The Israeli water company Jihon said on Friday that 80,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been without water for more than three days.
In a statement Jihon said: “About 80,000 Palestinians in four Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and its outskirts have been suffering from complete loss of water for three days.”
The Israeli company said that it would like to supply water for all consumers in Jerusalem, including Jewish and Arab citizens, but the water infrastructure in the Arab areas is decaying. It also said that the increasing number of inhabitants contributes to the problem.
Meanwhile, the Arab inhabitants at the Palestinian refugee camps of Su’fat, RasKhamis and Ras Shihadeh, as well as Al-Salam Suburb, said they have been suffering from a complete water shortage for several days.
The residents said in a statement issued on Saturday that tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and citizens in the three residential gatherings in Jerusalem have been without water since the beginning of last week.
According to the statement the Palestinians said that they did not know the reason why the water supply stopped.
The statement also blamed the company Jihon, which is the only body that has a permit to supply water to Jerusalem, for the water shortages. “It started reducing water portions two weeks ago,” the statement said. “And in the end it completely stopped the water.”
Deputy head of the Popular Committee in Su’fat Refugee Camp, Khalid al-Khaldi said: “There are about 23,000 Palestinian refugees and citizens in the camp and they have not had water for three days. In Ras Shihadeh, there has been no water for 20 days.”
He reiterated that there has been no water in Ras Khamis and Al-Salam Suburb for a long time either.
Al-Khaldi blamed the UNRWA, which is responsible for the Palestinian refugees, for the water problem. He called for it to immediately move to solve the problem.
2002 documentary about the April 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt which briefly deposed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. A television crew from Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ happened to be recording a documentary about Chávez during the events of April 11, 2002. Shifting focus, they followed the events as they occurred. During their filming, the crew recorded images of the events that they say contradict explanations given by Chávez’s opposition, the private media, the US State Department, and then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. The documentary says that the coup was the result of a conspiracy between various old guard and anti-Chávez factions within Venezuela and the United States. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Revo…
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro made news this week by breaking off relations with Panama following Panama’s proposal for the Organization of American States (OAS) to take up the situation in Venezuela. Panama’s move followed weeks of calls from members of the U.S. Congress, pundits and others to use the OAS against the Maduro government for supposed government repression of “peaceful” protesters.
In remarks yesterday, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza criticized what he described as hypocrisy from both those who support and oppose such a move. Insulza stated:
here we see a swapping of roles: Those who just a few years ago brandished the Inter-American Democratic Charter to demand severe sanctions against the de facto government in Honduras are now saying that even mentioning a crisis that has already led to the deaths of a large number of people constitutes interference; while those who denounced (and still denounce) the steps we took when faced with an obvious coup d’état as an attack on a nation’s sovereignty –I’m referring again to Honduras-, now demand that we help them overthrow a government recently chosen in a democratic election.
It appears that Insulza is playing a role that he has played on numerous prior occasions – most recently in April when he refused to recognize the Venezuelan presidential elections, until South American pressure forced him (as well as the U.S. and the right-wing government of Spain) to accept democratic election results. This is unfortunate, but the manipulation of the OAS by Washington and a diminishing number of right-wing allies is the main reason that Latin American countries created the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011, to have a region-wide organization without the U.S. and Canada.
While it is important for officials such as Insulza to reaffirm the importance of Venezuela’s democratic processes and remind the OAS membership that Venezuela’s government was recently elected (and had its strong public support reaffirmed less than three months ago in local elections), other remarks equate extreme sectors of the Venezuelan opposition and the Venezuelan government, even though the government has won elections and the opposition has not:
Today, it is undeniable that there is a profound political crisis, characterized above all by a split and confrontation between most political and social actors into irreconcilable bands. When the opposition mobilizes, it does so on a massive scale, and poses strong demands; when the Government’s supporters take to the streets, their numbers and the fervor of their demands are also huge.
But for the last few weeks, it isn’t “massive” opposition protests that are occurring, but rather small protests designed to wreak havoc in a few neighborhoods throughout the country. In essence, Insulza and the U.S. administration are suggesting that when extremist groups demand the immediate departure of an elected president, and try to achieve their aim by barricading streets and engaging in violent acts, the government has an obligation to dialogue with them.
This is reminiscent of Insulza’s approach to the coup in Honduras in 2009, when he effectively raised up a repressive regime that destroyed democracy with a military coup to the same legitimacy as the elected government. Insulza’s characterization of the OAS role in responding to the Honduran coup is also misleading. In fact, the OAS did little to try to restore democracy to Honduras, and Insulza apparently did not speak out when the U.S. ultimately blocked a measure that would have required the ousted president Manuel Zelaya to be returned to office before new elections were to be held, even though this was a solution supported by most OAS members.
Insulza’s comments on Chile are also troubling:
Both sides are an indispensable part of a country that needs all its people as it forges its future. Seeking to “win” this battle is a sure path to a decades-long national split between the vanquished and the conquerors. History is replete with examples of when division and confrontation destroyed democracy and ushered in long bouts of dictatorship. That is what happened in my country and thousands died.
Those familiar with the history of Chile know that political polarization was not the main problem, but rather that the right wing was by led by fascists who did not respect democratic government and were willing to institute a violent dictatorship that killed, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of people. (It is also relevant that the U.S. government fueled much of the unrest as well as economic sabotage after then-U.S. president Richard Nixon vowed to “make the economy scream.”) It is of course good to avoid unnecessary political polarization and pursue dialogue as a general principle. But Chile’s infamous military coup and dictatorship were not a result of a conflict between two opposing forces representing equally just claims; it was rich against poor, people who did not respect democratic elections versus those who did, people allied with an aggressive foreign power versus those who believed in national sovereignty.
Insulza also refers to OAS support for “democracy and political stability in Haiti”: “during the Haitian crisis, over a decade ago, we gladly accepted U.N. leadership in that country and still maintain our association with it, in support of democracy and political stability in Haiti.”
This also raises very serious questions about Insulza’s idea of democracy. The U.N. mission was deployed to Haiti following the 2004 U.S.-backed coup d’etat against the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who also had faced a violent opposition (for years) with whom the international community repeatedly urged him to “negotiate;” while at the same time we now know that U.S. funders of the opposition were telling them not to reach any agreement, that Aristide would be overthrown. The U.N. has occupied Haiti almost ever since, while the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas has been arbitrarily excluded from elections and many of its leaders and members hunted down and killed, and others imprisoned on bogus charges.
As we have described in detail, the OAS has played a key role in overturning elections in Haiti twice: in 2000, when the OAS’ rejection – without justification – of the election of seven senators provided the pretext for a political “crisis” and U.S.-led efforts to undermine the Aristide government; and the OAS’ overturning of the first round of the 2010 presidential elections. (Former OAS insider Ricardo Seitenfus has recently provided more details on this sorry episode.)
Considering this background, and the disproportionate influence wielded by the U.S. at the OAS, it should be of little surprise that Venezuela would seek to have UNASUR take up the Venezuelan political situation, rather than the OAS, which it appears UNASUR might, next week.
In a statement before the OAS, U.S. Ambassador Carmen Lomellin described
what appears to be a pattern of security personnel using excessive force.
We are also concerned with increasingly stringent tactics being employed by the government in an effort to restrict the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful protest.
However, violence in recent days has almost exclusively impacted those opposed to the protests or the barricades, which make getting around certain neighborhoods difficult.
If there is a “pattern” of “excessive force” and “increasingly stringent tactics” by the government, it is unclear what these are, considering that the road blockades continue, even after nine people have been killed either trying to get through, or remove, the barricades, and considering that National Guard officers are getting killed. It is hard to imagine such a situation taking place in the United States, with small groups of protesters blockading streets, not for hours, and not even for days, but for weeks, and those attempting to remove the barricades being attacked and sometimes even shot and killed. The Occupy protests just a few years ago were usually violently repressed, and these were mostly in parks and other green spaces – not blocking off streets in major cities. These were actually peaceful demonstrations. Nor was the police repression of the Occupy protests met with calls for intervention by the OAS, even after Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was almost killed after being shot in the head with a canister by police in Oakland, CA.
The U.S. statement follows a pattern of official statements since Venezuela’s latest wave of protests began that heaps all blame for violence on the government while characterizing the protests only as peaceful (the nine people who have been killed while trying to pass through or remove barricades, or the pro-government demonstrators killed, are testament to a different reality).
While both Lomellin and Insulza (among many others) have stressed the importance of dialogue between the government and the opposition, little attention is paid to the Venezuelan government’s efforts to engage in such dialogue. Maduro invited opposition leaders to a meeting on February 24; opposition leader Henrique Capriles rejected the offer. Jorge Roig, the head of FEDECAMARAS (the main business federation) and Lorenzo Mendoza, head of major food and beverage company Empresas Polar did attend, however, with Roig saying “We have profound differences with your economic system and your political systems but democracy, thank God, lets us evaluate these differences.”
Insulza’s comments that “it is also essential that the principal party leaders and opposition leaders with the most backing are also parties to the dialogue” could be seen as criticism of Capriles’ refusal so far to speak with Maduro. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot recently noted in Venezuela’s Últimas Noticias, by taking a radical posture and refusing to meet with Maduro despite having shook hands with Maduro just weeks before, Capriles has clearly sided with the more extreme elements of Venezuela’s opposition.
According to reports by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), there are roughly 600 known cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, many of them unsolved. Loretta Saunders, an Inuit woman from Labrador whose family reported her missing on 13 February 2014, is one of the latest. The RCMP discovered her body along a New Brunswick highway on 26 February. That Saunders was in the middle of finishing her PhD in Halifax— on Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women—makes her death particularly harrowing, yet each of these women’s deaths is reprehensible.
CPT attended the ninth Annual Strawberry Ceremony honoring missing and murdered Indigenous women on 14 February, when over 200 people gathered at the downtown Toronto police headquarters for a rally and march. Many individuals in the crowd held up signs bearing names, dates, and occasionally photos. Several dozen people carried black silhouette-style signs cut in the shape of women’s profiles, with names in white lettering on one side, and dates—usually preceded with the word “murdered”—on the other.
Each of these sign bearers had lost someone to violence: a sister, a daughter, a grandmother. More than that, though, this ceremony was in honor of Indigenous women. Those marching were survivors of their individual griefs and losses, and the collective oppression and violence of a system set entirely against them.
Author and activist Arundhati Roy has said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” In CPT, we often talk about “amplifying voices,” and when I give presentations I make sure to emphasize what this means: I am not seeking to speak for anyone. I am seeking to hold up a figurative microphone to those who are already speaking. It’s a thing I’m still figuring out, time after time. But Roy’s words are a guide.
During the ceremony on 14 February, the women who spoke described how long it took them to “find their voices,” to share the stories of women in their lives who’d been taken by violence. One mother who raised her grandson from his infancy, said it took her over two decades from when her daughter was killed to when she could start speaking about it. It struck me that every single person there holding a sign or a banner was a person who could speak. The voiceless ones were the women whose names and dates were on those signs. Their daughters, and mothers, and sisters, and brothers and fathers and sons (because there were many men there too)—these relatives were all speaking for them.
The question is, are we listening? When several NDP Senators introduced the need for an inquiry to Parliament about missing and murdered Indigenous women in late February, Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch responded by turning the call into a partisan argument, and stated that, “Our government has taken action. I encourage the opposition to join us in that action.”
Such statements, at their root, only demonstrate a desire to dismiss and delegitimize Indigenous women’s voices. If the Harper administration was earnest in its professed concern for Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, it would not turn calls for a national inquiry into partisan finger-pointing, but initiate real, measurable action to end this tragedy now.
On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired between 61 and 67 shots into a crowd of unarmed anti-war protestors at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four students and wounding nine others. My 19-year-old sister, Allison Krause, was one of four students shot to death by the Ohio National Guard in the parking lot of her university campus as she protested the Vietnam War. I was 15 years old at the time.
It has been 44 years, and the U.S. government still refuses to admit that it participated in the killing of four young students at Kent State. There has not been a credible, independent, impartial investigation into Kent State. No group or individual has been held accountable. In 2010, after undeniable forensic evidence emerged pointing to direct U.S. government involvement in the killings, Emily Kunstler and I founded the Kent State Truth Tribunal (KSTT). Our hope was to finally receive a full account of the tragic events and to see that the victims and their families receive redress. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice refused to reopen the case, claiming there were “insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers.”
But justice for Allison doesn’t have to end there. To that end, we are traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, next week to demand accountability for the Kent State massacre before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which will be reviewing U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the few human rights treaties ratified by the United States.
The right to assemble and protest is a cherished American value and is a universal human right. But the United States – and so many other proclaimed democracies around the world – repeatedly and shamelessly commits gross violations of this human right. We were recently reminded of extensive U.S. government surveillance of anti-war activists in the 1960s, but sadly, such dangerous activity isn’t a thing of the distant past. As recently as 2011, with the start of the “Occupy” movement, protestors were labeled “domestic terrorists,” surveilled by the FBI, and arrested in massive numbers for nonviolent demonstrations and assemblies.
The Kent State precedent has cast a shadow over our democracy for over 40 years. If Kent State remains a glaring example of government impunity, it sends a message that protestors can be killed by the state for expressing their political beliefs. This lack of accountability and hostility towards peaceful expression flies in the face not only of our Constitution, but also our international human rights commitments.
Though we are a small organization, KSTT is committed to seeking justice for the victims of the Kent State massacre. Next week, representatives from KSTT will be briefing the U.N. Human Rights Committee about the United States’ failure to provide full accountability for the Kent State massacre. We hope the Committee will ask our government to provide answers regarding its complicity in the killing of peaceful protesters, or at the very least acknowledge its failure to conduct a thorough and credible investigation. We intend to make it clear that we have not forgotten the horrific event that took place at Kent State. Allison stood for peace and died for peace. May no other protestor in the U.S. ever have to pay the price she paid for her peaceful political expression and dissent.
CIA: We Only Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We’re Liars
Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA’s torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report’s findings — but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report’s findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.
In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers’ fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan’s statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault “the legislative” branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).
In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.
“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.
A further report detailed what he’s talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this… directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.
Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.
They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.
The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.
“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”
The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.
There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there’s an argument that Senate staffers weren’t supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in “wrongdoing” is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. “You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that” is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.
Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers.
Of course, the CIA may still have one advantage on its side: there are still some in Congress who are so supportive of the intelligence community itself that even they will make excuses for the CIA spying on their own staff. At least that seems to be the response from Senate Intelligence vice chair Senator Saxby Chambliss, one of the most ardent defenders of the intelligence community he’s supposed to be watching over. When asked about all of this, he seemed to be a lot more concerned about the staffers supposedly taking “classified” documents than about the CIA spying on those staffers:
“I have no comment. You should talk to those folks that are giving away classified information and get their opinion,” Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said when asked about the alleged intrusions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he did not commit to freezing settlement construction during his meeting with US President Barack Obama and that he will reject any agreement with the Palestinians that does not meet Israel’s security needs.
Israel Radio quoted Netanyahu on Friday, on his way back to Israel, telling Israeli journalists that he considered extending the negotiating period between the Israelis and Palestinians in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework agreement unlikely to make a difference for the Israeli coalition government, as most of its members reject the idea of establishing a Palestinian state.
He added that he will reject any agreement with the Palestinians that “does not meet Israel’s needs and poses a threat to its security, even if there are attempts to impose such an agreement on Israel.”
Netanyahu refused the possibility of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank territories if the negotiations fail, stating that he does not prefer this possibility and that “the unilateral withdrawals (from south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip) have not justified themselves nor did they provide security stability for Israel”.
Netanyahu returned to Israel today following his visit to the US which started on Sunday in which he met with Obama in the White House and gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Tuesday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced, while receiving a delegation from the Israeli left-wing party Meretz a few days ago, that he is not opposed to extending the negotiations period, but demands that settlement construction is suspended and prisoners are released.
Yedioth Ahronoth said the European delegation had hoped to evaluate the prisoners’ conditions.
The paper reported that Elmar Brok, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament, had asked Israel’s ambassador to the EU to arrange a visit for the delegation.
But Lieberman responded by saying Israel would only allow such a visit if the EU would let an Israeli delegation visit prisons in Europe.
The report cited sources inside Israel’s foreign affairs ministry that the European request had been made in coordination Palestinian and international activists working to highlight the poor conditions inside Israeli prisons.
The news came one day after Israel refused to allow Palestinian refugees from Syria to return to the Palestinians territories, according to Palestinian Authority official cited by Ma’an news agency.
Fatah central committee member Mohammed Ishtayyeh told diplomats at a meeting organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation – a group affiliated with Germany’s Green Party – that they have been trying to help Palestinians in Syria escape the three-year-long war, but Israeli officials have rejected their pleas.
Around 1,500 Palestinian were killed during the Syria conflict, and 250,000 others have been forced to leave their homes, according to Ma’an.
US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, has crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea. With the Crimea Peninsula getting ready to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine in a week, the US is ramping up its military presence in the region.
USS Truxton is heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies, AFP reported earlier. At the same time, Fox News declared that NATO’s bolstering presence in the Black Sea is a “defensive” measure to counter “Russian military aggression” in Ukraine.
The situation in Ukraine is close to financial and humanitarian catastrophe, urging mass protests in eastern regional centers against self-proclaimed government in Kiev. The autonomous Crimea region is preparing to hold a March-16 referendum on whether it wants to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia, after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich fled the country and the opposition imposed a central government.
Subsequently, Russia’s upper chamber of the parliament approved the possibility of Moscow deploying troops to Ukraine and particularly to Crimea – but only to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.
On Friday night, Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, warned of possible ethnic cleansing of the Russians in Crimea if the people who seized power in Kiev also grasp autonomy.
Peskov stressed that Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine are “scared and are asking for help from Russia”.
“We fully understand the fears that now prevail in the East [of Ukraine,” Peskov acknowledged.
However, the US State Department doesn’t see any possible danger to millions of ethnic Russians.
Russians make up well over 17 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million population, whereas in Crimea Russians are over 58 percent of the autonomy’s nearly two million population.
“There are no confirmed reports of threats to ethnic Russians,” Eric Rubin said, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr Rubin is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
USS Truxton, with a crew of about 300, is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer equipped with the Aegis combat system, which integrates the ship’s radar, sensors and missile weapons to engage anti-ship missile threats. The warship is part of the USS George W. Bush Carrier Strike Group currently stationed in Greece. The carrier is not expected to move into the Black Sea in respect of the Montreux Convention of 1936, which closed Turkish Bosphorus and Dardanelles for ships with deadweight over 45,000 tons. With its 97,000 tons, the USS George W. Bush is the world’s largest warship.
USS Truxton has taken up the baton of American military presence in the region from frigate USS Taylor, which ran aground in the Turkish port of Samsun in the Black Sea last month, with a broken propeller hub and blades. On Friday, a tugboat began to tow the damaged warship to Greece’s island of Crete, where it will be repaired at the US Navy base in Souda Bay.
USS Truxton will reportedly stay in the Black Sea till mid-March. The Montreux Convention allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for 21 days only.
During the military conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, an American ship was also present in the Black Sea with reconnaissance and an officially proclaimed humanitarian mission. In September 2008, the US costal guard ship, Dallas, docked at Sevastopol harbor with a secret mission and had to leave in haste because of mass local protest.
Given the present conditions, an American battleship is highly unlikely to get anywhere near the Crimea shores, let alone Sevastopol, without a risk of repeating a hasty exit from the past.
On February 12, 1988, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Yorktown, and a Spruance-class destroyer, the USS Caron, had to flee from Soviet territorial waters off the Crimean Peninsula. After the two American warships ignored the Soviet Navy’s demands to leave country’s territorial waters immediately, the Soviet frigate, Bezzavetny, simply rammed both American ships, forcing them to comply with international maritime rules.
US lawmakers are already threatening Russia with economic sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine. Trade, business, investment, and G8 membership closely link the Russian, American and European economies.
While the West is considering going down the ‘sanction road’, here’s a look at what’s at stake for the markets.
In terms of billions of dollars, trade is higher between Russia and the EU, but the US remains Europe’s biggest export market.
Net trade between Russia and the US was $38.1 billion in 2013, according to US Chamber of Commerce data. The US exported $11.26 billion to Russia, and imported $26.96 billion worth of goods.
Russia exports more than $19 billion of oil and petroleum products to the United States, as well as $1 billion in fertilizer products, according to Chamber of Commerce data.
“Is Russia going to be cut off from the world? That is very unlikely given what Russia provides to the world, which are oil, gas, raw materials,” Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia told Reuters.
Russia is very dependent on trade with the EU, as member states account for about 50 percent of total Russian imports and exports. In 2012, trade between the two neighbors reached €123 billion.
One of Russia’s most valuable exports to Europe is something factories and households run on every day: natural gas. Europe imports one-third of its natural gas from Russia, with Germany being the biggest client importing nearly 30 billion euro annually. In 2012, 75 percent of all European imports from Russia were energy.
Many countries in Europe have strategic partnerships with Russia’s state-owned gas giants, Rosneft and Gazprom.
According to Eurostat data, Russia accounts for 7 percent of total imports and 12 percent of total exports in the 28 European Union bloc, making it the regions third most important trading partner, behind the USA and China.
US companies with big Russia presence
Several of America’ biggest companies- Boeing, Cargill, Ford, General Motors, ExxonMobil, to name a few- all have a huge presence in the Russian market.
Boeing’s investment in Russia is deep, as the aerospace carrier sources a considerable amount of steel, titanium, and aircraft parts from Russian companies. Boeing receives about 35 percent of its titanium from state-owned, Rostec. In 2013, Boeing’s deliveries to Russian carriers were valued at $2.1 billion, and the company plans to spend $27 billion in Russia, Bloomberg reports.
“We are watching developments closely to determine what impact, if any, there may be to our ongoing business and partnerships in the region,” Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, told Bloomberg by email.
Last year, Russia was a $11.2 billion market for the US, with heavy trade in automobiles and aircrafts, according to Commerce Department data.
US automakers have a high exposure to Russian markets, so are closely watching US economic actions against Russia. Ford has sold over 1 million automobiles in Russia, and in 2013, sold 105,000 cars. GM, which has a 9 percent market share, sold 258,000. Both companies have shifted production plants from Europe to Russia, which is set to become Europe’s biggest car market by 2016.
ExxonMobil has partnered with Rosneft in exploring the Bazhenov oil field in Western Siberia, a deal that could be worth up to $500 billion. ExxonMobil is planning to build a $15 billion LNG terminal project in the Bazhenov field, and also has joint venture projects set up to explore Black Sea reserves.
Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on Europe, said the sanctions could be extended to Russia’s banks. Russia’s two largest state banks are Sberbank, Europe’s third largest, and VTB. Both banks have a strong industry presence in London, which has indicated it isn’t moving towards the sanctions. A leaked document from Downing Street shows that the UK government doesn’t plan to follow America-led asset freezes or trade restrictions, but are mulling over visa restrictions and travel bans on key Russian politicians.
Robert Holleyman in the Seat
The machinery to dominate global intellectual property by American fiat was further tightened by the announcement of Robert Holleyman as deputy US trade representative. President Obama’s announcement is just another reminder of what sources of inspiration are governing the drive by Washington to control the downloading and dissemination of information via the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After all, Holleyman was a former lobbyist of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the bill introduced by US Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tx) to gift US law enforcement authorities with the means to combat copyright infringements.
Indeed, Holleyman’s own blurb as an author for The Huffington Post considers him as “one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world”, an individual who “was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law.” Such is the nature of mislabelled internationalism – Washington’s policy by another name.
Holleyman has also been heavily involved as a former president of the Business Software Alliance, a body representing the main software vendors including Apple, IBM, and Microsoft. Through the consortium, Holleyman unintentionally put the problems of SOPA, and its sister legislation, PROTECT-IP, in the bright spotlight. He found himself fighting, at least for a time, a losing battle. Protest against them was extensive, with January 18, 2012 featuring the “largest online protest in history”. Congress took heed, shelving the bills. The vendors pondered the next move.
SOPA’s reach would have been global, enabling US law enforcement the means to target websites and individuals outside its jurisdiction. The carceral provisions of the bill were also hefty – five year prison terms for downloading unauthorised content.
It would have also been a rather formidable mechanism to insinuate censorship into the Internet. The legislation would allow the content provider or the US Justice Department to block sites hosting material supposedly in breach of copyright. Having such a provision would effectively overburden internet service providers to err on the side of caution and “over-block” material. If ever you want to enshrine censorship, a fine way of doing so is frightening the hosts into censoring themselves.
The secret negotiations of the TPP have proven to be a feast of select company. The negotiators themselves, such as Stefan Selig, nominee for under-secretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, have a direct line to the Bank of America. Selig’s accounts have been inflated to the tune of $9.1 million in bonus pay and $5.1 million in incentive pay. Happy is the bank that can sue for diminished assets and target governments in courts of law.
The clubbable ones are the software demons who have been “cleared” to have briefings, some 700 “stakeholders”. The “cleared advisors” also represent groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Entertainment Software Association, and the Recording Industry Association of America.
While the premise of having such vendors involved is ostensibly to protect innovation, the converse is true. The world of innovation does not matter to those who claim they have the ideas and want to protect them at cost. That is a recipe for sloppiness and envy.
The anti-democratic slant in the TPP process has also impressed itself upon observers. The press, and even members of Congress, have been kept at bay. Till parts of the treaty were published by WikiLeaks, elected officials could only view the document on visiting the Trade Representative Office. They would not be able to reproduce or transcribe it.
While SOPA and its twin PIPA were shelved indefinitely, the Obama administration has decided to shop in other forums to enforce some of their provisions. One way of doing so is through the faulty premise of free trade, which is simply another way of making some trade freer than others. The American firm features prominently in that guise of freedom.
Aspects of the leaked intellectual property chapter of the TPP so far indicate a model with SOPA trimmings. Provisions, for example, holding ISPs liable for hosting copyright infringement, have been preserved. The life of certain, corporate-owned copyrights will also be extended. In other words, this is SOPA by stealth, a process that “could not [be] achieved through an open democratic process.”
The fact that the Obama administration has also sought to sideline Congress in the debate is indicative of that. As Henry Farrell observed, “The United States appears to be using the non-transparent Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations as a deliberate end run around Congress on intellectual property, to achieve a presumably unpopular set of policy goals.” Senate Democrats have been mindful of their shrinking role, and have blocked the president’s attempt to obtain “fast-track authorisation”.
The effect of such authorisation would give the administration scope to limit congressional consultation while using its prerogative powers. Congress would become, in effect, a chamber of marionettes. Appointments such as Holleyman’s show little change of heart away from that policy. The copyright vanguard, along with the dance of secrecy, is digging its heels in.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: email@example.com.
One of the key themes to emerge in the debate about surveillance is the oversight of the agencies involved, and to what extent it is effective. In the US, that has been put into stark relief by news that the committee that is supposed to keep an eye on the spies was itself spied upon. And now over in the UK, we learn that things are just as bad when it comes to the equivalent oversight body, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). Its powers sound impressive:
The Tribunal can investigate complaints about any alleged conduct by, or on behalf of, the Intelligence Services – the Security Service (sometimes called MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (sometimes called MI6) and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).
The scope of conduct the IPT can investigate concerning the Intelligence Agencies is much broader than it is with regard to the other public authorities. The IPT is the only Tribunal to whom complaints about the Intelligence Services can be directed
Unfortunately, the IPT’s credibility as the public’s watchdog for the intelligence services has just been seriously undermined by the following information published by The Guardian :
A controversial court that claims to be completely independent of the British government is secretly operating from a base within the Home Office, the Guardian has learned.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which investigates complaints about the country’s intelligence agencies, is also funded by the Home Office, and its staff includes at least one person believed to be a Home Office official previously engaged in intelligence-related work.
It gets worse:
the IPT will not say whether GCHQ had disclosed the existence of its bulk surveillance operations, which attempt to capture the digital communications of everybody — including those people who complain to the tribunal.
Nor will it disclose whether it has issued any secret ruling on the lawfulness of those operations, on the grounds that the rules under which it operates stipulate that it cannot do so without the permission of GCHQ itself. It has not sought that permission on grounds it knows it would not be given.
So the body tasked with overseeing GCHQ has to get GCHQ’s permission before it can reveal any wrongdoing by GCHQ, which it doesn’t bother doing when it knows it would be refused. Isn’t oversight a wonderful thing? Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+