Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Islamophobe Daniel Pipes Says Back Assad to Keep Syrians Killing Each Other

CAIRtv | April 3, 2013

In an October 21, 2001, speech before the convention of the American Jewish Congress, Daniel Pipes stated: “I worry very much from the Jewish point of view that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims…will present true dangers to American Jews.”

Daniel Pipes Supports Internment of Japanese-Americans:

“Yes, I do support the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II.” From Daniel Pipes’ website, 12/28/04

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Islamophobe Daniel Pipes Says Back Assad to Keep Syrians Killing Each Other

The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

By Keane Bhatt | NACLA | April 8, 2013

Thanks to readers’ responses to The New Yorker following my last post, “On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” the magazine has amended two errors in two separate articles.

The first correction involves an online piece that Anderson wrote on the eve of Venezuela’s elections in October of last year. As was pointed out almost immediately after Anderson’s entry was published, he had incorrectly claimed that “Venezuela leads Latin America in homicides” in his “The End of Chavez?” (the headline was changed to “Chavez the Survivor” after the late Venezuelan president handily won his reelection).

Actually, it is Honduras that leads Latin America—and indeed the entire world—in per capita homicides: 92 per 100,000 people are killed annually there, while Venezuela’s figure stands at 45.1, according to the most recently available United Nations data. And unlike the Venezuelan government, the Honduran government contributes to this body count by regularly murdering its own civilians through its military and police, both of which receive tens of millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers. (The New Yorker hasn’t published a single article referring to Honduras’s current post-coup regime, headed by Porfirio Lobo, who came to power in January of 2010.)

Reacting to readers’ complaints, the magazine’s editors issued an addendum to Anderson’s October 7 piece, which reads:

*An earlier version of this post said that Venezuela led Latin America in homicides; globally, it was in fourth place, but third in Latin America (behind Honduras and El Salvador), according to U.N. statistics on intentional homicides for 2010-11.

Another Anderson article—“Slumlord: What has Hugo Chávez wrought in Venezuela?”—also misled the print magazine’s readers by giving the impression that Chávez’s presidential tenure was predicated on a coup d’etat rather than his victories in over a dozen internationally vetted elections. The New Yorker released a correction for the inaccuracy in its April 1 issue, two months after the original piece had been published:

In “Slumlord,” by Jon Lee Anderson (January 28th), Hugo Chávez is described as having been concerned with “preventing a coup like the one that put him in office.” In fact, Chávez’s coup attempt, in 1992, failed; he was elected to office in 1998.

For Jon Lee Anderson’s most recent factual error, unfortunately, The New Yorker has thus far refused to issue a clarification or retraction. One month ago—the day Chávez died—Anderson wrote a third piece, for NewYorker.com, claiming:

What [Chávez] has left is a country that, in some ways, will never be the same, and which, in other ways, is the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries. . .

As I pointed out in “Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” this allegation misleads the reader in two ways. Inequality has been reduced enormously under Chávez, using its standard measure, the Gini coefficient. So one can hardly say that in this aspect, Venezuela remains the “same as ever.” Making Anderson’s contention even worse is the fact that Venezuela is the most equal country in Latin America, according to the United Nations. Anderson’s readers come away with exactly the opposite impression.

To The New Yorker’s credit, a senior editor sent me an email regarding my article’s criticisms, and flatly conceded the first two misstatements in Anderson’s pieces. However, the note offered a strained defense of Anderson’s position on inequality, arguing that Anderson’s point was valid, given that his claim supposedly combined Venezuela’s conditions of being both “oil-rich” and “socially unequal” as one assertion.

I pointed out in my response that any reasonable reading of the statement would portray Venezuela as both one of the world’s most oil-rich and one of the world’s most socially unequal countries. And the fact of the matter is that the CIA’s World Factbook ranks the country 68th out of 136 countries with available data on income inequality—that is to say, Venezuela is exactly in the middle, and impossible to construe as among the most unequal.

I also explained that when Anderson was confronted with this evidence on Twitter, the magazine’s principal correspondent on Venezuela expressed extreme skepticism toward publicly available, constantly used, and highly scrutinized data; he instead cited his own “reporting” and “impressions” as the authority for his assertions. Given Anderson’s defiant admission not to even pretend to care about empirical data—after his magazine had already retracted two of his articles’ factual claims—it was incumbent on editors and fact-checkers to uphold The New Yorker’s reputation as a trustworthy and evidence-based journal by addressing the issue immediately.

Lastly, I argued that the awkward formulation of combining “oil-rich” and “socially unequal”—a reading I reject—exposes Anderson’s contention as even further at odds with reality. Included in my email was the following list showing the top 10 most “oil-rich” countries ranked in order of their total crude oil production, according to the International Energy Agency. Each country’s corresponding Gini coefficient from the CIA World Factbook appears in parentheses—the higher the Gini coefficient, the greater the country’s inequality:

1. Saudi Arabia (unavailable)
2. Russia (0.42)
3. United States (0.45)
4. Iran (0.445)
5. China (0.48)
6. Canada (0.32)
7. United Arab Emirates (unavailable)
8. Venezuela (0.39)
9. Mexico (0.517)
10. Nigeria (0.437)

When provided with these arguments and data, The New Yorker’s senior editor fell silent in the face of repeated follow-ups. I received a reply only once: a rejection of my request to publicly post our correspondence. While issuing a correction to Anderson’s third Venezuela article over the past year would have been embarrassing, the continued silence and inaction of the elite intellectual journal is perhaps a greater indictment. Anderson’s error remains unchanged on the liberal magazine’s website, while its senior editor has refused to address the matter in private correspondence or offer a public rationale for leaving Anderson’s claim intact.

When asked to comment on this issue, Branko Milanovic—a lead economist at the World Bank and arguably the world’s foremost expert on global inequality—interpreted Anderson’s quote the standard way: “The article says that Venezuela is one of most ‘socially unequal’ countries,” he wrote by email. But The New Yorker’s “extremely vague formulation,” he added, obscured an important reality: “What we know…is that Venezuela is among two or three most equal Latin American countries measured by income inequality.” According to his own research of inequality throughout the world, Venezuela is likely to be ranked somewhere “around the middle, or perhaps slightly above (these things do change from year to year).”

Prominent macroeconomist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research found The New Yorker’s factual contention and subsequent unresponsiveness astonishing: “This is pretty outrageous,” he wrote by email. “Do they have any data to support their assertion, or is the argument that because they don’t like Chávez they can say anything they want about him?”

Readers can pose such questions to The New Yorker by contacting its editors at www.newyorker.com/contact/contactus, by email at tny.newsdesk@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @tnynewsdesk. Such media activism plays a crucial role in engendering more careful portrayals of countries like Venezuela, which has long been the target of cartoonishly hostile, slanted, and outright false media coverage. Previous demands for accuracy and accountability have already prompted two admissions of error by The New Yorker, and can lead to a third, in spite of the magazine’s obstinacy. More importantly, the magazine now faces a real political cost to publishing sloppy reporting, as well as a powerful deterrent to running reckless news and commentary during a politically significant transitional moment for Venezuela.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Comments Off on The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

Is the Custodian of Absentee Property Awaiting the Absentees?

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | April 8th, 2013

cus·to·di·an (kəs-ˈtō-dē-ən) n. 1. One who has charge of something: caretaker

The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language, International Edition, 1973

Custodian-1.1The office of Ronen Baruch, the current Custodian of Absentee Property for Israel, is in an ancient Arab home at 8 Yoel Salomon Street in Jerusalem. A house of this type is not unusual in this part of Jerusalem, and this one has few markings to indicate its function. Even its mail is delivered to the main building of the Ministry of Finance in another part of the city.

Searching the Internet will not yield this information unless you read Hebrew, and even then not much else. Much more is available about the Mossad, but perhaps only because it is bigger and more interesting. Information about the Custodian is not necessarily secret, just possibly of little interest to journalists. However, it has no website and does not advertise its contact information. It is almost as if Israel would prefer that no one knows it is there.

Despite this, the office plays a pivotal role in the existence of Israel. Most Israelis live and work on land that was once in the charge of the Custodian of Absentee Property, an office created less than two months after the Israeli state and existing to this day as part of the Ministry of Finance.

Who or what is the Custodian of Absentee Property?

To many of the indigenous nations of North America, the European notion of land ownership was strange. The role of humans was to be custodians of the land and for the land to be the custodian of its human inhabitants. Similarly, the rulers of Makkah and Medina have historically referred to themselves as custodians, not owners, of the holy shrines.

Thus, when Israel created the Office of the Custodian of Absentee Property in July, 1948, to take charge of property belonging to refugees that fled or were expelled, was its intention for the custodian to be a steward and trustee for the property of these refugees while they were away? Certainly, the title of the office implicitly acknowledges that the property belongs to the absentees, not the Custodian, which land registry documents in fact confirm.

Of course, land and the structures on it – some dating back a thousand years or more – were not the only property that came into the charge of the Custodian. Many millions of dollars of gold, jewelry, antiques, cars and other items made their way into the inventory. However, real estate was by far the most important and valuable. The absentee owners were almost all Palestinian Arab refugees and exiles, both rich and poor. A few were Jews, and their property was quickly returned to them. Not so for the rest, except a tiny fraction that were able to prove that they had not fled at all.

How much of the territory within the 1949 ceasefire line did the absentees leave behind? Prior to the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, some 6% of Mandate Palestine was Jewish property (Sami Hadawi, Village statistics: 1945). Considering that Zionist forces seized 78% of Palestine, however, the proportion within those areas would have been closer to 8%, excluding Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, the remnant of the Palestinian Arab population that was not expelled retained some of their lands and homes, currently estimated to be less than 3% of the same areas. Roughly half of the captured territory was state land of the government of Palestine, mostly the Naqab (Negev) desert.

It is likely that all the rest, roughly 39%, was declared absentee property, and placed under the control of the Custodian. This figure agrees with an inventory made by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) of 7,069,091 dunams. If the Custodian also took charge of state lands, the total would have been 89%. This information has not been released, but a statement by Jacob Manor, the Custodian in 1980, to journalist Robert Fisk (Pity the Nation, p. 45) indicates that the higher figure may be more accurate.

Of course, Israel had no intention of respecting the legal records of land ownership. The Absentee Property Law of 1950 made clear that the job of the Custodian was to “release” the property in its custody to other agencies, which would use the land without regard to the registered owners.

Thus, in effect, the Custodian of Absentee Property became Israel’s largest “fence” for stolen property. Under the powers authorized by the Absentee Property Law, the Custodian “released” the land to the Israeli state, the Development Authority and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), with the combined lands (93% of the state of Israel) under the management of the Israel Land Administration (ILA). The ILA thus became the largest recipient of stolen property in Israel, notwithstanding the international racketeers and blood diamond traffickers that have found a safe haven there.

Curiously, however, the ILA has until recently been prohibited from offering the land for sale, but rather to lease it to users, although in 2009 plans were made to begin granting title. This policy was promoted in the 1950s allegedly as an enlightened socialist program of collective ownership borrowed from the institution of the kibbutz. Was it instead a means of protecting individual Israeli citizens from the accusation of receiving stolen goods? If so, it constitutes another implicit admission that the property legally belongs to expelled Palestinians and not to either the Israeli government or its citizens.

Villa Salameh, Jerusalem

The Absentee Property Law is in fact contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Declaration of Human Rights, both of which were constituted less than two years earlier and to which Israel became a signatory. This discrepancy came to light in the case of the Jerusalem residence of the Consul General of Belgium, which has been located since 1948 on absentee property known as the Villa Salameh. In order to be in compliance with international law, Belgium elected to pay rent to the exiled Palestinian owners of the property rather than to any Israeli authority or to Israeli businessman David Sofer, who claims to have “bought” (leased) the property from the Israeli government since 2000.

Surprisingly, Israel has been one of the strongest proponents for the restoration of absentee property to its original owners or their rightful heirs. One of the best examples of this is the HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce) Project, established in 2011 with more than $2.5 million per year funding from the Israeli government, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Its purpose is to seek restitution for Jewish property seized by the Nazi government in Germany. Other victims of the Holocaust, such as Slavs, Poles, Romanies (Gypsies), disabled persons, non-Europeans, political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others are apparently ineligible for this service, as well victims of the 1948 Israeli ethnic cleansing project known to Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe).

Although the extent of past Israeli property theft is well known to students of such matters, popular awareness is lagging. Current activists are likely to consider the more recent thefts of Bedouin property in the Naqab (Negev), confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and West Bank land seizures, house demolitions and village eradications as the major problem without taking into account the much larger scale of earlier crimes. They might be shocked to learn, for example, that the land stolen from Palestinian owners prior to the 1949 ceasefire is equal in size to more than the total area of the West Bank and Gaza combined.

The issue is sometimes raised when defining “Arab land” in the Palestinian context. If, for example, “Arab land” is defined only as that which was seized in the June 1967 war, it disregards the enormous amount of property that was confiscated without compensation from “absentee” Palestinian refugees and exiles in 1947-49 and soon after.

Is the Custodian of Absentee Property awaiting the return of the absentees to reclaim their property? In a sense probably so, though not with a sense of joy. Rather, all who are responsible for the theft of the property and for the ethnic cleansing and other crimes committed in furtherance of that theft know that a day of reckoning always awaits those who think they are above the law.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Is the Custodian of Absentee Property Awaiting the Absentees?

After Avoiding Prosecution of Wall Street Firms, Obama Officials are Rewarded with Wall Street Jobs

By Matt Bewig | AllGov | April 8, 2013

The revolving door between Wall Street and its government regulators has been spinning at warp speed lately. Two recent cases involve high-level officials whose jobs were to regulate Wall Street’s practices and prosecute Wall Street’s crimes. Despite the massive and systemic fraud that led to the financial collapse of 2008, both failed to win a single major enforcement against Wall Street, and now they are being rewarded with lucrative jobs there.

Mary Schapiro, who took over a demoralized Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that repeatedly failed to head off financial disasters involving Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Bernard Madoff, did not win a major civil action against any Wall Street executive who was part of the subprime mortgage scam that led to the crash during her four years as SEC chair. One low point came the day federal judge Jed Rakoff refused to approve SEC’s $285 million settlement with Citigroup because, just as with Goldman Sachs, SEC failed to get an admission of wrongdoing. Schapiro did open a new tips database and a whistleblower office.

Lanny Breuer worked the criminal side of the street as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division for the past four years, yet he failed to win a single major criminal conviction against a Wall Street executive. He resigned shortly after a recent “Frontline” documentary implied that he had been ineffectual in bringing justice to the financial industry. His public defense of his own lack of criminal prosecutions was also widely panned.

Now both are returning to the other side: Schapiro has taken a job as a managing director and chair of the governance and markets practice at Promontory Financial Group, which advises financial firms on regulation, while Breuer is going back to Covington & Burling, a major law firm that defends financial clients, as vice chair of the firm. Although salary data are unavailable, both can be expected to earn at least $500,000 annually from their new gigs.

“It used to be called ‘selling out,’ ‘cashing in,’ or ‘influence peddling.’ Now it’s referred to politely as the ‘revolving door,’” Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a nonprofit that wants stronger regulation of the financial industry, told the National Journal. “But whatever it’s called, nothing is more corrosive to the American people’s trust in government than when former senior public officials turn their so-called public service into multimillion-dollar riches unimaginable to almost all Americans.”

Even more insidious than outright corruption, argue such critics, is the fact that the continually revolving door between Wall Street and its regulators creates a financial industry culture shared by both bankers and their regulators, who come to see themselves as part of the financial system—and hope eventually to be rewarded by the profit-making companies they are supposed to regulate and prosecute.

To Learn More:

Mary Schapiro and Lanny Breuer Give Us the Ultimate Dog-Bites-Man Story (by Michael Hirsh, National Journal)

Justice Dept. Defends Not Prosecuting Corporate Leaders for White-Collar Crime (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

SEC Chair Schapiro Retains a Lawyer (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Revolving Door at SEC is in a Whirl as Hundreds Hired by Industry they Regulated (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who Will Save Social Security and Medicare?

By Shamus Cooke | Worker’s Compass | April 7, 2013

Before Social Security and Medicare existed, the elderly were either completely dependent on their children or were left to beg in the streets. These programs thus remain sacred to the vast majority of Americans. They allow the elderly dignity and independence instead of poverty and insecurity.

Attacking these programs has always been political suicide for the assailant; not even the smoothest talking politician would squirm into an aggressive stance.

But now the gloves are off. Obama and the Democrats are aligning with Republicans to strike the first major blows against Social Security and Medicare. This long hidden agenda is finally in full view of the public. The decades-long political agreement to save these programs is dead, and the foundation of American politics is shifting beneath everyone’s feet.

The New York Times reports:

President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget…

Many liberals are scratching their heads in astonishment, asking “How could this happen?”

The truth is that every liberal and labor leader knew this was in the works for years; they just kept their mouths shut in the hope that Obama could successfully push the blame entirely on the Republicans.

Throughout the summer of 2011 Obama worked with Republicans in the first attempt at a ‘Grand Bargain’ that included cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The Washington Post published an article entitled “Obama’s Evolution” about that summer:

… the major elements of a [Grand] bargain seemed to be falling into place: $1.2 trillion in [national programs] agency cuts, smaller cost-of-living increases [cuts] for Social Security recipients [cuts by dollar inflation], nearly $250 billion in Medicare savings [cuts] achieved in part by raising the eligibility age [of Medicare]. And $800 billion in new taxes.

Labor and liberal leaders kept quiet about this so they could push their members to vote for Obama in 2012. They also kept quite in the fall of 2011 when Obama released his budget proposal that included hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

But hiding the most recent betrayal was next to impossible, and every liberal group is now suddenly “shocked” to see Obama officially and publicly on record to pursue the cuts.

The most craven of the liberal groups will continue to spew rotten rhetoric that only blames Republicans for the cuts while making excuses for Obama’s behavior, claiming that he merely buckled under intense Republican pressure and felt the need to “compromise.”

But it’s all nonsense. No working person who votes Republican wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. Obama could have shattered the Republican Party at its kneecaps by broadly exposing their plans to cut Social Security and Medicare. Instead he insisted on co-leading the attack.

These cuts have nothing to do with Obama’s courage or backbone. It’s a matter of political and economic ideology, and the policy that flows from it.

To reverse this policy one cannot make excuses for the president or ignore his “treacherous” behavior. A criminal offensive requires a powerful counterattack. And although labor and liberal groups are reluctant to attack “their” president, the members of these groups share a different perspective.

In an attempt to connect with the rank and file, the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, said of Obama’s Social Security cuts:

These cuts are bad policy. And the only way we’re going to stop them is if President Obama and all members of Congress hear that we’re not going to tolerate them. Sign our petition to the president NOW.

The trouble is that petitions are not capable of stopping the years-in-the-making bi-partisan attack. Trumka knows this. He is thus faking opposition to a policy that he’s partially responsible for, since his miseducating of the AFL-CIO membership led to an ignorance that Obama exploited — union members couldn’t mobilize against something they didn’t know was happening.

But now the secret is exposed, and working people will expect the leaders of their organizations to wage a serious fight against these policies.

Those in the labor movement interested in organizing against this anti-worker offensive should consider actively building the coming August 24 demonstration called by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and The King Center for Washington, D.C. where they are planning to place the demand for jobs to end poverty squarely on the Obama government. Once working people are mobilized to fight independently for their own interests, it will be far easier to add demands around Social Security and Medicare to the list, since working people overwhelmingly support these programs. The AFL-CIO has endorsed this demonstration. Now they will have to seriously mobilize for it.

If we don’t fight back now, then when?

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment

UN Arms Trade Treaty’s Deadly Loophole

By Nile Bowie | Press TV | April 7, 2013

Foundation fellows and diplomats have lauded the overwhelming approval of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by the General Assembly of the United Nations, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describing it as a means to obstruct the illicit arms flow to warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and the like. Many who have critically monitored the situation in Syria and the ramifications of foreign intervention in Libya may have difficulty swallowing Ban’s words, as some would argue that the UN has itself been complicit in these crises for turning a blind eye to arms and funding going to al-Qaeda-linked rebels in various countries. Twenty-three countries abstained from the vote (representing half the world’s population), including Russia, China, India, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Egypt, while three – Syria, Iran, and North Korea – voted no. Iran’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Gholam-Hossein Dehqani called the treaty a political document disguised as an Arms Trade Treaty, and with highly legitimate reasons for doing so.

“The right to acquire and import arms for their (importer states’) security needs is subject to the discretionary judgment and extremely subjective assessment of the exporting states. That is why this text is highly abusable and susceptible to politicization, manipulation and discrimination,” said Dehghani, referring to conditions that arms exporting states would be able to impose on importing states. The pact prohibits the export of conventional arms to countries deemed guilty of violating international human rights laws and committing crimes against humanity – sure, this appears to be ethical and just at first glance, but more careful reflection is required. If we assume that the United Nations makes the call on which states qualify as human rights abusers and which states do not, then Israel would not be hindered from purchasing conventional weapons, but a country like Syria would be barred from purchasing arms to defend itself and its territorial sovereignty.

What makes the treaty not only toothless, but also particularly dangerous, is the fact that it lacks any explicit prohibitions regarding arms proliferation to terrorists and unlawful non-state actors. “Without such provisions, the ATT would in fact lower the bar on obligations of all states not to support terrorists and/or terrorists acts. We cannot allow such a loophole in the ATT,” said Sujata Mehta, India’s lead negotiator for the ATT in a statement. What this means is that NATO and Gulf states that supply arms to opposition groups in Syria will retain the flexibility to continue to do so, while at the same time having a greater say over whether individual importing states can arm themselves in accordance with their legitimate defense and national security interests. There is no doubt that certain states would take advantage of this loophole’s vast potential for misuse.

The treaty does not recognize the rights of all states to acquire, produce, export, import and possess conventional weapons for their own legitimate security purposes. In theory, this treaty gives the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter with heavy sway over the UN, much greater ability to influence whether or not an individual country is allowed to obtain weapons for its own defense. The treaty, in its glaring bias and predictability, completely fails to prohibit the transfer of arms to countries engaged in military aggression against other nations, such as Israel. “Somebody probably wants to have free rein to send arms to anti-government groups in countries ruled by regimes they consider inconvenient… When we started work on the document, the General Assembly set the task of establishing the highest possible international standards in the area of arms transfers. In reality though, the treaty has established minimally acceptable standards,” said Russian treaty negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov in a recent interview.

The treaty applies to the transfer of conventional weapons such as battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, small and light weapons, while the proliferation of UAV drones and other modern military technology is not addressed or scrutinized. While feel-good rhetoric prevails and politicians pat themselves on the back, the United Nations by its own admission concedes that the treaty does not ban or prohibit the export of any type of weapon. It is clear that the countries that rely most on the illicit trafficking of arms to execute their foreign policy objectives have had noticeable influence over the contents of this treaty. The treaty depends on how stringently individual countries implement it, and international arms transfers that involve barter deals or leases are also not scrutinized.

While many call it a welcomed development and the first step in regulating the $70 billion global conventional arms trade, there is little evidence that it will accomplish anything more than increase the frequency of illicit transfers under different guises and further legitimize the ‘Good Terrorist-Bad Terrorist’ dichotomy – it also contains no language concerning the right to self-determination by people who are under occupation, as is the case in Palestine. The treaty contains some reasonable common-sense measures, such as introducing national systems that monitor arms circulation in countries that lack such systems, but the absence of progressive processes lends credence to accusations that the text is highly industry-friendly and serves to reinforce the status quo.

Most importantly, the treaty pays no focus to actually reducing the sale of arms by limiting global production, which should rightfully be the objective of a treaty that uses global mass causality figures to legitimize itself. According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, armed violence kills more than half a million people each year, a figure that should rightfully strengthen calls to regulate and decrease global production rather than solely focusing simply on trade. Rather, the treaty institutionalizes and legalizes the arming of good terrorists while denying arms to unfriendly governments. Until the UN can cease being an appendage of a handful of the most powerful arms exporting states, there is little hope that any international arms trade treaty can reduce human suffering and have a meaningful impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in conflict zones around the world and elsewhere.

Nile Bowie can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Comments Off on UN Arms Trade Treaty’s Deadly Loophole

Pakistan Rejects Reports of CIA Deal on Drone Campaign

Fars News Agency | 2013-04-08

TEHRAN – Pakistan rejected US media reports that the country has struck a deal with the CIA over a secret drone campaign in the tribal regions.

The New York Times has reported that Pakistan and the United States had signed the deal in 2004 and a US spy aircraft in its first strike had killed senior Pakistani Taliban commander Nek Muhammad in South Waziristan, Xinhua reported.

The CIA has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike, the paper said.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the story is baseless and a part of the propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan on this matter.

“We have repeatedly affirmed that Pakistan regards the use of drone strikes as counterproductive,” the spokesman said while responding to a query regarding a story published in New York Times on an alleged deal on drones.

“It (drone strikes) violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and it violates International Law,” the spokesman said in a statement.

He said in a statement that there is now a growing debate in the international community to consider the legality and legitimacy of drone strikes.

The New York report claimed that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and the CIA agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the CIA’s covert action authority — meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pakistan Rejects Reports of CIA Deal on Drone Campaign

Lebanese Army Foils Attempt to Deliver Arms to ‘Extremist Groups’

Al-Manar | April 8, 2013

Lebanese army troops have thwarted a smuggling plot by a group of armed men to deliver weapons to ‘extremist groups.’

In a statement released on Sunday, the Lebanese army announced that it had received information indicating that “some people were preparing to smuggle arms to extremist groups”.

Media reports said an army unit was accordingly dispatched to Ain Zhalta village in the Chouf district of southwestern Lebanon late on Saturday and foiled the weapons delivery attempt.

The operation led to a shootout between Lebanese army forces and the gunmen. An armed man was killed in the gun battle, while another was injured. The wounded man was arrested along with seven other gunmen after the clashes.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese soldier was wounded in the fierce exchange of fire. A military vehicle also sustained damage.

The eight detainees are being interrogated by Lebanese judicial authorities.

The seized arms haul included heavy-, medium- and light-caliber weapons, and a large amount of munitions of various types.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lebanese Army Foils Attempt to Deliver Arms to ‘Extremist Groups’

Presidential Candidate Henrique Capriles: Leading to Nowhere

Correo Del Orinoco International, April 7th 2013

Venezuelan democracy is about to be tested, once again. On April 14th, just weeks after the regrettable and untimely death of widely popular Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954 – 2013), voters will decide who is to govern during the 2013-2019 period Chavez was elected to late last year. For the country’s socialist majority, who secured Chavez 8.1 million votes (55%) in the 2012 election, Interim President Nicolas Maduro is their candidate. Meanwhile, the US-backed opposition, who for years assured voters that “Chavismo without Chavez” was next to impossible, has again chosen right-wing politician Henrique Capriles Radonski to represent them at the ballot box.

Having lost to Chavez by over a million votes, Capriles is now running on a campaign aimed at dividing pro-Chavez forces and discrediting the country’s democratic institutions, something his political career depends on.

BORN INTO WEALTH

Son of Cristina Radonski Bocheneck and Henrique Capriles Garcia, 40-year old Capriles comes from one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families. The Radonskis own, the country’s largest chain of private movie theaters, while the Capriles own numerous private media outlets (Cadena Capriles) and are said to have important investments in industrial and real estate holdings. Among other things, his parents’ wealth allowed Capriles to study law at Caracas’ private Andres Bello Catholic University and participate in numerous international student exchange programs in Italy and the United States.

In 1995, a freshly-graduated Capriles dove into Venezuelan politics by acting as legal counsel to his cousin and then lawmaker Armando Capriles. Serving his cousin during the closing years (1995-1998) of the so-called Fourth Republic (1958-1998), Capriles got his taste for politics just as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won the first (1998) of many electoral victories to come.

Eager to represent his family and social class at a time of heated national debate surrounding President Chavez’s proposal for a Constitutional Assembly, Capriles accepted a backdoor nomination from Venezuela’s right-wing party, Social Christian Democrats (Copei), and won a seat in the final Congress (1998) convened during the Fourth Republic.

Not exactly illegal, Copei placed Caracas-based Capriles on the ballot to represent Maracaibo, capital of Zulia, where the party had a strong base of support at the time. A trained lawyer, he was sure to respect existing electoral laws by renting an apartment in Maracaibo during the course of the election.

According to investigative journalist Eva Golinger, in 2001 Capriles’ nascent Justice First party was the principal beneficiary of funds spent in Venezuela by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and International Republican Institute (IRI). That year alone, the latter spent $340,000 “training” members of Justice First and others of the country’s anti-Chavez minority on, among other things, “external party communication and coalition building”.

UNDIPLOMATIC MAYOR

From 2000 to 2008, Capriles served as Mayor of the wealthy eastern Caracas neighborhood of Baruta. During the short-lived 2002 coup against President Chavez, anti-communist protestors gathered outside the Cuban embassy (located in Baruta), cutting both water and electricity and threatening to storm the building. In response to requests by embassy staff for police protection, Capriles joined the protestors and forced his way into the embassy by climbing over its perimeter walls.

As Golinger notes in her book, The Chavez Code, Capriles “violated diplomatic law by forcing entry into the embassy, where he attempted to persuade Cuban Ambassador German Sanchez Otero to turn in Vice President Diosdado Cabello and other Chavez government officials whom the opposition believed were taking refuge in the embassy”.

“Though Ambassador Sanchez Otero permitted Capriles Radonski on the premises to engage in dialogue”, explains Golinger, “he made it clear that the actions were violating diplomatic law”. Capriles “attempted to force a search of the inside of the embassy by threatening the ambassador that the situation would only worsen if a full search were not allowed. When the ambassador stood firm, Capriles Radonski left the embassy”.

The right-wing mayor allowed protests to continue as they were, abandoning the Cuban diplomats and their request for help. Fortunately, for embassy staff and Venezuelan democracy, massive pro-Chavez demonstrations reversed the short-lived coup before things got worse.

FROM GOVERNOR TO “LEADER”

Taking advantage of his family’s wealth, access to the press, and personal contacts, in 2008 Capriles moved up the political ladder by winning the governorship of Miranda, a state with some 2.6 million inhabitants. In 2012, the opposition coalition chose Capriles to “lead” their failed attempt to defeat President Chavez at the ballot box.

The Washington backed Capriles lost the election by over a million votes but kept his political career alive by returning to win Miranda’s gubernatorial race just two months later in a regional election that saw socialist candidates win 20 out of 23 governorships.

On March 10th, as the Venezuelan people were in the midst of mourning the loss of President Chavez, Capriles held a rushed press conference in which he accused Interim President Nicolas Maduro and others in Venezuela’s socialist leadership of “lying to the public about Chavez’s health”. Among other things, he claimed Chavez’s family and the country’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) had “planned with milli-metric detail” the March 5th announcement of Chavez’s passing as well as the now pending April 14th election. His strategy, it seems, is to try to divide the pro-Chavez majority while preparing for what is sure to be another electoral defeat.

Though he currently is the opposition’s most well-known elected official, a recent poll by Venezuela-based Datanalisis found only 34.8% of voters intend to vote for Capriles. The same poll found 49.2% of voters intend to elect socialist candidate Nicolas Maduro. The International Consulting Service (ICS) found 58.2% of voters intend to vote for Maduro, 17% more than the 40.5% that plan to elect Capriles. The Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD) found the gap to be even wider, with 53.8% of voters planning to vote for Maduro and 31.6% for Capriles, a difference of 22%.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment