition militias carrying out raids, terror bombings, and war crimes in Syria has not only had horrific consequences for the population of Syria. The devastation and depopulation of Syria also plunged Turkey into escalating bloodshed.

ISIS has repeatedly carried out terror attacks, and the Turkish army’s crackdown on the Kurdish population—fearing that Washington would strengthen Kurdish nationalists too much by arming Syrian Kurdish militias as proxies in Syria—plunged the country’s Kurdish areas into civil war.

ISIS was responsible for the bloodiest single attack in Turkey’s history, on October 10, 2015, killing at least 109 people and wounding more than 500 in a twin suicide bombings against a peace rally in Ankara. In 2016, the Islamic State carried out six terrorist attacks in Turkey, in which 127 people were killed and some 320 others wounded.

Split-offs from the Kurdish nationalist movement such as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) also carried out several terror attacks, including bombings in December in Istanbul and Kayseri.

In this New Year’s attack, the specific grievance cited by ISIS was the Turkish government’s alliance with Russia and Iran to try to crush Islamist opposition militias like ISIS inside Syria. Last week, Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in Syria with Russian and Iranian officials covering much of Syria, but it has pressed on with bloody attacks on Al Bab aiming to seize ISIS’ capital in Syria, Raqqa. ISIS appears to have retaliated by organizing another terror attack on Turkish soil.

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2016 marked by important of diplomatic, political and military developments around the world.

Britain voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48% in a national referendum. The outcome of the Brexit referendum has caused strong reaction at home and worldwide. Brexit was supported by the popular majority of Britain and a significant portion of the UK national elite. Even the use of lobbying clout by Cameron’s cabinet did not allow EU supporters to attain victory.

Indeed, leaving the EU would allow the UK to control immigration more efficiently, save billions of pounds in membership fees and advocate its own trade deals while leaving all trade conditions between the UK and the EU relatively unchanged – all while getting rid of restrictive EU regulations, bloated Brussels bureaucracy and run down Eastern and South European economies. In fact, the UK has simply jilted continental Europe. After all, it was Britain that was an active supporter of many decisions that have had a negative impact on the current situation of refugees in the EU and the economic issues of the Member States.

As to the trade cooperation and conditions, the EU could hardly proceed without British industry, technologies and investments. At the same time Britain acquires the first chance to jump in the US-backed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership freely without intra-European debates.

However, EU lobbyists now have moved beyond just the information campaign and diplomatic pressure. They have started to use bureaucratic technologies and well-known “color revolutions” technologies, previously field-tested in Eastern Europe and the Arab countries, to attempt to rip the referendum results to shreds. As a result, the process of the UK exit from the EU was de-facto frozen, ignoring the people’s choice. However, the BREXIT became an important step in the ongoing confrontation between EU citizens and the European bureaucracy.

Following the Brexit, Donald J. Trump won the US presidential elections. While on the campaign trail, President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a range of statements suggesting a shift away from a policy of interventionism, combined with a focus on safeguarding US borders and jobs at the expense of the dominant ideology of globalism. Can and will he deliver on these promises? There are many reasons to believe he will genuinely push US foreign policy in this direction, but at the same time he will face obstacles on his path.

One of the factors clearly helping him is the increasingly indisputable fact that globalism as an ideology has been discredited, except, ironically, among the liberal “creative classes” and among the financial elites. The rest of the society and of the elite is increasingly skeptical of such policies if not downright opposed to them, which means they are willing to experiment with economic nationalism and even isolationism.

At a minimum, the “global elites” will attempt to find as much compromising information concerning Trump, his family, and close associates as possible, in order to make him an “offer he can’t refuse” backed up by a sizable financial “consolation prize”.

If Trump refuses to succumb to direct and indirect pressure and attempts to pursue even part of what he promised during the campaign, Trump’s opponents will embark on more drastic measures, including a Maidan-like permanent demonstration aimed at tarnishing Trump’s reputation or even an assassination attempt. While the former is highly likely, the latter is somewhat less plausible because it would result in elevate Trump to martyrdom and also set a precedent for future assassinations, which is something the US elite fears greatly.  However, Trump will have to deal with tremendous and constant psychological pressure that will be exerted on him through his close associates, family, and of course the media, in order to disorient him and throw him off course.

Moreover, Trump’s political foes will pursue an international approach, using NATO and EU as means of exerting pressure on the new administration, through military provocations if need be. US, being a relatively sparsely, resource-rich country not unlike Russia, can pursue a “Fortress America” strategy. The EU would find it much more difficult to do so without embracing authoritarian governance, as it requires a “Lebensraum”-like sphere of influence that will provide natural resources which the continent lacks. But this Europe has no Grande Armee or Wehrmacht– it has to rely on US military power and subversion. Hence the  hysterical European reaction to the US election, for the adoption of a “Fortress America” strategy by the US renders EU’s own strategy of expansion obsolete.

Deciding what to do about the US relationship to Europe that has become a major net drain on US resources will therefore be a major challenge for the Trump Administration. If it is pulled down the same path as its predecessor, it will ultimately be because of its inability to redefine its relations with an increasingly burdensome and costly set of allies on the other side of the Atlantic, and for this reason the outcome of the upcoming elections in Germany and France is of critical importance.

The development of conflicts in the Middle East was the alternate side of the changes in the EU and the US. While backers of Syrian terrorists were trying to hold the power at their home, the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance made significant steps aimed on combating terrorism in Syria.

The provinces of Latakia, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and the Damascus countryside wre the main areas of operations against terrorists. The joint anti-terrorism forces achieved a series of significant victories in these areas, liberating waste areas near the Syrian capital, the important town of Qaryatayn and the key Syrian city of Aleppo. They also temporarily liberated the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS, but lost it as result of a large-scale ISIS attack in December.

On October 1, 2015, SouthFront predicted that the Russian military operation in Syria will likely lead to the establishment of a permanent Russian air and naval base in eastern Mediterranean. By October 2016, Moscow expanded its military facilities in Syria, launching a program of transforming the Khmeimim Air Base into a full-fledged military base with a permanent contingent of the Russian Aerospace Forces and announced plans to turn its naval facility in Tartus into a fully-fledged permanent naval base.

Summing up the gains of pro-government forces across the country within the past year and the growing military presence of Russia in Syria, it’s easy to conclude that the course of the Syrian war was dramatically changed and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian forces delivered a devastating blow to terrorists and saving the Assad government from the military defeat. Now, the strategic initiative of the war is in the hands of Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance.

Another key player in the conflict was Turkey that had entered northern Syria to combat ISIS and Kurdish YPG forces in August. Turkey’s aim was to build a buffer zone with pro-Turkey militant groups and to prevent Kurdish forces from creation a semi-autonomous state in Syria. Turkey’s decision to intervene in Syria was made amid the rapprochement with Russia and Iran. This allowed many experts to suggest that Turkey, Iran, Russia and Syria had some unpublicized agreements over the ongoing crisis. The Turkish-Russian-Iranian negotiations that excluded the US-led block of the so-called “friends of Syria” and took place in Moscow in December contributed to this version. The military coup attempt that took place in Turkey in July and was allegedly supported by some part of the US elite became the main reason of Ankara’s decision to increase cooperation with Moscow and Tehran.

The Russian anti-terrorist operation also pushed the US to take more active steps in combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria that led to the start of advance on Raqqah, Fallujah and Mosul. While Fallujah was liberated, Mosul remained a major ISIS stronghold in Iraq despite the US-led attempts to retake the city from terrorists.

It appears that the pre-election project of the Democratic Party of the USA, under the title “Quick Capture of Mosul” has, seemingly, failed together with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Now, the tactics of the USA administration have changed. This may mean that Donald Trump gets dragged into a quagmire of a war. That being stated, high-ranking Pentagon officials no longer believe that the Iraqi military is capable of taking Mosul, and have been preparing a plan with greater participation of the US Armed Forces.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also launched an advance on the ISIS self-proclaimed capital in Syria, Raqqah. However, until now, they have not even reached the city.

Conflicts in Yemen and Libya continued to flare in the Middle East with almost no chances to be solved with diplomatic measures, contributing to instability in the region. The Saudi-led intervention turned Yemen into a zone of instability and set conditions for the growth of local al-Qaeda branch. Even despite this, Saudi-led forces failed to achieve their military goals in the area and to inflict a defeat to the Houthi-Saleh alliance backed by Iran.

The rapidly developing relations between Russia and Egypt have been overshadowed by the more prominent relationships between Russia and Syria, as well as Russia and Iran. Nevertheless, the Russia-Egypt relationship deserves closer scrutiny because, unlike the country’s relations with the other two Middle Eastern powers, it concerns a country that until recently appeared to be firmly in Western orbit. The abrupt shift of its geopolitical vector toward Eurasia therefore represents a far bigger change for the region than Russia’s successful support of the legitimate Syrian government, or the close relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, both of which have been on the Western “enemies list” for decades. The reasons for this shift are twofold, and have to do with the way Western powers interact with Middle Eastern powers in the context of a systemic economic crisis, as well as with Russia’s demonstrated attractiveness as an ally.

From the Russian perspective, Egypt represents yet another bulwark of security against Western encroachment, a symmetric response to NATO expansion, “Eastern Partnership”, and color revolutions. Combined with the military presence in Syria, Cyprus’ general pro-Russian orientation, and the neutralization of Turkey which was also facilitated by an abortive West-promoted coup attempt, the Egyptian-Russian cooperation would impact the balance of power in the Mediterranean.

In 2016, the whole Middle East was affected by the major crisis with Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Turkey in its core. Turkey faced a military coup attempt, economic decay and Kurdish insurgency that almost turned into a full-scale civil war.

2016 witnessed a sharp escalation in the militarization of the South China Sea. The cause of the escalation is multifaceted and comes from both regional and international quarters. The militarization has been initiated and exacerbated by both China and the United States, both bearing responsibility for the current level of tension in the region. As land reclamation and building efforts on the part of the Chinese continue at Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands with no signs of slowing down in the immediate future, the US increases the size and tempo of future patrols in the area and expands its cooperation with regional powers to counter the Chinese claims.

The Central Asia also remained the point of instability that attracted attention of the key regional players: Russia, the US and China. While Afghanistan remained the main source of instability, neighboring central Asian countries also faced various terror and security threats, strengthened by an instable internal political situation.

Security threats are growing in Europe. The ongoing migration crisis and acute situation with a terrorism threat didn’t force the EU elite to change their failed foreign and internal policy and the union was plunged into shock by the continued series of terror attacks.

If this situation is not to get worse, it would require the adoption of a revised approach, namely a unified, well-funded and comprehensive EU-level migration policy, consisting of combating organized crime among ethnic groups, screening new arrivals, guaranteeing access to social services and labor markets, etc.  Otherwise the EU is risking a massive social explosion provoked by growing inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict, and the constant perception of a growing terrorist threat. Unless addressed rapidly, these problems could be sufficient to destroy the already fragile EU common security framework.

The general security situation in Europe was further worsened with the smoldering conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the recent escalation took place in December. The situation is worsening due to the economic collapse in Ukraine and the Kiev’s government inability to negotiate and unwillingness to follow the Minsk agreements. Ukraine remained the point that can be used by some powers to instigate destabilization in the whole Europe.

In general, 2016 was a very complicated year in military and diplomatic terms. The reactive processes were observed the international relations at all levels. The number of local conflicts didn’t reduce and even grew involving more and more regional and world powers. The diplomatic, military and security trends formed in the end of 2016 year will shape 2017. It will be the year of continued geopolitical standoff of global powers amid the reducing US influence around the world.

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In his waning days in office, Obama seems determined to intensify US adversarial relations with Russia, obstruct Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan later in January, and who knows what else.

With attribution to Franklin Roosevelt’s December 8, 1941 speech to Congress in response to Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack, Obama’s tenure will live in infamy, a record of high crimes against humanity history won’t forgive or forget.

Yet in a New Year’s day interview on CNN, his close advisor Valerie Jarrett audaciously claimed “(t)he president…hasn’t done something to embarrass himself.”

Not according to Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, saying “(t)his is delusional. The Obama administration has a scandal rap sheet longer than my arm. (It’s) even more corrupt than Nixon’s.”

Among other end of tenure abuses of power, Obama continues waging war on humanity at home and abroad. He wants Russian/Turkish/Iran agreed on peace talks blocked.

The US-created and supported so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) is allied with al-Nusra and other terrorist groups, operating as US imperial foot soldiers – responsible for massacring civilians and other atrocities.

In a joint January 3 statement with other anti-government groups, the FSA et al said they’re “freezing all contacts related to preparations to Astana talks planned for end-January 2017” – until “compliance with the truce agreement” by Damascus.

Fact: Syrian, Russian and allied forces halted all combat operations – except in areas controlled by ISIS and al-Nusra terrorists.

Fact: FSA et al lied claiming otherwise. Clearly, Washington’s dirty hands are involved, Obama going all out to sabotage ceasefire and conflict resolution in Syria – the war he launched and wants continued.

According to Tass, “Russian aerospace forces and Syrian air forces did not strike out on opposition armed forces that had announced ceasefire and revealed their whereabouts to the Russian and US reconciliation centers.”

At yearend 2016, Syria’s armed opposition, representing around half of anti-government forces, agreed to stop combat operations, control cessation of hostilities, and prepare for late January peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Yet daily violations occur, US dirty hands likely involved along with its rogue allies. Conflict resolution remains a distant hope.

Will Trump bring it closer to reality once in office or continue what Obama began? A lot depends on what he decides.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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Over the last several years along the Indian Ocean coast in East Africa substantial finds of oil and natural gas resources have been under development.

A British exploration corporation, Tullow Oil and its Canadian partner, Africa Oil, acknowledges that it has discovered in excess of 600 million barrels of oil in Kenya.  At least eight exploitable and viable oil sources have been recorded beginning in 2012.

Neighboring Uganda as well has approximately 6.5 billion barrels of oil deposits which have been found since 2008. Another East African Community (EAC) member Tanzania is estimated to harbor natural gas resources in the amount of 50.5 trillion cubic feet.

With respect to the Southern African state of Mozambique, which is not an EAC member but is further south of this aforementioned region, has also discovered natural gas. It has been suggested that Mozambican reserves are within the range of 200 billion cubic feet. The combined natural gas resources in Tanzania and Mozambique are said to be among the most lucrative in the world.

Yet in the contemporary period there is an overproduction of oil and natural gas resources which have driven down prices on the international market. As a result of this phenomenon various states which are reliant on these strategic energy sources have fallen into economic decline. Although some countries in Africa and other geo-political regions are described as being in recession, the fact is with the precipitous drop in currency values and debt accumulation, a depression may be a more accurate description.

In Mozambique, financial speculation centered upon these recent natural resource projects which are slated to come online in 2019, has drawn the attention of the United States Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). Allegations of impropriety involving financial institutions is providing an opening for the further interference in the internal affairs of the country which won its independence through a popular revolutionary armed struggle against NATO member Portugal in 1975 led by the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO).

According to a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal,

“The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the sale of $850 million in bonds issued by Mozambique, the latest development in a scandal that is exposing the links between the country, three international banks and a defense contractor. The move inserts the U.S. into a widening global investigation of Mozambique’s debt deals, which involved undisclosed loans and military purchases facilitated by the banks.” (Dec. 28)

This same report continues noting that

“In 2013, Credit Suisse Group AG, Russian bank VTB Group and France’s BNP Paribas sold the bonds to investors for a Mozambican state-owned company that said it needed money for tuna fishing. But months later, Mozambique’s government announced that the funds had also been used to buy military equipment. Bondholders were also unaware that Credit Suisse and VTB made $1.2 billion in undisclosed bank loans to other state-owned companies for additional military purchases until The Wall Street Journal reported on the deals in April.”

These developments are taking place amid a recrudescence in the counter-revolutionary war waged by the so-called Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO). This organization grew out of the counter-insurgency operations of the Portuguese intelligence agency (PIDE) in efforts aimed at undermining the revolutionary national liberation struggle which was committed to socialist development in Mozambique. Later when RENAMO was formed it was funded and trained by the-then settler-colonial regime of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). After the fall of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia in 1980, the racist-apartheid regime took over operations for RENAMO where the group sought to destroy the newly-liberated Mozambique state under the leadership of the late President Samora Machel. The FRELIMO leader was killed in a plane crash in October 1986 when reports suggested that the plane was brought down due to South African military operations against the ever-encroaching liberation movement the African National Congress (ANC).

RENAMO claims that it is fighting for a greater say in the Mozambique political structures yet the organization has operated openly as a political party since a ceasefire was signed with the FRELIMO government in the early 1990s. This renewal of hostilities portends much for the viability of the future economic and social well-being of the country which is a leading member of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Angola and the Oil Glut: Which Way Out of the Crisis?

Another former Portuguese colony, the Republic of Angola, won its independence as well through armed struggle during 1961-1975. Its genuine independence was threatened by the interventions of the U.S. and the South African Defense Forces (SADF) under apartheid during 1975-1988, and the support of hundreds of thousands of Cuban internationalists volunteers secured the total liberation of the country by 1989 leading to freedom for Namibia, a former colony of Germany and later the settler-colonial regime in Pretoria.

Angola has been impacted by the petroleum crisis since its national revenue is largely dependent on oil exports. The country has moved from being the first and second largest producer of oil in the last few years. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) remains the dominant political force inside the country where longtime President Jose Eduardo dos Santos announced recently that he was stepping aside to allow a new leadership to emerge.

In another article published by the Wall Street Journal it emphasizes the impact of the drop in oil prices on Angola. During the early years of this decade, economic growth was so vibrant that the government was able to loan money to its former colonial master of Portugal staving off a potential collapse in Lisbon.

The WSJ stressed that:

“Dozens of gated communities sit mostly empty, gathering dust. They were built during the first half of this decade for a middle class that never materialized and the foreign elite that largely packed up and left when a dizzying oil-price boom went bust in 2014.

In glitzy shopping malls, stores that haven’t already closed struggle to stock their shelves, as a free-falling local currency and dollar shortages batter imports.” (Jan. 2)

This report also discusses the travails of the Angolan government in seeking a way out of the current crisis:

“The International Monetary Fund expects that Angola’s economy will have zero growth in 2016, marking its worst peacetime performance on record—a disaster for a country whose population of 26 million is growing by 3.2% annually. Meanwhile, government debt has jumped to 78% of gross domestic product, according to IMF estimates, from just 41 % when oil prices plummeted in 2014. Little is known about where or from whom the government is borrowing—let alone at what rate—so analysts warn about the difficulty of predicting its ability to pay back what it owes. In April, the government entered bailout negotiations with the IMF and then abandoned them three months later. Since then, the central bank has used 18% of its foreign-currency reserves to keep some imports flowing into the country. If spending continues at this pace, ‘in about a year’s time you’d probably run out of reserves,’ says Stuart Culverhouse, head of fixed-income research at Exotix Partners, an investment firm that focuses on frontier markets.”

Pan-Africanism, Socialism and the Global Crisis

Although there appeared to be a renaissance in African political economy in the period of a supposed recovery from the Great Recessions which struck the imperialist states of Western Europe and North America between the years of 2007-2010, this growth in regional business activity is proving to be unsustainable. From Egypt and Nigeria to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the post-colonial nation-state is at the crossroads.

The prospects for foreign direct investment into the natural resource development markets have reached a breaking point due to the overproduction of oil and gas. Inside the U.S. there has been a concerted strategy to curtail exports of oil and natural gas utilizing domestic production through hydraulic fracking, shale technology and offshore drilling. Within the U.S. itself the ostensible “recovery” has been highly untenable since it is largely based on stock market speculation, tax cuts for the superrich and the normalization of low-wage employment.

In Africa there is the dire need for continental integration based on socialist planning. The merging of economic projects and political unity provides the only real solution for the perpetual ebbs and flows of global capitalist economic viability.

With the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump pressure is mounting from the Pentagon and the intelligence apparatus to continue the renewed Cold War against both Russia Federation and the People’s Republic of China. Such a policy orientation on an international level will have profoundly negative consequences for the African continent.

To foster socialist development in Africa would require the mass mobilization and organization of the workers, youth and farmers. It necessitates the disruption of dependence upon foreign direct investment as the primary mode of economic growth. The emphasis must be placed upon political education with the objective of creating a unified continent under socialist relations of production.

Moreover, the collaboration between the imperialist states and the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) should be halted. These military joint ventures has further destabilized the continent as in Mali, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and other states.

A continental military force should be independent of the imperialist states. As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said over five decades ago, the creation of an All-African High Command will serve as a defense against neo-colonialist intervention and not a gateway for its proliferation.

2017 will be an important year for the African continent. It is up to the governmental leaders, workers, youth and popular movements to decide on the correct path to the realization of revolutionary liberation and unification.

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Demystifying the Climate Change Debate

January 3rd, 2017 by Wayne Hall

President Obama, just a few weeks before leaving office and handing over to his despised (by leftists, ecologists, liberals) successor  Donald Trump, made a much publicized gesture of banning drilling for new oil and gas reserves in US waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.  His presidency thus ended on a   grandiloquent note comparable to the way it had started, when he made equally widely publicized (and in practice totally ignored, by himself) gestures of nuclear disarmament. Left-wing supporters of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) typically criticize this kind of hypocrisy, and indeed the related hypocrisy of “greenwash”, but how many of them appreciate how truly deep the hypocrisy  goes?

Does it make any difference to the credibility of established climate policy whether the threat it is supposed to be confronting  is the threat of global warming or the threat of a new ice age?

Forty years ago it was the new ice age and not global warming that was at the focus of official (and media) concern.

The “New York Times” of July 18 1970 reported that “The United States and the Soviet Union are mounting large-scale investigations to determine why the Arctic climate is becoming more frigid, why parts of the Arctic sea ice have recently become ominously thicker and whether the extent of that ice cover contributes to the onset of ice ages.” Every major climate organization at that time endorsed the theory of global cooling, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The CIA was also issuing statements along similar lines.

A 1973 newspaper report tells us that “a group of scientists meeting under the auspices of the National Science Foundation have again come up with a warning that the world may be nearing the end of the present inter-glacial period and that the Arctic ice sheet has begun what may prove to be another relentless advance over northern North America and Europe. The 46 scientists who gathered at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, for a symposium on “The End of the Present Interglacial” agreed that there is evidence of an ominous world-wide cooling of temperatures in the past two decades.”

A 1974 report by oceanographer and paleontologist James D. Hays revealed that

“the suspicion that winters are simply getting colder is no longer merely a suspicion among climatologists. Over the last 30 years permanent snow on Baffin Island has expanded. Pack ice around Iceland in the winter  is increasing and becoming a serious hazard to navigation. Warmth-loving armadillos that migrated northwards into the Midwest in the first half of this century are now retreating southward toward Texas and Oklahoma. Russian crop failures are on the increase.”

“The Canberra Times” of November 1974 reported:

“A new ice age could grip the world within the lifetime of present generations. (…) A major (BBC) television documentary shows that international scientists have changed their minds about the speed with which the world’s “weather machine” can change gear. ‘The threat of a new ice age  must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind,’ says science writer Nigel Calder. (…) “Latest studies show that ice ages are much more frequent than scientists once thought – and the next one seems to be overdue. According to one theory, “Toronto, Leningrad and Glasgow ought by now to have disappeared under thick ice sheets.”

Mainstream climate change sceptics interpret retrospective data of this kind as evidence of the perennial fraudulence and/or naivety of “global warming/climate change alarmists”, but another interpretation is possible, and it has been put   forward by researcher Dylan Jones:

“A constellation of evidence points towards the reality of an ongoing, clandestine, climate modification campaign, originating, at the very least, from the 1970’s, of unprecedented proportions and the utmost audacity and arrogance. Its overarching aim is to convert the Arctic ice into a meltwater, opening it up for its vast resources of oil, gas and minerals and to alter the global climate to one more favourable to the northern temperate zones and less favourable to equatorial and semi-tropical zones. The scientific establishment up to 1975 seemed also to have been concerned that the earth was entering a long-term Ice age. This may have been a genuine concern but may also have been a means of drumming up support.”

In other words the idea that the Arctic was becoming colder (too cold) could have been designed to buttress the idea that it needed a climate modification programme to warm it up.

But there were other ways also to persuade politicians of the necessity for climate modification, other possible approaches and other arguments, and they were duly enlisted.  Dr. Edward Teller invited the US Senate’s Preparedness Subcommittee to “imagine, a world … where the  (Soviets) can change the rainfall over Russia … and influence the rainfall in our country in an adverse manner.”

Dr. Henry G. Houghton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shuddered “to think of the consequences of prior Russian discovery of a feasible method of weather control. …  Unless we remain ahead of Russia in meteorology research the prospects for international agreements on weather control will be poor indeed. An unfavorable modification of our climate in the guise of a peaceful effort to improve Russia’s climate could seriously weaken our economy and ability to resist.”

A number of specific projects have been proposed to alleviate the harsh Russian climate with attendant benefits to agriculture, navigation, and resource exploitation. These include removal of the Arctic pack ice, damming of the Bering Straits, and diversion of Siberian rivers. These programs clearly might affect the climate of other parts of the world, including the United States and its allies. Even marginal changes in temperature and rainfall could drastically damage agriculture, shipping, and indeed the entire economy.  Military operations would also be impacted if the boundaries of pack ice, the ice-free seasons of naval bases, the frequency of obscuring clouds, etc. were altered.  Thus climatic changes are clearly potentially grave threats to national security, and have consequent implications for military planning.

The long and short of the story is that industrialists, scientists and others with vested interests in such projects have been looking for ways to warm the Arctic for well over  100 years, beginning in 1877 when Harvard geologist Nathaniel Shaler proposed diverting warm Atlantic water into the Arctic Ocean.

In 1962 MIT meteorologist, Harry Wexler proposed 3 schemes for increasing the temperature of the Earth by 1.7°C.

(1) Detonate 10 hydrogen bombs in the Arctic Ocean to send ice crystals into the polar atmosphere
(2)  Destroy the ozone layer by using aircraft to spray chlorine or bromine into the stratosphere .
(3) Launch dust particles into equatorial orbit to diffuse light to heat to warm the polar regions.

Wexler’s ideas began to gain traction in the 1970s, at which time nobody “important” was calling him a lunatic.  But following his untimely death in the same year the problem of how to warm the planet underwent a reversal.  It was now presented as absolutely imperative that ways be found to cool the planet and keep the atmosphere from warming.  Bear in mind that the stated goal of the COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris in 2015 was to limit average global temperature rises to 2°C. This would be compatible with Wexler’s 1962 proposals for bringing about a temperature rise of 1.7°C.

CONDENSATION TRAILS

One of the proposed climate modification methods was deployment of aircraft condensation trails.

A juxtaposition of extracts from the following two documentaries casts a light on the ambiguous, indeed contradictory, nature of official statements on the effects of aircraft condensation trails on global temperatures, and on the practical projects extrapolated from those effects.

(From the European Commission)

Air traffic  has risen sharply in recent years and the impact of aviation on climate change is causing increasing concern. ‘Emissions are rising by four to five percent year on year, and that is what  we are seeing right now. And if year on year you have four to five percent growth in emissions, that means in fifteen years a doubling.’ For the European Commission it’s urgent to act, since aviation, unlike other means of transport, is not taxed on fuel, so there is little incentive for it to cut its CO2 emissions. ‘We cannot continue to be successful in one sector and to neutralize that positive result by developments in other sectors, and aviation is one of the most striking examples.’ The European Commissioner for the Environment wants to see aviation take on its share of the effort to combat climate change. The Commission is therefore proposing to include air transport in the COemissions trading scheme the European Union has pioneered as a means of meeting the Kyoto protocol objectives. ‘In order to tackle this problem in the most cost-efficient way we need to include aviation emissions in our highly successful emissions trading scheme.’ The European Commission sees the emissions trading scheme as the most cost-effective way to control aviation emissions, less expensive than a tax on fuel, for instance. Being in the scheme will push the aviation sector into a new way of thinking that gives as much attention to its environmental performance as to its economic efficiency. Bringing the aviation sector into Europe’s emissions trading scheme is expected to lead to big savings in CO2. emissions from aircraft. By 2020 these savings could be 180 million tons annually, twice the level of greenhouse gases Austria emits each year. With this measure, Europe is taking another vital step towards preventing another global climate disaster.

(And from the BBC)

As aircraft plough through the upper atmosphere, above 26,000 feet, they often leave white, bright trails behind them. These long white tails, called ‘contrails’, are caused by the water and soot from the aircraft’s jet engines. As the hot water and dirt comes out of the engine it hits the air, where it’s about minus forty degrees. It’s an explosive reaction. Natural cirrus cloud sits at about 26,000 feet and reflects some of the sun’s rays back into space, having a cooling effect on the earth beneath. When a condensation trail disperses, it turns into a form of cirrus called ‘contrail cirrus’. More reflective than natural cirrus, it can spread over an area as big as sixty thousand miles (sic!). Now more and more scientists have suggested that this contrail cirrus is affecting the temperature of the planet. After the 911 attacks in New York in 2001, they were given an opportunity to check this theory. Aircraft across the United States were grounded for three whole days. So that’s no contrails for three days. After all the data was analysed there was an increase in temperature. A very slight increase, but an increase all the same. That suggests that contrails cool the planet.

The doctrine that increased carbon dioxide emissions are warming the planet became “official” for media consumption in 1966 when Gordon MacDonald – Chairman of the new ICAS (Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science) Select Panel on Weather and Climate Modification stated:  “Carbon dioxide placed in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution has produced an increase in the average temperature of the lower atmosphere of a few tenths of a degree Fahrenheit.”

If man-made clouds resulting from aircraft emissions contribute  to global warming as alleged by the European Commission, is it possible that heating of the atmosphere could be part of an overall scenario for 1) creation or exacerbation of ‘global warming’ 2) subsequent presentation of a ‘solution’ to global warming? According to Dane Wigington of “Geoengineering Watch” aircraft emissions can have the effect both of local cooling and overall warming. Although Dane wishes it to be understood that he has never portrayed climate engineering as an effective or acceptable mitigation for Earth’s life support systems, the local cooling idea fits in with the scenarios of geoengineers. And, as Dylan Jones interestingly points out: “The stated goal of the recent (2015) Climate Change conference in Paris of limiting average global temperature rises to 2°C would seem to be in harmony with Wexler’s proposals to bring about temperature rises of 1.7°C. Perhaps this is the point where official geoengineering future proposals to cool the planet will be brought into play in order to maintain this optimal figure for Arctic Modification and Catastrophe Capitalism.”

The confusion over global warming is perpetuated by the encouragement of a bipolar dispute over the extent to which it is  (a) a reality and (b) anthropogenic. Again to quote Dylan Jones: “Both the proponents of anthropogenic global warming and skeptics are funded and controlled in their upper echelons by the same source. Both sides are kept in perpetual conflict and ignorance of this inconvenient truth. Big Oil and the Climate Mafia are one and the same. When they call each other liars they are just being honest. The aim is to impede the public awareness of a warming world and its true causes for as long as possible, transferring the guilt and the cost onto the unsuspecting masses whilst profiting from the consequences of a melting Arctic and worldwide crisis. As catastrophe and carbon taxation looms large, it’s important to recognize that as always, the costs of taxes levied on corporations are passed onto the poor. Wealth is de-distributed up the pyramid.”

Economic analysts who have not involved themselves in the climate debate have made passing remarks that, given the corresponding will, could be elaborated into comprehensive, and politically powerful, critiques and interventions. Yanis Varoufakis for instance, in his “Erratic Marxist” article said: “The best example of neoliberal crassness is the debate on how to deal with climate change. Neoliberals have rushed in to argue that, if anything is to be done, it must take the form of creating a quasi-market for “bads” (e.g. an emissions trading scheme), since only markets “know” how to price goods and bads appropriately.”

Among the “six pillars” in the programme of Varoufakis’ citizens’ organization DiEM25, item 5 “Green Investment” proposes: “Channeling large-scale investment funding to green energy and sustainable practices, securing Europe’s technological sovereignty”.

Is opposition to “neoliberal crassness” a strong enough motivation to enable DiEM25 to overrule the (very real) resistance of the Climate Mafia (including the majority of ecologists not normally identified as mafiosi)  to the ideas put forward in the present article? Does DiEM25 at least have the ability unequivocally to oppose emissions trading?

Could J. Marvin Herndon’s conclusion that coal fly ash from coal-burning power stations is a prime ingredient being used in clandestine climate modification programmes be utilized to reinforce the positions of opponents of fossil fuel use for energy generation? So far ecologists (apart from in Cyprus) have proved no more willing than mainstream climate skeptics to examine (or tolerate) Dr. Herndon’s findings.

Leftists, ecologists and liberals face the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency with extreme hostility, portraying the new Republican president (plausibly) as a man under the control of oil and coal lobbies with zero concern for the environmental devastation those lobbies now seem about to perpetuate and accelerate. But the fact remains that the first uncensored public analysis since Trump’s election of some of the factors touched on in this article was hosted by an organization situated squarely in the pro-Trump climate-change-skeptic camp. I am referring to Jim Lee’s paper “Geoengineering, Weather Modification and Weaponizing Nature”, delivered on December 3rd 2016 at Freedom Force International’s 3rd Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Jim Lee claims to have won over the high-profile climate change skeptic “Lord” Christopher Monckton to his own positions. But Christopher Monckton portrays anthropogenic climate change as an ideological fabrication of the IPCC? Is he likely now to adopt Jim Lee’s position that global warming is an actually existing result, partially or totally, of climate modification? I don’t think so.

To give the last word to Dylan Jones: “Man’s folly would certainly seem to take the form of a blind trust in untrustworthy world leaders, corrupted and compromised by the corporate power structure and its overarching banking oligarchy, together forming a single, psychopathic syndicate.

Does the nature of this folly lie in a blithe disregard towards the crime against the planet carried out by unrestrained burning of fossil fuels, pollution of the atmosphere and water supplies, decimating of forests, and the countless other sins that Big Oil, and implicitly, humanity itself, is guilty of?

Or, does it lie in an ignorance of a stolen march towards the final consolidation of a tyrannical, planetary police state, carried out by the Climate Mafia? One in which a global carbon tax, levied on humanity for its supposed role in anthropogenic global warming (AGM), would form a cornerstone.

The followers of each camp, AGW proponents on one side and skeptics on the other, perpetually rail against one another.

Whoever holds the monopoly on truth holds the monopoly on deceit. What has been achieved finally is  the ultimate confidence trick, managing to corral concerned people from all over the world into two camps and turn them against each other.”

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The Trouble with Mary: The Fourth Series of Sherlock

January 3rd, 2017 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The following discussion contains spoilers.

There was much fanfare for the first episode of series 4 of the BBC’s Sherlock, which graced British television screens on New Year’s Day with its fair share of shock and delivery.  It promises to be the first of three episodes, dangling the prospect of death of the protagonist in the final instalment.

‘The Six Thatchers’ promised much, being based on ‘The Adventure of the Six Napoleons’ in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original rendering. It also enables series creators Mark Gatiss (who plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft) and Steven Moffat to have a dig at Thatcher’s busts, which are shattered in the course of the mystery.  The original story features a quest for the black pearl of the Borgias – value tends to be relative.

As usual, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) remains the cosmic being of the show: all characters ultimately revolve around him in celestial fashion, an impress of his mind and matter.  The plot development, not always weighty, centres on his continuing relationship with John Watson (Michael Freeman) and wife Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington).

Be that as it may, there was death, again, though critics and fans alike will raise eyebrows at the skimpiness.  Morstan, entered the fray as Watson’s sanitising partner, though much of that was wishful thinking.  Fans and critics also wondered if it was entirely necessary in the context of the third series, though the soap opera element proved powerful.

‘The general fear,’ posed Aja Romano, ‘was that the show had moved away from the more compelling stories of its first two seasons and gone off the rails in favour of highly implausible plot twists that did nothing very much for the overall narrative.’[1]

Morstan, as Holmes observes himself, has a lethal skill set, being a highly trained killer in her former days. This becomes the theme of the episode, with statues of Thatcher shattered to reveal a hidden USB memory stick of Morstan’s past as a freelance assassin. What unfolds is an old variant of the ‘butler did it’ – or, in this case, the voyeuristic desk job functionary.

The lies, as a result, proliferate, though Sherlock remains omniscient sage to Watson’s trusting manner, having made a promise to protect the Watsons. With such a past as that of Mary’s (Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, insists that such individuals are often put down by fate), there is a whiff of inevitability that things are going to turn bloody and sour.

The perfidious desk job functionary (played by Marcia Warren) working under the nose of the intelligence services eventually wishes to end on a defiant note by shooting Sherlock, though Morstan ends up taking the bullet after dashing at blinding speed in front of the detective.

Make of it what you will: fabulously bold to kill off an important character at this stage, thereby setting the scene for the rest of the series?  Or some head scratching gesture resembling filmic appendectomy?  It certainly offered a poignant reversal, with Mary having shot Sherlock in ‘His Last Vow’ even though the intention was not to kill him.

Ben Lawrence of The Telegraph had little trouble with seeing it as a case of the former, finding Mary’s death ‘as affecting because we were drawn, over a terrifically paced 90 minutes, into her new life as a mother and her old life as a freelance assassin, the truth of which is slowly unravelled.’[2]

There have also been personal reflections where celluloid performance moved off the screen, even if these seemed to be the sort more suitable as tabloid fluff.  For one, Abbington and Freeman as an actual couple separating prior to featuring an episode where Clio plays her cruel trick became a topic of press chatter.

The mistake, at that point, is to ask actors what they think, and more often than not, the response is unsatisfactory.  The thespian’s product is one that should be assessed on its own merits, even if it is bound to be informed, at stages, by personal experience.  All too often, the latter substitutes, controls and dictates the interpretation. In this case, critics watched for signs of Watson’s anguish as he cradled his dead wife.  Would reality spill over onto screen?

The final word, then, for Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, who keeps mentioning Jim Moriarty without actually encountering him.  ‘The episode felt very Bond overall,’ claimed Mark Lawson, with Holmes having ‘never done so much running toward or away from explosions.’[3]

A true modern adaptation of a manic character adjusted to the instantaneous wonder of social media (that had been previously the preserve of Watson’s blog), a fiend on the smart phone, and stately in his dysfunction, we are left pondering the task ahead for him.  For Moffat, it was a case of making him a touch more engaged on an emotional level – in other words, as Cumberbatch himself puts it, ‘less of a dick’.  Or at the least, more fragile.

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

Notes

[1] http://www.vox.com/2017/1/1/14137800/sherlock-six-thatchers-review-mary-johnlock

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Examining One of the Many Ways That Healthcare Providers are Compelled to Over-prescribe Big Pharma’s Unaffordable, Often Toxic and Often Dependency-inducing Prescription Drugs

“He who pays the piper calls the tune.” – Robert Browning

“Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.” – Marcia Angell, MD, author of “The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It”

“The results of (usually Big Pharma-sponsored) clinical trials are submitted to the FDA, and if one or two drug trials are positive—that is, if they show effectiveness without serious risk—the drug is usually approved, even if all the other trials are negative.” — Marcia Angell, MD, author of “Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption”

“In view of… the conflicts of interest that permeate the enterprise, it is not surprising that industry-sponsored trials published in medical journals consistently favor sponsors–largely because negative results are not published, positive results are repeatedly published in slightly different forms, and a positive spin is put on even negative results. A review of seventy-four clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that thirty-seven of thirty-eight positive studies were published. But of the thirty-six negative studies, thirty-three were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome.” — Marcia Angell, MD

“Our health care system is based on the premise that health care is a commodity like VCRs or computers and that it should be distributed according to the ability to pay in the same way that consumer goods are. That’s not what health care should be. Health care is a need; it’s not a commodity, and it should be distributed according to need. If you’re very sick, you should have a lot of it. If you’re not sick, you shouldn’t have a lot of it. That is a fundamental mistake in the way this country, and only this country, looks at health care. And that market ideology is what has made the health care system so dreadful, so bad at what it does.” — Marcia Angell, MD

(In 2002)”the combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion). Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself… Most of its marketing efforts are focused on influencing doctors, since they must write the prescriptions.” – Marcia Angell, MD

I recently ran across an important 2013 JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) article, the content of which is printed below. It is about a new form of medical propaganda, physician conflicts of interest, the cunning of Big Pharma’s advertising and how most physicians are at risk of being mis-informed and mis-educated at a time when they are being pressured to spend less and less time with their patients and to rely on the over-prescribing of Big Pharma’s synthetic chemical drugs. As I often told my patients, it only takes 2 minutes to write a prescription but it takes 20 minutes to NOT write a prescription.

I have shortened and slightly modified the article, mainly for length considerations. The original is available for those who wish to read the entire article–as noted below. The article seems to have been cunningly well-hidden from us physicians and by the consumers of healthcare by the powers that be – probably because of the sensitive nature of its contents.

The JAMA is one of the handful of peer-reviewed journals published by the AMA (American Medical Association). I used to receive it decades ago when I was a dues-paying member. Evan though I quit my membership probably 30 years ago, I still receive monthly letters asking me to pay my dues and start receiving the journal again.

But the JAMA has, probably because of financial difficulties, changed from a well-respected medical journal that didn’t allow the pharmaceutical industry to influence what it published to one that is reliant on Big Pharma money. (The JAMA has been, for well over a hundred years, the official journal for the AMA, which is still the most influential medical industry trade group and lobbying group in the US.)

But the JAMA’s hard-earned respectability all changed when it, just like the New England Journal of Medicine (note the quotes above from the fired NEJM editor, Marcia Angell, MD), began accepting excessively large amounts of advertising money from the pharmaceutical industry and then began publishing articles that had been ghost-written by Big Pharma mercenary writers or had been written by authors with serious conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry.

By the time the JAMA and the NEJM started losing their respectability, we physicians had already had been receiving scores of glossy, throwaway freebie medical journals every month that had already had ridiculously heavy drug advertising. The pages devoted to the highly biased and often laughable advertising commonly out-numbered the supposedly professional articles.  And I have to report that the quality of the advertising in the professional journals usually never rose above what is seen on prime-time television for the uneducated consumer class.

Nowadays we physicians get Big Pharma’s propaganda online, often in the form of free or reduced-cost tuition for our continuing medical education courses, courtesy of the Medical Comunication Companies (MCCs) like MedScape and WebMD.

The article I have printed below exposes the under-the-table flow of money that keeps popular online MCCs full of plausible (but often misleading) information that is consistently favorable to the dis-informational agendas of Big Pharma. On those sites the multitude of iatrogenic disorders (diseases that are caused by doctors or Big Pharma’s prescription drugs) are never mentioned. As should be easily appreciated by folks that have at least some critical thinking skills, iatrogenic diseases are a serious taboo subject that Big Pharma and the medical establishment wants to keep hidden from their drug-taking patients.

These MCC online sites maintain the ignorance Big Pharma desires for us too-busy prescribing physicians and our often “desperate-for-unbiased-information” patients who suspect that they are being sickened by the synthetic chemicals and vaccine ingredients that have been prescribed for them, substances that can be addictive, neurotoxic, dementia-inducing and a cause of mitochondrial toxicity (especially in the case of psych drugs). (Mitochondria, by the way, are the tiny energy-producing “hearts and lungs” of every living cell in our bodies that can be poisoned by the ingredients of many of our commonly prescribed drugs and vaccines.)

The article summarized below reveals the actual names of the biggest culprits: the amoral, for-profit, multinational Big Pharma corporations that annually hand out tens of millions of dollars to their co-opted and obedient MCC recipients who are—unfortunately—mistakenly trusted by both physicians and their confused patients.

What may be worse is the fact that these for-profit MCCs are responsible for providing dis-informational “content” for the thousands of health “journalists” (who are notorious for having little or no medical science background).

One sees those health journalists all over the newspapers, radio, TV and internet with their ubiquitous and very plausible articles that are often directly fed to them from the MCCs and their sugar daddy, Big Pharma. The health journalists, in reading the prepared-for-immediate-re-publication content, feel that they are doing research, whereas what is actually happening is deception and indoctrination.

The same thing happens on the nightly news when Big Pharma’s MCC-generated videos are shown on the TV news without the local station ever mentioning the gross conflicts of interest. This common tactic does represent “easy journalism” for our too-busy health writers who have deadlines to meet, but it should be admitted to for the sake of the media’s duped consumers, and it should be exposed and condemned.

A decade ago, when medical establishment and lobbying groups like the AMA, APA, AAP, AAFP, etc warned us about getting our information from the internet, they were afraid, sometimes with justification, of the influence of the complementary/alternative medical community that was out there. Many consumers found out that what was out there was frequently useful and sometimes curative – a big threat to more than one medical establishment group.

These self-help sites were often nutrition-based and often provided education and information that could make unnecessary an unaffordable physician visit that usually ended with an unaffordable prescription or two. Real cures–rather than perpetual, life-long drug or disease “management”–often could be found online.

It was only later, when the establishment came to dominate the internet with their propaganda (and Google’s ranking system that always puts MedScape and WebMD on top) that I came to agree with their warnings about online medical disinformation. Only now we have to be worried about what the medical establishment is trying to convince us to do. The article below explains one reason why those fears are well-grounded.

Remember the truism: “Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune”. It has never been more true than at this time of astronomical health care and bankrupting prescription drug costs.

*      *      *

JAMA. 2013;310(23):2554-2558. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.281638

Medical Communication Companies and Pharmaceutical Industry Grants

By Sheila M. Rothman, PhD; Karen F. Brudney, MD; Whitney Adair, BA; David J. Rothman, PhD

http://www.imapny.org/wp-content/themes/imapny/File%20Library/JAMA/JAMA-Medical-Communication-Companies—jbr130003.pdf

Medical communication companies (MCCs) are among the most significant but least analyzed health care stakeholders. Supported mainly by drug and device companies, they are vendors of information to physicians and consumers and sources of information for industry. Known best for arranging continuing medical education (CME) programs, they also develop prelaunch and branding campaigns and produce digital and print publications.

The MCCs’ relationships to industry and to physicians are not easily investigated. Industry contracts with MCCs are not publicly available and until recently neither were industry grant awards. Neither donors nor recipients made the data available.

Then in 2010, 13 pharmaceutical companies and 1 medical device company posted grant registries on their websites. Some appeared as the result of legal settlements with the Department of Justice; others were posted voluntarily.

The disclosures went beyond the stipulations of the Sunshine Act, which mandates reports of payments only to physicians and teaching hospitals.

These registries include the names of all health care organizations, including the names of the MCCs that received at least 1 grant, the grant’s purpose, and the award’s precise dollar amount.

The purpose of this study was to explore the financial relationships between MCCs and drug device companies, to describe the characteristics of large MCCs, and to explore whether they accurately represent themselves to physicians.

Methods

Our database included the 2010 grant registries of 13 pharmaceutical and 1 device company. When we began data collection in the summer of 2011, these were the only companies that had reported complete 2010 data for all divisions. We sorted recipients into organizational categories and totaled the funding they received. We then explored the relationship between MCCs and the drug and device industry. 11 of the drug companies ranked among the top 20 in the field by annual sales. The remaining 2 ranked in the top 30.

We combined information from quarterly reports and grant registries…to create a master list of 19,272 grants totaling $657,643,322 awarded to 6,493 recipients. We grouped recipients into 7 categories, consulting master lists and self-definitions: 1) MCCs, academic medical centers and affiliated hospitals; 2) hospital systems and independent providers; 3) professional medical associations; 4) professional associations organized by nurses, health administrators, and scientists; 5) disease-targeted advocacy organizations established by laymen for patient education and advocacy; and 6) research organizations such as the NIH (National Institutes of Health). Category #7 included community, faith-based, and non–health-specific organizations.

…A grant was assigned to the MCC category when an organization’s website defined its primary mission as the dissemination of information on disease states, prevention, management, therapies, and drugs or medical devices and was not a subsidiary of other recipient organizations (such as an academic medical center). By these criteria, 363 grant recipients were identified as MCCs….

We selected the top 5% of recipients (18) for in-depth analyses. These recipients received 58% of MCC industry funding and 30% of MCC industry grants. Because such a small group received such a large proportion of the funds and grants, we decided to focus on them….We devoted particular attention to CME because most registry grants were specified for “educational activities.” 14 provided CME courses at “live events” such as at medical conferences and grand rounds. 17 offered online CME courses, including webcasts, podcasts, interviews, case-based discussions, slide sets, journal articles, and interactive games….

Importance 

Medical communication companies (MCCs) are among the most significant health care stakeholders, supported mainly by drug and device companies. How MCCs share or protect physicians’ personal data requires greater transparency.

Objective

To explore the financial relationships between MCCs and drug and device companies, to describe the characteristics of the large MCCs, and to explore whether they accurately represent themselves to physicians.

Design

We combined data from the 2010 grant registries of 14 pharmaceutical and device companies; grouped recipients into categories such as MCCs, academic medical centers, disease-targeted advocacy organizations, and professional associations; and created a master list of 19,272 grants.

Results 

Medical communication companies received 26%, the largest percentage of funding ($170,803,675) from the 14 drug and device companies, followed by 21% awarded to academic medical centers ($140,928,767) and 15% to patient (disease-target) advocacy organizations ($95,769,466, see Table 2).

Of the 363 MCC grant recipients, 208 were for-profit and 155 were nonprofit companies. For-profit companies received 77%. 18 MCCs (5%) received more than $2 million each (total, $101,566,252). Of these, 14 were for-profit and 12 were subsidiaries of larger entities. All 18 MCCs were approved by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to deliver CME courses. 14 offered live and 17 offered online CME courses.

The 2 MCCs receiving the most industry funding (Medscape/WebMD) offered only online CME courses. Medical communication companies promoted online CME courses as a convenient and cost-free alternative to live CME courses. Physicians could access the site anywhere at any time. To enroll in the CME course, physicians had to provide personal information, such as name, e-mail address, specialty, and license number.

How MCCs might use the personal data and track physician web activity was described in the Privacy Policies sections of their websites. 14 stated that they used such tools as “cookies” and web “beacons”. 10 declared that they shared personal information with third parties, although none identified them. 8 stated that they did not share personal information, but almost all 6 added exceptions for unnamed “educational partners” and companies with which they worked or might merge.

Of the 6,493 recipients of more than $657 million grant awards from drug and device companies, 18 of the 363 MCCs received 26%, academic medical centers received 21%, and disease-targeted organizations received 15%. For-profit MCCs received 77% of funds (208 of 363). Among the top 5% of MCCs, 14 of 18 were for-profit. All 18 offered continuing medical education: 14 offered live and 17 offered online CME courses. All required physicians to provide personal data. Ten stated that they shared information with unnamed third parties. Eight stated they did not share information, but almost all added exceptions. None required explicit physician consent to their sharing policies.

Discussion 

Among the 14 companies that released data in 2010, MCCs received an aggregate of $170 million, more funds than any other recipient, including academic medical centers, professional associations, and research organizations. The top 5%, for-profit companies, received 59% of the funds. Absent industry disclosures, none of this information would have become publicly available.

It appears that providing online CME courses is a common activity offered by MCCs, which allows them the opportunity to collect personal data and create digital profiles. Although MCCs did not elicit users’ explicit consent, they interpreted participating in a CME course and navigating the website as an implicit agreement to share information with third parties.

It is possible that physicians using MCC websites do not appreciate the full extent of MCC-industry financial ties or are aware of data sharing practices.

Conclusions and Relevance 

Medical communication companies receive substantial support from drug and device companies. Physicians who interact with MCCs should be aware that all require personal data from the physician and some share these data with unnamed third parties.

References available at:

http://www.imapny.org/wp-content/themes/imapny/File%20Library/JAMA/JAMA-Medical-Communication-Companies—jbr130003.pdf

Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. In the decade prior to his retirement, he practiced what could best be described as “holistic (non-drug) and preventive mental health care”. Since his retirement, he has written a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, an alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American imperialism, friendly fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, and the dangers of Big Pharma, psychiatric drugging, the over-vaccinating of children and other movements that threaten American democracy, civility, health and longevity and the future of the planet.

 

 

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The Washington Post on Friday reported a genuinely alarming event: Russian hackers have penetrated the U.S. power system through an electrical grid in Vermont. The Post headline conveyed the seriousness of the threat. 

The first sentence of the article directly linked this cyberattack to alleged Russian hacking of the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta — what is now routinely referred to as “Russian hacking of our election” — by referencing the code name revealed on Wednesday by the Obama administration when it announced sanctions on Russian officials: “A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.”

The Post article contained grave statements from Vermont officials of the type politicians love to issue after a terrorist attack to show they are tough and in control. The state’s Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, said:

Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality of life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy issued a statement warning: “This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”

The article went on and on in that vein, with all the standard tactics used by the U.S. media for such stories: quoting anonymous national security officials, reviewing past acts of Russian treachery, and drawing the scariest possible conclusions (“‘The question remains: Are they in other systems and what was the intent?’ a U.S. official said”).

The media reactions, as Alex Pfeiffer documents, were exactly what one would expect: hysterical, alarmist proclamations of Putin’s menacing evil:

Our Russian “friend” Putin attacked the U.S. power grid.https://t.co/iAneRgbuhF

— Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) December 31, 2016

The Post’s story also predictably and very rapidly infected other large media outlets. Reuters thus told its readers around the world: “A malware code associated with Russian hackers has reportedly been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility.”

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM here? It did not happen.

There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all its computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.

Apparently, the Post did not even bother to contact the company before running its wildly sensationalistic claims, so Burlington Electric had to issue its own statement to the Burlington Free Press, which debunked the Post’s central claim (emphasis in original): “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop NOT connected to our organization’s grid systems.”

So the key scary claim of the Post story — that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid — was false. All the alarmist tough-guy statements issued by political officials who believed the Post’s claim were based on fiction.

Even worse, there is zero evidence that Russian hackers were even responsible for the implanting of this malware on this single laptop. The fact that malware is “Russian-made” does not mean that only Russians can use it; indeed, like a lot of malware, it can be purchased (as Jeffrey Carr has pointed out in the DNC hacking context, assuming that Russian-made malware must have been used by Russians is as irrational as finding a Russian-made Kalishnikov AKM rifle at a crime scene and assuming the killer must be Russian).

As the actual truth emerged once the utility company issued its statement, the Post rushed to fix its embarrassment, beginning by dramatically changing its headline:

The headline is still absurd: They have no idea that this malware was placed by a “Russian operation” (though they would likely justify that by pointing out that they are just stenographically passing along what “officials say”). Moreover, nobody knows when this malware was put on this laptop, how, or by whom. But whatever else is true, the key claim — “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid” — has now been replaced by the claim that this all shows “risk to U.S. electrical grid.”

As journalists realized what did — and did not — actually happen here, the reaction was swift:

 

 

This matters not only because one of the nation’s major newspapers once again published a wildly misleading, fearmongering story about Russia. It matters even more because it reflects the deeply irrational and ever-spiraling fever that is being cultivated in U.S. political discourse and culture about the threat posed by Moscow.

The Post has many excellent reporters and smart editors. They have produced many great stories this year. But this kind of blatantly irresponsible and sensationalist tabloid behavior — which tracks what they did when promoting that grotesque PropOrNot blacklist of U.S. news outlets accused of being Kremlin tools — is a byproduct of the Anything Goes mentality that now shapes mainstream discussion of Russia, Putin, and the Grave Threat to All Things Decent in America that they pose.

The level of groupthink, fearmongering, coercive peer pressure, and über-nationalism has not been seen since the halcyon days of 2002 and 2003. Indeed, the very same people who back then smeared anyone questioning official claims as Saddam sympathizers or stooges and left-wing un-American loons are back for their sequel, accusing anyone who expresses any skepticism toward claims about Russia of being Putin sympathizers and Kremlin operatives and stooges.

But it’s all severely exacerbated by social media in ways that we don’t yet fully understand. A large percentage of journalists sit on Twitter all day. It’s their primary window into the world. Because of how intense and raw the emotions still are from Trump’s defeat of Clinton, the social media benefits from tweeting and publishing unhinged claims about Trump and Putin are immense and immediate: thousands upon thousands of re-tweets, a rapidly building follower count, and huge amounts of traffic.

Indeed, the more unhinged it is, the greater the benefits are (see some of the most extreme examples here). That’s how otherwise rational people keep getting tricked into posting and re-tweeting and sharing extremely dubious stories that turn out to be false.

And that’s to say nothing of the non-utilitarian social pressures. It’s not news that coastal elites — particularly media and political figures — were and are virtually unified in their unbridled contempt for Trump. And we have seen over and over that any time there is a new Prime Foreign Villain consecrated — now Putin — U.S. media figures lead the campaign. As a result, any denunciation or accusation toward Trump or Russia, no matter how divorced from reason or devoid of facts, generates instant praise, while any questioning of it prompts instant peer-group denunciation, or worse.

Few things are more dangerous to the journalistic function than groupthink, and few instruments have been invented that foster and reinforce groupthink like social media, particularly Twitter, the platform most used by journalists. That’s a phenomenon that merits far more study, but examples like this one highlight the dynamic.

In this case, the effect is a constant ratcheting up of tensions between two nuclear-armed powers whose nuclear systems are still on hair-trigger alert and capable of catastrophic responses based on misunderstanding and misperception. Democrats and their media allies are rightly alarmed about the potential dangers of Trump’s bellicose posture toward China, but remarkably and recklessly indifferent to the dangers of what they themselves are doing here.

* * * * *

Those interested in a sober and rational discussion of the Russia hacking issue should read the following:

(1) Three posts by cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr: first, on the difficulty of proving attribution for any hacks; second, on the irrational claims on which the “Russia hacked the DNC” case is predicated; and third, on the woefully inadequate, evidence-free report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI this week to justify sanctions against Russia.

(2) Yesterday’s Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi, who lived and worked for more than a decade in Russia, titled: “Something About This Russia Story Stinks.”

(3) An Atlantic article by David A. Graham on the politics and strategies of the sanctions imposed this week on Russia by Obama; I disagree with several of his claims, but the article is a rarity: a calm, sober, rational assessment of this debate.

Since it is so often distorted, permit me once again to underscore my own view on the broader Russia issue: Of course it is possible that Russia is responsible for these hacks, as this is perfectly consistent with (and far more mild than) what both Russia and the U.S. have done repeatedly for decades.

But given the stakes involved, along with the incentives for error and/or deceit, no rational person should be willing to embrace these accusations as Truth unless and until convincing evidence has been publicly presented for review, which most certainly has not yet happened. As the above articles demonstrate, this week’s proffered “evidence” — the U.S. government’s evidence-free report — should raise rather than dilute suspicions. It’s hard to understand how this desire for convincing evidence before acceptance of official claims could even be controversial, particularly among journalists.

UPDATE: Just as The Guardian had to do just two days ago regarding its claim about WikiLeaks and Putin, the Washington Post has now added an editor’s note to its story acknowledging that its key claim was false:

Is it not very clear that journalistic standards are being casually dispensed with when the subject is Russia?

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As a new year begins I wish to reflect on the Syrian government’s continued resistance and impending victory—with the help of the Russian military—against western backed terrorist forces. The defense of Syria, after an almost six-year-long proxy offensive against it, has served a blow to the western imperial agenda while greatly strengthening Russia’s position globally. 

The western imperial machine has failed miserably in its regime change agenda in Syria. The US-led failure to oust Bashar Al Assad’s secular government is a global game changer that may decidedly tip the balance of power away from the US and its western and Mid East allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, until very recently, Turkey). Syria’s withstanding would not have been possible without Russian involvement, firmly placing Russia as a counter to western power as we move into 2017. As Argentine journalist and analyst, Pedro Brieger, aptly maintains, Russia has emerged as the key actor in global politics, in recent years: “Russia proved that it has become the key player in the international arena. If you want to understand that just look at what is going in Syria,” Brieger told Sputnik News.

It was Russia’s direct involvement in Syria and its provision of crucial military and strategic support to the Assad government that allowed Syria to resist the dirty proxy war that has been waged against it for the almost six years. It was also Russia, in cooperation with Iran and the purely opportunistic Turkish regime, that brokered a nationwide ceasefire between anti-Assad terrorists and the Syrian government, which came into force yesterday (December 29, 2016). One of the biggest turning points has been the recent liberation of the strategic and once most-populous city of Aleppo from Daesh/IS control and occupation. With instrumental help from Russia, the Syrian government has been able to take back the city. In mid December the Russian Reconciliation Center evacuated 50,000 civilians from eastern Aleppo. The evacuation of 5,000 ‘rebels’ and their family members from eastern Aleppo, via a humanitarian corridor, began around the same time.

Overall, though the West tried to topple the Syrian government for almost six years, using terrorist or ‘rebel’ groups as proxy, it has not succeeded—and this failure arguably weakens western/US/NATO’s global hegemony going forward. Most importantly, western actions in Syria (and the broader Middle East) have highlighted just how hypocritical and contradictory western powers are. While the US has long claimed to be waging a global war on terror, it’s overt support of terrorist groups in Syria, such as the US-backed ‘moderate’ terrorist group Nour al-Din al-Zinki, that brutally beheaded a Palestinian child in July 2016, as well as terrorist staples such as Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front, demonstrates the US’ willingness to promote terrorism for its own interests.

This is not a new trend. The US has been arming and backing Islamist radicals and terrorist groups for decades, especially in its efforts to undermine the influence of Russia–a world power that does not seek uni-polar power, like the US does, and has repeatedly called for a multi-polar world in terms of both culture and politics. The US has been backing Islamic terrorist groups since at least the 1970s when, as the US admitted in the 1990s, American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen—presently known as the Taliban—in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet-Afghan war began, suggesting that the terrorist group was to a large degree a creation of the US.

Promoting Islamic extremism was one western response to the so-called communist threat (read as the threat to NATO and US power) posed by the Soviet Union. The same is true of contemporary terrorist groups such as ISIS. While the west claims to currently be at war with ISIS, the reality is that western/NATO powers actually supported and armed these violent lunatics in an effort to undermine other secular Muslim regimes such as Assad’s Syria. For instance, the BBC in 2013 reported that states such as France and the US gave arms and military support to the Free Syria Army, a so-called insurgency group openly linked to ISIS, in Syria.

Overall, despite western rhetoric against Islamic extremism and radicalism, Russian and or Soviet influence and involvement in the region has long been a secularizing force while the US and other western powers have long been allies, champions and or architects of radicalization. This is evidenced not least by the west’s very cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia and Wahabi/Salafi Sunni Islam, which is arguably the most radical, extreme, and violent interpretation and practice of Islam today.

Much of the US’ motivations for radicalizing Sunni Muslims are linked to its unwavering support for Israel. But it also greatly serves the US’ own hegemonic interests, not least its efforts to undermine the Soviet Union in the past and Russia presently. For instance, an obvious yet unspoken component of the US/NATO campaign in Syria, as well as their efforts in Ukraine, and the so-called Missile Defense Shield in Europe, is to undermine Russia’s ability to not only project power but also to defend itself strategically.  These are examples of the West’s attempts to militarily and economically contain Russia. But with US President-elect Donald Trump seemingly intent on a detente with Russia—reports have come out that Russia is not on Trump’s list of Pentagon priorities—the tide could turn. If Trump does indeed plan to improve US-Russia relations, and given Russia’s increasing status and global importance, 2017 could mark the beginning of the long transition to a saner and potentially more multi-polar world.

Do we dare hope for such things? The US has been a belligerent bully that has terrorized the entire world—directly or indirectly—for at least the last fifteen years (if not closer to fifty). I believe that much of the world would welcome any changes to global politics and the global balance of power that would have the US become less meddling, less war mongering and generally less imperial/hegemonic.

It remains to be seen what will happen. But one thing is certain: with respect to the West’s imperial agenda, 2016 has been a welcome failure. Despite western mainstream media’s and the global neo-liberal/neo-con propaganda campaign against ‘evil Russia-Putin’ and its insistence on the need to oust the ‘Syrian regime,’ at the end of 2016 these two stand as robust as ever. Indeed each of these targets has arguably been made more powerful and more relevant due to the west’s (and its allies’) colossal miscalculations. The fear-mongering campaign has backfired and has, ironically, helped elevate the status and influence of Russia and the Syrian government as we enter the New Year.

Dr. Ghada Chehade is an independent analyst, writer and performance poet. She holds a PhD from McGill University. She blogs at https://soapbox-blog.com/

Hyperlinked Sources

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201612251048975635-russia-global-politics/

https://www.rt.com/news/369869-syria-evacuation-civilians-aleppo/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/russia-says-evacuation-5-000-rebels-aleppo-begun-102317890.html?ref=gs

http://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/

http://news.sky.com/story/syria-conflict-military-says-nationwide-ceasefire-agreed-10710895

https://www.rt.com/usa/371055-trump-pentagon-priorities-russia/

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Dear President and Members of the UNSC,

As you are aware, a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.

Over the past two months, a military offensive by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State has led to the killing of hundreds of Rohingya people. Over 30,000 people have been displaced. Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies – Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to protect the Rohingya population.

The head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Bangladesh side of the border, John McKissick, has accused Myanmar’s government of ethnic cleansing. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee has condemned the restricted access to Rakhine State as “unacceptable.” The Rohingyas are among the world’s most persecuted minorities, who for decades have been subjected to a campaign of marginalisation and dehumanisation. In 1982, their rights to citizenship were removed, and they were rendered stateless, despite living in the country for generations. They have endured severe restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom. Yet despite the claims by government and military, and many in society, that they are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants who have crossed the border, Bangladesh does not recognise them either.

Their plight intensified dramatically in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbours. Since then they have existed in ever more dire conditions. This latest crisis was sparked by an attack on Myanmar border police posts on 9 October, in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The truth about who carried out the attack, how and why, is yet to be established, but the Myanmar military accuse a group of Rohingyas. Even if that is true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate. It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial. It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire. According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, “they shot at people who were fleeing. They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”

Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly. The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they [the military] pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away”. She has not seen them since.

Despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas. Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.

We urge the United Nations to do everything possible to encourage the Government of Myanmar to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid, so that people receive emergency assistance. Access for journalists and human rights monitors should also be permitted, and an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation should be established. Furthermore, we urge the members of UN Security Council to put this crisis on Security Council’s agenda as a matter of urgency, and to call upon the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar in the coming weeks as a priority. If the current Secretary-General is able to do so, we would urge him to go; if not, we encourage the new Secretary-General to make it one of his first tasks after he takes office in January.

It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said “never again”. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say “never again” all over again. Sincerely,

Professor Muhammad Yunus
2006 Nobel Peace Laureate

José Ramos-Horta
1996 Nobel Peace Laureate

Máiread Maguire
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

Betty Williams
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
1984 Nobel Peace Laureate

Oscar Arias
1987 Nobel Peace Laureate

Jody Williams
1997 Nobel Peace Laureate

Shirin Ebadi
2003 Nobel Peace Laureate

Tawakkol Karman
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

Malala Yousafzai
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate

Leymah Gbowee
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

Sir Richard J. Roberts
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Elizabeth Blackburn
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Romano Prodi
Former Prime Minister of Italy

Emma Bonino
Former Italian Foreign Minister

Arianna Huffington
Founder and Editor, The Huffington Post

Sir Richard Branson
Business Leader and Philanthropist

Paul Polman
Business Leader

Mo Ibrahim
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Jochen Zeitz
Business Leader and Philanthropist

Richard Curtis
SDG Advocate, Film Director

Alaa Murabit
SDG Advocate, Voice of Libyan Women

Kerry Kennedy
Human Rights Activist

Download PDF File: Letter UNSC Rohingya Crisis Myanmar Nobel Laureates

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.

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Dear President and Members of the UNSC,

As you are aware, a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.

Over the past two months, a military offensive by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State has led to the killing of hundreds of Rohingya people. Over 30,000 people have been displaced. Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies – Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to protect the Rohingya population.

The head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Bangladesh side of the border, John McKissick, has accused Myanmar’s government of ethnic cleansing. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee has condemned the restricted access to Rakhine State as “unacceptable.” The Rohingyas are among the world’s most persecuted minorities, who for decades have been subjected to a campaign of marginalisation and dehumanisation. In 1982, their rights to citizenship were removed, and they were rendered stateless, despite living in the country for generations. They have endured severe restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom. Yet despite the claims by government and military, and many in society, that they are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants who have crossed the border, Bangladesh does not recognise them either.

Their plight intensified dramatically in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbours. Since then they have existed in ever more dire conditions. This latest crisis was sparked by an attack on Myanmar border police posts on 9 October, in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The truth about who carried out the attack, how and why, is yet to be established, but the Myanmar military accuse a group of Rohingyas. Even if that is true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate. It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial. It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire. According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, “they shot at people who were fleeing. They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”

Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly. The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they [the military] pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away”. She has not seen them since.

Despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas. Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.

We urge the United Nations to do everything possible to encourage the Government of Myanmar to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid, so that people receive emergency assistance. Access for journalists and human rights monitors should also be permitted, and an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation should be established. Furthermore, we urge the members of UN Security Council to put this crisis on Security Council’s agenda as a matter of urgency, and to call upon the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar in the coming weeks as a priority. If the current Secretary-General is able to do so, we would urge him to go; if not, we encourage the new Secretary-General to make it one of his first tasks after he takes office in January.

It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said “never again”. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say “never again” all over again. Sincerely,

Professor Muhammad Yunus
2006 Nobel Peace Laureate

José Ramos-Horta
1996 Nobel Peace Laureate

Máiread Maguire
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

Betty Williams
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
1984 Nobel Peace Laureate

Oscar Arias
1987 Nobel Peace Laureate

Jody Williams
1997 Nobel Peace Laureate

Shirin Ebadi
2003 Nobel Peace Laureate

Tawakkol Karman
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

Malala Yousafzai
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate

Leymah Gbowee
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

Sir Richard J. Roberts
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Elizabeth Blackburn
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Romano Prodi
Former Prime Minister of Italy

Emma Bonino
Former Italian Foreign Minister

Arianna Huffington
Founder and Editor, The Huffington Post

Sir Richard Branson
Business Leader and Philanthropist

Paul Polman
Business Leader

Mo Ibrahim
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Jochen Zeitz
Business Leader and Philanthropist

Richard Curtis
SDG Advocate, Film Director

Alaa Murabit
SDG Advocate, Voice of Libyan Women

Kerry Kennedy
Human Rights Activist

Download PDF File: Letter UNSC Rohingya Crisis Myanmar Nobel Laureates

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.

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Civilization at a Standstill

January 3rd, 2017 by John Kozy

In 1620, Puritans landed in Massachusetts and established the Plymouth Colony in North America. They came to America ostensibly to escape from religious persecution which was pervasive in England at the time. Apparently English Christians were unable to live together peacefully. No matter where the Puritans went to elude persecution, dissatisfaction followed. They went to Amsterdam then to Leiden before sailing to New England. In America, they routinely banished unorthodox believers. Quaker women, Roger Williams, and  Anne Hutchinson are cited most often. They also executed members of their own community who were accused of witchcraft. Given how they acted, most would say the Puritans were not “nice people.” But like all whose lives are guided by a creed, the strength of their beliefs is the measure of their creed’s “truth.” The stronger the belief, the truer the creed. Consequently intolerance and discrimination are fundamental characteristics of such creedal cultures.

Forty years later, the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge was founded. Its motto is Nullius in verba which means something like “take nobody’s word for it.” The motto expresses the determination to withstand the domination of creedal cultures and to verify all claims by appeals to facts determined by experience. The Enlightenment had dawned in England. The establishment of this society bifurcates human beings into a mass of believers and a class of knowers.

But the Enlightenment did not cast a wide beam. Believers do not need evidence to support the claims of their creeds. Even seeking such evidence exhibits “bad faith” and in the seventeenth century would have occasioned the expulsion of the seeker from the culture. Although expulsion is no longer a cultural practice, a strong belief still obviates the need for evidence to support its claims. So believers can routinely be expected to ignore anything that might cast doubt on the creed’s “truth.”

Evidence that shows that Americans and perhaps Europeans and other peoples of the world are creedal is easy to cite. Human beings are essentially incorrigibly anti-intellectual, so the Enlightenment didn’t enlighten many.

In America, ideas, practices, and policies continue to be implemented long after being discredited by experience. The War on Drugs is a notorious example. Its failure has been so evident that many states now are openly defying the federal government and legalizing the use of banned substances. But the federal government continues to ban them. American economists continue to promote free market capitalism even though it has failed to produce a single prosperous culture in more than two hundred years and has never even provided for the needs of people. Get tough on crime practices such as harsh and long prison sentences have not reduced crime; yet they continue to be utilized.  The application of economic sanctions as a tool of foreign policy is another egregious example. America’s guiding principle seems to be “if at first you don’t succeed, do what you did over and over.” Getting it wrong is the American way.

This principle is so pervasive in America, even institutional groups have adopted it. The Congress and the mainstream press both have approval ratings that are shamefully low, but no one in either group has suggested doing things differently.

But there is another phenomenon taking place that’s ever worse, and it has been going on for a long time. America’s college graduates, even those who graduate from America’s elite institutions, graduate while believing the same dogmas and holding the same attitudes they held when they matriculated. Ted Cruz, the Koch brothers, and Franklin Graham are obvious examples but others are easy to cite. Apparently professors no longer (perhaps never did) make any attempt to teach students how to evaluate ideas or even the importance of doing so. Education has become merely vocational training. Any ideas taught are those which are conventionally believed. The result is that no new ideas can emerge from this culture, and human progress is impossible. Americans are trapped in trivia–entertainment, sports, baubles, bangles, trinkets, and technological toys. Some have called this an addiction to materialism, but they are wrong. The addiction is to ignorance, especially ignorance expressed as belief, and the addiction goes all the way back to 1620.

The consequence of this addiction is a political process that has been described as pendular. A group gains political power and implements seventeenth century ideas which have long been discredited by experience. When the results do not meet expectations, another group gains political power and implements nineteenth century ideas which have also been discredited by experience. The eighteenth century’s enlightenment ideas play no role in the process because they have never been adopted by any group of believers. So when the implemented nineteenth century ideas also fail to meet expectations, the only alternative available is a return to the previously discarded seventeenth century ideas. Back and forth the process goes without ever advancing. Civilization is at a standstill. No problems are ever solved and no conflicts are ever avoided. The ancient Greeks fought Persian hoards. Western nations fight Near Eastern ones. See how much more civilized human beings are today that they were in 400 B.C.E.! The more things change, the more they remain the same, because the enlightenment has gone dark. In the absence of new ideas, the dialectical process never advances, and it won’t until believers repudiate their creeds, and people see the value in the maxim, Nullius in verba. No mere claim, no matter whom it is made by, has any value.

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

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Paris, France, January 3, 2017 – In a move welcomed by Friends of the Earth France, Société Générale has confirmed that it will not finance the Tanjung Jati B 2 (TJB2) coal plant project in Indonesia. It has become the second French bank, following a decision from BNP Paribas in 2015, to withdraw from the controversial TJB2 project that would heavily impact the climate and the health of Indonesians. Friends of the Earth France is now calling on Crédit Agricole to also withdraw from TJB2 financing as well as from the Cirebon 2 coal plant project in Indonesia to help prevent potential impacts at both projects and to ensure that the bank respects the commitment it made only in October last year to end its financing of all new coal-fired power plant projects around the world.

Société Générale’s commitment in October 2016 to no longer finance new coal-fired power plant projects entered into force on January 1 this year, thus the bank is no longer able to finance the TJB2 project in Indonesia. [1] The project, which would be incompatible with a 2°C climate pathway and which one study has suggested may lead to the premature deaths of 1200 people [2], failed to reach financial closure before the beginning of 2017 in order to guarantee the participation of Société Générale, one of six banks – including Crédit Agricole also – which has been considering finance for the project.

Lucie Pinson, Private finance campaigner for Friends of the Earth France, commented:

“Following pressure for its involvement in an array of coal projects after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Société Générale committed in October 2016 to end its financing for all new coal-fired power plant projects all around the world. However, as it wanted to spare its relations with its clients who are promoting the Tanjung Jati B 2 project, the bank had given them until December 2016 to complete the financing. As the project is enduring further delays, Société Générale is now obliged to disassociate itself from the group of funders in order to respect its commitment from October.”

Friends of the Earth France learned in January 2016 from an article published in the financial press that Société Générale and Crédit Agricole had joined the group of funders to the TJB2 project following the withdrawal of BNP Paribas. Also reported a few months later was the involvement of Crédit Agricole in a second coal-fired power plant project in Indonesia, Cirebon 2, which is proving to be even more controversial than TJB2 and is currently facing legal challenges. [3]

Lucie Pinson continued:

“Unlike the other French banks, Crédit Agricole is still involved in not one but two new coal power plant projects in Indonesia. To end up as the last French bank directly financing new coal-fired power plants would be an extremely bad legacy, and we call on Crédit Agricole to withdraw immediately from both Tanjung Jati B 2 and Cirebon 2. In October 2016, the bank committed, just the same as Société Générale, to no longer fund new coal-fired power plant projects anywhere in the world. As new year’s resolutions are still fresh in the air, it’s crucial that Crédit Agricole still respects the promises it made in 2016.”

At the end of December, Crédit Agricole published a new policy on coal-fired power plants which enacted the October commitment not to finance new power plants and also outlined that it would no longer support companies which generate more than 50% of their electricity from coal. Friends of the Earth has analysed this policy and also published a study on the compliance of Cirebon 2 with Crédit Agricole’s social and environmental commitments. The conclusion of the analysis: if the new policy  is weak and insufficient to meet the climate targets, financing Cirebon 2 would be a clear violation of  the Equator Principles of which the bank is a signatory [4].

For more information, contact:

Lucie Pinson, Private finance campaigner, Friends of the Earth France,  Email: [email protected]

References

(1) See the Friends of the Earth France and BankTrack press release published following the undertaking by Société Générale and Crédit Agricole not to finance new coal-fired power plant projects around the world:

http://www.banktrack.org/show/article/coal_in_indonesia_societe_generale_pulls_out_of_financing_credit_agricole_under_pressure_to_follow

(2) See the press release published by the Friends of the Earth France and Greenpeace on the occasion of the general meetings of Crédit Agricole and Société Générale: ‘Indonesia, the climate test for Crédit Agricole and Société Générale’, available at:
http://www.amisdelaterre.org/Indonesie-le-test-climatique-du-Credit-Agricole-et-de-la-Societe-Generale.html

(3) See the ‘Project Finance International article’ on Tanjung Jati B 2:
http://www.pfie.com/french-banks-support-tjb2/21231277.article; also the ‘Project Finance & Infrastructure Global’ article on Cirebon 2:
https://ijglobal.com/articles/99000/banks-mandated-for-indonesias-cirebon

(4) Voir le communiqué de presse et accéder aux analyses :
http://www.amisdelaterre.org/CLIMAT-Credit-Agricole-annonce-un-nouvel-engagement-mais-va-toujours-au-charbon.html

See the press release and link to the analysis: http://www.amisdelaterre.org/CLIMAT-Credit-Agricole-annonce-un-nouvel-engagem

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Paris, France, January 3, 2017 – In a move welcomed by Friends of the Earth France, Société Générale has confirmed that it will not finance the Tanjung Jati B 2 (TJB2) coal plant project in Indonesia. It has become the second French bank, following a decision from BNP Paribas in 2015, to withdraw from the controversial TJB2 project that would heavily impact the climate and the health of Indonesians. Friends of the Earth France is now calling on Crédit Agricole to also withdraw from TJB2 financing as well as from the Cirebon 2 coal plant project in Indonesia to help prevent potential impacts at both projects and to ensure that the bank respects the commitment it made only in October last year to end its financing of all new coal-fired power plant projects around the world.

Société Générale’s commitment in October 2016 to no longer finance new coal-fired power plant projects entered into force on January 1 this year, thus the bank is no longer able to finance the TJB2 project in Indonesia. [1] The project, which would be incompatible with a 2°C climate pathway and which one study has suggested may lead to the premature deaths of 1200 people [2], failed to reach financial closure before the beginning of 2017 in order to guarantee the participation of Société Générale, one of six banks – including Crédit Agricole also – which has been considering finance for the project.

Lucie Pinson, Private finance campaigner for Friends of the Earth France, commented:

“Following pressure for its involvement in an array of coal projects after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Société Générale committed in October 2016 to end its financing for all new coal-fired power plant projects all around the world. However, as it wanted to spare its relations with its clients who are promoting the Tanjung Jati B 2 project, the bank had given them until December 2016 to complete the financing. As the project is enduring further delays, Société Générale is now obliged to disassociate itself from the group of funders in order to respect its commitment from October.”

Friends of the Earth France learned in January 2016 from an article published in the financial press that Société Générale and Crédit Agricole had joined the group of funders to the TJB2 project following the withdrawal of BNP Paribas. Also reported a few months later was the involvement of Crédit Agricole in a second coal-fired power plant project in Indonesia, Cirebon 2, which is proving to be even more controversial than TJB2 and is currently facing legal challenges. [3]

Lucie Pinson continued:

“Unlike the other French banks, Crédit Agricole is still involved in not one but two new coal power plant projects in Indonesia. To end up as the last French bank directly financing new coal-fired power plants would be an extremely bad legacy, and we call on Crédit Agricole to withdraw immediately from both Tanjung Jati B 2 and Cirebon 2. In October 2016, the bank committed, just the same as Société Générale, to no longer fund new coal-fired power plant projects anywhere in the world. As new year’s resolutions are still fresh in the air, it’s crucial that Crédit Agricole still respects the promises it made in 2016.”

At the end of December, Crédit Agricole published a new policy on coal-fired power plants which enacted the October commitment not to finance new power plants and also outlined that it would no longer support companies which generate more than 50% of their electricity from coal. Friends of the Earth has analysed this policy and also published a study on the compliance of Cirebon 2 with Crédit Agricole’s social and environmental commitments. The conclusion of the analysis: if the new policy  is weak and insufficient to meet the climate targets, financing Cirebon 2 would be a clear violation of  the Equator Principles of which the bank is a signatory [4].

For more information, contact:

Lucie Pinson, Private finance campaigner, Friends of the Earth France,  Email: [email protected]

References

(1) See the Friends of the Earth France and BankTrack press release published following the undertaking by Société Générale and Crédit Agricole not to finance new coal-fired power plant projects around the world:

http://www.banktrack.org/show/article/coal_in_indonesia_societe_generale_pulls_out_of_financing_credit_agricole_under_pressure_to_follow

(2) See the press release published by the Friends of the Earth France and Greenpeace on the occasion of the general meetings of Crédit Agricole and Société Générale: ‘Indonesia, the climate test for Crédit Agricole and Société Générale’, available at:
http://www.amisdelaterre.org/Indonesie-le-test-climatique-du-Credit-Agricole-et-de-la-Societe-Generale.html

(3) See the ‘Project Finance International article’ on Tanjung Jati B 2:
http://www.pfie.com/french-banks-support-tjb2/21231277.article; also the ‘Project Finance & Infrastructure Global’ article on Cirebon 2:
https://ijglobal.com/articles/99000/banks-mandated-for-indonesias-cirebon

(4) Voir le communiqué de presse et accéder aux analyses :
http://www.amisdelaterre.org/CLIMAT-Credit-Agricole-annonce-un-nouvel-engagement-mais-va-toujours-au-charbon.html

See the press release and link to the analysis: http://www.amisdelaterre.org/CLIMAT-Credit-Agricole-annonce-un-nouvel-engagem

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America or Israel?

January 3rd, 2017 by Philip Giraldi

I am reluctant to write about the “Israel problem” at the heart of U.S. foreign policy two weeks in a row but it seems that the story just will not go away as the usual suspects pile on the Barack Obama Administration over its alleged betrayal of America’s “best and greatest friend and ally in the whole world.”

Even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his gaggle of war criminals continue to foam at the mouth over the United Nations vote it is, in truth, difficult to blame Israel for what is happening. The Israelis are acting on what they see as their self interest in dominating their neighbors militarily and having a free hand to deal with the Palestinians in any way they see fit. And as for their relationship with Washington, what could be better than getting billions of dollars every year, advanced weapons and unlimited political cover in exchange for absolutely nothing?

Surely even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the settlements are illegal under international law and are an impediment to any peaceful resolution with the Palestinians, which is what Resolution 2334 says. It has been U.S. policy to oppose them since they first starting popping up like mushrooms, but Netanyahu has encouraging their expansion in full knowledge that he is creating facts on the ground that will be irreversible. He has also pledged to his voters that he will not permit the creation of a Palestinian state, so why should anyone be confused about his intentions?

Daniel Larison over at The American Conservative summed up the situation perfectly, observing that “Calling out Israel for its ongoing illegal behavior becomes unavoidable when there is no progress in resolving the conflict, and the current Israeli government has made it very clear that there won’t be any progress… Israel isn’t actually an ally, much less a ‘vital’ one, and it certainly isn’t ‘critical’ to our security. The U.S. isn’t obliged to cater to some of the worst policies of a client government that has increasingly become a liability. The real problem with the U.S. abstention on the resolution is that it came many years after it might have done some significant good, and it comes so late because Obama wasted his entire presidency trying to ‘reassure’ a government that undermined and opposed him time and again.”

So stop blaming Israel for acting selfishly, since that is the nature of the beast, as in the fable of the frog and the scorpion. More to the point, it is the American Quislings who should be the focus of any examination of what is taking place as they are deliberately misrepresenting nearly every aspect of the discussion and flat out lying about what might actually be at stake due to Washington’s being shackled to Netanyahu’s policies. I will leave it to the reader to decide why so many U.S. politicians and media talking heads have betrayed their own country’s interests in deference to the shabby arguments being put forward on behalf of an openly apartheid theocracy, but I might suggest that access to money and power have a lot to do with it as the Israel Lobby has both in spades.

The Quislings are making two basic arguments in their defense of surrendering national sovereignty to a troublesome little client state located half a world away. First, they are claiming that any acknowledgement that the Israelis have behaved badly is counterproductive because it will encourage intransigence on the part of the Arabs and thereby diminish prospects for a viable peace agreement, which has to be negotiated between the two parties. Second, the claim is being made that the abstention on the U.N. vote violates established U.S. policy on the nature of the conflict and, in so doing, damages both Israeli and American interests. Bloomberg’s editorial board has conjoined the two arguments, adroitly claiming in an over-the-top piece entitled “Obama’s Betrayal of Israel at the U.N. Must Not Stand” that the abstention “breaks with past U.S. policy, undermines a vital ally and sets back the cause of Middle East peace.”

Citing the damaged peace talks argument, which is what the Israeli government itself has been mostly promoting, Donald Trump denounced the U.N. resolution from a purely Israeli perspective, stating that “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.” He subsequently added “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” a comment that just might be regarded as either tongue in cheek or ironic because that is precisely how Israel treats Washington. It is reported, however, that Trump does not do irony.

The pundits who most often scream the loudest in defense of Israel are often themselves Jewish, many having close ties to the Netanyahu government. They would undoubtedly argue that their ethno-religious propinquity to the problem they are discussing does not in any way influence their views, but that would be nonsense. One of those persistently shouting the loudest regarding the “peace” canard is the ubiquitous Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has never seen anything in Israel that he dislikes. He commented that Obama had stabbed Israel in the back and had made “peace much more difficult to achieve because the Palestinians will now say ‘we can get a state through the U.N.’”

Syndicated columnist and fellow Israeli zealot Charles Krauthammer added his two cents, noting that the resolution abstention had meant that Washington had “joined the jackals at the U.N.” Observing that the U.N. building occupies “good real estate in downtown New York City…Trump ought to find a way to put his name on it and turn it into condos.” Iran-Contra’s own Elliot Abrams, who opposes Jews marrying non-Jews, meanwhile repeats the Krauthammer “jackals” meme and also brays about the “abandonment of Israel at the United Nations.”

But the prize for pandering to Jewish power and money has to go to the eminent John Bolton, writing on December 26th about “Obama’s Parting Betrayal of Israel” in The Wall Street Journal (there is a subscription wall but if you go to Google and search you can get around it). Bolton, an ex-Ambassador to the U.N under the esteemed George W. Bush, is a funny looking guy who reportedly did not get a position with the Trump administration because of his Groucho Marx moustache. He currently pontificates from the neocon American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he is something called a senior fellow. He has written a book “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad,” which is available for 6 cents used on Amazon, plus shipping. There is another John Bolton who wrote “Marada the She-Wolf,” but they are apparently not related.

In his piece, Bolton hit on both the peace talks and the “I’m backing Israel arguments.” He uniquely starts out by claiming that Barack Obama “stabbed Israel in the front” by failing to stop Resolution 2334, which he then describes as “clearly intended to tip the peace process towards the Palestinians…abandon[ing] any pretense that the actual parties to the conflict must resolve their differences.” That’s the peace argument plus the negotiations fiction rolled together. He then goes on to argue that Obama has betrayed Israel by “essentially endors[ing] the Palestinian politico-legal narrative about territory formerly under League of Nations’ mandate.”

Bolton concedes that the damage has already been done by Obama’s complicity “in assaulting Israel” and the opening can be exploited by what he describes as the “anti-Israeli imagineers” at the United Nations. He calls on Donald Trump to work to “mitigate or reverse” such consequences and specifically “move to repeal the resolution, giving the 14 countries that supported it a chance to correct their error.” That they cheered loudly when the resolution passed apparently will have to also be somehow expunged, though Bolton does not mention that. Nations that refuse to go along with the repeal “would have their relations with Washington adjusted accordingly” while “the main perpetrators in particular should face more tangible consequences.”

Bolton is unhesitatingly placing Israeli priorities ahead of American interests by his willingness to punish actual U.S. allies like Britain, Germany and France, as well as major powers Russia and China, out of pique over their vote against the settlements. He also recommends withholding the U.S. contributions to the U.N., which amount to over 20% of the budget. Bolton then goes on to reject any Palestinian state of any kind, recommending instead that a rump version of territory where the bulk of the Palestinians will be allowed to live be transferred to Jordanian control.

As always, there is scant attention paid by any of the Israel boosters for actual American interests in continuing to perform proskynesis in front of Netanyahu and whatever reptile might succeed him. American values and needs are invisible, quite rightly, because they are of no interest to John Bolton and his fellow knee jerkers at AEI, the Hudson Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Brookings, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the rest of the alphabet soup that depends on the generosity of pro-Israel donors to keep the lights on.

Bolton provides precisely one short sentence relating to Washington’s stake in the game being played, noting that the U.N. abstention poses “major challenges for American interests.” He never says what those interests are because there are none, or at least none that matter, apart from godfathering a viable two state solution which Israel has basically made impossible. And that is only an interest because it would lessen much of the world’s disdain for U.S. hypocrisy while mitigating the radicalization of young Muslims turned terrorists who are in part enraged by the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, blaming it correctly on American connivance. In reality having the U.S. finally vote on the side of sanity and fairness is really a good thing for Americans and hopefully will lead to severing a bizarre “special relationship” that supports a kleptocracy in Asia that has been nothing but trouble.

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Victoria Nuland, the US Assistant Secretary of State, did not spend much time and energy with Christmas and New Year celebrations this year. She has another very urgent and pressing problem to solve, before leaving the State Department, and this is the “Cyprus conflict”. The way she wants to solve this conflict is by transforming a second member of the EU, after Greece, into a protectorate. As the proposed solution for Cyprus is higlhy unstable, powers outside the EU will be provided also with a bomb inside it, that is with the possibillity of provoking a Bosnian-type conflict inside, not outside EU borders.

In the same time she wants also to get Turkey admitted immediately to the EU, by the window of the “Cypriot settlement”. By virtue of the provisions of the “Cyprus settlement” under consideration now, Turkey is invested after January 12 with many of the rights and powers (and none of the obligations) of the member-states. It will also legalize in Geneva, its military presence and its right to intervene militarily inside the European Union.

Such an outcome of the Geneva conference will have enormous strategic consequences for Europe and for the Middle East, transforming the whole “Eastern Meditarranean”, a sea lane of vital importance, into a kind of “Mare Nostrum” of the “Naval Forces”, excluding from there any “foreign” strategic influence (German, Russian or Chinese) and laying one more foundation for encircling Russia from the South with a kind of “security belt” and trying to hinder its access to the “warm seas”, a centuries long dream of British imperial planners. It will constitute the deeper change of the Mediterranean strategic landscape, since the eruption of the so-called Eastern Question or, at least, since the Greek national revolution, two centuries ago.

Annan Plan – Creating a Frankestein “state” in Cyprus

The type of settlement Mrs. Nuland wants to impose on Cyprus is a new version of the Annan Plan, rejected by the overwhelming majority of Cypriots during the 2004 referendum, in spite of enormous pressure they had suffered and a real terror campaign against them, warning the day of Doom would come on the aftermath of a No vote. The Annan Plan is violating all essential provisions of European, International and Constitutional Law, including the UN Charter. In the light of its provisions, it represents the most comprehensive effort undertaken, since the defeat of Nazism, in 1945, to impose a totalitarian system in any western country.

The Annan plan is instituting a kind of Frankestein state in Cyprus, where, among other things, the rule of majority (democracy) will be formally abolished, where there will be permanent vetos of the two Cypriot communities in every level of decision making and in all branches of power (executive, legislative, judicial), and, in the very probable case that system would be brought to an impasse, foreign judges will decide everything. In reality, the new “state” will be governed by foreign judges, concentrating upon themselves, three centuries after Montesqieu, all powers.

The solution provides for imposing to the new “state” a complete disarmament status, that is forbid it from the right of self-defense and the means to exercise it (an army). And do it in a permanent terms, not as a temporary measure, as it happened with Germany and Japan after the 2kd World War. In Orwellian terms, this is called “Cyprus demilitarized”. In reality there will be many traffic problems there provoked, because of the military vehicles of Britain, Turkey, other NATO countries and Police cars from various “Christian and Muslim countries” which will be present there. Britain and Turkey will have the legal right to intervene militarily inside a territory of the European Union.

“F**k” Referendums

Mrs. Nuland does not want to wait for any referendum. She knows that she can hardly win a second referendum in Cyprus (or in any other European country these times) on such terms. She has no time, she leaves the State Department on the 20th of January and she wants to end her career with a triumph, that is succeeding where MacMillan, Johnson, Kissinger, Bush, Annan, before her, failed miserably. There are also more essential reasons she wants to solve (or to create?) now this problem. Both the Greek and the European crises may enter a new and more dramatic phase next year. As for the Middle East, adjacent to Cyprus, it is waiting now for a Big Deal or a Big War.

The only way to do what she wants, in order to circumvent the provision for a referendum, is to have the President of Cyprus Mr. Anastasiades and the leader of Turkish Cypriots Mr. Akinci sign all that, or as much as they can of that. Then, Mr. Tsipras, Mr. Erdogan and Mrs May will endorse them and they will do something else also, legalize the Turkish military presence inside the European Union for some indefinite, as we write period. Mr. Yuncker plans also to be there to applaud all that in the name of the European Union. The State Department has already warned the US Congress to be ready to adopt bills on Cyprus and the Commission altered all its programs for January 12. That day, CNN will announce to all the world that the Cyprus conflict has already been solved. When people will realize what happened, and they will begin to tear their hairs, there will be no Obama or Nuland to answer any questions. (And maybe that arranges many more people than one can figure out)

Mr. Anastasiades has already agreed to all that, Mr. Tsipras is under pressure also to agree. Mr. Yuncker, Mrs. May and Mr. Erdogan already agreed. There remain some serious differences still on the composition of the Conference which remain to be settled as we write this article.

And the referendum? you will probably ask. Ok, they will promiss to make two referendums, one for the Greeks and one for the Turkish Cypriots. Maybe they will do them, but only if they are sure of the result. Anyway, even if those referendums take place, they will not have much sense, as it will be impossible for the inhabitants to return to the status quo ante. The Republic of Cyprus as we know it will be dead and the Turkish military presence on the island legal. As for the voters they will be in front of the choice to accept after all what is too late to change or risk a chaotic situation, if they refuse it post factum.

Is anything of all that legal?

Is all that legal? No, nothing here is legal. (Look to the appendix 1, for the opinion of the Honorary President of the International Association of Constitutional Law, Professor Kasimatis). On the contrary they represent a coup d’ etat stricto sensu and in two ways. They constitute the most serious possible breach of the constitutional order of the Republic of Cyprus and of the Treaties of the European Union, as Cyprus is a member of this Union.

No international conference and not even the President of Cyprus himself (or, for that matter, the Greek PM) has any right to sign agreements that infringe on the sovereignty of the Cypriot state (like for instance legalizing the Turkish military presence on the island, when numerous UN resolutions ask for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish forces, which invaded the island in 1974). Even more, nobody, including the President of Cyprus, has the right to change the constitutional structure of his state, much more, abolish it altogether! If they do it, it would be a coup d’ etat, in the strict legal sense of the word, that is a serious breach of the constitutional order of the Republic of Cyprus and, as this Republic is also a full member of the European Union, of the Treaties of the EU. Such things would be probably legal, only if we were living still under a medieval regime of absolute monarchies, not in Europe in 2016.

The whole Geneva conference reminds us very much of what happened in Vichy, France, on the 10th of July 1940, when the French National Assembly invested, with an overwhelming majority, Marshal Petain with constituent powers. In spite of the fact that even it was the National Assembly itself which took this decision, everything Petain did was considered a coup d’ etat and, inspite of being a hero of the First World War, he was condemned to death after the liberation of France. Charles De Gaulle has become what he became, in the history of France and of the world, because he refused to recognize this, supposedly legal coup, by the French deputies and Petain and fought against it.

In Cyprus, unlike Petain, Mr. Anastasiades not only did not get an authorization of his parliament for what he is doing, he even refused a demand of the opposition for an urgent debate.

The purpose of Geneva: Destroy Cyprus as a sovereign, democratic and independent state

By the way and until some weeks ago, all Cypriot and Greek governments since 1974 refused the Turkish proposal to convene such a conference, claiming that the only thing they could discuss about Cyprus with Turkey, was the withdrawal of the Turkish troops which invaded the island and remained there in spite of UN resolutions calling for their immediate withdrawal.

But this was until December 1st. That day, Mr. Anastasiades has announced to his citizens that he is accepting the proposal without explaining much why he is doing it, what will be the purpose and the agenda of this strange conference. He did not consult with political parties in the island or the Greek government before announcing his decision. The most absolute confusion was reigning in the island, until December 27, when the leader of the Turkish Cypriots Mr. Akinci, speaking to the Turkish Cypriot media, probably to warn Anastasiades not to deviate from what they had already agreed in secret, explained a little bit what will happen in Geneva.

According to what he said the Republic of Cyprus will not be present in the Geneva conference. All documents there will be signed by the “new Cyprus federation to be constituted”. In that way he revealed the real purpose of the operation, which is no other than to abolish the existing state in Cyprus (we repeat, a member of UN and the EU) and to create a new one, without asking the opinion of the citizens, without electing a Constitutional Assembly and without any authorization from anybody to do that. In that case, we don’t speak even about an operation of regime change. We have to speak about “country change”.

A Greek Cypriot politician who is friend of Mr. Akinci answered to him explaining that he better avoid much public talk.

The citizens of the Republic themselves are now in a state of complete shock, as they cannot believe that they will live in another state by January 12, they know nothing about it! Cyprus has a tradition of invasions and coups, but it is difficult still for the citizens to grasp the new and unbelievable reality that their own President is planning to sign the death of his own state! It is very difficult, psychologically and intellectually, to stop believing that Mr. Anastasiades is not their leader (even if some they may consider his as bad, wrong, corrupted or incompetent), but he is their killer!

If the Cyprus thing succeeds it will in itself represent a colossal advancement of new political technologies. The trick is simple and genious. For a rape to be recognized as a rape, the victim has to resist and denounce the rapist. But here the rapist and the person charged with denouncing the rape is the same, the President of the Republic.

The Greek factor

Anastasiades himself is the most powerful weapon US ever had in Cyprus. But Mrs Nuland has also another very powerful weapon and this is the situation in Greece, the confusion and the dependence of Greek political forces. The cooperation of Greece to this operation is deemed absolutely necessary for political reasons.

Mr. Tsipras in Athens, is now under enormous US pressure to give his consent and in a very difficult condition otherwise. SYRIZA is characterized also by a huge confusion regarding the Cyprus conflict. The Greek economy and society are very much into a death spiral, and the PM seems to be to the absolute mercy of Creditors, including the IMF. The German government nearly declared war against Greece, when his government decided, on the eve of Christmas, to give some financial peanuts to very poor Greek pensioners in a very real danger for their life and respecting the discipline of the program imposed to Greece (against the will of its people). The Finance Minister had to send a humiliating letter, promising more pension cuts in the next year, in order to get an armistice from Scheuble. If all that was not enough, Mr. Erdogan is threatening to fluid Greece with new waves of refugees.

From Petain to Yeltsin – what is a coup d’ etat

Let us come back at this point to the term coup d’ etat we used. Maybe the readers are associating this with tanks and machine guns. Concerning the use of weapons they have to be a little patient. They will hear most probably their noise (as they heard it from Kiev), but they have first to wait until the Geneva operation succeeds and if it succeeds. But a coup d’ etat has nothing to do with the means used. It has to do with the breach of the constitutional (and European in our case) order of a given state.

Maybe the readers will also question if a head of a given state can make himself or participate in a coup d’ etat against his own state. Not only he can, he is a thousand times more effective if he chooses to do it, as the only thing he has to do is use and abuse the powers he already legally possesses and can use. For example, the legal head of the Greek state, King Constantin, has participated in a US-backed coup d’ etat against the constitutional order of his own state in 1967, by legalizing the government of the Colonels.

The same thing was done by the head of the Russian state Boris Yeltsin in 1991, when he dissolved the USSR and in October 1993, when he bombed his own Parliament, if we examine those events from the point of view of soviet and Russian constitutional order. But nobody in the West has noticed of course this legal aspect of things, as westerners liked very much what Yeltsin did. We refer to this example, because it bears great analogies to what they are trying to do now in Cyprus.

Appendix – Professor Kasimatis on the legal aspect of the Geneva Conference

We asked the top Greek specialist on Constitutional Law and Honorary President of the International Association of Constitutional Law, Professor Yiorgos Kasimatis, about what and what is not legal for this Geneva conference to do. This is his opinion:

“The Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized as a full sovereignty state, by its admission to the United Nations and to the European Union. Nobody, including the President of Cyprus, the Greek PM or any international conference are entitled to take any decisions infringing, directly or indirectly, upon the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus or alter its constitutional structure. If they do it, it will be a very serious violation of both the Cyprus constitution and of the Treaties of the European Union. Only a constitutional assembly or the citizens themselves via a referendum, are entitled to adopt such measures. The only subject an international conference could discuss is how to apply the UN resolutions asking for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces and the full restoration of the sovereignty of the Republic. It is not legal to connect or depend those international obligations, directly or indirectly, on any constitutional changes in the country. On the contrary, all third parties have the obligation to abstain from any actions or declarations, much more from signing any documents, which constitute a direct or indirect infringement upon the right of Cypriot citizens to decide by their own free will on the fundamentals of their state structure and on the international status of the Republic. All parties should do everything in their power to assure to the Cypriots the conditions for the free expression of their will, without any threats, blackmails, pressures, faits accmplis etc.”

Dimitris Konstantakopoulos is a journalist and writer. He worked as an advisor on East-West Relations and Arms Control in the office of Greek PM Andreas Papapndreou (1985-88) and he was the chief correspondent of the Greek news agency ANA in Moscow (1989-99). He collaborated with Michel Pablo in launching the international review for self-management Utopie Critique. He has been a member of the Central Committee and the Secretariat and of the Committee on Foreign Policy of SYRIZA. He stopped having any relations with SYRIZA in July 2015.

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Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

Of course partisan spinners aren’t big on self-examination, especially if they’re aligned with the Democratic Party’s dominant corporate wing. And the option of continually fingering the Kremlin as the main villain of a 2016 morality play is clearly too juicy for functionary Democrats to pass up — even if that means scorching civil liberties and escalating a new cold war that could turn radioactively hot.

Much of the current fuel for the blame-Russia blaze has to do with the horrifying reality that Donald Trump will soon become president. Big media outlets are blowing oxygen into the inferno. But the flames are also being fanned by people who should know better.

Consider the Boston Globe article that John Shattuck — a former Washington legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union — wrote in mid-December. “A specter of treason hovers over Donald Trump,” the civil libertarian wrote. “He has brought it on himself by dismissing a bipartisan call for an investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee as a ‘ridiculous’ political attack on the legitimacy of his election as president.”

As quickly pointed out by Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University, raising the specter of treason “is simply wrong” — and “its wrongness matters, not just because hyperbole always weakens argument, but because the carefully restricted definition of the crime of treason is essential to protecting free spech and the freedom of association.”

Is Shattuck’s piece a mere outlier? Sadly, no. Although full of gaping holes, it reflects a substantial portion of the current liberal zeitgeist. And so the argument that Shattuck made was carried forward into the new year by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, who approvingly quoted Shattuck’s article in a Jan. 1 piece that flatly declared: “In his dalliance with Vladimir Putin, Trump’s actions are skirting treason.”

The momentum of fully justified loathing for Trump has drawn some normally level-headed people into untenable — and dangerous — positions. (The “treason” approach that Shattuck and Kuttner have embraced is particularly ironic and misplaced, given that Trump’s current course will soon make him legally deserving of impeachment due to extreme conflicts of interest that are set to violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.)

Among the admirable progressives who supported Bernie’s presidential campaign but have succumbed to Russia-baiting of Trump are former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Congressman Keith Ellison, who is a candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Last week, in a widely circulated post on his Facebook page, Reich wrote: “Evidence continues to mount that Trump is on Putin’s side.” But Reich’s list of “evidence” hardly made the case that Trump “is on Putin’s side,” whatever that means.

A day later, when Trump tweeted a favorable comment about Putin, Rep. Ellison quickly echoed Democratic Party orthodoxy with a tweet: “Praising a foreign leader for undermining our democracy is a slap in the face to all who have served our country.”

Some of Putin’s policies are abhorrent, and criticizing his regime should be fair game as much as criticizing any other. At the same time, “do as we say, not as we do” isn’t apt to put the United States on high moral ground. The U.S. government has used a wide repertoire of regime change tactics including direct meddling in elections, and Uncle Sam has led the world in cyberattacks.

Intervention in the election of another country is categorically wrong. It’s also true that — contrary to conventional U.S. wisdom at this point — we don’t know much about a Russian role in last year’s election. We should not forget the long history of claims from agencies such as the CIA that turned out to be misleading or downright false.

Late last week, when the Obama administration released a drum-rolled report on the alleged Russian hacking, Democratic partisans and mainline journalists took it as something akin to gospel. But the editor of ConsortiumNews.com, former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry, wrote an assessment concluding that the latest report “again failed to demonstrate that there is any proof behind U.S. allegations that Russia both hacked into Democratic emails and distributed them via WikiLeaks to the American people.”

Even if the Russian government did intervene in the U.S. election by hacking emails and publicizing them, key questions remain. Such as:

*  Do we really want to escalate a new cold war with a country that has thousands of nuclear weapons?

*  Do we really want a witch-hunting environment here at home, targeting people with views that have some overlap with Kremlin positions?

*  Can the president of Russia truly “undermine our democracy” — or aren’t the deficits of democracy in the United States overwhelmingly self-inflicted from within the U.S. borders?

It’s so much easier to fixate on Putin as a villainous plotter against our democracy instead of directly taking on our country’s racist and class biases, its structural mechanisms that relentlessly favor white and affluent voters, its subservience to obscene wealth and corporate power.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about refusing to normalize the Trump presidency. And that’s crucial. Yet we should also push back against normalizing the deflection of outrage at the U.S. political system’s chronic injustices and horrendous results — deflection that situates the crux of the problem in a foreign capital instead of our own.

We should reject the guidance of politicians and commentators who are all too willing to throw basic tenets of civil liberties overboard, while heightening the risks of brinkmanship that could end with the two biggest nuclear powers blowing up the world.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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There is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and the “western” media ignore it.

On December 22 al-Qaeda aligned Takfiris in the Wadi Barada valley shut down the main water supply for the Syrian capital Damascus. Since then the city and some 5-6 million living in and around it have to survive on emergency water distributions by the Syrian government. That is barely enough for people to drink – no washing, no showers and no water dependent production is possible.

This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts on lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut. A similar tactic was used by the Zionist terrorists of the Haganah who in 1947/48 poisoned and blew up the water mains and oil pipelines to Palestinian Haifa.

Wadi Barada is a river valley some 10 miles west of Damascus at the mountain range between Lebanon and Syria. It has been in the hands of local insurgents since 2012. The area was since loosely surrounded by Syrian government forces and their allies from Hizbullah.

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Two springs in the area provide the water for Damascus which is treated locally and then pumped through pipelines into the city’s distribution network. Since the early 1990s there is a low level conflict over the water diversion of the Barada river valley to the ever growing Damascus. The drought over the last years has intensified the problems. Local agriculture of the water rich valley had to cut back for lack of water as this was pumped into the city. But many families from the valley moved themselves into the city or have relatives living there.

The local rebels had kept the water running for the city. Al-Qaeda aligned groups have been in the area for some time. A propaganda video distributed by them and taken in the area showed (pic) the choreographed mass execution of Syrian government soldiers.

After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.

On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.

Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.

Suddenly new organized “civil” media operations of, allegedly, locals in the area spread misinformation to “western” media. “There are 100,000 civilians under siege in Wadi Barada!” In reality the whole area once had, according to the last peacetime census, some 20,000 inhabitants. The White Helmets propaganda organization now also claims to be in the area. “The government had bombed the water treatment facility,” the propaganda groups claimed.

That is a. not plausible and b. inconsistent with the pictures of the destroyed facility. These show a collapse of the main support booms of the roof but no shrapnel impact at all. A bomb breaking through the roof and exploding would surely have left pocket marks all over the place. The damage, in my judgement, occurred from well designed, controlled explosions inside the facility.

Some insurgents posted pictures of themselves proudly standing within the destroyed facility and making victory signs.

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There is more such cheer-leading by insurgents on social media. Why when they claim that the government bombed the place?

On December 29 the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued an alarm about the water crisis:

The United Nations is alarmed that four million inhabitants in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut off from the main water supply since 22 December. Two primary sources of drinking water- Wadi Barada and Ain-el-Fijah-which provide clean and safe water for 70 percent of the population in and around Damascus are not functioning, due to deliberate targeting resulting in the damaged infrastructure.

One of the two springs, Al-Feejeh, has now been retaken by the Syrian army. 1,300 civilians from Ain AlFeejeh, the nearby town with the treatment facility, have fled to the government held areas and were taken in by the Syrian Red Cross. The other spring and the treatment facility are still in Takfiri hands. The government has said that it will need some ten days to repair the system after the Syrian army has gained control of the facilities. That will still take some time.

Western media have hardly taken notice of the water crisis in Damascus and their coverage seems to actively avoid it. A search for Barada on the Washington Post website brings up one original piece from December 30 about the freshly negotiated ceasefire. The 6th paragraph says:

Airstrikes pounded opposition-held villages and towns in the strategically-important Barada Valley outside Damascus, activists said, prompting rebels to threaten to withdraw their compliance with a nationwide truce brokered by Russia and Turkey last week.

Then follow 16 paragraphs on other issues. Only at the very end of the piece comes this (mis-)information:

The Barada Valley is the primary source of water for the capital and its surrounding region. The government assault has coincided with a severe water shortage in Damascus since Dec. 22. Images from the valley’s Media Center indicate its Ain al-Fijeh spring and water processing facility have been destroyed in airstrikes. The government says rebels spoiled the water source with diesel fuel, forcing it to cut supplies to the capital.

On December 29 a piece  by main WaPo anti-Syria propagandist Liz Sly did not mention the water crisis or the Barada valley at all.

The New York Times links a Reuters pieces about the UN alarm about the water crisis. But I find nothing in its own reporting that even mentions the water crisis. One piece on December 31 refers shortly to attacks on Wadi Baradi by government forces at its very end.

A Guardian search for Barada only comes up with a piece from today mixed from agency reports. The headlines say “Hundreds of Syrians flee as Assad’s forces bomb Barada valley rebels”. The piece itself says that they flee to the government side.  In it the Syrian Observatory (MI-6) operation in Britain confirms that al-Qaeda rules the area which “Civil society organisations on the ground” deny. Only the very last of the 12 paragraph piece mentions the capital:

The Barada valley is the primary source of water for the capital and its surrounding region. The government assault has coincided with a severe water shortage in Damascus since 22 December. The government says rebels spoiled the water source with diesel fuel, forcing it to cut supplies to the capital.

Surely a few people “fleeing” (to the government side) “as Assad’s forces bombs” are way more important than 5 million people in Damascus without access to water. That the treatment facility is destroyed seems also unimportant.

All the above papers have been extremely concerned about every scratch to any propaganda pimp who had claimed to be in then rebel held east-Aleppo. They now show no concern at all for 5 million Syrians in Damascus who have been without water for 10 days and will likely be so for the rest of the month.

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Vladimir Putin and Squirrels: Masters of the Universe

January 3rd, 2017 by Graham Vanbergen

As far back as last year the Independent went with a story entitled Russian hackers tried to disrupt UK general election. It said that “Russian hackers tried to disrupt last year’s general election, in what is thought to be the first known cyberattack on the British political system. The group known as ‘Fancy Bears’ planned to target every Whitehall server, including the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, and every major TV broadcaster, including the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky, but was thwarted by GCHQ.” Well done clever GCHQ!

It should be noted, according to wikipedia that “the Russian Bear is a widespread symbol (generally of a Eurasian brown bear) for Russia, used in cartoons, articles and dramatic plays since as early as the 16th century.” GCHQ are having us believe that a highly secretive and covert mission group operating in the dark web whose raison d’être is to cause political instability, and one has to say – achieve all this undetected, call themselves ‘Fancy Bear.’ How creative – no suspicion of Russian’s there then!

The Independent story, providing no evidence whatsoever, other than to say there was a “possible imminent threat” provided lots of links (to its own stories) that continued to provide no evidence of Russian hackers actively attacking Britain’s institutions. The article said “GCHQ had initially feared Isis’ hacking abilities had reached a new level of sophistication but the attack was eventually linked back to Moscow.” Without providing a single fact, the Independent must have vigorously interrogated the GCHQ spokesperson to the ends of the earth, and not just taken their word for it – obviously.

Apparently, the Russian hackers were posing as ISIS supporters, quite the opposite from what Russian diplomatic and military efforts have proven to be to date. Somehow we are to believe this made up poppycock from the MSM as real news.

The Daily Mail reported that “Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a prominent Remain supporter, raised doubts about the validity of the EU referendum result last June as he warned that people were underestimating the extent of cyber-warfare by Vladimir Putin.” No evidence is provided by the politician but he gained considerable column inches in the press for saying so.

The Telegraph went with the story: “Systemic, relentless, predatory’ Russian cyber threat to US power grid exposed as malware found on major electricity company computer.” The paper quoted Peter Welch, a Vermont Democratic congressman. “They will hack everywhere, even Vermont, in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country.” This allegation is made the same day that 35 Russian diplomats and their families have been expelled from the USA.

This story was published in the Washington Post but was subsequently amended to read as follows:“Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” The only piece of information on this report to be truthful is the apology it was forced to print.

First image captured by Britain’s GCHQ of “Chip Nibbles” master cyber-warfare terrorist – amazingly not on Interpol’s most wanted list – yet.

Let’s not forget that whilst hackers do present a real problem to the power grid of any country, squirrels do by far the most amount of damage. Let’s get really real about the problem.

The head of cyber-warfare at Squirrel HQ a Mr Chip Nibbles emailed Foreign Policy with the following warning:

“We are everywhere, and yet almost impossible to find. There are other events that have impacted critical infrastructure: a water pump failure in Illinois, power outages in Brazil, a pipeline explosion in Turkey, a cyberattack on a dam in New York; even a blast furnace in a German steel plant was supposedly put into an uncontrolled shutdown from a cyberattack. In each case, the initial cause for the failure was blamed on cyberattacks — but in each case, once the evidence was actually examined, hackers were nowhere to be found. Still, that lack of evidence hasn’t stopped the cyberwar hawks from pointing to these analog events as examples of the coming digital doom.”

The truth is, according to FP, squirrels actually cause over 1,400 outages affecting over 3.6 million people in the US alone each year. It works out to the entire population of the state of Connecticut, or the UK’s second and third city of Manchester and Birmingham combined losing electricity for more than two months. In fact, the covert activities of agent Nibbles & Co have hit the NASDAQ stock exchange twice, as well as the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. In the US, they’ve also attacked 64 schools, 30 universities, 13 hospitals, six government buildings, four airports, two military bases and even caused seven confirmed deaths.

It is a known fact that squirrels cause dozens of outages every day in the US, impacting about 5,000 people for each episode for around two hours. Compare that with the number of outages caused by cyberattack, which in the United States and Britain is exactly… zero. To that end, statistically, you are more likely to be killed by Chip Nibbles than the death squads of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his global network of ISIS lone-wolf cells lurking in your local post-office. Any mainstream media journalist worth his salt would have by now worked out that it is obvious that Chip Nibbles and his Red (furry) Army are Russian agents of espionage sent by Vlad the Bad to kill us all.

In the meantime, somehow Russian hackers managed to tilt the US election in favour of Donald Trump, that is, according to the losers … after they lost. Time magazine debunked that allegation by commenting that “Elections in the USA are decentralized, most voters will use paper ballots and voting machines aren’t connected to the internet.”

Here is an excerpt from a recent blog post from one of Britain’s ex-ambassadors Craig Murray on the same subject – “I find myself in the unusual position of having twice been in a position to know directly that governments were lying in globe-shaking events, firstly Iraqi WMD and now the Russian hacks. There could be no evidence because in reality these were leaks, not hacks. The (Obama) report is, frankly, a pile of complete and utter dross. To base grave accusations of election hacking on this report is ludicrous. Obama has been a severe disappointment to all progressive thinkers in virtually every possible way. He now goes out of power with absolutely no grace and in a storm of delusion and deceit. His purpose is apparently to weaken Trump politically, but to achieve that at the expense of heightening tensions with Russia to Cold War levels, is shameful. The very pettiness of Obama’s tongue out to Putin – minor sanctions and expelling some diplomatic families – itself shows that Obama is lying about the pretext. If he really believed that Russia had “hacked the election”, surely that would require a much less feeble response. By refusing to retaliate, Russia has shown the kind of polish that eludes Obama as he takes his empty charisma and presentational skills into a no doubt lucrative future in the private sector.”

If we are to believe the British and Amercian mainstream media, Vladimir Putin has changed the course of history by manipulating the entire American election process to its favour, caused Britain to leave the European Union, has the obvious proven ability to change the outcome of elections in France and Germany, thereby dismantling the EU, cause societal catastrophe by turning off the power and water anywhere at will, take down the western banking system and god knows, what else.

It is quite clear from what our leaders and the security agencies such as the FBI, MI5/6, NSA and GCHQ are saying, is that they do not have the technical expertise (in the West) to combat Vladimir Putin’s keyboard skills! Between Vlad and Chip, they have the West firmly boxed in – we’re done for. Or could much of what we read in the establishment press be fake news and propaganda; peddled by policy-makers, the security services, corporate threat reduction corporations and anyone else on the revolving doors bandwagon to keep us all in fear for our basic safety.

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Argentina – Política Económica entre 2016 y 2017

January 2nd, 2017 by Julio C. Gambina

Alfonso Prat Gay dijo en su momento, en una conferencia en EE.UU., que el “trabajo sucio” ya estaba hecho. Se refería a las iniciales medidas económicas del gobierno Macri: la devaluación, el levantamiento a las restricciones cambiarias (CEPO), la eliminación o reducción de retenciones a las exportaciones, el arreglo con los acreedores en conflicto con más deuda y el ajuste de tarifas de servicios públicos.

Cuando se despedía, no dudó en hablar de “éxito” de su gestión, pese a la recesión y la inflación, coronado con un anuncio de 90.000 millones de dólares exteriorizados por el blanqueo, que podría llegar a 120.000 millones de dólares hacia fines de marzo cuando se exterioricen los inmuebles no declarados. Hay que pensar en un 10% de la exteriorización como potencial recaudación por multas.

De su propia boca escuchamos al Ministro saliente aludir al trabajo sucio y al éxito de la gestión, toda una confesión, que explicita beneficiarios y perjudicados.

Entre los primeros los grandes productores y exportadores, la gran banca y los especuladores, entre ellos los acreedores externos y nuevos prestamistas de la Argentina, y en general el gran capital hegemónico, pese a la recesión y la inflación. Claro, en materia de precios, son los sectores más concentrados los que explican la escalada de precios. No cualquiera puede incrementar los precios, y si no, veamos cuanto les cuesta a los trabajadores ajustar sus ingresos, ni hablar de los jubilados y los perceptores de planes sociales.

Los perjudicados son la mayoría de la sociedad, la gran masa de trabajadoras y trabajadores y el grueso de los pequeños y medianos productores y empresarios, en general, todos asociados a la capacidad de compra y venta en el mercado interno. Todos los datos de la economía muestran reducción de ventas y producción, por baja de consumo y capacidad adquisitiva de la mayoría de la población.

Nuevos ministros

Nicolás Dujovne se hará cargo del Ministerio de Hacienda desde 2017. Ya anunció en conferencia de prensa sus objetivos concentrados en: a) bajar el déficit, b) aumentar el gasto en infraestructura, c) reducir impuestos, distorsivos dice, y d) comunicar buenas noticias a la sociedad.

El primer objetivo es contradictorio con el segundo, por lo que se supone el nivel de ajuste del gasto social será importante. Dice que no ajustará pero que estudiará a fondo todos los gastos, siempre para reducirlos, no para aumentarlos.

La línea del ajuste queda clara, mientras que los constructores se preparan para intervenir en las licitaciones de obra pública que estuvo frenada durante el 2016 para intentar frenar el déficit fiscal.

El esfuerzo por incrementar obra pública contrasta con la segura reducción del gasto social. Una muestra es el reciente conflicto en el Conicet o en el Ministerio de Educación.

La reforma tributaria suena a beneficios para los empleadores, una pista que surge del calificativo “distorsivo” para los tributos. Lo que se quiere con ese lenguaje es reducir el costo de contratación a los inversores, para mejorar la perspectiva de rentabilidad al capital.

Ni por asomo se piensa en reducir la alícuota del IVA, principal fuente de recaudación tributaria en la Argentina, un 8% del PBI, contra el 6% del impuesto a las ganancias, de los cuales, más del 2% recae en los pagos de la cuarta categoría que abonan unos 2 millones de trabajadoras/es.

Sobre la comunicación a la sociedad, la especulación se asocia a la trayectoria de comunicador liberal del columnista de La Nación y TN.

Convengamos que una cosa es comunicar como analista, de derecha o de izquierda, y otra muy distinta seguir explicando el ajuste y la regresiva reestructuración de la economía argentina en la gestión Macri.

Otra novedad es que el Ministerio se dividió en Hacienda y en Finanzas. En este último caso se ascendió a Luis Caputo de Secretario a Ministro. ¿El mérito? Haber tenido éxito en endeudar al país y hacerlo regresar al mercado de préstamos mundial, algo que se profundizará desde el mismo enero del 2017.

La nueva deuda estimada entre 2016 y 2017 será de 90.000 millones de dólares, una fuerte hipoteca para el conjunto de la sociedad argentina, la que se comunicará como un éxito, ya que supone que el país vuelve a ser sujeto de préstamos del sistema financiero mundial.

Para fundamentar el cambio de Ministros, Macri y sus funcionarios de la Jefatura de Gabinete apuntaron a mejorar el equipo, nunca a promover cambios en la política económica para beneficio social.

Realizado el trabajo sucio, se busca profundizar el ajuste y la regresiva reestructuración a favor de la ganancia.

Claro que para ello tienen que disciplinar al conflicto social. Para eso tienen al Ministro del Interior y al de Trabajo que “dialogan” y pactan con la burocracia política y la sindical respectivamente.

Saben de la tradición combativa del pueblo argentino y por eso se empeñan en controlar el conflicto y si pueden, contenerlo en la fragmentación que hace visible la protesta en la actualidad.

Nueva situación mundial

El marco internacional continua desfavorable para la aspiración de atraer inversores.

La situación mundial privilegia la orientación de capitales hacia los países capitalistas desarrollados, especialmente EE.UU.

Luego del 20 de enero, con Danald Trump en Washington y su política de recuperación de la economía estadounidense, lo previsible será que la potencia imperialista actúe como una aspiradora de fondos de inversión de todo el mundo.

Sin contar, claro, que el mapa de la geopolítica cambiará en nuevas disputas entre los principales países del sistema mundial. Además de EE.UU., habrá que contar a Europa, China y Rusia que no solo disputan destino de inversores, sino condiciones de beneficio de sus políticas nacionales.

El papel de Argentina es subordinado en esta ecuación global, y a no dudar, el destino seguirá profundizando la dependencia del capitalismo local en el sistema mundial.

Julio C. Gambina

Julio C. Gambina: Presidente de la Fundación de Investigaciones Sociales y Políticas, FISYP.

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La sostenibilidad en la era Trump

January 2nd, 2017 by Bo Lidegaard

Las fuerzas que combaten el calentamiento global y luchan para fortalecer la protección del medioambiente deben prepararse para recibir fuertes daños colaterales como resultado de la victoria de Donald Trump en la elección presidencial en los Estados Unidos. A juzgar por la retórica de campaña de Trump, y por declaraciones de sus aliados republicanos, se avecina una oleada de desregulaciones e incentivos a la producción local de gas, petróleo y carbón que desvirtuarán por completo la protección medioambiental en Estados Unidos.

Los ambientalistas han comenzado a evaluar los posibles daños y elaborar estrategias para evitar una embestida de las fuerzas antisostenibilidad más extremistas que jamás hayan controlado el Congreso estadounidense. La lista de posibles víctimas es larga y deprimente. Si se hacen realidad los peores pronósticos, Estados Unidos se volverá mucho menos ecologista, y la cooperación internacional resultará seriamente afectada.

The Year Ahead 2017 Cover Image

En la reciente reunión sobre el clima (COP 22) en Marrakesh, se habló mucho de los diversos modos en que el gobierno de Trump puede matar el acuerdo climático alcanzado en la COP 21 de París el año pasado. Puede usar el asesinato: que Trump lisa y llanamente rompa el acuerdo. O el hambre: que Estados Unidos se niegue a hacer o pagar su parte. O la tortura: exigir al resto de los países hacer más.

Seguro que hay otras formas, pero no estamos obligados a contemplarlas, no necesitamos hacerlo, ni deberíamos. Por el momento, nadie sabe qué medidas reales tomará Trump tras su asunción. Algunos esperan que prevalezca cierto grado de razón, sobre todo ahora que los mercados impulsan una transición a tecnologías no contaminantes. Pero otros temen que eso no suceda.

Básicamente, no sabemos lo que hará Trump porque él tampoco lo sabe. La política medioambiental de su gobierno no está escrita en piedra, sino en agua, que siempre busca el camino más rápido para llegar al punto más bajo. Cuán bajo podrán llevar ese punto los fanáticos y los intereses de la industria del carbón depende en parte de las barreras que les pongamos los demás.

Eso implica concentrarnos en movilizar fuerzas que ayuden a defender la permanencia de Estados Unidos en la campaña mundial para la sostenibilidad medioambiental; aunque esto no convencerá a los halcones del nuevo gobierno, servirá de apoyo a los sectores más moderados.

¿Quiénes integran ese “nosotros” que debe actuar ya?

En primer lugar, “nosotros” son en Estados Unidos los gobiernos y las legislaturas de los estados, las organizaciones no gubernamentales, las comunidades locales y las corporaciones. Todos deben movilizar el apoyo de los estadounidenses a la protección de los entornos locales y la contribución a las soluciones mundiales.

En segundo lugar, “nosotros” es la comunidad internacional: los casi 200 miembros de las Naciones Unidas que en 2015 aprobaron los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible y el acuerdo climático de París. Es fundamental que todos los miembros de la ONU, sin importar su tamaño, insistan en que la acción internacional seguirá guiándose por estos acuerdos, haga lo que haga Trump.

Hay que hacerle entender al nuevo gobierno por todos los medios que el interés económico y ecológico en la agenda de la sostenibilidad seguirá impulsando a países y empresas en esa dirección. Ayuda mucho que China haya declarado que no dejará pasar las oportunidades que ofrece la transición ecológica, y que asumirá el liderazgo internacional si Estados Unidos se retira.

Y China no estará sola. Aunque muchos lamentarán la ausencia de liderazgo estadounidense o la toma de medidas contrarias por el gobierno de Trump, el peso internacional de Estados Unidos ya no es determinante. Si no participa, otros países ocuparán su lugar y cosecharán los beneficios; y eso deben dejárselo bien en claro. Nada impide al Estados Unidos de Trump bajarse del tren; pero no podrá detenerlo. El resto del mundo seguirá avanzando por el mismo camino.

Las corporaciones estadounidenses y los mercados de capitales deben reforzar ese mensaje, no como mera enunciación política, sino como advertencia: si la economía estadounidense sacrifica las oportunidades implícitas en la agenda de sostenibilidad, será menos atractiva para los inversores y, por consiguiente, menos próspera. El mes pasado, 365 grandes empresas y grupos inversores estadounidenses dieron el primer paso, al emitir un llamado público a Trump para que no abandone el acuerdo climático de París. Si Trump pretende cumplir la promesa a sus votantes de más empleo y aumento de ingresos, un modo de hacerlo es promover la agenda ecológica de la eficiencia energética y la adopción de fuentes renovables.

El cuarto integrante del “nosotros” que debe actuar son los consumidores comprometidos de todo el mundo. Pero salir a manifestarse en las calles coreando consignas contra los gobiernos no bastará para lograr cambios; organizar a los consumidores en los niveles local, nacional, regional e internacional, tal vez sí. Y el mensaje no deben enviarlo solamente los consumidores por separado, sino también organizaciones con capacidad para alentar y amplificar ese mensaje: “No compraremos productos y servicios que se opongan a la agenda de sostenibilidad; preferiremos productos y marcas de calidad que respeten y promuevan esa agenda”. Cualquiera sea su forma final, el mensaje debe ser directo y transparente, y también debe apuntar a las corporaciones estadounidenses que se aprovechen de cualquier flexibilización de las normas locales en materia de medioambiente y emisiones.

La mayoría de nosotros no votamos por Trump, y no estamos obligados a seguirlo. Al contrario: cuanto más firmemente nos organicemos para mantener el rumbo y reforzar las acciones dirigidas a detener el calentamiento global y promover la sostenibilidad, más probable será que los miembros pragmáticos de la nueva mayoría puedan minimizar los daños dentro y fuera de Estados Unidos.

Traducción: Esteban Flamini

Bo Lidegaard

Bo Lidegaard: Editor en Jefe del diario danés Politiken.

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President Obama’s last weeks in office have been marked by a series of exit interviews, conversations that are often as inherently fascinating as any discussion with a man soon to quit the most powerful job on the globe must be.

In one such interview, a thought-provoking piece from The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, Obama raised the issue of drone warfare, which has become a signature policy of his administration:

“The truth is that this technology really began to take off right at the beginning of my presidency. And it wasn’t until about a year, year and a half in where I began to realize that the Pentagon and our national-security apparatus and the CIA were all getting too comfortable with the technology as a tool to fight terrorism, and not being mindful enough about how that technology is being used and the dangers of a form of warfare that is so detached from what is actually happening on the ground.” 

“And so,” Obama added, “we initiated this big process to try to get it in a box, and checks and balances, and much higher standards about when they’re used.”

That this is the drone narrative Obama wishes to promulgate as he leaves the Oval Office is telling. It is also false.

As Coates’ Atlantic colleague, Conor Friedersdorf, notes in a response to the interview, it is true that drone strikes escalated substantially around the time Obama took office. Former President George W. Bush ordered about 50 drone strikes in the latter years of his administration, but Obama has launched more than 10 times that number, topping 500 in the fall of last year.

Yet, as Friedersdorf continues, this escalation did not occur because “this technology really began to take off,” as Obama suggests. Rather, Obama approved his first drone strike just two days after he was inaugurated in 2009. “The strike missed its target, and Newsweek reported that Obama was made aware almost immediately that innocents died in the attack,” Friedersdorf writes. “By the end of 2009 the CIA had already conducted its 100th drone strike in Pakistan.”

In other words, Obama actively embraced drone warfare from the very beginning of his presidency, and he has been intimately involved in the process throughout. As The New York Times famously revealed in 2012 — well after Obama’s “year, year and a half” timeline of reform initiatives — the president personally approves each name added to the kill list of drone strike targets, reviewing “baseball cards” of suspected terrorists to be bombed.

And drone strikes are not the “surgical” procedure Obama makes them out be. While the president claims “with great certainty” that the “rate of civilian casualties in any drone operation are far lower than the rate of civilian casualties that occur in conventional war,” evidence from outside observers indicates the opposite is true.

“According to the best publicly available evidence,” Foreign Policy reported earlier this year, “drone strikes in non-battlefield settings — Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia — result in 35 times more civilian fatalities than airstrikes by manned weapons systems in conventional battlefields, such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.”

For civilians in the Middle East, that level of imprecision means immense loss of life and suffering for survivors. In Pakistan, for example, as few as 2 percent of U.S. drone strike victims are high-level terror suspects. So as many as 50ordinary people, many of them women and children, are killed for every one confirmed terrorist. On Obama’s watch, our government has even engaged in “double tap” drone strikes, which is when the drone drops one round of Hellfire missiles and briefly flies away — only to return to drop a second round of bombs on first responders attempting to save the injured.

RELATED: Obama has claimed for years that drones kill fewer innocents. It’s not true

After hundreds of strikes in half a dozen nations, President Obama wants to leave office claiming that his drone program has killed only around 100 innocents — independent estimates put that figure much higher — and that its future practice will be safely contained in a reasonable legal framework of his own making.

This is simply not true. On the contrary, Obama’s drone war is responsible for untold civilian casualties and has engendered anti-American sentiment among people otherwise inclined to be our allies. It has dangerously expanded the power of the presidency to include global assassination of anyone, anywhere, without due process — including children and American citizens.

No matter how else we remember President Obama, the drone war is a black mark on his legacy. Its gravity cannot and must not be downplayed.

 Bonnie Kristian, Rare Contributor

 

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Scenes from Gaza on the Last Day of 2016

January 2nd, 2017 by Mohammad Asad

Mohammad Asad is a photo journalist based in the Gaza Strip where he has covered three wars, and nearly a decade of blockade.
He is the 2015 winner of the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit photography “Spirit of Humanity” award, and the 2014 winner of the Abdel Razzaq Badran Photography Award, among other accolades. 
(Photo: Mohammed Asad)
(Photo: Mohammed Asad)


(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Apartments lit by generators during a power outage. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Apartments lit by generators during a power outage. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Citizens gathered in front of a special Christmas shops (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Citizens gathered in front of a special Christmas shops (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Family warming themselves in the street after their home was destroyed in a Gaza refugee camp (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Family warming themselves in the street after their home was destroyed in a Gaza refugee camp (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Seagulls off the coast of Gaza (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Seagulls off the coast of Gaza (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Vendor equips a holiday Christmas tree (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Vendor equips a holiday Christmas tree (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Youth take selfies with the sky as a backdrop (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Youth take selfies with the sky as a backdrop (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

The owner of a restaurant prepares a barbecue for customers (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

The owner of a restaurant prepares a barbecue for customers (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Children dressed as Santa Claus enjoy the Gaza port (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Children dressed as Santa Claus enjoy the Gaza port (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

A young man plays the guitar in front of the sea (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

A young man plays the guitar in front of the sea (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

al-Shati refugee camp (Beach camp) on the Gaza coast (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

al-Shati refugee camp (Beach camp) on the Gaza coast (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Youths spend some quality time in a coffee shop (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Youths spend some quality time in a coffee shop (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Vendor sells sweets for New Year's Eve (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Vendor sells sweets for New Year’s Eve (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Mohammad Asad is a photo journalist based in the Gaza Strip where he has covered three wars, and nearly a decade of blockade. He is the 2015 winner of the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit photography “Spirit of Humanity” award, and the 2014 winner of the Abdel Razzaq Badran Photography Award, among other accolades.

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What if casualties don’t end on the battlefield, but extend to future generations? Our reporting this year suggests the government may not want to know the answer.

There are many ways to measure the cost of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: In bombs (7 million tons), in dollars ($760 billion in today’s dollars) and in bodies (58,220). [this figure pertains to US casualties only]
Then there’s the price of caring for those who survived: Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs spends more than $23 billion compensating Vietnam-era veterans for disabilities linked to their military service — a repayment of a debt that’s supported by most Americans.But what if the casualties don’t end there?The question has been at the heart of reporting by The Virginian-Pilot and ProPublica over the past 18 months as we’ve sought to reexamine the lingering consequences of Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide sprayed by the millions of gallons over Vietnam.

John Scarlett died of brain cancer in November 2015. His widow says she believes his disease is linked to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. She and other widows are battling the VA for benefits. (Andrew Burton for ProPublica) 

We’ve written about ailing Navy veterans fighting to prove they were exposed to the chemicals off Vietnam’s coast. About widows left to battle the VA for benefits after their husbands died of brain cancer. About scores of children who struggle with strange, debilitating health problems and wonder if the herbicide that sickened their fathers has also affected them.Along the way, we noticed some themes: For decades, the federal government has resisted addressing these issues, which could ultimately cost billions of dollars in new disability claims. When science does suggest a connection, the VA has hesitated to take action, instead weighing political and financial costs. And in some cases, officials have turned to a known skeptic of Agent Orange’s deadly effects to guide the VA’s decisions.

Frustrated vets summarize the VA’s position this way: “Delay, deny, wait till I die.”

This month, after repeated recommendations by federal scientific advisory panels, Congress passed a bill directing the VA to pursue research into toxic exposures and their potential effects across generations. But even that will take years to produce results, years some ailing vets don’t have.

The questions we’ve posed have no easy answers. But science — and our own analysis of internal VA data — increasingly points to the possibility that Agent Orange exposure might have led to health problems in the children of veterans. And we can’t help but think of the words displayed at the entrance to the VA headquarters in Washington: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

We noticed the phrase, a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, during an evening stroll through D.C. in June, a day before hosting a forum on Agent Orange’s generational effects and policy implications. With us that night was Stephen M. Katz, the Virginian-Pilot photographer who initiated our reporting project when he shared the story of his estranged father, a Vietnam vet who’d gotten back in touch to warn that he’d sprayed Agent Orange.

Does the VA’s motto apply to Katz? His brother born before the war is healthy. At 46, Katz suffers from myriad health problems, including a heart defect, type-2 diabetes, an underactive thyroid, immune and endocrine deficiencies, and a nerve disorder that severely limits the use of his right hand.

What about the thousands of other children of Vietnam veterans who shared their stories with us over the past year? What about the children of Gulf War veterans exposed to depleted uranium? The children of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans exposed to toxic burn pits? The children of future service members exposed to yet unknown toxins on the modern battlefield?

What responsibility — if any — does a nation have to those who weren’t drafted into service, but who may have been harmed nonetheless?

The Agent Orange Widows Club

After their husbands died of an aggressive brain cancer, the widows of Vietnam veterans have found one another as they fight the VA for benefits. Read the story.

Long List of Agent Orange Decisions Awaits VA in 2017

The Department of Veterans Affairs must decide whether to add new diseases to its list of conditions presumed to be linked to Agent Orange. It also faces calls to compensate naval veterans and those who served along the Korean demilitarized zone. Read the story.

We posed the question to Dr. Ralph Erickson, the VA’s chief consultant of post-deployment health services, who’s involved with the agency’s research efforts. Erickson, who’s had the job since last year, wouldn’t comment on the VA’s past reluctance to study these issues, saying only that his team is committed to it.

And if research someday proves a wartime exposure has harmed veterans’ children or grandchildren? Erickson, whose father served in Vietnam, said that’s a question that would have to be answered by VA lawyers. We pressed him for his personal view, and he too cited Lincoln’s words. But even then, he said it was a “hypothetical” and didn’t directly answer the question.

Vietnam vet Mike Ryan thinks he knows what the answer will be. Nearly four decades ago, his family was among the first to draw widespread attention to the possibility that Agent Orange had harmed veterans’ children. His daughter, Kerry, suffered from 22 birth defects, including spina bifida and other physical deformities.

After his wife died in 2003, he was left to care for his daughter until her death three years later at the age of 35. Lifting her out of bed several times a day to use the bathroom had damaged his back, leaving Ryan bedridden and alone. When we first reached the 71-year-old at his home in Boca Raton, Florida, he was reluctant to retell his tragic story.

“What’s the point?” he said. “The government won’t ever take responsibility.”

In the end, Ryan agreed to talk. Maybe sharing his story one more time would help others get the recognition his daughter never received.

If that happened, Ryan said he could die in peace.

Mike Hixenbaugh writes for The Virginian-Pilot, and Charles Ornstein, for ProPublica  ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot are exploring the effects of the chemical mixture Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans and their families, as well as their fight for benefits. This story was co-published with The Virginian-Pilot.

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What if casualties don’t end on the battlefield, but extend to future generations? Our reporting this year suggests the government may not want to know the answer.

There are many ways to measure the cost of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: In bombs (7 million tons), in dollars ($760 billion in today’s dollars) and in bodies (58,220). [this figure pertains to US casualties only]
Then there’s the price of caring for those who survived: Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs spends more than $23 billion compensating Vietnam-era veterans for disabilities linked to their military service — a repayment of a debt that’s supported by most Americans.But what if the casualties don’t end there?

The question has been at the heart of reporting by The Virginian-Pilot and ProPublica over the past 18 months as we’ve sought to reexamine the lingering consequences of Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide sprayed by the millions of gallons over Vietnam.

John Scarlett died of brain cancer in November 2015. His widow says she believes his disease is linked to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. She and other widows are battling the VA for benefits. (Andrew Burton for ProPublica) 

We’ve written about ailing Navy veterans fighting to prove they were exposed to the chemicals off Vietnam’s coast. About widows left to battle the VA for benefits after their husbands died of brain cancer. About scores of children who struggle with strange, debilitating health problems and wonder if the herbicide that sickened their fathers has also affected them.Along the way, we noticed some themes: For decades, the federal government has resisted addressing these issues, which could ultimately cost billions of dollars in new disability claims. When science does suggest a connection, the VA has hesitated to take action, instead weighing political and financial costs. And in some cases, officials have turned to a known skeptic of Agent Orange’s deadly effects to guide the VA’s decisions.

Frustrated vets summarize the VA’s position this way: “Delay, deny, wait till I die.”

This month, after repeated recommendations by federal scientific advisory panels, Congress passed a bill directing the VA to pursue research into toxic exposures and their potential effects across generations. But even that will take years to produce results, years some ailing vets don’t have.

The questions we’ve posed have no easy answers. But science — and our own analysis of internal VA data — increasingly points to the possibility that Agent Orange exposure might have led to health problems in the children of veterans. And we can’t help but think of the words displayed at the entrance to the VA headquarters in Washington: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

We noticed the phrase, a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, during an evening stroll through D.C. in June, a day before hosting a forum on Agent Orange’s generational effects and policy implications. With us that night was Stephen M. Katz, the Virginian-Pilot photographer who initiated our reporting project when he shared the story of his estranged father, a Vietnam vet who’d gotten back in touch to warn that he’d sprayed Agent Orange.

Does the VA’s motto apply to Katz? His brother born before the war is healthy. At 46, Katz suffers from myriad health problems, including a heart defect, type-2 diabetes, an underactive thyroid, immune and endocrine deficiencies, and a nerve disorder that severely limits the use of his right hand.

What about the thousands of other children of Vietnam veterans who shared their stories with us over the past year? What about the children of Gulf War veterans exposed to depleted uranium? The children of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans exposed to toxic burn pits? The children of future service members exposed to yet unknown toxins on the modern battlefield?

What responsibility — if any — does a nation have to those who weren’t drafted into service, but who may have been harmed nonetheless?

The Agent Orange Widows Club

After their husbands died of an aggressive brain cancer, the widows of Vietnam veterans have found one another as they fight the VA for benefits. Read the story.

Long List of Agent Orange Decisions Awaits VA in 2017

The Department of Veterans Affairs must decide whether to add new diseases to its list of conditions presumed to be linked to Agent Orange. It also faces calls to compensate naval veterans and those who served along the Korean demilitarized zone. Read the story.

We posed the question to Dr. Ralph Erickson, the VA’s chief consultant of post-deployment health services, who’s involved with the agency’s research efforts. Erickson, who’s had the job since last year, wouldn’t comment on the VA’s past reluctance to study these issues, saying only that his team is committed to it.

And if research someday proves a wartime exposure has harmed veterans’ children or grandchildren? Erickson, whose father served in Vietnam, said that’s a question that would have to be answered by VA lawyers. We pressed him for his personal view, and he too cited Lincoln’s words. But even then, he said it was a “hypothetical” and didn’t directly answer the question.

Vietnam vet Mike Ryan thinks he knows what the answer will be. Nearly four decades ago, his family was among the first to draw widespread attention to the possibility that Agent Orange had harmed veterans’ children. His daughter, Kerry, suffered from 22 birth defects, including spina bifida and other physical deformities.

After his wife died in 2003, he was left to care for his daughter until her death three years later at the age of 35. Lifting her out of bed several times a day to use the bathroom had damaged his back, leaving Ryan bedridden and alone. When we first reached the 71-year-old at his home in Boca Raton, Florida, he was reluctant to retell his tragic story.

“What’s the point?” he said. “The government won’t ever take responsibility.”

In the end, Ryan agreed to talk. Maybe sharing his story one more time would help others get the recognition his daughter never received.

If that happened, Ryan said he could die in peace.

Mike Hixenbaugh writes for The Virginian-Pilot, and Charles Ornstein, for ProPublica  ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot are exploring the effects of the chemical mixture Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans and their families, as well as their fight for benefits. This story was co-published with The Virginian-Pilot.

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Some mainstream reports indicate that Donald Trump can at least partly do it, but not easily unless he is able to convince Congress of “Putin’s good intentions”

What’s never explained in the mainstream media reports is the legal status of US imposed sanctions. Only Security Council members can impose them on countries – not individual nations against others.

All unilaterally imposed US sanctions against other nations have no legal standing. They’re illegitimate. Trump can lift them against Russia or any other country if he wishes – not, however, without potential political consequences.

The Neocons want adversarial relations maintained with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and other countries.

John McCain outrageously calls Putin “a thug, a bully and a murderer…” Likeminded congressional members express similar sentiments.

Yet most Americans may be brainwashed to believe what’s patently false, malicious and ridiculous.

Trump enters office as the most widely disliked president in US history. He’ll certainly try turning things around once in office. Whatever he does to further arouse anger will complicate his task.

He’ll likely tread lightly on issues like lifting sanctions on Russia – perhaps not doing it straightaway, later some, not all, at least during his early months in office.

Another issue is distinguishing between sanctions imposed by Obama executive orders and others by congressional action, making them US law, despite their illegitimacy.

Lifting what Obama imposed can be done with a stroke of Trump’s pen. Undoing congressional actions is another matter entirely – risking a confrontation between the executive and legislative branches if he proceeds, what he wants to avoid.

US sanctions on Russia were imposed for arms sales to Syria, Iran, North Korea and other governments Washington opposes, alleged human rights abuses, and nonexistent “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, including Crimea rejoining Russia, falsely called “annexation.”

Imposing them was entirely for political reasons, part of a long-term US strategy to isolate, contain, weaken, and marginalize Russia.

Things turned out polar opposite to what Washington intended. Yet unsuccessful policies continue. Adversarial relations with Russia, China and other nations mean lucrative contracts for war-profiteers.

Justifying bloated military spending requires enemies, Russia considered America’s top existential threat by lunatics infesting Washington and the Pentagon.

This type thinking provides a strong headwind, perhaps restraining Trump from normalizes ties with Russia and cooperating with Putin in combating terrorism – at least to the extent of what he may have in mind.

G. W. Bush and Obama were weak presidents, putty in the hands of America’s deep state, front men for their agenda.

Trump is strong-willed, likely the main factor contributing to opposition in high places, intensified by the media, continuing even though he’s president-elect, soon to succeed Obama.

His messages are mixed, wanting a more robust military, including a “greatly strengthen(ed) and expand(ed) nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes” – separately saying “(l)et their be an arms race…(w)e will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

In contrast, he said

“(w)e’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that, frankly, if they were there and if we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems – our airports and all the other problems we have – we would have been a lot better off, I can tell you that right now.”

“We have done a tremendous disservice not only to the Middle East – (W)e’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away – and for what?”

“It’s not like we had victory. It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized, a total and complete mess. I wish we had the 4 trillion dollars or 5 trillion dollars. I wish it were spent right here in the United States on schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart!”

Ignore political posturing. Follow what politicians do in office. Their actions define them. Trump’s agenda is unknown because he has no public record. Judge him solely on how he serves once inaugurated.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
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I had promised myself and my family that on this holiday I would do nothing but relax. However events have overtaken my good intentions. I find myself in the unusual position of having twice been in a position to know directly that governments were lying in globe-shaking events, firstly Iraqi WMD and now the “Russian hacks”.

Anybody who believes the latest report issued by Obama as “proof” provides anything of the sort is very easily impressed by some entirely meaningless diagrams. William Binney, who was Technical Director at the NSA and actually designed their surveillance capabilities, has advised me by email. It is plain from the report itself that the Russian groups discussed have been under targeted NSA surveillance for a period longer than the timeframe for the DNC and Podesta leaks. It is therefore inconceivable that the NSA would not have detected and traced those particular data flows and they would be saved. In other words, the NSA would have the actual hack on record, would be able to recognise the emails themselves and tell you exactly the second the transmission or transmissions took place and how they were routed. They would be able to give you date, time and IP addresses. In fact, not only do they produce no evidence of this kind, they do not even claim to have this kind of definite evidence.

Secondly, Bill points out that WikiLeaks is in itself a top priority target and any transmission to WikiLeaks or any of its major operatives would be tracked, captured and saved by NSA as a matter of routine. The exact route and date of the transmission or transmissions of the particular emails to WikiLeaks would be available. In fact, not only does the report not make this information available, it makes no claim at all to know anything about how the information was got to WikiLeaks.

Of course Russian hackers exist. They attack this blog pretty well continually – as do hackers from the USA and many other countries. Of course there have been attempted Russian hacks of the DNC. But the report gives no evidence at all of the alleged successful hack that transmitted these particular emails, nor any evidence of the connection between the hackers and the Russian government, let alone Putin.

There could be no evidence because in reality these were leaks, not hacks. The report is, frankly, a pile of complete and utter dross. To base grave accusations of election hacking on this report is ludicrous. Obama has been a severe disappointment to all progressive thinkers in virtually every possible way. He now goes out of power with absolutely no grace and in a storm of delusion and deceit.

His purpose is apparently to weaken Trump politically, but to achieve that at the expense of heightening tensions with Russia to Cold War levels, is shameful. The very pettiness of Obama’s tongue out to Putin – minor sanctions and expelling some diplomatic families – itself shows that Obama is lying about the pretext. If he really believed that Russia had “hacked the election”, surely that would require a much less feeble response. By refusing to retaliate, Russia has shown the kind of polish that eludes Obama as he takes his empty charisma and presentational skills into a no doubt lucrative future in the private sector.

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Up until now, the concept of Basic Income (BI) has enjoyed a greater history of being proposed than of being implemented. We may well be approaching a period, however, when this changes. The Ontario Government is holding consultations on setting up a BI pilot project. The Legislature in another Canadian Province, Prince Edward Island, has agreed to test out a version of BI. Pilot projects are also impending in Finland, the Netherlands and Scotland.

Basic Income has been suggested in an exceptionally wide range of forms, often with completely different objectives in mind. In fact, we can draw a line between the models that are concerned with improving lives and raising living standards and those that are focused on intensifying the capacity for capitalist exploitation. Among those in the ‘progressive’ category there is considerable diversity.

There’s the ‘universal demogrant’ that provides an income to everyone and the concept of a ‘negative income tax’ involving some level of means test. BI proposals come from liberal quarters that are responsibly redistributive, reduce poverty and inequality and ease up on bureaucratic intrusion.

The above mentioned proposal for an Ontario pilot project would be part of this camp. Then there are the models that have more radical, transformative objectives in mind. These suggest that BI could be used to take from employers the power of economic coercion itself by severing the link between work and income. Often such ideas are tied to the notion of preparing for sweeping technological displacement and a ‘workless future’ by providing secure, adequate and unconditional income. Given the vast extent to which forms of unpaid labour are performed by women in this society, it is hardly surprising that there are also feminist arguments for BI.

Raise the RatesI have to say that the one really common thread that I see running through all of the notions of a progressive BI is that they pay great attention to explaining how nice their systems would be but give little if any thought to the concrete prospects of implementation. Before looking further at these deficiencies and proposing an alternative approach, it might be useful to consider more seriously the neoliberal version that is hanging like a sword over all our heads.

Neoliberal Version

The deeply reactionary ideas of Charles Murray have extended to some very sinister proposals for BI. There are two basic elements that shape his system. Firstly, the universal payment, after the compulsory purchase of private health insurance, is set at the dreadfully low amount of $10,000 a year. Secondly, he is utterly insistent that all other systems of provision must be dismantled as a BI is put in place. Canada’s right wing Fraser Institute, recently used its blog to stress the same points as Murray, making clear that the level of provision must not interfere with the supply of low waged workers.

If governments today, as they intensify the neoliberal agenda, are starting to consider the possibilities of BI, I see three factors at work. Firstly, there is the not unimportant issue of legitimacy. Particularly because they are being provided with a generous amount of ‘progressive’ cover, they are able to present their deliberations on BI as a responsible weighing of the common good. The Ontario Liberals stand out as international champions in this regard. Their BI pilot project consultations, have enabled them to put in place yet another round of fake dialogue, with the empty promise of a “better way” diverting attention as they push people even deeper into poverty. The World Bank and the IMF have been worrying out loud about the backlash against their austerity agenda and its devastating impacts. That IMF economists are themselves musing about BI, is perhaps significant in this regard. It advances their agenda but can be dressed up to look progressive. It may be the best thing for the institutions of global capitalism since the myth of ‘poverty reduction’.

The second element of BI that I think is of interest to the architects of neoliberalism is that it can fine tune economic coercion as they create an ever more elastic workforce based on the most precarious forms of employment. The income support systems that emerged out of the Poor Law tradition, stressed intense restrictions and moral policing. Along with horribly inadequate benefit levels, this has been very useful in driving people into low waged work to an unprecedented extent. It may, however, be time to rethink this to a degree.

If people are moving between poverty wages and poverty level benefits more frequently in a precarious job market, perhaps they can be more effectively prodded into the worst jobs with less intrusive benefit systems. A less rule bound delivery of poverty income, that gives people a chance of retaining their housing, may be needed to keep them job ready. Linked to this, of course, is the huge boost to the employers of a BI system that constitutes a form of wage top up. Provided the payment is meagre, it will not impede the flow of low paid workers but it will mean that their employers receive a subsidy that absolves them from having to pay living wages or come under pressure to increase the amount they do provide.

Thirdly, the great advantage of neoliberal BI is that the inadequate and dwindling payment it provides turns those who receive it into customers in the marketplace. In my opinion, BI would be far from the best way to strengthen the social infrastructure at any time but in the context of an intensifying agenda of austerity and privatization, it is a recipe for disaster. It’s really about the commodification of social provision. Your payment may actually be less conditional and somewhat larger but, as you shop through the privatized remains of the social infrastructure, with inadequate means and very few rights, you are dramatically worse off. That, in my view, is what is being prepared by those who will actually implement a system of BI and the hopes and wishes to the contrary of its progressive advocates don’t count for very much.

Progressive Dreams

I said previously that proposals for redistributive or transformative models of BI are generally marked by a tendency to focus on the desirability of what is being advanced while paying much less attention to actual prospects for implementation. I’ve yet to see, quite bluntly, any serious attempt to assess what stands in the way of a progressive BI and what can be done to bring it into existence. It simply isn’t enough to explain how just and fair a given model would be if it could be adopted. In order to credibly advance BI as the solution, there are some questions that must be settled.

Firstly, income support systems came into being because, while employers welcome an oversupply of labour and the desperation that comes with it as something that boosts their bargaining power, the total abandonment of the jobless creates social unrest. Some measure of income support, provided as a reluctant concession, has proved to be necessary. However, the systems of provision that have been put in place have always been as inadequate as possible so as to undermine employer strength as little as possible. A widely delivered or even universal adequate payment would greatly tilt that balance back the other way. What reason is there to think that this is likely to be implemented?

Secondly, over the last several decades, concessions made during the post war years have been taken back. Trade unions have been weakened, workers’ rights undermined and low waged work has increased considerably. The degrading of income support systems has been central to creating the climate of desperation needed to achieve this. Not only have benefits for the unemployed been attacked but other systems, especially for disabled people have been undermined so as to generate a scramble for the worst jobs. This has led to a shift in the balance of forces in society and we are fighting a largely defensive struggle. Given this very unfavourable situation, in which unions and movements are not in the ascendancy, how can it be supposed that those profiting from the present situation are likely to accept a measure of redistributive social reform that is at least as sweeping as anything put in place during the post war boom? What is the plan to make this happen?

Thirdly, as right wing governments and political parties directly linked to the most reactionary business interests consider BI and set up pilot projects that provide meagre payments and focus on how to ensure people on social benefits become low waged workers, what reason is there to imagine that a progressive BI, rather than the neoliberal variant, is being cooked up?

Regardless of these issues, it is sometimes asserted that an adequate system of provision must be put in place simply because we are moving toward a “workless future.” In such a society, it is suggested, masses of people who have been displaced will have to be provided for and the capitalists will have to think like Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors and support BI because it is the only sensible and rational solution. To imagine such responsible provision for the future is to place undue faith in a system based on the making of profit. If they won’t stop building pipelines in the face of environmental catastrophe, there’s little reason to expect them to worry too much about sensible solutions to technological displacement. There simply is no post-capitalist capitalism and no social policy innovation that is going to bring it about.

At a recent panel on Basic Income that I spoke at, the moderator posed a challenge. She accepted that BI might not be a way forward but asked, if that were so, what “bold vision” could be advanced in its place. It’s a fair question but a realistic appraisal of what we are up against is still obligatory, even if that has some sobering aspects to it. The great problem that we have is that the neoliberal years have done a lot of damage. The level of exploitation has been increased and working class movements have been weakened. While what we demand and aspire to is very important, the bigger question is what we can win. What’s disturbing about the left wing turn to BI is that is seems to think there is a social policy end run around the realities of neoliberalism and the need to resist it. There is no such thing.

British Labour Party and BI

With very good reason, there has been considerable excitement internationally around the Jeremy Corbyn leadership in the British Labour Party. His close ally, Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has been paying some attention to adopting BI, as part of a platform that would express a break with the austerity consensus. McDonnell, from a position on the left of a major social democratic party, raises the possibility of a ‘best case scenario’ for progressive BI. For that very reason, the question is posed of whether the ‘bold vision’ I spoke of should be framed around the universal payment concept or devoted to other objectives.

Basic Income, when all is said and done, is a vision for nothing more than the means to be a customer in an unjust society that decides what is for sale.

In my opinion, if we are to consider goals we set and demands we put forward in the face of neoliberalism, that are based on the needs of workers and communities and create the conditions for challenging capitalism itself, we sell ourselves well short if we settle for something so limited and inherently conservative as the universal payment. BI, when all is said and done, is a vision for nothing more than the means to be a customer in an unjust society that decides what is for sale. How much bolder and more meaningful to fight for free, massively expanded and fully accessible systems of healthcare and public transportation? How much better to focus on the creation of social housing and try to expand it so that, not only the poorest, but most working class people enjoy its benefits? There is universal child care and vast array of important community services to pay attention to. Moreover, we can work to wrest as much power as possible out of the hands of the mandarins of state bureaucracy and fight to increase the control working class people exercise over the public services they rely on. When it comes to existing systems of income support, we should not for a moment accept their poverty level benefits, bureaucratic intrusion and forms of moral policing steeped in racism and sexism. There is a fight to be taken forward for living income, full entitlement and programs that meet the real needs of unemployed, poor and disabled people, as opposed to the present ‘rituals of degradation’ they embody. At every point, let’s try to ensure that these expanded services are not paid for by other working class people but by forcing the corporations, banks and those who own them to pay by increasing their tax burden and imposing levies on their wealth.

The struggle to expand and improve public services would have to, of course, be linked to workers’ struggles for living wages, workplace rights and real compensation for injured workers. Beyond this, let’s challenge as much as we can the ‘business decisions’ that deplete resources, pollute and threaten us with ecological disaster.

I am suggesting that our movements need to challenge, rather than come to terms with, the neoliberal order and the capitalist system that has produced it. For all its claims to be a sweeping measure, the notion of progressive BI is a futile attempt to make peace with that system. In reality, even that compromise is not available. The model of BI that governments are working on in their social policy laboratories will not ‘end the tyranny of the labour market’ but render it more dreadful. The agenda of austerity and privatization requires a system of income support that renders people as powerless and desperate as possible in the face of exploitation and that won’t change if it is relabelled as ‘Basic Income’. •

John Clarke is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

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The Louisiana coast loses a football field’s worth of land every 38 minutes. This staggering rate of land loss has been brought on by climate change and coastal erosion accelerated by human activities, including water diversion projects and damage done by the oil and gas industry. 

It is also a problem that is best seen from the sky. Thanks to the nonprofit conservation organization SouthWings, I was able to photograph the state’s troubled coast for DeSmog during a flight on November 15, 2016.

“Flying out along the Louisiana coast and seeing the tattered wetlands from above with your own eyes make the scale of the threat posed by coastal land loss feel strikingly real and immediate,” Meredith Dowling, SouthWings associate executive director, told me while discussing the group’s work.

The organization offers flights, piloted by volunteers, with the goal of expanding the public’s understanding of the biodiversity and ecosystems of the American Southeast. “To have a pilot point at a map that shows where land should be and look down and see only water, that sticks with you,” she said.

Oil and gas industry infrastructure at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Oil and gas industry site near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

Dowling is based in New Orleans. For her, the state’s land loss is personal.

“Coastal land loss and climate change threaten the future of coastal Louisiana and all of us who call this place home,” she said. “Having independent eyes monitoring our critically important ecosystems and reporting bad actors to regulators helps protect us all from those who would illegally pollute our land and waterways.”

During my flight, I photographed active and abandoned oil and gas industry sites that have been named in lawsuits, filed by parish governments, which are making their way through the court system.

Plaquemines, Jefferson, Vermilion, Cameron, and St. Bernard Parishes have filed multiple suits against oil and gas companies which operate, or used to operate, in their parishes.

The parishes allege that the companies did not comply with rules spelled out in the permits that allowed them to work in the wetlands, or operated without permits at all, hastening coastal erosion. The permits require companies to restore the areas they impacted to the original condition when work is complete — a requirement overlooked by the industry for years. The lawsuits aim to provide some of the funds needed to repair and restore the coast.

Oil and gas infrastructure among eroding Louisiana wetlands.

Oil and gas industry site in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. The state is losing 100 yards of coastal land to erosion every 38 minutes, with oil and gas industry practices contributing to this problem.

Oil and gas industry storage tanks and processing facilities at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Oil and gas industry site near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish.

Former Republican Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration tried to squash the parish lawsuits, but current Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration supports them.

Gov. Edwards has alerted coastal parish governments that if they do not sue oil and gas companies for environmental impacts to their parishes, the state may do so on their behalf.

An aerial view of Terrebonne Parish's disappearing coastal wetlands.

Aerial view of Terrebonne Parish, one of the Louisiana parishes that didn’t opt to sue the oil and gas industry for environmental damages from past practices.

The straight lines of human activity cross Terrebonne Parish's eroding coastal wetlands.

The straight lines of human activity still cross the wetlands of Terrebonne Parish, where they are visible from the sky.

But despite Gov. Edwards’ attempts to hold industry accountable for the harm already caused to the coast, he is simultaneously welcoming new fossil fuel energy developments along that same coast and lavishing the industry with tax incentives.

On December 21 he announced that Venture Global LNG will be building a liquified natural gas (LNG) facility, which will also export LNG, in Plaquemines Parish. The $8.5 billion LNG complex will be able to export 20 million metric tons of LNG per year and is expected to offer 250 jobs with an average yearly salary of $70,000.

But Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, thinks that the state should be considering more than just the LNG facility’s ability to create decent-paying jobs. Her organization advocates for the state to move away from the fossil fuel industry and instead develop sustainable energy projects.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Rolfes told TV station WDSU, “To be on the one hand grappling with coastal destruction, and the other hand preparing to build a huge facility on that very same coast.”

Similarly, the Obama administration recently gave mixed signals on climate change and fossil fuel development.

On December 22, it released a draft climate science report, which maintains that climate change is primarily caused by humans releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. On the same day, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the agency will offer “more than 48 million acres offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama for oil and gas exploration and development, in a lease sale that will include all available unleashed areas in the Central Planning Area.”

Rolfes isn’t counting on the state’s congressional delegation or the incoming Trump administration to protect Louisiana.

“One thing we can see in this post-election world is that people are upset and are in the streets,“ Rolfes wrote in a press release after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. “We will harness this energy for real action on climate change, on accidents, for an end to drilling in our Gulf of Mexico ― for all the things we have to do if we want to leave our children a planet they can live on.”

The photos here are a reminder of Louisiana’s predicament: An area the size of at least three football fields vanished from the Louisiana coastline while I wrote these words.

As for the Trump administration soon taking the helm, Dowling said SouthWings remains undaunted. “We have seen politics threaten to undermine environmental protections before, and we will persevere.”

Aerial view of the canals still crossing Golden Meadow, Louisiana.

Golden Meadow, Louisiana, in Lafourche Parish, one of the coastal parishes that opted not to sue the oil and gas industry for past practices that failed to restore coastal wetlands.

A natural gas flare visible at an oil and gas facility along the coast of Plaquemines Parish.

A natural gas flare is visible at an oil and gas facility in Plaquemines Parish.

Buildings and other infrastructure dot the waters and disappearing coast in Plaquemines Parish.

Infrastructure dots the waters and disappearing coastal land of Plaquemines Parish.

Industrial buildings line the fragile coast of Plaquemines Parish.

Industrial buildings line the fragile coast of Plaquemines Parish.

Oil and gas facility on the water and scarce coastal land of Plaquemines Parish.

The oil and gas industry has long been building on the coastal land of Plaquemines Parish, though that activity has contributed to the disappearance of that fragile land due to coastal erosion.

Narrow strips of coastal land spread among large patches of water in Plaquemines Parish.

Plaquemines Parish is one of the Louisiana parishes suing the oil and gas industry for failing to restore coastal wetlands affected by the industry’s practices, a requirement long overlooked.

The heavily eroded coastal areas of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.

An aerial view of Lafourche Parish reveals the disappearing remains of its coastal lands. This parish decided not to participate in the lawsuits against the oil and gas industry for failing to restore coastal wetlands, a practice which is helping shrink the remaining coastal lands.

A long thin road crosses the water and disappearing land in Terrebonne Parish.

Island Road leading from Isle de Jean Charles to Pointe au Chien, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. 

Main Image: Golden Meadow, Louisiana, in Lafourche Parish.

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