Are you depressed? Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy? Are you eating or sleeping too much? Big Pharma hopes so! The push to convince people who are dealing with job, family, relationship and money problems that they actually have “depression” has resulted in almost one in four American women in their 40s and 50s taking antidepressants. Ka-ching.
Psychiatry is often accused of not being “real medicine” because the diseases it diagnoses cannot be proved on blood tests and brain scans. That’s why this month’s announcement of the “first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults” is good news for psychiatrists and Big Pharma. Developed by Northwestern Medicine® scientists, the test, announced this month, “provides the first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression,” says Northwestern.
“The blood test can also predict which therapies would be most successful for patients, and lays the groundwork for one day identifying people who are especially vulnerable to depression — even before they’ve gone through a depressive episode,” gushes a Huffington Post article. No kidding. Treating people “at risk” of heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis, GERD and other conditions is Pharma’s marketing plan. Patients never know if they would have gotten the disorders and will stay on the drugs for decades.
Another Pharma plan to sell antidepressants is “pimping suicide.” Groups like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention present our national suicide rate as an “antidepressant deficiency” and cite a “stigma” that keeps people away from depression medication–like the 25 percent of older women who are on them right now.
Yet, despite a huge chunk of the population being on antidepressants, suicide is up not down. And in the military, where antidepressant use is rife, suicide is way up, including among those who never deployed. Left out of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s marketing materials is mention of the “black box” warnings on antidepressants that say “Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults…Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior.”
Antidepressants have other risks besides suicide. They can cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction, passivity and general complacency about life. When antidepressants quit working or don’t work to begin with the “depression” is called “treatment resistant” and more drugs are added. Their side effects–and symptoms if a patient tries to discontinue–are often taken as “proof” of the initial depression. The result is people who were never depressed being on the drugs for years.
The truth is antidepressants can increase or diminish the risk of suicide, though both suicide and meds are way up. Another truth is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention received $100,000 from Eli Lilly in 2011 and $50,000 in 2010 and was led for a time by psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff who was found by Congress to have failed to disclose at least $1.2 million in Pharma income to Emory University.
So, yes, the pills do treat depression–depression of Big Pharma profits.
As we speak, Chuck Schumer is probably yelling into a phone trying to get President Obama to nominate Wall Street’s US Attorney Preet Bharara to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General. “Barahck,” Schumer is probably yelling, “I can get Mitch to agree to push Preet through in the Lame Duck.”
That’s because Holder has just announced his resignation, pending confirmation of his successor.
The three most interesting details in Carrie Johnson’s scoop on Holder’s resignation are that he is likely to return to Covington and Burling, where — like former Criminal Division Chief Lanny Breuer before him — he will represent banks as they craft sweetheart deals with DOJ.
Friends and former colleagues say Holder has made no decisions about his next professional perch, but they say it would be no surprise if he returned to the law firm Covington & Burling, where he spent years representing corporate clients.
Nice to know a guy can still profit off of 6 years of overlooking rampant bank crime.
Johnson also reported that Holder plans to push through racial profiling guidelines that will protect African Americans but not Muslims.
Long-awaited racial profiling guidelines for federal agents will be released soon, too. Those guidelines will make clear that sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion are not legitimate bases for law enforcement suspicion, but controversial mapping of certain communities — including Muslim Americans — would still be allowed for national security investigations, one of the sources said.
That will soil the one real bright spot of Holder’s tenure at DOJ, his fight for civil rights.
Finally, Johnson reported that Don Verrilli — the guy who seemed to, but did not quite — lose the ObamaCare fight is the leading candidate to replace Holder.
The sources say a leading candidate for that job is Solicitor General Don Verrilli, the administration’s top representative to the Supreme Court and a lawyer whose judgment and discretion are prized in both DOJ and the White House.
By “judgement and discretion,” I wonder whether Johnson’s sources are referring to Verrilli’s stubbornness in not correcting the lies he told SCOTUS (wittingly or unwittingly) about DOJ’s implementation of FISA Amendments Act in the Amnesty v. Clapper case. By claiming, falsely, that DOJ gives defendants notice that they’ve been caught using Section 702, Verrilli successfully beat back the Justices’ concerns that no one would ever have standing to challenge these laws.
For what it’s worth, I think people are vastly overestimating the time it will take to replace Holder. After all, Republicans are on the record that they believe Holder to be contemptuous of Congress. While the House GOP that is suing him don’t actually get a vote on his replacement, surely they’ll convince their proxy Ted Cruz to represent their contempt.
Thus, for the right candidate, I suspect confirmation will happen quickly, just as Caroline Krass got confirmed in a landslide when the costs of leaving Robert Eatinger — who referred CIA’s overseers to DOJ for investigation — in place as Acting CIA General Counsel became clear.
I’m just not convinced Verrilli is that guy. And while Preet did lead the investigation into Alberto Gonzales’ politicization of the US Attorneys when he worked for Schumer, surely the GOP cares more about his diligent efforts to not investigate the banks in the interim.
President Barack Obama announced in a speech on Tuesday that the United States would be aggressively funding and supporting “civil society” groups around the globe, calling it a “national security” issue.
“It is precisely because citizens and civil society can be so powerful — their ability to harness technology and connect and mobilize at this moment so unprecedented — that more and more governments are doing everything in their power to silence them,” said Obama at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual conference in New York.
Obama singled out Venezuela for allegedly “vilifying legitimate dissent” and said that Latin America would host one of the six Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers, a new initiative that seeks to create a global network to create cross-border partnerships. Other regions targeted for these new centers include Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
However, U.S. assistance to so-called civil society groups, especially in Latin America, has been marred in controversy, especially with regards to leftist governments.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the U.S. bodies that funds and supports “civil society” organizations abroad, funded Venezuelan opposition groups responsible for the 2002 coup attempt against the democratically-elected former president Hugo Chavez.
In 2009, according to USAID documents obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the group had also funded local regional governments and municipalities in Bolivia at a time when the government of Evo Morales was dealing with right-wing separatist movements in the eastern part of the country. Morales eventually expelled the agency from the country in 2013, a move followed by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa later that year. Correa announced in November 2013 that USAID is required to leave the country by the end of this month.
“Partnering and protecting civil society groups around the world is now a mission across the U.S. government,” said Obama.
He ordered, via a presidential memorandum, agencies such as USAID, the Department of State, and Homeland Security, to work more regularly with civil society groups across the globe. … Full article
With all this money pouring into palm oil companies, lands for oil palm plantations are at an all time premium, wherever they can be found.
Oil palm plantations can, however, only be established on a narrow band of lands in tropical areas that are roughly 7 degrees North or South of the equator and that have abundant and evenly spread rainfall. This makes the potential area for new oil palm plantations rather limited. Plus, most of these lands are composed of forests and farmlands that are occupied by indigenous peoples and peasants, some of whom are already growing oil palms for local markets.
The expansion of oil palm plantations, therefore, depends upon companies getting these people to give up their lands. This is not an easy sell, given the meagre jobs and other benefits that an oil palm plantation generates in comparison with the destruction that it causes and the value that the lands already hold for the people. A typical oil palm plantation requires only one poorly paid worker for every 2.3 hectares, while the surrounding communities pay a high price for the deforestation, water use, soil erosion and chemical fertiliser and pesticide contamination that it causes.1 Companies trying to acquire lands from communities also run into customary forms of land governance that do not allow for a company to buy up land one parcel at a time.
The easy way for companies to get around these hurdles is to ensure that the communities do not even know that their lands have been signed away. It is very common in Africa, for instance, for companies to sign land deals directly with the national government without the knowledge of the affected communities. In many cases, the companies signing the deals are obscure companies registered in tax havens with their beneficial owners hidden from view. The managers of these companies tend to come from the mining sector or other extractive industries with long histories of shady deals in Africa. In Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, land deals are typically brokered between local elites and foreign investors, also often with obscure ownership structures registered in tax havens.
Such small shell companies are not in the business of developing plantations. Once the land contracts are signed, they immediately look to sell out to larger companies with the technical capacity and financial resources to build the plantations. And it is usually at this point that the communities come to understand that their lands have been sold.
Most of these cases eventually lead to a situation where a large multinational plantation company, backed by a national government and a multimillion dollar contract, faces off against a poor community trying desperately to hold onto to the lands and forests it needs to survive. It is incredibly difficult for communities to defend themselves against such powerful forces, and those that do risk the threat of violence, whether by paramilitaries in Colombia, police in Sierra Leone, or the army in Indonesia.
Tax havens and land grabs for palm oil in Africa
The case of Atama Resources Inc
In 2010, the Government of the Republic of the Congo signed away more than 400,000 ha to a Congolese registered company called Atama Plantation whose owners remain unknown.2 In return, this mysterious company promised to develop the Congo Basin’s largest ever oil palm plantation, converting 180,000 ha of mostly forested land in the provinces of Cuvette and Sangha while paying the government a token annual fee of $5 per hectare of planted land. The company was under no obligation to conduct environmental or social impact assessments or to consult with affected populations.
When the contract was signed, Atama Plantation was wholly owned by Silvermark Resources Inc, a company registered in the offshore fiscal paradise of the British Virgin Islands.3 The only publicly available information on Silvermark is that it is owned and directed by two shell companies registered in Brunei. Because of the rules of secrecy governing companies registered in Brunei and the British Virgin Islands, it is impossible to know who the actual owners of these companies are.
In 2011, ownership of Atama Plantation was transferred to a holding company in Mauritius, another fiscal paradise, before finally being sold, in 2012, to Malaysia’s Wah Seong Corporation, a “pipe-coating specialist” company with no history in the palm oil sector that is controlled by Malaysian businessman Robert Tan.4
Whoever the owners of Silvermark are, they pocketed an estimated $25 million, without doing anything more than orchestrate the contract with the Congolese government. And, under the deal with Wah Seong, they still hold 39% of the shares with yet another British Virgin Islands registered company with unknown owners holding the remaining 10%.
The case of Liberian Forest Products Inc. (LFPI)
On August 21, 2006 a little known London minerals exploration company announced to the world that it had taken control of 700,000 ha of land in Liberia– equal to about 7% of the country’s entire land area. The owners of Nardina Resources PLC claimed they had acquired rights over this massive chunk of land through a take over of a Liberian company called Liberian Forest Products Inc. (LFPI). Nardina then changed its name to Equatorial Biofuels PLC and then again to Equatorial Palm Oil Ltd (EPO) to reflect its new mandate as a palm oil company. Meanwhile, the original owners of LFPI walked away with £1,555,000 in shares and cash.
But how did the owners of LFPI get hold of such an obscene amount of territory in a country just emerging from over a decade of civil war? And who were these owners anyway?
EPO’s disclosure documents from its listing on the London AIM stock exchange in 2010 show that the money it paid for LFPI went to two offshore companies, Kamina Global Ltd of the British Virgin Islands and Subsea BV of Liberia, which each had 50% shares of LFPI.
Searches conducted in December 2013 through the company registry in Liberia found no record of registration for a company called Subsea BV. However, the articles for registration for LFPI of November 2006 indicate that LFPI is a Liberian company owned by Tony Smith (50%) and A. Kanie Wesso (50%), who are both trustees for a new company to be formed, called Subsea BV. The sole LFPI director named in the document is Mark Slowen, a British businessman operating from Liberia whose name also turns up as the CEO of SubSea Resources DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre), a company that acquired mineral rights in Liberia at around the same time.
A second business registry document for LFPI from August 2007 refers to LFPI as a British owned company– with ownership split between Mark Slowen (50%) and Kanie Wesso (50%). Both documents describe LFPI as a company whose sole business is logging.
Subsea BV also turns up in the UK business directory as a director of the G4 Group, which has several business interests in Liberia and is controlled by the notorious financial fraudster Lincoln Fraser.5 The G4 Group’s Liberian subsidiary, G4 WAO Inc., exports rubber tree logs and holds a phosphate exploration concession covering 36,000 ha in Bopolu. According to the company website, G4 WAO “manages in excess of one million acres of the best crop growing conditions in the world” and has partnered with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) “to establish trial sites on various G4 farming enterprises in Liberia, Ghana and Kenya.”6
Kamina Global Ltd, the other company that was paid by EPO for the acquisition of LFPI, is even more opaque. Legislation in the British Virgin Islands does not require companies to disclose their directors or shareholders, so it was not possible to identify the people behind Kamina Global through company records.7
When EPO acquired LFPI, the contract was under examination by Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession Commission. It would conclude that the agreement contained “gross irregularities and non-compliance with the law” and EPO was forced to renegotiate. LFPI, now under the ownership of EPO, signed a new contract with the government in 2008, this time covering a much reduced but still valuable 55,000 ha area of land in Butaw. With this concession and another of a similar size in Liberia, EPO went public on the London AIM stock exchange, eventually attracting significant investment from the Siva Group, a Singapore-based holding company of Indian billionaire Chinnakannan Sivasankaran, who has quietly amassed one of the world’s largest land banks for oil palm in just a few years. The Siva Group started buying shares of EPO in 2010 and by 2013 it controlled 36.7% of the company and had formed a 50:50 joint venture with EPO based in Mauritius, called Liberian Palm Developments Ltd, that took control of all of EPO’s Liberian land concessions.8
In 2013, the Siva Group would sell its shares in EPO and its Mauritian joint venture to KL Kepong of Malaysia, one of the world’s largest palm oil companies.
Are Chinese companies grabbing land for palm oil?
China runs neck and neck with India for the world’s number 1 palm oil importer. So it would only make sense that Chinese companies would be involved in the current rush for lands for oil palm plantations. But while there have been several reports of massive land grabs for palm oil by Chinese companies, few of these have materialised.
China’s telecom giant ZTE, which has a biofuels division, was said to have signed an agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to develop 2 million hectares of oil palm plantations. The numbers were later scaled down to 100,000 ha and it now seems like the project has been scrapped entirely.
In 2005, Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono announced a plan to develop 1.8 million hectares of land along the Kalimantan border into oil palm plantations. Several Chinese companies including state-owned investment company CITIC Group were offered one third of the area in return for building roads and railways and details were released of a $600 million project between CITIC and Indonesian palm oil giant Sinar Mas to develop a 100,000 ha plantation in the area, with a $380 million dollar loan from the China Development Bank.9 Sinar Mas’ subsidiary Golden Agri Resources is one of the main suppliers of palm oil to China. The plans, however, were never put into operation.
In 2012, Sinar Mas, which is controlled by Indonesia’s Widjaja family, announced a new partnership for oil palm development with China, this time with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. and another Widjaja controlled company, HKC Holdings of Hong Kong. Wang Jun, the former chairman of CITIC Group, is the honorary chairman and a director of HKC. The companies said the project would be rolled out over eight years in Papua and Kalimantan, “where regional governments had reserved about one million hectares of land for it.”
Less than a year later, the Widjajas cemented another major palm oil deal with China. This time in Africa. In March 2013, Golden Agri Resources’ wholly-owned subsidiary Golden Veroleum Limited procured a $500 million term loan facility from the China Development Bank to support the construction of its 220,000 ha oil palm plantation project in LIberia. Typically the CDB only loans to overseas companies or projects when Chinese companies are directly involved.10
For now, China appears to be channeling most of its investments in palm oil through Asian palm oil companies, such as Sinar Mas, that dominate the global palm oil trade. The only Chinese company making significant direct investments in oil palm plantations has so far been China’s state-owned oil company Sinochem. In April 2012, Sinochem paid 193 million euros to acquire 35% of the Belgian plantations company SIAT, which has oil palm plantations in Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria. It also announced that its rubber company in Cameroon would be expanding its plantations and starting to move into palm oil production.
1 UNEP, “Oil palm plantations: threats and opportunities for tropical ecosystems,” December 2011
2 See the excellent report, “Seeds of Destruction“, Rainforest Foundation UK, 2013
3 Silvermark is owned by Tinaldi Ltd and the Director is Greenland Ltd. Greenland Ltd is reported to be controlled by Benny Lum (who may just be a proxy). It controls Lamington Capital Inc (maybe Singapore) which is also a shareholder in African Petroleum Corporation Limited. It was also used to direct a transfer of funds to a Thai company that is linked to Thaksin. Both Tanaldi Ltd and Greenland Ltd (Brunei) are registered in Brunei to the address of HMR Trust Ltd (which is involved in offshore financial services). Other documents indicate that Tanaldi Limited is owned by Tan Sri Barry Goh Ming Choon of Malaysia and the company acts as a trust for other Malaysian businessmen. Barry Goh controls B&G Capital Resources Berhad (“BCGR”) which he started in 1994. BGCR has served as the principal contractor to Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), one of the largest government link companies in Malaysia
4 Atama Resources Inc was registered in Mauritius in July 2011, as 100% owned by Silvermark. In 2012, Wah Seong purchases 51% of Atama Resources Inc. through its 100% owned subsidiary WS Agro Ind Pte Ltd (Singapore). 39% remains with Silvermark. 10% is taken by Giant Dragon Group (BVI), which is 100% owned by Marston International Ltd. (BVI), who’s director is Eastern Sky Ltd. (Hong Kong). Eastern Sky is a nominee director for several other companies. The Wah Seong Corporation is largely controlled by Malaysian businessman Robert Tan. Marston International Ltd. is the owner of Pergenia International Limited (PIL) incorporated in British Virgin Island on 10 January 2007 and Netstar Holdings Limited registered in BVI in 2003. Marston International Ltd is also the controlling shareholder of PT Jaya Pari Steel Tbk. (Indonesia). Reports from PT Jaya Pari Steel Tbk say that Marston International Ltd is owned by John Matthew Ashwood (50%) and Brian Whiteman and Robinson McKinstry (50%), who seem only to be proxies and John Ashwood likely works for Vistra, an offshore financial company based in Hong Kong. PT Jaya Pari Steel is a company of the Gunawan family of Indonesia, which is involved in finance and steel. The family controls 46 percent of Indonesia’s PT Bank Panin. Marston International Limited is also a major shareholder in another Gunawan steel company, Betonjaya Manunggal Tbk PT, through its ownership of Profit Add Limited (Samoa). Marston International is listed as a shareholder of Best Dragon Enterprises Limited, alongside Tito Sulistio, who is connected to the Suharto family.
5 Fraser is described by Offshore Alert as a “British conman who masterminded the $400 million Imperial Consolidated fraud” which robbed thousands of pensioners and others of their savings when it went bankrupt in 2002.
7 Kamina’s company registration information indicates that it was registered on 17 March 2006 and struck off on 2 November 2009. It’s registered agent is TMF (BVI) Ltd, a company which manages numerous shell companies on behalf of clients around the world. As written on the same document: “Under the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 companies are not required to file information on Directors and Shareholders of a company.”
8 Siva Group’s 36.7% share of EPO is held by way of several subsidiaries: Biopalm Energy Limited (16.62%), The Siva Group (16.62%) and Broadcourt Investments Ltd (3.46%).(The joint venture is between EPO’s wholly-owned subsidiary Equatorial Biofuels (Guernsey) Limited and Biopalm Energy Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Geoff Palm Ltd based in the offshore city of Labuan, Malaysia, and which is owned by Broadcourt Investments Ltd, a British Virgin Islands registered holding company with Chinnakannan Sivasankaran, the Siva Group’s founder and owner, listed as its only director and shareholder since January 2007.
9 “The Kalimantan border oil palm project,” Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, 2006; “China’s investment foray into Indonesia,” Asia Sentinel, 6 June 2013
The costs of the mainstream U.S. media’s wildly anti-Moscow bias in the Ukraine crisis are adding up, as the Obama administration has decided to react to alleged “Russian aggression” by investing as much as $1 trillion in modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.
On Monday, a typically slanted New York Times article justified these modernization plans by describing “Russia on the warpath” and adding: “Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington’s escalating confrontation with Moscow.”
But the Ukraine crisis has been a textbook case of the U.S. mainstream media misreporting the facts of a foreign confrontation and then misinterpreting the meaning of the events, a classic case of “garbage in, garbage out.” The core of the false mainstream narrative is that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis as an excuse to reclaim territory for the Russian Empire.
While that interpretation of events has been the cornerstone of Official Washington’s “group think,” the reality always was that Putin favored maintaining the status quo in Ukraine. He had no plans to “invade” Ukraine and was satisfied with the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Indeed, when the crisis heated up last February, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Rather than Putin’s “warmongering” – as the Times said in the lead-in to another Monday article – the evidence is clear that it was the United States and the European Union that initiated this confrontation in a bid to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the West’s orbit.
This was a scheme long in the making, but the immediate framework for the crisis took shape a year ago when influential U.S. neocons set their sights on Ukraine and Putin after Putin helped defuse a crisis in Syria by persuading President Barack Obama to set aside plans to bomb Syrian government targets over a disputed Sarin gas attack and instead accept Syria’s willingness to surrender its entire chemical weapons arsenal.
But the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies had their hearts set on another “shock and awe” campaign with the goal of precipitating another “regime change” against a Middle East government disfavored by Israel. Putin also worked with Obama to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, averting another neocon dream to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”
The Despised Putin
So, Putin suddenly rose to the top of the neocons’ “enemies list” and some prominent neocons quickly detected his vulnerability in Ukraine, a historical route for western invasions of Russia and the scene of extraordinarily bloody fighting during World War II.
National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, one of the top neocon paymasters spreading around $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money, declared in late September 2013 that Ukraine represented “the biggest prize” but beyond that was an opportunity to put Putin “on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
The context for Gershman’s excitement was a European Union offer of an association agreement to Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, but it came with some nasty strings attached, an austerity plan demanded by the International Monetary Fund that would have made the hard lives of the average Ukrainian even harder.
That prompted Yanukovych to seek a better deal from Putin who offered $15 billion in aid without the IMF’s harsh terms. Yet, once Yanukovych rebuffed the EU plan, his government was targeted by a destabilization campaign that involved scores of political and media projects funded by Gershman’s NED and other U.S. agencies.
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, reminded a group of Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.” Nuland, wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, also showed up at the Maidan square in Kiev passing out cookies to protesters.
The Maidan protests, reflecting western Ukraine’s desire for closer ties to Europe, also were cheered on by neocon Sen. John McCain, who appeared on a podium with leaders of the far-right Svoboda party under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. A year earlier, the European Parliament had identified Svoboda as professing “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.”
Yet, militants from Svoboda and the even more extreme Right Sektor were emerging as the muscle of the Maidan protests, seizing government buildings and hurling firebombs at police. A well-known Ukrainian neo-Nazi leader, Andriy Parubiy, became the commandant of the Maidan’s “self-defense” forces.
Behind the scenes, Assistant Secretary Nuland was deciding who would take over the Ukrainian government once Yanukovych was ousted. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland crossed off some potential leaders and announced that “Yats” – or Arseniy Yatsenyuk – was her guy.
On Feb. 20, as the neo-Nazi militias stepped up their attacks on police, a mysterious sniper opened fire on both protesters and police killing scores and bringing the political crisis to a boil. The U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych for the killings though he denied giving such an order and some evidence pointed toward a provocation from the far-right extremists.
As Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in another intercepted phone call with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Asthon, “there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”
But the sniper shootings led Yanukovych to agree on Feb. 21 to a deal guaranteed by three European countries – France, Germany and Poland – that he would surrender much of his power and move up elections so he could be voted out of office. He also assented to U.S. demands that he pull back his police.
That last move, however, prompted the neo-Nazi militias to overrun the presidential buildings on Feb. 22 and force Yanukovych’s officials to flee for their lives. Then, rather than seeking to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, the U.S. State Department promptly declared the coup regime “legitimate” and blamed everything on Yanukovych and Putin.
Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, was made prime minister and the neo-Nazis were rewarded for their crucial role by receiving several ministries, including national security headed by Parubiy. The parliament also voted to ban Russian as an official language (though that was later rescinded), and the IMF austerity demands were pushed through by Yatsenyuk. Not surprisingly, ethnic Russians in the south and east, the base of Yanukovych’s support, began resisting what they regarded as the illegitimate coup regime.
To blame this crisis on Putin simply ignores the facts and defies logic. To presume that Putin instigated the ouster of Yanukovych in some convoluted scheme to seize territory requires you to believe that Putin got the EU to make its reckless association offer, organized the mass protests at the Maidan, convinced neo-Nazis from western Ukraine to throw firebombs at police, and manipulated Gershman, Nuland and McCain to coordinate with the coup-makers – all while appearing to support Yanukovych’s idea for new elections within Ukraine’s constitutional structure.
Though such a crazy conspiracy theory would make people in tinfoil hats blush, this certainly is at the heart of what every “smart” person in Official Washington believes. If you dared to suggest that Putin was actually distracted by the Sochi Olympics last February, was caught off guard by the events in Ukraine, and reacted to a Western-inspired crisis on his border (including his acceptance of Crimea’s request to be readmitted to Russia), you would be immediately dismissed as “a stooge of Moscow.”
Such is how mindless “group think” works in Washington. All the people who matter jump on the bandwagon and smirk at anyone who questions how wise it is to be rolling downhill in some disastrous direction.
But the pols and pundits who appear on U.S. television spouting the conventional wisdom are always the winners in this scenario. They get to look tough, standing up to villains like Yanukovych and Putin and siding with the saintly Maidan protesters. The neo-Nazi brown shirts are whited out of the picture and any Ukrainian who objected to the U.S.-backed coup regime finds a black hat firmly glued on his or her head.
For the neocons, there are both financial and ideological benefits. By shattering the fragile alliance that had evolved between Putin and Obama over Syria and Iran, the neocons seized greater control over U.S. policies in the Middle East and revived the prospects for violent “regime change.”
On a more mundane level – by stirring up a new Cold War – the neocons generate more U.S. government money for military contractors who bestow a portion on Washington think tanks that provide cushy jobs for neocons when they are out of government.
The worst losers are the people of Ukraine, most tragically the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, thousands of whom have died from a combination of heavy artillery fire by the Ukrainian army on residential areas followed by street fighting led by brutal neo-Nazi militias who were incorporated into Kiev’s battle plans. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s ‘Romantic’ Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]
The devastation of eastern Ukraine, which has driven an estimated one million Ukrainians out of their homes, has left parts of this industrial region in ruins. Of course, in the U.S. media version, it’s all Putin’s fault for deceiving these ethnic Russians with “propaganda” about neo-Nazis and then inducing these deluded individuals to resist the “legitimate” authorities in Kiev.
Notably, America’s righteous “responsibility to protect” crowd, which demanded that Obama begin airstrikes in Syria a year ago, swallowed its moral whistles when it came to the U.S.-backed Kiev regime butchering ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (or for that matter, when Israeli forces slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza).
However, beyond the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine, the meddling by Nuland, Gershman and others has pushed all of Ukraine toward financial catastrophe. As “The Business Insider” reported on Sept. 21, “Ukraine Is on the Brink of Total Economic Collapse.”
Author Walter Kurtz wrote:
“Those who have spent any time in Ukraine during the winter know how harsh the weather can get. And at these [current] valuations, hryvnia [Ukraine’s currency] isn’t going to buy much heating fuel from abroad. …
“Inflation rate is running above 14% and will spike sharply from here in the next few months if the currency weakness persists. Real wages are collapsing. … Finally, Ukraine’s fiscal situation is unraveling.”
In other words, the already suffering Ukrainians from the west, east and center of the country can expect to suffer a great deal more. They have been made expendable pawns in a geopolitical chess game played by neocon masters and serving interests far from Lvov, Donetsk and Kiev.
But other victims from these latest machinations by the U.S. political/media elite will include the American taxpayers who will be expected to foot the bill for the new Cold War launched in reaction to Putin’s imaginary scheme to instigate the Ukraine crisis so he could reclaim territory of the Russian Empire.
As nutty as that conspiracy theory is, it is now one of the key reasons why the American people have to spend $1 trillion to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal, rather than scaling back the thousands of U.S. atomic weapons to around 900, as had been planned.
Or as one supposed expert, Gary Samore at Harvard, explained to the New York Times : “The most fundamental game changer is Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That has made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally politically impossible.”
Thus, you can see how hyperbolic journalism and self-interested punditry can end up costing the American taxpayers vast sums of money and contributing to a more dangerous world.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The Obama administration has been far less aggressive about pursuing criminal prosecutions of environmental crimes than the George W. Bush administration, according to Justice Department figures.
Last year, there were 449 prosecutions for environmental crimes. That’s less than half the 927 prosecutions initiated in 2007, toward the end of the Bush administration. And the trend line is falling; there were 271 prosecutions in the first nine months of this fiscal year. If cases are filed at the current rate, that would result in only 361 for 2014, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
Any violation of environmental laws can result in a criminal prosecution, but according to Graham Kates at The Crime Report, only one-half of one percent do. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says they’re focusing on big cases, but fiscal considerations also play a part in deciding how many cases to prosecute. “The reality of budget cuts and staffing reductions make hard choices necessary across the board,” EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi told The Crime Report.
Criminal prosecutions, particularly of large corporations, are simply more difficult. Corporations hire teams of lawyers to fight prosecutors every step of the way and watch closely for government missteps that can give grounds for appeal, dragging out the case for years.
“I think a criminal prosecution will be defended much harder, corporations will take that very seriously, and investors take that very seriously,” Mark Roberts, an attorney and international policy advisor with the Environmental Investigation Agency, told The Crime Report. “If you’re in that tiny percentage that gets charged criminally, you want to win.”
A former EPA criminal investigator pointed out the effort involved in prosecuting a big company: “The typical corporate case can take two to three and a half years. But if you have ‘Joe Schlock the barrel hauler,’ you catch him red-handed and you’re out in two months,” David Wilma said.
Polluters aren’t even the biggest target of environmental prosecutions. Illegally taking fish and wildlife and illegal possession of migratory birds are the top two lead charges in the TRAC database. Water pollution is third and air pollution, ninth.
To Learn More:
Environment Prosecutions Decline Under Obama (TRAC Reports)
The Environmental Prosecution Gap (by Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest)
Environmental Crime: The Prosecution Gap (by Graham Kates, Crime Report)
When Companies Break Environmental Laws, Why are Responsible Individuals not Prosecuted? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
Washington, DC is littered with surveillance devices designed to trick surrounding mobile phones into logging onto signal-lifting networks, thereby allowing for tracking or call-monitoring purposes.
While traveling around the capital city with Washington Post reporters, a top executive using his company’s mobile-security technology detected as many as 18 such devices mimicking legitimate cell towers around the city, especially in sensitive areas around the likes of the White House, the US Capitol building, and foreign embassies.
Aaron Turner’s company Integricell is one of many outfits that has developed technology to indicate surveillance devices – known as ISMI catchers – used by police, intelligence entities, private individuals, and others to track surrounding devices or to even spy on phone calls.
ISMI catchers are named after a “unique identifying phone code called an ISMI,” according to the Post, and can hijack phone signals, tricking an average mobile phone attempting to hook into established cell networks such as Verizon or AT&T.
While Integricell found at least 18 such ISMI catchers, others believe that is simply the beginning.
“I think there’s even more here,” said Les Goldsmith, top executive with ESD America, a tech company partnering with Integricell to promote the company’s GSMK CryptoPhone. “That was just us driving around for a day and a half.”
Others expressed doubt to the Post that the CryptoPhone – currently marketed at $3,500 apiece – can accurately identify individual ISMI catchers.
“I would bet money that there are governments that are spying in DC,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Whether you can detect that with a $3,000 device, I don’t know.”
Goldsmith said that though there are ISMI catchers in the locations identified by Integricell’s technology, CryptoPhone cannot very well determine the source of espionage, whether it is the US government, local police, a foreign intelligence entity, or an individual.
The Federal Communications Commission has taken notice of ISMI-catching technology, as even skilled hobby technologists could build a surveillance device for less than $1,500. This summer, the FCC organized a task force to study potential use and abuse of ISMI catchers by foreign governments or private citizens. The FCC does not have authorization to police US government use of the catchers – which are illegal to use without a search warrant or other legal clearance.
Meanwhile, researchers across the globe are racing to counter ISMI catchers with a device known as “ISMI catcher-catcher.” These efforts include the development of free or inexpensive apps that could offer some protection from surveillance.
CryptoPhone looks for three indicators when attempting to identify an ISMI catcher: when a phone moves to a 2G network from a more-secure 3G one; when a phone connection “strips away” encryption; and when a cell tower does not offer a “neighbor’s list” of other cell towers in the area. ISMI catchers will not provide such lists, hoping to capture any phone that it comes in contact with in a general area.
When cruising around DC with the Post, Integricell’s Turner reported one or two of the three indicators. Only once in 90 minutes were all three indicators detected.
While there is a surge of interest in the likes of the CryptoPhone, researchers contend that makers of IMSI catchers will boost their own technology to outwit ISMI catcher-catchers, signaling an arms race in surveillance and counter-surveillance technology.
Earlier this month, Popular Science published a story – citing ESD America’s CEO Goldsmith – reporting that the CryptoPhone had found 17 different fake cell phone towers, or interceptors, across the United States in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and more.
“Interceptor use in the US is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith told Popular Science. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”
Although these interceptors act as fake cell phone towers, they are not necessarily large, physical structures. They could simply be small mobile devices that act exactly like a real tower, deceiving phones into giving up information. Such devices are known as ‘Stingrays,’ after the brand name of one popular type of interceptor.
Police agencies across the country are increasingly relying on Stingrays to conduct investigations, but the powerful tools aren’t often discussed in public.
In June, the US Marshals Service intervened in a dispute between a Florida police department and the state’s ACLU chapter, with the Marshals sweeping in at the last minute to seize controversial cell phone records obtained with a Stingray device before the ACLU was able to review them.
The ACLU has asserted that a Stingray enables the “electronic equivalent of dragnet ‘general searches’ prohibited by the Fourth Amendment,” and convinced a court to force the Sarasota police to make the documents available for review.
A senior European Union official has revealed that some EU member states have purchased oil from ISIL Takfiri militants despite their rhetoric against the group.
In a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq Jana Hybas-kova said some European countries have purchased crude from the ISIL.
She, however, refused to disclose any names despite pressure by some Parliament members to do so.
The EU official also warned against any support by the West for separatist Kurdish groups who, she said, would destabilize the Middle East.
Earlier reports accused Turkey of buying and transporting oil from both the ISIL and Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. According to the reports, Western intelligence agencies could track ISIL oil shipments as they moved across Iraq and Turkey.
ISIL reportedly controls eleven oil fields in northern Iraq as well as Syria’s Raqqa province.
US intelligence officials estimate that the Takfiri militants earn more than USD 3 million a day from oil profit, theft, human trafficking and ransom. They say the militants sell oil and other products via established networks in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Turkey has denied reports of involvement in ISIL’s oil smuggling operations.
When placed in the proper context, recent events in Ukraine emerge as part of a pattern of “silent coups” typical of the era of President Barack Obama in which “regime change” is disguised as “democracy promotion” but actually overturns democratically elected leaders.
The Ukrainian coup unfolded in three stages: the establishment of the justification for the coup, the coup itself, and the exploitation of the coup to move Ukraine into the American sphere. All three stages bear the Obama administration’s fingerprint of looking like democracy even as the democratic will of a population is negated and reversed.
These modern coups are unlike the classic military coups executed by earlier U.S. presidents, such as those that removed Mossadeq in Iran in 1953, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 and Allende in Chile in 1973. Nor are they like President George W. Bush’s “regime change” involving overt U.S. invasions. The Ukrainian coup was so disguised as to be unrecognizable as a coup. The Obama-era coups require no tanks and few guns. They usually don the trappings of “pro-democracy” domestic protests.
The first stage establishes the justification for the coup. It pretends to be the expression of the public will through mass democratic expression in the streets. But it actually amplifies the voice of a disaffected and defeated minority. This pattern under President Obama took shape in the streets of Tehran in 2009 after the people of Iran made the mistake of once again choosing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as their president – not the choice America wanted, so the choice had to be changed.
Next, the complaints of the U.S.-desired but defeated Hossein Mousavi and his Green Movement were picked up and amplified by the West, claiming that the election had been fraudulent, justifying a popular uprising for “regime change.” Except that the result hadn’t been forced on the people.
Despite frequent promises to furnish evidence and despite frequent opportunities to do so, Mousavi never delivered the case for electoral theft. And, as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself pointed out, this was no narrow victory where the rigging of a few votes or even a few hundred thousand votes could steal a victory. “How can they rig eleven million votes?” the Ayatollah asked of an election that got about an 85 percent turnout and saw 40 million people cast ballots.
But it is not just the titanic challenge of moving millions of votes from one side of the electoral ledger to the other. The polls, both before and after the election, continually showed that the votes were always there for Ahmadinejad. Former U.S. national security officials Flynt Leverett and Hilary Mann Leverett have documented that 14 methodologically sound polls — run externally by experienced Canadian and American polling organizations and internally by the University of Tehran — demonstrated the predictability, reasonableness and legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s 62.5 percent vote total.
On election night, the University of Tehran’s polls showed Ahmadinejad vacuuming up 57 percent of the vote. In post-election polls, between 55 percent and 66 percent of voters said they had voted for Ahmadinejad (who had a strong base of support among poorer Iranians and especially among rural voters whose opinions were less noticeable to the Western press).
The Western refusal to recognize the democratically elected Ahmadinejad coupled with the credence and amplification that America gave to the exaggeratedly popular Green Movement created the umbrella under which Mousavi’s movement could take to the streets and attempt the removal of a regime unwanted by Washington.
Such a coup-in-disguise exploits one of the potential troubles with democracy. It is the nature of democracy that the majority of people, not the unanimity of people, get to select the government. Even if a government wins a convincing 62.5 percent of the vote, that leaves a sometimes dissatisfied 37.5 percent of the people to take to the streets.
In a large country like Iran, where 40 million people voted, that translates into 15 million people who can take to the streets. When picked up by a sympathetic Western media, protests by even a fraction of those numbers can create the appearance of a mass social movement that justifies supporting what appears to be a popular demand for a change in regime. A “pro-democracy” social movement is born.
In Iran, a group that could not change the government through the democratic electoral process appeared to make a strong “democratic” case to change the government through social pressure. A mass minority protesting in the streets produced a cry heard more loudly around the world than a silent majority in a secret polling booth. It was still the minority, but – in such cases – “democracy” can be wielded as a weapon against democracy. If you can’t bring about the government you want in the polls, bring it about in the streets.
This Iran experiment of legitimizing a coup by transforming the minority, which failed to democratically change the government at the polls, into a mass movement expressing the “public will” to change the government in the streets fell short of its goal although creating a widespread impression in the West that Ahmadinejad’s reelection was illegitimate.
Other ‘Silent Coup’ Attempts
Four years later, a similar silent coup attempt appeared in the streets of Venezuela. With the death of Hugo Chavez, America saw the opportunity for the first time since 1988 to have a leader elected in Venezuela who did not insist on his country’s autonomy from the U.S. But, to America’s dismay, the people voted to continue the Bolivarian Revolution by electing Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro.
The Western media lens immediately focused not on the election of Maduro and Chavez’s party but on the claims of fraud issued by Maduro’s opponent (and Washington’s choice) Henrique Capriles. Despite Maduro agreeing to an audit of the voting machines, despite Capriles never filing his legal charges, despite 150 electoral monitors from around the world – including the Carter Center – certifying the election as fair and despite recognition by every other country in the world, the U.S. State Department continued not to recognize the Maduro government and continued to call for a recount and review.
When Capriles called his democratically defeated supporters to the streets, the Western media lens, as in Iran four years earlier, focused on and amplified the protests. As with Iran, Washington’s refusal to recognize the elected government and the U.S. legitimization of the protests provided cover to the opposition while it attempted to overturn the election results and overthrow the elected government.
Once again, “democracy promotion” was wielded as a weapon against democracy. Yet, in Venezuela, the experiment failed again, as it may have in Turkey and Brazil where Washington also looked with disfavor on the election outcomes.
In Brazil, Lula da Silva won 61.3 percent of the vote in 2002 and 60.83 percent in 2006. In the most recent election, in 2010, Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, won a majority 56.05 percent of the vote. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, far from declining in popularity, had seen his government’s actions rewarded with increasing voter support: 34 percent in 2002, 46.66 percent in 2007 and 49.83 percent in 2011. Nevertheless, in both countries, the defeated minorities took to the streets to attempt what they could not achieve in the polls.
This silent coup technique would prove more successful in Egypt where the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi would be removed from office not by democracy and the ballot box but, at least in part, by the defeated minority walking out of the polls and into the streets. “Democracy promotion” protests in Cairo and elsewhere set the stage for Morsi’s ouster by the Egyptian military.
The Ukrainian ‘Success’
The first stage of the Ukrainian coup — the establishment of a justification for the coup — fits this same pattern. As Seamus Milne said in the Guardian, the protest in the streets of Ukraine was “played out through the western media according to a well-rehearsed script. Pro-democracy campaigners are battling an authoritarian government.” But, he adds: “it bears only the sketchiest relationship to reality.”
Though President Viktor Yanukovych is often portrayed in the Western media as a dictator who was flown in by Russia, the man the protestors were trying to remove on the streets was elected in 2010 by a plurality of 48.9 percent of the people in elections declared fair by international observers.
So this was not a mass “pro-democracy” movement ousting an unelected dictator. As in Iran, Venezuela and Egypt, this was the case of the losers of the last election trying to reverse those results by going into the streets. But, to make the script work, Western governments and media alter the roles and turn the democratically elected president into the undemocratic one and the opposition into the democracy.
Thus, the West cooperated in the de-legitimization of the elected government of Ukraine and the legitimization of a coup. Such a silent coup is made to appear “democratic” by making it look like a heroic “peoples” movement arising spontaneously from the street.
Having legitimized the cause of the coup-makers, the second stage is the silent coup itself. In this stage, the silent coup is disguised as the shuffling of the legal and constitutional workings of a nation’s parliament. Once again, the coup is executed by wielding “democracy” as the chief weapon.
This aspect of the silent coup – making it appear as simply a discontented population leading to a dispute among constitutional institutions – was developed and perfected in Latin America. During Obama’s presidency, it first appeared in Honduras where democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was whisked out of the country in a kidnapping at gunpoint that was dressed up as a constitutional obligation because Zelaya had announced a plebiscite to determine whether Hondurans wanted to draft a new constitution (since the old one favored the privileged oligarchy).
The political establishment – hostile to Zelaya’s proposal – falsely translated his announcement into an unconstitutional intention to seek reelection. The ability to stand for a second term would have been considered in the constitutional discussions, but was never announced as an intention by Zelaya.
The Honduran Supreme Court declared the President’s plebiscite unconstitutional; the military kidnapped Zelaya; and the Supreme Court charged Zelaya with treason and declared a new president. In other words, it was a coup in constitutional disguise. As American diplomatic cables made clear, the U.S. State Department knew the change in regime was a coup cloaked in the costume of a constitutional act. (Nevertheless, the result of the coup was supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)
The second appearance of this coup pattern occurred in Paraguay when the right-wing Frederico Franco took the presidency from democratically elected, left-leaning Fernando Lugo in a replay of the parliamentary coup. As in Honduras, a coup was made to look like a constitutional transition.
The right-wing opposition opportunistically capitalized on a skirmish over disputed land that left at least 11 people dead to unfairly blame the deaths on President Lugo. It then impeached him after giving him only 24 hours to prepare his defense and only two hours to deliver it. Embassy cables again show that the U.S. was prepared to permit this kind of coup.
The Ukrainian coup is the third incarnation of this pattern of silent coup during the Obama administration. The coup that removed Viktor Yanukovych was disguised to appear as the workings of parliamentary democracy (after street protests in Kiev – supported by U.S. officials – and violent clashes between police and demonstrators created a crisis atmosphere).
With the clashes growing more intense, the parliamentary process that removed the democratically elected leader of Ukraine had three phases. In Act I, after Yanukovych had reached an agreement guaranteed by three European nations to accept reduced powers and to call early elections so he could be voted out of office, government security forces withdrew from the streets leaving public buildings unguarded. That allowed protesters to take control.
In Act II, the opposition made sure that it had the numbers and the strength to take over the parliament by pouncing when, according to the UK Guardian, “many of the MPs for southern and eastern Ukraine were absent from the session. Instead they were at a pre-scheduled congress of regional politicians in Kharkiv” and by intimidating those who remained who were loyal to Yanukovych.
Journalist Robert Parry wrote that neo-Nazi right-wing protesters occupied the government buildings “and forced Yanukovych and many of his allies to flee for their lives.”
In Act III, political parties that held just a minority of the Ukrainian parliament — mostly from the west — dismissed Yanukovych, favorably altered the constitution and formed a new government and began passing new laws often unanimously under intimidation. Parry wrote that “With Yanukovych and many of his supporters fleeing for their lives, the opposition parties seized control of parliament and began passing draconian new laws . . . as neo-Nazi thugs patrolled the scene” – a coup in constitutional disguise.
So, what was really a coup was made to look, as in Honduras and Paraguay, like the legitimate democratic actions of the parliament.
Creating a Pretext
The original issue used as a pretext for the coup was Yanukovych’s abandonment of an economic alliance with the European Union in favor of an economic alliance with Russia. But polls clearly demonstrate that the numbers on each side of the choice paralleled the numbers in the 2010 election: a nearly even split. So, the side that took over in the streets and in the parliament was the same side that lost in the 2010 election and did not represent a democratic change of the people.
As in Honduras and Paraguay, the silent coup in parliamentary disguise was assisted by the West. The trigger for the coup was consistently presented in the West as Yanukovych simply abandoning the E.U. in favor of Russia. But the West pushed him into a situation that made the crisis inevitable.
According to Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton, “it was the European Union, backed by Washington, that said in November to the democratically elected President of a profoundly divided country, Ukraine, ‘You must choose between Europe and Russia’.” Cohen added that Washington and the E.U. rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer of collaboration for the E.U., America and Russia all to help Ukraine without forcing it to choose.
Having said that Yanukovych must choose one or the other, the West then made it impossible for him to choose the West. Robert Parry reported that the E.U. was “demanding substantial economic ‘reforms,’ including an austerity plan dictated by the International Monetary Fund.” Russia, however, offered $15 billion in loans without such demands.
And in addition to the austerity measures, Cohen added that the E.U. proposal also “included ‘security policy’ provisions . . . that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.” The provisions compelled Ukraine to “adhere to Europe’s ‘military and security’ policies.”
In effect, the West forced Yanukovych to choose Russia, thus setting the stage for the violent protests in the street. The U.S. government then protected and nurtured those protests. Both Sen. John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland publicly endorsed and supported the protesters’ undemocratic demand for regime change.
Washington then provided cover and legitimacy to the violent movement in the street by condemning not the protesters’ fire bombs and other acts of violence but the police response. And America did more than rhetorically support the protest: it helped finance the disruptions.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was created by Ronald Reagan in 1983 to, according to Robert Parry, “promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states.” Allen Weinstein, its original project director, said in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the C.I.A.”
Parry reported that the U.S.-government-funded NED listed a staggering 65 projects that it funded inside Ukraine, creating “a shadow political structure of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrainian government didn’t act as desired.” (In a September 2013, op-ed in the Washington Post, NED President Carl Gershman had referred to Ukraine as “the biggest prize.”)
In other words, NED money financed projects that helped drive the coup, but there was apparently much more U.S. money than what NED supplied. In December 2013, Victoria Nuland told an audience at the Ukraine Foundation Conference that the U.S. had invested over $5 billion in a “democratic Ukraine.”
But Nuland said more than that. She accidentally revealed the American handwriting on the Ukrainian coup script. In an intercepted phone call that was made public, she was caught plotting who the Americans wanted to be the winner of the regime change. She told the American ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, that Arseniy Yatsenyuk was America’s choice to replace Yanukovych (and he did).
Pyatt also refers to the West needing to “midwife this thing,” a metaphorical admission of America’s role in the coup. At one point, Nuland even seems to say that Vice President Joe Biden, himself, would be willing to do the midwifery.
The Third Stage
Having made what was clearly a coup appear to be the legitimate shuffling of parliamentary democracy, the new government was ripe to advance to the third stage: moving Ukraine into the American sphere. Like the silent justification of the coup and the silent coup in constitutional disguise, the moving of Ukraine into the American sphere was a silent takeover: no invasion necessary.
The new government formally asked to ally itself with the patrons who helped place it in power in the first place. On Aug. 29, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk—the very man Victoria Nuland was caught naming as America’s choice to replace Yanukovych – announced that his cabinet had approved a bill putting an end to Ukraine’s non-aligned status that would pave the way for “resumption of Ukraine’s course for NATO membership.” The bill will now be sent on to parliament.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded immediately to Yatsenyuk’s announcement by reminding the world of NATOs 2008 decision that Ukraine would become a member of NATO if it so wanted and added that NATO would “fully respect” Ukraine’s intention to join.
So the silent coup had set the stage for the silent takeover of Ukraine by the West, as Ukraine slides out of Russia’s orbit and into NATO’s, a hostile takeover of a country in democratic disguise.
On its own, the Ukrainian intervention clearly has the markings of a U.S.-backed coup. But, removed from isolation and placed into the context of other coups and attempted coups that have taken place during Obama’s presidency, the Ukrainian coup can be seen to be the culmination of a pattern of coups made to look not like coups but like the admirable exercise of “democracy.”
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in U.S. foreign policy and history.
In the true spirit of capitalism, I’ve identified a niche in the academic market and plan to fill it. First, let’s state the problem: the recent spate of campus firings from Yale to the University of Illinois (with earlier episodes at Princeton, Brooklyn College and other institutions) have left schools in the messy position of having to rid themselves of controversial, undesirable prospective faculty and, God knows, sometimes even chaplains. The ensuing bad publicity generated by activist troublemakers too often gives these institutions a black eye they don’t deserve.
Wouldn’t it be better if schools could vet job candidates with a group of trusted consultants who would explore their background (especially their Twitter feeds), seeking embarrassing material and ideologically suspect expression in order to save administrators the trouble of learning about it when it’s too late? I call this new product I plan on offering, ZioCredit™. It’s based on the model of accreditation committees which travel the country examining the fitness of universities to call themselves legitimate academic institutions.
In my case, for a small fee, schools throughout the United States (but especially in communities with large pro-Israel markets) may hire my company to ensure peace of mind. A few of the more cynical among you may liken what I propose to protection rackets in which the Mafia offered businesses protection from assault. Those who refused often met unpleasant ends. If that’s what you’re thinking, you can put your mind at ease. This is the 21st century after all. Not Little Italy in the 1950s. We don’t operate that way. We’re as clean and classy as our clients and sport academic pedigrees to prove it.
So this is how the process works: if we find a candidate in the ideologically lower-tier it would be best to be rid of him or her immediately. We can take care of that for you (no, you won’t find him at the bottom of the East River in cement shoes–I kid!). Why should you get your hands dirty?
We will accredit your university, department by department to ensure each one hews to a proper line. We will even examine course curricula and weed out overly contentious books, essays and ideas. We will examine individual job candidates and prepare them and their case files for presentation to hiring committees and boards of trustees. Earning our accreditation (hence the company name, ZioCredit™), is the pro-Israel Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Working with us will guarantee that you will never face the unwanted attention of the Israel Lobby because after all, we are the Israel Lobby! But we’re a manageable and cooperative version. We don’t aim to embarrass you publicly. And we ask for so little in return.
There may be a few of you Old School academics worried about values like free speech and academic freedom. I can assure you that your concerns are unwarranted. After all, these values are overrated. Like tenure, they’ve outlived their usefulness in the modern age.
The premise behind ZioCredit™ is that in this new academic age what students really want is comfort. They want to enjoy their academic experience. They want civility. They don’t want unpleasant interactions with alien groups they’ve never met in their life. Ideas should be challenging but not too challenging. After all, you don’t want to scare off your students by forcing them to face realities better off avoided.
We will help transform the campus environment from a raucous free-for-all, in which feelings become bruised and identities confused, into a polite, civil society in which everyone takes their turn and knowledge is parceled out in nice, bite-sized packages.
Back to my product, it takes into account that there may be some candidates who, though suspect, are still for various reasons beneficial to the faculty. They may fill an unspoken race or gender quota; or even an ideological quota. They may help promote the school within certain demographic profiles and market niches.
For an extra fee, my company will work with such candidates to reframe academic interests so as to be acceptable within the community. After all, academics are such unusual individuals raised like hothouse flowers in intellectual environments so alien to the average person (by which I mean any supporter of Israel). They need to be coaxed into the real world, to be shown proper manners and etiquette, if you will. In particularly awkward situations, we may even be engaged to cleanse reputations and eliminate particularly egregious examples of anti-Israel hate speech from a candidate’s internet identity.
If the University of Illinois had only had such a product available, it could’ve avoided all that Steve Salaita unpleasantness. So messy and so unnecessary.
Now I can hear a skeptic or two among you (a small minority of course) wondering how this consultancy will be structured. I assure you we will engage some of the foremost experts in the field of internet surveillance and Zionist identity politics. These will be individuals with impressive resumes and who are lionized by everyone who matters. Discussions have already commenced to hire such luminaries as Ayan Hirsi Ali, Carey Nelson and Alan Dershowitz. They know what a good candidate should bring to the table. Either they will help your job seeker to become the best pro-Israel candidate he can be; or they will tell you in no uncertain terms to toss him aside. After all, who wants to waste time on hopeless causes?
Since there is a growing acknowledgement that the customer should be represented at the table, we’re engaging students too, who’ve proven their allegiance to the cause, to sit on these vetting committees. Two of the stars of the field are Daniel Mael and Chloe Valdary. It’s a pretty tough environment for hiring such stellar young people. They have offers of employment at FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal respectively. But we hope to lure them with promises they will make the campuses of America safe for Israel. A more sacred mission I can’t conceive.
Though we believe this is a lucrative field we’re entering (creating, really), we don’t want our clients to think of us as money-grubbing capitalists. To that end, we plan on donating 5% of our net revenues (you didn’t think we were nuts enough to base this on gross revenues, did you?) to various worthy, non-political causes like Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, and one of our sister Israeli organizations, Im Tirzu. We’re proud of our association with our Israeli brethren who are bringing a “second Zionist revolution” to Israeli academe.
Please don’t get the idea that any of this is political. Zionism, after all, knows no denominations or sects. There are Christian, Jewish and heck, even Muslim Zionists. It’s entirely non-partisan. And that’s as it should be. There are so many enemies of the Jewish people out there flapping their mouths. God knows what they might say. But we know what’s right. And there isn’t a political bone in our body.
Don’t get the idea that we’re affiliated with one Israel Lobby group like Aipac. After all, how would it sound to say: Aipac Certified? That’s thinking too small. No, we’re going big. We want the whole enchilada. That’s why we call our process Zio Certification.
There may be a few holdout institutions who think they can do things the old-fashioned way. They can honor all the old cliches like academic freedom and pay the price by standing by faculty who speak inconveniently in public settings. To them I say, God speed. You don’t need our help. You need a time machine. You’ll find that you’re dinosaurs and this Brave New World we’re entering will soon pass you by.
My message to academe is: we’re ready to go–are you? Zionize or die.
Steven Salaita spoke today at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to the YMCA, where the event was held, some 400 students, faculty, staff, and supporters turned up.
Salaita opened with a statement. Here are some excerpts:
My name is Steven Salaita. I am a professor with an accomplished scholarly record; I have been a fair and devoted teacher to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students; I have been a valued and open-minded colleague to numerous faculty across disciplines and universities. My ideas and my identity are far more substantive and complex than the recent characterizations based on a selected handful of my Twitter posts.
Two weeks before my start date, and without any warning, I received a summary letter from University Chancellor Phyllis Wise informing me that my position was terminated, but with no explanation or opportunity to challenge her unilateral decision. As a result, my family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career – lifetime tenure, with its promised protections of academic freedom.
Even more troubling are the documented revelations that the decision to terminate me is a result of pressure from wealthy donors – individuals who expressly dislike my political views. As the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups have been tracking, this is part of a nationwide, concerted effort by wealthy and well-organized groups to attack pro-Palestinian students and faculty and silence their speech. This risks creating a Palestinian exception to the First Amendment and to academic freedom.
I am here to reaffirm my commitment to teaching and to a position with the American Indian Studies program at UIUC. I reiterate the demand that the University recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me. It is my sincere hope that I can – as a member of this academic institution – engage with the entire University community in a constructive conversation about the substance of my viewpoints on Palestinian human rights and about the values of academic freedom.
For me, the best part of his press conference was the Q and A with the media, which begins at 40:50 in the video below. I would encourage everyone to watch it because it gives you the best sense of Salaita the man, the thinker, and the teacher. As I’ve said, I don’t know Salaita personally, except through our interactions on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve never met him or heard him speak. I haven’t read his academic writings. But listening to and watching him field questions, it became clear to me why the American Indian Studies department was so eager to hire him.
My favorite exchange occurs at 43:30. Someone in the media asks him why he would want to still come and teach at UIUC. Looking around the room, which is filled with students, Salaita says:
The question is—and if I’m summarizing it incorrectly let me know—some people are wondering why I would want to work here after all of this has happened and whether it might be uncomfortable. The answer is… the answer is in this room.
One other point to note. At 55:00, one of Salaita’s attorneys is asked about what the litigation process would look like. The attorney replies:
There’s no question that if there is litigation there will be an intensive document retrieval process that will involve trying to get at the heart of exactly what the motivation was for this decision. We think, based on what is already known, the university is going to have some very hard arguments. But we will learn a lot. We will also be able to take depositions. And that is an opportunity to sit people down and ask them about their role in this process, their decision-making and other things. Again, Professor Salaita’s goal is not to have to go down that road. But he is prepared to do so if necessary.
I’ve long felt that one of the things that has to make the university nervous is the prospect of litigation. Yes, the university has tons of money and lawyers. But it also has interests. And one of those interests is protecting the privacy of its donors. I can’t for the life of me believe that the university really wants to risk the rage and rancor of donors having their names dragged into the harsh glare of the public spotlight. Once this case gets into court—and most experts, regardless of which side they fall, believe that Salaita has a good chance of getting into court—there will be discovery motions that will turn up all sorts of paper. What we’ve seen already is damning and embarrassing. But think about what could be coming down the pike: not only emails to and fro, but also records of phone calls, transcripts of meetings, and more. Even if the university were to win the case, they’d have to lose a lot in order to do so.
In other news, Chancellor Wise was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune.
On Monday, Wise acknowledged in an interview that she wished she had “been more consultative” before rescinding Salaita’s job offer, and said it could have led her to a different decision. She said the situation has been “challenging.”
She also said there was “no possibility” that he would work at the U. of I.
“I wish I had not consulted with just a few people and then written the letter to Professor Salaita,” Wise said. “I don’t know what the consultation would have led me to do.”
This is now the third time that Wise has said that she regrets not consulting with other voices on the campus. But this is the first time that she’s positively stated that not only did her firing of Salaita not reflect her own position, but also that she might have reached a different decision than the one she reached had she consulted other voices. Which is precisely the argument that so many of us have been making about whose voices Wise did and did not heed in this process. It almost seems as if she’s trying to give Salaita evidence for his case.
Last, Katherine Franke, who’s been leading the legal academic community on this issue, and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a PhD candidate in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center, appeared today on Democracy Now.
I urge you to listen to the interview, in particular the part that begins at 47:00. There Kris, whom I know personally, speaks about his experience as an adjunct at Brooklyn College, where he was hired by my department to teach a course on Middle East politics for the spring of 2011 and then fired before the course began. Sound familiar? The reason he was fired? Pro-Israel forces objected to something he had written. Sound familiar? Here’s what one of the leaders of those forces, NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind, said at the time about an academic paper Kris had written on suicide bombers:
Hikind, a staunch ally of Israel, sent a letter on Monday to Karen Gould, the college’s president, with a copy to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, in which he questioned the adjunct’s appointment. Calling Petersen-Overton “an overt supporter of terrorism,” Hikind said he was “better suited for a teaching position at the Islamic University of Gaza.”
Hikind, who said he earned his master’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College, told Inside Higher Ed that he reached these conclusions after spending “countless hours” reading the newly hired adjunct’s work. This included, chiefly, his unpublished paper, “Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice and the Signification of Palestinian National Identity,” in which he examines martyrdom as it “embodies ideals of struggle and sacrifice” in the context of national identity. Hikind said such works reflect an effort to “understand” suicide bombers. “There’s nothing to understand about someone who murders women and children,” he said. “You condemn.”
Kris didn’t say anything about anti-Semitism becoming honorable, he didn’t say anything about settlers going missing, he didn’t say anything about necklaces of teeth. His crime was trying “to understand about someone who murders women and children.” As Dostoevsky did in Crime and Punishment. That was enough to get him fired.
This is why I come to this whole Salaita affair with a bit of skepticism about the tweets. It’s skepticism born of my own personal experience with four controversial fights over Israel/Palestine. If it’s not the tweets, it’s the grad student paper trying to understand suicide bombers. If it’s not the grad student paper trying to understand suicide bombers, it’s the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright who cannot receive an honorary degree because he’s voiced criticism of Israel. If it’s not the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright who cannot receive an honorary degree because he’s voiced criticism of Israel, it’s the New York City Council threatening CUNY’s funding because the political science department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring—not endorsing, not organizing, not funding, but co-sponsoring—a panel on BDS. If it’s not the New York City Council threatening CUNY’s funding because the political science department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring a panel on BDS, it’s the NYS Legislature threatening a college’s funding if it financially supports individual faculty membership in the American Studies Association, which supports the academic boycott of Israel.
Every time it’s the same goddam story: supporters of Israel, increasingly anxious over the way the conversation about Israel is going in this country, flexing their muscles to muzzle a voice, to stop a debate. (Just today Buzzfeed is reporting that AIPAC is looking for ways to pass federal legislation to stop BDS in its tracks.) A Palestinian exception to the First Amendment?
Thankfully, in Kris’s case, we were able to rally a national campaign of prominent academics, particularly in political science, to support his reinstatement. We made his case a national story. Sound familiar?
And here’s the best part, dear reader: We won.
Since I came onto the interwebs, I’ve been involved in five fights over the place of Israel/Palestine in academe: the Petersen-Overton fight, which we won; the Tony Kushner fight, which we won; the BDS at Brooklyn College fight, which we won, the NYS Assembly fight, which we won, and now the Salaita affair.
There is a Palestinian exception to the First Amendment. And we’re fighting to end it. Because that’s the way the First Amendment has always advanced in this country: not simply through reasoned argument, but through struggle.
The United States has instructed Europol, the European Union’s police agency, to withhold its own annual internal data-protection review from EU lawmakers because the report was written without the US Treasury Department’s permission.
Europol drafted the data-protection report “without prior written authorisation from the information owner (in this case the Treasury Department),” according to the US, violating “security protocols” that could “undermine the relationship of trust needed to share sensitive information between enforcement agencies.”
The report, drafted by Europol’s Joint Supervisory Body, outlines how data concerning EU citizens and residents is transferred to the US, according to the EUobserver. The document is mainly known to monitor implementation of the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, or TFTP. Basically, the US Treasury Department is quite territorial about how the TFTP is adhering to European data protection compliance.
EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said Europol refused to allow her to see the report based on US demands. O’Reilly then confronted US ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner in July. Gardner confirmed the order.
On Thursday, O’Reilly said she sent a letter to the European Parliament asking the body “to consider whether it is acceptable that an agreement with a foreign government should prevent the Ombudsman from doing her job.”
“If the US says ‘No disclosure’ then it won’t be disclosed, which is ridiculous because we are EU citizens, we vote, we pay taxes, we have EU laws, and we decide what happens on this continent. Nobody else,” Dutch MEP liberal Sophie In’t Veld told EUobserver. In’t Veld first requested the report in 2012.
In’t Veld said there is no top-secret information in the report that should be viewed as overly sensitive.
“There is no operational information, there is no intelligence, there is nothing in the document. So you really wonder why it is kept a secret,” she said.
The TFTP has received scrutiny in the last year after documents supplied by former US government contractor Edward Snowden showed mass spying by the US National Security Agency on citizens and officials across the world, including in the EU.
The Snowden leaks showed the NSA had gained a “back door” entrance into the SWIFT servers – SWIFT being a financial-record sharing program, which revealed the banking details of millions of European citizens, despite the fact that access to this financial data was limited by the TFTP.