Hebron, Occupied Palestine – This afternoon in Hebron, approximately three illegal settlers, standing on the same roof as several Israeli soldiers, threw stones at Palestinian homes and cars in the old city. This act of aggression caused clashes to break out between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces, where many tear gas canisters, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition were fired. One youth, aged 19-years-old, was seriously injured after being shot with live ammunition in the stomach.
The settlers threw stones at Palestinian homes and cars in what is known as Small Shallala Street from a roof in the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah, damaging a number of cars. This continued for at least ten minutes unobstructed by the guarding Israeli soldiers. … Full article
By Dan Beeton and Joe Sammut | CEPR Americas Blog | December 6, 2013
The Associated Press reported yesterday that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors:
Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean is now easing at a slower pace, the UN’s regional economic body said on Thursday, calling on governments to make policy changes that encourage growth while reducing the huge gap between the rich and poor.
UN economists based in Santiago said about 164 million people, or 28 percent of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from last year. Out of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty.
But there are bright spots. ECLAC’s new “Social Panorama of Latin America” report [PDF] notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012:
Six of the 11 countries with information available in 2012 recorded falling poverty levels (see table 1). The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6 percentage points (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0 percentage points (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1 percentage points (from 35.3% to 32.2%) and indigence by 0.9 percentage points (from 13.8% to 12.9%).
Italian communications have been targeted through the US’s Special Collection Service sites in Rome and Milan, according to Italy’s l’Espresso. The same service allegedly tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
The new leak, revealed by Glenn Greenwald with l’Espresso, alleges that the National Security Agency subjected Italy’s leadership to surveillance, although not specifying which people within the country’s “leadership” were monitored, via US diplomatic missions in Rome and Milan. The spying went on from 1988 to at least 2010.
The NSA conducted snooping in Italy via its Special Collection Service, which came under scrutiny after the snooping scandal involving Chancellor Angela Merkel. The report on Friday reveals the service kept two sites running in Italy: one in Milan, the country’s main economic hub, and one in Rome (staffed with agents). Of all European nations, only Italy and Germany had two SCS sites working simultaneously, according to the leak. [...]
The new report provided appears to directly contradict official statements which have been dismissive of earlier spying allegations. In November, Italian PM Enrico Letta stated that “we are not aware that the security of the Italian government and embassies has been compromised.” … Full article
By April Glaser and Kurt Opsahl | EFF | December 5, 2013
An article yesterday in the Washington Post disclosed the NSA’s massive cell phone location program. The program, codenamed CO-TRAVELER, is designed to track who meets with whom and covers everyone who carries a cell phone, all around the world.
With neither public debate nor court authorization, CO-TRAVELER collects billions of records daily of cell phone user location information. It maps the relationships of cell phone users across global mobile network cables, gathering data about who you are physically with and how often your movements intersect with other cell phone users. The program even tracks when your phone is turned on or off.
The trillions of collected records, which add up to twice the amount of data in the Library of Congress’ print collection, are saved and stored in the NSA’s mammoth database called FASCIA. While allegedly aimed at foreigners and mobile phones overseas, the NSA admits that it has “incidentally” collected location information on U.S. persons.
CO-TRAVELER ignores fundamental values in the Constitution the NSA has sworn to uphold, including the right against unreasonable search and seizure as well as freedom of association. Thinking globally, the program disregards international human rights law, which is currently in the process of being reaffirmed in a draft resolution by the UN General Assembly. … continue
By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 6, 2013
Over the past few months, I’ve certainly wondered quite a bit about just how bad the NSA seems to be at recognizing how the public feels concerning what it’s doing. This week’s revelations about tracking mobile phone locations was incredible because folks at the NSA must have known that information about this program was in Snowden’s collection, and yet when they were asked about collecting location info a few months ago, they made statements that would clearly look bad, when put next to the truth:
“We don’t get any cell site or location information as to where any of these phones were located.” — Keith Alexander
These phones. Under this program. But under this other program we collect pretty much everything. Beyond that, the various “code names” the NSA uses are somewhat revealing as well. Lots of people commented on the insanity of calling the giant database FASCIA. But, at the very least, you could argue that the NSA never expected those code names to be made public. And with the misleading statements, they were still holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, a meteor would magically flatten Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras before the info got out.
But… how about when the US intelligence community actually does something publicly. Like live tweeting the launch of a new spy satellite. Apparently, they slap the most unsubtle logo on it that you can imagine. … continue
By ZHANDARKA KURTI | CounterPunch | December 6, 2013
Today, standing in front of news-cameras and press, newly elect mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio responds to the grievances of stop and frisk critics and progressive non-profits groups by appointing ‘America’s Top Cop,’ William Bratton as chief commissioner of the New York City Police Department. This is a slap in the face for many liberals across the city as their dreams of a progressive mayor are quickly dashed. Yet, for the few community activists that have not sold their hopes to city electoral politics, the appointment of Bratton signals the state response to dissent and a reaffirmation of the role of police in the neoliberal era with new points of interest, namely the criminalization of youth across New York City.
Now 66 years old, Bratton, admonished by many as “America’s Top Cop” comes back to the city that in the 1990s gave him the free pass to practice his zero-tolerance policing strategies, albeit, back then under a republican mayor. … continue
Press TV – December 6, 2013
The UN General Assembly has unanimously adopted a nuclear disarmament resolution that includes proposals forwarded by Iran President Hassan Rouhani as head of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
The resolution, adopted on Thursday, calls on nuclear-power states to make more efforts to scale down and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear arms.
In an address to the UN Disarmament Conference in New York on September 25, President Rouhani called for the “total elimination” of nuclear weapons across the world and said no one should possess such weapons.
Rouhani’s proposals included the holding of immediate negotiations on the conclusion of a comprehensive international convention on banning the production, proliferation and use of nuclear weapons… continue
By Vacy Vlazna | Intifada-Palestine | November 13, 2013
Here we go again. On Israel and the US losing their UNESCO voting rights, ‘Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, ‘said in an interview that his country supports the U.S. decision [to suspend contributions], “objecting to the politicization of UNESCO, or any international organization, with the accession of a non-existing country like Palestine.” (AP 8-11-13)
Palestine-denial, next to straight out violent ethnic-cleansing, is Israel’s sinister stratagem to wipe Palestinians off the face of their own ancestral land in order to lay a fictitious claim to the whole of historic Palestine.
Like the boy who cried ‘wolf’, Israel’s frenetic cries of ‘delegitimisation’ or’ anti-semitism’ at criticism of its illegal occupation and apartheid policies, are falling on the skeptical ears of the decent masses fed up with Israel’s double standards of delegitimising Palestine and dehumanising Palestinians as non-people. … continue
Press TV – December 6, 2013
US President Barack Obama was one of the world leaders who paid their glowing tribute to South Africa’s anti-apartheid legend.
“We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with,” the US President said. “He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages … His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”
Nevertheless, it was not until 2008 that the US government removed Mandela’s name from its terrorism watch list.
Following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when forces of South Africa’s apartheid regime shot 69 people dead in protests in the township of Sharpeville, Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) was banned.
The apartheid regime designated the ANC as a terrorist organization because it fought against the regime’s apartheid system which legalized racial discrimination from 1948 to 1994. … continue
… Hamas, the ruling party of the Gaza Strip, paid tribute to a “great fighter.”
Mandela was “one of the most important symbols of freedom and one of the most important supporters of the Palestinian people’s cause,” Hamas spokesman Moussa Abu Marzuq said.
Meanwhile, Israeli politicians also paid tribute to the late South African leader, albeit minimizing his connection with the Palestinian cause.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mandela “a man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence.”
“He set a personal example for his country during the long years in which he was imprisoned. He was never haughty. He worked to heal rifts within South African society and succeeded in preventing outbreaks of racial hatred,” the Israeli premier said.
Despite his pacifist instincts, Mandela never renounced violence in the struggle against apartheid and his African National Congress had an active military wing during his long incarceration.
Since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994, South Africa has been an outspoken critic of Israel, although it maintains diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. – Full article
The Israeli regime has closed an investigation into the killing of a Palestinian protester in 2011, claiming it “did not involve any offence.”
On Thursday, the Israeli sources said “it was concluded that the shooting of the canister was done in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations, and did not involve any offence.”
In a statement issued later in the day, human rights group B’Tselem said, “The decision not to file an indictment against the soldier who killed Mustafa Tamimi, nor against his commanders, conveys the indifference of the military law enforcement system to the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, and specifically towards Tamimi’s death.”
“This decision sends Israeli soldiers and officers the unequivocal message that, should they kill unarmed civilians, they will not be held accountable,” the rights group added. … Full article
Palestine Information Center – December 5, 2013
GAZA — Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that any conciliatory agreement resulting from the current negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the occupation is non-binding for the Palestinian people.
Zahhar made his remarks during a special session held on Wednesday by the Palestinian legislative council to discuss the report that was submitted by its political committee on the negotiations between the PA and the Israeli occupation regime.
Zahhar called for forming a national front opposing the peace negotiations with the occupation and addressing their detrimental impacts on Palestinian rights and constants.
“The Palestinian negotiators are illegitimate, they neither represent the national consensus nor have the majority that allows them to speak on behalf the Palestinian people,” the Hamas official stated. … continue
Al-Akhbar | December 5, 2013
A French report ruling out poisoning in Yasser Arafat’s 2004 death has a glaring inconsistency, the co-author of a Swiss probe said Thursday, sticking by his team’s conclusion that the Palestinian leader was likely killed.
“Our data lean more towards the thesis of poisoning than in the opposite direction,” Professor François Bochud, head of the Lausanne Institute of Applied Radiophysics, told AFP.
Bochud is the co-author of a report published last month that said the high levels of polonium – a rare and highly radioactive element – found in Arafat’s remains and personal effects indicated third party involvement in his death.
An as-yet unpublished French report however rules out poisoning, a source close to the probe said this week, with an argument that the naturally occurring radioactive element radon, found in the ground, explained the high polonium levels.
Bochud, who has read the French report, stressed that the 107-page Swiss study had presented numerous arguments against that theory, the most compelling being that other remains exhumed from the same cemetery did not contain excessive levels of polonium.
Both the Swiss and the French experts thoroughly cleaned Arafat’s bones to remove external contamination before carrying out their measurements, and proceeded to find identical levels of polonium, he pointed out.
“I have a hard time understanding why they, on one side say they have thoroughly cleaned the bones and eliminated contaminations, and at the same time explain their measurements with the very contamination they supposedly eliminated,” he said.
“It’s a bit difficult to follow their reasoning,” he added. … continue
The UN nuclear watchdog has advised the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to consider dumping toxic water into the ocean after lowering the level of radioactive materials to below the legal limit.
“Regarding the growing amounts of contaminated water at the site, TEPCO should… examine all options for its further management, including the possibility of resuming controlled discharges (into the sea) in compliance with authorized limits,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement. [...]
Despite local opposition to the plan, Lentijo added that “controlled discharge is a regular practice at all nuclear facilities in the world.” … Full article
At each of Electricite de France SA’s 58 nuclear reactors, there’s a water tank that stores spent atomic fuel rods, keeping them cool and trapping deadly radiation. The country’s atomic watchdog is concerned they aren’t safe enough.
“Significant safety improvements have to be made,” Thomas Houdre, director of reactors at Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said in an interview, making the regulator’s strongest comments on the issue so far. “There is no way of managing an accident in a spent-fuel pool.” … Full article
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party successfully forced a controversial new state secrets bill through the National Security Committee of the upper house of parliament Thursday, in the face of widespread opposition and protests. [...]
The bill will effectively prevent media accessing state information classed as sensitive by imposing sentences of up to 10 years in prison on state officials if they are found to have leaked to the press. [...]
People who are not state officials, such as journalists and private sector employees, could also receive up to five years’ imprisonment if they are found to be using “grossly inappropriate” means to acquire information. … Full article
The NSA is tracking the locations of a huge number of cell phones around the world, according to an article published today by The Washington Post. The report, based on documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, says the agency is analyzing the movements of many millions of cell phones worldwide, including those belonging to Americans travelling abroad. Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, had this reaction:
“It is staggering that a location-tracking program on this scale could be implemented without any public debate, particularly given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government. The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships. The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cell phones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike. The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrongdoing, not assembling massive associational databases that by their very nature record the movements of a huge number of innocent people.”
Prensa Latina | December 5, 2013
Young people were the main support to the president in his election in 2008 and reelection in 2012. That sector of the population is currently showing a marked decrease in their support.
The poll by the Institute for Politics of the University of Harvard that included people from 18 to 29 years of age revealed that 44 percent of that sector disapproves of Obama’s work, compared to 41 percent in support.
The data shows an 11-point fall compared to a poll by the same entity this past spring, and to another poll in the fall of 2009, when 58 percent of the young supported him and 39 percent voted against. … continue
Case Over No-Fly List Takes Bizarre Turn As Gov’t Puts Witness On No Fly List, Then Denies Having Done So
By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 4, 2013
As you my have heard, there’s a trial going on here in San Francisco about the legality of the complete lack of any sort of due process concerning the US’s “no fly” list. The NY Times has a good background article on the case, which notes that somewhere around 700,000 people appear to be on the list, where there’s basically no oversight of the list and no recourse if you happen to be placed on the list. This lawsuit, by Rahinah Ibrahim (who had been a Stanford PhD student) is challenging that.
In that case, a Stanford University Ph.D. student named Rahinah Ibrahim was prevented from boarding a flight at San Francisco International Airport in 2005, and was handcuffed and detained by the police. Ultimately, she was allowed to fly to Malaysia, her home country, but she has been unable to return to the United States because the State Department revoked her student visa.
According to court filings, two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Ms. Ibrahim a week before her trip and asked about her religious activities (she is Muslim), her husband and what she might know of a Southeast Asian terrorist organization. A summary of that interview obtained by Ms. Ibrahim’s lawyer includes a code indicating that the visit was related to an international terrorism investigation, but it is not clear what other evidence — like email or phone records — was part of that inquiry.
The Identity Project blog is covering the trial, which kicked off earlier this week with a ridiculous situation, highlighted by BoingBoing. Apparently, one of the people set to testify in the case, Ibrahim’s oldest daughter, Raihan Mustafa Kamal (an American citizen, born in the US), was blocked from boarding her flight to the US to appear at the trial, and told that she was on the no fly list as well. Kamal, a lawyer, was an eye witness to her mother being blocked from boarding her flight. The US knew that Kamal was set to testify and from all indications, in a move that appears extremely petty, appears to have purposely blocked her from flying to the US. Kamal was directly told by the airline that DHS had ordered them not to let Kamal to board. The airline even gave her a phone number for a Customs and Border Patrol office in Miami, telling her to call that concerning her not being able to board. … continue
Al-Manar | December 5, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Zionist entity on Thursday for talks aimed at calming tensions with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a nuclear deal sealed between Iran and world powers last month.
“I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda,” Kerry told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem). [...]
“We agreed on what the goal of the final status agreement (with Iran) ought to be, and in the days ahead we will consult very closely and continuously with our Israeli friends in order to bring about a comprehensive agreement that can withstand everybody’s test,” Kerry said. … Full article
BETHLEHEM — A Bethlehem man was detained on Tuesday by Palestinian police for helping decorate a tree with used American-made tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and ammunition that had been previously fired at Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces.
Mustafa al-Arraj was detained on Tuesday morning by Palestinian police while on his way to work over his suspected involvement in the protest the day before.
According to al-Arraj, police told him he was being detained for vandalism with the “goal of destroying Christmas,” and forcibly brought him for interrogation to a Bethlehem police station.
They also destroyed the decorations that had been put up the day before.
“They thought people sent us to destroy the Christmas season,” he said, pointing out that the police who interrogated him thought the tree decoration was an act of overnight vandalism.
During the event Monday, activists decorated a tree in Manger Square with American-made weapons and signs “thanking” the United States for providing Israel with weapons to shoot at Palestinian protesters.
Since the start of the official Christmas season this weekend, the Bethlehem municipality has set up signs in Manger Square advertising USAID, the US government agency that provided thousands of dollars to the municipality to purchase Christmas decorations.
Activists decorated the tree as a protest against USAID, stressing that the aid agency represents the same government that funds the Israeli occupation and attacks on Palestinian protesters. … Full article
The Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), which according to organizers is the largest Spanish language literary event in the world, opened amid controversy this year. It isn’t books that are the source of the conflict, but rather who the organizers chose as the country of honor: Israel.
The decision to invite Israel as the guest of honor was immediately contested among students and activists in Mexico. [...]
According to the Arabic Literature (in English) blog, only one author writing in Arabic was included in the Israeli delegation to Mexico, and no Palestinian citizens of Israel participated. Palestinian, Lebanese and Jordanian writers co-signed a statement of protest against Israel’s guest of honor status at the FIL.
The FIL, which is held from November 30 to December 8 in Mexico’s second largest city, involves nearly 2,000 publishing companies from 40 countries, and is attended annually by more than 600,000 people.
Shimon Peres Meets Carlos Slim in Mexico.The commercial aspect of Peres’ visit was not lost on protesters. While in Mexico, Peres attended a Mexico-Israel business forum, and met with Carlos Slim, who with an estimated net worth of $73 billion, is the world’s richest man. Mexico’s trade relationship with Israel got a boost in 2000 when the two countries signed a Free Trade Agreement. In 2012, Mexico-Israel trade was estimated to be worth $600 million.
“We cannot consider the ‘visit’ of the Zionist state as an innocent ‘celebration of culture and literature,’ in which there are only university students, writers, and artists, rather there are also intelligence and security services from the Mossad here to protect the President of Israel, as well as a hundred members of the elite Israeli bourgeoisie who came with the intention of ‘investing’ in the opportune privatization of the energy sector, in water, aviation and of course, education,” reads the Contra-FIL Manifesto, which was signed off on by 17 organizations. … Full article
Israeli forces detain group of journalists at checkpoint
RAMALLAH – Israeli forces on Wednesday detained a group of journalists and journalism students from Birzeit University at Huwarra checkpoint south of Nablus.
They were in a bus heading to Ramallah after they completed a tour in the valley to report on the hardships people suffer there.
The Israeli forces assaulted a number of them, forced them to leave the bus, and left them stranded in the cold for two hours as they thoroughly searched the bus.
Al-Akhbar | December 5, 2013
Citing its commitment to “the pursuit of social justice” and to “the struggle against all forms of racism,” the ASA revealed in a statement published on its website that it had voted to support the academic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“The American Studies Association endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” the statement read.
“The ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.” … continue
… In a highly informed argument, Pope Francis addresses the problems of global security, and sees no value in the ad-hoc security ideas of the arrogant powers that react with ever more force and surveillance in response to their own ideological failings:
“When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear.”
Pope Francis argues that using the market as the source of rules and values in civilization leads to a “tyranny” that negates all human dignity and rights in favor of endless profits, and that there should be more ethical control over finance and economics. He quotes Saint John Chryosotom, pressuring the rich to give their wealth to those who need it:
“Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal it from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”
In other words, a society’s wealth should only be judged by how well it is supplied to the less fortunate, and there is no Christian justification for hoarding treasures that are needed by the people who have suffered diminishing opportunities. This is overwhelmingly in line with the teachings of Jesus, who encouraged his followers to separate themselves from their earthly possessions (Matthew 19:21).
Although Pope Francis may only be reforming the Church to salvage it from a recent past characterized by scandal and accusations of hypocrisy, his words against rampant capitalism seem to have attracted concern from people who apparently prefer that hypocrites remain as hypocrites. … Full article
RT| December 4, 2013
A group of high-profile academics has written an open letter warning that food poverty has become an “emergency” in the UK. Use of food banks has tripled in the past year alone, but the government says this does not mean more people are starving.
“This has all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventive action,” said the letter, co-signed by six leading public health experts, and addressed to the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The authors, led by David Taylor-Robinson from the Medical Research Council, speculate that “the rising cost of living and increasingly austere welfare reforms” from the Conservative-Liberal government are at fault.
“The effects of these policies on nutritional status in the most vulnerable populations urgently need to be monitored… Access to an adequate food supply is the most basic of human needs and rights.”
Official statistics show that the number of those admitted to hospitals with malnutrition has risen from 3,161 in 2008/09 to 5,499 in 2012/13. … continue
By Yves Engler · December 4, 2013
Last week in Switzerland big money staved off an important challenge to big paychecks. But the sentiment that spurred a Swiss effort to tie executive compensation to common workers’ wages will not be defeated so easily.
A Sunday ago Swiss voters said no to a referendum question that would have capped executive compensation at 12 times the lowest paid worker in the firm. After gaining over 130,000 signatures to put the question to voters, proponents of the initiative were overwhelmed by a flood of money claiming a ‘yes’ vote would drive companies away. Early polls found 46% of the Swiss public opposed to the 12:1 pay measure but with opponents spending up to 50 times more than the ‘yes’ campaign, 65% ultimately voted ‘no’.
According to supporters of the measure, the average Swiss CEO made 43 times the average wage in 2011, up from six times in 1984. A number of top Swiss CEOs make more than 200 times their employees’ wage.
But Switzerland’s CEO-to-worker pay differential appears socialistic compared to North America’s. … continue
The Presidents of the United States and Colombia, Barack Obama and Juan Manuel Santos, strengthened their commercial and security alliance this Tuesday at their fourth meeting since Santos took office in 2010.
Obama highlighted the “success” of the military cooperation between the two countries in areas such as the fight against drug trafficking, which has facilitated the “tremendous progress” of Colombia over the last ten years. [...]
Santos used the occasion to announce that the US and Colombia would be tripling acts of mutual assistance for security matters in other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
According to Santos, more than 17,000 security agents in the region have received their training in Colombia under the security alliance between Colombia and the US. … Full article
By W.T. WHITNEY Jr. | CounterPunch | December 4, 2013
Negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end fifty years of war have been ongoing in Cuba for a year. Agreements on agrarian rights and recently political participation have boosted peace hopes. But whatever the outcome of negotiations, chances for peace rest largely on what happens in cities and regions like Barrancabermeja.
The road there is uphill, as evidenced by the fate of political prisoner David Ravelo and violence directed against Credhos, the Barrancabermeja human rights group Ravelo founded and led. A mainly U.S. solidarity delegation visited with Ravelo in Bogota’s Picota prison in late 2012, and also called at CREDHOS headquarters in Barrancabermeja. The present writer joined that delegation. This communication serves as follow-up to the visit. … continue
Egypt has announced the death of two pillars of the military coup, Major General Rida Hafiz and Mohamed Hamid. Media reports also claim that Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi has been taken to hospital, as have other senior officers. Coup-supporting Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb of Al-Azhar University has just undergone major heart surgery.
Several Egyptian writers and analysts are beginning to ask questions about these coincidental events. Some have expressed their belief that the leader of the military coup, Defence Minister General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, has started the elimination of potential rivals at an early stage; as the Arabic saying goes, “‘Break your black boxes and start a new stage”.
According to activist and blogger Anwar Al-Mahdi, “When the minister of military production dies on the same day as the chief of staff there is something strange taking place in the country.” He continued: “On the same day, Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh has been admitted to hospital and Tantawi suffered a heart attack. It really is a strange day. These men were pivotal to the military coup.” … Full article
By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | December 4, 2013
It is impossible to predict the future. But one can state with a degree of certainty that little good can possibly be awaiting Palestinians when their political leadership seems to value their ties with Israel more than the fate of Gaza and all of its inhabitants. An exaggeration? Hardly.
In an interview with Voice of Russia, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas replied to an ‘invitation’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset). “If (Netanyahu) wants me to come and say the things I want to say, then I am ready to do it,” Abbas said, according to YNet and other media on November 23rd. However, he had no response to a call for unity by Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
“Let’s have one government, one parliament and one president,” Haniyeh said in a recent speech, as quoted by Reuters. A spokesman for Hamas’ rival, Fatah, Ahmed Assaf, dismissed the call for it “included nothing new.” … continue
By David Letwin | Palestine Chronicle | December 4, 2013
David Letwin (Jews for Palestinian Right of Return) interviews Dr. Haidar Eid, Associate Professor, Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is also a one-state activist and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). … continue
By Stuart Littlewood | Intifada Palestine | December 4, 2013
CNN reports on Israeli PM Netanyahu’s reception at the Vatican and plans for the Pope to visit Israel in May.
Recalling the shabby treatment of religious leaders on previous visits to the Holy Land, let us hope Pope Francis takes a firmer line than his predecessor and insists on seeing Gaza and ministering to his terrorised flock there.
In May 2009, when Benedict was Pope, the Vatican told the Israeli press that the Holy Father would refrain from visiting Gaza. The word ‘refrain’ was a peculiar one in the circumstances. “The Pope will refrain from visiting Gaza….” smacks of abstinence, as in refraining from sexual intercourse. Setting foot in Gaza was as sinful as sneaking into a brothel, it seems. Israel’s hoodlums of course were keen to prevent him seeing how the tiny, overcrowded enclave had been devastated 16 months earlier by their murderous blitzkrieg codenamed Cast Lead. And the Pope went along with it.
Gaza’s isolated and besieged Catholic community were none too happy with the Pope’s attitude, judging by the reaction of their redoubtable old priest Fr Manuel Mussallam. “We will ask him why he came, what he intends saying to the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims and why he isn’t coming to Gaza,” said Fr Manuel. “We’ll tell him that this is not the right moment to come and visit the holy places, while Jerusalem is occupied.” … continue
By James Wall | Wall Writings | December 2, 2013
With the U.S. Congress safely in his back pocket, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned his charm offensive on the Vatican. How is that working out for him?
It does not look promising. The Prime Minister forgot the first rule of charm school: Target your prey gently. Avoid all punches to the mid-section.
The international Jewish News Agency (JTA) reported on Monday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Pope Francis:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Vatican audience with Pope Francis reportedly invited the pontiff to visit Israel. No date has been set for a visit by Francis to Israel, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. Netanyahu on Monday presented the pope with a book about the Spanish Inquisition written by his father, the late historian Benzion Netanyahu.”
An invitation to drop by for a visit to Tel Aviv along with a gift to the Holy Father recalling the dark moments of the Spanish Inquisition? Bad form, Mr. Prime Minister.
Both Pope Francis and Lebanese mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani called on Wednesday for the immediate release of a group of nuns seized from their convent in Syria and for all hostages held in the war-torn country.
“I invite you all to pray for the nuns of the Greek Orthodox convent of Saint Takla of Maaloula in Syria who were forcibly taken away by armed men two days ago,” the head of the Catholic church said at a general audience in Saint Peter’s Square. “We pray for these nuns and for all kidnap victims in the conflict,” he said.
Syrian rebels took 12 nuns and several maids from the historic town of Maaloula, which has been at the center of fierce fighting for months, to the nearby stronghold of Yabrud. [...]
Maaloula has long been a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria. Its residents are some of the few left in the world who speak Aramaic… Full article
RT | December 3, 2013
In the first ever public hearing, Europe’s human rights court examined Poland’s role in CIA ‘black site’ prisons and torture of suspects.
Lawyers of two terror suspects currently held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, accused Poland of abuse during Tuesday’s hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
The hearing examined claims that Warsaw allowed the CIA to operate a jail for suspected terrorists, who were tortured, in Stare Kiejkuty, a remote village in north-east Poland. … continue
RT | December 4, 2013
The City of Montreal has purchased 24 drones to help law enforcement tackle crime as authorities look to cut back the police force over the next 15 years. The UAVs, equipped with facial recognition technology, will be armed to ‘neutralize suspects’.
“It’s very exciting,” the chief of police for the borough where the drones will be deployed, Montreal North, told the Montreal Journal.
“The drones with facial recognition will patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Officers will interrogate individuals suspected of criminal acts or searched directly through speakers and microphones installed in the drones, but soon they can be provided with equipment capable of neutralizing on-site suspects pending the intervention of the law enforcement officers. It will mainly make our work less dangerous, especially in an area where there is a lot of social tension,” he said.
When asked to clarify what intermediate weapons would be used to neutralize suspects, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman told the Journal the “UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] will carry persuasive technologies, but non-lethal types, such as electric shock, blinding or paralyzing gases.” … continue
By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 3, 2013
The UK Parliament is presenting itself as a complete joke. Rather than looking into controlling the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent to the NSA), it has instead held a hearing to interrogate and threaten Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger for actually reporting on the Snowden leak documents and revealing the widespread abuses of the intelligence community. The hearing included the insulting and ridiculous question: “do you love this country?”
Committee chair, Keith Vaz: Some of the criticisms against you and the Guardian have been very, very personal. You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?
Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things.
Rehmat’s World | December 4, 2013
On Monday, the Obama administration called for the immediate release of Jewish-American Alan Phillip Gross from Cuban imprisonment, saying his continued captivity for anti-state activities was “gravely disappointing”.
“Tomorrow, development worker Alan Gross will begin a fifth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. It’s gravely disappointing, especially in light of its professed goal of providing Cubans with internet access,” a US State Department said in a statement.
Allan Gross, earlier, asked President Barack Obama to get involved personally to get him released from Cuban jail. “Havana even agreed to meet US government officials, without any pre-conditions, to discuss possible terms leading to Gross’ release and his return home. But the State Department has rejected any negotiated settlement of Gross case out of hand,” claims Scott Gilbert, Alan Gross’ lawyer.
R.M. Schneiderman, editor and writer for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, wrote in the Foreign Affairs Magazine (December 21, 2012) that the single biggest reason Barack Obama cannot make peace with Cuba – is Alan Gross, a Jewish US citizen serving out a 15-year prison sentence in Havana. Cuban officials claim that Alan Gross was working for the US government and trying to subvert the state while working as a contractor in Cuba.
Tracey Eaton, a Cuban blogger, has claimed that Alan Gross was no contractor but a soldier serving the US government to bring regime change in Havana.
“Gross was a soldier, albeit of a different sort. Instead of the usual M9 pistol, he carried a Samsonite briefcase, plenty of cash and 15 credit cards. In place of a combat uniform and boots, he wore beige Land’s End pants and brown Rockport shoes. He spoke no Spanish, but was an experienced international development worker and had worked in such hotspots as Afghanistan and the Middle East. His weapon was technology. He traveled to Havana in 2009 with satellite communication gear, wireless transmitters, routers, cables and switches – enough to set up Internet connections and Wi-Fi hotspots that the socialist government would not be able to detect or control. He worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland contractor that USAID had hired to carry out a democracy-promotion program,” wrote Eaton. … continue
By Sami Kleib | Al-Akhbar | December 3, 2013
Israel has recently decided to increase its number of official statements supporting closer relations with Saudi Arabia. As the West and Iran struck their nuclear deal, Israeli media leaks on secret meetings between representatives from the two countries intensified, prompting the Arab press to treat Riyadh and Tel Aviv as allies.
The Saudi-Lebanese media tycoon Waleed bin Talal only helped to reinforce this image by saying, “The kingdom, along with other Arab and Sunni Muslim countries, supports an Israeli attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear program.” This begs the question: Is it in the interest of Arabs to accuse Saudi of having an alliance with Israel?
There is very little evidence in the kingdom, officially and on the popular level, of any sentiment in favor of establishing ties with the Zionist state. … continue
By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 3, 2013
It seems that the NSA’s “talking points” keep on leaking. The latest is a two pager it sent home with employees prior to Thanksgiving, so they’d have substance-free pablum to say in response to any family and friends who might actually have been paying attention to the news lately, and have some concerns to raise about the NSA violating our privacy and the Constitution. The document is broadly split into five sections, with sub talking points within each section. Here are the key points… continue
By Kaveh Afrasiabi | Press TV | December 3, 2013
Can Europe be trusted? Certainly, this is an important question on the mind of many Iranians, in light of the surprise news that a precious few days after signing the Geneva agreement on November 24th, the European Union (EU) imposed new sanctions on Iran, by targeting 17 Iranian shipping companies, decried by Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson as “illegal.”
Per the terms of the Geneva agreement, the “5 + 1” nations have agreed not to impose any new sanctions on Iran for the duration of this “interim agreement” that stipulates a six-months timeline for negotiating a final status agreement, subject to further extension by both sides’ consent.
It therefore comes as a shocking surprise to many people both inside and outside Iran that instead of moving to ease the sanctions, the most immediate European follow-up action has been the intensification of the Iran sanctions. There is no valid justification for this move, which clearly contradicts both the letter and the spirit of the Geneva agreement, reflecting instead a counter-productive and obstructionist tendency on the part of the European officials, who may be addicted to Iran-bashing and find it rather difficult to re-track themselves toward the unknown territory of “Iran detente.” … continue
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November – 2013