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Donald Trump Didn’t Create Danger of Presidential Dictatorship, He Inherited it

By James Bovard | USA Today | October 18, 2017

Americans nowadays have a bad attitude towards presidents. Many people are denouncing Donald Trump as a dictator. But the real problem in this nation is the dictatorial illiteracy that has allowed modern presidents to commandeer far too much power.

Trump’s saber rattling, rude outbursts and rancorous tweets have spooked folks far and wide. But most Americans are not sufficiently informed on recent history to recognize where Trump poses dire threats beyond the usual Washington machinations. Most citizens are unaware that both political parties have perennially championed bureaucratic aggrandizement over civil liberties. … continue

The war on RT: A childish crusade pushing a dangerous agenda

A new George Soros funded report calls guests on RT, ranging from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders, “useful idiots”.

By Adam Garrie Adam Garrie | The Duran | October 21, 2017

A so-called NGO known as the European Values Think-Tank, has published a “report” blasting regular guests on RT as “useful idiots” who are helping “an instrument of hostile foreign influence”. The group, whose largest source of funding is George Soros, claims that RT’s goals include “undermining public confidence in the viability of liberal democracy”. Other epithets thrown at RT include calling the broadcaster, “a second-rate news network with an abysmal reputation and dubious audience numbers”, “the Russian propaganda machine” and a “disinformation tool”.

While European Values presents itself as an NGO, sources of funding for the group include the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. These state-funding sources mean that the Think-Thank is not an NGO (non governmental organisation), but rather, a body which has established financial ties to powerful governments, in addition to receiving most of its funds from George Soros and his Open Society body. … continue

US Admitting Syrian Militants Use Chemical Weapons ‘Welcome’ Overdue Corrective

Sputnik – October 21, 2017

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the US State Department issued a Syria Travel Warning, where it wrote that the Islamic State (commonly referred to as ISIL/ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, linked to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group use “suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons” in Syria.

Earlier on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it was the first time the United States admitted the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in Syria.

“The new Travel Advisory is a welcome corrective,” historian and Middle East analyst Helena Cobban, a leading expert on Syria told Sputnik.

The terms used in the advisory abandoned monolithic official US insistence for more than four years that all chemical attacks in Syria had to be blamed on the legitimate government of President Bashar Assad, Cobban pointed out.

The US insistence on scapegoating the Assad government for all uses of chemical attacks despite serious evidence suggesting otherwise had strongly conditioned the US public to approve continued military action against the Damascus government, Cobban recalled.

“This has become the deeply ingrained ‘conventional wisdom’ in the public discourse here in the US, although experts in telemetry and chemical warfare have challenged this view at many points,” she said. … continue

RAQQA DESTROYED TO LIBERATE IT

By Eric Margolis | October 21, 2017

The so-called Islamic State organization was primarily a bogeyman encouraged by the western powers. I’ve been saying this for the last four years.

I asserted, as a former soldier and war correspondent, that IS would collapse like a wet paper bag if proper western ground forces attacked their strongholds in Syria and Iraq. This week, the western powers and their local satraps finally took action and stormed the last IS stronghold at Raqqa. To no surprise, IS put up almost no resistance and ran for its miserable life. … continue

SDF won’t hand over Raqqah to Syrian government

Press TV – October 21, 2017

A US-backed grouping of militants that calls itself the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) says the Syrian city of Raqqah, where Daesh terrorists have recently left, will be part of a system of “federal government” in the country’s north.

The SDF said on Friday that it had “liberated” Raqqah after driving out Daesh terrorists from the city, which was Daesh’s former “capital” in Syria; but the terrorist group had largely left the city as part of a deal with the SDF and a US-led coalition, both of which are operating in Syria without the Syrian government’s permission.

Later, the SDF said the political future of the city and the province of the same name would be determined “within the framework of a decentralized, federal, democratic Syria.”

The thinking behind the brazen announcement by the mainly Kurdish group was not clear. Raqqah is territory of Syria, which is governed by a sovereign power, the Damascus government.

The Syrian military has so far not taken on the Kurdish militants. But the SDF has reportedly shelled the positions of government troops on several occasions in recent weeks, and with its refusal to hand over Raqqah to the government, the SDF now risks further provoking the Syrian military, which is also receiving aerial cover from the Russian military.

In ominous wording, the SDF also said that it would “protect the frontiers of the province against all external threats.” … Full article

Netanyahu lobbies world powers to support Iraqi Kurds’ secession bid

Press TV – October 20, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lobbying world powers to support the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region from the rest of the Iraqi territory, as Kurdish Peshmerga forces are losing ground to Iraqi army forces in the country’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk.

Israeli officials, requesting anonymity, said Netanyahu raised the Kurdish plans for independence with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

The 67-year-old Chairman of the Likud party also made a reference to the issue in his contacts with French authorities.

An Israeli official, who declined to be named, stated that the Tel Aviv regime has security interests in Kurdistan.

“This (territory) is a foothold. It’s a strategic place. It would be best if someone gave them weaponry, and whatever else, which we cannot give, obviously,” the official said without providing further detail.

Israel has maintained military, intelligence and business ties with Iraqi Kurds since 1960s. … continue

US State Dept cautions Iraqi govt against troop advances in Kurdish territory

RT | October 20, 2017

The US State Department is advising Iraq’s federal authority to limit its military activity in the country’s Kurdish northern region, as it also calls for “all parties to cease all violence” in the wake of violence in the town of Altun Kupri.

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged the Baghdad government to only make troop movements that were “coordinated with the Kurdistan Regional Government.”

This marks the most specific statement out of the State Department on the situation since Iraq regained control over the provincial capital Kirkuk on Monday, following a popular vote of 92 percent in favor of an independent Kurdistan late last month. Previously, the State Department has stuck to general calls for calm on all sides.

Nauert’s statement also declared that the disputed Kurdish areas remained disputed, despite Iraqi authorities crossing into the region.

“The reassertion of federal authority over disputed areas in no way changes their status – they remain disputed until their status is resolved in accordance with the Iraqi constitution,” the statement read. … continue

Israel ‘hits Syrian army positions in Golan Heights’

Press TV – October 21, 2017

The Israeli military says it has attacked Syrian government artillery positions in the Golan Heights in what, if confirmed, would be another act of aggression against Syrian territory.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Israeli army said that it had “targeted three artillery cannons” of the Syrian government in the Golan Heights in what it claimed to have been a “response to the [firing of] projectiles that hit Israel.”

It also threatened to “intensify” its attacks on Syria in case any more projectiles were fired into Israel by pro-Damascus forces.

If confirmed, the Saturday attack would be the second Israeli strike on Syria this week. On Thursday, Israel struck a Syrian artillery position near southwestern town of Quneitra.

Israel regularly hits positions held by the Syrian army in the Golan Heights, sometimes describing the attacks as “retaliatory.” Syria says the raids aim to help Takfiri militants fighting against government forces.

On several occasions, the Syrian army has confiscated Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting the government forces. Israel has also been providing medical treatment to the extremist militants wounded in Syria.

Back in June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had been providing militants in Syria’s Golan Heights with a steady flow of funds and medical supplies.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and has continued to occupy two-thirds of the strategically-important territory ever since, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

The regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area since its occupation and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

Washington’s economic war against Russian gas supplies to Europe unacceptable – Gerhard Schroeder

RT | October 20, 2017

The United States would like to weaken Russia’s energy cooperation with the European Union, said former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, adding it’s unacceptable to create barriers to Russian gas deliveries to the German market.

“It’s wrong if the Americans and the European Union somehow resist each other on this issue. And still there are attempts to create some difficulties for this project [Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – Ed.],” he told Rossiya 24 news channel.

According to Schroeder, “the fact the Americans will try entering the German market with the help of sanctions and to dominate with its liquefied shale gas is nothing but the signs of an economic war, and such war is unacceptable.”

Germany is interested in gas which it “will receive for sure and which will be cheaper than shale gas,” said Schroeder. … continue

‘It’s a warfare!’: Haley, Clinton accuse Russia of being involved in meddling worldwide

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian teen sailing off Gaza coast

Ma’an – October 20, 2017

GAZA CITY – A Palestinian teenager was shot and injured by Israeli naval forces off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening.

Witnesses told Ma’an that the 19-year-old, whose identity remained unknown, was sailing off the coast of Beit Lahiya when Israeli naval forces opened fire on the teen’s boat.

Medical sources reported that the teen was injured in his leg.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.

As part of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave since 2007, the Israeli army, citing security concerns, requires Palestinian fishermen to work within a limited “designated fishing zone,” the exact limits of which are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reported in May that since the beginning of the year, Israel had seized five fishing boats, detained 14 Palestinian fishermen, shot and injured four, while two fisherman have been killed.

Upscale Tokyo Department Store Withdraws Products from Illegal Israeli Settlements

IMEMC News & Agencies | October 19, 2017

The upscale Mitsukoshi department store in the Ginza district of Tokyo has withdrawn Israeli settlement products.

Earlier this month, the store was scheduled to host an event featuring Israeli wines, including wines made in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen land. But after Japanese civil society raised concerns, Mitsukoshi shortened the event and removed all wines which Japanese BDS activists indicated were made in Israeli settlements.

A spokesperson for Palestine Forum — Japan, a network of BDS activists, said:

We warmly welcome this principled decision by Mitsukoshi department store to pull products made in illegal Israeli settlements from its shelves. By refusing to sell these products, the store is complying with international law and Japanese foreign policy. It is also respecting human rights and advancing justice and peace.

Mitsukoshi’s action serves as a model to other Japanese companies trading with those in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land. Japanese companies must immediately end their complicity in Israeli violations of human rights by stopping all trade and cooperation with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid, or increasingly face both reputational damage and financial losses.

BDS activists in Japan will continue to support the Palestinian call for boycott until the Japanese government implements sanctions against Israel, as was done against apartheid South Africa, to end Israel’s decades-old denial of Palestinian human rights.

In July 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a warning on its website, advising that “settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are in violation of international law, and one must be aware of the financial, reputational and legal risks when involved with economic activities in these areas.”

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Boycott Israel & you won’t get aid donations, Hurricane Harvey victims told

RT | October 20, 2017

Residents in a Houston suburb will not receive funds donated for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts if they support boycotting Israel, according to a funding application form issued in the wake of the devastating storm.

The city of Dickinson, Texas, told individuals and businesses on Monday that they are now accepting applications for “grants from the fund generously donated to the Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund” for storm damage repair.

In order to apply for the grant, however, applicants must agree to a number of clauses, one of which is asserting that they do not boycott Israel.

“By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement,” read the application form. […]

The clause likely stems from a Texas law passed in May that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel. … Read full article

Israel is pushing its luck with the EU

By Professor Kamel Hawwash | MEMO | October 20, 2017

When it comes to the various stakeholders in the Israeli Palestinian conflict Israel has guaranteed American support in almost whatever it does. Other stakeholders, including the EU, have consistently criticised Israeli government policy but consistently failed to back it up with any action. That is, possibly, until now.

The Obama administration was castigated by the pro-Israel lobby for its supposed lack of support for Israel despite granting it a 10-year $38 billion military aid package, the likes of which no other state could dream to secure. In fact, over half the aid the US hands to other states goes to Israel.

Obama missed a trick on not making the aid package conditional upon any progress in the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, or a halt to settlement construction, which the US sees as “illegitimate”. Neither Netanyahu’s brazen snub to Obama when he addressed the US Congress without coordination with the White House, nor the humiliation of American Vice President Biden – who while on a visit to Jerusalem in 2010 was met with an announcement that Israel planned to build 1,600 home for Jewish Israelis in units in the illegal settlement of Ramat Shlomo which is attached to Jerusalem – was enough to trigger such conditioning. … continue

I Am Miko Peled, And I Support Jeremy Corbyn’s Courageous Call to “End the Oppression of the Palestinian People”

By Miko Peled | American Herald tribune | October 20, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn is arguably not only one of the most popular leaders in the West today, he is also the most promising to those who care for progressive causes. This presents a problem for Israel who fears a strong leader who does not shy away from expressing support for the Palestinian people. One can safely argue that Israel and its multiple tentacles around the world will stop at nothing to prevent Corbyn from entering Downing Street 10.

What makes it even more problematic for Israel is that Britts clearly want Jeremy Corbyn to be their next prime minister. … continue

Clinton, Assange and the War on Truth

By John Pilger | CounterPunch | October 20, 2017

On 16 October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an interview with Hillary Clinton: one of many to promote her score-settling book about why she was not elected President of the United States.

Wading through the Clinton book, What Happened, is an unpleasant experience, like a stomach upset. Smears and tears. Threats and enemies. “They” (voters) were brainwashed and herded against her by the odious Donald Trump in cahoots with sinister Slavs sent from the great darkness known as Russia, assisted by an Australian “nihilist”, Julian Assange.

In The New York Times, there was a striking photograph of a female reporter consoling Clinton, having just interviewed her. The lost leader was, above all, “absolutely a feminist”. The thousands of women’s lives this “feminist” destroyed while in government — Libya, Syria, Honduras — were of no interest. … continue

Tomorrow Belongs to the Corporatocracy

By C.J. Hopkins • Unz Review • October 20, 2017

Back in October of 2016, I wrote a somewhat divisive essay in which I suggested that political dissent is being systematically pathologized. In fact, this process has been ongoing for decades, but it has been significantly accelerated since the Brexit referendum and the Rise of Trump (or, rather, the Fall of Hillary Clinton, as it was Americans’ lack of enthusiasm for eight more years of corporatocracy with a sugar coating of identity politics, and not their enthusiasm for Trump, that mostly put the clown in office.)

In the twelve months since I wrote that piece, we have been subjected to a concerted campaign of corporate media propaganda for which there is no historical precedent. Virtually every major organ of the Western media apparatus (the most powerful propaganda machine in the annals of powerful propaganda machines) has been relentlessly churning out variations on a new official ideological narrative designed to generate and enforce conformity. The gist of this propaganda campaign is that “Western democracy” is under attack by a confederacy of Russians and white supremacists, as well as “the terrorists” and other “extremists” it’s been under attack by for the last sixteen years. … continue

Yet Another ‘Russian Invasion’ Reported, Debunked in Norway

Sputnik | October 20, 2017

A Norwegian defense portal has caused a hullaballoo with its claims that Russia staged a mock invasion of the key Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, despite the Nordic country’s own defense and intelligence bosses vehemently denying such assertions.

Amid the recent cooling between Russia and the West, the Norwegian defense portal Aldri Mer (“Never again”) shocked compatriots with claims that the Russians “trained to invade” Svalbard, a crucial Norwegian archipelago, during the recent exercise Zapad 17. According to Aldri Mer, Russia waged not one but two simulated attacks on Svalbard. Norwegian forces were allegedly taken by surprise, with Norwegian jets reportedly being unable to fend off the intruder.

Aldri Mer based its allegations on information by six anonymous sources from within the Norwegian defense establishment and NATO. According to Alrig Mer, Norway’s inability to provide intelligence irritated NATO officials and set off a series of crisis meetings to discuss what was described as a “complete loss of situational awareness in the north.”

Lieutenant Colonel Ivar Moen of the Norwegian Joint Military Headquarters outside Bodø said that Norwegian authorities did not want to speculate over exercise scenarios employed by Russian forces. Furthermore, Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde of Norway’s military intelligence unit (E-tjenesten) repudiated Aldrig Mer’s report as erroneous, while insisting that his intelligence unit had “extremely good oversight and understanding of the situation,” especially before, during and after Russian drills, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK reported. Former Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, who recently went on to become Norway’s first female Foreign Minister, claimed that no type of simulated attack was either seen or reported, stressing that her country received much praise from NATO for its good surveillance capacity.

Aldig Mer’s editor-in-chief Kjetil Stormark nevertheless held his ground, citing “clarification problems” on E-tjenesten’s part and referring to “entirely different Russian training patterns” established by NATO specialists.

Meanwhile, the wholly unsubstantiated idea of Russian “hostile takeover” is often being pedaled in Nordic media to justify increased military spending or increased cooperation with NATO. … continue

Man Bites Dog: NYT Does Journalism

Consortium News | October 19, 2017

When the Trump administration blamed Cuba for a “sonic attack” on U.S. diplomats, a New York Times reporter did something unusual for his newspaper: he tried objectively to assess the evidence, as Robert Parry reports. – Read article

US State Department admits Al-Nusra affiliate using chemical weapons in Syria

RT | October 20, 2017

The US Department of State admitted that militants linked to Al-Nusra Front are carrying out terrorist attacks using chemical weapons in Syria. Russia’s defense ministry says it’s the first admission of its kind.

The assertion was made in the latest Syria travel warning issued by the State Department on Wednesday. It also mentions Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL].

“Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham [dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization], operate in Syria,” the travel warning reads. … continue

The Indonesia Massacre’s Historic Message

Consortium News | October 19, 2017

The U.S. mainstream media’s credulity toward today’s Official Narratives is especially troubling given the false storylines from the past, such as the cover-up of Washington’s hand in the Indonesia massacres, as Jonathan Marshall describes. – Read article

Brazilian MPs throw out multimillion-dollar bribery charges against President Temer

RT | October 19, 2017

The Brazilian parliament’s congressional committee voted to dismiss the graft charges leveled at the country’s president, Michel Temer, for his alleged role in a multimillion-dollar corruption scheme, involving Brazil’s meatpacking giant.

The Committee on Constitution and Justice (CCJ) voted to spare Temer from being prosecuted for obstruction of justice and allegedly being a member of a criminal organization, as it approved a report prepared by Congressman Bonifácio de Andrada earlier this month.

In the report Andrada recommended to drop the charges, denouncing the probe into Temer as an attempt to criminalize “political party activities,” and warning that the president’s ouster will plunge the country into a deep political crisis. Thirty-nine members of the commission voted in favor of the report, 26 against and one abstained, ANSA reported. … Full article

Canada Rejects Venezuela Vote, EU Mulls Sanctions & Russia Congratulates Government

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | October 18, 2017

Twenty-eight European Ministers jointly agreed to “establish the legal framework” for pursuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government Monday in the wake of the country’s regional elections, Europa Press has reported.

Venezuela’s government won eighteen out of twenty-three states in regional elections this past Sunday, but the results have been disputed by the right-wing opposition, the US, Canada and France, on the basis of alleged foul play.

Opposition spokespeople have so far been unable to corroborate their allegations of fraud, while international electoral observers have testified to the veracity of the results. Venezuelan political commentators have said that mass abstention of opposition voters due to disillusionment with their leaders was the reason for the shock result.

Speaking at an EU meeting in Luxembourg Monday, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini cautiously described the election results as a “surprise” and asked for investigations to “clarify what happened in reality”.

Ministers also agreed to advance in the preparation of “selective, gradual and reversible” sanctions against members of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration, with some apparent reticence from Portugal. … continue

Venezuela Regional Elections: chavismo in triumph, opposition in disarray and media in denial

By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action | October 18, 2017

As the President of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission (CNE) read the results from the regional elections that took place on Sunday, October 15, one could feel the agony in the editorial rooms of mainstream media outlets. Chavismo had just won 18 out of 23 (1) governorships, a result that, according to them, could not have happened. International observers praised the electoral process and opposition claims of fraud, while uncritically echoed by the media, do not have a leg to stand on. … continue

Single Payer and the Failure of Democrats in West Virginia

Morgan County USA | October 18, 2017

Congressman Alex Mooney is the former chair of the Republican Party in Maryland. But now he’s a congressman from the second Congressional district of West Virginia.

How did that happen? In 2014, Mooney saw that he wasn’t going to win anything in Maryland, so he crossed the bridge over the Potomac River and came on over to West Virginia.

Mooney should have been — and in 2018 should be — easily defeated. Mooney puts the interests of powerful out of state corporations over the interests of the people of his district. He is hardly ever seen in the district. (Instead, he does phone call town hall meetings.) … continue

Boycott Movement: Arab Delegations Withdraw from International Festival

IMEMC News & Agencies | October 19, 2017

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has welcomed the Palestinian student delegation and other Arab delegations’ withdrawal from the World Festival of Youths and Students, held in the Russian city of Sochi, due to the participation of Israeli delegations.

“We appreciated the principled stand taken by the Arab youths rejecting normalization, especially that the festival alleged to be anti-imperialism, however, Israeli delegations having colonial thoughts and supporting imperialism are invited to take part in it,” the movement said is a press release on Wednesday, according to Al Ray.

The movement praised all students and free voices that had withdrawn from the opening session of the festival.

Israeli occupation forces arrest Palestinian schoolgirl near Bethlehem

Palestine Information Center | October 19, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Wednesday evening arrested a schoolgirl from al-Nu’man village to the east of Bethlehem at Mazmuria checkpoint while she was returning from school and took her to an unknown destination.

Jamal Dar’awi, the head of the Nu’man village council, said that the IOF soldiers claimed that Lina Shawawra, 16, was trying to enter her besieged village through an iron gate in the separation wall and that she had no proof that she is a resident of the village.

Dar’awi added that such allegations are repeatedly used by the Israeli soldiers to crack down on the citizens of the village.

Trump’s peace envoy conditions Palestinian reconciliation on disarming Hamas

Ma’an – October 19, 2017

BETHLEHEM – US President Donald Trump’s Middle East Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt released a statement on Thursday, echoing statements by the Israeli government on the recent Palestinian reconciliation deal signed earlier this month by the rival Hamas and Fatah movements.

Greenblatt, who has visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory a number of times since Trump took office in January, began his statement by saying that “all parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there.”

“The United States reiterates the importance of adherence to the Quartet principles: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”

Shortly after the Palestinian unity government was formed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted with similar sentiments, conditioning the acceptance of the deal on recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organization. … Full article

Israel: Lieberman seeks $1.15bn increase in defence budget

MEMO | October 19, 2017

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman called his ministry to receive an additional 4 billion shekels ($1.15 billion) in its budget in order to confront the Iranian threat, Israeli media reported.

The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance have been discussing for several months the transfer of additional funds.

Lieberman also went directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and spoke to him about the need for an additional 4 billion shekels ($1.15 billion) in order to prepare for the Iranian threat.

According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Lieberman is demanding the increase in the budget so that the army can be equipped to confront Iran’s nuclear threat and influence in Syria. … Full article

Corruption permeates Israel under Netanyahu, goes back decades

By Kathryn Shihadah | If Americans Knew | October 19, 2017

Certainly every country has its share of shady politicians and dirty little secrets. The US has more than enough to be embarrassed about.

We need to vet our elected officials’ campaign funds, study their relationships with non-government operatives, and examine our government’s spending habits.

We need to spend our money where it will have a good return, where it will be invested in ways that reflect our American ideals. And when it comes to foreign aid, we should not support governments that will be wasteful, imprudent, or treacherous toward the people they rule.

About 20% of the American foreign aid budget goes to Israel. Is that a good investment? … continue

“The Agreement of the Century”

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | October 18, 2017

According to a report circulating unofficially in Arabic, the latest in a sixty-nine year history of proposals to resolve the western Zionist invasion of Palestine (AKA the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”) is about to see the light of day. It claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originated the proposal and that secret deliberations have been underway for more than five months.

Netanyahu has now presented the proposal to the US, which made some changes and agreed to promote it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will carry the plan, called “the Agreement of the Century” to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for review and discussion. … continue

Bahrainis protest against Manama’s attempts to normalize ties with Israel

Press TV – October 19, 2017

Regime forces in Bahrain have fired tear gas to disperse dozens of demonstrators who had taken to the streets across the island country to protest Manama’s potential normalization of ties with Israel.

The skirmishes broke out on Wednesday evening, when tens of protesters marched through the streets in Shakhurah neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital, Manama, and the towns of Abou-Sabih, Nuwaidrat, and Ma’ameer against what they condemned as the ruling al-Khalifah regime’s growing inclination toward Tel Aviv.

According to a report by the opposition al-Wafa Islamic Movement, regime forces engaged in fierce clashes with the protesters, who were shouting anti-government and anti-Israeli slogans. Some of the demonstrators also set fire to Israeli and British flags amid the clashes.

Meanwhile, Yousef Al-Khaja, a member of Bahrain’s National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), said in a Twitter post that Bahraini authorities had also banned an anti-Israel symposium scheduled to be held on Wednesday night at the headquarters of the movement in the capital. … Full article

Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | October 18, 2017

There is something truly exasperating about digesting the steady flow of horror stories relating to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In part, of course, it is because the reports that Weinstein allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades are deeply disturbing. In part, it is because one can be certain that there are still young aspiring actresses desperate for a big break who are being exploited by the Hollywood system – both in “casting” sessions and in the movies they must make to get noticed.

But most of all, these stories are exasperating because the women who are speaking out – and one senses they are still just the tip of the iceberg – and the journalists who are feeding off their revelations are drawing precisely no political conclusions from these incidents.

In fact, the Weinstein story perfectly illustrates how politically disempowering identity politics can be. … continue

Rohingya resettlement risky business for Myanmar

By David Scott Mathieson | Asia Times | October 19, 2017

… where will the refugees be allowed to return in Myanmar and under what circumstances? The government’s scheme in general terms has the air of a sinister ‘Field of Dreams’ scenario: build it and they will (be forced to) come.

The worst case possible is the resettlement sites become squalid, slow-death camps, locked off from regular access to basic provisions and ripe for ARSA recruitment and extremism. Some already see an early phase equivalent of a social engineering scheme to replicate the isolation of Palestinians in Israel’s West Bank.

The least bad scenario is that they become a Rakhine version of Potemkin villages that Suu Kyi can tour and pronounce success as she rolls out the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations for reconciliation elsewhere in the state. … Read full article

Kansas Teacher Barred from Employment for Supporting BDS

By Stephen Lendman | October 18, 2017

Barring longtime math teacher Esther Koontz from renewing her teaching contract, solely for her political beliefs, is a flagrant First Amendment violation.

She righteously supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.

Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibits state contracts with individuals critical of Israel’s agenda. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the plaintiff against state authorities, cracking down on boycotts of white businesses, saying authority over economic relations doesn’t limit or deny political speech.

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA. In July, it voted to divest from US companies, profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.

She supports Palestinian rights. Her employment papers require a declaration in writing of no support for BDS. She declined and was denied the right to train other teachers.

The Kansas law is unconstitutional. The ACLU supports Koontz. Last week on its web site, she headlined “Kansas Won’t Let Me Train Math Teachers Because I Boycott Israel,” … continue

Canada passes US-style sanctions bill targeting ‘corrupt’ Russian officials

RT | October 18, 2017

The Canadian Senate has passed Bill S-226, known as the Sergei Magnitsky Law, mirroring similar US legislation. Moscow has repeatedly slammed the bill as a violation of international law and vowed to respond.

Although the bill, titled “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law),” envisions imposing sanctions on any foreign national, not only on Russians, it mentions exclusively the high-profile cases linked to Russia in its preamble.

Among them is the death of Sergei Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention facility in 2009. Magnitsky was a tax accountant employed by the US-British investor Bill Browder, who was accused by the Russian authorities of orchestrating large-scale tax evasion and embezzling hundreds of millions of rubles from the Russian budget. The lawyer was a prime suspect in the investigation. Browder, however, insisted that Magnitsky fell victim to persecution and torture by the Russian penitentiary system after he allegedly uncovered corruption crimes by Russian tax officials. As result of a three-year lobbying campaign, spearheaded by Browder, in 2012 the US Senate approved the so-called Magnitsky Act, allowing the US to freeze the assets of, and bar entry to, Russians accused of human rights violations. The bill has soured relations between Washington and Moscow. … continue

Facespook! Social media giant becomes arm of US intel

By Finian Cunningham | RT | October 18, 2017

Facebook, the world’s top social media platform, is reportedly seeking to hire hundreds of employees with US national security clearance licenses.

Purportedly with the aim of weeding out “fake news” and “foreign meddling” in elections.

If that plan, reported by Bloomberg, sounds sinister, that’s because it is. For what it means is that people who share the same worldview as US intelligence agencies, the agencies who formulate classified information, will have a direct bearing on what millions of consumers on Facebook are permitted to access.

It’s as close to outright US government censorship on the internet as one can dare to imagine, and this on a nominally independent global communication network. Your fun-loving place “where friends meet.” … continue

UK spies using social media data for mass surveillance

By Natasha Lomas | TechCrunch | October 17, 2017

Privacy rights group Privacy International says it has obtained evidence for the first time that UK spy agencies are collecting social media information on potentially millions of people.

It has also obtained letters it says show the intelligence agencies’ oversight body had not been informed that UK intelligence agencies had shared bulk databases of personal data with foreign governments, law enforcement and industry — raising concerns about effective oversight of the mass surveillance programs. … continue

Colombian Social Leader Assasinated Weeks After 7 Campesinos Were Killed

teleSUR | October 17, 2017

A Colombian social leader, Jose Jair Cortes, was murdered in a rural area of Tumaco municipality located in the southwest department of Narino.

Jair Cortes, a member of the local council of the Alto Mira and Frontera Community, was killed in a sector called Y, located in the heart of the city of Tumaco. The social leader was one of seven community leaders to receive death threats in recent months.

The governor of Narino, Camilo Romero Galeano, denounced the murder that occurred just weeks after a massacre that left seven people dead in the village of El Tandil, in the same municipality. … continue

Secret trials of thousands of Boko Haram suspects to start in Nigeria

By Jason Burke | The Dawn News | October 9, 2017

More than 2,300 suspected Islamist militants are expected to appear in court in Nigeria from Monday in an unprecedented series of mass trials that local authorities hope will be seen as evidence of progress in the fight against Boko Haram, one of Africa’s most resilient insurgencies.

All the defendants have been detained since Boko Haram, which means “no to western education”, launched its campaign eight years ago.

The conflict has left at least 20,000 dead in the country’s remote north-east and destabilised a swath of west Africa, displacing millions of people.

But analysts say the trials – which will be held in secret and will see four judges deal with hundreds of cases each – raise serious concerns and could undermine the fight against the group.

“Does the judiciary have the capacity to give so many people charged with very serious offences a fair trial? Have the authorities really captured a quarter of their combat strength? Are they taking into account the fact that a lot of those who committed violence for Boko Haram did so under duress? All these are red flags and very concerning in terms of the broader strategy,” said Ryan Cummings, a South Africa-based expert.

No media reporting of the hearings, which will be held in military facilities, is to be allowed. Umar Ado, a defence lawyer based in Kano, Nigeria’s largest northern city, said that was “as good as denying the public the right to know how the trial is carried out”. He added: “It sends the wrong signal that justice is not served or the process is compromised.” … Full article

U.S. Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost

By Mark P. Fancher | Black Agenda Report | October 18, 2017

From the outset, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has incorrectly presumed the stupidity of Africans and others who are concerned about the continent. To answer accusations that the U.S. uses its military to ensure continuing imperialist domination of Africa, AFRICOM has stubbornly insisted that its sole objectives are to advise and support the armies of African government “partners” and to provide humanitarian assistance. But we know the truth to be otherwise.

U.S. Army General Donald Bolduc shamelessly told NBC News: “America is not at war in Africa. But its partner forces are.” But even a soldier can recognize the farce. Former Green Beret Derek Gannon said: “[U.S. military involvement in Africa] is called Low Intensity Irregular Warfare, yet technically it’s not considered war by the Pentagon. But warfare is warfare to me.” … continue

Mogadishu bomber was a former Somalia army soldier

MEMO | October 18, 2017

The bomber responsible for killing more than 300 people in Mogadishu on Saturday was a former Somali soldier whose home town was raided by the United States, the Guardian revealed in a special investigative report yesterday.

Investigators believe the attack last Saturday may have been motivated by revenge over a US and Somali counter-terrorism raid that killed scores of civilians in August.

Ten civilians were killed in the raid, including three children aged between six and ten. The civilians attempted to flee the raid but were shot and killed.

US-led forces conducted the raid in the town of Bariire, lower Shebelle region, in search of Al-Shabaab fighters… Full article

Israeli occupation forces Carry out Raids on Palestinian Media Firms

Al-Manar | October 18, 2017

Israeli occupation forces raided Palestinian media offices across the occupied West Bank overnight in what a military spokeswoman on Wednesday called a “large-scale operation” against “incitement.”

The raids on eight companies came hours after the Israeli government declared that it would not deal with an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the resistance movement made radical changes.

Israeli officials said the raids targeted companies that provide services to Hamas television stations. Notices were posted saying the companies were to be closed for six months.

“Israeli army forces last night raided eight Palestinian production and media companies that provide services to Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds TV channels,” the head of an Israeli defense ministry unit known as COGAT, Yoav Mordechai, wrote on Facebook, referring to Hamas channels. … continue

Balfour 100: Celebrating 100 Years of Injustice and Oppression

By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | October 18, 2017

On 7 November, in London’s famous Royal Albert Hall, there’s to be “a unique event drawing Christians and Jews together in celebration of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and all that it led to.”

Christians will be reaching out to support the Jewish community and the state of Israel, or so the organisers claim.

Our vision to stage such a big event at the Royal Albert Hall is ambitious and we recognise our reliance on God to enable every aspect of it.The evening’s programme will follow the history of God’s work through the Balfour Declaration that culminated in the independence of the modern state of Israel. We will use dance, film, song and drama sketches to illustrate how God used both Christians and Jews to fulfil the prophesied return of the Jewish people from exile to their ancient biblical homeland Israel,” says the blurb.continue

Who’s Afraid of Conspiracy Theory?

By Tim Hayward | October 18, 2017

‘Conspiracy theory’ is frequently used as a derogatory term, a term of disdain and implicit criticism. An effect of this is to discourage certain kinds of legitimate critical inquiry. But surely, in a world where conspiracies happen, we need good theories of what exactly is happening. The only people who really have anything to worry about from conspiracy theories are conspirators who stand to be exposed by them. For the rest of us, if someone proposes a far-fetched theory, we are instinctively sceptical; if they propose a theory that accounts for some otherwise unaccountable occurrences, they may be helping us learn something.

Of course, people can sometimes be misled by conspiracy theories, but people are misled by the beliefs that conspiracy theories challenge too. This betokens a need for careful scrutiny of controversial contentions quite generally. Obviously, a conspiracy theory is only a theory unless there is also proof. But it is one thing to demand the truth of a theory be proven; it is quite another to pronounce that such a theory can never be accepted as true. Unfortunately, even academic critics fail to observe that clear distinction, with some of them going so far as to condemn conspiracy theories in general, pre-emptively.[1]

Yet what are denigrated as ‘conspiracy theories’ are quite often legitimate lines of inquiry pursued in a spirit of critical citizenship, with the aim of holding to account those who exercise otherwise unaccountable power and influence over our lives, including in ways we are not all always aware of. … continue

Looming Hypersonic Arms Race: Unaddressed Problem

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.10.2017

The US programs to create hypervelocity strike systems in combination with ballistic missile defense plans are elements of strategic first strike capability, said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexander Yemelyanov on October 12 during the Russian-Chinese briefing on the sidelines of the first committee of the UN General Assembly.

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a United States military effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour. Today, there is no such system in the US inventory but technological advancements have made the notion of gliders and air-breathing vehicles flying at Mach 5 or faster significantly viable. The effort includes the X-15 rocket plane, the Boeing X-51 scramjet, the Hypersonic open Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) program, the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), and the Tactical Boost Glide (TBG). In July, the US and Australia concluded secret hypersonic flight series, which involved a Mach-busting missile flying eight times the speed of sound.

According to The Drive, in May 2017, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) hired Boeing to build what will likely be a solely rocket-powered hypersonic, reusable spacecraft, known as the XS-1. The Pentagon wants to test this design as a way of rapidly putting satellites into orbit, with an eye toward other roles in the future. The US military’s goal is a space plane that can fly 10 missions in as many days while carrying a 3,000 pound load. … continue

Russia calls on US to expedite destruction of its chemical weapons

RT | October 18, 2017

A senior Russian diplomat has urged the US and other nations to follow Russia’s example and decommission their chemical arsenals.

“We have inherited the world’s largest arsenal of such weapons of mass destruction, and we carried out a plan for its elimination in good faith,” said Vladimir Yermakov, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Weapons Control and Non-Proliferation.

Speaking before a session of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the diplomat reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to honoring its obligations under international agreements.

“We call upon all nations that still possess chemical weapons to immediately follow Russia’s example,” said Yermakov.

“This concerns primarily the state that had initiated the convention and has always been the promoter of its ideas and now for some reason remains the owner of the largest stocks of chemical weapons,” he added, apparently referring to the US.

He also expressed bewilderment at the fact that the US, while possessing the world’s largest chemical-weapons arsenal, had attempted “to cast a shadow on the great achievements of other countries, such as Syria.” … Full article

Bahrain signs $3.8bn F-16 fighter jet deal with US

Press TV – October 18, 2017

Bahrain has concluded a $3.8-billion deal with a US aerospace and military equipment giant to purchase 16 upgraded F-16 fighter jets.

The Bahrain Defense Force announced on Monday it signed the agreement with Lockheed Martin during a military exhibition in the Persian Gulf sheikhdom, AFP reported.

The State Department had informed Congress in March that it planned to approve a request by Manama to purchase the fighter jets.

The US multi-billion dollar arms deal with Bahrain, which is home to America’s Fifth Fleet, comes as US President Donald Trump has eased restrictions on arms sales to certain countries including Bahrain.

In September, Reuters cited an unidentified US official as saying that the $3.8-billion agreement was a package arms deal, which included 19 F-16 fighter jets, upgrades, 35-meter patrol boats equipped with machine guns, and 221 anti-tank missiles. … Full article

Iran: Israel cannot be allowed to target Syria at will

Press TV – October 18, 2017

The chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces says Israel cannot be allowed to violate Syrian territory at will.

“It is not acceptable for the Zionist regime (Israel) to violate Syria via land or air whenever it pleases,” Major General Mohammad Baqeri said in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Wednesday.

He was speaking alongside Chief of the General Staff of the Syrian Arab Army General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub.

The Israeli military conducts strikes against Syria-based targets on a regular basis, most of the time claiming that it hits convoys destined for the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah. Hezbollah fighters have been assisting the Syrian army in its fight against Takfiri militants.

Israel has been offering medical treatment to the extremist militants wounded on the battlefields in Syria in field hospitals in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

On a request from Damascus, Iran has been offering the Syrian government advisory military support against the foreign-backed militancy that started in the country in 2011.

In his Wednesday remarks, Major General Baqeri said he was in Syria to declare that Tehran is by Damascus’ side in the fight against terror.

“The Islamic Republic considers respect for the regional countries’ territorial integrity to be a principle,” Baqeri said. “We believe that whenever a country should seek to conduct military operations inside another one, it should do so while respecting that country’s territorial integrity and at its invitation.”

‘Turkish forces unwelcome’

General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub said for his part that the contingents of Turkish forces deployed to Syria are there illegally. He said the Turkish forces are not in Syria according to a deal reached on de-escalation zones in a peace process in the Kazakh capital of Astana — unlike what Ankara has said.

He said the Turkish military presence in Syria was also against international law and norms and Syria was “entitled to confront the Turkish forces on our soil in whatever fashion [that we deem necessary].” … Full article