War in Yemen: Ever-growing Threat to the Lives of Children

January 13th, 2016 by Julien Harneis

Statement attributable to Julien Harneis, UNICEF Representative in Yemen

“With no end in sight to the deadly conflict in Yemen, nearly 10 million children inside the country are now facing a new year of pain and suffering.

“Continuous bombardment and street fighting are exposing children and their families to a deadly combination of violence, disease and deprivation.

“The direct impact of the conflict on children is hard to measure. The statistics confirmed by the UN (747 children killed and another 1,108 injured since March last year; 724 children pressed into some form of military activity) tell only part of the story. But they are shocking enough in themselves.

“The broader effects of the violence on innocent civilians extend much further. Children make up at least half of the 2.3 million people estimated to have been displaced from their homes, and of the more than 19 million people struggling to get water on a daily basis; 1.3 million children under five face the risk of acute malnutrition and acute respiratory tract infections. And at least 2 million children cannot go to school.

“Public services like health, water and sanitation have been decimated and cannot meet the ever-increasing needs of a desperate population. Few of the 7.4 million children requiring protection (including psycho-social support to help deal with the effects of their exposure to violence) will actually receive it.

“The longer-term consequences of all this for Yemen – which was already the Middle East’s poorest nation even before the conflict — can only be guessed at.

“Agencies like UNICEF are doing the best they can, in an extremely hazardous working environment. As a result, in 2015, more than 4 million children under 5 were vaccinated against measles and polio, and 166,000 children were admitted for treatment against malnutrition.  Over 3.5 million affected people were provided with access to water and 63,520 people belonging to extremely poor communities were assisted with humanitarian cash transfers in the cities of Sanaa and Taiz.

“But so much more is needed. The children of Yemen need urgent help and they need it now.

“That can happen if all parties involved in the conflict – as is their duty under International Humanitarian Law — were to allow unhindered access to areas affected by the fighting, where civilians are dying because hospitals are not functioning, medicines are in short supply and children are at risk of dying from preventable diseases. Aid agencies would then be able to scale up their work accordingly.

“But what is really needed — above all else — is an end to the conflict. Only in that way can the children of Yemen look forward to 2016 with hope rather than despair.”

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For further information, please contact:

Mohammed Al-Asaadi, UNICEF Yemen, [email protected], +967 711760002
Bismarck Swangin, UNICEF Amman, [email protected] +962 790 157 636
Najwa Mekki, UNICEF New York, [email protected], +1 917 209 1804

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The final State of the Union speech delivered Tuesday night by President Barack Obama was a demonstration of the incapacity of the American political system to deal honestly or seriously with a single social question.

Obama evaded the real issues that affect tens of millions of working people in America every day of their lives. He painted a ludicrous picture of economic recovery and social progress that insulted the intelligence of his television audience—and went unchallenged by the millionaire politicians assembled in the chamber of the House of Representatives.

Summing up what he called “the progress of these past seven years,” Obama gave first place to “how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.” The so-called “recovery” has been a bonanza for corporate profits, stock prices, and the wealth and income of the super-rich. For the working people who are the vast majority of the population, it has been a disaster.

By most social indices, the American people are worse off in January 2016 than when Obama took office seven years ago. The real wages of working people have fallen, social services have deteriorated, pension benefits have been gutted, and cities such as Detroit and San Bernardino have been forced into bankruptcy.

According to a report by the National Association of Counties issued on the eve of the State of the Union address, of the 3,069 counties in the United States, 93 percent are worse off than before the 2008 financial crash according to at least one of four economic indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, the size of the economy and home values.

In 27 states, not a single county has recovered fully from the 2008 crash and the deep economic slump that followed. These include such major states as Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Obama, however, painted a picture of nearly unblemished economic advance, declaring, “The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” He boasted,

“We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half.”

The president did not acknowledge that the post-2008 “recovery” is the weakest on record, that the vast majority of the new jobs created have been low-wage and many of them part-time, or that the drop in the unemployment rate is primarily due to the withdrawal of millions of people from the work force because they lost all hope of getting a decent-paying job.

He went on, tellingly, to cite the auto industry as a symbol of success, declaring that it “just had its best year ever.” This perfectly expresses the utter blindness, not just of Obama, but of the entire political establishment. The “best year ever” was for General Motors, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler, which enjoyed record profits, not for the auto workers who produced those profits.

Real wages for auto workers have dropped sharply since the Obama White House forced through a 50 percent cut in wages for all new hires as part of the bankruptcy reorganization of the industry in 2009. Mass discontent among auto workers was expressed at the end of 2015 in the rejection of contracts at Fiat-Chrysler and Nexteer, a major supplier, and in widespread demands for strike action, smothered by Obama’s stooges in the United Auto Workers union.

“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” Obama concluded. The social position of the American working class has, in fact, suffered a dramatic decline, through the combined efforts of the corporate bosses, the unions and the two capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

The president conceded that economic inequality has grown in the United States, but he described it as the outcome of long-term trends such as globalization and automation, as though the policies of his administration—bailouts for Wall Street, budget cuts and wage cuts for workers—had nothing to do with it.

In the seven years since the financial crash, brought on, as he admitted, by “recklessness on Wall Street,” not a single banker or speculator has been prosecuted or jailed. On the contrary, the billionaires have greatly increased their wealth, gobbling up 95 percent of all new income since Obama entered the White House.

Obama listed a few other policy “successes,” claiming that “we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector… we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans.” He was referring, however, to a series of social disasters: the reactionary attack on health benefits for workers and their families known as Obamacare; the devastation of Appalachia and other energy-producing regions; and the abuse of ex-soldiers, wounded in body and mind, by the Veterans Administration.

Obama sought to defend the foreign policy record of his administration from criticism, mainly from the Republican right, where demands are being raised for military escalation in the Middle East and stepped-up attacks on democratic rights at home in the name of fighting “terrorism.”

While he claimed to reject an American role as the world’s policeman, he nonetheless boasted, “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”

He continued, “Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” winning the bipartisan standing ovation that always accompanies any mention of American soldiers engaged in combat overseas.

Obama indulged in the glorification of killing that has become an essential part of the degraded spectacle that passes for political discourse in America. Describing the US war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he claimed, “With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons.”

He called on Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS, but vowed to wage war with or without legislative approval. The leaders of ISIS, he proclaimed,

“will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment—or mine—to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year…”

Then he declared, in language that will be noted by nations all over the world, that when it comes to waging war against potential adversaries, “our reach has no limit.”

Obama concluded his speech with an appeal to his Republican opponents to work with his administration and pull back from the extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has characterized the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a clear reference to Donald Trump, he argued that “we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This is not a matter of political correctness, but understanding what makes us strong.”

Obama was making an argument, not so much that racism and bigotry are intrinsically wrong, but that they make it more difficult for American imperialism to maintain its dominant world role. “When a politician insults Muslims,” he said, “it makes it harder to achieve our goals.”

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La Reserva Federal de Estados Unidos jala el gatillo

January 13th, 2016 by Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

El Sistema de la Reserva Federal (Fed, por su acrónimo en inglés) de Estados Unidos finalmente lo hizo, jaló el gatillo: el miércoles 16 de diciembre de 2015, en punto de las 14 horas (hora en Washington, Distrito de Columbia), se anunció la decisión de elevar el precio del dinero en 25 puntos base. De esta manera, la tasa de interés de los fondos federales (federal funds rate), la que se cobran los bancos entre sí por préstamos de 1 día, aumentó desde un nivel mínimo entre cero y 0.25 por ciento en el que se encontraba desde finales de 2008, a otro que oscila entre 0.25 por ciento y medio punto porcentual.

Se trata de la primera vez que se lleva a cabo un alza de tipos de interés en casi 1 década, la última subida tuvo lugar en 2006, cuando comenzaban a emerger las primeras señales de la crisis hipotecaria (subprime) en Estados Unidos. Cierto es que hace ya un buen tiempo que la presidenta del Fed, Janet Yellen, venía advirtiendo a propios y extraños que, más temprano que tarde, iba a elevar la tasa de interés de los fondos federales, un referente clave que determina el costo del crédito en el ámbito internacional.

De acuerdo con la mayoría de los integrantes del Comité Federal de Mercado Abierto (FOMC, por su sigla en inglés) del Fed, el aspecto más preocupante de la economía estadounidense tenía que ver con la evolución del mercado de trabajo. Según se puede leer en sus estatutos, el Fed tiene la obligación de cumplir con tres objetivos fundamentales: la estabilidad financiera, la baja inflación y el pleno empleo.

Si se los compara con los puntajes alcanzados en 2008, hoy en día los principales índices de la bolsa de valores de Nueva York (el Dow Jones, el Nasdaq y el índice Standard & Poor’s 500) parecen haberse recuperado, con todo y que la economía estadounidense aún no consigue registrar los niveles de inversión productiva ni de empleo alcanzados hace 7 años. Pero para el Fed todo se encuentra bajo control, pues la volatilidad observada durante el último año en el mercado bursátil no es tanto un reflejo de los problemas “estructurales” de la economía de Estados Unidos, sino que obedece a pequeñas “correcciones” en los precios de los títulos financieros.

Por lo tanto, si bien existen ciertas amenazas sobre la estabilidad financiera, no son tan grandes como para poner en cuestión la recuperación económica, a juicio de varios funcionarios del Fed. En cambio, sí hay bastante angustia en torno a la inflación. Pues el nivel de precios en Estados Unidos se ha mantenido por debajo de 2 por ciento, el objetivo del Fed, desde hace más de 3 años. Es que si bien la meta del Fed es mantener baja la inflación, si el nivel de precios se mantiene en un nivel demasiado bajo por un largo tiempo, es una señal inequívoca de que algo anda realmente mal en la economía.

Los estímulos monetarios y fiscales implementados por el Fed y el Departamento del Tesoro, respectivamente, no lograron apuntalar la inflación en Estados Unidos; el peligro mayor está en que en algún momento la baja inflación termine por convertirse en deflación (caída de precios), la peor pesadilla de los capitalistas. Según los datos del Departamento del Trabajo, en octubre pasado el índice de precios al consumidor (IPC) creció apenas 0.2 por ciento con respecto al mismo periodo de 2014, mientras que si se excluyen los precios de los alimentos y la energía, el incremento fue de 1.9 por ciento. En noviembre los datos mostraron una leve mejoría, el IPC creció 0.5 por ciento en términos anuales, y los precios subyacentes al consumidor aumentaron 2 por ciento.

Janet Yellen confía en que en el mediano plazo, a medida que la recuperación siga cobrando fuerza, la inflación va a terminar por acercarse cada vez más al objetivo de 2 puntos porcentuales. Y por último, el Fed debe velar por un mercado laboral boyante. Pleno empleo en la jerga económica significa estar en una situación en la que el país en cuestión utiliza la mayor parte de sus capacidades productivas. Cuando la tasa de desempleo se ubica en alrededor de 5 por ciento, el gobierno de Estados Unidos considera que hay pleno empleo.

Y según las cifras más recientes, la nómina no agrícola consiguió incrementos importantes durante el último tramo de 2015, en especial en noviembre, cuando aumentó en 211 mil. Así, la tasa de de desempleo oficial cayó de 10 por ciento en 2009, a cerca de 5 por ciento. Sin embargo, se deja de lado que si se tomara en cuenta una definición mucho más amplia de desempleo, la metodología U-6, que considera a las personas que han abandonado la búsqueda de empleo, así como a los trabajadores dispuestos a cumplir con una jornada de tiempo completo, la tasa de desempleo se ubica en casi 10 por ciento.

“En general, la información económica y financiera recibida desde nuestra reunión de octubre ha sido consistente con nuestras expectativas de una mejora continuada del mercado laboral […] si [el Fed] retrasa el inicio de una normalización de la política demasiado, probablemente acabemos teniendo un endurecimiento político relativamente abrupto que evitará que la economía supere nuestros objetivos”, sentenció Yellen a principios de diciembre de 2015.

El Fed elevó sus expectativas de crecimiento para el próximo año hasta 2.4 por ciento, la estimación previa era de 2.3 por ciento. También disminuyó su proyección para el desempleo en 2016 a 4.7 por ciento, por debajo de la anterior de 4.8 por ciento. No obstante, ese optimismo desbordado soslaya por completo que los empleos ganados son, sobre todo, a tiempo parcial en el sector de los servicios; en contraste, tanto las empresas de la manufactura y el sector de la energía (en especial las vinculadas con los hidrocarburos) han realizado despidos masivos en los últimos meses. Por otro parte, los salarios, si bien han aumentado poco a poco, el incremento es todavía insuficiente para conseguir aumentos significativos en el nivel de consumo, y sobre todo, en la inflación.

¿Cómo nos afectará la decisión que tomó el Fed? ¿Qué pasará con la economía mundial? El dólar se revaluó apenas unas horas después de que el Fed subió la tasa de interés de los fondos federales. Luego los precios de los hidrocarburos tocaron el piso: el precio del barril de petróleo Brent se situó en 37.44 dólares, una caída de 3.44; mientras que el precio del crudo en su variedad West Texas Intermediate (WTI) cayó 4.81 por ciento, hasta 35.56 dólares por barril.

Es que los precios de las materias primas (commodities) se comportan de manera inversamente proporcional a las cotizaciones del dólar. El cobre, el oro, el petróleo, la plata, así como la mayor parte de los commodities se encuentran financiarizados, esto es, su valor monetario depende en gran medida de las fluctuaciones de precios en los mercados de derivados (denominados en dólares). De modo inevitable, las empresas exportadoras de Estados Unidos tendrán mayores dificultades para colocar sus mercancías en el mercado mundial (ante el encarecimiento del dólar).

Visto desde el otro lado, las monedas de los países emergentes tendrán una depreciación más pronunciada. Sus exportaciones deberían ganar competitividad (ante el abaratamiento de sus monedas) si no fuera porque en estos momentos el comercio internacional registra sus niveles más bajos de las últimas 3 décadas.

Por ejemplo, las exportaciones latinoamericanas entre 2013 y 2015 registraron el peor nivel de los últimos 80 años, según las estimaciones de Alicia Bárcena, la secretaria ejecutiva de la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (Cepal). Es que no hay tantos países a los cuales vender, incluso la región de Asia-Pacífico se encuentra en franca desaceleración.

Por lo tanto, el efecto negativo se observará sobre todo por la vía de las finanzas, cientos de miles de dólares de capitales de cartera se fugarán de los países emergentes hacia Estados Unidos, con lo cual los mercados bursátiles (de los países emergentes) sufrirán graves pérdidas, sus monedas se depreciarán aún más y el monto de la deuda externa aumentará (denominada en dólares).

“2016 será un reto para los mercados emergentes conforme la caída de precios de las materias primas, y el débil crecimiento del comercio mundial extiende la experiencia reciente de las presiones presupuestarias y de balanza de pagos”, declaró a The Wall Street Journal el economista jefe de Deutsche Bank, David Folkerts-Landau.

Ante ese complicado escenario, lamentablemente no cabe más que esperar fuertes recortes de gasto público en las naciones emergentes. De acuerdo con las proyecciones actualizadas a diciembre de 2015, publicadas por la Cepal, nuestra región cerró 2015 con una contracción de -0.4 por ciento del producto interno bruto (PIB), y solamente crecerá 0.2 por ciento el próximo año, uno de los desempeños más mediocres desde 2009. No obstante, una vez que se realicen los ajustes de corte neoliberal exigidos por las burguesías locales (lo mismo en Colombia y México, que en los países que ostentan tener gobiernos progresistas como Brasil y Venezuela), la recesión será de mayor calado, y por lo tanto, la expansión económica en la región será mucho menor a lo estimado por la Cepal. Larga vida aún tiene esta crisis…

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

 

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez es economista, egresado de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Twitter: @noyola_ariel.

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Those who have been reading my work for any length of time know I have been adamant we would someday face a “global margin call”. I believe this call was issued last week! No matter how you look at the world, whether financially, geopolitically, macro, micro or whatever …what underlies everything in our world today is “credit”.

Credit is used to build, wage war, to produce and deliver, to consume or to trade, EVERYTHING runs on credit. As a side note, in order for credit to be extended, the borrower must have some sort of “collateral”. This collateral can be physical, financial, or simply “faith”, meaning a good credit rating or at least trust by the lender.

We’ve now arrived at a point very similar to where we were in the fall of 2008 with several very grave exceptions. The world is facing a global margin call again, only this time there are no sovereign entities left with a clean balance sheet that can be levered up further.

There are also no tools left available to the various central banks to administer monetary policy. They have already printed, monetized debt and lowered rates to zero. Richard Fisher has even admitted they have no ammunition left! As a side note, rates were cut to zero to make the higher debt balances serviceable but now even zero percent rates are not enough. From a macro standpoint, real economic activity is not generating enough cash flow (profits and tax revenues) to support this current debt. Lastly, there is no more “collateral” left to borrow against. Whether it be stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities or even “faith”, we are at the end of the road in the collateral department.

We have recently found out (not that we did not already know) through admission that many statistics have been wrong, and wrong for many years. What was reported and paraded as fantastic employment news on Friday turned out to really be a stinker as the truth turned out to be a whopping 11,000 job gain

http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/newsflash-from-the-december-jobs-report-the-us-economy-is-dead-in-the-water/ !

What would have been considered heresy just 10 years ago is now “normal”, the Swiss National Bank has become a huge global hedge fund along with the PBOC and Bank of Japan. Does anyone doubt the Fed is not deeply in U.S. equity markets also (by the way, US monetary aggregates have gone into SHARP decline since the Dec. 6th report)? What kind of monetary policy is this? Sovereign “money” (currency) is foundationed on stock markets? Please keep in mind that global trade is crashing with the Baltic Dry Index making all time lows this past week and reports of tankers (non oil) all over the world being docked and empty. As for oil, there is such a global glut there are now fears of lack of storage space. All of this points toward a collapsing real global (depression) economy …which must service the most financial debt in the history of history!

This past week, markets all around the globe convulsed greatly with almost nothing left unscathed. There was a different excuse each day for the drops. We first heard about the Saudi/Iran disconnect of diplomatic ties, then, everything was down because of the yuan devaluation and their market hitting the 7% circuit breakers. I even heard someone say that everyone has such great profits they wanted out …but not until the 2016 tax year which is why they waited until the first week.

I do not believe any of it and would instead say we are simply receiving a global margin call. This had to come sooner or later as the world sits upon the greatest credit build in all of history. We are simply at the end of a “credit cycle” …unfortunately the largest credit cycle EVER! Everyone “knew” this day would come yet no one paid attention to it in their daily lives as “life just went on” as if nothing was wrong! I am sure we will hear reason after reason in the future …the real reason being too much debt with not enough collateral left nor enough economic activity to support it. Simple!

Now, the margin call comes. Now comes the great unwind! “Collateral” of all sorts will be questioned. The questions will be of the “strength, liquidity, ownership and even whether the collateral even exists”. Everything will be questioned and nothing taken for granted or even at face value. The issue of “trust” and even “who” can you trust will come forward. Institutions who have traded with each other for decades will suddenly be looking at each other with different eyes. Questions like “will I get paid” or “will I receive what I paid for” will be an everyday exercise.

There will surely be “blame” but what will it be? Several years into the future it will be understood for what it really is, too much debt, leverage and financially modified products such as derivatives. In the immediate, the blame might go on anything or anyone. We could see a banking collapse in China, Europe or start somewhere insignificant like “Pottersville”.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-01-08/35-trillion-neutron-bomb-keeps-kyle-bass-night

It could be some sort of military action.

Maybe in the Middle East, eastern Europe, China South Sea. It could involve any number of characters from the US, China, Russia or Saudis, Israelis, Iran, Syria, Iraq? Who knows? It could begin with oil. It could begin with gold. It could begin with “truth” coming out in the form of a “truth bomb” and finger pointing. We might see a global trade war or outright currency war.

Do the Chinese, Russians and Saudis have enough Treasury securities to dump and cause an interest rate spike? Are the Saudis still U.S. allies or do they view us now as pro Iran and they switch alliances? Will, and which treaties will be honored when push comes to shove? If I had to guess, whatever happens will certainly not be “petro dollar” friendly!

All of these questions and many more will be asked. The most important of course being whether or not “you” can meet the margin call or whether you do business with a cross partner who cannot meet the call. When I write “you” I mean to say everyone, every entity, and every sovereign government. This is how we will get the long awaited reset, the markets will close and accounts will be settled and liquidated if necessary, only upon the reopenings will you understand what you really have. The great global unwind is here and now with the most dreaded of all phrases about to be announced

“MARGIN CALL GENTLEMEN”!

 

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GUANTANAMOUN Human Rights Experts Urge US to close Guantánamo and End Impunity for Abuses

By United Nations, January 12 2016

Human rights experts from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) today called on the United States Government to promptly close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and end impunity for abuses in the so-called ‘global war on terror’ such as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and extraordinary rendition.

ErdoganMore Evidence of Turkey’s Support of the Islamic State (ISIS), in Liaison with US and NATO

By Stephen Lendman, January 12 2016

Evidence keeps mounting on how Turkey directly aids ISIS, complicit with Washington, other NATO countries and regional partners.

Uncle_Sam_pointing_finger_U.S. Dropped 23,144 Bombs on Muslim Countries in 2015

By Adam Johnson, January 12 2016

Council of Foreign Relations resident skeptic Micah Zenko recently tallied up how many bombs the United States has dropped on other countries and the results are as depressing as one would think.

Syria/Libya versus Bahrain: A BBC FactoidMadaya: West Engineer Another ‘Humanitarian’ Media Hoax in Syria

By 21st Century Wire and RT, January 12 2016

This last month has seen a tidal wave of western propaganda regarding the “Siege of Madaya” in Syria. Some of the mainstream media efforts have centered around the use of old or fake photo images of starving children and residents…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. © Ammar Awad / ReutersBehind Netanyahu’s Ban on the “Islamic Movement” in Israel

By Jonathan Cook, January 12 2016

The decision to outlaw the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel was announced by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on November 17, 2015, days after attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, left 130 dead in Paris.

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Angela Merkel, Refugees and the Cologne Acts of Sexual Violence

January 12th, 2016 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Huge pressure was already on Angela Merkel’s shoulders prior to the New Year celebrations. When it came in its waves of chaos on the eve, the security services in Cologne were found wanting.  The police document from Cologne, leaked to Der Spiegel, speaks of chaos and lack of control.  “Women, accompanied or not, literally ran a ‘gauntlet’ through masses of heavily intoxicated men that words cannot describe.”[1]

A range of activities, altogether some 170 criminal acts, are documented: women being surrounded by gangs of men; unwanted hands being laid on clothing, grabbing between legs, buttocks, and breasts, and a good bit of thieving for good measure.

It also outlines a considerable inability to identify and prosecute the alleged offenders, even instances of disbelief and confusion in the face of such violence.  Screams of help were ignored.  The police involved were short of personnel, vastly outnumbered.

It was a boon for the reactionary right, but it was also a bitter reality for those keen on pursuing injustices to persons caught in sexual violence.  Eyes have been on such statements in the leaked police report as that of a man who yelled: “I’m Syrian!  You have to treat me kindly!  Frau Merkel invited me.”

The result has been a besmirching of a range of positions – feminists accused of not doing enough by preferring political correctness over attacking gender hatred; progressives accused of being apologists; and a general sense that discussions of the refugee problem have ignored the dimension of gender.

Tempting as the last option is, the numbers simply do not hold up to scrutiny, at least in terms of violent sexual avalanche.  It is reported that some 32 individuals came out of 1,000 young men were supposedly involved in a range of sexual crimes.  They comprise nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, three Germans, one Iraqi, one Serb, and one American.  A subsequent report from the Interior Ministry in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state notes that 516 criminal complaints were registered, 237 being criminal in nature.

Merkel seems to be on a hiding to nothing.  She has had a diminishing luxury in terms of how she deals with refugees.  The huge numbers have presented an alibi for increasing hostility within Germany, and a considerable headache for her ruling coalition.  It is precisely such a number that conjures up images of a loss of control, the borderless nightmare.

Anger is being registered across party circles and certain figures. Carsten Linnemann, a member of the Christian Democrats (CDU), has claimed that, “If the influx continues as it has, then integration can’t work.”  Merkel has consistently insisted on how, “Wir können das schaffen, under wir schaffen das.”[2] (We can handle this, and we will handle this.)

To Merkel’s “we can do this” message, Linnemann showed less enthusiasm.  “If we get another 800,000 or a million people arriving this year, then we won’t be able to do this.”[3]

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) have seen their chance to pounce.  Dirk Driesang needed a provocative image to use, and decided that Egypt’s Arab Spring protestors supplied one.  “Anyone who opens the borders wide must know they are bringing Tahrir Square to Germany.”

Noisy Pegida protesters made their presence felt in Leipzig, though a police spokeswoman did confirm that they were met person to person by counter-demonstrators.  Cologne has seen retaliations, leading to injuries on 11 individuals, including Pakistanis, Syrians and Guineans.

The new policy in itself will not make an overwhelming difference in terms of expulsion.  Offenders, insisted Merkel, “must feel the full force of the law.”  The “right to asylum can be lost if someone is placed on probation or jailed.”  Asylum remains a legal principle controlled by legal regulation and qualification.

There is nothing new or provocative about this, though some parties on the left insist that her supposedly revised stand involved “shooting from the hip”.  But Merkel has so far resisted the move to introduce the notorious cap on numbers, and the Hungarian solution of closing borders.  Were Germany to do that, it would certifiably kill off the Schengen zone and the principle of mobility.

The issue of gender violence, and its appropriation by various groups for a protection agenda, was never far away from the incidents. The Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, did not make matters any easier by suggesting that women had failed in their endeavours of self-protection.  They would do better than to keep strangers “at an arm’s length”.  That said, she also claimed on Tuesday that, “There are no indications that this involved people who have sought shelter in Cologne as refugees.”[4]

The more balanced view is that a handful of criminal actions do not, by their nature, criminalise an entire fleeing populace.  Many of the refugees currently in Germany can count themselves as survivors of sexual abuse, one of the inglorious nasties of war and conflict.

An interesting contrast would be to assess hefty, alcohol-fuelled acts of domestic violence on New Year’s that happen among local nationals every year.  Leave the patriotic nonsense aside, and get into the social policy.  Now that might provide an interesting corrective for the fatherland conservative types worried about nationalist, gendered pollution from Africa and the Middle East.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]
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Militancy in Aden continues to challenge the Saudi-backed Hadi government as militant groups contest control of the city. The southern resistance militants and the Islamist presence in the city have prevented Hadi’s government from establishing control. At least 17 people were killed in the recent clashes between local security forces and Islamists for control of the port of Aden. Aden’s instability shows the Hadi government’s inability to govern in southern Yemen even with Saudi Arabia’s support.

The Yemeni army, backed by the Popular Committees supporting the Houthi Ansarullah movement, has liberated the al-Hanah district of the province of Ta’izz. In another development, the Houthi forces clashes with the Saudi mercenaries in the Dhubab district of Ta’izz.

AQAP is attempting to expand its presence in southern and central Yemen. AQAP forces clashed with popular resistance troops in Zinjibar, the capital of the Abyan province. Zinjibar and Ja’ar have been controlled by AQAP since December 2015. AQAP will likely attempt to expand its positions in the Abyan province in the nearest future.

Separately, Ansar al Sharia, AQAP’s militant arm in Yemen, released two videos showing the interrogation of al Houthi captives, as part of the group’s ongoing assistance to the Saudi-led coalition.

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The decision to outlaw the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel was announced by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on November 17, 2015, days after attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, left 130 dead in Paris. Although the ban had been long in the making, the timing was patently opportunistic, with Netanyahu even comparing Israel’s Islamic Movement to ISIS. It is still unclear how the Israeli intelligence services and police will enforce the ban, given that the group has thousands of paid-up members among Israel’s large Palestinian minority, and ties to welfare associations and charities in Palestinian communities across Israel. The movement’s leader, Sheikh Ra’id Salah, has vowed to carry on, declaring: “The movement is not a passing phenomenon but one with deep roots everywhere.”

The only person arrested so far, more than a month on, is not Salah, but a 64-year old female resident of East Jerusalem. Zinat Jallad was brought to court on December 11, accused of belonging both to the Islamic Movement and to the Murabitat (Defenders of Islam). The latter group comprises women who study and pray at the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, a compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that contains the al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock shrine. To Jews, it is known as the Temple Mount, after two long-lost temples that they believe lie beneath the esplanade. The Murabitat and an associated group of men known as the Murabitun were declared illegal organizations by Netanyahu’s government in September, as a prelude to the crackdown on the northern Islamic Movement. The groups, established in 2012, were accused by Netanyahu of acting as Salah’s agents at al-Aqsa.

The prohibition on the Islamic Movement was formally issued by the defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, based on emergency regulations inherited from the British Mandatory authorities. But the driving force was Netanyahu himself and his strong antipathy to Salah and his activities at al-Aqsa. After weeks of unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank that began in the late summer of 2015, Netanyahu held a press conference in early October in which he stated: “We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism with knives, firebombs, rocks and even live fire. While these acts are mostly unorganized, they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and—no less and frequently much more—the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is igniting the ground with lies regarding our policy on the Temple Mount.”

A month later Netanyahu’s office announced the outlawing of the movement, claiming it was required “in the name of state security, public safety and public order,” and as a “vital step to prevent the loss of life.” Officials also declared Salah’s movement a “sister” organization of Hamas, arguing that there was “close and secret” cooperation between them. No evidence was provided.

Netanyahu’s efforts to blame “incitement” from the Islamic Movement for Palestinian protests and sporadic attacks conflicted with the advice he was receiving from his intelligence services. In early November, shortly before the ban was announced, Herzi Halevi, head of military intelligence, told the cabinet that a mix of “despair” and a sense that that they had “nothing to lose,” and to a lesser extent what he termed “incitement” from social media, were the factors driving Palestinians to carry out “terror” attacks. He did not mention the Islamic Movement. The domestic intelligence service, the Shinbet, concurred. A report issued a week before the outlawing of Salah’s movement concluded that Palestinian attackers were chiefly motivated by “feelings of national, economic and personal deprivation.”

Behind the scenes, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, the Shinbet had advised Netanyahu that there was no evidence linking the Islamic Movement to terror attacks and that it was operating within the law. The Shinbet’s head, Yoram Cohen, was also known to have lobbied the cabinet against the ban, warning that it was likely to be interpreted as a declaration of war not only on Salah’s movement but also on the Muslim community in Israel generally, as well as an assault on the wider political rights of the Palestinian minority.

Facts on Jerusalem’s ground

The security services began scrutinizing Salah’s organization from the moment of its birth in 1996, when it broke away from the rest of the Islamic Movement, Israel’s branch of the Society of Muslim Brothers. The split had been provoked by the Oslo accords concluded three years earlier. Salah, along with Hamas in the occupied Palestinian territories, rejected the terms of a diplomatic process premised on a two-state solution, fearing that it would be seen implicitly to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Further, Salah, then mayor of Umm al-Fahm, vehemently opposed the decision of the rest of the movement, now labeled the southern wing, to participate in Israel’s parliamentary elections. But unlike Hamas, Salah made clear he eschewed violence, arguing that the struggle from within Israel must take a different form.

Instead Salah pursued a strategy familiar to other marginalized Muslim Brother movements, concentrating his energies on building up a network of charities and welfare associations—including kindergartens, health clinics, sports associations and cultural centers—in some of the poorest Palestinian communities in Israel. The northern wing’s good works, and Salah’s quiet charisma, soon won it support. More significantly, Salah recruited a large following by turning the Haram al-Sharif into a political project for Israel’s Palestinian minority, 1.6 million citizens comprising a fifth of the population.

Salah was quick to recognize the dangers implicit in the Oslo accords for al-Aqsa and the surrounding esplanade. The re-partition of historical Palestine assumed to be at the heart of the new diplomatic initiative would be most hotly contested in Jerusalem. It was generally assumed that the eastern sections of the city, occupied by Israel in 1967, would become part of the Palestinian state presaged by Yasser Arafat and the PLO’s return to the West Bank and Gaza. But Salah, unlike the newly established Palestinian leadership in the Occupied Territories, believed Israel was likely to respond to the Oslo process by intensifying its Judaization policies in East Jerusalem rather than conceding it as a capital of a future Palestinian state.

Just as Oslo witnessed a rapid expansion of Jewish colonization of the West Bank, with settlers running to “seize the hilltops,” as Israeli general-turned-politician Ariel Sharon commanded, it also unleashed a new urgency to create facts on the ground in Jerusalem. In 1996, the year the northern Islamic Movement was born, Netanyahu, in his first term as prime minister, authorized the opening of the Western Wall tunnels. These extensive excavations ran close by the al-Aqsa compound and triggered Palestinian riots and a lethal response from Israeli security forces. Those confrontations were the bloodiest since the conclusion of the Oslo accords.

With the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, the holy esplanade had acquired an ever-greater centrality in the thinking of both religious and secular Jews. The Temple Mount served a useful political purpose: It was a symbol that brought the religious and secular populations closer together by blurring the differences between them. Control over the Temple Mount could exemplify both the rebirth of God’s plan in the Promised Land and the reassertion in the Middle East of the earthly powers of a long-exiled people. As Israeli politicians cultivated a popular attachment to the Temple Mount, it soon came to serve a totemic function none of them could afford to be seen neglecting.

At the Camp David summit in the summer of 2000, the presumed conclusion of the Oslo process, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak staked Israel’s claim to sovereignty over al-Aqsa in front of President Bill Clinton. Contrary to popular perception of a flexible and “generous” Israeli approach, Barak was reported by his own advisers to have “blown up” the negotiations on this single issue.

Off-limits

Salah and the northern Islamic Movement not only identified Israel’s increasingly aggressive ambitions toward al-Aqsa, but also the lack of a credible Palestinian or Islamic response. Over time, the northern Islamic Movement stepped in to fill an organizational and strategic void at al-Aqsa that grew ever more apparent after the signing of the Oslo accords.

Following Israel’s seizure of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the Palestinian city’s annexation, formal control over al-Aqsa remained with the waqf, an Islamic authority controlled by Jordan. But with Oslo’s establishment of a Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat in the territories, Israel gradually exploited the weakening lines of authority at the esplanade to undermine the roles of both the PA and Jordan. After the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel moved swiftly to bar the PA from Jerusalem entirely; and with diplomatic relations deteriorating, Jordan could exercise its power only at arm’s length. The only other major Palestinian faction, Hamas, was treated as a terrorist organisation by Israel and locked out of having any meaningful political role at al-Aqsa.

The partition principle inherent in Oslo—and enforced one-sidedly by Israel—added to the isolation of the holy esplanade. While settlers moved into the Occupied Territories in greater numbers than ever, Palestinians found themselves increasingly locked into ghettoes. Permits and checkpoints limited movement through the 1990s, culminating in the construction of a massive separation barrier from 2003. Jerusalem became off limits to most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. And in turn, that meant few could reach al-Aqsa to pray.

It was in this atmosphere, in late 2000, as the holy esplanade (and, indeed, all of East Jerusalem) was being physically separated from its Palestinian hinterland, that Sharon made his incendiary visit to al-Aqsa, backed by hundreds of armed police. There he asserted de facto Israeli sovereignty over al-Aqsa, in the immediate wake of Barak’s failure at Camp David to win US recognition of Israel’s de jure sovereignty. The visit triggered the second intifada.

‘Al-Aqsa sheikh’

Salah was far from idle as these developments unfolded. Soon after founding the northern wing, he launched a political campaign for the Palestinian public in Israel, popularizing the slogan, “al-Aqsa is in danger.” An annual rally in Umm al-Fahm attracted tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Salah was determined to bolster the status of al-Aqsa mosque as a religious and nationalist symbol for Palestinians to inoculate it from the counter-narrative being advanced by Israeli politicians.

At the holy esplanade, Salah took a decisive hand. He recruited volunteers from the Muslim community inside Israel to do much of the heavy lifting as the waqf renovated extensive areas of the compound in the late 1990s. The restoration of prayer halls expanded the number of worshipers the site could accommodate, further highlighting the importance of attendance by Palestinians from Israel. To the irritation of Jordanian and PA officials, Salah had soon earned the popular moniker “al-Aqsa sheikh.”

Additionally, Salah arranged buses to ferry large numbers of supporters from Palestinian heartlands in Israel’s north and south to restore al-Aqsa as a central place of Muslim worship and to shop in Jerusalem’s Old City, where the tourist trade was suffering after the outbreak of the second intifada in late 2000. Merchants and residents of the Old City were indebted to him, benefiting from this new kind of Palestinian tourism to Jerusalem—one that replaced the foreign tourists, who were too fearful to visit the region, and West Bank Palestinians, who were shut out.

Salah’s increasing identification with al-Aqsa—not only locally but in the Arab and Muslim worlds—brought prestige and funding that helped him to expand the busing operations and a growing network of charities and religious institutions. The southern wing had its two or three members sitting in the Knesset; Salah had al-Aqsa and his credibility bolstered as both a spiritual leader and a forceful independent political actor.

It was therefore inevitable that he would run afoul of Sharon after the latter became prime minister in 2001. Sharon immediately began tearing up the Oslo accords by reinvading and locking down the West Bank, and then approving a separation barrier that would run through Jerusalem. Jordan had cut ties with Israel. Only Salah and his Islamic Movement stood in the way of al-Aqsa’s complete isolation.

Campaign of harassment

It was in May 2003 that Salah was awakened in the hospital, at the bedside of his dying father, to find himself surrounded by Israeli police and camera crews. He and 15 other northern Islamic Movement officials were arrested, accused both of funneling money to Hamas to “oil the wheels of murderous terrorism” and of making contact with an Iranian “foreign agent.”

In fact, as later became clear, Salah was being charged over his charitable work, under a new kind of offense Israel was promoting—one now popular with US and European governments, too. The northern movement was accused of directing millions of dollars to Palestinian charities in the Occupied Territories that Israel alleged were allied to Hamas and which had been set up to help the victims of Israel’s military operations, including widows and orphans. Salah later stated that he had received permission from the Shinbet to make the transfers. But no matter: The money to humanitarian causes could now be presented as a form of assistance, even if indirect, to a terror organization.

During Salah’s 18-month trial, the charges were progressively scaled back, the allegation that he had met a foreign agent was dropped, and dramatic evidence Sharon’s office kept promising would soon be presented to the court never materialized. In early 2005, a plea bargain was announced in which Salah was sentenced to three and a half years. He was released a short time later.

In interviews at that time, Salah pointed out that his arrest and trial followed Sharon’s repeated efforts to outlaw the Islamic Movement. But, as his successors would discover, there was stiff opposition from the Shinbet. The intelligence service was worried that banning the movement would cause more problems than it solved. It would be hard to enforce a ban on a movement with more than 10,000 members and an extensive network of charities, many of them carrying out vital work in deprived Palestinian communities the state had forsaken. The movement would be driven underground, making it harder to track, and some of its members might be pushed toward violence. And there was the fear that Salah’s popularity would rocket following a ban, “radicalizing,” in the words of officials, the wider Palestinian public in Israel.

Instead Salah found himself the target of a campaign of relentless personal harassment. He was repeatedly arrested, accused of making inflammatory sermons, or insulting or assaulting police officers. He has spent much of the intervening period under heavy surveillance, in jail or under travel restrictions, either barring him from traveling abroad or from entering Jerusalem. Paradoxically, if Salah’s lawyers soon exhaust the appeals process in a long-running court case, his first stint in prison following the ban may be for a speech he gave in 2007 in which he is alleged to have incited the audience to violence.

Noteworthy parallels

When Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, Salah was high in his sights, both for his work at al-Aqsa and for his wider role among the Palestinian minority in Israel.

Israel has a history of suppressing Palestinian political movements that challenge the very ideological foundations on which a Jewish state was created. The first serious threat of that kind had been posed by al-Ard, a secular pan-Arabist movement established in 1959, when the Palestinian minority lived under military rule. Al-Ard was officially outlawed in 1964, and a year later the Israeli Supreme Court disqualified its list of candidates from running in the 1965 general election.

In recent times the only other Palestinian leader in Israel who had troubled the political-security establishment as much as Salah was Azmi Bishara, leader of the secular democratic nationalist Balad party, or Tajammu‘ in Arabic. Like Salah, he had founded a new party in reaction to Oslo. In his case, he identified the key unresolved question for the Palestinian minority in Oslo’s presumed partition of historical Palestine as the nature of continuing citizenship for non-Jews in a Jewish state.

There are noteworthy parallels between the Bishara and Salah approaches, and their respective handling by Israel.

In 2007, when Bishara was abroad, the Shinbet announced that, if he returned, he would put on trial for treason. He was forced into political exile. The main accusation, barely credible, was that he had helped direct Hizballah rocket fire into Israel during Israel’s confrontation with the Lebanese faction in 2006. More likely, the leadership had grown incensed by Bishara’s confrontational positions, his efforts to develop ties between the Palestinian minority and surrounding Arab states, and his demands that Israel be reformed from a Jewish state into “a state of all its citizens.”

Around this latter idea, Bishara and his Balad party had campaigned for educational and cultural autonomy as a way to strengthen Palestinian society in Israel. They also urged reform of the minority’s only national political body, the Arab Higher Follow-Up Committee, to make it more representative and accountable to the Palestinian public. Balad saw these moves as essential defenses against the disruptive powers of a state with highly developed national institutions serving only the Jewish population.

Extreme measures

In many ways Salah shared a similar vision, if one with an obviously more religious tone. As well as trying to infuse the public with greater Islamic zeal, the northern movement’s network of charities and associations was designed to strengthen the Palestinian minority, especially poorer communities, and provide it with a degree of autonomy from a hostile state.

That was particularly evident in the Naqab (Negev), where the movement quickly used its mosques and associations to find favor with local Bedouin youth. Many of their parents and grandparents, cut off and vulnerable in Israel’s semi-desert south, had tried to accommodate Israel by serving in the army and taking casual and low-paid jobs in the Israeli economy. But the younger generation saw how their elders had failed to advance in spite of their loyalty: Their rights to their ancestral lands were rejected and their villages criminalized, denied water and electricity and their homes demolished in a bid to pressure them into townships lacking infrastructure and employment opportunities.

Salah’s movement offered a route out of degrading dependence and a chance at dignity. When Netanyahu’s government tried to force tens of thousands of Bedouin off their lands under the Prawer Plan, large protests, assisted significantly by the organizational work of the Islamic Movement, forced a government climbdown in late 2013. For Israeli officials, the resolve of the Bedouin to resist their mistreatment was proof of “radicalization”—and the Islamic Movement was blamed.

Salah, like Bishara’s Balad party, was also sympathetic to the idea of reforming the Follow-Up Committee. It was the Jewish-Arab Communist Party and the local, more tribally based mayors that were opposed. Like Bishara, Salah had also raised the Palestinian minority’s profile in the region—in his case through his work at al-Aqsa. And, in ways appreciated by Balad activists, Salah accentuated the nationalist as much as the Islamic significance of the holy esplanade in Jerusalem.

For these reasons, Netanyahu and the Shinbet wanted Salah “neutralized,” just as Bishara had earlier been. Two incidents in particular suggested to observers that Netanyahu’s government was seeking ways, possibly extreme ones, to eliminate Salah as a threat.

In 2010, the sheikh was among a handful of Israeli-Palestinian leaders who joined an aid flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The main ship, the Mavi Marmara, was intercepted by the Israeli navy in an operation in international waters that killed nine of the humanitarian activists aboard. First reports suggested that Salah was among the dead. With astonishing speed, large numbers of police were drafted into Palestinian areas in Israel in expectation of violent protests. Only later did it emerge that the commandos had killed a man, shot in the head at point-blank range, who closely resembled Salah. It has been hard to dispel the impression among the Palestinian minority that Israel hoped to take advantage of the interception to rid itself of Salah.

A year later the sheikh managed to travel outside Israel again, this time to Britain. The British media appeared familiar with Salah from the moment of his arrival, warning that he was a “preacher of hate,” a “vile militant extremist” and an anti-Semite. Shortly before he was due to address a public meeting in the parliament building, he was arrested in his hotel. The British government insisted on his immediate deportation, saying he had managed to enter despite being on an entry blacklist. But as a series of tribunal hearings dragged on for many months, it emerged that British officials had acted exclusively on briefings provided by the Community Security Trust, a local right-wing Zionist organization with close ties to the Israeli government. The tribunal overruled the deportation order, with the judge criticizing the British government for acting on erroneous information, including a patently faulty translation of one of Salah’s speeches made by the Israeli right-wing daily, the Jerusalem Post.

Digging in

Israel’s Judaization efforts, especially in the areas immediately around al-Aqsa, intensified in East Jerusalem following the outbreak of the second intifada and the PA’s exclusion from the city. Emek Shaveh, an organization of dissident Israeli archaeologists, has sounded repeated warnings that Israel is aggressively using archaeological pretexts to encircle the holy esplanade. Most notably, a settler organization, Elad, assisted by the government, police and Jerusalem municipality, created an archaeological park, claiming to be the City of David, next to the esplanade’s southern wall, immediately below the al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinian residents of neighboring Silwan are being gradually driven out of the area as Elad quite literally digs in.

Salah has expressed equal concern about what he believes is ultimately intended inside the Haram al-Sharif itself. According to oral understandings between Israel and Jordan, known as the “status quo,” Israel has responsibility for overseeing security arrangements at al-Aqsa, while the Jordanian-controlled waqf is supposed to have sole religious authority over the esplanade. In practice, however, Israel’s security mandate means it has an active role in shaping the physical environment at al-Aqsa and deciding who can enter. That has resulted in extremist Jews, some of them committed to the destruction of al-Aqsa and its replacement with a third temple, gaining ever greater access to the site, with a near-doubling of such visits recorded over the last six years. Salah characterizes these developments as a prelude to Israel dividing al-Aqsa “temporally and spatially.” Israel, he says, intends to introduce de facto changes to the status quo that will provide Jews either with their own section for prayer or their own dedicated prayer times.

Salah’s claims are not simple conspiracy theory. They are rooted in fears that Israel will try to reproduce its success in Hebron, where in the 1990s it split the Ibrahimi mosque in two, giving settlers control of a section now called the Tomb of the Patriarchs. For that reason, his concerns resonated with many Palestinians, including even the PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. He issued a similar warning to the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

In a counter-move in 2012, two groups of Islamic guardians were established at al-Aqsa, known as the Murabitun and Murabitat: men and women committed to being present at and defending the holy esplanade. Although Salah denies being directly responsible for founding the groups, his northern Islamic Movement undoubtedly helped to organize and fund them. The Murabitun and Murabitat run prayer circles (halaqat) and education courses in al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome, respectively, for men and women. Netanyahu and his officials accuse the Islamic groups of harassing “tourists” visiting al-Aqsa. In fact, the groups target not tourists, but ultra-nationalist Jews, backed by Israeli police, who have been coming in ever larger numbers to the holy esplanade to assert Jewish control at the site and the right to pray there. Typically, the Murabitun and Murabitat confront and intimidate such Jews by massing near them and crying out “Allahu akbar!”

In addition, young men from East Jerusalem—nicknamed Shabab al-Aqsa by the Israeli media—became a more visible and active presence at the Haram al-Sharif, clashing frequently with police as Israel intensified restrictions on Palestinian worship and access by extremist Jews increased. Israeli security officials accused the northern wing of organizing the youths and inspiring their violence.

More generally, Palestinian unrest found an outlet in Jerusalem from the summer of 2014 onward. By then ordinary Palestinians had grown exasperated by the failure of Mahmoud ‘Abbas’ PA to make diplomatic headway on statehood. The trigger for unrest that summer was the kidnapping and burning to death of a local 16-year old boy, Muhammad Abu Khudayr, by extremist Jews. Immediately afterward, Israel launched another lethal attack on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. While the West Bank’s population was kept largely in check by the PA’s repressive security forces, Jerusalem erupted into violence.

The clashes with Israeli police lasted weeks and were supplemented by sporadic attacks over the next months carried out by individual Palestinians on Israelis—many of them stabbing or car-ramming incidents. At the time Netanyahu loudly accused Salah’s Islamic Movement of helping to organize the violence in Jerusalem, although again he produced no evidence. The Israeli media reported that the prime minister had demanded that the Shinbet investigate how to implement a ban on the Islamic Movement.

When Jerusalem, and more specifically the holy esplanade, became the center of trouble again at summer’s end in 2015, as the Jewish high holidays brought large numbers of ultra-nationalist Jews to the Haram al-Sharif, a drastic move against Salah’s Islamic Movement seemed all but inevitable. The waters were tested first by outlawing the Murabitun and Murabitat in September.

The mood sours

A ban on the northern wing had long been blocked by the Shinbet, but their resolve weakened as regional and global opinion hardened toward political Islam. Following the 2013 military coup in Egypt, Field Marshal ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi helped pave the way for Netanyahu’s move by outlawing the Muslim Brothers at home and waging a low-level war on Hamas in Gaza. Meanwhile, the mood in Europe and the United States soured after the Paris attacks. Netanyahu knew the international community was unlikely to raise objections or study too closely the comparisons he was making between Salah’s Islamic Movement, Hamas and ISIS.

According to Salah, the US and an Arab state—almost certainly Jordan—played an important part behind the scenes in giving Netanyahu a green light. He says the ban was engineered at a meeting in late October between Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks focused on introducing cameras on the holy esplanade, an idea proposed by Netanyahu but for which Jordan’s King ‘Abdallah II was accorded the credit. The ostensible purpose of the cameras was to reassure Palestinians that Israel was not trying to change the status quo at the Haram al-Sharif, in the hope of calming tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestinians immediately feared a trap, however, suspecting that Israel would use the footage, which is supposed to be broadcast online, as a way to identify activists and harass or arrest them.

Salah told me that, according to his sources, the parties at that meeting more specifically wanted to find a way to “clear the path to banning the Islamic Movement, to get us out of the way.” That assessment is partially confirmed by a diplomatic source who said Jordan had been growing increasingly unhappy about the role of the Islamic Movement at al-Aqsa. Amman, the source said, was worried that Salah’s prominence had undermined its own authority there. It also preferred that the spotlight during the current wave of unrest be removed from the esplanade.

Although the Shinbet decided not to stand in Netanyahu’s way, the ban on the northern Islamic Movement sets them a task they seem unsure how to carry out. Highlighting the decision’s political rather than security rationale, it was reported by Haaretz that the head of the Shinbet, Yoram Cohen, had tried to persuade the cabinet to avoid a ban only a fortnight before Netanyahu’s announcement was made. Two unnamed government ministers said Cohen had observed that the move would do “more harm than good” and that his agency had found no evidence of links to “terrorism.”

In contrast to the Shinbet’s position, the Israeli police were reported to be “enthusiastic” about enforcing a ban on Salah and his followers. Veteran Israeli journalist Ben Caspit summed up the police’s optimistic view: “Any agitation arising among Israeli Arabs will be insignificant and containable, while the legal tools given to the authorities to neutralize incitement and extreme Islam in Israel will be substantial.” Netanyahu also faced no meaningful political opposition. Isaac Herzog, the head of the centrist Zionist Union, the official opposition, praised the ban, adding only a mild rebuke to Netanyahu for not acting sooner: “It’s a shame it took him so long to take this necessary step.”

An unclear ban

Technically, anyone supporting the Islamic Movement now risks being arrested and jailed, as happened to Zinat Jallad. According to Israeli legal expert Aeyal Gross, the emergency regulation invoked against the movement means: “Anyone who belongs to an outlawed organization, acts on its behalf, holds a job in it, does any work for it, attends one of its meetings or possesses one of its books, periodicals, fliers or any other publication may be prosecuted and sentenced to up to ten years in prison.”

But it is still unclear how strictly the ban will be implemented. Polls conducted beforehand showed that more than half of the Palestinian minority believes Salah’s movement represents them, including many Palestinian Christians. A tenth said they identified with the movement more closely than any other organization in Israel.

Further complicating the picture for the Shinbet, the organizational links between the northern and southern wings are not always clear-cut, making disentangling them difficult. The northern Islamic Movement also has strong support from major extended families, giving it a powerful social standing. Disbanding the movement would require a massive and costly security operation and campaign of intimidation, including imprisoning many of its members, shutting down its mosques and closing its network of welfare associations.

The signs so far are that the Shinbet is reluctant to take such a draconian step, fearful of the potential backlash. Instead it appears readier to use a light touch in the short term, exploiting the new situation to isolate, harass and possibly imprison Salah’s inner circle, and find ways to defund the movement’s activism in Jerusalem. That was the impression created by a senior Israeli official, who told the local media: “The problem is that in the law you can’t distinguish each element with tweezers—the police and the Shinbet will decide where it is proper to act and the priority will of course be against incitement over the Temple Mount and similar things.”

Over the long term, its foes probably hope, the movement can be weakened through a war of attrition, persuading some supporters to gravitate to the southern wing. The danger is that others will be driven underground, and seek ideological consolation in more extreme or militant groups. In recent months, Israel has claimed to uncover several small cells of ISIS supporters inside the Green Line. The credibility of these specific claims is open to question, but the prospect of greater extremism is real.

It is equally unclear what tools the northern Islamic Movement can muster to challenge the decision. A 30-day window to appeal the ban has now expired. The movement’s lawyers are pondering instead whether to turn to Israel’s Supreme Court. Ostensibly, they have a good case. Adalah, a legal group for Israel’s Palestinian minority, has questioned the legitimacy of exploiting the colonial legal framework of emergency regulations drafted by the British in 1945 rather than using the normal legal requirements for “conducting investigations and collecting evidence to support the state’s accusations.”

Further, the Supreme Court should approve the ban only if it can be demonstrated that the “dominant purpose and actions” of the Islamic Movement are illegal. Given the lack of evidence that the group’s leaders justify violence, that would be hard to do. Lawyers add that instances of incitement by the movement’s leaders should be dealt with through individual prosecutions, not through a sweeping ban.

The hesitation of Salah’s lawyers to pursue legal avenues, however, is prompted by concerns about the state’s reliance on classified information and the makeup of the Supreme Court, which, like Israeli society, has shifted to the right in recent years. Should the judges reject an appeal, Netanyahu’s decision, which currently smells of a purely political maneuver, would be given the stamp of judicial authority.

Next in the firing line

For the time being Salah and his followers, locked out of their offices in Umm al-Fahm, have decamped to a protest tent in a large covered market on the outskirts of the city. Attendance varies from days when only a few hundred turn up to days when many thousands come to show their support at protest events.

Salah has found backing from all the other political factions, which are only too aware of the red line Netanyahu has crossed in imposing the ban. Yusuf Jabarin, a Knesset member with the Communist Front party, which shares little ideological ground or sympathy with Salah, called the decision “dangerous political persecution and a serious violation of a national minority’s basic right for the freedom of expression, the freedom of religious, and the freedom of assembly.” Immediately after the northern wing was outlawed, the Follow-Up Committee called a general strike in Palestinian communities, though one that was not universally observed.

One seasoned observer of the Palestinian political scene in Israel, Raef Zreik, contends that the ban is the most significant change in relations between Israel and its Palestinian citizens since martial law ended for them in 1966. He considers it a potential “rethinking [of] 1948 and the granting of Israeli citizenship to Palestinians who remained within the state’s borders.”

The reasonable fear is that, with Salah’s movement out of the way, other political movements and civil society organizations will be next in the firing line. Atop the list is likely to be Bishara’s Balad party, which, despite his exiled status, still operates and has three members in the current Knesset, part of the wider coalition of Arab parties known as the Joint List. One of Balad’s MKs, Hanin Zu‘bi, has been the target of almost relentless vilification and repeated efforts to deny her the right to stand for election. It is not beyond the realm of the possible that Netanyahu will seek to ban the entire party before the next national elections.

If he does so, it will pose a severe problem to the rest of the Joint List, whose participation in the Knesset, following the ban on the northern Islamic Movement, is already looking discredited to many. If Balad is outlawed, it is difficult to imagine how the other Arab parties and the joint Arab-Jewish Communist Party could legitimately continue to serve in the Knesset.

But even if Netanyahu fails to extend the ban to other parties, the move against the Islamic Movement alone may be enough to bolster the already significant boycott of recent Knesset elections by the Palestinian citizenry. In March 2015, as Israelis went to the polls, Netanyahu issued a much-criticized warning that the Arab population were turning out en masse to help in the election of a center-left government. With the Islamic Movement out of the way, Zreik notes, “the concern of the prime minister over Palestinians streaming to the polls ‘in droves’ will thus be resolved.”

Happily for Netanyahu and the rest of his far-right government, the further depression of the Arab vote would likely guarantee their continuing hold on power for the foreseeable future.

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GMO promoters enthuse about how GM crops will be able to help the poor and hungry, far in the future, writes Claire Robinson. But they are silent about the currently-planted GM crops – 99% of them herbicide-tolerant or insecticidal. Could it be because opponents of the technology are being proved right at every turn?

Insofar as reason and science are concerned, the GMO industry has lost. All they have is golden rice and gene editing. But they don’t even have those. Both have thus far failed to live up to their promises and are kept afloat largely by wishful thinking.

Over the course of 2015, I became convinced we’re winning the GMO debate.

And paradoxically, what convinced me was the experience of facing off against pro-GMO lobbyists in person and in print.

What did they say to convince me? Here’s a quick guide.

1. Everyone hates Monsanto

Dr. Shanta Karki studies rice plants being grown at IRRI's Biotech labs, which have worked on the development of Golden Rice. From the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Dr. Shanta Karki studies rice plants being grown at IRRI’s Biotech labs, which have worked on the development of Golden Rice. From the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

In Europe at least, even the most die-hard promoters of GMOs refuse to defend Monsanto and claim to despise the company. Even Vivian Moses, chairman of the industry-funded pro-GMO information serviceCropgenwriting today on how the “biotech industry is winning the war” on GMOs, concedes that

Monsanto was cast as the prime villain for seeking to import GM soya into Europe … Certainly the industry remains unpopular in some quarters: Monsanto in particular is still seen by activist protesters as a large and visible target.

So, the GMO enthusiasts say, we should forget about Monsanto and embrace ‘public good’ GMOs instead. The problem with that is in the real world it is Monsanto that is the dominant force in the marketplace.

In any case it makes little difference whether it’s Monsanto or a public research institution that owns the patent on a GMO. The profit motive rules either way and takes precedence over issues of public health, the environment, and scientific integrity.

Through intellectual property mechanisms, the public research institutions that develop GMOs effectively become indistinguishable in their behaviour from corporations. We are treated to the unedifying spectacle – already common – of scientists and academics acting as salespeople.

2. Don’t mention the GM crops we actually grow

Over 99% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered to survive being sprayed with herbicides or to express an insecticide. Opponents of GM crops often speak about the fact that these GM crops are failing under the weight of herbicide-resistant superweeds and Bt toxin-resistant pests.

They talk about the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly due to its main food plant beingwiped out by the Roundup herbicide sprayed on GM crop fields. They point out thatRoundup stands accused of causing birth defects and cancer in Argentine people and of being a ‘probable’ human carcinogen.

They even show the uninspiring vision of what’s in the GMO commercialization pipeline: GM crops that tolerate being sprayed with even more herbicides – and potentially more toxic ones at that.

They can talk about all these things. But it will be a one-sided conversation. Because in spite of the ubiquity of these GM crops in those countries that have adopted GMOs, GMO promoters don’t want to talk about them. At all.

3. Talk a lot about golden rice and gene editing

What GMO promoters do want to talk about is:

  • GMO golden rice, which they say will save poor people from vitamin A deficiency, and
  • Gene editing, which they say will save GM technology from its old problems of imprecision and unpredictability – problems that until now they have always sought to deny!

What do these two hopes for the GMO future have in common? Mostly that they are about future promise, not actual delivery. GMO golden rice has been beset by basic R&D problems and disappointing yields in field trials.

And gene editing has not so far proved the revolution in precision that has been claimed. The limited research that has been carried out shows numerous off-target effects.

In fact, public interest scientists say new GM techniques like gene editing give rise to GMOs that must be labeled under European law.

But GMO promoters insist that the products of gene editing must not be classified as GMOs. Their reasoning is not scientific. It is geared to ensuring that these products will dodge regulation and avoid being stigmatized in the marketplace.

The take-home lesson is that this technology is too fragile to survive the transparency that’s increasingly being demanded by consumers.

4. Don’t ask too many questions about golden rice or gene editing

When it’s pointed out that GM golden rice still isn’t ready to use despite swallowing tens of millions in research funding, and that experiments show gene editing isn’t yet precise or predictable, GMO promoters have no answers. They don’t reply with contradictory evidence. Neither do they admit they’re wrong. They merely say, “Research must continue.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines has gone a long way towards solving its vitamin A deficiency problem without GMOs. Undoubtedly the problem would be completely solved if a fraction of the funding wasted on trying to genetically engineer beta-carotene (vitamin A precursor) into rice had been spent on techniques that are already proving effective at combatting malnutrition.

And non-GM breeding continues to outstrip GM in supplying safe, nutritious, and high-performing crops that thrive in a wide variety of conditions. That’s despite the fact that GM keeps being pushed at the expense of approaches that we already know work!

5. Don’t mention two of the most prominent GMO lobbyists

GMO lobbyist and climate science denier Patrick Moore made history last year by getting caught on camera telling a journalist he’d be happy to drink a glass of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide – and then running away when the journalist offered him a glass.

If you’re not impressed, you’re not alone. Since his refusal to walk the pro-GMO talk and his irresponsible promotion of a toxic herbicide as a beverage, other GMO promoters have started to view Moore as an embarrassment and a no-go topic for discussion.

Likewise with Kevin Folta, a pro-GMO scientist with a massive social media presence whomade the fatal error of not telling the truth about his links to the industry. Folta retains a circle of vicious online defenders. But people who have attended public meetings where he has appeared tell us that he has lost credibility even among GMO supporters.

It looks as if these formerly high-profile pro-GMO spokespeople are now being airbrushed from history.

‘Forward-looking statements’ and broken promises

Our conclusion about the state of the GMO debate from studying the best arguments that the GMO lobby can muster is this. Insofar as reason and science are concerned, they’ve lost. All they have is golden rice and gene editing.

But they don’t even have those. Both have thus far failed to live up to their promises and are kept afloat largely by wishful thinking and ‘forward-looking statements’, as Monsanto likes to call them.

In countries like the UK that have pro-GMO governments, forward-looking whimsy, fuelled by the promise of profits from intellectual property rights on GMOs, may be enough to keep the research funding pipeline flowing for a few years. But that pipeline is running counter to the mainstream. The global rejection of GM foods is growing.

The US government was the first to embrace GMOs – but American consumers are rejecting them in droves. In 2014, non-GMO foods and beverages generated $200 billionin sales and the total global market for non-GMO products is predicted to almost double by 2019. And Campbell’s, the world’s largest soup company, has just announced that it will label GMO ingredients in its products in the interests of transparency.

The two countries other than the US that grow the most GMOs are facing a public health crisis. In Argentina, 30,000 doctors and health professionals have demanded a ban on glyphosate, the herbicide that over 80% of GM crops are grown with.

In Brazil, after the WHO’s classification of glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen’, the national cancer institute blamed GM crops for placing the country in the top ranking globally for pesticide consumption and called for a massive shift to agroecological farming.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of European countries, including all parts of the UK other than England, have rejected those GM crops already in the approvals pipeline.

GM Bt cotton in India and Pakistan is increasingly in meltdown. In the Philippines, a Supreme Court ruling has put a stop to GMO field trials and approvals. Since the Philippines is the country targeted for GM golden rice, one of the GMO lobby’s great hopes for the future now faces an extra obstacle.

The GMO food venture appears to be at death’s door – unless gene edited foods are exempted from labelling. If they are, these ‘hidden GMOs’ could lead to a collapse of consumer confidence in the food market as a whole.

Is the food industry willing to take a bullet for the GMO industry? Probably not – but citizens will have to make a lot of noise to ensure that this attempted deception doesn’t succeed.

So when it comes to Vivian Moses’s claim today that “Supermarket opposition has softened in the UK” and that “much of the European public has become bored with the issue”, it’s up to us to prove him wrong.

Claire Robinson is an editor at GMWatch.

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GMO promoters enthuse about how GM crops will be able to help the poor and hungry, far in the future, writes Claire Robinson. But they are silent about the currently-planted GM crops – 99% of them herbicide-tolerant or insecticidal. Could it be because opponents of the technology are being proved right at every turn?

Insofar as reason and science are concerned, the GMO industry has lost. All they have is golden rice and gene editing. But they don’t even have those. Both have thus far failed to live up to their promises and are kept afloat largely by wishful thinking.

Over the course of 2015, I became convinced we’re winning the GMO debate.

And paradoxically, what convinced me was the experience of facing off against pro-GMO lobbyists in person and in print.

What did they say to convince me? Here’s a quick guide.

1. Everyone hates Monsanto

Dr. Shanta Karki studies rice plants being grown at IRRI's Biotech labs, which have worked on the development of Golden Rice. From the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Dr. Shanta Karki studies rice plants being grown at IRRI’s Biotech labs, which have worked on the development of Golden Rice. From the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

In Europe at least, even the most die-hard promoters of GMOs refuse to defend Monsanto and claim to despise the company. Even Vivian Moses, chairman of the industry-funded pro-GMO information serviceCropgenwriting today on how the “biotech industry is winning the war” on GMOs, concedes that

Monsanto was cast as the prime villain for seeking to import GM soya into Europe … Certainly the industry remains unpopular in some quarters: Monsanto in particular is still seen by activist protesters as a large and visible target.

So, the GMO enthusiasts say, we should forget about Monsanto and embrace ‘public good’ GMOs instead. The problem with that is in the real world it is Monsanto that is the dominant force in the marketplace.

In any case it makes little difference whether it’s Monsanto or a public research institution that owns the patent on a GMO. The profit motive rules either way and takes precedence over issues of public health, the environment, and scientific integrity.

Through intellectual property mechanisms, the public research institutions that develop GMOs effectively become indistinguishable in their behaviour from corporations. We are treated to the unedifying spectacle – already common – of scientists and academics acting as salespeople.

2. Don’t mention the GM crops we actually grow

Over 99% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered to survive being sprayed with herbicides or to express an insecticide. Opponents of GM crops often speak about the fact that these GM crops are failing under the weight of herbicide-resistant superweeds and Bt toxin-resistant pests.

They talk about the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly due to its main food plant beingwiped out by the Roundup herbicide sprayed on GM crop fields. They point out thatRoundup stands accused of causing birth defects and cancer in Argentine people and of being a ‘probable’ human carcinogen.

They even show the uninspiring vision of what’s in the GMO commercialization pipeline: GM crops that tolerate being sprayed with even more herbicides – and potentially more toxic ones at that.

They can talk about all these things. But it will be a one-sided conversation. Because in spite of the ubiquity of these GM crops in those countries that have adopted GMOs, GMO promoters don’t want to talk about them. At all.

3. Talk a lot about golden rice and gene editing

What GMO promoters do want to talk about is:

  • GMO golden rice, which they say will save poor people from vitamin A deficiency, and
  • Gene editing, which they say will save GM technology from its old problems of imprecision and unpredictability – problems that until now they have always sought to deny!

What do these two hopes for the GMO future have in common? Mostly that they are about future promise, not actual delivery. GMO golden rice has been beset by basic R&D problems and disappointing yields in field trials.

And gene editing has not so far proved the revolution in precision that has been claimed. The limited research that has been carried out shows numerous off-target effects.

In fact, public interest scientists say new GM techniques like gene editing give rise to GMOs that must be labeled under European law.

But GMO promoters insist that the products of gene editing must not be classified as GMOs. Their reasoning is not scientific. It is geared to ensuring that these products will dodge regulation and avoid being stigmatized in the marketplace.

The take-home lesson is that this technology is too fragile to survive the transparency that’s increasingly being demanded by consumers.

4. Don’t ask too many questions about golden rice or gene editing

When it’s pointed out that GM golden rice still isn’t ready to use despite swallowing tens of millions in research funding, and that experiments show gene editing isn’t yet precise or predictable, GMO promoters have no answers. They don’t reply with contradictory evidence. Neither do they admit they’re wrong. They merely say, “Research must continue.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines has gone a long way towards solving its vitamin A deficiency problem without GMOs. Undoubtedly the problem would be completely solved if a fraction of the funding wasted on trying to genetically engineer beta-carotene (vitamin A precursor) into rice had been spent on techniques that are already proving effective at combatting malnutrition.

And non-GM breeding continues to outstrip GM in supplying safe, nutritious, and high-performing crops that thrive in a wide variety of conditions. That’s despite the fact that GM keeps being pushed at the expense of approaches that we already know work!

5. Don’t mention two of the most prominent GMO lobbyists

GMO lobbyist and climate science denier Patrick Moore made history last year by getting caught on camera telling a journalist he’d be happy to drink a glass of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide – and then running away when the journalist offered him a glass.

If you’re not impressed, you’re not alone. Since his refusal to walk the pro-GMO talk and his irresponsible promotion of a toxic herbicide as a beverage, other GMO promoters have started to view Moore as an embarrassment and a no-go topic for discussion.

Likewise with Kevin Folta, a pro-GMO scientist with a massive social media presence whomade the fatal error of not telling the truth about his links to the industry. Folta retains a circle of vicious online defenders. But people who have attended public meetings where he has appeared tell us that he has lost credibility even among GMO supporters.

It looks as if these formerly high-profile pro-GMO spokespeople are now being airbrushed from history.

‘Forward-looking statements’ and broken promises

Our conclusion about the state of the GMO debate from studying the best arguments that the GMO lobby can muster is this. Insofar as reason and science are concerned, they’ve lost. All they have is golden rice and gene editing.

But they don’t even have those. Both have thus far failed to live up to their promises and are kept afloat largely by wishful thinking and ‘forward-looking statements’, as Monsanto likes to call them.

In countries like the UK that have pro-GMO governments, forward-looking whimsy, fuelled by the promise of profits from intellectual property rights on GMOs, may be enough to keep the research funding pipeline flowing for a few years. But that pipeline is running counter to the mainstream. The global rejection of GM foods is growing.

The US government was the first to embrace GMOs – but American consumers are rejecting them in droves. In 2014, non-GMO foods and beverages generated $200 billionin sales and the total global market for non-GMO products is predicted to almost double by 2019. And Campbell’s, the world’s largest soup company, has just announced that it will label GMO ingredients in its products in the interests of transparency.

The two countries other than the US that grow the most GMOs are facing a public health crisis. In Argentina, 30,000 doctors and health professionals have demanded a ban on glyphosate, the herbicide that over 80% of GM crops are grown with.

In Brazil, after the WHO’s classification of glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen’, the national cancer institute blamed GM crops for placing the country in the top ranking globally for pesticide consumption and called for a massive shift to agroecological farming.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of European countries, including all parts of the UK other than England, have rejected those GM crops already in the approvals pipeline.

GM Bt cotton in India and Pakistan is increasingly in meltdown. In the Philippines, a Supreme Court ruling has put a stop to GMO field trials and approvals. Since the Philippines is the country targeted for GM golden rice, one of the GMO lobby’s great hopes for the future now faces an extra obstacle.

The GMO food venture appears to be at death’s door – unless gene edited foods are exempted from labelling. If they are, these ‘hidden GMOs’ could lead to a collapse of consumer confidence in the food market as a whole.

Is the food industry willing to take a bullet for the GMO industry? Probably not – but citizens will have to make a lot of noise to ensure that this attempted deception doesn’t succeed.

So when it comes to Vivian Moses’s claim today that “Supermarket opposition has softened in the UK” and that “much of the European public has become bored with the issue”, it’s up to us to prove him wrong.

Claire Robinson is an editor at GMWatch.

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The following is a letter written to the CBC ombdusman by an informed member of the public in Canada, enraged by the blatant anti-Syrian stance in the CBC reporting of the Madaya “starvation” situation.

It reads as follows:

“Hello,

I have counted The Current and CBC news as among the most reliable sources of news and information we have. I consider myself an informed listener and I consult with many and diverse news sources to get the fullest and clearest understanding of world affairs possible.

That’s why it is disappointing, and sometimes infuriating when I hear the CBC reduced to an echo chamber and propaganda conveyance when it comes to news from the Middle East.

The CBC’s use of unreliable and unverified sources and information that presents and thus promotes only one side of events, and a distorted one at that, is shocking to me. Is it due to cutbacks that you are unable to have investigative reporting from conflict areas that reports on all sides of an event, or is there something more sinister going on exercising editorial control over what Canadians are allowed to hear from the Middle East via our national broadcaster?

Specifically, I was very upset to hear The Current’s Jan 8th report with Lyse Doucet on the situation in Madaya, Syria that gave a completely distorted and misinformed picture of the siege of this town (and several others that are getting zero news coverage).

The presenter relied on only one source, a citizen journalist named Rami Jarrah who works for the George Soros funded ANA Press, and is a self-avowed advocate and spokesperson for the terrorist factions, disingenuously called “the opposition” by uncritical media, that has the town of Madaya and several others in the West and North of Syria under militant siege. It is these Islamist militants–Ahrar al Sham and al Qaeda– that seized the food aid delivered by the ICRC last October–meant to last for 2 months–and is keeping the towns people on starvation rations, stockpiling the food then trying to sell it to the towns people for obscene prices.

Why isn’t that being reported on?

It is the militants that are refusing to let the townspeople leave to find refuge in safe zones. It is these militants who are starving and killing them. These Islamist militants, “the opposition” as propagandists call them, are using the starving people under their control to deceive the world, including the use of now exposed deceptive pictures of starving people stolen from the internet to foment outrage–pictures that are uncritically and irresponsibly used by media outlets like the CBC as some kind of “proof” that the Assad regime is responsible for this suffering.

While these areas of conflict are surrounded by government forces, it is the terrorists occupying the villages that are not surrendering and continue to use people as human shields ad for propaganda. Did The Current or is the CBC news desk presenting any of this balance at all to your stories on Syria? No. You are being played, and worse are a willing participant in a one-sided, anti-Syrian government, pro-Syria destruction campaign.

Why Madaya?

Why now?

Why fake pictures?

These are the questions you should be asking. The answer is because Jarrah and these “humanitarian interventionists” are using and abusing these civilians to enlist more western involvement.

You are not listening to any of the voices coming from inside Syria because you seem to value those minority voices outside Syria that are vying for overthrow of the government and seek to grasp power for themselves in lockstep with western hegemonic agendas.

Thus you are not doing your job.

What you are promoting, maybe inadvertently, maybe not, is for Syria to be devastated by NATO the way Iraq and Libya were, and not for the human rights of the people of Syria.

So shame on you.

This is despicable and my respect for the CBC has diminished significantly.

I urge the CBC to return to it’s roots of unbiased investigative journalism and be committed to the truth so that I can feel confidence again to tune into CBC news and trust we are getting the best information.

Balance your blatantly biased sources with “the other side”– the Syrian government that is backed by the vast majority of Syrian people, and the Syrian doctors and activists that are actually working to free their country from the terrorists!! Listen to the Syrians INSIDE SYRIA!

Why would you NOT do that?

Sincerely…

The text above originally appeared at The Wall Will Fall.

NOTE: Just last week, the CBC appeared to be leading the propaganda effort, with stories of famine in Madaya, with media operatives from the World Food Program (WFP) providing ‘neutral’ reporting – subtly spun and placing blame on the Syrian government and allied Hezbollah militia – as being responsible for the “blockade in humanitarian aid” to the residents of Madaya.

The CBC finished off the effort by posting this amazing image, courtesy of the highly dubious and western-funded, Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR):

1-CBC-fake-photos-Madaya-Syria
No real verification or citation of this image of the starving man was provided by the CBC or the SOHR, so we can assume then that this photo was one of many fakes which have also appeared in a number of western mainstream media outlets, and all promoting the same familiar western pro-war and pro-regime change propaganda lines.

In this same report, for added effect, the CBC also included the west’s popular “barrel bombs” talking point:

“They [the newly formed ‘Opposition Council’] also told him [the UN envoy] that before negotiations, Assad’s government, which has military support from Russia and Iran, must halt the bombardment of civilian areas and barrel bombing, and release detainees in line with the resolution.”

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation has been producing a steady supply of distorted state broadcaster propaganda about the Syrian Conflict since it began – including persuasive reporting which sought to blame Bashar al Assad for ‘chemical weapons’ attacks in late 2013. There was also the case of the CBC’s deceptive use of a photograph from Syria in 2014. Not surprisingly, CNN proffered the original fraud which quickly went viral.  Tony Seed reports:

“AN IMAGE claimed by CNN journalists and rebroadcast on the state-owned CBC as well as CTV on February 17 to be of a 4-year-old Syrian child discovered alone near the Jordanian borders while his leg was cut and bandaged with plastic bags, is apparently part of a different image, where the family of the child are seen walking ahead of him and his leg is fine, euronews (and here), the London Guardian and the website Friends of Syria report. A CBC blog by John Bowman of cbcnews.ca also admitted later on Feb. 18 that “the fact that his family was just metres away was left behind.”

(See the doctored image below)

1-CBC-fake-photos-Syria
“Andrew Harper, head of the UN Refugee Agency’s mission in Jordan, posted the photo of the young refugee, whom the UN called “Marwan,” on Twitter Sunday night, Feb. 16. The picture was then retweeted by Hala Gorani, a reporter and anchor for CNN International, on Monday as “news”. Gorani later added another tweet 30 minutes later saying that, according to the UNHCR, Marwan was found in the Jordanian desert, with his possession in a small plastic bag. According to her tweet, “the boy was found “crossing the desert alone after being separated from family fleeing Syria.” The dramatic story went viral in the monopoly media; overnight it became the poster child to justify ‘humanitarian intervention’.”

Yet more proof of how leading media organisations are engaged in outright deception and fraud when it comes to their ‘news’ coverage in conflict zone coveted by western governments.

Author Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.

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Using the pretext of alleged incidents of sexual harassment in Köln (Cologne), the German media has launched a hysterical, racist campaign against millions of immigrants and Muslims.

On New Year’s Eve, thousands of people gathered in Köln and in other major cities throughout Germany to celebrate the holiday. The next day, police issued a press release stating that there was a “festive mood” at the celebrations and that the atmosphere that evening was “overall peaceful.”

However, one day later, a second statement was issued that referred for the first time to alleged attacks on women. On January 5, Köln’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)-backed Mayor Henriette Reker said at a press conference that there was “no evidence that people who are residing in Köln as refugees are amongst the perpetrators.”

Suddenly, the media exploded with allegations of mass sexual abuse, setting into motion a hysterical campaign directed against the immigrant population. On January 7, anonymous police officers told the media that “most” of those suspected were migrants. A January 8 report by the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced that out of 31 suspects, 18 were refugees. Among the suspects were two Germans and an American.

It was not until the period between January 8 and January 10 that the number of those alleging sexual harassment rose from 170 to over 400. So far, only two people have been arrested, and they have been released.

What actually occurred in Köln is not yet known. Some reports point to a provocation. Various international media outlets, including CNN, have reported that at least one undercover police agent had infiltrated the crowd and later reported she was assaulted.

It is, of course, possible that there were incidents of hooliganism in which women were harassed. Unfortunately, such behavior is not uncommon in large crowds almost anywhere in the world where liquor is flowing freely as it was on New Year’s Eve. At last year’s Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, for example, over 140 people were arrested, 50 for felonies. At last year’s Oktoberfest in Munich, the number of sexual assault allegations rose to 20.

At any rate, given the absence of factual substantiation of what remain, at this point, no more than allegations, the ferocity of the press response can be explained only in political terms. The political parties and the media have launched a campaign that for many decades would have been considered impossible in Germany.

Some 70 years after the collapse of the Third Reich, the media is making use of the same disgusting types of racial stereotyping, with open appeals to paranoid sexual obsessions, in which the Nazis specialized. Once again, a shameless German media is evoking images of pure Nordic women being preyed upon by dark-skinned untermenschen (sub-humans).

On Saturday, the magazine Focus published on its cover an image of a nude woman covered by black handprints. The weekend edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung carried an image of a white woman’s body with a black hand grasping her genitals. The newspaper also disseminated the image on Facebook.

When a wave of protest erupted, the Süddeutsche apologized. However, Chief Editor of Focus Ulrich Reitz refused to apologise on the grounds that “we are depicting what is unfortunately happening.” Whoever said the cover was racist, he claimed, was “fearful of the truth.”

It is not only degenerate journalists who are purveying this racist filth. Leading German academics are also getting into the act. Professor Jörg Baberowski of Berlin’s Humboldt University has written a column for the far-right BaslerZeitung accusing “Germany’s leading media” of remaining silent when “on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of Arab men sexually harassed, humiliated and robbed women on the Cathedral Square in Köln.”

There is no mass popular base for the racialist campaign. It is being instigated and directed by the political elites.

The new edition of Der Spiegel states: “A year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2014, similar assaults would have been (unfortunately) just an issue for the local press.” Der Spiegel adds, “Any attack could just as well have provided the material for national excitement—a child murder in a city park or any other crime in which primal fears are concentrated, stereotypes combined and foreigners involved in one form or another.”

However, this does not prevent Der Spiegel from legitimizing the media campaign. It declares that the events in Köln show the need for the strengthening of the police to defend “our canon of values.”

The political coordinates in Germany have shifted so far to the right that even the Left Party—a monument to political spinelessness—endorses calls for an authoritarian state. This universal shift to the right in all sections of the political establishment has, in fact, nothing to do with the events in Köln. It is, rather, entirely bound up with the resurgence of German militarism.

It is now two years since President Gauck and officials in the federal government announced the end of foreign policy restraint and stated that Germany was, in the words of Social Democratic Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “too big to comment on foreign policy only from the sidelines.” Since then, the government has supported the right-wing coup in Kiev, participated in NATO’s deployment against Russia, sent troops to Mali and reinforced the military mission in Afghanistan. Recently, German Tornado jets joined the bombing campaign in Syria.

But despite intensive efforts, the ruling elites have thus far failed to break the ingrained resistance of broad social layers to militarism. The vast majority of Germans still oppose foreign missions and war operations by the Bundeswehr (Armed Forces). Now the issue of sexual violence against women is being employed in an attempt to overcome this resistance. The events in Köln are being exaggerated and exploited to this end. The racist smear campaign against refugees and immigrants is a means to prepare the expansion of the military intervention in the Middle East.

The entire tragic and disastrous experience of the 20th century proves that Germany’s ruling class cannot wage war without resorting to racism and erecting an authoritarian regime.

In recent months, the most popular film in Germany has been Er ist wieder da(He’s Back). It is a satirical political fantasy that imagines how a resurrected Hitler, emerging from his World War II bunker, would rebuild his political career with the help of the modern media. During the past week, the filmmaker’s satire has acquired an all too disturbing element of reality.

Peter Schwarz

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The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed by the Syrian and Russian warplanes, reportedly destroyed an array of ISIS strongholds in Damascus countryside. The SAA’s artillery units targeted ISIS strongholds in the outskirts of the town of Jobar in the eastern countryside of Damascus and the towns of Saqaba and Zobedin in eastern Ghouta. According to the pro-government sources, dozens terrorists have been killed and many more wounded.

We remember, on Jan.6, Jaish al Islam militants shelled the center of Damascus from their positions in Eastern Ghouta. At least 8 civilians were killed and 23 injured.

Separately, the Syrian warplanes pounded the militants’ positions in the towns of Hazarma, al-Nashabiyah and Hosh al-Farah.

The pro-government forces, supported by Russian air strikes, regained control of Tal Kherba, Al Juba and Height 1023 in Latakia’s mountainous regions.

The Syrian forces are making significant efforts to seize the terrorist stronghold of Salma in the Kurdish Mountains. The SAA partly surrounded the town with imposing control over Wadi Nabi’ Miro at the western flank of Salma. The clashes are continuing.

Heavy clashes also were observed in al-Dowah west of Palmyra, and close to the towns of Tir Ma’ala, Quaryatayn, Talbiseh and near the village of Maksar al-Hassaan.

About 20 militant commanders of different militant groups have been killed by unknown fighters since December. It’s definitely known that 7 commanders of Al Nusra, 6 commanders of Ahrar ash-Sham were in his list. The last development was observed on Jan.5 when Abu Rateb al-Homsi, Ahrar ash-Sham commander in the Homs province, was killed by unknown fighters. According to some experts, these actions could be conducted by the Syrian Special Forces which use information of the Russian Electronic Intelligence.

On Jan.10, the Syrian al Qaeda group Al-Nusra took two journalists, Hadi al-Abdallah and Raed Fares, hostage in a raid on a radio station in the town of Kafranbel in the Idlib province. The militants also seized the radio station’s broadcasting and technical equipment as well as its electricity generators.

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The Legacy of Racism and the Economic Crisis in South Africa

January 12th, 2016 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Social media post reflects regime-change efforts amid financial downturn

Several developments in South Africa over the last few weeks have brought to the attention of the public the ongoing unfinished quest for national liberation and economic justice.

A social media post by Penny Sparrow, a real estate agent and member of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, denigrating Africans, went viral and ignited a discussion on the need for stiffer laws against hate speech.

Sparrow in an entry referred to the majority African population of the post-apartheid nation as “monkeys”.

Decrying the policy of integration where all residents and visitors of the Republic of South Africa under the leadership of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party are allowed to enjoy beaches and other public areas of the country, Sparrow revealed the continuing racist sentiments of many whites, particularly those who constitute the actual leadership of the DA, which is the second largest political party within the South African parliament in Cape Town, having gained 22 percent of the vote in the national elections of 2014.

In response to the furor generated over these statements, the DA announced the expulsion of Sparrow saying there was no place for racists within their party. The DA’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango stressed in a press release that, “I can confirm that Penny is no longer a member of the DA and after serving her suspension last week I can confirm that she resigned this morning.” (Eyewitness News, Jan. 8)

Sparrow is also facing criminal charges and will have to appear before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Estate Agency Affairs Board. Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu instructed the board to initiate a probe. In addition to these developments, Sparrow’s former bosses at Jawitz Properties will be pursuing legal action against her as well.

These racist comments were not the only ones gaining attention in South Africa in recent weeks. According to Eyewitness News “The SAHRC is also investigating after concerns about racist comments made by Sparrow as well as economist Chris Hart and Justin van Vuuren on social media in recent days, saying further legal steps could be taken against all three.”

ANC Celebrates 104th Anniversary

This discussion arose amid the commemorations surrounding the 104th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress (ANC) on January 8. This liberation movement turned political party is the oldest of such organizations on the continent.

Tens of thousands attended rallies and other celebrations throughout the country marking this date when the party was formed at the height of European colonial rule in Africa in 1912. In five consecutive national elections since 1994, the ANC has won well over 60 percent of the vote.

The largest opposition party to emerge since the democratic breakthrough of 22 years ago has been the DA. The organization uses various strategies to recruit and promote Africans in an effort to obscure its racist, neo-liberal and imperialist agenda.

In early 2014, the DA attempted to stage a march on the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg but was rebuffed by thousands of party supporters who were mobilized to defend their offices. DA criticisms of the ANC within parliament are clearly designed to agitate for the return of the system of white supremacy and a close alliance with the imperialist states.

South African President Jacob Zuma said in an address before the ANC anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg located in the Northwest province that “Economic freedom must become a reality in our lifetime. The ANC has long set out to place our economy on a new growth path that will deracialize the economy and make a fundamental break with the ownership patterns of the past.” (Bloomberg, Jan. 9)

During the same speech Zuma also demanded that the ANC be given “space to govern” in light of recent calls by the DA and other opposition forces for his resignation. He also derided the factionalism which has begun to plague the party and the Tripartite Alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Condemning what Zuma characterized as “obstructions to government,” he emphasized “You can’t lose elections and hope to interrupt and obstruct the government that has been elected by the people through taking every issue to court or disrupting Parliament. The party that wins elections must be given space to govern. The ANC must be given space to govern – this is the fundamental basic principle of democracy and is practiced throughout the world that is why it is called majority rule.”

Warning that those fomenting divisions will not be tolerated, the president said “Tendencies such as factionalism, careerism, gatekeeping, arrogance of power patronage – have no place in the ANC. We also wish to remind those who continue to perpetuate division and counter-revolution within our movement that there is no place for them.”

Global Capitalist Crisis Impacts Internal Politics

Like many so-called “emerging economies”, South Africa is experiencing a crisis due to the decline in commodity prices and the ongoing dependency upon the world system dominated by capitalist modes of production and relations. The continuing depressed value of the national currency, the rand, the rise in joblessness and low wages has triggered various responses including an apparent right-wing oriented demonstration in December demanding the resignation of President Jacob Zuma.

On January 11, there was yet another decline in the value of the rand on international currency markets. This continues a pattern began during 2015 which precipitated a change in the finance ministers twice within the course of a few days during December. This instability in the finance portfolio was credited with a previous drop in the currency value.

An article published by Newscom.au, reported “The rand fell more than nine per cent to 17.9950 against the US dollar, by far its weakest level on record, on fears that China wants to weaken its currency aggressively and boost its export competitiveness. The South African unit had recovered somewhat to 16.6500 by 0220 Tuesday AEDT, but was still down two per cent from Friday’s close. It was the weakest performer in a basket of 25 emerging market currencies tracked by Reuters.” (Jan. 11)

Zuma said in response to the decline that it was an overreaction to overall developments in the global economy. Some market analysts echoed this assessment although such a phenomenon does not bode well for the immediate future of the country.

Other factors involving relations with the U.S. through the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) has played a role in the economic insecurity of the country by holding up the renewal of South Africa’s eligibility in the program which was established under the Clinton administration in 2000. An announcement was made recently that the outstanding issues related to the refusal of South Africa to accept certain meat products due to health concerns had been resolved.

South African Minister of Trade, Rob Davies, revealed on January 9 that an agreement had been reached to allow the importation of the meat products in question. Nonetheless, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said while Washington welcomed the progress made in resolving the outstanding technical issues, the real measure of the resolution would be based on the ability of South African consumers to buy these meats in domestic outlets.

The Obama administration had threatened to suspend South Africa from the trade agreement on January 4. AGOA was reauthorized by Congress in June. The Act eliminates import taxes on more than 7,000 products ranging from textiles to manufactured items in 39 African nations.

 

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Líbia, o plano da conquista

January 12th, 2016 by Manlio Dinucci

“O ano de 2016 se anuncia muito complicado em nível internacional, com tensões difusas também em nossa vizinhança. A Itália fará sua parte com o profissionalismo das suas mulheres e dos seus homens e junto ao compromisso dos aliados”: assim o primeiro-ministro Matteo Renzi comunicou aos filiados do Partido Democrático (PD) a próxima guerra em que a Itália participará, a da Líbia, cinco anos depois da primeira.

O plano está em vigor: forças especiais do Serviço Aéreo Especial (SAS, na sigla em inglês) da Grã Bretanha – informa “The Daily Mirror” – já estão na Líbia para preparar a chegada de cerca de mil soldados  britânicos. A operação – “acordada entre Estados Unidos, Grã Bretanha, França e Itália” – envolverá cerca de seis mil soldados e marines estadunidenses e europeus com o objetivo de “bloquear cerca de cinco mil extremistas islâmicos que se apossaram de uma dúzia dos maiores campos petrolíferos e, do reduto do chamado Estado Islâmico em Sirte, preparam-se para avançar até a refinaria de Marsa al Brega, a maior do Norte da África”.

A gestão do campo de batalha no qual as forças do SAS estão instruindo não identificados “comandantes militares líbios”, prevê a mobilização de “tropas, tanques, aviões e navios de guerra”. Para realizar bombardeios na Líbia, a Grã Bretanha está enviando mais aviões ao Chipre, onde já estão instalados 10 Tornados e 6 Typhoons para os ataques na Síria e no Iraque, enquanto um destroier está a caminho da Líbia. Já estão na Líbia – confirma o “Defesa Online” – também algumas equipes da Marinha de Guerra dos Estados Unidos.

Toda a operação estará formalmente “sob direção italiana”. No sentido em que a Itália suportará o ônus mais gravoso e custoso, pondo à disposição bases e forças para a nova guerra na Líbia. Nem por isso terá o comando efetivo da operação. Este será na realidade exercido pelos Estados Unidos através da própria rede de comando e daquela da Otan, sempre sob comando estadunidense.

Um papel chave será desempenhado pelo U.S. Africa Command, o Comando África dos Estados Unidos: este acaba de anunciar, em 8 de janeiro, o “plano quinquenal” de uma campanha militar para “enfrentar as crescentes ameaças provenientes do continente africano”. Entre os seus principais objetivos, “concentrar os esforços sobre o Estado falido da Líbia, contendo a instabilidade no país”. Foi o Comando África dos Estados Unidos que, em 2011, dirigiu a primeira fase da guerra, depois dirigida pela Otan, sempre sob o comando estadunidense, que com forças infiltradas e 10 mil ataques aéreos demoliu a Líbia transformando-a em um “Estado falido”.

Agora, o Comando África está pronto a intervir novamente para “conter a instabilidade no país”, e é também a Otan que, segundo declarou o secretário geral Stoltenberg, está “pronta para intervir na Líbia”. E novamente a Itália será a principal base de lançamento da operação. Dois dos comandos subordinados ao U.S. Africa Command se encontram na Itália: em Vicenza, o do U.S. Army Africa (Exército dos EUA para a África), em Nápoles o da U.S. Naval Forces Africa (Força Naval dos EUA para a África).

Esta última está sob as ordens de um almirante estadunidense, que é também o chefe da Força Naval dos EUA na Europa, do Comando Conjunto da Otan com quartel general em Lago Pátria) e, a cada  dois anos, da Força de Resposta da Otan. O almirante está, por sua vez, sob as ordens do comandante supremo aliado na Europa, um general estadunidense nomeado pelo presidente, que ao mesmo tempo está na chefia do Comando Europeu dos Estados Unidos.

Nesse quadro, terá lugar a “direção italiana” da nova guerra na Líbia, cujo escopo real é a ocupação da zona costeira econômica e estrategicamente mais importante. Guerra que, como a de 2011, serà apresentada como “operação de manutenção da paz e humanitária”.

Manlio Dinucci

Fonte: Il Manifesto;

Tradução de José Reinaldo Carvalho para o Blog da Resistência

 Manlio Dinucci é jornalista e geógrafo.

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Human rights experts from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) today called on the United States Government to promptly close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and end impunity for abuses in the so-called ‘global war on terror’ such as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and extraordinary rendition.

“The United States must clean up its own house – impunity only generates more abuses as States do not feel compelled to stop engaging in illegal practices,” the experts said in an Open Letter published today, 14 years after the detention centre became operational.

“Long-term security can be regained if a page is turned on this dark chapter of post-9/11 practices in response to terrorism,” they noted, referring to ‘war on terror’ launched after Al Qaeda’s deadly attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September, 2001.

“Everyone implicated, including at the highest level of authority, must be held accountable for ordering or executing extraordinary renditions, secret detention, arbitrary arrest of civilians and so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in the name of combatting terrorism,” they said in a press statement on the Letter.

The experts recalled that close to 100 detainees still languish in Guantánamo after years of arbitrary detention without trial, outside the rule of law and the reach of the US regular courts, despite an executive order issued by President Barak Obama in January 2009 to release or transfer them and close the facility within one year.

“They are the forgotten ones as the United States moves from a ‘war on terror’ to a ‘war on extremism,’ without having acknowledged, reflected and made amends for past violations of fundamental human rights,” they stressed.

The experts called for an immediate end to the prolonged arbitrary detention of all Guantánamo Bay detainees by releasing them to their home country or to a third country should they be at risk of persecution, or transferring them to regular detention centres on the US mainland so they can be prosecuted before ordinary courts.

“The US Government must also ensure that current and former Guantánamo detainees as well as individuals who have been secretly detained have access to full redress for violations of their freedom from arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment,” they stressed.

The signatories included the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez; on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson; on independence of the judiciary, Mónica Pinto; the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong; and the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Michael Georg Link.

Four years ago, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke out against the failure to close the facility despite Mr. Obama’s order and to ensure accountability, citing it as a clear breach of international law.

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David Cameron’s Conservative government is seeking to ensure that workers lose their rights whilst Labour loses £6m a year in funding, with the introduction of the trade union bill.

Patrick Wintour at the Guardian has described the trade union bill as:

the biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years.

The bill is also a crackdown on democracy. It proposes that 50% of members must vote in order for a ballot to be valid, and 40% of those eligible to vote must back action for strikes. This would mean trade unions would have to have a higher turnout and higher support than our very own government was elected by. The government failed to win the backing of 40% of the population and if this was applied to Conservative MPs the vast majority, 274, would fail to be elected. The clear aim here is to make it as difficult as possible for people to take industrial action and to make the right to strike a thing of the past.

The trade union bill has been criticised by the Conservative MP, David Davis, who agrees with much of the bill but even he struggled to comprehend how it would be acceptable for his party to implement a plan where people would have to give their names to police.

Davis said:

there are bits of it [the bill] which look OTT, like requiring pickets to give their names to the police force. What is this?

Davis answered his own question by describing it as something akin to Franco’s dictatorship in Spain:

This isn’t Franco’s Britain, this is Queen Elizabeth II’s Britain.

But the Conservative party is now hellbent on making its political rival broke.

The Guardian has revealed information contained in a confidential party document which outlines how Labour will lose £6m a year due to the bill. The bill will do this by changing how unions pay into their union political fund and it will mean every single union member will have to write every five years to opt into paying the levy, rather than opting out, as it presently stands. As things stand, unions will only be given three months to get their member’s signature that allows the payment.

The unions provide around 20% of the Labour party’s funding, which equates to more than £30m over a five-year parliament. The proposed changes to unions funding has caused immense concern to the Labour party, the paper reads:

The party could not absorb a loss of £5-6 m and maintain its current structure. With an annual salary cost in excess of over 50% of total costs, it is clear that current staffing levels could not be sustained. In addition to a staffing review, all contracts would need to be challenged to remove any discretionary costs and offices considered for sale or sublet.

While trade unions are run by democratically elected individuals, the Conservative party’s funding is far murkier.

In 2013, the largest donor to the Conservative party was a hedge fund founder, Michael Farmer, who gave over £2m. He was followed by a property developer, David Rowland, who gave over £1m. In addition, the Conservative party has received more than £1m from May Makhzoumi, the wife of billionaire Fouad Makhzoumi, the man at the centre of the Jonathan Aitken arms scandal. In 2015, the Tories got around £19m from 27 of the wealthiest asset managers in the UK. In the same year, it also received 10 times more than Labour in the final week before the election with more than £1m being received from companies like Lycamobile UK- who can donate to the Tories but struggle to pay corporation tax. They also received £90,000 from Stanley Tollman- a convicted tax fraudster.

While trade unions represent the working-classes and ordinary people, the government’s key donors represent the richest business elite in society. David Cameron’s Conservative party seeks to destroy trade unions and the Labour party, so there is no-one to oppose his draconian austerity measures which are designed to make his donors even richer.

Mike Carr is a third year student at the University of Portsmouth reading Politics and International Relations.

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Ucraina: Heil mein Nato!

January 12th, 2016 by Manlio Dinucci

O roteiro para a cooperação militar Otan-Ucrânia, assinado em dezembro, praticamente integra doravante as forças armadas e a indústria bélica de Kiev nas da Aliança sob a condução dos Estados Unidos. Nada mais falta a não ser a entrada formal da Ucrânia na Otan.

O presidente Poroshenko anunciou para esse efeito um « referendo » cuja data está por definir, prenunciando uma clara vitória do « sim » sobre a base de uma pesquisa já realizada. Por seu lado, a Otan garantiu que a Ucrânia, « um dos mais sólidos parceiros da Aliança », está « firmemente comprometida a realizar a democracia e a legalidade ».

Os fatos falam claramente. A Ucrânia de Poroshenko – o oligarca que enriqueceu com o saque das propriedades do Estado e a quem o primeiro-ministro italiano Renzi louva como « sábia liderança » – decretou por lei em dezembro o banimento do Partido Comunista da Ucrânia, acusado de « incitação ao ódio étnico e violação dos direitos humanos e das liberdades ». Estão proibidos por lei mesmo os símbolos comunistas : cantar A Internacional resulta numa pena de 5 a 10 anos de prisão.

É o ato final de uma campanha de perseguição semelhante à que marcou o advento do fascismo na Itália e do nazismo na Alemanha. Sedes de partidos destruídas, dirigentes linchados, jornalistas torturados e assassinados, militantes queimados vivos na Bolsa do Trabalho de Odessa, civis sem armas massacrados em Marioupol, bombardeados com fósforo branco em Slaviansk, Lougansk e Donetsk.

Um verdadeiro golpe de Estado sob a direção da dupla EUA/Otan, com o objetivo estratégico de provocar na Europa uma nova guerra fria para golpear e isolar a Rússia e, ao mesmo tempo, fortalecer a influência e a presença militar dos Estados Unidos na Europa. Como força assalto, foram utilizados, no golpe da Praça Maidan e nas ações sucessivas, grupos neonazistas treinados e armados para esse efeito, como provam as fotos de militantes de Uno-Unso treinados em 2006 na Estônia. As formações neonazistas foram em seguida incorporadas na Guarda Nacional, adestradas por centenas de instrutores estadunidenses da 173ª divisão aerotransportada, transferida de Vicenza para a Ucrânia, acompanhada por outras da Otan.

A Ucrânia de Kiev foi assim transformada no « viveiro » do nazismo renascente no coração da Europa. Chegam a Kiev neonazistas de toda a Europa (inclusive da Itália) e dos EUA, recrutados sobretudo pelo partido de extrema direita Pravy Sektor e pelo batalhão Azov, cuja identidade nazista é representada pelo emblema decalcado das SS do Reich. Depois de terem sido treinados e postos à prova nas ações militares contra os russos da Ucrânia e no Donbass, retornam a seus países com o « salvo-conduto » do passaporte ucraniano. Simultaneamente difunde-se na Ucrânia a ideologia nazista entre as jovens gerações. Disto, ocupa-se em particular o batalhão Azov, que organiza campos de treinamento militar e de formação ideológica para crianças e adolescentes, aos quais se ensina antes de tudo o ódio aos russos.

Isto advém da conveniência dos governos europeus: por iniciativa de um parlamentar da República Tcheca, o chefe do batalhão Azov, Andriy Biletsky, aspirante a « Führer » da Ucrânia, foi recebido pelo parlamento europeu como « orador convidado ». Tudo no quadro do « Apoio prático da Otan à Ucrânia », compreendendo o « Programa de potencialização da educação militar », no qual participaram em 2015, 360 professores ucranianos, instruídos por 60 experts da Otan. Num outro programa da Otan, « Diplomacia pública e comunicações estratégicas », ensina-se às autoridades como «contrapor-se à propaganda russa» e aos jornalistas como « gerar histórias factuais desde a Crimeia ocupada e a Ucrânia oriental ».

Manlio Dinucci

Fonte : Il manifesto

porochenko_nazi

Ucraina: Heil mein Nato!

Tradução de José Reinaldo Carvalho para o Blog da Resistência 

Na edição original, em italiano, foi publicado com este título em alemão, uma alusão ao famigerado « Heil, Hitler ! »

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Mounting U.S. Household Debt and Bank Overdraft Fees

January 12th, 2016 by Devon Douglas-Bowers

We have all been shafted by overdraft fees from our bank at some time or another. It’s an annoyance and frustration, especially to those of us who already don’t have much money as well as a constant puzzle: If one doesn’t have $5, how are they going to pay an extra $35?  Yet banks continue to do this and rake in money, as can be seen by them having made $35 billion[1] in overdraft fees in 2014. In order to get a better handle on the problem of overdrafts, we need to understand the history of such fees as well as reframe how we look at the situation, changing our perspective to see overdraft fees as a sort of loan rather than a fee.

After World War 2, society as a whole began to change, included how people borrowed money. Credit itself began to change with things such as pawning and open-book credit (in which goods are shipped with the recipient promising to make payments) declined in usage and were replaced with other forms of loans such as payday loans, credit cards, and overdraft protection. However, it wasn’t as if everyone had access to overdraft protection, it was generally reserved for those high-income customers who were having short-term problems. Yet, as time wore on more and more people gained access to overdraft protections, with “banks and credit unions [offering] ‘courtesy pay’ or overdraft features” starting in the mid-1990s “so that consumers could overdraw their checking or debit accounts, for a fee.”[2] What was important, though, was that people were accruing these fees on their own, however this would change in the new millennium.

In 2003, it was reported that around 1,000 banks were “encouraging customers with low balances to overdraw their checking accounts, allowing the banks to skirt credit laws and collect billions of dollars in new fees.”[3] Banks were now actively encouraging people with little money to spend beyond their limit as to have to pay massive amounts in fees. From the banks’ perspective, this made since as USA Today noted in 2005 that overdraft fees “provide a more stable source of income to banks than products tied to fluctuating interest rates.”[4]

According to an FDIC 2006 survey, it was reported that “overdraft fees on average represent 6% of total net operating revenues of FDIC-insured banks.”[5] It seems that only a small group of banks are making money off of overdraft fees. Data from the company SNL Financial showed that during the first quarter of 2015, the three largest banks (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) “collectively generated $1.14 billion from overdraft fees and related service charges”[6] and that those very same banks were also the ones that collected the highest ATM fees of the first quarter. So, not only have banks been actively encouraging people to get overdraft fees, but they were making a killing from it.

There are a number of other problems with overdraft fees, such as their similarity to payday loans and how they act like credit cards, but are worse. A 2005 report from the Consumer Federation of America found that overdraft fees were similar to payday loans in that those without enough money to make ends meet until the next payday were effectively given a cash advance by being able to overdraw their account, however, overdrawing one’s account was similar credit card usage.[7] Yet, with credit cards, banks aren’t allowed to take funds directly from a person’s bank account to pay off a credit card debt, but those who overdraw their account with a debit card “lack this protection. A bank can use the right of setoff when a customer creates an overdraft with a debit card to repay itself immediately when the customer deposits funds into the account.”[8] Of course, this doesn’t just cover the general costs, but also the overdraft fees that are applied to the account.

The report also found that in many cases, banks allow people to overdraw on purpose when they pay checks that result in overdrawn accounts, “knowingly permit consumers to electronically withdraw funds at the ATM or to make purchases at point of sale,” or “pay pre-authorized debits despite the lack of funds in the consumer’s account.”[9]

In addition to this, banks don’t tell consumers of better alternatives, from that same report:

For example, Citizens Bank’s overdraft protection language on its website sells its line of credit or savings account transfer overdraft protection product as offering ‘convenience and peace of mind.’ On the other hand, Citizens Bank sent an addendum to its deposit disclosure in late 2004 describing the account’s ‘courtesy’ overdraft provisions and informing consumers that overdrawing a check, ATM or debit card transaction would incur a fee of between $25 and $33 each, depending on the number of days the account remains overdrawn. This disclosure did not inform consumers that they could purchase optional savings account overdraft transfer coverage for $3 per month or apply for an overdraft protection line of credit which costs $20 annually, both of which could be more affordable for consumers.[10] (emphasis added)

It seemed that things would change for the better in 2010 as the rules regarding overdraft fees changed. Starting in July, banks were now “required to allow debit card customers to opt-in to overdraft fees rather than automatically enrolling card users in programs that charge $20 to $30 whenever there are insufficient funds to cover purchases,”[11] meaning that if one didn’t have the necessary funds to complete a transaction, their debit cards would be declined at the register. Unfortunately, banks found a way around this by engaging in bank fee manipulation. Information came out in August 2010 when a federal judge ordered Wells Fargo “to pay California customers $203 million in restitution for claims that it had manipulated transactions to maximize the overdraft fees it charged.”[12]

What occurred was that, rather than dealing with each transaction in the order it was received, Wells Fargo put through the largest to smallest transactions, resulting in people paying increased overdraft fees. The very next year, Bank of America paid out $410 million for the same reasons.[13] But the bank fee manipulation continued, with Forbes reporting on the findings of a 2012 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report which showed that it was still ongoing.[14]

The situation can get much, much worse though. The Center for Responsible Lending complied a report in July 2013 which found that while the average banks charges an overdraft fee of $35, some banks “also add a ‘sustained overdraft fee’ once the account has remained overdrawn for several days. At some banks, this is a one-time additional fee in the $35 range; at others, it is a fee in the $6-$8 range charged daily until the account balance is returned to positive” and that while a few banks have put limits on such sustained fees, it “still [allows] for daily fees in the hundreds of dollars.”[15] So not only are people’s bank fees being manipulated so that they pay more money in overdraft fees, but unless they can come up with the money quickly, the problems worsen.

For all this talk that’s been going on, though, we still have yet to discuss exactly who suffers from overdraft fees.

In 2008, the FDIC found that “9 percent of checking account customers bear about 84 percent of overdraft fees” and that evidence pointed to overdraft fees disproportionately impacting low-income and young customers.[16] A CFPB 2014 report reinforced this information as one of the key findings was that “eight percent of customers incur nearly 75 percent of all overdraft fees” and that “10.7 percent of the 18-25 age group [have] more than 10 overdrafts per year.”[17]
What effectively occurs with overdraft fees is that the poor subsidize the rich. In an article for The Economist, it was reported that “according to the FDIC low income (people who earn less than $30,000) earners are nearly twice as likely to have paid an overdraft fee”[18] and that it wasn’t uncommon for many of these low-income people to rack up fees to the point where they can’t pay them all.

When this occurs, banks close the indebted accounts and it is extremely difficult for people to open accounts at other banks. They are effectively shut off from formal banking, thus forcing them to turn to services such as pre-paid cards which “charge for all kinds of things checking account customers are used to getting for free: loading funds on to the card, point-of-sale purchases, talking to a customer service representative, cutting a check”[19] or check cashing which “can incur an average of 3-5% of the check amount in fees, regardless of the nature of the check.”[20] The costs of both of these can easily add up to more than what it would cost to have a regular checking account.

Alternatives to overdraft fees are asking one’s bank about a linked line of credit[21] or an affordable small-dollar loan.[22] However, the best solution would be to get rid of overdraft fees entirely. By combating overdraft fees, we will be able to free millions of people from the worry of debt and its potential long-term effects.

Notes

1: Statistic Brain Research Institute, Overdraft Fee Statistics, http://www.statisticbrain.com/total-overdraft-fees/

2: Andrea Ryan, Gunnar Trumbull, Peter Tufano, A Brief Postwar History of US Consumer Finance, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/11-058.pdf (2010)

3: Alex Berenson, Banks Are Reaping Billions From Stealth Overdraft Charges, Citizen Review Online, http://www.citizenreviewonline.org/jan_2003/banks.htm (January 23, 2003)

4: Kathy Chu, “Rising Bank Fees  Hit Consumers,” USA Today, October 4, 2005 (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/banking/2005-10-04-bank-fees-usat_x.htm)

5: Todd J. Zywicki, “The Economics and Regulation of Bank Overdraft Protection,” Washington and Lee Law Review 69:2 (2012), pg 1153

6: Jon C. Ogg, Banks Making The Most From Overdraft and ATM Fees, 24/7 Wall Street, http://247wallst.com/banking-finance/2015/06/17/banks-making-the-most-from-overdraft-and-atm-fees/ (June 17, 2015)

7: Jean Ann Fox, Patrick Woodall, Overdrawn: Consumers Face Hidden Overdraft Charges From Nation’s Largest Banks, http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/CFAOverdraftStudyJune2005.pdf (June 9, 2005)

8: Ibid, pg 5

9: Ibid, pg 7

10: Ibid, pgs 7-8

11: Connie Prater, Fed: Consumers Must Opt In To Debit Card Overdraft Fees, http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/opt-in-fed-debit-card-overdraft-fee-rules-1271.php (September 13, 2010)

12: Ron Lieber, Andrew Martin, “Wells Fargo Loses Ruling on Overdraft Fees,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/business/11wells.html (August 10, 2010)

13: Ben Popken, Bank of America Paying Out $410 Million For Reordering Your Transactions To Maximize Overdraft Fees, The Consumerist, http://consumerist.com/2011/07/14/bank-of-america-paying-out-410-million-for-reordering-your-transactions-to-maximize-overdraft-fees/ (July 14, 2011)

14: Halah Touryalai, “Yes, Banks Are Reordering Your Transactions And Charging Overdraft Fees, “ Forbes, June 11, 2013 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/halahtouryalai/2013/06/11/yes-banks-are-reordering-your-transactions-and-charging-overdraft-fees/)

15: Rebecca Borne, Peter Smith, The State of Lending in America and its Impact On U.S. Households, Center for Responsible Lending, http://www.responsiblelending.org/state-of-lending/reports/8-Overdrafts.pdf (July 2013), pg 3

16: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, CFPB Launches Inquiry Into Overdraft Practices, http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-launches-inquiry-into-overdraft-practices/ (February 22, 2012)

17: Trevor Bakker, Nicole Kelly, Jesse Leary, Éva Nagypál, Data Point: Checking Account Overdraft, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201407_cfpb_report_data-point_overdrafts.pdf (July 2014). pg 5

18: A.S., “How The Poor Subsidize The Rich,” The Economist, http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2010/08/money_and_banking (August 2, 2010)

19: Claes Bell, Check Cashing: Still Not A Good Deal, Bankrate, http://www.bankrate.com/financing/banking/check-cashing-still-not-a-good-deal/ (November 18, 2011

20: Account Now, Check Cashing Centers: Pros and Cons, http://www.accountnow.com/content/check-cashing/check-cashing-centers-pros-and-cons/

21: Jax Federal Credit Union, Overdraft Protection: Overdraft Line of Credit & Courtesy Pay, https://jaxfcu.org/checking/overdraft-protection.html

22: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FIL-50-2007, https://www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/2007/fil07050a.html

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One of the more encouraging (?) developments in Acceptable American Discourse over the last five years or so has been the gradual acceptance, even among Serious Media Outlets, that American voters no longer have any real control over their own government, and more broadly, their collective destiny.

In April 2014, Princeton University published a study which found that “economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

Then in October of the same year, a Tufts University professor published a devastating critique of the current state of American democracy, “National Security and Double Government,” which

catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

The Boston Globe’s write-up of the book was accompanied by the brutal headline, “Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.” Imagine a headline like that during the Hope and Change craze of 2008. Yeah, you can’t. Because nobody’s that imaginative.

Yes, people are beginning to smell the rot — even people who watch television in hopes of not having to confront the miserable reality that awaits them once they turn off their 36-inch flatscreens. In September, Jimmy Carter warned Oprah Winfrey:

We’ve become now an oligarchy instead of a democracy. And I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards of the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life,” the 90-year-old former president told Winfrey.

The live audience were probably hoping for free Oprah cars. Instead, an ex-president told them that their democracy is in the gutter. What a bummer.

The latest canary in the coal mine is none other than ex-longtime GOP staffer turned best-selling author Mike Lofgren, whose new book, “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government,” confirms what is already painfully apparent:

The deep state has created so many contradictions in this country. You have this enormous disparity of rich and poor; and you have this perpetual war, even though we’re braying about freedom. We have a surveillance state, and we talk about freedom. We have internal contradictions. Who knows what this will fly into? It may collapse like the Soviet Union; or it might go into fascism with a populist camouflage.

Some excerpts from Salon’s recent interview with Lofgren:

On how the deep state operates:

Well, first of all, it is not a conspiracy. It is something that operates in broad daylight. It is not a conspiratorial cabal. These are simply people who have evolved [into] a kind of position. It is in their best interest to act in this way.

And given the fact that people would rather know about Kim Kardashian than what makes up the budget or what the government is doing in Mali or Sudan or other unknown places, this is what you get: a disconnected, self-serving bureaucracy that is … simply evolving to do what it’s doing now. That is, to maintain and enhance its own power.

On who (and what) is part of the deep state: 

The key institutions are exactly what people would think they are. The military-industrial complex; the Pentagon and all their contractors (but also, now, our entire homeland security apparatus); the Department of Treasury; the Justice Department; certain courts, like the southern district of Manhattan, and the eastern district of Virginia; the FISA courts. And you got this kind of rump Congress that consists of certain people in the leadership, defense and intelligence committees who kind of know what’s going on. The rest of Congress doesn’t really know or care; they’re too busy looking about the next election.

Lofgren goes on to explain that the private sector works hand-in-hand with the deep state, regardless of which “party” is in power. According to Lofgren, “There are definable differences between Bush and Obama. However, the differences are so constrained. They’re not between the 40-yard lines; they are between the 48-yard lines.”

Of course, millions of Americans will still enjoy rooting for the candidate whom they would most enjoy drinking Bud Lite Lime with, but probably deep in their hearts they all know they’re doomed.

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Libia, il piano della conquista

January 12th, 2016 by Manlio Dinucci

«Il 2016 si annuncia molto complicato a livello internazionale, con tensioni diffuse anche vicino a casa nostra. L’Italia c’è e farà la sua parte, con la professionalità delle proprie donne e dei propri uomini e insieme all’impegno degli alleati»: così Matteo Renzi ha comunicato agli iscritti del Pd la prossima guerra a cui parteciperà l’Italia, quella in Libia, cinque anni dopo la prima.

Il piano è in atto: forze speciali Sas – riporta «The Daily Mirror» – sono già in Libia per preparare l’arrivo di circa 1000 soldati britannici. L’operazione – «concordata da Stati uniti, Gran Bretagna, Francia e Italia» – coinvolgerà circa 6000 soldati e marine statunitensi ed europei con l’obiettivo di «bloccare circa 5000 estremisti islamici, che si sono impadroniti di una dozzina dei maggiori campi petroliferi e, dal caposaldo Isis di Sirte, si preparano ad avanzare fino alla raffineria di Marsa al Brega, la maggiore del Nordafrica». La gestione del campo di battaglia, su cui le forze Sas stanno istruendo non meglio identificati «comandanti militari libici», prevede l’impiego di «truppe, carrarmati, aerei e navi da guerra». Per bombardare in Libia la Gran Bretagna sta inviando altri aerei a Cipro, dove sono già schierati 10 Tornado e 6 Typhoon per gli attacchi in Siria e Iraq, mentre un cacciatorpediniere si sta dirigendo verso la Libia. Sono già in Libia – conferma «Difesa Online» – anche alcuni team di Navy Seal Usa.

L’intera operazione sarà formalmente «a guida italiana». Nel senso che l’Italia si addosserà il compito più gravoso e costoso, mettendo a disposizione basi e forze per la nuova guerra in Libia. Non per questo avrà il comando effettivo dell’operazione. Esso sarà in realtà esercitato dagli Stati uniti attraverso la propria catena di comando e quella della Nato, sempre sotto comando Usa. Un ruolo chiave avrà lo U.S.

Africa Command, il Comando Africa degli Stati uniti: esso ha appena annunciato, l’8 gennaio, il «piano quinquennale» di una campagna militare per «fronteggiare le crescenti minacce provenienti dal continente africano». Tra i suoi principali obiettivi, «concentrare gli sforzi sullo Stato fallito della Libia, contenendo l’instabilità nel paese». Fu il Comando Africa degli Stati uniti, nel 2011, a dirigere la prima fase della guerra, poi diretta dalla Nato sempre sotto comando USA, che con forze infiltrate e 10mila attacchi aerei demolì la Libia trasformandola in uno «Stato fallito». Ora il Comando Africa è pronto a intervenire di nuovo per «contenere l’instabilità nel paese», e lo è anche la Nato che, ha dichiarato il segretario generale Stoltenberg,  è «pronta a intervenire in Libia». E di nuovo l’Italia sarà la principale base di lancio dell’operazione. Due dei comandi subordinati dello U.S. Africa Command si trovano in Italia: a Vicenza quello dello U.S. Army Africa (Esercito Usa per l’Africa), a Napoli quello  delle U.S. Naval Forces Africa (Forze navali Usa per l’Africa). Quest’ultimo è agli ordini di un ammiraglio Usa, che è anche a capo delle Forze navali Usa in Europa, del Jfc Naples (Comando Nato con quartier generale a Lago Patria) e, ogni due anni, della Forza di risposta Nato.

L’ammraglio è a sua volta agli ordini del Comandante supremo alleato in Europa, un generale Usa nominato dal Presidente, che allo stesso tempo è a capo del Comando europeo degli Stati uniti.

In tale quadro si svolgerà la «guida italiana» della nuova guerra in Libia, il cui scopo reale è l’occupazione delle zone costiere economicamente e strategicamente più importanti. Guerra che, come quella del 2011, sarà presentata quale «operazione di peacekeeping e umanitaria».

 Manlio Dinucci

 

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This last month has seen a tidal wave of western propaganda regarding the “Siege of Madaya” in Syria.

Some of the mainstream media efforts have centered around the use of old or fake photo images of starving children and residents in the small Syrian town of Madaya.The object of this western government-media-human-rights ring is to provide PR backing for ‘regime change’ in Syria by blaming this humanitarian disaster on Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

Here are just a few exhibits of mainstream deception…

HBO’s pseudo ‘Indy’ media outlet, VICE News, was also caught using some of the same cache of fake photos, but quickly erased them from its website after  being exposed by diligent independent watchers online.

Similarly, the BBC was also caught red-handed trying to pass off old footage from 2014, from Yarmouk, Syria, as being from Madaya.

In addition, Canada’s CBC also submitted its own entry into what is turning out to be the mainstream media’s own contest for fake news coming out of Syria.

Finally, Al Jazeera also got into the act, tweeting out its own fake photos of ‘starving Syrians’ in order to help pile global condemnation on the Damascus government.

Why are these major media outlets engaged in such blatant propaganda?

1-Madaya-Syria-fake-photo-2
The image of this starving young girl went viral, only it was taken in Amman, Jordan in 2014, belonging to a Syrian refugee covered in an al-Arabiya news channel report, then referred to as “Syria’s Mona Liza.”

Below is one excellent and extremely accurate report filed by RT, which clearly exposes the fraudulent narrative being plied by mainstream outlets like CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and others, deriving some of their fabricated images and heavily-spun ‘reports’ from organisations like the Syrian Network For Human Rights (SN4HR), and other western ‘activist’ front groups.

See the full stunning report here:

On its website, SN4HR, posts a twisted version of events, claiming that the Syrian government is responsible for ‘mass-starvation’.  This is another example of made-to-order propaganda, designed to bolster US State Department and British Foreign Office calls for ‘regime change’ in Damascus:

“Syrian government forces (army, security forces, local and foreign militias) use hunger as a weapon of war for years in regions under the control of armed opposition. This systemized weapon of human destruction had its impact on the Syrian society, whereas the latest victim of siege and hunger has been Madaya town in Damascus suburbs. Madaya town is located in Damascus suburbs and has been under siege since the end of 2013.”

The clear spin shown here by SN4HR collapses when confronted with actual reports on the ground which clearly show that “rebel” and terrorist fighting groups have not only seized international food deliveries, but have also been selling items at inflated prices to trapped residents. RT also documented on camera in the interview segment (above), how al Nusra “rebels” terrorists threatened to shoot them if residents tried to flee the town of Madaya.

1-Syrian-Network-for-Human-Rights
The SN4HR website has no information on who funds the group, and its website ownership information is hidden from public view but shows that it is hosted in the US. The organisation identifies itself as an outgrowth of “the revolution in Syria” (clearly a partisan organization, see at the very bottom of their home page) claims to be ‘a trusted source’ that supplies information about the Syria Conflict to all leading human rights organisations, charities and government departments including the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and even the US State Department. “The network’s database and archives are considered as a reliable source and reference for international and local media outlets, and international organizations and agencies working in the field of human rights.”

Note that when readers go to visit the Syrian Network For Human Rights (sn4hr.org), they will see at bottom right of the their home page a statement which shows they are a “coalition” member of ICR2P (responsibilitytoprotect.org),  part of a larger web of western-backed “soft power” front organisations, based out of New York City:

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
c/o World Federalist Movement
Institute for Global Policy
708 Third Avenue, Suite 1715
New York, NY 10017

The ICRtoP website states that their mission:

“brings together NGOs from all regions of the world to strengthen normative consensus for RtoP, further the understanding of the norm, push for strengthened capacities to prevent and halt genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and mobilize NGOs to push for action to save lives in RtoP country-specific situations.”

What we are seeing here is a covert attempt by the US and its allies to cloak their ‘regime change’ and geopolitical hegemony goals and objects underneath a public relations veil of ‘humanitarianism’ through an intricate web of human rights and ‘progressive’ organisations. According to Sourcewatch: “The Responsibility to Protect-Engaging Civil Society (R2PCS) project is housed at the Institute for Global Policy (IGP) in New York. IGP is associated with the World Federalist Movement (WFM).” Funding for ICRtoP is delivered by a number of dubious soft power sources including the International Crisis Group, who in turn is financed by George Soros and the Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Syrian Conflict (not a ‘civil war’ as characterized by western leaders) has become one of the great receptacles for soft power propaganda this century.

What’s been shown in this article is the small tip of a much larger iceberg of lies and fabrications which western mainstream media organisations have been manufacturing to help sell their plans for “change” in Syria since 2011.

Just look at what they’ve done to Syria – and the region so far, and Washington still has the nerve to try and blame it on the Syrians.

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Evidence keeps mounting on how Turkey directly aids ISIS, complicit with Washington, other NATO countries and regional partners.

Foreign support lets terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya thrive. Without it they’d become a spent force, unable to operate effectively on their own – what media scoundrels never explain, perpetuating the myth of US war on ISIS.

On January 10, London’s Guardian headlined “Isis ‘ran sophisticated immigration operation” on Turkey-Syria border,” saying:

Documents seized by Kurdish forces dated December 2014 – March 2015 have ISIS “department of immigration” and “department of transport” stamps.

They show its fighters freely moved back and forth through Turkish and Syrian border areas. Seven manifests contain names, dates of birth and other ID information of 70 people, including men, women and infants.

The Guardian enlisted help from ISIS expert Aymenn al-Tamimi to verify the authenticity of the documents.

They “coincide with other(s), illustrating daily bus routes within Islamic State territory,” he said. “Though private companies provide the actual transportation, the Islamic State bureaucracy is responsible for authorizing and overseeing the routes.”

Turkey claims controlling its 566-mile border with Syria is impossible – failing to explain its complicity with ISIS at the highest regime levels.

The Guardian said the authenticated documents it obtained reveal a “formalised (arrangement) of passage” from Turkey to Syria and return.

“The manifests were sent to the Guardian by Syrian Kurdish forces spokesman, Redur Xelil, and bear the same stamp marks and logos as other Isis documents the newspaper has been able to verify.”

What occurred over a documented four-month period indicates standard daily practice through other border crossing areas.

Responding to the Guardian, a Turkish regime official lied, claiming no evidence of illegal crossings. He said security forces arrested over 200,000 individuals attempting to cross into Turkey illegally from Syria.

Turkey is one of the world’s leading human rights abusers. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claims his government has “a moral responsibility…to accept refugees” crossing its border.

Columbia University researcher into links between Turkey and ISIS David Phillips believes Erdogan’s regime “knows the movements of all persons and can control the flow across the border if it chooses.”

“(A) steady stream of vehicles, individuals, weapons, financing (and) oil” transit freely cross-border because Ankara permits it.

“It’s not like people are putting on their hiking boots and crossing over rough terrain. There’s an extensive surface transport network which is highly regulated and controlled…on both sides of the border.”

Volumes of documented evidence show Turkish complicity with ISIS, the Guardian’s report the latest example.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

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Analysing updates published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of RAF operations in Iraq and Syria give something of an insight into the use of drones and aircraft for strikes by British forces in 2015.  The updates do not give a complete picture as some strikes are omitted (for example the targeted killing of Reyaad Khan) and the number of strikes recorded in the reports do not match officially published figures. Nevertheless they do give a broad indication of British air operations against ISIS. (Note the MoD’s definition of a ‘strike’ and how it calculates the number of a strikes it has launched is extremely convoluted and has changed during the year – see this explanation from the MoD.

Strikes in Iraq

UK-drone-air-strikes-2015 by month- c

*Note figures are from our analysis of MoD updates on operations against ISIS

According to the updates there was a steep rise in British air strikes in Iraq from early November which continued following the Parliamentary vote authorising strikes in Syria at the beginning of December.  In fact according to our analysis of the figures, one-third of all UK air strikes against ISIS in 2015 took place in Iraq in the final two months of the year.

Strikes in Syria

UK-drone-air-strikes-2015 -SYRIA by month- d

*Note figures are from our analysis of MoD updates on operations against ISIS – they do not include the well publicised drone strike against Reyaad Khan in August 2015.

As some have noted, the actual number of British strikes in Syria since the vote is very small – three separate engagements of Tornados/Typhoons launching 16 strikes and one Reaper drone strike on Christmas Day. The steep rise in British strikes in Iraq compared with the small number of strikes in Syria is in stark contrast to the arguments put forward by the Prime Minister that Britain had a military and moral duty to launch strikes in Syria. While the small number of strikes in Syria may only be temporary due to the focus on retaking Ramadi, it may indicate as commentators and officials have reported, the lack of targets in Syria.

Reapers vs Tornados

While the MoD regularly argues that the primary role of Reaper drones is surveillance, British drones have been carrying out almost as many air strikes as the UK’s dedicated strike aircraft. According to our analysis of the MoD updates, over 2015 as a whole, British Reaper drones have carried out 40% of UK air strikes against ISIS (with monthly figures fluctuating between 28% and 64%).  It may be that with thedeployment of addition British military aircraft to the Middle East that the Reaper drones will be used less to undertake strikes and more for surveillance. We shall watch the figures carefully over the coming months.

percentage-2015

The table below details the targets of UK strikes in 2015 according to the MoD updates.  While Tornados and Typhoons have undertaken the majority of strikes and therefore hit the majority of targets in the various categories, drones have been used more to target vehicles, checkpoints, IED emplacers/vehicles and storage compounds.

2015-table-category-b

Civilian Casualties

The UK continues to insist that there is no evidence that any civilians have been killed in the hundreds of air strikes it has undertaken in Iraq and Syria. However civilian casualties from Coalition air strikes continue to be reported.

Airwars, which monitors Coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria, regularly reports on civilian casualties from Coaltion air strikes and reported just before Christmas that British strikes had been carried out on days and in locations when civilian casualties occurred. However in response the Ministry of Defence told the media that it would not be investigating reports of civilians casualties unless they came directly from UK military personnel, or ‘local forces’ deemed friendly.  Such a position is not only absurd but immoral. Reports of civilian casualties from UK air and drone strikes from reliable sources must be taken seriously and investigated.  Otherwise the UK’s insistence that no civilians have been killed or injured in the hundreds of air and drone strikes it has carried out is not just incredible, but simply no longer believable.

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U.S. Dropped 23,144 Bombs on Muslim Countries in 2015

January 12th, 2016 by Adam Johnson

Council of Foreign Relations resident skeptic Micah Zenko recently tallied up how many bombs the United States has dropped on other countries and the results are as depressing as one would think. Zenko figured that since Jan. 1, 2015, the U.S. has dropped around 23,144 bombs on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, all countries that are majority Muslim.

The chart, provided by the generally pro-State Department think tank, puts in stark terms how much destruction the U.S. has leveled on other countries. Whether or not one thinks such bombing is justified, it’s a blunt illustration of how much raw damage the United States inflicts on the Muslim world:

Sources: Estimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2010-2015 Airpower Statistics; Information requested from CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office, January 7, 2016; New America Foundation (NAF); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).

It does not appear to be working either. Despite the fact that the U.S. dropped 947 bombs in Afghanistan in 2015, a recent analysis in Foreign Policy magazine found that the Taliban control more territory in Afghanistan than at any point since 2001. The U.S. has entered its 16th year of war in Afghanistan despite several promises by the Obama administration to withdraw. In October of last year, President Obama reversed his position and decided to keep American troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2017.

The last four U.S. presidents have bombed Iraq, and that includes the current one since airstrikes were launched on Aug. 7, 2014. The war against ISIS was originally framed as a “limited,” “humanitarian” intervention. Since then, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has insisted it will be a “30-year war” and the White House has spoken vaguely of a “long-term effort” in both Iraq and Syria.

Another red flag Zenko noted was the complete lack of civilian deaths being tallied as a result of those 23,144 bombs.

Remarkably, they also claim that alongside the 25,000 fighters killed, only 6 civilians have “likely” been killed in the seventeen-month air campaign. At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged. In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated the size of the Islamic State to be between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters, while on Wednesday, Warren again repeated the 30,000 estimate. To summarize the anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 – 25,000 = 30,000.

So after more than 20,000 bombs, the U.S. Defense Department only cops to the deaths of six civilians. This is a position largely accepted by the media, which rarely asks who is actually being extinguished by the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.

In October, 30 civilians died after the U.S. bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The incident is still being investigated, but it has already been revealed that many elements of the original story were either false or deliberately misleading.

Adam Johnson is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter at @adamjohnsonnyc.
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Five months ago, I wrote an article titled “Jimmy Carter’s Blood-Soaked Legacy” about how the former President’s record in office contradicted his professed concern for human rights. Despite campaigning on a promise to make respect for human rights a central tenet of the conduct of American foreign policy, Carter’s actions consistently prioritized economic and security interests over humanitarian concerns.

I cited the examples of Carter’s administration providing aid to Zairian dictator Mobutu to crush southern African liberation movements; financially supporting the Guatemalan military junta, and looking the other way as Israel gave them weapons and training; ignoring calls from human rights activists to withdraw support from the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia as they carried out genocide in East Timor; refusing to pursue sanctions against South Africa in the United Nations after the South African Defence Forces bombed a refugee camp in Angola, killing 600 refugees; financing and arming mujahideen rebels to destabilize the government of Afghanistan and draw the Soviet Union into invading the country; and providing aid to the military dictatorship in El Salvador, despite a letter from Archbishop Oscar Romero – who was assassinated by a member of a government death squad weeks later – explicitly calling for Carter not to do so.

This list was not meant to be exhaustive, but merely to highlight some of the most prominent contradictions between Carter’s ideals and his actions. After subsequent research and reader feedback, I realized there were many examples I had not mentioned. Their significance to the history of American foreign policy, and the repercussions they produced, is worth exploring in a subsequent analysis.

Carter announced in early December that he is cancer free. Sadly, that news was followed shortly thereafter by the tragic, premature death of his 28-year-old grandson. But Carter seems to have maintained his positivity. He has kept up his public schedule and says that healthwise he still feels good.

A person’s record and legacy should be debated while they are still alive – rather than after they are gone, when nostalgia or reluctance to speak ill of the dead can easily lead to embellishment and historical revisionism. And a person should be able to defend himself and his actions. Otherwise, it is merely an academic exercise instead of a demand for accountability. In this spirit, I present six more foreign policy positions that demonstrate Carter’s prioritization of American political and economic hegemony over actual support for human rights while he held the highest office in the United States.

Vietnam

Article 21 of the Paris Agreement in 1973 stipulated that:

“the United States will contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina.”

When asked in 1977 if the United States had a moral obligation to help rebuild Vietnam, Carter responded that:

“The destruction was mutual. You know, we went to Vietnam without any desire to capture territory or to impose American will on other people. We went there to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese. And I don’t feel that we ought to apologize or to castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability.”

The United States went to Vietnam after they could not convince the French to further continue a war to recolonize Vietnam. The Geneva Accords reached between France and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1954 called for a temporary division of Vietnam pending unification, which was to take place after national elections two years later.

In 1955, the Eisenhower administration began granting direct aid and providing American military advisers to the Bao Dai monarchy. Ngo Dinh Diem assumed control later that year through a fraudulent election. Knowing he would be trounced by the Communist party, he declined to participate in reunification elections called for by the peace agreement..

The United States government was indispensable to the survival of the Diem regime – and after complicity in Diem’s assassination, the Theiu regime. They funded and organized the police, military and intelligence services and were complicit in the reign of terror they unleashed on the South Vietnamese. Throughout the military dictatorship, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned without charges or trial; tortured and held in notorious Tiger Cages; assassinated extrajudicially; and displaced forcibly from their homes and transferred to concentration camps as American forces “helped to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese.”

The South Vietnamese people are still suffering from the refusal to grant reparations for the devastation wrought by the U.S. military. More 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured (an average of 2,500 per year) due to land mines and other ordnance dropped on Vietnam that did not explode on impact.

Residents also still suffer the horrific after effects of chemical weapons. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of chemical defoliants, including Agent Orange, throughout South Vietnam. The President’s Cancer Panel in 2010 determined that “(a)pproximately 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities and a half million children born with birth defects.”

Had Carter not so flippantly dismissed the U.S.’s role in the destruction of Vietnam and recognized its responsibility to uphold their obligation to pay reparations, likely tens of thousands of lives may have been saved with funds that could have been used for demining, and the cleanup and treatment of chemical agents that have gone on spreading the horrors of war for decades after the fighting ended.

Nicaragua

“Carter Must End Aid To Somoza,” proclaimed an editorial in The Harvard Crimson in September 1978. The paper demanded that the U.S. government cut off all forms of aid to the dictatorship of Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza, who was using indiscriminate force to try to crush a popular revolutionary movement to oust him, so the Nicaraguan people could choose their own manner of governance.

William Blum writes in Killing Hope that with the Somoza regime on the verge of collapse, “Carter authorized covert CIA support for the press and labor unions in Nicaragua in an attempt to create a ‘moderate’ alternative to the Sandinistas.” The Carter administration’s plan, according to Blum, was to allow the Somoza regime to take part in a new government, while leaving the state’s military and security institutions largely intact.

The Sandinistas were victorious in July 1981, as Somoza was forced to flee the country in disgrace. They were able to dismantle the dictatorship and create a new revolutionary government.

The meddling and funding for opposition organizations by the Carter administration, however, would pale in comparison to the full-scale terrorism and aggression that would follow under Ronald Reagan, who had by then taken over as President.

Cambodia

Starting in March 1969, President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger waged a massive, secret bombing campaign (Operation Menu) on Cambodia in which the U.S. military was instructed “anything that flies on anything that moves.”

The American aggression likely caused higher than official estimates of 150,000 Cambodian civilian deaths. When the operation was discovered by a Congressional Committee, it was not even included in the impeachment articles against Nixon, much less used as a basis to refer Nixon and Kissinger for prosecution for war crimes.

Radicalized, destitute and shell-shocked by the destruction wrought by the American bombing, Pol Pot and his previously marginal Khmer Rouge were able to rally enough recruits to seize control of the government in 1975.

It is generally accepted that the Khmer Rouge’s massacres in the Killing Fields and drastic measures to create a primitive agrarian society amounted to genocide. On the high end, two million deaths is a common number – though that number has likely been highly inflated for anti-Communist propaganda purposes. The American establishment and media were loudly outspoken against Khmer Rouge atrocities, especially considering the near unanimous silence regarding the nearly simultaneous genocide by the Indonesian military taking place in East Timor.

But, strangely, after a Vietnamese invasion in 1978 ousted them, the Khmer Rouge lost their status as evil Communists, as the official American foreign policy narrative recast them as victims of Vietnamese aggression.

The Carter administration began supporting the Khmer Rouge, who had been relegated to remote rural sections of the country, by financial and diplomatic means. Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski reportedly told an American journalist he “encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot… Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him, but China could.”

According to columnist William Pfaff, financial support started by the Carter administration and continued by the Reagan administration to the Khmer Rouge totaled more than $15 million annually.

Despite the fact they had been driven from power, with American support the Khmer Rouge managed to maintain their UN seat – as the Carter administration had refused to recognize the government installed after the Vietnamese invasion.

The remnants of the Khmer Rouge fought a guerilla war until Pot’s death in 1998. There is no precise count of the dead and injured that resulted from the fighting so long after the regime was ousted, but it is known that hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes and became refugees.

The Carter administration’s decision to fan the flames of violence for frivolous reasons – mainly to punish Vietnam for their defeat of American forces five years earlier – was a scandalous example of vindictiveness.

South Korea

In December 1979, the South Korean military led by General Chun Doo Hwan led a coup d’ état in which Chun imprisoned potential military rivals and cleared the way to his succession as dictator. On May 17, 1980, Chun declared martial law across the country. The next day, popular protests emerged in the city of Kwangju in opposition.

Chun’s support from the United States would be crucial to maintain legitimacy as he brought in the military to crush the uprising.

“The White House had tacitly shelved President Carter’s human rights campaign in its anxiety that nothing should ‘unravel and cause chaos in a key American ally’,” writes The Guardian.

“It agreed to continue supporting thuggish General Chun Doo Hwan, a major figure behind the coup who was by now imposing stringent military rule.”

Journalist Tim Shorrock studied more than 3,500 documents obtained by FOIA request and determined that more than mere complicity, the Carter administration played a “significant background advisory role in the violent 1980 military crackdown that triggered the May 18 citizens’ uprising.”

William Gleysteen, who Carter had personally appointed ambassador to South Korea, told Chun the U.S. would not object if he were to use the military to quell large-scale student protests.

Shorrock notes that declassified documents show that:

U.S. officials in Seoul and Washington knew Mr. Chun’s contingency plans included deployment of Korean Special Warfare Command troops, trained to fight behind the lines in a war against North Korea. The ‘Black Beret’ Special Forces, who were not under U.S. command, were modeled after the U.S. Green Berets and had a history dating back to their participation alongside American troops in the Vietnam War.

On May 22, Shorrock writes, “the Carter administration approved further use of force to retake the city and agreed to provide short-term support to Mr. Chun if he agreed to long-term political change.”

The Special Warfare troops carried out a massacre in which officially 200 people were killed, but estimates place the likely number of victims 10 times higher. Chun continued ruling as a dictator until 1988.

The George H. W. Bush administration would whitewash American involvement during the 1980 uprising by claiming the U.S. government had no knowledge of the use of the Korean special forces and did not approve of any such actions. Chun’s dictatorship in South Korea would continue until popular protests were able to force democratic elections in 1988.

Philippines

In September 1972, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in Proclamation No. 1081. It would not be lifted until three days before the end of Jimmy Carter’s tenure as President in 1981.

This would not prevent the Carter administration from continuing the billions of dollars provided by the U.S. government to the Marcos dictatorship in military aid. As he had with Indonesian Major General and President Suharto, Carter kept the spigot flowing to a dictator who demonstrated not just lack of respect, but outright hostility to the human rights of his subjects.

The quid pro quo in the Philippines was a Military Bases Agreement agreed to in December 1978. The Filipino-American socialist newspaper the Katipunan said that after signing the agreement, the Carter administration ignored Marcos’s many human rights violations.

“Especially now, in light of renewed threats to its imperialist hegemony of the world, the Carter administration has made it very clear that such considerations as human rights, democracy, etc., take a back seat, to the protection of American global interests, insofar as U.S.-R.P. relations are concerned,” the paper wrote in April 1980.

The Katipunan said that political considerations led Carter’s State Department to reverse their previous condemnation to claim the Marcos regime was improving its record. “The State Department might as well have congratulated Marcos for torture, salvaging, mass arrests, indefinite detention, etc.,” they wrote.

The Middle East

No one is more responsible for the vast proliferation of foreign U.S. military bases – now about 800, compared to about 30 for the rest of the world combined – than Jimmy Carter.

Any rational geopolitical analysis of the post-war period until Carter’s presidency would have concluded the Soviet Union had absolutely no intention of military expansion beyond their immediate satellite states. But Carter – like each of his predecessors since World War II – was delusional in his imagination of a Soviet threat behind every corner. His anti-communist, Cold-War strategy called for a military presence everywhere American economic interests existed. Using the phantom “Soviet threat,” Carter laid out what became known as the Carter Doctrine.

“In his January 1980 State of the Union address, President Jimmy Carter announced a policy change that rivaled Roosevelt’s destroyers for bases deal in its significance for the nation and the world,” writes anthropologist David Vine in Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. “Carter soon launched what became one of the greatest base construction efforts in history. The Middle East buildup soon approached the size and scope of the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe and the profusion of bases built to wage wars in Korea and Vietnam. U.S. bases sprang up in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the region to host a ‘Rapid Deployment Force,’ which was to stand permanent guard over Middle Eastern petroleum supplies.”

Post-Presidency

In my first article on Carter’s legacy, I wrote that he has – by far – the most impressive record of any American President after leaving office. I cited the examples of his condemnations of Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories and his Carter Center’s work independently verifying voting systems and electoral processes – specifically their endorsement of Venezuela’s 2013 election – as invaluable accomplishments for social justice.

Since then, Carter has bolstered his already impressive post-Presidency record even more. First, Carter told Oprah Winfrey in a September interview that:

“We’ve become now an oligarchy instead of a democracy. And I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards of the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life.”

His summation of the state of the American sociopolitical system is both precise and brutally honest. While academic studies have already reached the same conclusion, Carter putting the issue in simple terms for a mainstream audience demonstrates his willingness to take on matters that would be considered taboo for the rest of the elite class. We can hope that the impact of his statement will be similar to his calling Israeli rule over Palestinians apartheid, something also taboo among elites at the time but increasingly gaining currency in mainstream discourse.

In October, Carter wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times calling for “A Five-Nation Plan to End the Syrian Crisis.” Carter writes that since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the Carter Center had explained to Washington that the Obama administration’s demand for Bashar al-Assad’s removal would preclude the achievement of a political solution.

Meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin led Carter to believe that a peace proposal endorsed by the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia would gain enough support among the Syrian parties to end the fighting.

“The involvement of Russia and Iran is essential. Mr. Assad’s only concession in four years of war was giving up chemical weapons, and he did so only under pressure from Russia and Iran. Similarly, he will not end the war by accepting concessions imposed by the West, but is likely to do so if urged by his allies,” Carter writes.

The peace plan that Secretary of State John Kerry essentially copied from Russia – and has now endorsed as his own at the United Nations – looks very much like that laid out by Carter. There is good reason to think that if the Obama administration had not stubbornly ignored Carter’s advice four years ago – when they still believed, before Russia’s military intervention on Assad’s behalf, that they could overthrow the regime by force through proxy groups like the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army – the unimaginable violence and devastation could have been largely been avoided.

While in power, Carter and the officials he hand-picked to serve in his administration acted with the same Cold War zeal as their predecessors to relentlessly combat – with overwhelming force and the power of the U.S. government’s diplomatic muscle- threats to global corporate capitalist dominance, both real and imagined.

What accounts for the discrepancy between Carter’s actions in and out of office is a matter of speculation. Was it merely a change of heart? A reflection of the nature of authority? Or of the limits of the office of President and its subordination to the power of unelected, entrenched bureaucracy?

The bottom line is that, unfortunately, when Carter was afforded the opportunity to change the direction of U.S. foreign policy after receiving a mandate from the American voters, he was unable or unwilling to do so. We can only hope this missed opportunity will not be the last.

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Latin America. You can follow him on twitter. Read other articles by Matt, or visit Matt’s website.

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Six years after the earthquake, death and destruction freely roam through Haiti in the form of new epidemics on people and plants. Bill and Hillary Clinton, who ushered the country’s dismantlement through the introduction of subsidized Arkansas rice in the 1990s, an occupation by United Nations troops starting in 2004, and a state of emergency that began within two months of the January 2010 earthquake, have tried to distance themselves during this United States election year from the mess they’ve made.

I will not go into the Clinton-led reconstruction here, because I have dealt elsewhere with the alleged financial crimes of this project, and besides, a search through the rubble for the reconstruction funds has become a yearly practice of the alternative press on earthquake anniversaries. Instead, I will focus on a looming disaster.

5368999MilletMagnaporthe-a

[pictured right: Gray leaf spot or Magnaporthe grisea symptoms on millet (Credit: Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org)]

Something quite sinister has been developing in Haiti while the popular attention has been on the debacle of the country’s failed elections. On December 22, 2015, the city of Petit-Goâve’s Coordinator of the Association of Growers for Agricultural Development, Yves Placide, reported that a disease was ravaging the area’s millet plantations. Mr. Placide sent an SOS about the epidemic and asked Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) to dispatch scientists to the plantations to identify and control the disease. Petit-Goâve is in Haiti’s southern peninsula and formally in the country’s West Department.

Within two weeks, vast plantations of millet had been ravaged in Haiti’s Center Department, quite far from Petit-Goâve and near to the Dominican Republic. Affected towns included Maïssade, Hinche,  Thomassique, and Thomonde, all of them in the country’s notoriously fertile Central Plateau.  Ironically, the blight happened close to the county office of MARNDR in Hinche. According to farmer-agronomist Beaudler Louis, of MARNDR, “the millet leaves dried up, and their clusters were invaded by insects.” The agronomist said that he did not manage to save even a bunch of millet from his plantation of several hectares because the destruction happened in a “split second.”

This blight represents a disaster for the farmers of the Central Plateau and an extreme emergency. Millet is a major source of starch for poor Haitians, and, in addition, millet leaves serve as a food for farm animals. Before the dumping of subsidized Arkansas rice on Haiti, when this cereal was a delicacy, rice farmers used to sell their crops and buy millet for themselves. With Haiti’s peasant rice agriculture destroyed, and the price of imported rice climbing, Millet has become an important safeguard against famine in the country. This latest problem of a scarcity of millet and rising prices is compounded by the fact that farm animals will not eat the diseased millet leaves.

Gray leaf spot or Magnaporthe grisea sign on millet (Credit: Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org).

The desperate farmers call on the government for assistance, but like the earthquake of January 2010, this new disaster will likely be exploited by the authorities to solicit foreign aid that will never reach the afflicted people. Already the failure of the millet crop is being blamed on climate change as a reason to beg for money. Who will help the farmers? Is it merely coincidental that six Haitian agronomists were murdered in 2015? The most recent such attack was the July 8 assassination, in broad daylight, of 39-year old Professor Tebert Oscar, of the Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine Department of Haiti’s National University (Université d’Etat d’Haiti, UEH), by supposed unidentified armed bandits. Dr. Oscar was a farmer’s son and a strong supporter of the peasants in his native town of Jean-Rabel. Others killed include 68-year old Jean-Ives Banatte, a former professor of the Université Notre-Dame d’Haiti, staunch defender of the environment, and host of the radio show “Chat on the environment” (Ti koze sou anviwònman).

What is the source of the new scourge on Haiti? The physical appearance of the disease and the rapid rate at which it ravaged the millet crop suggest that it could have been caused by the “blast fungus” or “gray leaf spot fungus” Magnaporthe grisea, also called Pyricularia grisea. One possibility is that this fungus has spread from recently introduced crops of rice, corn, wheat, or barley. Some pathogens, especially fungi that attack millet, are shared with other small-seed grasses that are cereal crops for humans. Another possibility, and this cannot be discounted in light of the fact that a vicious war has been waged against Haiti’s creole pig and native rice, is that the pathogen was deliberately introduced in the millet plantations.

3231058442_aa35c07ea6_oM. grisea is the best-studied fungus that ravages plant crops. Its effect is described as being apocalyptic, and the Haitian farmers depict their plantings as having the appearance of being burned in an instant. When M. grisea’s genome was sequenced by US scientists about 13 years ago, reviewers of the work noted that “the fungus has an even darker side: ‘bad guys’ could use it as a bioweapon to attack world food supplies….”

There has been ample time to study the mechanisms of disease of Magnaporthe grisea and generate crops of rice and other cereals that are resistant to it. Though this appears innocent enough, the first step in making a bioweapon is to develop protection against it for oneself. If the blight in Haiti is due M. grisea, it is easy to guess who our bad guys would be. Haiti has never been attacked by anything but governments with imperialist designs and their associated corporations. We will know for sure when we learn who buys the small millet farms of Haiti’s Central Plateau at fire sale prices for their replacement with vast monocultures of M. grisea resistant crops.

It has been six years, and Haiti is not being reconstructed but rather being demolished in every way and depopulated. Under the guise of humanitarianism, the international community is engaged in a ruthless project to undo the Haitian Revolution. If we do not stop counting the years post-earthquake, wake from our shock, rid ourselves of these plagues, and reset the clock, it will be our peril as a people, culture, and country.

Note from the Editor of NJP: Photographs one and three from United Nations Photo archive; photographs two and five by Paul Bachi (see caption); photograph four by Zoriah; photograph seven by Lucas and composite image eight by ScabeaterFor more from Dady Chery, read We Have Dared to be Free: Haiti’s Struggle Against Occupation, available as a paperback from Amazon and e-book from Kindle.

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Canadian government spies on Brazil — and its own citizens.

This article was first published by the CCPA Monitor in 2013.  

In the September issue of the CCPA Monitor, I reported on the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying on hundreds of millions of its citizens, as revealed by whistle-blower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Now it appears that the Canadian government, too, is engaged in surreptitiously spying on its citizens, in collaboration with the NSA.

Canada has also been caught spying on Brazil. The United States and Canada are clearly close partners in the creation of an insidious global surveillance system that blatantly violates domestic and international human rights with impunity.

In October [2013], Snowden exposed the extent of the Canadian government’s spying activities. The Canadian counterpart to the NSA is the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). The two agencies have had close relations for more than six decades and share intelligence on each other’s citizens. Both spy on their own citizens as well as on each others’ nationals, and pass this information on to each other, thereby circumventing any legal restrictions on domestic surveillance.

Such close co-operation is part of the “Five Eyes” program of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand, which have shared responsibilities for a massive global surveillance system that includes commercial espionage.

CSEC has a staff of more than 2,000, with another 1,000 military personnel assisting it, a yearly budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and a new headquarters that cost $1 billion to build. As one observer put it, “CSEC operations are shrouded in almost total secrecy, authorized under ministerial directives that are themselves so secret that their subject matter, let alone their contents, is secret.”

Economic spying appears to be the reason for CSEC’s surveillance of Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy. According to documents leaked by Snowden, in 2012 CSEC used a spying program code-named Olympia “to map the phone calls, e-mails, and video conferences made within the mines and energy ministry.”

More than 40 Canadian companies are active in Brazil’s mining sector, including Kinross Gold, Teck, Yamana Gold, Aura Minerals, Luna Gold, and El Dorado Gold. Canadian investment in Brazil is worth $9.8 billion, while Brazil’s investment in Canada amounts to $15.8 billion. With a population of 200 million, Brazil has one of the world’s largest economies boasting a major industrial sector and enormous oil deposits.

Brazil’s Embraer corporation is one the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world, while the state-owned Petrobras has the second biggest oil reserves in South America. Canada and Brazil are rivals in the economic sectors of aircraft exports, oil exploitation, mining, and agriculture.

Canadian spying on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy appears to be aimed at giving Canadian companies an advantage over competitors in the bidding for drilling rights on auctioned oil blocks in Brazil, and getting information related to the perceived competitive threat posed by Brazil’s oil sector to Canada’s tar sands as a destination for foreign investment. Four Canadian companies recently secured 10 Brazilian oil blocks in an auction of 200 blocks.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Machado expressed outrage at the revelations of Canadian spying and demanded an explanation, as did Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who accused Canada of violating her country’s sovereignty. She called the spying “unacceptable” and an act of industrial espionage.

“The fact that our Ministry of Mines and Energy was the target of espionage confirms the strategic and economic reasons behind such acts,” the President stated. Rousseff had already frozen all major relations with the United States and cancelled her planned visit to Washington after that country’s spying on Brazil was also revealed by Snowden in September.

According to The Globe and Mail, Canada-Brazil economic relations are at a “standstill” due to the spying revelations, and Brazilian officials have pledged “to closely scrutinize the activities of Canadian mining companies and other investors in Brazil.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has responded to the major spying scandal disingenuously by saying that he is “very concerned” about reports that CSEC is involved in industrial espionage in Brazil (as if he hadn’t known about it). Harper vaguely promised “appropriate follow-up” on the charges, indicating further disdain for Brazil’s sovereignty.

An October 9 article in The [UK] Guardian makes clear that CSEC is the espionage arm of corporate Canada. The newspaper explains that “[CSEC] has participated in secret meetings in Ottawa where Canadian security agencies briefed energy corporations. Claims of spying on the [Brazilian] ministry by CSEC come amid the Canadian government’s increasingly aggressive promotion of resource corporations at home and abroad, including unprecedented surveillance and intelligence sharing with companies. According to freedom of information documents obtained by the Guardian, the meetings — conducted twice a year since 2005 — involved federal ministries, spy and police agencies, and representatives from scores of companies who obtained high-level security clearance.

Meetings were officially billed to discuss ‘threats’ to energy infrastructure, but also covered ‘challenges to energy projects from environmental groups,’ ‘cyber security initiatives,’ and ‘economic and corporate espionage.’ The documents — heavily redacted agendas — do not indicate that any international espionage was shared by CSEC officials, but the meetings were an opportunity for government agencies and companies to develop ‘ongoing trusting relations’ that would help them exchange information ‘off the record,’ wrote an official from the Natural Resources ministry in 2010.

At the most recent meeting in May 2013, which focused on ‘security of energy resources development,’ meals were sponsored by Enbridge, a Canadian oil company trying to win approval for controversial tar sands pipelines. Since coming to power, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has used his government apparatus to serve a natural resources development agenda, while creating sweeping domestic surveillance programs that have kept close tabs on indigenous and environmental opposition and shared intelligence with companies. Harper has transformed Canada’s foreign policy to offer full diplomatic backing to foreign mining and oil projects, tying aid pledges to their advancement and jointly funding ventures with companies throughout Africa, South America and Asia.

Keith Stewart, an energy policy analyst with Greenpeace Canada, said: ‘There seems to be no limit to what the Harper government will do to help their friends in the oil and mining industries. They’ve muzzled scientists, gutted environmental laws, reneged on our international climate commitments, labelled environmental critics as criminals and traitors, and have now been caught engaging in economic espionage in a friendly country. Canadians, and our allies, have a right to ask who exactly is receiving the gathered intelligence and whose interests are being served’.

Snowden leaked the CSEC spying documents to Guardian journalist Glen Greenwald, who lives in Brazil. Greenwald then gave the information to the Brazilian OGlobo channel television investigative journalism program Fantastico. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Greenwald explained that “Brazil is the tip of the iceberg on Canadian spying” and that “more disclosures about Canada’s aggressive foreign spying activities are coming.”

According to Greenwald, “There is a huge amount of stuff about Canada in these archives [held by Snowden] because Canada works so closely with the NSA… Canadians should know that there is nothing really unique about what Canada is doing to Brazil — it’s not like Brazil is the only target for Canada. The reason this is so newsworthy is that the U.S. and its allies love to say the only reason they are doing this kind of mass surveillance is they want to stop terrorism and protect national security — but these documents make clear that it is industrial and economic competition, it’s about mining resources and minerals.”

Canada works so closely with the NSA that both collaborated with GCHQ, which is Britain’s NSA equivalent, in spying on the closest allies of all three countries — France and Germany. According to Guardian reports based on Snowden’s documents, CSEC, NSA and GCHQ together spied on diplomats participating in the G-20 meeting in London in 2009. This very “sensitive” operation included breaking into the delegates’ smart-phones to gather their e-mail messages and calls. CSEC has also spied on Japan, South Korea, and Mexico for commercial purposes.

Greenwald was struck by how avidly Canada participated in the NSA’s most damaging activities. These include the NSA’s “highly aggressive” Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) unit. “TAO is one of the most aggressive and insidious parts of the NSA – they’re hackers, and they hack other people’s computers exactly the way hackers that the U.S. puts in prison do,” Greenwald said. “Canada is working with the NSA on some of the most aggressive techniques that the NSA did.”

Such aggressive techniques include the important part CSEC has played in the NSA’s attempts to break encrypted information on the Internet. CSEC’s help has allowed the NSA to create a “backdoor to secretly decrypt data that millions regarded as safe.”

Significantly, Greenwald added in an interview with the CBC that there would be further revelations also about CSEC spying on “ordinary [Canadian] citizens”: “There’s a lot of other documents, about [CSEC] spying on ordinary citizens, on allied governments, on the world, and their co-operation with the U.S. government, and the nature of that co-operation… I think most Canadian citizens will find [this] quite surprising, if not shocking, because it’s all done in secret and Canadians are not aware of it.”

In June, a Globe and Mail article made clear that CSEC is conducting a vast program of domestic surveillance in Canada that blatantly violates Canadians’ civil liberties. Since 2005, “CSEC has been systematically mining the metadata of Canadians’ electronic communications — phone calls, e-mails, text messages, Internet visits, and collecting, thereby, information that can be used to develop comprehensive profiles of the habits and social networks of targeted individuals and groups.”

Peter Mackay, Canada’s Defence Minister, told Parliament in response to a question about the mass surveillance of Canadians’ communications: “I have a heads-up for the member… This is something that has been happening for years.”

According to Keith Jones writing on the World Socialist website: “As Canada’s government from 1994 and 2006, the Liberals oversaw a vast expansion of the repressive powers of the state, including the issuing by Defence Minister Bill Graham of a ministerial directive in 2005 authorizing the metadata mining of Canadians’ electronic communications.”

Canadian officials maintain that the country’s laws prevent CSEC from spying on Canadians, but, as Jones puts it: “This is a patent lie, and the fact that the government and CSEC invoke it so readily is itself in an indication that there is much they want to hide.”

CSEC is actually required to spy on Canadians as part of its official mandate because one of its main tasks is to help the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS — Canada’s CIA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services, and other police forces carry out “national security” investigations. Also, the NSA gives CSEC information on Canadians regularly and in exchange receives the same kind of information on Americans. Both agencies claim that they do not spy on their citizens, which is questionable; but even if this were true, the claim is deceptive because they can get the information they seek on their citizens from any of the other “Five Eyes” agencies.

Ed Patrick points out on the World Socialist website that, “Since almost all Canadian Internet traffic passes through the United States – an e-mail from Montreal or Toronto could pass through several American locations before being returned to Canada – Canadian communications are inevitably intercepted en masse by the NSA, which has no legal or constitutional restrictions on eavesdropping on Canadians. In response to direct questions on the subject, the Canadian government has systemically refused to deny that the NSA passes on information to Canada’s national-security apparatus.”

As Canada’s Solicitor-General during 2002-03, former Liberal MP Wayne Easter was the cabinet minister in charge of CSIS and the RCMP. Easter says that it was “common” for the NSA “to pass on information about Canadians.” At that time, the “Five Eyes” partners of Canada would scan global intelligence signals and would be “looking for key words on Canadians… and they’d give it to the Canadian agencies,” Easter explained. William Binney, former NSA technical director, adds that NSA and CSEC “have integrated personnel,” which means they exchange employees to “improve seamless collaboration.”

In order to provide legal justification for spying on its citizens, the Canadian government conveniently considers metadata the container in which a communication occurs, and so not constitutionally exempt from surveillance. The government’s position is that it has the right to spy on who you send e-mails to and receive them from, with the same being the case for phone calls and text messages, as long as CSEC does not look at the content of all these messages. But, with such detailed information, a lot can be discovered about any person, and this obviously constitutes massive spying. Also, once CSEC has all this information, how do we know it is not examining the contents of the communications as well? Are we to trust the word of a government that is already spying on us without our permission?

As Keith Jones explains: “Through such metadata mining it is possible for the state to rapidly develop a detailed portrait of an individual — including his place of work, political views, associates, and whereabouts — and of the members and supporters of any group deemed by the state to be a potential threat to national security.”

While justifying its metadata spying, the Canadian government denies that CSEC has access to the NSA’s PRISM Program and has been using it as a means of looking at Canadians’ communications. PRISM, as I reported in September, allows the NSA to gain access to the servers of Microsoft, Apple, Google, AOL, YouTube, Skype, Yahoo, PalTalk, and Facebook, thereby turning the Internet into a colossal spying system. This official Canadian denial cannot be taken seriously, given that the NSA and CSEC are very close partners and have been sharing intelligence for more than six decades.

Following the Obama administration in the U.S., the Harper government is well on its way to turning Canada into a police state in which civil liberties are openly violated. In Canada’s case, this would be a petro-police state since both the Harper government’s spying on Brazil and its ominous domestic surveillance appear tied to its economic strategy based on expanding the profits of Canada’s oil and mining companies. This obsessive focus on resource extraction has already made Canada an international disgrace by turning it into a leading destroyer of the global environment. The spying scandal further shames Canada worldwide and damages its relations with an important country. The resource obsession has also deindustrialized Canada, made it increasingly a puppet of Washington, and violated its people’s basic freedoms.

As a February Guardian article by Stephen Leahy titled “Canada’s Environmental Activists Seen as Threat to National Security” puts it: “Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country’s police and security agencies has become the ‘new normal,’ according to a researcher who has analyzed security documents released under freedom of information laws. Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organize petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

The RCMP and CSIS view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as ‘forms of attack’ and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents. Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said.

In 2011, a Montreal man who wrote letters opposing shale gas fracking was charged under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Documents released in January show the RCMP has been monitoring Quebec residents who oppose fracking. ‘Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC had better take precautions,’ Monaghan said. In a Canadian Senate committee on national security and defence meeting on Feb. 11, Richard Fadden, the director of CSIS, said they are more worried about domestic terrorism, acknowledging that the vast majority of its spying is done within Canada. Fadden said they are ‘following a number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism’.

Such purported inclinations to “terrorism” resulted in many activists being jailed by the police in Toronto in 2010, a week before the G-20 Summit began there. The activists had done absolutely nothing wrong. Their only “offence” was that they might do something the government would not like after the G-20 leaders arrived, making it clear that Canadians have no right to demonstrate or even plan to do so.

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent. He is author of the anthology The Latin American Revolution [now available from the CCPA] and the radio documentary Capitalism is the Crisis. For his publications, visit www.asadismi.ws.

 

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In today’s UK Column News we spoke to Vanessa Beeley about the events taking place in Madaya, Syria, where, it is alleged, thousands of people are being starved because they are under siege by forces loyal to President Assad.

But what is the truth? 

Interview with Vanessa Beeley

You can see the full news programme here:

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In 1959, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower sought to reduce America’s atomic firepower by as much as 50% on the grounds that its stock alone was enough to wipe-out the entire human species and some.

Eisenhower was aware of US plans to kill millions of civilians in Russia in the event of a nuclear war. Documents revealed recently by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration confirms the “systematic destruction” in major cities, including 179 in Moscow, 145 in Leningrad and 91 in East Berlin. The targets are referred to as DGZs or “Designated Ground Zeros.” While many are industrial facilities, government buildings and the like, one for each city is simply designated “Population.” In other words, America had atomic weapons targeted on mass population areas to kill as many civilians as possible in the event of a conflict with Russia.

Matthew G. McKinzie, the director of the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council also confirmed “The heart of deterrence is the threat to destroy the adversary’s cities, even today.”

Matters have not got better at all. In fact, the cold war may have been a very tense time but the situation is now much worse, or in the words of Richard Falk, American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University:

“Not since the dawn of the nuclear age at the end of World War II has the danger of nuclear war been greater.” Falk said just ten years after the end of the cold war.

The Guardian quotes former US defence Secretary William Perry:

“The risks of a nuclear catastrophe – in a regional war, terrorist attack, by accident or miscalculation – is greater than it was during the cold war and rising.”

Perry, who served at the Pentagon from 1994 to 1997, made his comments a few hours before North Korea’s nuclear test last week, and listed Pyongyang’s aggressive atomic weapons programme as one of the global risk factors.

Perry continues:

“Progress made after the fall of the Soviet Union to reduce the chance of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia is now unravelling. The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war. A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia” – just as Falk feared.

Twenty new nuclear missiles have been delivered to Germany to add to the growing weapons systems aimed at Moscow by America and its NATO allies. Collectively, these twenty weapons could take out the equivalent of eighty Hiroshima’s or 12 million civilians.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned the U.S. against stationing its nuclear weapons in Europe, aimed at Russia to avoid “dangerous consequences.”

The increased nuclear weapons stationed in Germany increases the stock targeting Russia to 200 that are based across Europe, currently deployed in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey, enough to wipe out tens of millions of people.

Russia warns that the increased military operations of NATO, led by the US, is deteriorating the military-political situation in the world.

Twenty years after the cold war, neither nation has ruled out first use of its nuclear arsenal and both maintain a launch-on-warning, keeping a combined total of 1,800 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert that could annihilate the human species.

It is clear that with relations deteriorating all the time between these two super-powers, communication between Nato and Russian chains of command is at a new low, far worse than in the 1970s and 80s, which makes everything so much more dangerous.

But the constant US/Russia threat is only one of many dangers.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI.org) reports that:

“nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials remain spread across hundreds of sites around the globe—some of it poorly secured.”

And

“meanwhile, the international community is still not effectively organised to protect the world from catastrophic terrorism.”

NTI sends a clear warning

“This disturbing lack of an effective system for security standards and practices around the world’s most dangerous materials stands in contrast to the strict standards in place in other high-risk global enterprises, such as aviation.”

Director General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also made this very worrying statement in July 2013:

“Over a hundred incidents of thefts and other unauthorised activities involving nuclear and radioactive material are reported to the IAEA every year.”

Concern rises further when considering America and Russia’s role in Ukraine and Crimea. The result – Russia and the United States declined to renew their Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) umbrella agreement, which provided a legal foundation for negotiating specific joint projects for eliminating or reducing WMD-related threats.

Most of Russia’s Soviet-era WMD assets have been eliminated or made more secure over the twenty years of the CTR agreement. In addition, the Russian government has increased its own capacity to control and defend these assets, due in part to a remarkable economic recovery since the late 1990s which is now under threat due to economic sanctions imposed by the West. It doesn’t help that the US has reduced funding to these programmes in Russia.

What did the CTR achieve in twenty years of US/Russian co-operation? As the Centre for Strategic and International Studies highlights:

“over 7,600 warheads deactivated, over 900 intercontinental ballistic missiles and over 650 submarine launched ballistic missiles destroyed, 24 Russian nuclear sites have undergone security upgrades, and all nuclear weapons have been removed from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. By many accounts, CTR – also called the “Nunn-Lugar” program after its founders Senators Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar – is the most successful nonproliferation program.”

It is bad enough that on average every 4.6 years there is a ‘serious military mistake’ involving nuclear weapons that could trigger an automated, but unintentional state-to-state nuclear exchange. It is made worse with the ever increasing threat of terrorism, especially now that Islamic State militants announced they would obtain a nuclear weapon within the next 12 months, particularly now that illegal weapons dealers are seeking IS buyers for their wares.

As the US administration relentlessly instigates confrontation and conflict around the world in pursuit of global domination in the guise of a ‘war on terror’, it raises the stakes to fever pitch.  Instead of trying to initiate peaceful outcomes and reconciliation to collaborate for our own safety, all we have is hatred, alienation, animosity and the constant threat of dark times as the US continues high risk geopolitical ambitions over human existance.

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The US Navy’s “goals and objectives” outline for 2016, released last week, does not mince words: the first goal listed in the second subhead reads: “Buy more ships.”

And that is exactly what the world’s most powerful navy is doing. On Wednesday, the Defense Department announced it was moving forward with plans to replace its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, the most lethal killing machines in the history of mankind, with a completely new design beginning in 2021.

Each Ohio-class ballistic submarine is, by itself, the fifth most powerful military in the world. The Navy operates 14 of them. Each submarine carries 24 Trident II missiles, with each missile carrying eight warheads with a yield six times greater than the “little boy” bomb that killed over a hundred thousand people in the US bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.

Image: The Navy’s Goals and Objectives outline for 2016

With an effective range of more than 7,456 miles, a single Ohio-class submarine in the waters outside of San Diego could obliterate 192 cities in western China, with a combined population of 400 million people, if the commander-in-chief were so inclined.

Image: A comparison of the world’s aircraft and helicopter carriers

But the Ohio class is apparently in need of an upgrade, and the White House gave the Pentagon the go-ahead last Monday to send a “Request for Proposal” to the ship’s contractor, General Dynamics Electric Boat, approving funds for the building of a prototype. Each submarine, of which there will be 12, will cost an estimated $6-8 billion—not including research and development costs, the price of each submarine’s nearly 200 nuclear warheads, and associated operating costs—up from $2 billion for the Ohio class.

The day after the White House gave the go-ahead for replacing the Ohio-class submarines, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported Monday that up to a million people will lose food stamp benefits in 2016.

Twenty-three states are expected this year to lift a moratorium on one of the harshest austerity measures imposed by the Clinton administration’s “welfare reform” program, which caps the amount of time many people are eligible for food stamps at three months. The time limits were halted during the recession, but under the pretense that there is “no money,” to pay for food stamps, states all over the country are re-imposing the time limits.

“The loss of this food assistance, which averages approximately $150 to $170 per person per month for this group, will cause serious hardship among many,” reported the organization. The CBPP notes, “USDA data show that the individuals likely to be cut off by the three-month limit have average monthly income of approximately 17 percent of the poverty line, and they typically qualify for no other income support.”

In announcing the food stamp cuts, Clinton pledged to “spend the taxpayers’ money wisely and with discipline, that we can spend more money on the future.” If he had been telling the truth, he would have declared that he was proposing the cuts so that the Navy could “Buy more ships.”

After all, the money has to come from somewhere. And it’s easiest to take from those who are the least capable of defending themselves. In addition to the poor people who depend on food stamps to survive, working class children have been targeted.

The same day that the White House gave the go-ahead for the design of the new submarines, the CBPP released a report showing that funding for schools has been slashed in most states since 2008, and in 15 states by more than 10 percent. Arizona has cut education spending by 23.3 percent, Alabama by 21.4 percent, Idaho by 16.9 percent, and Georgia by 16.5 percent.

Image: States have slashed education spending since 2008

While there is, of course, no money for children and the poor, defense contractors are licking their chops over the expected uptick in global military spending resulting from the wars flaring out of control in the Middle East and the growing standoff in Eastern Europe and the Pacific.

Defense industry analyst Deloitte gleefully declared earlier this month that military spending is “poised for a rebound” as a result of “heightened tensions” around the world.

It notes,

“2015 was a pivotal year that saw heightened tensions between China, its neighbors and the US over ‘island building’ in the South and East China Seas, and the related claims of sovereign ocean territory rights by China. In addition, Russia and the Ukraine are at odds related to Russia’s takeover of Crimea and their military actions in Eastern Ukraine,”

while “The recent tragic bombings in Paris, Beirut, Mali, the Sinai Peninsula, and other places have emboldened nations to join in the fight against terrorism.”

Image: The US spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined

The report notes that “improved profitability” will result from “renewed interest from buyers” in acquiring “armored ground vehicles, ground attack munitions, light air support aircraft” and “maritime patrol ships and aircraft,” as “the military operations tempo is likely to increase and more missions are executed.”

The global uptick in military spending coincides with a major new shopping spree by the United States, which spends as much money on its military as the next seven countries—China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, India and Germany—combined. The US expends $609.9 billion out of the $1.7 trillion spent worldwide by all countries each year on war.

But this figure is slated to surge as “Many large, mainly US [Department of Defense] programs representing billions of US dollars, are likely to start soon, enter the engineering manufacturing design phase, and reach low-rate or full-scale production over the next few years. These programs include Ohio Class Submarine replacement, F-35 fighter jet, KC-46A aerial refueling tanker, and Long Range Strike Bomber.”

Just one of these programs, the F-35 “Lightning II,” plagued with delays and cost-overruns, will cost $1.45 trillion over its lifecycle, more than twice the amount that state, federal, and local governments spend educating 50 million children each year.

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German Media Incites Racist Hysteria

January 12th, 2016 by Peter Schwarz

Using the pretext of alleged incidents of sexual harassment in Köln (Cologne), the German media has launched a hysterical, racist campaign against millions of immigrants and Muslims.

On New Year’s Eve, thousands of people gathered in Köln and in other major cities throughout Germany to celebrate the holiday. The next day, police issued a press release stating that there was a “festive mood” at the celebrations and that the atmosphere that evening was “overall peaceful.”

However, one day later, a second statement was issued that referred for the first time to alleged attacks on women. On January 5, Köln’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)-backed Mayor Henriette Reker said at a press conference that there was “no evidence that people who are residing in Köln as refugees are amongst the perpetrators.”

Suddenly, the media exploded with allegations of mass sexual abuse, setting into motion a hysterical campaign directed against the immigrant population. On January 7, anonymous police officers told the media that “most” of those suspected were migrants. A January 8 report by the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced that out of 31 suspects, 18 were refugees. Among the suspects were two Germans and an American.

It was not until the period between January 8 and January 10 that the number of those alleging sexual harassment rose from 170 to over 400. So far, only two people have been arrested, and they have been released.

What actually occurred in Köln is not yet known. Some reports point to a provocation. Various international media outlets, including CNN, have reported that at least one undercover police agent had infiltrated the crowd and later reported she was assaulted.

It is, of course, possible that there were incidents of hooliganism in which women were harassed. Unfortunately, such behavior is not uncommon in large crowds almost anywhere in the world where liquor is flowing freely as it was on New Year’s Eve. At last year’s Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, for example, over 140 people were arrested, 50 for felonies. At last year’s Oktoberfest in Munich, the number of sexual assault allegations rose to 20.

At any rate, given the absence of factual substantiation of what remain, at this point, no more than allegations, the ferocity of the press response can be explained only in political terms. The political parties and the media have launched a campaign that for many decades would have been considered impossible in Germany.

Some 70 years after the collapse of the Third Reich, the media is making use of the same disgusting types of racial stereotyping, with open appeals to paranoid sexual obsessions, in which the Nazis specialized. Once again, a shameless German media is evoking images of pure Nordic women being preyed upon by dark-skinned untermenschen (sub-humans).

On Saturday, the magazine Focus published on its cover an image of a nude woman covered by black handprints. The weekend edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung carried an image of a white woman’s body with a black hand grasping her genitals. The newspaper also disseminated the image on Facebook.

When a wave of protest erupted, the Süddeutsche apologized. However, Chief Editor of Focus Ulrich Reitz refused to apologise on the grounds that “we are depicting what is unfortunately happening.” Whoever said the cover was racist, he claimed, was “fearful of the truth.”

It is not only degenerate journalists who are purveying this racist filth. Leading German academics are also getting into the act. Professor Jörg Baberowski of Berlin’s Humboldt University has written a column for the far-right BaslerZeitung accusing “Germany’s leading media” of remaining silent when “on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of Arab men sexually harassed, humiliated and robbed women on the Cathedral Square in Köln.”

There is no mass popular base for the racialist campaign. It is being instigated and directed by the political elites.

The new edition of Der Spiegel states: “A year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2014, similar assaults would have been (unfortunately) just an issue for the local press.” Der Spiegel adds, “Any attack could just as well have provided the material for national excitement—a child murder in a city park or any other crime in which primal fears are concentrated, stereotypes combined and foreigners involved in one form or another.”

However, this does not prevent Der Spiegel from legitimizing the media campaign. It declares that the events in Köln show the need for the strengthening of the police to defend “our canon of values.”

The political coordinates in Germany have shifted so far to the right that even the Left Party—a monument to political spinelessness—endorses calls for an authoritarian state. This universal shift to the right in all sections of the political establishment has, in fact, nothing to do with the events in Köln. It is, rather, entirely bound up with the resurgence of German militarism.

It is now two years since President Gauck and officials in the federal government announced the end of foreign policy restraint and stated that Germany was, in the words of Social Democratic Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “too big to comment on foreign policy only from the sidelines.” Since then, the government has supported the right-wing coup in Kiev, participated in NATO’s deployment against Russia, sent troops to Mali and reinforced the military mission in Afghanistan. Recently, German Tornado jets joined the bombing campaign in Syria.

But despite intensive efforts, the ruling elites have thus far failed to break the ingrained resistance of broad social layers to militarism. The vast majority of Germans still oppose foreign missions and war operations by the Bundeswehr (Armed Forces). Now the issue of sexual violence against women is being employed in an attempt to overcome this resistance. The events in Köln are being exaggerated and exploited to this end. The racist smear campaign against refugees and immigrants is a means to prepare the expansion of the military intervention in the Middle East.

The entire tragic and disastrous experience of the 20th century proves that Germany’s ruling class cannot wage war without resorting to racism and erecting an authoritarian regime.

In recent months, the most popular film in Germany has been Erist wieder da(He’s Back). It is a satirical political fantasy that imagines how a resurrected Hitler, emerging from his World War II bunker, would rebuild his political career with the help of the modern media. During the past week, the filmmaker’s satire has acquired an all too disturbing element of reality.

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La semana pasada, se dio a conocer un inusual cruce de comunicados entre Costa Rica y Venezuela. Se trata del comunicado oficial de Venezuela en el que las autoridades venezolanas le exigieron a Costa Rica no intervenir en sus asuntos internos (ver  nota  de La Nación).

Inusualmente vehemente (con expresiones extremadamente duras) y emitido en la fecha del 5 de enero del 2016, el texto responde a un comunicado oficial del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Costa Rica circulado el día anterior (en horas de la tarde) por Costa Rica: en su comunicado,  Costa Rica externaba su preocupación por el posible efecto en la conformación de la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela de algunas impugnaciones aceptadas por las autoridades electorales venezolanas. El tema de las impugnaciones ante el órgano venezolano a cargo de fiscalizar las elecciones ha sido particularmente delicado en años recientes: cabe recordar que en septiembre del 2013, el mismo Secretario General de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) había recomendado que, pese a peticiones de la oposición venezolana, este tipo de reclamos no deberían ser examinados por los órganos de la OEA (ver  nota  de El País). Como también se recordará, un día antes de surtir jurídicamente efectos la denuncia del pacto de San José anunciada por parte de Venezuela el 10 de septiembre del 2012 (Nota 1), la oposición presentó en septiembre del 2013 una denuncia ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos sobre las impugnaciones que le fueron rechazadas (ver  nota  de El Universal).

Al final de esta nota el lector encontrará el texto de ambos comunicados oficiales emitidos la semana pasada en San José y en Caracas, de manera a poder apreciar con precisión su contenido exacto. Advertimos desde ya que la comparación entre ambos textos refleja una diferencia de tono sustancial. Esta última obedece no solamente al carácter extremadamente polémico de este tema,  sino también a razones que derivan de la aplicación de  algunos principios y reglas del derecho internacional público.


Los Presidentes de Costa Rica y de Venezuela durante la III Cumbre de la CELAC realizada en enero del 2015 en Costa Rica. Foto extraída de artículo de prensa titulado: ” Maduro: “la III Cumbre de la CELAC marca un nuevo ciclo geopolítico regional”

Una posición de Costa Rica al parecer aislada

Antes de analizar la perspectiva jurídica, resulta oportuno indicar que, pese a mantener relaciones poco armoniosas con Venezuela en años recientes, Colombia y Panamá no se pronunciaron sobre los efectos de estas impugnaciones a cargos de diputados en Venezuela (que antecedieron la instalación de la nueva Asamblea Nacional en Venezuela realizada la semana pasada). Cabe también señalar que, en Costa Rica, el domingo 3 de enero del 2016, en horas de la tarde, un comunicado de un partido político costarricense (ver  comunicado ) criticaba duramente el actuar de las autoridades electorales venezolanas.

Por más polémico que sea un tema relacionado con la situación imperante dentro de un Estado, las valoraciones realizadas por partidos políticos, sus líderes u otros entes desde otro Estado no interesan mayormente las reglas vigentes en el ordenamiento jurídico internacional: se trata de entidades privadas, de igual manera que las manifestaciones provenientes de figuras públicas (ex Presidentes por ejemplo), de líderes religiosos, de agrupaciones políticas internacionales o de importantes medios o formadores de opinión. Un Estado puede reaccionar airadamente mediante algún comunicado ante una manifestación de esta naturaleza, o ante alguna publicación en alguna revista de prestigio (o pedir explicaciones sobre el contenido de una nota que considera ofensiva), pero no tiene como invocar alguna regulación del derecho internacional aplicable a la materia.

En cambio, las valoraciones de un Estado sobre la situación interna en otro Estado interpelan varias reglas del derecho internacional.

Una de ellas es un principio que se considera como uno de los pilares del derecho internacional público.

El principio de no intervención en asuntos internos.

El principio de no intervención en asuntos internos ha sido consagrado en un sinnúmero de instrumentos internacionales, incluyendo la Carta de las Naciones Unidas de 1945 o la Carta que crea la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) suscrita en 1948. Esta norma obliga a los Estados y a sus representantes (en particular a la hora de referirse a situaciones de índole interna en otro Estado) a abstenerse de toda valoración crítica y manifestarse con gran cautela. Esta misma prudencia explica que los representantes oficiales de un Estado acreditados en otro Estado deban revisar con especial esmero su léxico: por ejemplo, las últimas disculpas formales presentadas por Costa Rica a otro Estado se deben a las declaraciones emitidas en un programa de radio por su embajador en Panamá, Melvin Sáenz Biolley. Estas declaraciones obligaron a Costa Rica a enviar en marzo del 2013 una carta expresando “sus más sentidas disculpas por las expresiones emitidas por don Melvin y las molestias que estas causaron al ilustrado Gobierno de Panamá” (Nota 2).

En otros casos, las valoraciones públicas de una autoridad de un Estado particularmente duras tienen un objetivo preciso: torpedear algún tipo de acercamiento o dificultar alguna iniciativa conjunta. Para citar un ejemplo que refiere a Costa Rica (entre muchos más que ofrece la práctica internacional), en el 2006, el Presidente de Oscar Arias Sánchez (2006-2010) indicó (en respuesta a una carta pública del Vicepresidente de Cuba Carlos Lage Dávila) que: “No me atrevo a llamar a nadie mentiroso y tampoco permito que me llamen mentiroso/…/ Yo tengo muchos defectos, pero mentiroso no soy” (ver  nota  de prensa de AlDía).

Manifestaciones de otros Estados aceptadas sin causar fricciones

La numerosa correspondencia diplomática indica que ciertas manifestaciones externadas por un Estado con relación a alguna situación interna no afectan mayormente las relaciones entre dos Estados: es usualmente el caso de expresiones de pesar o de solidaridad a raíz de alguna catástrofe o de drama nacional. El  comunicado  de Panamá titulado: ”Panamá se solidariza con Paraguay por daños a causa de fuertes lluvias” del 29 de diciembre del 2015 se inscribe en esta lógica, y busca reafirmar lazos  de solidaridad entre dos Estados. De igual manera una voluntad de acercamiento es a menudo perceptible en las felicitaciones enviadas por Estados al celebrarse alguna conmemoración nacional significativa, o bien al culminar un proceso electoral (para citar algunos ejemplos). Sobre este último tipo de manifestaciones, tuvimos la oportunidad de examinar brevemente las numerosas felicitaciones recibidas por las nuevas autoridades de Costa Rica en abril de 2014 por parte de gran cantidad de Estados – con la notable excepción de Panamá (Nota 3).

Como muchos otros Estados, Costa Rica celebró la culminación del proceso electoral en Venezuela en diciembre del 2015, mediante un comunicado con fecha del 7 de diciembre, en el que concluía que: “manifiesta su convicción  de que la República Bolivariana de Venezuela  y Costa Rica, continuarán profundizando sus tradicionales relaciones de amistad y cooperación, así como la agenda común de valores y propósitos compartidos en el plano bilateral, regional y mundial” (Nota 4).

Manifestaciones susceptibles de causar tensiones

A diferencia de los ejemplos antes descritos, una valoración o una simple preocupación por parte de un Estado sobre el funcionamiento de una entidad estatal de otro Estado (o un juicio de valor o crítica sobre una determinada situación) pueden ser consideradas como una indebida intromisión. Si la decisión de un Estado es la de realizar una manifestación crítica con relación a lo que ocurre en otro Estado, la crítica debe ser velada, y formulada con extrema prudencia y mesura. El uso de cada vocablo, el título mismo del comunicado, la puntuación y otros detalles deben ser cuidadosamente revisados y sopesados en aras de evitar herir susceptibilidades y provocar una reacción negativa por parte del otro Estado. En caso de querer enviar un mensaje externando veladamente alguna crítica, el arte consiste en escoger los términos más neutros cuya interpretación y alcance puedan ser variables.  En caso de alguna reacción posterior del Estado a la crítica proviniendo de otro Estado, el invocar una mala interpretación del primero permite solventar el malestar.

La sensibilidad del Estado objeto de dicha valoración es, como previsible, mucho mayor en caso de estar viviendo momentos de tensión interna. Desde este punto de vista seres humanos y Estados compartimos las mismas variaciones en cuanto a nuestro grado de susceptibilidad: tiende a aumentar significativamente cuando pugnamos en nuestro interior.

Como indicado en las líneas anteriores, remitimos al lector al texto de ambos comunicados de prensa, reproducidos al final de esta breve nota. En caso de que Venezuela haya emitido otra protesta similar contra algún otro Estado latinoamericano en días recientes, agradeceríamos enviarnos (al correo electrónico: cursodicr(a)gmail.com) algún dato o referencia que se nos pueda haber escapado. Hemos procedido a revisar cuidadosamente las informaciones en estos días y realizado diversas búsquedas sin registrar ninguna protesta adicional a la emitida por Venezuela contra Costa Rica. A ese respecto, la lectura del comunicado emitido por Argentina el 6 de enero del 2016 (es decir dos días después del comunicado de Costa Rica) con relación a los resultados electorales en Venezuela reviste especial interés, incluyendo su título (un tanto evocador): “Asunción de los nuevos integrantes de la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela” (Nota 5).

La probable ausencia de otra protesta de Venezuela hace más llamativo aún el comunicado emitido por Costa Rica (que pareciera – salvo error de nuestra parte –  ser el único en la región latinoamericana en haberse preocupado por los efectos de las impugnaciones sobre la composición de la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela).

La tensión provocada en el 2007

Cabe recordar que en el 2007, una fuerte tensión entre Venezuela y Costa Rica se originó a partir de declaraciones del Presidente Oscar Arias Sánchez sobre la forma de gobernar en Venezuela: en aquella oportunidad, el 1ero de febrero del 2007, el Presidente de Costa Rica señaló en una entrevista realizada en Colombia (con relación a los nuevos poderes concedidos por el Parlamento al Poder Ejecutivo en Venezuela) que: “Hay una diferencia sencilla entre un dictador y un demócrata: si el demócrata no tiene oposición su deber es crearla, mientras que el sueño del dictador es eliminar toda oposición” (ver  nota  de prensa de El Universal). Venezuela, luego de declaraciones de su Presidente, amenazó con suspender las operaciones de una empresa venezolana de producción de aluminio en Costa Rica denominada ALUNASA (en la que trabajaban 400 personas). Consultas al más alto nivel y gestiones personales del mismo Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Costa Rica de la época, Bruno Stagno (ver  nota  de El Universal)  lograron que Venezuela optara por reanudar las operaciones de ALUNASA en los últimos días del mes de febrero del 2007 (ver  nota  de La Nación). Se leyó por parte del Presidente de Costa Rica que: “Me parece maravilloso. Estaba en juego no sólo el empleo de 400 trabajadores, sino el sustento de 2.500 personas“, (ver  nota  de IPS).

Si bien los trabajadores de la empresa mantuvieron sus fuentes de trabajo, en abril del 2007, la embajadora de Venezuela en Costa Rica, Nora Uribe, fue trasladada a otra sede diplomática de Venezuela, ante otras fricciones entre ambos Estados. Meses después, Costa Rica y Venezuela no habían extendido el beneplácito a sus futuros representantes oficiales (“placet” o “agrément”) (ver  nota  de prensa de El Universal). No fue sino hasta el 28 de octubre del 2008 que ambos Estados lograron normalizar plenamente sus relaciones, con la presentación de las credenciales del nuevo embajador de Venezuela a las autoridades de Costa Rica (ver  nota  de prensa de El Universal), antecedida por el mismo acto realizado por el embajador Vladimir de la Cruz de Lemos el 19 de agosto del 2008 en Caracas.

Perspectivas en el presente caso

Las perspectivas son un tanto inciertas. En particular para Costa Rica,  en la medida en que ningún otro Estado de América Latina o  de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y del Caribe (CELAC), y ninguna organización regional o subregional de América Latina (ni ningún órgano de las Naciones Unidas) han optado por externar criterio alguno. Con ello no queremos en lo más mínimo minimizar la delicada situación existente en Venezuela, pero si hacer ver que los demás Estados se han mostrado extremadamente cautos y prudentes con relación a esta crisis en Venezuela. No cabe duda que el efecto de las impugnaciones examinadas por los órganos electorales de Venezuela sobre la composición del Poder Legislativo venezolano reviste interés, y genera un alto grado de preocupación para los venezolanos, en Venezuela y fuera de ella.

Si algún Estado de América Latina ha hecho ver su preocupación, fue utilizando canales diplomáticos sin que ello trascendiera a la luz pública. Con relación a los canales diplomáticos existentes entre ambos Estados, es de recordar que el actual embajador de Venezuela en San José, Jesús Arias Fuenmayor, presentó sus credenciales a las autoridades de Costa Rica el 19 de junio del 2014 (ver  nota  de prensa), a pocas semanas de asumir la nueva administración del Presidente Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera.

Dentro de la gestual corporal entre Estados (que no siempre se deja entrever), la designación de un nuevo representante al iniciarse un mandato puede a veces evidenciar la voluntad de relanzar relaciones bilaterales afectadas por fricciones o desencuentros pasados. En el caso de Costa Rica, no cuenta en la actualidad con un embajador en Caracas: el 26 de marzo del 2015, las autoridades de Costa Rica destituyeron al embajador designado en Venezuela, Federico Picado, por declaraciones emitidas sobre la política venezolana consideradas inapropiadas por sus superiores jerárquicos (ver  nota  de la agencia EFE).

Ambos aparatos diplomáticos conocen  seguramente la amplia gama de gestos y de señales a su disposición para hacer frente a la situación creada durante esta semana: pueden optar por agudizar la situación o al contrario buscar, en los próximos días, la manera de apaciguarla. Otra opción puede consistir en no referirse al tema mientras se solucione la delicada crisis política que vive Venezuela, y buscar luego la forma de normalizar sus relaciones.

Conclusión

A diferencia del cruce de palabras y de declaraciones iracundas plasmadas en medios de prensa que se leyeron en el 2007, esta vez  asistimos a un intercambio de comunicados oficiales, con uno, de Venezuela, particularmente duro, exigiendo a Costa Rica no intervenir en sus asuntos internos. Si ambos aparatos diplomáticos optan por mantener sus respectivas posiciones, tiempos difíciles en las relaciones políticas entre Costa Rica y Venezuela se podrían avecinar, con posibles efectos en Centroamérica: cabe recordar que Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua son Estados Miembros de PetroCaribe (ver  sitio oficial  ), una organización regional impulsada por Venezuela.

Nicolas Boeglin 

 

Notas

Nota 1: Sobre esta denuncia, remitimos a nuestra breve nota publicada en estas mismas páginas, BOEGLIN N., “La denuncia del Pacto de San José por parte de Venezuela”,  Informa-tico, 12/09/2012, Texto disponible  aquí .

Nota 2: El 7 de marzo del  2013, Costa Rica retiró a su embajador en Panamá (ver  nota  de prensa de  La Nación) y envió una nota en la que presentó sus disculpas formales a las autoridades panameñas. Ello se debió a declaraciones dadas por el embajador Melvin Sáenz Biolley, el 6 de febrero anterior, primero en las afueras de un estadio, y luego en un medio radial panameño conducido por la periodista Bettina García Muller. Costa Rica notificó oficialmente a Panamá que: “El Gobierno de Costa Rica desea hacer llegar sus más sentidas disculpas por las expresiones emitidas por don Melvin y las molestias que estas causaron al ilustrado Gobierno de Panamá” (ver nota de prensa de La Nación). En julio del 2013, el señor Melvin Sáenz Biolley presentó oficialmente sus credenciales como embajador de Costa Rica en Perú (ver  nota  de CRHoy).

Nota 3: Remitimos al lector a nuestra breve nota BOEGLIN N.,  “Estados felicitan al Presidente electo de Costa Rica”, Tribuglobal, edición del 14/04/2014. Texto  disponible  aquí.

Nota 4: El texto del comunicado de Costa Rica  se lee así: “07/12/2015 12:52 PM – Costa Rica celebra ejercicio democrático de elecciones parlamentarias en Venezuela – El Gobierno de Costa Rica expresa su cálido saludo al Honorable Pueblo y al Ilustrado Gobierno de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela  por el éxito del ejercicio democrático de  las elecciones parlamentarias, celebradas el domingo 6 de diciembre de  2015. Costa Rica brinda su reconocimiento al pueblo venezolano que con su participación cívica ha dado muestras de su vocación por la democracia, y saluda a los partidos participantes en la elección parlamentaria, por contribuir a revitalizar el ejercicio democrático en esa nación. Además, manifiesta su convicción  de que la República Bolivariana de Venezuela  y Costa Rica, continuarán profundizando sus tradicionales relaciones de amistad y cooperación, así como la agenda común de valores y propósitos compartidos en el plano bilateral, regional y mundial”.

Nota 5: El 6 de enero del 2015, Argentina circuló el siguiente comunicado de su Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores: “Miércoles 06 de enero de 2016. “Información para la Prensa N°: 003/16. – Asunción de los nuevos integrantes de la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela- . El Gobierno Argentino siguió con mucha atención las elecciones legislativas que se llevaron a cabo el 6 de diciembre pasado, para elegir los diputados que integrarán la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela, y que fueran supervisadas por la Misión Electoral de UNASUR. Al respecto, el Gobierno Argentino está convencido de que el respeto absoluto de la voluntad de los pueblos expresada libre y democráticamente en las urnas, al igual que la estricta observancia de las atribuciones, prerrogativas y garantías constitucionales, son condiciones insoslayables para afianzar las democracias en América Latina. La República Argentina reafirma lo expresado en el Comunicado Conjunto de los Presidentes del Mercosur y Estados Asociados, emitido en la Cumbre de Asunción de diciembre pasado, en el sentido de reiterar “la importancia de la defensa y firme impulso de los valores y la plena vigencia de las instituciones democráticas y de la protección, promoción y respeto irrestricto de los Derechos Humanos, para consolidar los procesos democráticos, condición esencial para toda integración.” ( el texto del comunicado oficial de Argentina está disponible en este   enlace  ).

 

Materiales: comunicados oficiales de Venezuela (Documento 1) y de Costa Rica (Documento 2)

Documento 1.

El texto de comunicado oficial de Venezuela difundido el Martes 5/01/2016 se lee como sigue:

República Bolivariana de Venezuela Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores

COMUNICADO

El Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela se dirige al Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto de la República de Costa Rica, a fin de elevar su más enérgica protesta por el injerencista comunicado emitido por dicha Cancillería el día 4 de enero de 2016. El insolente e inaceptable comunicado de la Cancillería de Costa Rica constituye una violación flagrante y deliberada tanto del Derecho Internacional como de principios expresamente consagrados en la carta de Naciones Unidas, como el respeto a la soberanía nacional, la autodeterminación de los pueblos y la no intervención en los asuntos internos, y además desconoce los Poderes Públicos de un Estado soberano. El Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela califica este comunicado de la Cancillería costarricense como un acto inamistoso, que además evidencia cómo esa institución se presta de vasallo a intereses imperiales y subalternos de potencias extranjeras, de manera reiterada y sin sonrojo, contra un Estado latinoamericano”.

Documento 2:
El comunicado oficial de Costa Rica hecho público el Lunes 4/01/2016 en horas de la tarde se lee como sigue:

04/01/2016, 2:09 PM 

Gobierno de la República de Costa Rica insta a que se respete la legitimidad del voto popular en la República Bolivariana de Venezuela

La vocación democrática de un gobierno se expresa en su capacidad de dejar de ser hegemónico tras la realización de comicios limpios. En Venezuela, la oposición ganó las elecciones de medio período y se impone la necesidad de que este resultado se respete y garantice, escrupulosamente. La fortaleza de la institucionalidad y la convivencia democrática se verían afectadas en caso de insistirse en alterar o dilatar la concreción de la voluntad popular manifiesta en diciembre pasado, mediante la utilización del recurso contencioso de revisión del resultado electoral, instrumento que impediría la proclamación oficial de cuatro diputados electos y, eventualmente, la continuidad del trabajo legislativo a partir del próximo 5 de enero del 2016. Cuando en el pasado en América Latina se vulneró el ejercicio electoral y la debida designación de sus representantes, al mismo tiempo se socavó el derecho soberano del pueblo de escoger libremente y se puso en grave riesgo la paz social. El Gobierno de Costa Rica hace una respetuosa pero vehemente excitativa a las autoridades electorales y partidarias venezolanas para que, con lucidez y entendimiento, se abstengan de comprometer la legitimidad del voto popular, y enaltezcan los principios y valores democráticos tan dificultosamente alcanzados por los pueblos de nuestra América”.

 

 

Nicolas BoeglinProfesor de Derecho Internacional Público, Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR)

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War Propaganda and the Western Media: Fabricated Images. Fake Videos

January 12th, 2016 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

This article was first published in 2008 brings to the forefront the routine practice of the mainstream media of  using fake images/videos in support of fabricated news stories. 

The New York Times admitted in April 2014 that it used fake images regarding an alleged involvement of Russian soldiers in Eastern Ukraine. 

Sorry, we made a mistake: The NYT’s retraction was presented as a technical error whereby the wrong pictures were mistakenly selected.

“A packet of American briefing materials that was prepared for the Geneva meeting asserts that the photograph was taken in Russia. The same men are also shown in photographs taken in Ukraine.

“Their appearance in both photographs was presented as evidence of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine. The packet was later provided by American officials to The New York Times, which included that description of the group photograph in an article and caption that was published on Monday. … The dispute over the group photograph cast a cloud over one particularly vivid and highly publicized piece of evidence.” (NYT, April 22, 2014)

More recently, the BBC has used fake images with a view to accusing the government of Bashar al Assad of deliberately triggering famines by blocking supply routes int Madaya, a city controlled by the rebels close to Damascus.

Below a 2014 image in Yarmouk is used in support of  a BBC story pertaining to Madaya in January 2016

Photo montage by Prof Tim Anderson

What should be understood is that the use of fabricated images is a routine procedure of the Western media. Its ultimate intent is to sustain the lie and mislead public opinion.

There are many instances of media manipulation.

The following article first published eight years ago in the wake of the March 2008 Tibet riots shows how CNN used fake videos showing “Chinese cops” involved in the repression of Tibetan activists in Lhasa.

It turns out that the cops are not Chinese but Indian, and the protest movement is not in Lhasa, capital of Tibet but in India. 

CNN never retracted its “technical  error”. The report –which served to demonize the Chinese authorities– was not the object of controversy as in the case of the NYT’s coverage of the protest movement in Eastern Ukraine or the BBC’s use of fake images in relation to Madaya, Syria.

Michel Chossudovsky, April 25, 2014, updated: January 12, 2016 


Western Media Fabrications regarding the Tibet Riots

by Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, April 16, 2008

On the day of the Lhasa Riots (March 14, 2008), there is evidence of media fabrication by CNN.

The videotape presented by CNN in its News Report on the 14th of March (1.00pm EST) was manipulated.

VIDEO: Tibet monks protest against Chinese rulers (CNN, March 14, 2008) 


The report presented by CNN’s Beijing Correspondent John Vause focussed on the Tibet protests in Gansu province and in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

What was shown, however, was a videotape of the Tibet protest movement in India.

Viewers were led to believe that the protests were in China and that the Indian police shown in the videotape were Chinese cops.

At the outset of the report, a few still pictures were presented followed by a videotape showing police repressing and arresting demonstrators in what appeared to be a peaceful protest:
.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT

[CNN Vause reports on the protest movement in Gansu province. (starts at 1′.00)]

CNN received these photographs from Gansu province, where there is a large Tibetan population. [still photographs followed by video footage] According to Students for a Free Tibet, about 2,000 protestors took to the streets earlier today. They were there for about three hours. They flew the Tibetan flag and called for an independent Tibet. All of this comes after days of unrest in Tibet after monks, who were marking the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.(CNN News, 1.00pm EST, March 14, 2008)

The voice over of John Vause then shifts into reporting on violence in Lhasa. The videotape however depicts the Tibetan protest in Himashal Pradesh, India.

[JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT]

And what could be worrying here to Beijing is that these demonstrations are being joined by ordinary Tibetan civilians, lay Tibetans. The targets here are ethnic Chinese. We’ve been told by one Chinese woman that she was attacked by Tibetan rioters. Her injuries sent her to hospital.

Also under fire here, Chinese-owned businesses, as well as government offices, and also the security forces.

According to U.S.-based human rights groups, the three main monasteries on the outskirts of Lhasa have now been surrounded by Chinese troops, and they’ve been sealed off.

We’ve also heard over the last couple of days, according to human rights groups, that more than a dozen monks have been rounded up and arrested. And there are reports, unconfirmed, that at least two people have been killed.

The video footage, which accompanied CNN’s John Vause’s report, had nothing to do with China. The police were not Chinese, but Indian cops in khaki uniforms from the Northeastern State of Himachal Pradesh, India.

Viewers were led to believe that demonstrations inside China were peaceful and that people were being arrested by Chinese cops.

Chinese Cops in Khaki Uniforms

1′.27-1′.44″ video footage of “Chinese cops” and demonstrators including Buddhist monks. Chinese cops are shown next to Tibetan monks

Are these Chinese Cops from Gansu Province or Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, as suggested by CNN’s John Vause’s Report?

REPORT ON CHINA, MARCH 14


Alleged Chinese cops repressing Tibet demonstrators in China , CNN, March 14, 2008  1′.36”


Alleged Chinese cops in khaki uniforms repressing Tibet demonstrators in China, CNN, March 14, 2008  1’40”

Their khaki uniforms with berets seem to bear the imprint of the British colonial period.

Khaki colored uniforms were first introduced in the British cavalry in India in 1846.

Khaki means “dust” in Hindi and Persian.

Moreover, the cops with khaki uniforms and mustache do not look Chinese.

Look carefully.

They are Indian cops.

The videotape shown on March 14 by CNN is not from China (Gansu Province or Lhasa, Tibet’s Capital). The video was taken in the State of Himachal Pradesh, India. The videotape of the Tibet protest movement in India was used in the CNN report on the Tibet protest movement within China.

In a March 13 Report by CNN, demonstrators are being arrested by Indian police in khaki uniforms during a protest march at Dehra, about 50 km from Dharamsala in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.

VIDEO; Tibet Protest movement in India, CNN, March 13, 2008 [See  Complete video below, this was the footage used for the report out of China] 

Indian police arrested around 100 Tibetans on Thursday, dragging them into waiting police vans, as they tried to march to the Chinese border to press claims for independence and protest the Beijing Olympics.” (REUTERS/Abhishek Madhukar (INDIA))

 

 

Below are still images from the CNN’s report on March 13, on the protest movement in Himachal Pradesh, India:

Compare these images to those in the March 14 CNN report.

Same cops, same uniforms, same Indian style moustache.

CNN MARCH 13 REPORT ON INDIA


Indian cops repressing Tibet demonstrators in Himachal Pradesh, India CNN, March 13, 2008  0′.53″


Indian cops repressing Tibet demonstrators in Himachal Pradesh, India CNN, March 13, 2008  1′.02″


Indian cops repressing Tibet demonstrators in Himachal Pradesh, India CNN, March 13, 2008, 1′.18″


Indian cops repressing Tibet demonstrators in Himachal Pradesh, India CNN, March 13, 2008  2.04″

We invite our readers to examine these two reports as well as the Transcript of the March 14 CNN program.

The CNN’s March 14 report on the Tibet Protest movement in China shows Chinese cops in khaki uniforms, yellow lapels and berets. While the videotape is not identical to that of March 13, CNN’s coverage of the events in China on March 14 used a videotape taken from the coverage of the Tibet Protest movement in India, with Indian cops in khaki uniforms.

The protest movement in India on March 13 was “peaceful”. It was organised by the Dalai Lama’s “government in exile”. It took place within 50 km of the headquarters of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.

The Western media was invited in to film the event, and take pictures of Buddhist monks involved in a peaceful, nonviolent march. These are the pictures which circled the World.

So what has occurred is that CNN  has copied and pasted its own videotape of the Tibet Protest movement in India and has fabricated a Gansu Province/ Lhasa, China “peaceful” protest movement with Chinese cops in khaki British colonial style uniforms.

The Chinese never adopted the British style khaki uniform and beret.

These uniforms do not correspond to those used by the police in China. (See photograph below)


No khaki uniforms in China. These are the uniforms of China’s “Armed Police”.

Meanwhile, the images of the violent riots in Lhasa, in which a criminal mob set fire to shops, homes and schools, burning several people alive, and stabbing innocent civilians with knives were not shown on network TV in the US and Western Europe. Small segments of the riots in Lhasa were shown out of context and with a view to accusing the Chinese authorities of repressing a “peaceful protest”.(See our report on the events, see coverage of the Lhasa Riots by China’s CC-TV)

While the videotape used is not identical, both CNN reports, however, show the same cops in khaki uniforms and the same Tibetan demonstrators in India. The footage used in support of CNN’s March 14 coverage of the protext movement in China has nothing to do with China. it happened in India.

CNN has got its countries mixed up.

Sloppy journalism or media fraud?
VIDEO: Tibet monks protest against Chinese rulers (CNN, March 14, 2008)

VIDEO; Tibet Protest movement in India, (CNN, March 13, 2008)

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF CNN NEWS COVERAGE ON TIBET (MARCH 14, 2008

CNN NEWSROOM 1:00 PM EST

March 14, 2008 Friday

 

[with Don Lemon and John Vause reporting from Beijing]

….

LEMON: All right. So this place, we know, should be known for peace. Right? But that is not what is happening here lately.

Buddhist monks demonstrating for independence from China. Ethnic Tibetans join in, and soon — soon streets are filled with screams, with gunfire, with rioting. And so far the Chinese government has refused to allow CNN to even enter Tibet.

Our John Vause brings us what he knows. He’s in Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest information from our sources in Lhasa tell us that the streets are basically deserted, except for patrols by police cars and armored military vehicles.

We’re told fires are still burning and phone lines are still down, but electricity has been restored. And the situation there now is described as relatively calm. But these protests do appear to be spreading to the east of the country.

CNN received these photographs from Gansu province [still picture followed by live video of Indian protest], where there is a large Tibetan population. According to Students for a Free Tibet, about 2,000 protestors took to the streets earlier today. They were there for about three hours. They flew the Tibetan flag and called for an independent Tibet. All of this comes after days of unrest in Tibet after monks, who were marking the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

And what could be worrying here to Beijing is that these demonstrations are being joined by ordinary Tibetan civilians, lay Tibetans. The targets here are ethnic Chinese. We’ve been told by one Chinese woman that she was attacked by Tibetan rioters. Her injuries sent her to hospital.

Also under fire here, Chinese-owned businesses, as well as government offices, and also the security forces.

According to U.S.-based human rights groups, the three main monasteries on the outskirts of Lhasa have now been surrounded by Chinese troops, and they’ve been sealed off.

We’ve also heard over the last couple of days, according to human rights groups, that more than a dozen monks have been rounded up and arrested. And there are reports, unconfirmed, that at least two people have been killed.

Beijing has now moved to seal off Tibet, banning foreigners and journalists from traveling there. Flights and train services have also been canceled.

John Vause, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

This is not the only example of media fabrication where video images and  photographs are manipulated.

What really happened.

Compare CNN’s report using a fake videotape to the coverage of the Lhasa riots on China State TV.

coverage of the Lhasa Riots by China State Television CC-TV

Who is Telling the Truth?

 

El Chapo versus Longstanding CIA Global Drugs Trafficking

January 11th, 2016 by Stephen Lendman

Drug lords come and go, El Chapo’s arrest of little consequence, doing nothing to stem the flow of illicit drugs. Business as usual continues.

His operation and others like his pale compared to CIA global drugs trafficking – a topic the media won’t touch.

Its involvement began in 1947, its first year of existence. In his book titled “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,” Alfred McCoy documented CIA and US government complicity in drugs trafficking at the highest official levels.

It continues today in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America, facilitating the global supply of illicit drugs.

Gary Webb’s expose of CIA involvement in Nicaraguan drugs trafficking, supporting the Contras, dealing with Los Angeles crack dealers, made him a target for vicious vilification – hounding him out of journalism into deep depression, either committing suicide or succumbing to foul play.

He regularly received death threats. Credible sources believe he was murdered to silence him. Unidentified individuals were seen breaking into and leaving his residence before his demise.

In his books and other writings, Peter Dale Scott explained “(s)ince at least 1950 there has been a global CIA-drug connection operating more or less continuously” to this day.

The global drug connection is not just a lateral connection between CIA field operatives and their drug-trafficking contacts.

It is more significantly a global financial complex of hot money uniting prominent business, financial and government, as well as underworld figures,” a sort of “indirect empire (operating alongside) existing government.

Iran-Contra and Afghan opium cultivation for global heroin trafficking are two among numerous other examples.

Hundreds of billions of dollars of annual revenues are produced – a US government-supported bonanza for the CIA, organized crime and Western financial institutions, heavily involved in money laundering.

A 1996 Peter Dale Scott affidavit on CIA drugs trafficking explained his research into longstanding US government involvement.

“(G)overnments themselves, and the links they develop with major traffickers, are the key both to the drug-trafficking problem and to its solution,” he explained.

America is one of numerous governments involved, the most harmful and disturbing because of its imperial power and global reach, influencing or affecting virtually everything worldwide.

A 2013 UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) World Drug Report called Israel a major international cocaine trafficking hub.

A 2012 State Department International Narcotics Control Strategy Report called “Israel’s illicit drug grade…regionally focused…more of a transit country than a stand-alone significant market.”

The authorities continue to be concerned with illegal pharmaceutical sales, retail businesses which are suspected money-laundering enterprises, and corruption accusations against public officials.

An earlier State Department report said “the Israeli drug market continued to be characterized by high demand in nearly all sectors of society and a high availability of drugs including cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, hashish and LSD.”

Israel is heavily involved in money laundering. Both activities operate in tandem, involving hundreds of millions to billions of illicit dollars.

Headlines highlight Mexican drug lord El Chapo’s reported arrest after a gun battle near his Sinaloa home, according to Mexican officials, ignoring high-level ones complicit in drugs trafficking.

He escaped Mexican captivity twice before. Extradition to America may follow this time. His operations continue as usual, with or without his involvement.

Drugs trafficking is big business, corrupt governments like America and business interests heavily involved. The CIA relies on it for huge amounts of revenues.

It bears repeating. Drug lords come and go. Dirty business as usual continues unabated – unreported by presstitutes, ignoring what demands public exposure.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

 

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First published

Note from the editors at WhoWhatWhy: At WhoWhatWhy, we’re proud that Dan Ellsberg [pictured left] a great patriot and American hero, has been on our Editorial Advisory Council since our earliest days. We’re also proud that we regularly feature the work and ideas of Peter Dale Scott, another figure of tremendous importance — and one whose name deserves to be a household word for his own ground-breaking studies in the dynamics of power.

In 1971, Ellsberg released to the New York Times documents revealing how the US had secretly enlarged the war in Vietnam by bombing Cambodia and Laos, and with coastal raids on North Vietnam — none of which was reported in the mainstream media. And President Johnson lied about it.

Here, we present a transcript of a recent talk delivered by Scott in honor of Ellsberg.

The Emerging Role of Whistleblowers in Mega-Societies

A Talk in Honor of Daniel Ellsberg, Economists for Peace and Security, January 4, 2016

I am very happy and honored to speak this evening, to this special audience of socially engaged economists, about my closest friend and mentor, Daniel Ellsberg. Though I have known Dan for forty years, I still continue to learn and appreciate new things about him.

Not long ago, for example, I told him there was a Berkeley economist who thought that Dan should have won the Nobel Prize in economics, and yet this man knew nothing about Dan and the Pentagon Papers. Dan in response told me of a conference in Vienna on his dissertation, with the title “Workshop on Risk, Ambiguity, and Decisions in honor of Daniel Ellsberg.” Many of the people there, he told me, also knew nothing about the Pentagon Papers.

Thus it was only by accident that I learned for the first time about the Ellsberg Paradox — something I am not going to mention further tonight, except to contrast it with another of Dan’s breakthroughs that might perhaps be called the Ellsberg Precept.

Timing of a Revelation, a Critical Factor

By the Ellsberg Precept I mean the revelation that the timely disclosure of suppressed truth can bring about needed social change. This sounds simple, but calls in its application for great intuition, intelligence and courage. Dan has sometimes said that he should have saved lives by going public years earlier with what he knew about the Vietnam War. I disagree: I think the spectacular impacts of Dan’s revelation depended on his having waited until he could sense the country was ready to respond to it. To ignite something, you need tinder, as well as a match.

It is important to recall the violence and paranoia of 1971 in America, ranging from the streets to the White House, when Dan gave the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. By 1971, Nixon, having been elected on a promise to end the war, had instead expanded it, first into Cambodia and then Laos. In response to the Laos incursion, the Weather Underground bombed the US Capitol Building in March 1971; and in the same month a break-in at an FBI regional office exposed the FBI’s COINTELPRO programs to “neutralize or otherwise eliminate” radical movements and their leaders.

By this time, Dan, obsessed by the countless lives being lost in an unwinnable war, had spent a year reading Gandhi, Thoreau, and Martin Luther King. His reflections about Gandhian satyagraha or truth-force led to this difficult, lonely, and dangerous decision: to release the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. It was a most painful decision: In addition to the risk of 115 years in prison, he also had to accept that some of his closest intellectual friendships at RAND and in Washington would be ruptured, perhaps forever.

The response to his disclosures, as we all know, was an unforgettable drama. Many prominent newspapers followed first the Times and then the Post in defying the White House, an unprecedented situation. A few weeks later, in July 1971, Nixon created the White House Plumbers; and their first action was to burgle the office of Dan’s psychiatrist Lewis Fielding, in the hopes of finding dirt to smear Dan’s reputation.

Then the Fielding break-in — and subsequent government concealment of it — helped lead, in May 1973, to the dismissal of all charges in Dan’s trial, and they continued to be prominent in the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation.

In the same month of May 1973, a new, more anti-war Congress voted to end funding for combat operations in Cambodia. Three months later, in August, the cutoff was expanded to Vietnam. In other words, Dan’s revelations helped ignite, perhaps for the first time in history, a democratic cutoff to an imperialistic war; they contributed also to the unprecedented resignation of an elected U.S. president. And as an English professor, let me add a philological footnote: Wikipedia tells us that December 1971 marks the first known instance of a new noun, “whistle-blowing”.

Dan was not the first whistle-blower — the same year 1971 saw Vladimir Bukowsky come forward in the Soviet Union. But the unforgettable impact of his disclosures began immediately to encourage others, mostly here but also abroad, from “Winslow Peck” (Perry Fellwock) to Edward Snowden.

Some of you may not know that last fall David Sassoon, who organized the recent exposure of Exxon’s role in suppressing what it knew about climate change, wrote a letter to Dan, thanking Dan for having inspired him to undertake this important research project.

Seek Out Potential Whistleblowers

Let me quote a little from Sassoon’s account of how Dan inspired him:

At a journalism conference in Phoenix, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to me over dinner …. He said journalists should not wait for whistleblowers to come forward — we should go looking for them.

In particular, in the case of climate reporting, he suggested to me that we find people inside energy companies to expose the origins of climate denialism.

“You’ll find people of conscience in every company,” he said. “I should know.”

In fact we can all think of more recent whistleblowers whose courageous acts have exposed lethal corporate scandals in the energy, tobacco, automobile, and pharmaceutical industries, and such government scandals as illegal NSA spying, Abu Ghraib, and the government lies about Iraq’s uranium that were used to justify the Iraq War.

Both the history and the future health of modern mega-societies have come to depend increasingly on whistle-blowers, as bureaucracies develop to a level where formal accountability is dangerously inadequate, and people of conscience must supply a human corrective.

1

Since the ‘70s, Dan has continued to strengthen the nonviolent movement as both a researcher, activist, and impassioned speaker, perhaps the most intelligent and inspirational speaker I have ever heard.

1979 Dan sat on the railway tracks in front of a train at the notorious Rocky Flats plant manufacturing plutonium weapons parts. In 1982, to protest Soviet nuclear testing, he sailed with Greenpeace into Leningrad Harbor. Four years later, in response to US funding of the Contras, he fasted for more than two weeks on the steps of the Capitol in Washington.

Through the last forty years Dan has been the principal inspiration in my personal life. With his extraordinary intelligence and intellectual curiosity, he has been a guiding light in my own thinking and writing on all manner of subjects, in both my prose and my poetry, I should add that he has been extraordinarily generous and patient in discussing and editing my writings, just as I have seen him be extraordinarily generous with others as well. With his rare combination of intellect, conscience, courage, passion, and love, I count the great privilege of knowing him to be among the greatest blessings of my life.

My thanks to you, and to Jamie Galbraith in particular, for inviting me to share my gratitude with you all tonight.

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Even as the fascist, corrupt U.S. government and its regulators (FDA and USDA) actively conspire with the biotech industry to poison Americans with genetically modified foods, Taiwan has already passed and implemented a nationwide law to protect its citizens from GMOs.

Nearly a full year ago, Taiwan passed ‘Food Act Amendments’ that achieve remarkable food safety milestones the U.S. government refuses to implement, placing Taiwan far ahead of the United States on food safety. These milestones include:

1) Requiring the mandatory labeling of GMOs on all food products that contain 3 percent or more GMOs. Foods that use no GMOs may be labeled “non-GMO” … and many already are, causing their sales to skyrocket across Taiwan. Just last year, imports of non-GMO soybeans to Taiwan grew nearly 300% to 58,000 tons.

2) Limiting the use of food additives to just 799 compounds approved by the Taiwan FDA. The FDA of the United States, by comparison, allows tens of thousands of chemicals to be used as additives, even when they are well known to cause cancer.

3) All GMO ingredients are required to be registered with the Taiwan government, and food manufacturers that use GMOs are required to establish an origins tracking system to identify where those GMOs originated.

4) All the soy milk, tofu, miso and other soy-derived products sold everywhere across the country — including at cafes and street food vendors — must be clearly labeled as GMOs if they use genetically modified soy.

5) Food products made using genetically modified soy as a processing agent or blended ingredient must also label their final food products as GMO, even if the soybean oil is not, itself, the final product.

6) Fines for violating these food safety provisions have been set at NT$50 million.

USA food safety lags far behind the rest of the world

This shows yet again just how far behind the United States is on food safety compared to the rest of the world. Instead of promoting actual food safety, the FDA gives a free pass to GMOs, heavy metals, artificial additives and other toxic chemicals, focusing almost exclusively on bacteriological contamination issues such as e.coli and salmonella.

That’s why the USA lags far behind the rest of the world on the banning of artificial additives and preservative chemicals, most of which have already been banned across the EU. The U.S. government continues to allow extremely toxic pesticides and herbicides to be used across the agricultural industry (including California’s strawberry operations), and as the news in this article shows, the USA now lags far behind Taiwan on the issue of GMO labeling and banning GMOs from school lunches.

Increasingly, U.S. food safety looks like a third world nation being run by a cartel of imperialistic food corporations that dictate government policy. Public health has NOTHING to do with government regulatory policy at this point. It’s all about appeasing Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo and all the other poison-pushing food and beverage companies that continue to poison a nation of food victims into epidemics of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Taiwan bans GMOs from school menus

In yet another milestone for food safety, Taiwan has banned GMOs from school lunches.

“The latest amendments to the School Health Act are aimed at all school meal providers, to ban genetically modified raw ingredients and any processed foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from school menus,” reports the China Post.

The Post also reports:

Legislator Lin Shu-fen, an advocate for passing the bill, said that studies abroad have shown a high connection between the consumption of GM foods and the prevalence of allergies, autism and rare diseases.

“Soy is a major ingredient in Taiwan’s school lunches,” said Lin. “Genetically modified soy has been shown to contains toxic residue from pesticides.”

You almost never hear such statements from the sellout politicians in America, nearly all of whom have been bribed and bought off by the biotech industry. Making matters even worse, poison-pushing U.S. publishers like Forbes.com — named the single most evil news publication of 2015 by EVIL.news — carry deceptive propaganda articles by sleazebag industry scientists like Henry Miller who ridiculously claims that herbicides are harmless and GMOs pose no health risks whatsoever.

Entire world revolting against U.S. agricultural imperialism and fascist, corporate-dictated government policy

The rest of the world, however, isn’t buying the U.S. propaganda. In fact, the rest of the world is revolting against U.S. agricultural imperialism where prostituted U.S. lawmakers and regulators are bought off by industry to shove GMOs down the throats of all the other countries under so-called “fair trade” regulations such as the TPP.

Taiwan’s pig farmers, for example, are also organizing a massive, nationwide protest over the U.S. pork industry’s continued usage of ractopamine, a toxic drug fed to pigs to cause rapid weight gain. The Taiwan government is under imperialistic pressure from U.S. trade representatives to lift its ban on the import of U.S. pork grown with the drug. If the ban is lifted, it would flood the Taiwan market with cheap, low-grade pork that’s been artificially multiplied with the use of a toxic drugs that isn’t used at all in the Taiwan pork industry, reports Asia News Network.

U.S. has long pushed tobacco products and other toxic chemicals onto Taiwan via international trade pressure. GMOs are also being aggressively shoved down the throats of the world’s children by the U.S. federal government, which is widely food as a “food bully” across the globe.

Perhaps that’s why countries like Taiwan are working so diligently to protect their own children from U.S. food policies that push poison for corporate (Monsanto) profits. “The passing of this bill not only means our children will be eating more safely, but it also indicates a heightened understanding of food safety in our society,” said legislator Lu Shiow-yen in the China Post article linked above.

Not surprisingly, there is virtually no Republican or Democrat in the entire U.S. Congress who’s willing to state GMOs and their accompanying herbicides are a danger to the health of children nationwide. In terms of the 2016 presidential election lineup, Hillary Clinton has very close ties to Monsanto and is known as the “Bride of Frankenfood.” Ted Cruz is likely to tow the GOP party line on GMOs and take a “pro business” stance that denies GMOs cause any harm. Only Donald Trump has any shot at being an anti-GMO candidate, as he’s already known to be a promoter of organic foods… and he can’t be bought off by Monsanto.

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north-korea-nuclear-usWhy North Korea Wants Nukes. Extensive U.S. War Crimes Committed against the DPRK

By Stephen Lendman, January 11 2016

Pyongyang has just cause to fear America. It knows how it raped Southeast Asia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Truman’s naked aggression was devastating, turning most of North Korea to rubble during the Korean War (1950-53).

obama_latinoamericaChina’s Financial Crisis Erupts as US Pivots to South America

By Jack Rasmus, January 11 2016

Jack Rasmus takes a look at this past week’s major event in the collapse of the China stock market, as well as the resurgence of Neoliberal policies in South America and the US pivot to that continent and destabilization of economies in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentine now underway.  What’s behind the most recent stock decline in China?

Cameron-King-Salman-650x360Britain and Saudi Arabia: Collusion in Barbarism

By Felicity Arbuthnot, January 11 2016

The British government under Prime Minister David Cameron’s leadership can claim absolute consistency in just one policy: towering, jaw dropping hypocrisy.

CAAT_Logo.jpgCameron Government Threatened with Legal Action over UK Arms Export Licences to Saudi Arabia

By Leigh Day, January 11 2016

Law firm Leigh Day, representing Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has issued a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review challenging the government’s decision to export arms to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that Saudi forces are violating international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen.

nuclear1No Danger of Nuclear War? The Pentagon’s Plan to Blow up the Planet

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, January 11 2016

This policy of nuclear bombing of targeted cities is still on the drawing board of the Pentagon. While today’s list of targets remains classified, cities in Russia, China, the Middle East, North Korea are on the target list.

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“Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored.” – Ivan Illich

India’s cities are in crisis. They are clogged with traffic, choked with pollution, blighted by concrete flyovers, overcrowded, suffer from power and water shortages, are prone to flooding and can at times be almost unbearable to live in. The plan to introduce ‘smart cities’ to India is intended to remedy many of these problems. These smart cities will function effectively, however, only if many of the underlying issues are addressed.

From the crisis in farming and associated rural migration to energy concerns and an expanding population, the problems are immense and varied. But let us focus on just one issue here – transport.

Delhi recently introduced ‘odd-even’ licence plate traffic days (vehicles with certain registration number endings allowed to be on the road on alternate days) to try to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution. Although this policy may bring some temporary relief, it will fail to solve the underlying problem because the model of social and economic ‘development’ being promoted is one that associates car ownership with progress and prosperity.

The greater the urban sprawl, the greater the benefits for the car industry and the real estate sector. As long as urban planning centres around motorised vehicles and warped notions of ‘development’ governed by powerful private-sector players, India’s cities will continue to sprawl ever outwards and be defined by traffic congestion and air and noise pollution. (And, as long as there is a headlong rush towards urbanisation, again, fuelled by corporate interests [not least global agribusiness], hundreds of millions will head for the cities and urban problems will mount).

India could do worse than look to somewhere like Denmark, which is a world leader in ‘green’ policies. For instance, over 20 per cent of the nation’s energy already comes from renewable energy, and the aim is to reach 100 per cent by 2050. But you don’t have to read up on statistics to appreciate Denmark’s record in this area. Go to Copenhagen and you will see ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ all around, not least in the city’s approach to urban transport. Copenhagen alone has around 400 km of cycle paths and about 40 per cent of the capital’s population commute to work by bicycle.

Copenhagen is world famous for its cycling and has in recent years been voted the ‘best city for cyclists’ and the ‘world’s most liveable city’. The ‘liveability’ factor is due to many reasons, one of which stems from the emphasis placed on cycle transport. But, until the 1960s, Copenhagen’s history mirrored developments in many other Western cities – developments that are currently compounded many times over in Indian cities. It became increasingly difficult to ignore the traffic congestion and accidents and the growing traffic-pollution and noise problems. As in today’s Bengaluru where older residents wonder what happened to their ‘garden city’, Copenhagen was no longer the city that most Danes knew and loved.

The growing environmental movement at the time and the rising cost of oil helped the cause of the bicycle. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed conflicts between bicycle and car interests in Danish cities, not least because the authorities sought to establish road networks that cut across the beautiful lakes which separated the older part of the city from the more recent suburbs. This resulted in an urban transport solution that gave space to cars but perhaps more importantly to bicycles, pedestrians and public transport. Visit Copenhagen today and what is striking is the large amount of cyclists as well as the thoughtful planning that has facilitated an integrated system of bicycle lanes.

Throughout the world, there is now a desire to improve public health and combat climate change. As a result, Copenhagen’s renowned cycle-friendly policies are now serving as a template for some of the world’s most congested cities. In Mexico City, for example, the authorities are devising a bicycle strategy and recognise that, unlike cars, even the poorest segment of the population can access a bicycle. In this respect alone, the bicycle is a democratic means of mobility.

However, this type of transport is only truly democratic if spatial segregation is limited. Mexico City’s bicycle strategy attempts to address this issue through a comprehensive cycle path network, which aims to create mobility through areas that have been closed off due to previous planning strategies.

Cities designed for cars are also characterised by large distances and many obstacles which hamper movement both on foot and by bicycle. In some of the world’s metropolises, distances are so large that a well-developed cycle path network is insufficient to ensure mobility for all. In such cases this network has to be integrated with eco-friendly, bicycle friendly public transport.

To make cycling attractive, it is not enough just to created cycle lanes and make bicycles available to all (Copenhagen made 1,300 free bicycles available for cycling around the city centre; it now favours a ‘bike share’ programme). Interesting urban environments must be created. Long, monotonous stretches have to be broken down into smaller sections and offer appealing features at ground level. In other words, city planners have to stop thinking like motorists and plan for the needs of cyclists and pedestrians, in terms of, for instance, better and more greenery and intersections that allow for the free flow of cyclists.

In Denmark, the newly opened Copenhagen-Albertslund route is the first of a planned network that will comprise 26 Cycle Super Highways, covering a total of 300 km. The network will increase the number of cycle lanes in Greater Copenhagen by 15 percent and is predicted to reduce public expenditure by 40.3 million euros annually thanks to improved health. A total of 22 municipalities in the Greater Copenhagen area have all collaborated to build the new network of cycle routes. The project intends to expand, improve and link existing cycle lanes in Greater Copenhagen, as well as improving signage, so commuters can quickly identify the easiest route available.

Smart cities call for smart solutions in an age when carbon emissions and respect for the environment have come to the fore. And very often it is the low-energy, simpler forms of technology that can provide the answers. Writing in 1973, the philosopher and social commentator Ivan Illich stated the following:

“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories… Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well… In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule [the car] enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.”

According to Illich, bicycles offer a cheap, sustainable and affordable means of transport for the poor: 

“With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems.”

Much modern urban planning is car-centric. But where is the need for the car if work, school or healthcare facilities are close by? Less need for ugly flyovers or six lane highways that rip up communities in their path. Getting from A to B would not require a race against the clock on the highway that cuts through a series of localities that are never to be visited, never to be regarded as anything but an inconvenience to be passed through en route to big-mac nirvana, multiplex overload or shopping-mall hedonism.

Instead, how about an enjoyable walk or cycle ride through an urban environment defined by  ‘community’ rather than by the car and which is free from traffic pollution or noise, where the pedestrian is not regarded as an obstacle to be honked at with horn, where the cyclist is not a damned inconvenience to be driven off the road or where ‘neighbourhood’ has been stripped of its intimacy?

India is not Denmark, of course. Denmark is a small country with a low population. But, as in Mexico City, with its huge population and urban problems, India could learn much from Denmark’s attitude towards the bicycle. After all, smart cities call for smart thinking.
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When the message reaches Morocco that Moroccans are not being allowed to cross into Europe but are being held and repatriated, the flows will drop.”

Yiannis Mouzalas [the minister responsible for refugees] said that around half of the people arriving in Greece over the last two months have been undocumented migrants.(Ekathimerini, 8th Jan 2016)

On Samos young refugee men from Algeria and Morocco are now being arrested and locked in the prison cell in the central police station. They are held there until it is possible to move them on to a locked detention camp on the mainland from where they will be deported. Police cells like the one in Samos town were never intended to hold so many people for days and weeks at a time. The conditions inside are beyond words.

But not all those from Morocco or Algeria end up in the police cell. Most of them in fact are in the open detention centre with all the other hundreds of non Syrian refugees. At the moment it is a matter of chance if you happen to be north African whether you end up being taken from the beach to the cells or to the centre. However, as we heard at the police station there is now an order from Athens and Europe that Algerians and Moroccans are to be detained pending speedy deportation. It is the lack of capacity, not a lack of will which appears to be the key reason why not all of them get locked up when they land on the Samos beaches.

Even if there has been little mainstream comment or even attention to this latest development, the ongoing division of the refugees into separate categories which has been in place for some months with the Syrians being split away from the rest, provokes deep anger amongst the refugees. ‘What difference?’ we are asked again and again by non Syrian refugees. The slicing up of the refugees into different categories, usually by nationality and privileging some and not others is now common at border points along the route through the Balkans. The recent focus on north Africans looks to be one of the responses to the Paris atrocity with many mainstream commentators and politicians seizing upon historically impoverished and alienated north African communities especially in France and Belgium as being sources and refuges of ‘Islamic’ terrorists. Hence the imperative to stop any further increases in these communities. There is no evidence at all which supports any such linkage between north African refugees and terrorist activity in Europe.

The other accusation fired at the Algerians and Moroccans is that they are “free-loaders or parasites who have no ambition other than to grab what they can” and worse still they are Muslim:

“Such people have no absolutely no place amongst us, for their views (indeed their actions, too), are diametrically opposed to what Europe has arrived at via a very long process of consensus…

Indeed, they have no concept of social development, for they are adherents of a belief system (I will not insult those of a religious disposition by crassly identifying Islam as a religion, for it is a political creed) that is primitive, feudal, authoritarian, violent in origin and design, and grossly misogynistic. Such a society as they have previously lived in does not develop, it mutates …..” [1]

We are hearing more and more of these kinds of sentiments. Lies and gross distortions thrive on ignorance. Never do these propagandists engage with the targets of their hatred. Where are the voices of the Moroccans and Algerians who can tell us why they leave their countries and take the deadly risk of crossing to Samos in an over crowded rubber dinghy in the middle of winter?

Moroccans refugees bound for Spain

The stories we have heard are varied. But a common theme stands out: for the young poor of Morocco and Algeria “there is no life for us in our countries” as one Algerian told us this week. But unlike similar abandoned populations, in Greece for example, which has seen hundreds of thousands of young people leave the country in recent years, the young Algerians and Moroccans are trapped. Passports and visas are for these young people, impossible to obtain. But to stay often entails being drawn into crime as a means of survival and this they reject. To leave is not easy; in Algeria leaving without papers has been made a crime and if they are caught they face up to 2 years jail. But as we heard on more than one occasion when we discussed the dangers involved in their clandestine journeys to Europe “we’d rather die eaten by fish than eaten by worms.” And it has been revealing how often they tell us that it was their mothers who both applied the final push and gathered together some of the money and smart phones their sons needed to escape their homelands. Many mothers are clearly afraid for their sons should they stay at home.

Report after report from a variety of social and political perspectives reinforce the terrible prospects facing young people in both Morocco and Algeria. Despite the enormous fuel wealth of Algeria it has over the last two decades significantly fed into the clandestine flow of refugees into Europe. Many have died trying to escape the lack of opportunity and the manifest corruption which has so grossly disfigured their societies. Leaving intact a national elite that has enriched itself beyond imagination and:

“does not produce, but rather, consumes what it imports and seriously undermines vital public services such as health and education, which are deteriorating year after year. The Mafiosi-like oligarchy is neoliberal by religion and has no regard for the future of the country and its population. It is parasitic and rapacious as it preys on the economy and maintains an endemic corruption …. It is entirely subordinated to the international system of economic, political, and military domination…” [2]

The Algerian refugees we meet on Samos, as with those we have met over recent years in Athens often stand out from the other refugees. Their greater confidence, determination and just a sharper sense of what this world is about, reflects we suggest their longer experience of clandestine movement. All kinds of Algerian networks function throughout Europe helping them both to move and to settle. It is a clandestine world in which Algerian young people have been active in its construction and its sustainability. They are rarely passive victims. Ibrahim, who we met in the Samos centre three weeks before Christmas exemplified this spirit. This was his second visit to Samos. His first being in 2007 when he moved on from Samos to France where he lived for over 7 years before he was caught and deported back to Algeria. Now he was back and off to France again. Despite the borders closing in on him in the countries blocking his route (and the group he was traveling with) he was completely confident that they would make it. And so they did. Seven days after leaving Samos, they were all in France.

Any attempt to block/stop the north African refugee flow will not succeed. For as Hamouchene points out it will go on as long as the entrenched authoritarian structures of power and oppression are still in place, as long as the looting of our natural resources is under-way by means of unfair trade deals and outside military interventions, as long as the profoundly unjust system we live in continues subjugating our countries and maintaining their subaltern positions as exporters of cheap natural resources and markets for rich countries’ industrialised products.  [3]

This targeting of Moroccan and Algerian refugees has to be stopped. The right to travel is one of our most basic rights. It is a taken for granted right by the vast majority of citizens in the rich world of Europe, North America and Australasia. There are no grounds to justify withdrawing this right from Algerians and Moroccans or indeed anyone. Its implementation can be nothing but cruel. Moreover, as with all other divisive practices and policies towards refugees it distorts key truths about the nature of the current refugee exodus. Looking down and demonising the victims never gets us to the truth which lies up stream at the doors of the powerful for whom plunder and greed are their watchwords. Where war is not a matter of human suffering but the source of fabulous wealth.

The key agencies responsible for managing the refugees coming through the Greek frontier islands were thrown into chaos and confusion by the 2015 exodus. Now half a year later we are beginning to see the authorities regroup and try and regain control. One aspect is the clear division of tasks between the big NGOs which have arrived since Autumn 2015 and the state agencies with the former responsible for meeting basic food and shelter needs of the refugees and the state agencies focusing on data collection and processing. But this relationship is not easy nor by any means unproblematic as the Greek authorities are jealous to maintain their control of what goes on in their country. The fractiousness which characterised this relationship is not likely to go away soon for the central authorities of the EU have determined that tightening up the EU’s external borders, especially the Greek islands is a priority. This will not be left to the Greeks to manage.

One thing which is clear in all this confusion is that the outcomes are not going to be good for refugees. Some will undoubtedly be admitted, but at what cost to themselves? Many are likely to be rejected. The detention of north Africans is an early indicator of what we can expect. In this context it is important that:

We listen to the young Algerians and Moroccans coming to places like Samos.

We insist that their voices are heard and broadcast in the popular media.

They are a powerful the antidote to the viruses of hate which are being actively promoted by many politicians and commentators.

On Samos the locals would be appalled and outraged to be called free loaders and parasites when they leave to find a life which is denied to them here today. This is just as true for the Algerians and Moroccans. What has the world become that we need to make this point at all?

Notes:

1. Comment by Kallikantzeros from http://www.ekathimerini.com/204778/opinion/ekathimerini/comment/a-peace-sign-on-a-lesvos-hill, Jan 5th 2016; Kallikantzeros

2. Hamza Hamouchene,October 2013, ‘Is Algeria an Anti-Imperialist State?’ from http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/14455/is-algeria-an-anti-imperialist-state. Hamza  is an Algerian activist and a founding member of Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC), a London-based organisation campaigning for peaceful democratic change and the respect of human rights in Algeria.

3. May 2015, from https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/hamza-hamouchene/wretched-of-sea-algerian-perspective

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Stormy Times: Climate Change and Instability as Predicted

January 11th, 2016 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

In June 2008 the Community Climate Change Consortium for Ireland (C4I) produced a 118 page report entitled Ireland in a Warmer World: Scientific Predictions of the Irish Climate in the Twenty-First Century (supported and co-funded by Environmental Protection Agency, Sustainable Energy Ireland and the Higher Education Authority) which forecast “an increase in the frequency of very intense cyclones, and also increases in the extreme values of wind and precipitation associated with them. This implies an increased risk of storm damage and flooding in vulnerable Irish coastal areas.” The report also suggested that the “[d]emand for heating energy is likely to reduce significantly as the climate warms.”

Now in 2016, we are already seeing these predictions come true. There have been six storms already since the beginning of winter and a weather station in Donegal recorded its wettest day for any month since 1885 and its highest December temperature in 60 years. There has been unprecedented flooding in many parts of rural Ireland combined with severe winds.

Storm Frank (after Storms Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva) has “caused localised flooding, road blockages and led to thousands of homes being without power across Ireland.” 13,000 homes had their electricity cut off and in the south of the country there was 60mms (almost three inches) of rain. The towns Midleton and Bandon were the worst affected by extensive flooding “with some 90 properties affected in each of the towns.”

70 millimetres of rain and gusts of up to 120km/h have been recorded along the Atlantic coast and around the country ferry sailings have been cancelled, roads closed and rail services disrupted. The Office of Public Works (OPW) issued a report stating: “we remain in a severe flooding situation on the Shannon catchment and many of the above other catchments. Ongoing flood defence efforts (for example pumping) will have to continue for some time yet”.Drone footage of Enniscorthy after Storm Frank shows the disastrous levels of inundation suffered by the inhabitants of that town.

It seems that the frequency of storms hitting the UK and Ireland has led to the development of a project by the UK Met Office and the Irish Met Eireann “to name severe winter storms, much in the same way that hurricanes are named.” The press were giving unofficial names to the storms, sometimes given different names by different sources leading to confusion. Hence Storms Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva and Frank and we can look forward tostorms Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake, Katie, Lawrence, Mary, Nigel, Orla, Phil, Rhonda, Steve, Tegan, Vernon, Wendy.

The C4I report also noted that “[s]ea levels are rising on average about 3.5 cm per decade around Ireland.” Coastal erosion, especially at high tides, is becoming apparent all around Ireland with dunes being eroded and cliff faces sliding into the sea (see photos of local examples).

Corballis Beach, Donabate (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin, December, 2012).

The Donabate-Portrane cliff walk near Dublin. The constant heavy rain of the last few weeks combined with high tides has caused a drop of around three feet in this landslide. The rest could collapse any moment (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin, January 2016).

A European Commission report (The Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) ‘Climate Impacts in Europe’ ) published in 2014warned that “[t]he impacts of river flooding will be most pronounced in Ireland and the UK if a business-as-usual model is adopted and global warming isn’t tackled” and, as has been noted in many discussions on Irish media recently, that “economic damage from winter storms will cause crippling bills.” According to Professor John Sweeney, who compiled UN reports on climate change, “Ireland’s wetter, and has a winter maximum rainfall, with more impermeable soils which tend to be waterlogged in winter,” and “[b]ecause we’re at the western side of Europe we also bear the brunt of storms from the Atlantic unlike the other countries which are less affected.”

However, on an even more urgent note, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that “there is strong evidence that global sea level gradually rose in the 20th century and is currently rising at an increased rate, after a period of little change between AD 0 and AD 1900. Sea level is projected to rise at an even greater rate in this century. The two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion of the oceans (water expands as it warms) and the loss of land-based ice due to increased melting.” If the rise in sea levels is not decelerated significantly then the result will be permanent inundation of large parts of coastal and low-lying areas of the country. Examples of the possible effects of rising global temperature levels on sea levels can be seen in the ‘Risk Zone’ maps of Climate Central.

Their analysis of the potential effects are spine-chilling: “Carbon emissions causing 4°C of warming — what business-as-usual points toward today — could lock in enough sea level rise to submerge land currently home to 470 to 760 million people, with unstoppable rise unfolding over centuries. At the same time, aggressive carbon cuts limiting warming to 2°C could bring the number as low as 130 million people.”

If major steps are not taken soon to solve these potential disasters then we will discover that our ‘sandbagging’ will eventually become an expression of regret rather than community cooperation in the face of adversity.

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of paintings based on geopolitical themes, Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country on his blog.

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Pyongyang has just cause to fear America. It knows how it raped Southeast Asia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Truman’s naked aggression was devastating, turning most of North Korea to rubble during the Korean War (1950-53). General Matthew Ridgway ordered air force bombers to level Pyongyang and other strategic targets. Scorched earth death and destruction was official US strategy.

Douglas McArthur wanted commander’s discretion to use nuclear weapons – to spread a radioactive belt from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea.

US terror-bombing ran out of targets. Principle ones included Pyongyang, Chongyin, Wonsan, Hungnam and Rashin.

North Korea suffered overwhelming numbers of casualties. Up to four million died, mostly civilians. Terror weapons were used, including napalm and toxic agents – chemical and biological.

In March 1952, an International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) commission visited North Korea, investigated US war crimes charges. Their report included documented evidence of toxic agents used, saying:

American planes have on various occasions used asphyxiating and other gases or chemical weapons at least since 6th May, 1951.

The commission took eye witness and expert testimony. Post-mortem examinations and autopsy results argued that some chemical had been used, with a ‘disagreeable smell, resembling the smell of chlorine…

In the affected area of the city, it was noted that grass became yellow brown, objects containing an alloy of copper became blue green and rings of silver became black.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark drafted a Report and Final Judgment on US Crimes in Korea (from) 1945 – 2001, showing Washington used chemical and biological agents on the peninsula.

By 1952, virtually everything in northern and central Korea was destroyed. Damage assessments showed 18 of 22 cities were half or more obliterated.

Large industrial ones were 75 – 100% destroyed. Villages were turned to “low, wide mounds of violent ashes.”

Investigative journalist IF Stone’s “Hidden History of the Korean War” called it US-led international aggression. Truman bore full responsibility for waging war together with fascist South Korean President Syngman Rhee, installed by Washington to serve its interests.

Pyongyang fears America for good reason. Truman’s war never ended. A longstanding uneasy armistice persists. Beating up on North Korea is relentless after all these years.

Washington spurns its desire for normalized relations, maintaining an undeclared state of war instead. Pyongyang is vulnerable to the whims of US imperial policy.

It sees a nuclear deterrent as its best strategic response, giving Washington pause about again waging war. At the same time, wanting peace and stability on the peninsula. US policy prevents it.

World leaders blasted Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, its first since February 2013, while ignoring the major threat of Western arsenals and Israel’s.

Imposing new sanctions is meaningless. What else Washington plans remains to be seen. It deployed a long-range strategic B-52 bomber able to carry nuclear weapons provocatively – flying at low altitude over South Korea.

US Commander of United Nations Command, ROK-US Combined Forces Command and US Forces Korea General Curtis Scaparrotti called Saturday’s flight a “demonstrat(ion) (of) the strength and capabilities of the (so-called) alliance.”

It took off from Guam, escorted by F-15 warplanes. Commander, US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris stressed America’s “ironclad commitment” to regional allies, notably Japan and South Korea.

“North Korea’s nuclear test is a blatant violation of its international obligations. US joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific will continue to work with all of our regional allies and partners to maintain stability and security,” he added.

America’s regional presence remains hugely destabilizing. Another Asian war could precipitate global conflict – humanity’s greatest threat.

US imperial policy threatens world peace.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

 

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Madaya Fake Media Images: BBC Caught Recycling 2014 Footage from Yarmouk

January 11th, 2016 by thewallwillfall.wordpress.com

Since the story of the Madaya “starvation” broke seemingly hours after the Saudi lawless and brutal execution of inspirational opposition speaker and cleric Sheikh Nimr, we have been presented with a ceaseless array of fake images many of which have been corrected or withdrawn by the offending mainstream media outlets but then relentlessly and brazenly recycled, regardless, by the social media propaganda rings.

However the cherry on the propaganda cake came tonight with a report from the BBC on Madaya.  Not only do they try to conceal the fact that civilians are arguing with Ahrar al Sham terrorists and yelling at them:

“You are not hungry, we are!!”

The BBC uses the ambiguous and misleading term “fighter” instead of clearly specifying the civilians are referring to Ahrar al Sham militants who are occupying Madaya. Or one of their associates from Al Nusra or the FSA [less than 10% of the rebel contingent in Madaya].

Even more shockingly the BBC then went on to use footage from Yarmouk 2014 and described the boy in this footage as being in Madaya just after the October 19th 2015 food delivery from the Red Cross.

The boy comes into the film at 0:50 in the BBC Madaya footage 11th January 2016.

The same footage is being used here in a video depicting the situation in Yarmouk, south of Damascus July 4th 2014.

Madaya BBC collage

Perhaps we should not be shocked at this blatant use of unrelated footage to propagate what has been proven to be a dishonest narrative, but the levels to which our Government sponsored media are stooping these days is not something to be ignored.  The consequences for the Syrian people and all other nations being subjected to their deceit are too dire for us to turn a blind eye to their frightening lack of ethics.

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China’s Financial Crisis Erupts Again–What’s Next?

January 11th, 2016 by Dr. Jack Rasmus

The primary indicator of excess liquidity and financial asset investment and speculation is debt. Debt—i.e. credit extended by lenders—is the mediating element between liquidity and financial asset investing. Excess liquidity is necessary for the availability of excess credit to be loaned out as debt. Debt and its leveraging is the stuff of financial asset over-investment and financial speculation that eventually leads to financial asset bubbles, instability events, and periodic asset bubble crashes. And when those crashes are of sufficient scope and magnitude, an economy-wide—or even global-wide—financial crisis results.

In parallel with China’s exploding liquidity, its total debt has also nearly quadrupled from 2007 to mid-2015. According to a recent 2015 study by McKinsey &Company, the global business research and consulting firm, China’s total debt rose from $7.4 trillion in 2007 to $28.4 trillion through mid-2014. That total represents 282% of China’s GDP at mid-year 2014, among he highest in the world

The problem with China’s debt, however, is not just its magnitude; nor even its rate of increase. Both are impressive enough. The even greater problem is its composition, by which is meant the proportion of the debt that is private business associated debt. China national government debt is not particularly severe as countries go. But private businesses are, and especially older basic industrial companies including the many that are government enterprises.

Click image right to order Dr. Jack Rasmus’ Book

By far the largest part of the $28.2 trillion in outstanding debt in China, as of mid-2014, was debt held by non-financial businesses. At 125% of China’s $9.4 trillion 2014 GDP, that’s about $11.9 trillion. Add another $6.2 trillion for financial institutions’ debt. That’s more than $18 of the $28 trillion, roughly two-thirds of its total debt as business-financial. Corporate debt is roughly $16 trillion in 2015 of that.

Local government debt is another problem of major dimensions in China, and should be viewed in part as wrapped up with private sector business debt. Over 10,000 local government entities in China set up ‘off balance sheet’ property investment vehicles called LGFVs, local government financing vehicles. Borrowing heavily from shadow banks, they then over-invested in local property markets. LGFV debt was approximately 18% of China GDP in 2008, or $634 billion. According to a China government survey done at the end of 2013, it rose to about $3 trillion for that year. Projections are it will rise further, to 45% of China GDP in 2015, or $4.6 trillion.

Another approximate $3.8 trillion represents household debt in China as of 2014, according to the McKinsey study, about half of which is household mortgage debt. That $3.8 trillion rose from $1.9 trillion in 2010. But the amount today may be actually higher, since the $3.8 trillion McKinsey estimate predates the bubble in China stock markets that began growing rapidly after the 2014 data by the McKinsey study. As the stock bubble grew, ‘margin debt’ lending by brokers to retail stock market investors, i.e. households who constitute 85% of China’s stock buyers, rose by as much as another $.85 trillion in just one year, from July 2014 to June 2015, according to some estimates.

Extrapolating from the mid-2014 figures, China’s total debt therefore likely will exceed $30 trillion in 2015—just about three times China’s nominal annual GDP. About $26.5 trillion is private sector debt or various kinds and related off balance sheet local government, LGFV, real estate debt. The rest is general government debt of about $4 trillion. That private sector + LGFV debt represents a $20 trillion increase in private sector debt alone since the 2008 crash—an unprecedented, historic rise in debt in only five years or so.

That debt would not have been possible without the massive liquidity injection by banks, foreign money capital in-flows, shadow bank source funding, and forms of ‘inside credit’ like margin debt, most of the latter of which is reportedly provided by shadow banks as well. And debt has consequences, especially when of that magnitude and composition. It becomes particularly important when the real economy is slowing or declining and when deflation is a factor, both in financial securities prices as well as in real goods and services prices.

China’s Triple Bubble Machine

Thus far China has faced three financial bubbles since 2013 which are in various stages of collapse and therefore financial asset deflation. The first is the local government property and infrastructure bubble. The second, the corporate junk bond and refinancing bubble involving older industrial companies and SOEs. In both cases, China’s central government has been intervening to prevent a rapid collapse of the bubbles and financial assets, trying to slow them down, prevent contagion, and extend the period of unwinding. The third bubble, in its two major stock markets, Shanghai and Schenzhen, began to form late summer 2014. In a year’s time, the stock markets surged 120%, clearly a bubble, and then began collapsing in June 2015. Since June 2015 the central government has been desperately intervening on an unprecedented scale to prevent the stock collapse from gaining momentum, just as it has been since 2013 to contain the deflating of the previous housing-local infrastructure bubbles that continue to be a problem.

The first bubble, in local real estate property, was driven by local governments, their off balance sheet financing vehicles, the 10,000 or so LGFV funds, and shadow bank financing (domestic and foreign) providing the liquidity and debt that fueled financial speculation in real estate from 2011 to 2014. Real estate prices rose to record levels in 2013. That bubble finally began to deflate in 2013-14. The collapse of the over-investing in housing and local infrastructure meant that a major stimulus to China’s real economy was thus removed after 2013, or at least significantly reduced. It has been estimated that housing constitutes 10% of China’s GDP. So it’s collapse and retreat has taken away a major underpinning to China’s real economy. In other words, the collapse of financial asset prices, and their subsequent deflation, has direct effects on a real economy GDP.

The effect of the housing bubble as it expanded also impacted the real economy. China’s central government intervened several times to slow the housing bubble before 2014 but without much effect. Each time it intervened by raising interest rates it simultaneously slowed the real economy as well as the real estate sector. As this happened, China then lowered rates again and introduced fiscal mini-stimulus packages to get the real economy back on track. This in turn restarted the real estate bubble. This see-saw policy to try to tame the shadow banks and keep the economy growing at the same time happened several times before 2014. Thereafter, China adopted a more targeted approach to attacking its shadow banks, speculators, and their local government official allies feeding the bubble in local real estate and infrastructure. By 2014 real estate prices began to moderate. However, the speculators and the profits they made from the real estate bubble then moved on—to investing and speculating in the new financial asset opportunity associated with the WMPs, the ‘asset management fund’ securities.

The WMPs fueled the continuing bubble in what other economists in the past have called ‘ponzi’ finance, providing high interest loans from ‘trust accounts’ managed by Trusts and other shadow banks to enterprises becoming increasingly fragile. A parallel development in the boom in ‘high yield’ (junk) bonds was occurring simultaneously in the US and AEs. But as China’s real economy has continued to slow, fragile enterprises are increasingly unable to repay even these high cost WMP (junk) loans. On several occasions since 2014, the China central government has had to bail them out and absorb the losses. As China’s real economy slows more rapidly in 2015-16, it is questionable whether the central government can continue to bail out ever-wider potential debt payment defaults by these enterprises. Should it not do so, the market value of the WMPs will also deflate rapidly, just as housing has.

China’s third clear financial bubble has been the acceleration in its stock markets. China’s stock bubble of 2014-15 and its current collapse has several roots. First, it is the outcome of a conscious shift in policy by China made in 2014, to redirect the massive liquidity and deb that had been destabilizing its internal financial system—i.e. in housing, local government investment, real estate, and desperation financing of failing enterprises—into the stock markets. In 2013 a major policy ‘turn’ was decided by China leadership, of which the encouragement by the central government of the stock bubble was one element.

That major policy turn was to move toward encouraging more private investment and private consumption as major drivers of the economy, and to therefore shift away from the prior heavy reliance on direct central government investment and export sales, as was the previous case. That direct investment plus exports growth strategy began to lose momentum by 2013. Future growth based on exports was about to become more difficult, as both Japan and Europe had entered double dip recessions and US growth showed no signs of accelerating. Japan introduced its QE program, designed to drive down its currency exchange rate and make it more competitive in export markets. Europe introduced its own liquidity version, a kind of ‘pre-QE’ called Long Term Refinancing Option (LTRO), with the same objective in mind. The US signaled it would raise interest rates which meant emerging markets would be severely economically impacted at some point and thus reduce their demand for China exports as well. Global trade showed signs of initially slowing. An export-driven strategy was therefore less reliable, China apparently decided. At the same time, it was also growing clear there were limits to China’s government direct investment stimulus to growth. China apparently therefore decided at an important Communist Party conference in 2013 to ‘restructure’ by shifting to more private sector driven growth. That is, to encouraging more private business investment and private consumption. Boosting the stock market was viewed therefore as the solution to enable the transition to more private investment and consumption.

Stimulating the rise of stock prices was also considered to have a double beneficial effect. It would divert money capital out of the over-heated local housing and real estate-infrastructure market, which it did. Higher stock prices would in theory also provide an important funding source for SOEs and other non-financial enterprises in trouble. If their stock price rose, it would reduce their need to borrow more debt at higher rates with more stringent terms of repayment. Debt would be exchanged for equity, reducing their financial fragility. Higher stock prices also meant, in theory at least, that enterprises in general would realize higher capital gain income, from which they could and would invest in expansion. Real asset investment would result, providing jobs and income for more workers and thus more private consumption. Rising stock prices would also have a positive ‘wealth effect’ on high end retail investors in the market, and also promote more private consumption. Higher stock prices would assist in the strategic shift to more private sector investment and consumption as the key drivers of economic growth.

It appeared a stock market boom was therefore the answer to several strategic challenges: first, the stock boom enabled plans to restructure toward more private investment and consumption; second, it addressed the need to tame the shadow banks and the bubbles they were creating by redirecting money flows into stocks; third, the new investment and consumption would get the China economy back on a faster GDP growth path—a path that was clearly slowing as the slowdown in global trade promised to negate an export driven growth strategy.

So China’s government undertook a series of measures in 2014 to rapidly expand stock values. However, the timing was inopportune. Emerging markets were already under growing pressure and slowing. Their income from commodities exports was declining. The domestic real economies of Japan and Europe economies were not recovering as planned and their demand for China exports was not rising sufficiently. Then, in June 2014, the collapse of global oil prices commenced. To boost the markets, China’s central bank, the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) began lowering interest rates in late 2014, the first of what would be five consecutive cuts. It further injected liquidity into the markets by lowering reserve requirements of banks to get them to lend even more. In mid-November 2014 it introduce several changes to open the economy and markets further to foreign money capital. And, as a clear signal as to where the additional liquidity should flow, it introduced measures to encourage even more aggressive buying of stocks on margin. A flood of ‘retail’ investors came into the market in early 2015 as a result. The margin buying by retail investors was especially getting out of hand. Measures were introduced to slow the trend, to no avail.

After rising 120% in a year, the damn broke in China’s two major equity markets in June 2015. Stock prices crashed by 32% in just two weeks on the Shanghai exchange and by 40% on the Schenzen. Just as it had intervened to help create the stock boom, China policy makers quickly intervened again, this time to try to quell the collapse. Various measures were introduced to prevent selling of stocks, including suspension of trading at one point of nearly three-fourths of all the listed companies on the exchanges. Short selling of stocks was banned. Major shareholders (more than 5% of total shares) were banned from selling. Other measures were initiated to get buyers back into the market to buy stocks. SOEs were required to buy their stock, even if it meant raising more debt. State investment funds were ordered to buy. The PBOC provided more liquidity to brokerages to buy stock. And in another 180 degree turnaround, margin buying terms were again loosened and encouraged. In other words, a return to massive liquidity injections to try to resolve the problem that excess liquidity had helped create in the first place. That additional liquidity would translate into yet more financial debt earmarked for financial asset investment and speculation. The long run problem—too much liquidity and therefore too much leveraged debt feeding financial markets—became the short run solution. But the solution would again add to the long run problem.

China’s strategic policy shift in 2013—away from direct government investment, manufacturing and export driven growth, and monetary policy in service to that real investment and exports approach—amounts in retrospect to a strategy for recovery not unlike that failed approach adopted by the advanced economies from the beginning of the crash of 2008-09. That AE strategy relied primarily on monetary measures that accelerated liquidity in the system. Fiscal policy was token at best (or negative in Europe and Japan), assuming forms of austerity. AE central banks believed that massive money injections would flow into real asset investment as banks resumed lending to non-financial enterprises. Real investment would bring back jobs, and therefore income and consumption. Wealth effects from rising financial asset values would add to consumption. More consumption would stimulate more real investment in turn. But nothing like that happened. The liquidity flowed into financial asset investing and financial markets, boosting stocks and bonds but little else.

China differed from the AEs in the initial period of 2008-10. Fiscal policy came first, and monetary policy and liquidity was primarily accommodative. But that began to reverse as a result of a series of measures, first in 2010 and then in 2013. The liquidity and debt explosions in China thus came later, well after the AEs, and in different forms. The eventual financial asset bubbles occurred in different markets as well. But China’s experience, especially after 2013, shows the same problems with AE recovery strategies that focus on liquidity injection that ultimately lead to excessive debt leveraging that tends to flow into financial asset markets. They lead to financial asset bubbles, to the need for still more liquidity to prop up the financial asset deflation that inevitably occurs when bubbles unwind and prior debt cannot be repaid. Excess liquidity leads to debt leads to more liquidity and yet more debt. It is a vicious circle leading to financial fragility and instability.

Author’s Note: With all the news about China this past week, likely to continue this week and next, how did the growing crisis in China originate? The above text is an excerpt from chapter 6 of my just published book, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Econonomy”. That chapter, dedicated to China, is entitled: “Bubbles, Bubbles, Debt and Troubles”. The following are two excerpts from Chapter 6 on China in the book.  Order a copy of Rasmus’ book here or on amazon.

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Political Chaos in Spain

January 11th, 2016 by Dr. Birsen Filip

Spain’s political establishment is currently in a state of disarray with the country’s politicians struggling to form a government, as none of the parties were able to obtain a parliamentary majority in the recent National Election that was held on December 20th. After the votes were tallied, it emerged that the People’s Party[1] (Partido Popular, PP) obtained 28.7% of the vote, the Socialist Workers Party[2] (Partido Socialista Obrero Espãnol, PSOE) became the main opposition with 22.0%, the left-wing Podemos[3] (“We Can”) party received 20.7%, and the centre-right Ciudadanos[4] (“Citizens”) obtained 13.9%. In the House of Parliament, these results translated into 123 seats for the PP, 90 for the PSOE, 69 for Podemos, and 40 for Ciudadanos; the remaining 14.7% voted for various smaller parties. Although the PP won, these results represent a significant defeat for the party, as it lost the parliamentary majority that it held prior to the elections.

On the surface, these results may not appear to be particularly remarkable, given that the PP has experienced a number of electoral losses and setbacks in the past. However, they are significant on account of the fact that these votes were not picked up by its traditional rival, as the PSOE realized its worst election results since 1979. Instead, Spain’s two dominant parties suffered losses on account of unprecedented gains made by two alternative parties that have emerged as potential contenders, the aforementioned Ciudadanos and Podemos.

These exceptional results in the National Election could signify the impending end of the duopoly that has characterized the Spanish political arena since the transition to democracy with the ratification of the Spanish constitution via referendum on December 6, 1978[5]. Over the nearly four decades that followed, Spanish voters were effectively limited to choosing between two dominant parties: the right-wing PP and the left-wing PSOE. Although some smaller political parties did emerge since 1982, they were essentially non-factors with no hope of achieving any meaningful influence through elections.

The current inability to form a government is due to a number of factors related to party ideology and the underlying numbers after the election results. First of all, the PP and PSOE are traditional rivals and the notion of them forming a coalition is a non-starter. Alternatively, prior to the election, there was some speculation that Ciudadanos could ally itself with the PP to lead the country.  However, Ciudadanos performed poorly relative to its pre-election polling figures and did not win enough seats to establish a parliamentary majority with the PP. The only remaining viable option would be an alliance between Podemos and PSOE (other smaller parties would also need to be included), as both carry the label of being a left-wing party.

In fact, PSOE has reached out to Podemos and proposed the formation of a coalition that would constitute a parliamentary majority. However, a key obstacle to such a partnership is that Podemos presents itself as a genuine left-wing party that espouses socialism and democracy, and is well-known for strongly opposing austerity measures in no uncertain terms[6]. Meanwhile, past experience has demonstrated that, in practice, it is not fundamentally different from the PP when in power. Another impediment to this alliance is that PSOE insists that Podemos stops supporting the idea of a referendum on independence in Catalonia as a precondition. This is very unlikely, as Podemos recognizes the diversity of identity within Spain and, as such, its objective is to attain popular sovereignty with everyone united. Thus, while Podemos does not necessarily support the idea of Catalonia separating from Spain, it recognizes the right of the Catalonian people to hold a referendum on the matter. They openly advocated this position even at the risk of losing votes during the election campaign.

Unlike Podemos, Ciudadanos does not represent a true ideological alternative to the status quo, as it is not substantially different from either the left-wing PSOE or the right-wing PP. All three of these parties are perceived as very business-oriented[RF1] . Over the nearly four decades of rule by the PSOE and PP, both traditional parties have clearly shown themselves to be very business friendly, as bankers and the business elite played key roles in shaping the agendas of both governments during the process of democratizing Spain and modernizing its economy. Podemos’ economic program conflicts with those of the PP, PSOE, and Ciudadanos, which amount to little more than the further implementation of neo-liberal economic policies.

The outcome of recent National Election demonstrated that more than 35% of Spanish voters are ready to move on from merely being resigned to choosing between the two traditionally dominant parties. However, the fact that just over half of the Spanish electorate continued to support the PP and PSOE shows that the Spanish population has a short memory. These individuals do not seem to understand that their current economic and social predicament, characterized by rising poverty levels, the highest rate of youth unemployment in Europe (more than 49%), and public debt exceeding $1 trillion, are largely outcomes of policies implemented by successive PP and PSOE governments. Furthermore, members of both the PP and PSOE have been embroiled in similar corruption scandals[7] during their reigns. Nevertheless, a majority of the Spanish electorate allowed themselves to be manipulated into voting against their interests by the media and promises made during the election campaign.

The current instability in Spain’s political arena, culminating in the inability to form a ruling coalition government, has undeniable historical origins. Spanish society has effectively been depoliticised since 1939, when Franco established his dictatorial regime and proclaimed himself chief (or El Caudillo) and head of state (Jefe del Estado) after securing victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). His official ruling party, the Falangistas, promoted a conservative, authoritarian, anti-communist and ultra-nationalist[8] agenda aimed at achieving a united national identity. This was partly attributable to Franco`s belief that the democratic regime that ruled Spain in 1931, before the onset of the Civil War, was responsible for engendering chaos and instability, which resulted in the quasi-destruction of the nation. As such, his goal was to eliminate the supporters of leftist parties and the democratic system by terrifying the civil population. During his dictatorship, Franco used all of the tools available to him to limit the participation of Spanish citizens in the political arena and restrain freedom within the individual sphere.

Franco deemed it illegal to support any political party other than the Falangistas and those citizens that did not conform to his authoritarian rules and ideology faced the threat of direct violence. Thus, communist and socialist organizations were marginalized and individual adherents to these principles were severely oppressed, with many facing public humiliation, medical experimentation, exile, imprisonment, forced labour, or the possibility of being sent to the concentration camps that were established throughout the country. It is estimated that nearly half-a-million people were cruelly executed during Franco’s reign, including liberals, socialists, communists, anarchists, Protestants, atheists, intellectuals, etc.

Franco’s direct control over society through a variety of means including violence and executions in cases of disobedience, anti-democratic and anti-political propaganda, and manipulation through the media, resulted in the emergence of a largely depoliticised society. In fact, it could be argued that citizens of Spain eventually came to distrust anything related to politics. The results of the recent National Election demonstrate that, even though Franco`s regime came to an end approximately 40 years ago, the depoliticization it created remain deeply ingrained in the Spanish populace. [RF2]

The cruelty of the Franco regime lasted four decades, only ending with his death on November 20, 1975. Subsequently, Spain focused its attention on establishing closer ties with Europe, with the ultimate objective of gaining official membership in the European Community (EC). King Juan Carlos I[9] believed that obtaining EC membership would require making significant reforms to the Spanish political system, including the establishment of democracy[10], and modernizing the economy. [RF3] In addition to Franco’s systematic depoliticization, Spanish society was also a victim of the methodological depoliticization associated with modernizing the economy, with the PP and the PSOE playing major roles. Over the nearly four decades, the political arena has become the playground of interest groups, powerful corporations, and bureaucrats where these actors often end up influencing the choices available to the electorate As a result, an increasing share of the population has become disinterested in politics and no longer place any trust in political discourse or election campaigns. The depoliticization of Spanish society for almost eight decades is likely a key factor behind the state of disarray that has emerged, with the country’s politicians proving incapable of forming a government since December 20th.

If the relevant parties in question are unable to form a ruling government by January 13th, then King Felipe VI will select Spain’s next Prime Minister. However, if the parliament does not approve his selection through a vote of confidence, then another National Election will be held two months later. Complicating matters for King Felipe VI is the fact that all three opposition parties have already announced that under no circumstances would they support the reappointment of Mariano Rajoy, leader of the PP, as Prime Minister. Thus, it appears as though Spain could very likely be holding new elections, which would be a historic moment, as the country has never failed to establish a parliament following the conclusion of national elections.

Notes:

[1] The People’s Alliance (Alianza Popular, AP) was a conservative right-wing party originally founded by Manuel Fraga in 1976. Previously, Fraga served as a Minister in the Franco regime. AP acted as the major opposition party in the 1980s. It was officially re-named the People’s Party in 1989.

[2]PSOE was founded by Pablo Iglesias in 1879. It was originally based on Marxist ideals, but over time it transitioned into a social-democrat party.

[3] Since being officially established on January 17, 2014, Podemos has been able to unify people from all age groups and diverse political viewpoints, including those belonging to various movements like anti-globalisation, anti-neoliberalism, anti-austerity, anti-corruption, environmentalists, socialists, and other activists. Podemos is well-known for its defense of justice and equality, its anti-globalisation discourses, and its opposition to austerity measures.Podemos is led by 37 year old Pablo Manuel Iglesias Turrión. Prior to entering into politics, he was a tenured professor of political science at the Complutense University of Madrid. His academic record is very impressive as he holds a degree in law and political science, a Master in Humanities, a Master of Arts in Communication, and a PH.D. He also studied a number of other disciplines including cinema, acting, and psychoanalysis. Before entering the political arena, Iglesias was well-known for hosting a round-table debate show on the internet called La Tuerka (The Screw). In fact, he became quite popular and gained a reputation as a strong debater while hosting La Tuerka, as well as his appearances as a guest on other political talk shows.

[4] Ciudadanos was originally founded in Catalonia in July 2006. It has always been led by Albert Rivera, a 36 year old former lawyer who is well-known for posing nude in a campaign poster during the 2006 elections for the Parliament of Catalonia. Since its inception, Ciudadanos has espoused mixed ideologies of post-nationalism, liberalism and social democracy, in addition to being well-known for its anti-immigrant and anti-abortion agenda.Furthermore, the leader of the Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera openly accepts the principles of neo-liberalism and advocates for the application of neo-liberal economic policies, which were extensively promoted and implemented by both of Spain’s traditional parties when they were in power.

[5] Since the transition from the Franco dictatorship to democracy, Spain has been led exclusively by successive PSOE (1982-1996 and 2004-2011) and PP (1996-2004 and 2011-present) governments.

[6] Furthermore, Podemos’ leader, Pablo Iglesias, has frequently criticized the EU and identified it as a contributing factor to many of the economic and social problems that exist in Spain, as well as a number of other debtor countries. Nonetheless, while he argues that Spain needs to re-acquire some of the sovereignty that it has given up in exchange for EU membership, he simultaneously acknowledges that outright withdrawal is not a viable option .

[7]The Gürtel case is one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent Spanish history. It implicated officers from the People’s Party in a number of corrupt practices including bribery, money laundering, and tax evasion.

[8] However, Franco ended up constructing an artificial national identity that completely disregarded Spain’s linguistic, historical, political and cultural diversity. For example, his regime suppressed all languages other than Castilian Spanish, including Catalan, Galician, and Basque. He also sought to develop a national Spaniard cultural identity by promoting flamenco dancing, traditional music, and bull fighting.

[9] In 1947, Franco announced that Spain was to become a monarchy without a throne. Subsequently, in 1969, he declared that Prince Juan Carlos, son of Juan of Bourbon, was to be his successor as the legitimate successor of the monarchy. On November 22, 1975, two days after the death of Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was officially declared King of Spain by the Spanish Cortes; he remained King until 2014. He played a prominent role in Spain’s transition to democracy along with a number of other politicians. Through these efforts, a new constitution was ratified via referendum on December 6th, 1978, having largely been drafted by seven specific members of the Spanish Parliament who came to be known as the “Fathers of the constitution” (los Padres de la Constitución). The new constitution declared Spain a parliamentary monarchy with King Juan Carlos I remaining as Head of State, though without any actual authority to rule the country.

[10] There is no consensus on a precise timeline with respect to the transition to democracy in Spain. Some of the commonly accepted dates marking this transition include:  the establishment of the Spanish Constitution in 1978; the unsuccessful coup d’état attempt on February 23, 1981; and, the triumph of PSOE in the election held on October 28, 1982

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£100bn+ for Britain’s Trident WMD better Spent on Hospitals …

January 11th, 2016 by Anthony Bellchambers

“The combined cost of replacing the Trident nuclear missile system and building, equipping and running two large aircraft carriers will be as much as £130bn, far more than the government has admitted, an in­-depth study of the huge defence projects reveals today.” – UK Press report Sept 2009.

£130bn, if the report was anywhere near correct, could be used to build more than two hundred (200) fully­-equipped, new hospitals nationwide to a similar specification of the planned new Royal Liverpool Hospital ­ in a move that could revolutionise the NHS in Britain.

Unfortunately, the Cameron government would prefer to spend that money on nuclear weapons that would be completely useless against existing nuclear states such as Israel that already has a fleet of second­-strike, nuclear armed submarines secretly patrolling the Mediterranean, the Gulf and possibly also the North Sea.

The so­-called Trident ‘nuclear deterrent’ may possibly deter a non­-nuclear state from attacking Britain but would not deter an existing nuclear power such as Israel, Russia, China or Pakistan if, in future, one of them should decide to flex its nuclear muscle for political or regional advantage.

Such a scenario is by no means implausible should there be a structural change in the existing relationship between any of the above nuclear powers and the United States.

Already, last week, the US has accused the Israeli state of corruption of congress and espionage in relation to the American­-led, international trade agreement with Iran and there will doubtless be further such allegations.

Britain would do far better by renouncing its policy of nuclear WMD and using the billions saved to increase the standard of national health in Britain to a level at least as good as in Germany and the EU where there is vastly superior cancer and cardiac care. That is the way to protect the lives of Britain’s citizens, not by throwing away billions on nuclear WMD that could lead to our self­-destruction.

Of course, we would probably lose our seat on the UN Security Council to the Federal Republic of India with its population already nearly nineteen (19) times the size of ours; a GDP Growth Rate of 6.9% and with oil and gas reserves many times that of the United Kingdom.

But isn’t that called ‘democracy’ and ‘common sense’ and shouldn’t Mr Cameron appreciate that colonial imperialism died in the last century? It is now January 2016.

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Britain and Saudi Arabia: Collusion in Barbarism

January 11th, 2016 by Felicity Arbuthnot

“Human rights is a cause that runs deep in the British heart and long in British history.”

(Britain is) “Driven by a belief in fundamental human rights and a passion to advance them.”

(Prime Minister David Cameron, Speech on the European Court of Human Rights, 25th January 2012.)

The British government under Prime Minister David Cameron’s leadership can claim absolute consistency in just one policy: towering, jaw dropping hypocrisy.

They follow Tony Blair and his tantrum prone, nail biting successor, Gordon Brown’s bombing, year zero inducing, orphan-creating footsteps as they attempt to market potential war crimes and illegal assaults, dressed as democracy bringing, despot vanquishing acts of mercy. Recent events have again highlighted their contempt for human life, human rights and international law.

On Saturday, 3rd January Saudi Arabia announced it had executed forty seven people.

Last September, Saudi was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights Council with Britain’s collusion due to it’s conducting: “ … secret vote-trading deals with Saudis to ensure both states were elected to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), according to leaked diplomatic cables.” (1) This was: “ after Riyadh (had) sanctioned more than a hundred beheadings so far this year – more, it is claimed, than Islamic State.”

So much for the integrity of the UK and UN Institutions.

According to international human rights organization Reprieve (reprieve.org.uk) the:

“ … executions took place in twelve cities in Saudi Arabia, four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading. The bodies were then hanged from gibbets in the most severe form of punishment available in the Kingdom’s law.”

Amnesty International is specific:

“The death penalty breaches two essential human rights: the right to life and the right to live free from torture. Both rights are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948.”

As this is written, Reprieve has updated executions in Saudi Arabia for 2015 to “at least” one hundred and fifty eight people. Another 2015 highlight of the justice system of the Chair of the Human Rights Council include a nineteen year old woman gang raped by seven men, subjected to two hundred lashes and jailed for six months. Yes, you read that correctly, the nineteen year old victim horrifically penalised, not the rapists. Moreover: “The victim’s lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, who appealed to the Court … was banned and his license was confiscated.”(2)

The response to this barbarism from Britain which has enjoined in the destruction of the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria in the last two decades – over one country every five years – in the name of freeing citizens from “regimes” who “kill their own people”, was expressed by Foreign Office Minister Tobias Elwood as: “disappointment.”

Invited on the BBC’s morning news “Today” programme (8th January) to condemn the primitive inhumanity of the executions, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond declined, faithfully echoing Saudi’s Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, stating that those shot, beheaded and hung from gibbets were “terrorists.”

As Reprieve has pointed out (3):

“ of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia in 2015, the vast majority – 72 per cent – were convicted of non-lethal offenses … while torture and forced ‘confessions’ were frequently reported.”

Further:

“Far from being ‘terrorists’, at least four of those killed were arrested after protests calling for reform – and were convicted in shockingly unfair trials. The Saudi government is clearly using the death penalty, alongside torture and secret courts, to punish political dissent.

“By refusing to condemn these executions and parroting the Saudis’ propaganda, labeling those killed as ‘terrorists’, Mr. Hammond is coming dangerously close to condoning Saudi Arabia’s approach.”

He was not alone. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was merely “dismayed”, however on the day of the mass murders, when the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was attacked by protestors enraged at the killing of respected cleric Nimr Baqir al Nimri, Ban “deplored the violence.”

Masonry clearly has far higher value than mortality on UN Plaza.

Four days later when the Saudis were accused of an attempt to bomb the Iranian Embassy in Yemen and dropping (US made) cluster munitions in a populated area, Ban ignored the Embassy attack and was merely “troubled” and expressed “concern” about the latter, in spite of saying that: “ … use of cluster munitions in populated areas may amount to a  war crime due to their indiscriminate nature.” Britain was blind, deaf and mute.

President Nobel Obama’s spokesman referred to a “list of concerns” regarding Saudi’s shooting and head chopping rampage, confirming gently that: “ … mass executions would rate highly in that list of concerns …”

For most in the real world it would “rate highly” in horror, outrage, unequivocal condemnation with immediate imposition of draconian trade and travel sanctions and withdrawal of diplomatic missions as has been meted out to countries for considerably lesser outrages, indeed even imagined ones, think Iraq and “weapons of mass destruction.” The White House was though, also very exercised by the “violent” attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. (4)

Well it would be. Forget concerns about tyrants who “kill their own people.” Last November alone the US Administration:

“approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, despite widespread mounting evidence of the country’s mass atrocities and possible war crimes in neighboring Yemen.

“The U.S. State Department … approved the sale of over 10,000 bombs, munitions, and weapons parts produced by Boeing and Raytheon. This includes 5,200 Paveway II ‘laser guided’ and 12,000 ‘general purpose’ bombs. ‘Bunker Busters,’ also included in the deal, are designed to destroy concrete structures.” (5)

Raed Jarrar, government relations manager for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) points out that it is:

“illegal under U.S. and international law to transfer weapons to human rights abusers, or to forces that will likely use it to commit gross violations of human rights,” moreover: “There is documented evidence that such abuses have been committed by almost all of U.S. allies in the region.”

As for Britain, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

“David Cameron has overseen £5.6 Billion of military licences to Saudi” they state, demanding that due to the “mass executions and (illegal) bombing of Yemen the UK must sop arming Saudi Arabia”, which say CAAT is by far the largest buyer of UK arms … licences included fighter jets, tear gas, military vehicles and targeting equipment. 62% of UK adults oppose” the sales.

It should be to Britain’s and other suppliers shame, as Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade states:

“The Saudi regime has a history of locking up bloggers, executing critics and cracking down on dissent. Despite this they can always rely on getting almost uncritical support from countries like the UK that prioritize arms company profits over human rights.”

Smith emphasizes that:

UK bombs and fighter jets have been central to the destruction of Yemen. As long as Saudi enjoys the political and military support of the most powerful Western nations, then it will continue oppressing its own population and those of neighbouring states.”

The British government may though at least finally be held to account, hopefully setting a precedent. As this was concluded the following statement arrived:

“10 January 2016

“Letter before action sent as threat of legal action over arms export licences to Saudi Arabia increases.

“Law firm Leigh Day, representing Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has issued a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review challenging the government’s decision to export arms to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that Saudi forces are violating international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen.

“As set out in the letter, a range of international organizations including the European Parliament and many humanitarian NGOs, have condemned the ongoing Saudi air strikes against Yemen as unlawful …

“Leigh Day has asked the government to confirm if it now accepts there is credible evidence Saudi Arabia has violated (international human rights law) in its conduct in Yemen.

“The letter before action has asked the government to confirm within 14 days whether the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Sajid Javid will:

1. Agree to suspend extant licences for the export of military equipment and technology to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen pending the outcome of a full review as to whether the export of military equipment is compatible with EU arms control legislation.

2. Agree not to grant further licences for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia pending the completion of such a review.

3. Agree not to grant further licences (and to suspend existing licences) until the government is in possession of sufficiently clear information to enable a proper assessment as to whether such licences can be granted lawfully. (Emphasis mine.)

Rosa Curling of Leigh Day, representing CAAT, said:

“The UK government is under a clear legal obligation to ensure any military equipment and/or technology exported from this country to another, is not being used in breach of international humanitarian law.

“Given the widespread and credible evidence that the Saudi authorities are breaching their international obligations in Yemen, we can see no credible basis upon which the UK government can lawfully continue to export arms to them.

“We hope our client’s letter will cause the government to reconsider its position and suspend all licences with immediate effect, pending a proper investigation into the issue.”

Andrew Smith adds:

“UK weapons have been central to a bombing campaign that has killed thousands of people, destroyed vital infrastructure and inflamed tensions in the region. The UK has been complicit in the destruction by continuing to support air strikes and provide arms, despite strong and increasing evidence that war crimes are being committed.”

“These arms sales should never have been approved … The Saudi regime has an appalling human rights record … How many more people will be tortured and killed before the government finally says it will stop arming … one of the most oppressive regimes in the world?”

Should there be any doubt of the abhorrence of actions of the Saudi regime and those that aid and abet them, read this statement from the Ministry of the Interior:

“The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides … That is their disgrace in this world and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”

The executed and currently threatened with death in Saudi jails, were not of course waging war against Allah, some were simply availing of the human right to write, blog, protest in the country of a Western ally – a West, with the UN, which shames all in it’s selective attitude to humanity and human rights.

 Notes:

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/29/uk-and-saudi-arabia-in-secret-deal-over-human-rights-council-place
  2. http://themillenniumreport.com/2016/01/gang-raped-saudi-woman-sentenced-to-200-lashes-and-jail-term/
  3. http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/foreign-secretary-refuses-to-condemn-saudi-mass-execution/
  4. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/01/05/u_s_officials_try_really_hard_not_to_condemn_saudi_arabia_s_mass_executions.html
  5. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/despite_atrocities_us_approves_129_billion_deal_20151117
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Media Fabrications in Support of US-NATO War on Syria

January 11th, 2016 by David Macilwain

Letter to:

Hon Melissa Parke MP [pictured left], Australian MP.

Federal Labor Member for Fremantle

Dear Melissa,

My apologies for writing to you once more in what should be a time to relax and reflect – as well as plan for a way forward in the New Year that could help us to break out of the spiral of disaster in the Middle East. Unfortunately there are many malevolent forces at work contriving to continue and worsen that disaster, while talking the language of peace and humanity.

My immediate reason for writing is following your short interview by the ABC last week, in which you quite appropriately suggested that the UK should be dropping food rather than bombs in Syria. It is tragic that such sentiment – which I’m sure would be shared by many Australians, and Syrians, is actually playing directly into the hands of those people responsible for supporting and prolonging the war on Syria, for which the plight of the civilians of Madaya has become just another emotive lever in their illegitimate campaign.

This was well illustrated in the position expressed on Al Jazeera news this morning by a representative of the ‘Syrian Opposition’ in Istanbul, who wagered that ‘before talks with the Syrian government can take place there must be an end to the sieges and a release of political prisoners’.

As has happened on a number of occasions before, notably in Yarmouk, Opposition forces have created a crisis which demands intervention as a way to sabotage ‘peace talks’ or to deflect attention from new advances in the Syrian government’s position.

Even to people familiar with the situation in Syria, and the state of play of the armed conflict in different parts of the country, the reality of what is happening in Madaya is confronting. But this is not because of the images and video we have been shown of emaciated and starving people. It is confronting because of the close involvement of aid agencies like MSF in confecting this ‘humanitarian crisis’ while concealing the reality of the political and military situation in Madaya and the surrounding Lebanese border area.

Despite my own scepticism about the claims being made – and most vociferously by Al Jazeera which actively supports the violent insurgency – I was not aware till last night of the details; of which ‘rebel’ groups are present in Madaya, what the details of the UN plan are, or how the food shortage arose.

Yesterday however I received a link to this interview with a colleague in the ‘No Syrian Intervention’ group of which I am part – Vanessa Beeley.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/f2jyWMu5kRY

Vanessa has long been an activist for Palestine, and worked in Gaza, so has a wealth of background knowledge. This perspective might be problematic for many people who either have no problem with the State of Israel, or imagine it has no close involvement in the Syrian war. The reality of course is different; not only has Israel been actively supporting jihadist groups including Al Nusra and Ahrar al Sham with hospital care and intelligence, but it has been carrying out strikes against Hezbollah forces helping the Syrian army fight those terrorist groups.

 But as she explains in this interview, the situation in Madaya is intimately connected with Israel’s pursuit of its own illegal agenda in Syria, which sees the extension of control over the Golan heights into the southern Lebanese border area as vital to limiting cooperation between Syria and Hezbollah and Iran.

That is the background perspective, which focuses on the affliations and intentions of the remaining terrorist/jihadists in Madaya, and the campaign of extorsion and siege which THEY are responsible for inflicting on the civilians in the town.  As Vanessa explains, the UN made a food delivery to Madaya in mid October, which should have lasted till the end of the year. Notwithstanding that many of the images of the starving people, allegedly in Madaya, have either been shown to be from elsewhere or are unverifiable, it appears that the privations of the population are a result of the armed insurgents taking control of the food aid and inflating its price for the civilians under their control.

It has additionally been stated by the UN that the Syrian government has not been any hindrance in the supply of aid to civilians as part of the ceasefire plans that have resolved sieges in other towns. Confirming this fact, the aid about to be despatched to Madaya by the UN is being loaded not in Beirut or in Southern Turkey, but in Damascus, despite that city still being subject to Western sanctions.

 Another vital aspect of the whole situation in Syria as regards the control of areas by insurgent groups is that the situation for the majority of Syrians is ignored by Western media, including the ABC and SBS. This is despite many cities being under constant attack by snipers and mortar fire, as well as the suicide car bombs of Al Nusra and IS. This is the situation for the two Shia villages trapped in one such occupied area of NW Syria, which has been under siege for the last three years, and in which 1700 ordinary residents have died in the struggle against the invading jihadist groups.  An essential part of the ceasefire deal which aims to resolve the crisis in Madaya – and rid the country of the armed jihadists – is the lifting of the siege of Foua and Kefraya. It is passed time that our media and government leaders acknowledged the reality of THAT siege – which is an unremitting and totally illegitimate attack on Syrian citizens being carried out by mercenaries for Saudi Arabia and Turkey, using weapons supplied by the US and trucked in over the Turkish border.

The idea that these jihadists, of the so-called ‘Army of Conquest’ could be party to any agreement brokered by the UN is ludicrous, yet the Syrian Opposition and its Western supporters present it as having equal claim to legitimacy as the Syrian government and its army.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is about time that our leaders got used to the idea that the Syrian government is the ONLY legitimate actor in Syria, along with those allies currently supporting it militarily at its invitation. So whether the UK thinks to drop bombs or food parcels in Syria is actually irrelevant. In both cases it should be working with the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies both to defeat the terrorist armies and to supply aid to the whole Syrian population.

We should not be fooled by the incessant propaganda and false flag operations now being perpetrated against Syria by the Saudi and Turkish governments, supported by the US/NATO allies. This is a direct result of the huge successes of the Russian military in disrupting the Islamic State’s Oil-for-Weapons scheme, as well as its successes in driving back the Saudi-Turkish mercenary Army of Conquest, and CIA supported ‘rebel’ groups in Western Syria. The last thing these rogue states want to see is UN brokered settlements in Syrian towns and cities, as happened recently with Homs.

My apologies once again for presenting you with this detailed and ‘controversial’ viewpoint ( incidentally not at all controversial amongst Syrians), which I hope will add some perspective absent from our main media reporting, as well as challenging the ‘expert commentary’ that helps to sell the false narratives to Australians.

with best wishes, and many thanks,

David.

PS  I have one last request, that you might help to publicise Ms Beeley’s interview amongst your colleagues or even with the ABC.   AMRIS is currently compiling a complaint to the ABC about its reporting and bias on presentation of the Syrian conflict, and part of the problem we face is in getting them to consider viewpoints and facts which have no ‘official sanction’. While Vanessa’s views might be contentious, the many factual statements she makes are quite incontrovertible – or at least need substantive and credible disproof.

Malcolm X

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A world-first global analysis of marine responses to climbing human CO2 emissions has painted a grim picture of future fisheries and ocean ecosystems. 

Published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), marine ecologists from the University of Adelaide say the expected ocean acidification and warming is likely to produce a reduction in diversity and numbers of various key species that underpin marine ecosystems around the world.

“This ‘simplification’ of our oceans will have profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade,” says Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow with the University’s Environment Institute.

Associate Professor Nagelkerken and fellow University of Adelaide marine ecologist Professor Sean Connell have conducted a ‘meta-analysis’ of the data from 632 published experiments covering tropical to artic waters, and a range of ecosystems from coral reefs, through kelp forests to open oceans.

“We know relatively little about how climate change will affect the marine environment,” says Professor Connell. “Until now, there has been almost total reliance on qualitative reviews and perspectives of potential global change. Where quantitative assessments exist, they typically focus on single stressors, single ecosystems or single species.

“This analysis combines the results of all these experiments to study the combined effects of multiple stressors on whole communities, including species interactions and different measures of responses to climate change.”

The researchers found that there would be “limited scope” for acclimation to warmer waters and acidification. Very few species will escape the negative effects of increasing CO2, with an expected large reduction in species diversity and abundance across the globe. One exception will be microorganisms, which are expected to increase in number and diversity.

From a total food web point of view, primary production from the smallest plankton is expected to increase in the warmer waters but this often doesn’t translate into secondary production (the zooplankton and smaller fish) which shows decreased productivity under ocean acidification.

“With higher metabolic rates in the warmer water, and therefore a greater demand for food, there is a mismatch with less food available for carnivores ─ the bigger fish that fisheries industries are based around,” says Associate Professor Nagelkerken. “There will be a species collapse from the top of the food chain down.”

The analysis also showed that with warmer waters or increased acidification or both, there would be deleterious impacts on habitat-forming species for example coral, oysters and mussels. Any slight change in the health of habitats would have a broad impact on a wide range of species these reefs harbour.

Another finding was that acidification would lead to a decline in dimethylsulfide gas (DMS) production by ocean plankton which helps cloud formation and therefore in controlling Earth’s heat exchange.

Story Source: The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Adelaide. .

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Palestine: Amid Right-wing Attacks, Suspected Arson at B’Tselem Offices

January 11th, 2016 by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Headquarters of Israel’s oldest human rights organization sustain heavy damage. Spokesperson says if fire turns out to be arson, ‘it must be seen in the context of the wave of government incitement and smear campaigns against Israel’s human rights groups, and B’Tselem in particular.’

A fire broke out at Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem’s offices in Jerusalem Sunday night. Police said they suspect arson.

[Update, January 11, 2016, 11 a.m.: The preliminary results of the fire inspector’s investigation indicate that the fire was the result of an electrical shortage and not arson.]

Right-wing organizations, government ministers and the media have launched seemingly concerted attacks against human rights and anti-occupation organizations in recent weeks, which many have called incitement. The government is currently advancing a law targeting human rights organizations that would portray them as serving foreign agendas.

A handful of right-wing Israelis gathered outside the building and celebrated the blaze while firefighters sought to extinguish it Sunday night, +972’s Orly Noy reported from the scene.

A handful of right-wing Israelis revel at the fire that engulfed B’Tselem’s offices in Jerusalem, January 10, 2015. (Orly Noy)

A handful of right-wing Israelis revel at the fire that engulfed B’Tselem’s offices in Jerusalem, January 10, 2015. (Orly Noy)

“We are still waiting for the findings of the fire investigator,” B’Tselem said. “However, if it is discovered that this was an arson attack, it must be seen in the context of the wave of government incitement and smear campaigns against Israel’s human rights groups, and B’Tselem in particular.”

Video footage released by the Jerusalem Fire Department showed extensive damage to the organization’s offices.

“Naturally, the damage to our offices will not stop our work of documenting and exposing the harm to human rights under the occupation,” B’Tselem said in a statement.

No B’Tselem staff was in the building at the time of the blaze, which broke out around 10 p.m. Other people in the office building, which houses at least one other NGO and a synagogue, did have to be evacuated, and one person was treated for smoke inhalation.

A firefighter stands in front of the charred door of B’Tselem’s offices in Jerusalem. (Photo: Fire Department Spokesperson)

A firefighter stands in front of the charred door of B’Tselem’s offices in Jerusalem. (Photo: Fire Department Spokesperson)

Hand in Hand, an organization that runs Israel’s only Jewish-Arab integrated school system, also has its offices in the building. A Hand in Hand school was also the target of an arson by right-wing Israelis just over a year ago. It was not immediately clear if its offices were damaged in Sunday’s fire.

Hyper-nationalist group Im Tirzu published a video accusing B’Tselem executive director Hagai Elad of being a foreign agent several weeks ago, suggesting that he and other human rights activists are somehow connected to the wave of stabbing attacks in recent months.

A separate right-wing organization put B’Tselem in its crosshairs this past weekend when it published hidden camera footage of one of its Palestinian field workers allegedly informing on a man who allegedly wanted to sell his family’s land to Israeli settlers. Israeli politicians and right-wing organizations used the video to smear the entire spectrum of human rights and anti-occupation organizations in Israel.

Peace Now executive-director Yariv Oppenheimer lay blame for the suspected arson on the doorstep of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government, saying that next political murder is closer than ever. “The government must stop its campaign of incitement against the Left and order Israel Police to protect left-wing organizations from further attempts to harm them,” Oppenheimer wrote on Facebook following the fire.

Some human rights and anti-occupation organizations have hired security guards in recent weeks in response to the delegitimization campaigns being waged against them.

Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh also blamed the government for the suspected arson:

“We don’t know who threw the punch but the source of the fire that was set tonight at B’Tselem’s offices is the government and the [prime minister] who are conducting an incitement campaign against human rights organizations,” Odeh said late Sunday night.

Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova responded with dire warnings about those who celebrated the fire, and those who may have set it. “We won’t allow them to drag us down, into a bloody civil war,” she wrote on Facebook. “We simply can’t allow it.”

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When a criminal justice system born in Native American genocide and Black slave patrolling finds itself in conflict with conservative white Christian landowners, it short-circuits. “The Mass Black Incarceration State was designed to pre-empt any insurgency by Black people” – but is wholly unprepared to handle armed revolt from the white Right, from which it also draws much of its police manpower.

How is it that the Superpower of Policing and Prosecution seems to fear a confrontation with groups with names like the Oregon Bearded Bastards?

The armed right-wing activists that seized control of a federal wildlife sanctuary compound in eastern Oregon have already committed – and conspired to commit – enough serious criminal violations of U.S. law to land each of them in federal prison for the rest of lives. Of course, as Wajahat Ali points out in The Guardian newspaper, if the gunmen were Muslim or Black, they’dalready be dead.

This is not a great revelation. Every Black child knows that white lives carry a premium value in the United States, while Blacks are casually killable. In a society where Walking While Black, Driving While Black or simply Breathing While Black is so often treated as a capital crime, the racial double standard is the norm.

That’s why it’s insane to think that this society can be made worthy of Black habitation through tinkering with the system, piecemeal reforms, and appeals to the federal government for protection and relief. This is the same federal government that framed poor Black men from Miami and Newburgh, New York, on terrorist conspiracy charges, and that condones conspiracy indictments carrying life in prison for 100 Black youngsters from New York City housing projects based on their postings in Facebook.

But the white, rightwing land grabbers who are in armed occupation of federal property can’t seem to buy a confrontation with President Obama’s FBI or any other armed federal agency. How is it, the people of the world must be wondering, that a country that runs by far the world’s biggest prison system, with the most heavily armed cops on the planet, equipped with the most advanced evidence gathering devices known to man – how is it that the Superpower of Policing and Prosecution seems to fear a confrontation with groups with names like the Oregon Bearded Bastards?

The white, rightwing land grabbers who are in armed occupation of federal property can’t seem to buy a confrontation with President Obama’s FBI.

The reason is really quite simple: the U.S. criminal justice system was not created to control white militias or greedy ranchers or gun-toting racists and Bible-thumpers. For most of U.S. history, these were prime stakeholders in the American project to build a White Man’s Nation. The gunmen in Oregon have plenty of historical reasons to believe that land-grabbing is their birthright – and that a significant segment of white America empathizes with them. The federal government treads lightly, because white Christian lives do matter.

For almost 50 years, the primary mission of the U.S. criminal justice system has been to control, contain and incarcerate Black Americans. It has spent half a century refining the tools to terrorize Black people on the streets, in their homes and in their schools. It is so efficient at what it does, that one out of every eight prison inmates on the planet is an African American. The Mass Black Incarceration State was designed to pre-empt any insurgency by Black people – not to deal with the Bundy family and the Bearded Bastards of Oregon.

That’s why I think the Lords of Capital are much more afraid of Donald Trump than they are of Bernie Sanders. They think Trump might stir up more of those white bearded bastards, many of whom hate Wall Street almost as much as they do the federal government – which is a real problem for U.S. law enforcement.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

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If you are a nurse in the US and refuse the flu vaccine (one the CDC has even admitted doesn’t always work, largely due to fast mutations and too slow of production) then you have to wear a face mask while on duty. Despite the fact that multiple studies have also shown that flu vaccinations are ineffective and do not offer any extra protection for hospital patients, hospitals are forcing the issue on some of their most prized employees.

Some nurses are choosing to lose their jobs instead of being forced into receiving a vaccine. Others are fighting back by suing the hospital, state, and federal governments for $100,000,000 for trying to take away their constitutional rights.

Dr. Karen Sullivan Sibert, herself a pro-vaccine doctor, wrote an opinion piece explaining how requiring nurses to wear masks for refusing the flu vaccination violates HIPAA law for patient privacy. More importantly, it forces our front lines in the healthcare industry to take a concoction with numerous questionable ingredients, including known neurotoxins like aluminum, foreign proteins derived from GM ingredients, and more.

There are in fact, more than 22,000 nurses, part of Nurses against Mandatory Vaccines (NAMV), who are refusing mandatory vaccines. NAMV was founded when mandatory vaccines were introduced in the workplace, and though it is not pro-vaccine OR anti-vaccine, it is certainly pro-CHOICE. NAMV members believe that all people should have the right to choose and refuse medical treatment, including nurses and healthcare workers.

Why the big push for flu vaccines, anyhow? Publicly available information now shows that hospital systems are REQUIRED to have a 90% or higher flu shot reception rate among their staff, or they lose up to 2% of their funding of Medicare/Medicaid. Conflict of interest?

While the government itself does not require mandatory vaccination policies, many if not all are taking an “all or nothing” stance against their workers. Healthcare workers are now facing being fired if they refuse a flu vaccine. Not only is this a human rights violation, it is also an EEOC violation.

Furthermore, the response to skewed figures which show that about 30,000 people die from the flu every year are used to muddy the waters. This is only an estimation, with pneumonia and other diseases lumped in together with the flu – there is no vaccine for pneumonia, and most flu strains change before a new vaccine can be made to effectively treat them anyhow. What’s more, the most vulnerable victims are infants and the elderly.

Many more people die each year from medical errors, heart disease, diabetes, and other health complications.

NAMV argues that, though it has been suggested that mandatory flu vaccines are for “patient safety,” mandatory flu vaccine policies are to provide more funding and money for the vaccine companies who produce these drugs. Flu vaccines are argued to be just another money train for Big Pharma.

It is refreshing to see that nurses and other healthcare workers are standing up against forced medical procedures.

Additional Sources:

CDC.gov

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The number of journalists and media professionals worldwide, who have been killed in 2015, fluctuated between 98 and 133, depending on the source. That is much higher than in 2014. Iraq was again the deadliest country with 48 victims. No Western news agency mentioned the reports of Iraqi journalists associations. “Embedded Journalism”: an analysis of the available sources.

* Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – 110 journalists killed in 2015 – 11 killed in Iraq

RSF Annual Round-up:

At least 67 killed while reporting or because of their work; RSF condemns failure to protect journalists, calls for “response to match the emergency”.

A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015, according to the round-up published on 29 December by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which is in a position to say that 67 of them were targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.

These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005. It has not been possible to clearly establish the circumstances or motives of this year’s 43 other deaths of journalists. Twenty-seven citizen-journalists and seven media workers were also killed in 2015.

The RSF report condemns the failure to protect journalists and calls for a response to match the emergency.

“The creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is absolutely essential,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in the report.

He adds: “Non-state groups perpetrate targeted atrocities while too many governments do not comply with their obligations under international law. The 110 journalists killed this year need a response that matches the emergency. A special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists must be appointed without delay.”

11 journalists were killed in Iraq, 10 in Syria, and 8 in France, shows the report. It was the deadliest country for journalists

* International Press Institute – 133 journalists killed in 2015 – 16 killed in Iraq

IPI: 2015 one of deadliest years on record for journalists

98 believed dead because of their work, 35 others remain unconfirmed

That count includes the executions of 16 journalists in Iraq; the massacres of eight journalists at the Paris offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo in January and five journalists found dead in Libya in April; and the killings of two Syrian journalists in Turkey in October.

The International Press Institute is a Global Network for a Free Media, founded in October 1950

* The International Federation of Journalists – 115 journalists killed in 2015 – 10 in Iraq

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is the world’s largest organisation of journalists. First established in 1926, it was relaunched in 1946 and again, in its present form, in 1952. Today the Federation represents around 600.000 members in more than 134 countries. 115 journalists were killed in 2015, 10 journalists were killed in Iraq, according to IFJ.

* Committee To Protect Journalists – 98 journalists killed in 2015 – 5 killed in IraqCPJ Confirms 69 Journalists Killed in Action in 2015; says Syria is Deadliest Country

Syria and France were the deadliest countries for journalists in 2015, according to the report, released 29 December 2015.

CPJ found that there were 69 journalists killed for their work (motive confirmed), with 40% of those killed by Islamic militants, nine of those in France. That is up from 61 confirmed killings in 2014. There are also an additional journalists deaths CPJ is investigating but has yet to determine whether or not they were work-related. Deaths included reprisal killings and those killed in combat or crossfire.

Syria topped the list with 13 deaths, followed by France with 9, all but one of those due to the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 that left 8 dead.

For the past three years, deaths in Syria have far outpaced those in other countries, but in 2015 the deaths were also widely distributed, according to the study, with at least five each in Iraq, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Sunday and Yemen.

– 71 Journalists Killed in 2015/Motive Confirmed

– 3 Media Workers Killed in 2015

– 24 Journalists Killed in 2015/Motive Unconfirmed

That’s 98 murdered journalists, 5 of them in Iraq.

* UNESCO

UNESCO has listed 98 murdered journalists in 2015, among them 6 killed in Iraq.

* Press Emblem Campaign – 135 journalists killed – 10 killed in Iraq

Press Emblem Campagn (Geneva) Summary for 2015: 135 journalists killed in 33 countries: Syria 13 killed, Iraq 10, Mexico 10, France 9, Brazil 8, Libya 8, the Philippines 8, India 7, South Sudan 7, Yemen 7, Pakistan 6, Somalia 6, Honduras 5, Colombia 4, Ukraine 4, Bangladesh 3, Guatemala 3, Afghanistan 2, USA 2. One journalist was killed in each of the following countries: Azerbaijan, Burundi, Dominican Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza (OPT), Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Paraguay, Poland, Saudi Arabia.

** Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq – 28 Journalists killed in Iraq in 2015

Twenty-eight journalists were killed in Iraq in 2015, the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq said in a recent report.

The association said 17 of the victims were killed by IS. In 2015, the press community in Iraq witnessed a rise in risk and new channels of danger threatened their work and lives.

Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq recorded that 28 journalists have been killed in all parts of Iraq due to their duty. 25 journalists were subjected to serious injuries that they had sustained during military operations that they covered. The fate of four journalists remains unknown.

180 cases of violation were recorded against journalists varying between killing threats, imprisonment, arresting, beating, and obscuring or delaying duty. More than 307 lawsuits and 497 investigations were filed against journalists or media institutions at the Media and Publishing Court alone. Most of them were under the item of “Publishing, Defamation, and Denouncing crimes”in the Iraqi criminal law no. 111 /1969, and other laws inherited from the previous era and all its stipulations were reactivated under the title of “press rights” that was legislated by Iraqi Parliament in August/2011.

In spite the fact that targeting, abducting and killing journalists by ISIL are the main features of the media scene during 2015, legislation remains the primary risk that endangers freedom of expression in Iraq, especially the efforts exerted by political powers to enforce new legislations that threaten the freedom of expression and undermine democracy, especially the bill on freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration.

** Iraq Journalist Syndicate – 29 Journalists killed in Iraq in 2015

A total of 29 Iraqi journalists were killed in the violence-ridden country in 2015, many of executed by the extremist Islamic State (IS) group, an Iraqi journalists’ body said on Tuesday 15 December. This was reported in English, only by the Chinese news agency Xinhua

The latest bodycount brings the death toll of journalists in the country to 435 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

“There is fear for the safety of the Iraqi Journalists, who are still vulnerable to more attacks in the absence of the rule of law and ignorance of some government departments for the positive role of the press in correcting the courses of the political performance as well as detecting errors,” said a report by the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate.

The report showed that IS terrorists executed 20 in and near the IS-held city of Mosul for different motives during the year, and three others were killed while covering battles against the IS extremist militants, while six were killed in the almost daily violence in Baghdad and Iraqi cities.

According to the report, more than 43 offenses had been registered against the journalists during the year, ranging from abduction, beating and raids on their headquarters and houses to prevent them from reporting.

Such killings and other offenses came despite some positive indicators in general, like increasing confirmations by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi toward rejecting any kind of offenses against journalists, and his orders to set up investigative committees to follow up any offense that might happen against journalists and media outlets, it added.

Observers blame the current chronic instability, cycle of violence, and the emergence of extremist groups such as the IS on the U.S., which invaded Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext of seeking to destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country.

The US occupation of Iraq proved the deadliest conflict for journalists in history. Until the end of 2015, 470 media professionals died in Iraq, according to the Brussells Tribunal database, 437 of them Iraqis.

Iraq was in 2015 again the deadliest place on earth for media professionals, as this was the case in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014.

48 journalists and employees were slain in Iraq in 2015

If we look for murdered journalists in Iraq and we compare the above lists and other press articles, we have to conclude that at least 48 journalists and media workers were slain in Iraq in 2015. That’s a lot more than the five of CPJ, the 11 of RSF, the 16 of IPI, the six of UNESCO and the 10 of PEC and IFJ.

It is particularly noteworthy that only the Chinese news agency Xinhua mentions the report of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate in English. The report itself is indeed only available in Arabic. Many Asian countries mention this report, but no Western news agency nor any Western newspaper makes an effort to investigate the Iraqi figures, let alone make reference to the two Iraqi reports. That is, at best, sloppy work, at worst an expression of contempt for non-Western sources, Eurocentrism. The aforementioned Western organizations, which should defend the interests of the journalists, have abandoned their colleagues in Iraq for 25 years. “Embedded” journalism is a phenomenon that has occurred in war zones since 2003, now it appears to have spread to all areas in Western society.

Here’s the list of media professionals, killed in Iraq:

1- 2/1/2014: Islamic State militants executed journalist Suheil Najem, working for after returning to his home in Shirqat north of Tikrit.

2- 14/1/2015: ISIS executes Suheil Alduleimy, a presenter, and correspondent for Anbar Satellite Channel, during his transport in Rutba city.

3- 14/1/2015: Alghadir satellite channel cameraman (Unknown name) was killed in Salahuldin.

4- 15/01/2015: ISIS militants carry out the death sentence against Ahmed Mahmoud, a reporter in Mosul.

5- 20/01/2015: IS militants execute Sama Mosul TV channel presenter Essam Mahmoud.

6- 23/01/2015 Ali Ansari was killed in crossfire 5 while covering fighting between pro-government Iraqi forces and militants from the Islamic State group in Muqdadiyah, Diyala province, north of Baghdad. Al-Ansari worked as a cameraman for Al-Ghadeer satellite television. Several other journalists were reportedly injured during the clash. correspondent van Al-Ghadeer Satellite Television vermoord tijdens gevechten in Muqdadiyah in de provincie Diyala.

7- 25/01/2015 Adnan Abdul Razzaq was killed by militants from the Islamic State group in Mosul on Jan. 25, 2015. Local reports indicated that he was executed by firing squad. Razzaq was a photojournalist for the Sama Mosul television channel.

8- 08/02/2015: Islamic State group militants shot Sama Mosul TV correspondent Qais Talal to death in the center of Mosul, the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory (JFO) reported. Talal – who had worked as a reporter for Shafaq news agency, Al-Rasheed TV and AL-Bayyna AL-Jadida newspaper, among others – reportedly was accused of spying and communicating with state-owned media, and reportedly had been detained for more than four months.

9-16/02/2015: Islamic State group militants reportedly executed photojournalist Ashraf Shamil Al Abadi Al-Abadi’s relatives, citing private sources, told the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory (JFO) that militants had killed him, but refused to announce his death or hand over his body.

10- 13/3/2015: ISIS executes the journalist Alaa Mazin Abdullah, correspondent for Sama Almosul in Mosul.

11- 15/03/2015: Islamic State group militants executed photojournalist Omar Younis Al Ghaafiqi, after having kidnapped him from his home east of Mosul, the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory (JFO) reported. The group did not hand over his body. Al-Ghaafiqi’s parents were reportedly told only that he had been executed for violating sharia court orders and leaking information to local and foreign media. Al-Ghaafiqi had worked as a photojournalist for different Mosul-based media before joining the Nineveh province Media Office.

12- 15/3/2015: ISIS executes the journalist Ahmad Hiskou, who works at Al mosul al youm journal in Mosul.

13- 16/3/2015: ISIS executes Media man Jamal Subhy who holds an Egyptian ID and lived in Mosul.

14- Op 16 maart vermoordt ISIS de bekende journalist Fadhil al-Hadidi nadat hij in juni 2014 in Mosoel ontvoerd was door de organisatie.

15- 25/3/2015: in unclear circumstances press photographer Ahmad Alawwady of Alahad channel, was killed by unidentified persons in Kerbala.

16- 27/3/2015: Alnujabaa satellite channel cameraman , Ammar Jasim, was killed in Tikrit during escorting military troops.

17- 8/4/2015: ISIS executes the journalist Ahmad Mahmoud Assafar, correspondent for Sama Almosul in Mosul.

18- 17/04/2015: Islamic State group militants executed veteran television journalist – Firas Yasin Al Jubori, “Firas Al Bahr” in Mosul after he refused to join the group, the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate told Kurdish media outlet Rudaw. Some reports indicated that Al-Bahri had been held captive for nearly three weeks prior to his death. Separately, the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory reported that Al-Bahri, an alias for Firas Yasin Al-Jubouri, was killed on April 17, 2015. Iraqi media outlets reported that Al-Bahri was an engineer at the Nineveh Al-Ghad television station for more than a year before Islamic State group militants stormed the city and had worked for Mosul TV for five years before that.

19- 26/04/2015: Islamic State group militants shot dead Thaer Ali, editor-in-chief of the independent Mosul daily Rai al-Nas, on April 26, 2015 in Mosul. The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate reported that militants kidnapped Al-Ali on April 6 from a cafe and accused of him spying for the Iraqi government after finding contacts for government officials.

20- 02/05/2015: Ammar Al Shahbander, long-standing Chief of Mission in Iraq for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), holding the Swedish Nationality, was killed in a car bomb attack in the busy commercial area of Karrada in Baghdad.

It is believed that up to 17 people were killed in twin bomb blasts in the area. Emad al-Sharaa, also with IWPR in Baghdad, was wounded, and remains in serious but stable condition.

21- 05/05/2015: journalist Raad Hamid al-Jubouri, presenter in the satellite channel Al Rasheed, was found dead in his apartment next to the Karkh district of Baghdad.

22- 05/05/2015: Majid al-Rubaie died in a hospital in Baghdad. Al-Rubaie was a TV reporter with Al Masar TV, was injured by sniper fire in Garma on April 29 while traveling with security forces to report on clashes between militants from the Islamic State group and government forces.

23- 18/05/2015: IS militants execute journalist of the Sama Mosul TV channel Firas Yasin al-Bahri in the city of Mosul after being held for twenty days on charges of anti-ISI activities.

24- 20/05/2015: IS militants carry out the death sentence against reporter Jassim al-Jubouri, who worked for the daily newspaper issued in Mosul.

25- 20/06/2015: Alahad satellite channel cameraman, Hussein Fadel Hassan, was killed during covering the incidents of Baiji.

26- 11/07/2015: Almawqif satellite channel correspondent, Hussein Alaa, was killed during covering the battles of Beiji.

27- 06/07/2015: Islamic State group militants executed newspaper reporter Suha Ahmed Radhi in Mosul, the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate (IJS) told Kurdish media outlet Rudaw. Reports indicated that she was detaining during a raid on her home east of the city and was held in captivity prior to her execution. According to the IJS, Radi had been sentenced to death by a sharia court for allegedly spying.

28- 16/07/2015: Militants from the Islamic State group executed journalist and cameraman Jalaa Adnan al-Abadi in Mosul, reportedly by firing squad, on accusations of “spying”. Al-Abadi worked as a cameraman for Al Mosuliya TV before joining the Nineveh Media Network as a photojournalist. The married father of two had been held since June 4, when militants who accused him of transmitting information about the Islamic State group to outsiders abducted him from his home.

29- 05/08/2015: Islamic State group militants executed writer and journalist vermoordt ISIS journalist Ghazi al-Obeidi, who had been kidnapped and put under arrest by the extremist militant group more than a week earlier, the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory reported. His family were summoned to the forensic unit to receive his body after he was shot to death. Al-Obeidi, 65, reportedly wrote columns published in local newspapers under the title “the fish man”, in reference to the prophet Jonah, a prominent symbol of Mosul. His writings focused on financial corruption and its links with violence and terrorism.

30- 09/08/2015: Islamic State group militants executed journalism student wordt journalist Zuhair Kinan Al-Nahass, less than one week after he was abducted from his home in eastern Mosul, the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory reported. Al-Nahass, a second-year student at the University of Mosul, was reportedly killed after local media picked up his photograph of a burned-out Islamic State vehicle hit by an international coalition missile.

31, 32, 33- 11/08/2015: ISIS organization in Mosul executed the following journalists, Medhat Hassan al-Obeidi , Waddah Hassan al-Obeidi en Samir Hassan al-Obeidi in the city of Mosul. The three journalists were brothers from the population of Hamam al-Alil area south of the city. The three journalists were executed due to providing the Iraqi and foreign media institutions with pictures and information from areas under control of the organization.

34- 16/08/2015: Islamic State group militants executed journalist Yahya al-Khatib in Mosul following a summary trial, according to an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul, Kurdish media outlet Rudaw reported. A sharia court reportedly convicted Al-Khatib of spying for the Iraqi government and he was executed by firing squad later that day. Al-Khatib had worked as a sports reporter and TV presenter at Al-Mosuliyah and Nineveh Al-Ghad satellite channels, until the city fell into the hands of the group, the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory reported.

35- 21/08/2015: Islamic State group militants executed satellite television journalist Sabah Muhammad and chief engineer Waleed Abdullah in Mosul, reportedly for “violating the group’s regulations”, independent Syrian press agency ARA News reported.

36- 21/08/2015: Islamic State group militants executed satellite television journalist Waleed Abdullah in Mosul.

37- 25/08/2015: Islamic State group militants executed cameraman at Reuters, Al-arabiya and Salahuldin Agencies in Mosul Adel Saegh, independent Syrian press agency ARA News reported. He was reportedly sentenced to death by a sharia court for spreading “anti-IS propaganda”.

38- 05/09/2015: Islamic State group militants executed Iraqi journalist Ikhlas Ghanim, independent Syrian press agency ARA News reported. Ghanim was reportedly shot dead in front of a crowd on charges of supporting ‘propaganda’ against the group. Local sources said the militants killed Ghanim because she was reporting on atrocities committed by the group.

39- 10/09/2015: the body of freelance journalist Haidar Ghazi al-Rubaie, was found hours after he was kidnapped in Nasiriyah in south Iraq by unidentified gunmen. The body was found dismembered and wrapped in a blanket. Rubaie had returned home from exile since a few days.

40- 12/09/2015: Islamic State group militants executed Iraqi journalist Yahya Abdul Hamad, the director of Mosul-based broadcaster Al-Rashid, in Mosul. Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that the Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said that the killing came hours after Hamad was abducted from his home. Following the abduction, militants reportedly searched his house and seized a computer and other devices. They also reportedly told the journalist’s family upon releasing his body that any ceremony mourning his death would draw punishment.

41- 15/09/2015: journalist Nazim Naeem Qaisi, who worked as the editor in the Media Office of the Ministry of Trade, died 14 September in the explosion of an explosive device in his car in Karkh district in Baghdad after leaving the headquarters of the Ministry of Trade.

42- 20/09/2015: IS militants kill photojournalist Qahtan Salman, who worked for Sama Mosul Channel after he was kidnapped from his home in the neighborhood of the city center under the pretext of disclosing information about the movement.

43- 23/09/2015: IS militants executed journalist Qahtan Adnan al-Naimi, after he was arrested from his home in Sugar Nizqh in the northern city of Mosul, for not cooperating with the organization.

44- 04/10/2015 IS militants carried out the death sentence against Marwan Younis, journalist with Sama Mosul satellite channel, several months after he was kidnapped.

45- 30/10/2015: The body of journalist Saab Majid, reporter with Iraq Times was found two days after he was kidnapped from the city of Basra where his body appeared with signs of torture before being shot.

46- 13/11/2015: The body of photojournalist Imad al-Jubouri, who worked at the Furat satellite channel was found found, five days after he was kidnapped when he came out of the station’s office in Najaf.

47- 13/11/2015: Islamic State group militants executed Muhannad Aligaidy, correspondent for Sada Press in Mosul.

48- December 2015: IS militants executed newspaper delegate Baher Adnan Rashid in Mosul after he was kidnapped from his home east of Mosul under the pretext of lack of loyalty for the organization.

Dirk Adriaensens is a member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of the UN sanctions. He was a member of the International Organising Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics. He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), Global Research’s Online Interactive I-Book ‘The Iraq War Reader, Global Research (2012), Het Midden Oosten, TheTimes They are a-changin ‘, EPO (2013) and is a frequent contributor to Global Research, Truthout, Al Araby, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

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Jack Rasmus takes a look at this past week’s major event in the collapse of the China stock market, as well as the resurgence of Neoliberal policies in South America and the US pivot to that continent and destabilization of economies in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentine now underway.  What’s behind the most recent stock decline in China?

Jack explains its relationship to the slowing real economy there, and the pressure to devalue its currency, the Yuan, that is growing. Devaluation coming in China is reflected in investors attempting to take their money and run, thus the stock decline now underway. China government efforts to slow it via ‘circuit breakers’ is not working as well as before. The real economy-currency-stock nexus will continue. How this all has contagion effects on the rest of the global economy is explained.

Jack then looks at the US ‘pivot’ to South America, and specifically how the US destabilizes economies by wrecking its currency. Global oil and commodity crash, slowing China, and US interest rate hikes are all having major negative effects on South American economies. In this scenario, the US is now attempting to exacerbate Venezuela’s currency collapse even further, while attacking it politically and legally.  Venezuela is a model of how the US destabilizes a country’s currency and therefore economy, as a prelude to re-establishing more friendly Neoliberal governments and policies.

For a comprehensive analysis of both China and Emerging Market economies, see chapters 3 and 6 of Jack’s just published book, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’, Clarity Press, January 1, 2016, available from this blog (see icon) and Jack’s website (book icon front webpage), purchasable by paypal, or now available on Amazon and at bookstores.

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The US military drones launched airstrikes on the popular forces in an area in Tikrit that had already been purged of terrorists, leaving two dozen casualties.

“In an incident against which we have had warned several times in the past, the US-led coalition attacked the Jund al-Imam Battalion popular forces’ headquarters at Speicher base in Tikrit,” Spokesman for Asaeb Ahl Al-Haq Battalion (one of the popular groups fighting alongside the Iraqi army against the ISIL) Naeim al-Aboudi said on Sunday.

He confirmed that 9 people were killed and 14 others were wounded in the attack.

Aboudi condemned the attack, and said no excuse could justify the air raid as the region had earlier been purged of terrorists and only the Iraqi popular and security forces were stationed there.

In relevant remarks in December, a commander of volunteer forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) disclosed the US plots to evacuate ISIL leaders from the city of Ramadi as Iraqi army and popular troops are completing victory over the terrorist group.

“The delay in operations to liberate Ramadi and Fallujah cities in al-Anbar province is the result of the US interference,” Commander of Imam Khamenei Battalion Haidar al-Hosseini al-Ardavi told FNA.

“It seems that the US intends to evacuate the ISIL terrorist group’s infamous ringleaders secretly (with helicopters) from Ramadi to unknown places,” he added.

His remarks came as Iraqi security forces continue to gain ground in Ramadi, and opened their way to the central parts of the strategic city where hundreds of ISIL terrorists are trapped under siege.

The Iraqi forces made a considerable advance in the strategic city of Ramadi in Anbar after they reached the Tigris River.

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More fabricated photos (see info-graphic) have been used by al Qaeda groups and western media in the dirty war on Syria, the residents of the town of Madaya have been used as human shields by NATO backed terrorists

Those same gangs used recycled photos to blame the Syrian Army and Hezbollah of starving civilians these photos are from from other years and other places

Several villages are in this stand-off situation, where both sides need to clear the way for aid convoys

Fortunately, on 8 January aid convoys broke through, reaching Madaya.

Click image to enlarge

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The implication of a report written for the US Congress is that the United States is a state sponsor of terrorism in Syria. At the same time, the report challenges widely held beliefs about the conflict, including the idea that the opposition has grass-roots support and that the conflict is a sectarian war between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect and the majority Sunnis.

Written in October 2015, the report was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the United States Library of Congress. The Congressional Research Service provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of the US House and Senate.

Titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and US Response,” the report reveals that:

1. The Syrian conflict is between Islamists and secularists, not Sunnis and Alawites.

Media reports often emphasize the dominant Sunni character of the rebels who have taken up arms against the Syrian government, while depicting the Syrian government as Alawite-led. What is almost invariably overlooked is that the largest Sunni fighting force in Syria is the country’s army. Yes, the rebels are predominantly Sunni, but so too are the Syrian soldiers they’re fighting. As Congress’s researchers point out, “most rank and file military personnel have been drawn from the majority Sunni Arab population and other (non-Alawite) minority groups” (p. 7). Also: “Sunni conscripts continue to fight for Assad” (p. 12). Rather than being a battle between two different sects, the conflict is a struggle, on the one hand, between Sunni fundamentalists who want to impose their version of Islam on Syrian politics and society, and on the other hand, Syrians, including Sunnis, who embrace a vision of a secular, non-sectarian government.

2. The Syrian Opposition Coalition is dominated by Islamists and is allied with foreign enemies of Syria.

According to the report, the Syrian National Council (whose largest member is the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) is the “largest constituent group” of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC). The SOC is based “in Turkey and considered to be close to foreign opponents of Assad.” (p. 14) The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to base political rule on the Quran, which it sees as divinely inspired, rather than on a secular constitution.

3. “Political opposition coalitions appear to lack…grass roots support” (p. 27).

This is consistent with the findings of a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. That poll found that Assad has more support than the forces arrayed against him.

Syrians rally for Assad,  October, 2011.

Syrians rally for Assad, October, 2011.

The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army and 26 percent for the SOC. [1]

An in-country face-to-face ORB poll conducted in May 2014 arrived at similar conclusions. That poll found that more Syrians believed the Assad government best represented their interests and aspirations than believed the same about any of the opposition groups. [2]

According to the poll, only six percent believed that the “genuine” rebels represented their interests and aspirations, while the ‘National Coalition/transitional government,” a reference to the SOC, drew even less support, at only three percent.

Assad has repeatedly challenged the notion that he lacks popular support, pointing to his government surviving nearly five years of war against forces backed by the most powerful states on the planet. It’s impossible to realistically conceive of his government’s survival under these challenging circumstances, he argues, without its having the support of a sizeable part of its population. [3]

4. A moderate opposition doesn’t exist. The United States is trying to build one to act as its partner.

The report refers to US efforts to create partners in Syria, a euphemism for puppets who can be relied upon to promote US interests.

Secretary of Defense Carter described the ‘best’ scenario for the Syrian people as one that would entail an agreed or managed removal of Assad and the coalescence of opposition forces with elements of the remaining Syrian state apparatus as U.S. partners …. (emphasis added, pp. 15-16).

Also: The Pentagon “sought to…groom and support reliable leaders to serve as U.S partners…” (emphasis added, p. 23).

To create partners, the United States is engaged in the project of building a “moderate” opposition. According to the report:

On June 18, Secretary of Defense Carter said, ‘…the best way for the Syrian people for this to go would be for him to remove himself from the scene and there to be created, difficult as it will be, a new government of Syria based on the moderate opposition that we have been trying to build… (emphasis added, footnote, p. 16).

In the report summary the researchers write that US strategy seeks to avoid “inadvertently strengthening Assad, the Islamic State, or other anti-U.S. armed Islamist groups” (emphasis added.) What’s left unsaid is that armed Islamist groups that are not immediately anti-U.S. may be looked upon favorably by US strategy. However, that “political opposition coalitions…appear to lack grass-roots support,” and that Washington can’t rely on an already-formed moderate opposition but needs to build one, shows that the set of rebels on which the US can rely to act as US partners who will rule with elements of the existing Syrian state in a post-Assad Syria is virtually empty. The conclusion is substantiated by the failure of a now-abandoned Pentagon program to train and equip vetted rebel groups. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top American commander in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that despite the Pentagon spending $500 million training and equipping “moderate” rebels, only “four or five” were “in the fight.” [4] As the Wall Street Journal observed in late December, moderate rebels don’t exist. They’ve either been absorbed into Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrah al-Sham and ISIS—the extremist terrorist groups which dominate the opposition—or were Islamist militants all along. [5]

5. The United States is arming sectarian terrorists indirectly and possibly directly and covertly.

The report points out that not only has the Pentagon openly trained and equipped rebels, but that the United States has also covertly armed them. According to the Congress’s researchers:

Then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a September 2013 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Administration was taking steps to provide arms to some Syrian rebels under covert action authorities (p. 23).

Also:

Secretary Hagel said, ‘it was June of this year that the president made the decision to support lethal assistance to the opposition….we, the Department of Defense, have not been involved in this. This is, as you know, a covert action’ (footnote, p.23).

If the United States was prepared to overtly arm some rebel groups, why is it covertly arming others? A not unreasonable hypothesis is that it is arming some rebel groups covertly because they have been designated as terrorist organizations. To be sure, a number of press reports have revealed that rebels who have received training and arms from the United States are operating with terrorist groups in Syria. According to the Wall Street Journal, “insurgents who have been trained covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency…are enmeshed with or fighting alongside more hard-line Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate” [6]. Another report from the same newspaper notes that “al-Nusra has fought alongside rebel units which the U.S. and its regional allies have backed” [7]. A third report refers to collaboration between “CIA-backed Free Syrian army factions and extremist elements such as Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham” [8]. Let’s be clear. Anyone who is enmeshed with and fighting alongside Al-Qaeda is a terrorist.

terroristAccording to Congress’s researchers, weapons the US furnished to selected groups have made their way to jihadists. “Some Syrian opposition groups that have received U.S. equipment and weaponry to date have surrendered or lost these items to other groups, including to extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra” (p. 23).

When you consider that, as The Washington Post reported, “the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years” [9] and that, at best, there are 700, and more likely only 70 “moderate” rebels in Syria [10], then the bulk of the large rebel force the CIA has trained and equipped is very likely made up of Islamist extremists. Concealing this shameful reality from the US public is probably the principal reason the program is covert.

6. Washington wants to contain ISIS, but not eliminate it, in order to maintain military pressure on the Syrian government.

Based on the US coalition’s less than vigorous air campaign against ISIS, many observers have questioned whether the United States is at all serious about eliminating ISIS just yet, and is simply trying to contain it, to keep pressure on the Syrian government. For example, veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk says: “I don’t think the U.S. is serious. Very occasionally, you can hear the rumble of American bombs. But they’re certainly not having much effect.” [11]

One day, soon after Russia began air operations in Syria, journalist Patrick Cockburn noted that “Russian planes carried out 71 sorties and 118 air strikes against Islamic fighters in Syria over the past two days compared to just one air strike by the US-led coalition – and this single strike, against a mortar position, was the first for four days.” [12] After ISIS captured Palmyra, and pushed into Aleppo, the US coalition did nothing to push back the ISIS advance, leading even rebels to question “the U.S.’s commitment to containing the group.” [13] Assad too has expressed scepticism about whether the United States is serious about destroying ISIS, pointing to the terrorist organization’s continued successes in Syria, despite the US coalition’s presumed war against it. “Since this coalition started to operate,” observed the Syrian president, “ISIS has been expanding. In other words, the coalition has failed and it has no real impact on the ground.” [14]

A tepid approach to fighting ISIS in Syria would fit with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading the Al-Qaeda offspring organization. Destroying it may be an ultimate goal, to be achieved after ISIS has served the purpose of weakening the Syrian government. But for now, the United States appears to be willing to allow ISIS to continue to make gains in Syria. The Congressional Research Service report concurs with this view: It concludes that “U.S. officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government (p. 19).

By contrast, Moscow has pursued a more vigorous war against ISIS, and for an obvious reason. Unlike Washington, it seeks to prop up its Syrian ally, not give ISIS room to weaken it. It should be additionally noted that Russia’s military operations in Syria are legal, carried out with the permission of the Syrian government. By contrast, the US coalition has brazenly flouted international law to enter Syrian airspace without Damascus’s assent. It has, in effect, undertaken an illegal invasion and committed a crime of aggression, compounded by its training and arming of terrorists.

Conclusion

The report says that in the absence of grass-roots support for political opposition coalitions in Syria, the United States is relying on a number of tactics to pressure the current government in Syria to step down, including:

• Keeping ISIS alive as a tool to sustain military pressure on Damascus.
• Arming jihadist groups indirectly and (we can assume) directly (albeit covertly) to pressure Assad.
• Seeking to create a moderate opposition that will act as a US partner.
• Trying to co-opt parts of the existing Syrian state to take a partnership role in governing a post-Assad Syria.

The implication of points 1 and 2 is that the United States—as the trainer of, and supplier of arms, to rebels who are enmeshed with and fighting alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria, and in keeping ISIS alive, in order to use these terrorist organizations to achieve its political goal of installing a US-partner government in Syria—is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Notes

1http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/syriadata.pdf

2. http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/syriadatatablesjuly2014.pdf

3. “President al-Assad: Russia’s policy towards Syria is based on values and interests, the West is not serious in fighting terrorists,” Syrian Arab News Agency, December 11, 2015, http://sana.sy/en/?p=63857

4. Philip Shishkin, “U.S. weighs talks with Russia on military activity in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2015.

5. Stuart Rollo,“Turkey’s dangerous game in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2015.

6. Anne Barnard and Michael R. Gordon, “Goals diverge and perils remain as U.S. and Turkey take on ISIS,” The New York Times, July 27, 2015.

7. Farnaz Fassihi, “U.N. Security Council unanimously votes to adopt France’s counterterrorism resolution,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2015.

8. Sam Dagher, “Syria’s Bashar al-Assad Tries to Force the West to Choose Between Regime, Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2015.

9. Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut,” The Washington Post, June 12, 2015.

10. Robert Fisk, “Is David Cameron planning to include al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra in his group of 70,000 moderates?”, The Independent, December 1, 2015.

11. Thomas Walkom, “Journalist Robert Fisk explains why Canada should abandon ISIS war,” The Toronto Star, September 25, 2015.

12. Patrick Cockburn, “Russia in Syria: Air strikes pose twin threat to Turkey by keeping Assad in power and strengthening Kurdish threat,” The Independent, October 28, 2015.

13. Raja Abdulrahim, “Islamic State advances further into Syria’s Aleppo province,” The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2015.

14. “President Assad’s interview with Russian media outlets, Syrian Arab News Agency, September 16, 2015http://sana.sy/en/?p=54857

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Law firm Leigh Day, representing Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has issued a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review challenging the government’s decision to export arms to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that Saudi forces are violating international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen.

As set out in the letter, a range of international organisations including the European Parliament and many humanitarian NGOs, have condemned the ongoing Saudi air strikes against Yemen as unlawful. Matters of particular concern include the following:

  1. The targeting of civilians and those not directly participating in hostilities.
  2. The apparent targeting of civilian objects in Saudi air strikes; including facilities that are necessary to meet basic humanitarian needs such as electricity and water processing plants.
  3. The disproportionate scale of civilian casualties.
  4. Failure to take precautions to prevent or minimise the loss of civilian life of the infliction of harm or unnecessary suffering on civilians.
  5. The destruction of cultural property.
  6. A naval blockade contrary to international humanitarian law enforced by Saudi Arabia, preventing goods from entering the country, including essential foodstuffs and medicine.

Despite these serious allegations the UK government has refused to suspend any military licences to Saudi Arabia or to call for an investigation into whether IHL has been broken.

Leigh Day has asked the government to confirm if it now accepts there is credible evidence Saudi Arabia has violated IHL in its conduct in Yemen.

The letter before action has asked the government to confirm within 14 days whether the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Sajid Javid will:

  1. Agree to suspend extant licences for the export of military equipment and technology to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen pending the outcome of a full review as to whether the export of military equipment is compatible with EU arms control legislation.
  2. Agree not to grant further licences for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia pending the completion of such a review.
  3. Agree not to grant further licences (and to suspend existing licences) until the government is in possession of sufficiently clear information to enable a proper assessment as to whether such licences can be granted lawfully.

Rosa Curling from the human rights team at Leigh Day, which is representing CAAT, said:

The UK government is under a clear legal obligation to ensure any military equipment and/or technology exported from this country to another, is not being used in breach of international humanitarian law.

Given the widespread and credible evidence that the Saudi authorities are breaching their international obligations in Yemen, we can see no credible basis upon which the UK government can lawfully continue to export arms to them.

We hope our client’s letter will cause the government to reconsider its position and suspend all licences with immediate effect pending a proper investigation into the issue.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

UK weapons have been central to a bombing campaign that has killed thousands of people, destroyed vital infrastructure and inflamed tensions in the region. The UK has been complicit in the destruction by continuing to support air strikes and provide arms, despite strong and increasing evidence that war crimes are being committed.

These arms sales should never have been approved in the first place. The Saudi regime has an appalling human rights record and always has done. How many more people will be tortured and killed before the government finally says it will stop arming what is one of the most oppressive regimes in the world?

 

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Public outcry and condemnation against the Syrian government spread like wildfire across mainstream news and social media when the horrific photos of starved children and civilians from the besieged town of Madaya emerged. No one could understand why Assad would allow this to happen to his own people, especially since videos emerged (that can be seen on my last Madaya article) under a month ago that displayed rallies against the occupying terrorist forces and in support of the Syrian government.

Hours after my last article, truth seekers quickly unveiled the lies shrouding around the starvation of the people.

Analyzing Madaya’s Starvation Falsification

It was also interesting to see that an official statement by the neutral Red Cross could not verify or deny the systematic starvation of Madaya’s people.

 

However, for the sake of analysis, I must now retract from my previous refusal of posting photos of malnourished people so that the truth can be open.

One of the first and most heartbreaking was one of a healthy young girl followed by a new photo of her on the verge of death because of starvation.

1

This photo published by Saudi owned Al-Arabiya soon quickly engulfed media platforms and the calls for humanitarian intervention was called. However, it was quickly revealed by the Lebanese Daily Star that the girl in question is actually a south Lebanese girl who is in safe hands with her family, and is fit and healthy.

 

Although this does not discount the hunger permeating in Madaya, and the shocking condition of the girl starved in the photo, what it does present is an obvious media distortion of the truth. This propaganda was well received by war mongering interventionists, Syrian ‘opposition’ (jihadists and their sympathizers), and the trendy Western left.

When this truth was exposed,  calls for people to retract their propaganda were denied.

1

This shocking tweet is just one upon hundreds I personally saw of people refusing to revert their falsifications, or admittance that they will keep up with the propaganda campaign till intervention against the Syrian government is achieved. It must be questioned however why people automatically assumed that the Syrian government were responsible for the starvation of Madaya. Throughout the war we have seen efforts of terrorist militants attempting to force an international intervention as seen in Libya that provided the conditions of a stable ruler to be overthrown and where jihadists can prosper.

This began with the chemical weapon allegations, despite prominent U.N. Weapons Inspector on the ground in Syria, Carla del Ponte, stating there is little evidence that the government were responsible for the sarin gas attack in Ghouta in 2013. She alluded that it was most likely the terrorist forces, but of course, the usual social justice warriors and international community ignored her, and continued with the false narrative.

Then of course there is the narrative that Assad is supposedly barrel bombing his own people in a systematic effort, despite Assad fighting a war for the support of his people, as well as the war against the terrorist forces. It seems that would be a little counter-productive to systematically target your own innocent civilians. Of course, this simple notion seems to be a little perplexing for the terrorist sympathizers.

However, the case of Madaya was not reduced to one southern Lebanese girl, the propaganda was far and wide.

Al-Jazeera published a photo of a man supposedly starved in Madaya, which turns out to be a photo of a refugee in Europe from 2009.

1

Then of course we had the shocking photo of the malnourished baby ‘from Madaya’, who actually turned out to be a child from the Yarmouk Palestinian camp on the outskirts of Damascus. The photo was taken in 2014.

1

The Western media narrative has focused on Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army forces conducting a food blockade on the town. However, these allegations ignore that truckloads of food and medical aid that have reached Madaya and that have been turned into a weaponized tool by the terrorist forces holed up in the town. As seen in my previous Madaya piece, which was linked earlier in the article, the people of Madaya support the government and confronted the militants on why they have no food. Images have appeared of hunger sticken women and children, yet all the militants seem to be in fit and healthy conditions. One must question why is this?

More importantly, this propaganda campaign has remained defiant, and the public outcry for intervention stonger then ever, despite the irrefutable evidence on the falsification of the situation in Madaya. We have had the Middle East’s largest media services blatantly posting false images from Madaya. This is not to discount the pain and suffering of the people starved in the photos, this should not exist anywhere in the world, but we set a dangerous precedence when we apply these photos to the wrong context. Most disturbing however are the acknowledgement on the false photos, but people still wanting to use them for their own agendas that serve to only increase the suffering in Syria through the expansion of war and intervention.

Before submitting to the western narrative that leads to calls of intervention, always take a step back and find the truth on the issue, because just like the chemical weapons and the systematic targeting of civilians that led to calls for intervention, this is just another false red line that was once again quickly disproven.

Paul Antonopoulos is currently a Candidate for an MA Degree, writing his dissertation on the Saudi-Iranian Geopolitical Rivalry in the Syrian War.

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The Lottery and Social Despair in America

January 11th, 2016 by Andre Damon

This mania, so generally condemned, has never been properly studied. No one has realized that it is the opium of the poor. Did not the lottery, the mightiest fairy in the world, work up magical hopes? The roll of the roulette wheel that made the gamblers glimpse masses of gold and delights did not last longer than a lightning flash; whereas the lottery spread the magnificent blaze of lightning over five whole days. Where is the social force today that, for forty sous, can make you happy for five days and bestow on you—at least in fancy—all the delights that civilization holds?

-Balzac, La Rabouilleuse, 1842

The jackpot in the US Powerball lottery has hit $800 million, since there were no winners in Wednesday’s drawing. In the current round, which began on December 2, over 431 million tickets have been sold, a figure substantially larger than America’s population.

Go into any corner store in America and you will see workers of every age and race waiting in line to buy lottery tickets. With the current round, the lines are longer than ever. Americans spend over $70 billion on lottery tickets each year. In West Virginia, America’s second-poorest state, the average person spent $658.46 on lottery tickets last year.

Powerball players pick six random numbers when they purchase their tickets, with a certain percentage of sales going to the jackpot. If no winning ticket is sold, the jackpot rolls over to the next round.

The totals for the Mega Millions and Powerball national lotteries have been growing every year. This year’s jackpot has eclipsed 2012’s record of $656.5 million, the $390 million payout in 2007 and the $363 million prize in 2000. The jackpots have grown in direct proportion to ticket sales.

State-run gambling programs such as Powerball have been promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike as a solution to state budget shortfalls, even as the politicians slash taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals and gut social programs. From the standpoint of government revenue, lotteries and casinos are nothing more than a back-door regressive tax, soaking up money from the poor in proportion to the growth of social misery.

The boom in lotteries is global. Lottery sales grew 9.9 percent worldwide in 2014, after growing 4.9 percent in 2013.

Psychology Professor Kate Sweeny has noted that lottery sales grow when people feel a lack of control over their lives, particularly over their economic condition. “That feeling of self-control is very important to psychological well-being,” Sweeny says.

There is ample reason for American workers to feel they have no control over their lives. According a recent survey by Bankrate.com, more than half of Americans do not have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more—roughly the price of four name-brand tires.

Some 62 percent of Americans have savings of less than $1,000, and 21 percent do not have any savings at all. Most Americans are one medical emergency or one spell of unemployment from financial ruin.

For all the talk about “economic recovery” by the White House, the real financial state of most American households is far worse than before the 2008 financial crisis and recession. As of 2013, Americans were almost 40 percent poorer than they were in 2007, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. While a large portion of the decline in household wealth is attributable to the collapse of the housing bubble, falling wages and chronic mass unemployment have played major roles.

The yearly income of a typical US household dropped by a massive 12 percent, or $6,400, in the six years between 2007 and 2013, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of consumer finances. A large share of this decline has taken place during the so-called recovery presided over by the Obama administration.

In addition to becoming poorer, America has become much more economically polarized. According to a separate Pew survey, for the first time in more than four decades “middle-income households” no longer constitute the majority of American society. Instead, the majority of households are either low- or high-income. Pew called its findings “a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point” in American society.

“Is the lottery the new American dream?” asked USA Today, commenting on this month’s Powerball jackpot. The observation is truer than the authors intended. For American workers, achieving the “American Dream” of a stable job and one’s own home is becoming increasingly unrealizable.

Following more than 10 million foreclosures during the financial crisis, America’s home ownership rate has hit the lowest level in two decades, and for young households, the rate of home ownership is the lowest it has been since the 1960s.

For the tens of millions of America’s poor, and the more than 100 million on the threshold of poverty, the dream of winning the lottery has replaced the “American Dream” of living a decent life. A lottery ticket is a chance to escape to a fantasy world where money is not a constant, nagging worry, where one is not insulted and bullied at a low-wage job by bosses whose pay is matched only by their incompetence. The lottery is, as Balzac aptly described it, the “opium of the poor.”

Using the same phrase to describe religion, Marx noted that the “illusory happiness of the people” provided by the solace of religion is, in fact, a silent protest and distorted “demand for their real happiness.” It is the intolerable social conditions that compel masses of people to seek consolation in a lottery ticket that will propel them into revolutionary struggles.

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