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Shut In, Shut Down, Shut Up: Three Years after Mavi Marmara

By Greta Berlin | Palestine Chronicle | May 20 2013 
Passengers on the Mavi Marmara were attacked by heavily armed Israeli commandos.
Passengers on the Mavi Marmara were attacked by heavily armed Israeli commandos.

Three years ago, the Free Gaza movement was wrapping up final preparations for a flotilla of eight ships to head out to Gaza, determined to break Israel’s illegal siege on 1.5 million Palestinians shut into an open-air prison. Most of us were already in Cyprus or Turkey or Greece, as we were the primary organizers, having already sent eight voyages, five of them successful in 2008.

Why a flotilla of boats?

During Israel’s horrific massacres against the people of Gaza (called Operation Cast Lead) in December 2008/January, 2009, our boat, the DIGNITY, had been rammed off the coast of Lebanon as we were taking medical personnel into Gaza. The boat later sank in a storm off the coast of Cyprus.

Then, in July 2009, Israel brutally attacked the “Spirit of Humanity,” even though Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire, and former Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney were on board. The Israeli government stole the boat, threw passengers into Israeli prison and, laughably, deported them eight days later, because “passengers had illegally entered Israel.” It was the first time the Israeli commandoes had actually boarded one of the boats as opposed to ramming them or trying to sink them.

We realized a new approach would have to be designed, one that would include more vessels, more passengers and more media exposure to the brutal closure of Gaza. Sailing one boat at a time was not going to get the message out to the world that Israel was blockading the people of Gaza and committing crimes against humanity.

It took Free Gaza a year to organize. We traveled to Sweden, Norway, France, Turkey, Greece, many Middle Eastern countries, Tunisia, Spain, Malaysia, the UK, the US and Germany. We helped Palestinian support groups raise money and send out the message that the next voyage would have to be organized with worldwide support. We succeeded beyond our wildest imagination, as organizations and individuals got on board the mission, raised money from people around the world, and bought the boats… eight in all, from the boats purchased by the Turkish charity, IHH, to the boats ready to go from Greece, Sweden, Ireland, Malaysia and the U.S.

Our own boats, Challenger 1 and Challenger 2 plus the cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, were on their way to the meting place off the coast of Cyprus. The Rachel Corrie, bought with money from a charity in Malaysia had finally left Ireland, its propeller pin suspiciously dropping out just days before leaving, causing the ship to be delayed for days. Had the final inspection not caught the problem, the propeller would have flown off, damaging the boat and putting the passengers and cargo at risk. The Rachel Corrie would not make it in time to join the flotilla but would try to get into Gaza five days later, only to be boarded by Israeli commandos, the passengers brutalized and left in the sun, then thrown into prison.

The six of us in the media office in Cyprus were fielding calls, trying to keep track of passengers and where they were going to board…and also trying to pacify the Cypriot authorities, who were no longer willing to have our boats leaving their shores… too much Israeli money had come into Cypriot departments over the year, and the doors that had been so welcoming to us, were beginning to close.

As the boats headed out to the meeting place, our two yachts were suddenly dead in the water, clearly a result of sabotage, as the Israelis bragged about it.

After the pin had come out of the Rachel Corrie propeller, it was obvious that one way Israel was going to shut down the flotilla was to make sure boats never left port (during Freedom Flotilla II in 2011, that’s exactly what Israel accomplished, thanks to outsourcing the occupation to Greece and shutting down the entire flotilla of nine boats).

Now, both of our yachts had the same gasline problem at the same time in the middle of the Mediterranean. One was never able to join the flotilla (after taking months to repair, it finally became the Irish ship, Saoirese, that sailed with the Canadian boat, the Tahrir and was violently boarded in November, 2011 by Israeli commandos who tried to sink them with water canons).

We could not have imagined in the days running up to the murderous attacks on our passengers on May 31, 2010 that the Israeli government, in spite of ordering the ramming of the DIGNITY and the vicious boarding of the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, they would actually send armed commandos onto all six boats, beating up many passengers, wounding over 50 of them, and murdering nine, all while the boats were in international waters.

Shutting Us Up

In an attempt since then to make the attackers look as though they are the victims, the Israeli PR machine has been working overtime to spin the story. Here are just three of the many lies told by PR shill, Mark Regev and top Israeli military men.

1. The flotilla was Turkish or was run by the IHH and was full of Turkish jihadists.

The flotilla was organized and run by the Free Gaza movement with help by every initiative that joined, from IHH to the Swedes to the Irish to the Malaysians. We were all members of civil society who were protesting at Israel’s brutal behavior regarding the Palestinians, and we took no money from governments. All money was raised through donations from average people outraged over Israel’s behavior.

In fact, we had an international passenger list of over 600. Turkey made up half of the passenger list. Australia 3; Azerbaijan 2; Italy 6; Indonesia 12; Ireland 9; Algeria 28; United States 12; Bulgaria 2; Bosnia 1; Bahrain 4; Belgium 5; Germany 11; South Africa 1; Holland 2; United Kingdom 31; Greece 38; Jordan 30; Kuwait 15; Lebanon 3; Mauritania 3; Malaysia 11; Egypt 3; Israel 6: Macedonia 3; Morocco 7; Norway 3; New Zealand 1; Syria 3; Serbia 1; Oman 1; Pakistan 3; Czech Republic 4; France 9; Kosovo 1; Canada 1; Sweden 11; Turkey 380; Yemen 4.

Every one of these passengers had filled out an extensive application. Although Free Gaza was not responsible for the Turkish passengers, they used our application process. Every person who boarded every boat was searched. Even one of the crewmembers on board the Mavi Marmara had to relinquish his Swiss army knife.

2. Passengers attacked heavily armed Israeli commandos, forcing them to shoot in self-defense.

Passengers on all six boats testified to being beaten, their bones broken, and most of them tied up on ships that were in the Mediterranean, a direct violation of maritime law and the treatment of civilians.

As the UNHCR report clearly states, of the nine passengers who were murdered on board the Mavi Marmara, six of them were assassinated, none of them had weapons. In fact, the only weapon in their hands was a camera.

Even the whitewashing Palmer report, a panel set up to counter what UNHRC had issued and co-chaired by that famous human rights abuser from Columbia, Uribe, reluctantly concluded that Israel overreacted. Their finding that the blockade was legal has no standing according to many maritime lawyers (there were none on the panel), since they were only tasked to mend relations with Turkey, something they failed abysmally to do.

3. Israel ‘kindly offered’ to take the supplies loaded on the boats and transfer them to Gaza.

First of all, our missions have never been about delivering supplies. They have always been about breaking Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza. We took in supplies, because we could, and because we often loaded the boats with medical equipment and construction equipment that Israel refused to allow into the besieged enclave.

Second, there is no method of transporting anything from Ashdod to Gaza. It is a seaport with no facilities for transporting 10,000 tons of supplies that were on board the boats. Free Gaza’s lawyers and representatives in Israel spent months working on getting the supplies from the Rachel Corrie into Gaza. When they finally were delivered, the battery operated wheelchairs were minus the batteries, as Israel determined they might be used to make rockets, the same reasoning they gave to us on the first trip about hearing aid batteries.

Third, every piece of cargo, every piece of equipment and every supply that was going to Gaza had already been inspected at the point of departure. That’s the way it’s supposed to be handled, not by some paranoid country that thinks it can break all the conventions of the sea and demand that cargo that was already inspected get hauled into its port. Imagine what a mess it would be if every country in the world decided they had the right to inspect cargo coming in from every other country. It’s what cargo manifests and inspectors are for.

Those three constant lies have been trotted out at every opportunity to shut up the activists and prevent additional voyages. It has not stopped us, as evidenced by the most recent initiative, sailing a boat out of Gaza (www.gazaark.org), nor will it stop us from continuing to hold Israel accountable for the wellbeing of the people it occupies.

The best news on this, the third anniversary of the murders of eight Turks and one American, is that the ICC is going to consider the complaint from the Cormoros Island, the country where the Mavi Marmara was flagged.

In an attempt to shut in the people of Gaza, shut down the voyages and shut up the people who advocate for freedom of movement for the 1.5 million people imprisoned there, the Israelis have failed…. Miserably.

– Greta Berlin is one of the five co-founders of the Free Gaza movement (www.freegazamovement.com) and was on one of the first two boats to arrive in Gaza in August, 2008. She was the primary spokesperson for Freedom Flotilla 1 in May 2010, appearing on international media in Europe, the Middle East and the United States when the flotilla was attacked by Israeli commandos. She is the co-author of Freedom Sailors, a book about that first trip and how activists made it to Gaza in spite of huge obstacles.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two New Books Recall the Aerial Massacre in Laos Fifty Years Ago

Bellaciao | May 20, 2013

The publication date of two different books, to be released on May 31 2013, is a coincidence that could turn out to be a fortuitous one for each, in that both deal with the same topic, the secret war in Laos that took place during the 1960’s, and whose geographical focus is the same area of northern Laos. One is a novel, The Plain of Jars, while the other is a reprint of a 1972 anthology of bombing survivor stories, Voices from the Plain of Jars.

It has been just about fifty years since undeclared war was waged in Laos, the tiny country sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand. Although the roots of this war were entangled in the complex and reckless politics of US foreign policy at that time, the results are clearer: after nine years of war, seven billion dollars, three and a half million tons of bombs, a half-million dead, and 750,000 homeless, the US had failed to achieve any of the objectives it had aimed for.

There are several grave aspects of this war which still have relevance today. The most tragic was the bombing of unarmed civilians, the worst case of this having taken place in the plateau known as the Plain of Jars, its name derived from two thousand year old stone urns made by a forgotten civilization. Here, a scorched earth policy was carried out by the US Air Force, with the objective of population removal. Firsthand accounts of the horrors of the bombing campaigns are given in Voices from the Plain of Jars, where those who had made it to refugee camps told their stories to a young American volunteer, now a freelance columnist, Fred Branfman, who subsequently compiled the narratives and children’s drawings into this classic book.

As a consequence of the air war, there are still millions of live cluster munitions lying in the ground, which have caused more than 50,000 casualties, including 30,000 dead, and still continue to kill and maim 100 people each year. More than half of the victims are children who pick up the brightly colored, yet deadly little balls.

The Plain of Jars, a novel by N. Lombardi Jr., is an adventure story about a sixty-four year old widow trying to unravel the mystery of her son’s fate, a pilot who was shot down over Laos twenty two years earlier, and in the second part of the book, about a mysterious man who becomes a local legend as he clears the cluster bombs with the aid of an elephant and a self-designed flailer, a device that whips the ground and detonates the little ball-like grenades. The novel uses entertainment value to educate people about a military conflict that only few today know had ever occurred. Using action, suspense, even humor, and other fictional devices, the author has created a vehicle to convey a strong anti-war message without beating the reader over the head with it.

Does recalling the events of that time and place have any contemporary significance? Both authors feel that indeed it does, for the secret war in Laos had set the precedent for tactics used in making war today, such as aerial bombardment of civilian targets, CIA involvement in military operations, the use of proxy armies, and the testing of new aerial weapons in combat situations.

Both books are available at all major outlets, both online and many brick and mortar shops.

Voices of the Plain of Jars, Life under an Air War, Edited by Fred Branfman, University of Wisconsin Press

The Plain of Jars, by N. Lombardi Jr., Roundfire books

For more information on the history and culture of the Laotian people, and an introduction to the secret war, visit http://plainofjars.net.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on Two New Books Recall the Aerial Massacre in Laos Fifty Years Ago

CIA: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | May 20, 2013

There’s a contradiction built into every campaign promise about transparent government beyond the failure to keep the promises.  Our government is, in significant portion, made up of secret operations, operations that include war-making, kidnapping, torture, assassination, and infiltrating and overthrowing governments.  A growing movement is ready to see that end.

The Central Intelligence Agency is central to our foreign policy, but there is nothing intelligent about it, and there is no good news to be found regarding it.  Its drone wars are humanitarian and strategic disasters.  The piles of cash it keeps delivering to Hamid Karzai fuel corruption, not democracy.  Whose idea was it that secret piles of cash could create democracy? (Nobody’s, of course, democracy being the furthest thing from U.S. goals.)  Lavishing money on potential Russian spies and getting caught helps no one, and not getting caught would have helped no one.  Even scandals that avoid mentioning the CIA, like Benghazigate, are CIA blowback and worse than we’re being told.

We’ve moved from the war on Iraq, about which the CIA lied, and its accompanying atrocities serving as the primary recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists, to the drone wars filling that role.  We’ve moved from kidnapping and torture to kidnapping and torture under a president who, we like to fantasize, doesn’t really mean it.  But the slave-owners who founded this country knew very well what virtually anyone would do if you gave them power, and framed the Constitution so as not to give presidents powers like these.

There are shelves full in your local bookstore of books pointing out the CIA’s outrageous incompetence.  The brilliant idea to give Iran plans for a nuclear bomb in order to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear bomb is one of my favorites.

But books that examine the illegality, immorality, and anti-democratic nature of even what the CIA so ham-handedly intends to do are rarer.  A new book called Dirty Wars, also coming out as a film in June, does a superb job.  I wrote a review a while back.  Another book, decades old now, might be re-titled “Dirty Wars The Prequel.”  I’m thinking of Douglas Valentine’s The Phoenix Program.

It you read The Phoenix Program about our (the CIA’s and “special” forces’) secret crimes in Eastern Asia and Dirty Wars about our secret crimes in Western Asia, and remember that similar efforts were focused on making life hell for millions of people in Latin America in between these twin catastrophes, and that some of those running Phoenix were brought away from similar sadistic pursuits in the Philippines, it becomes hard to play along with the continual pretense that each uncovered outrage is an aberration, that the ongoing focus of our government’s foreign policy “isn’t who we are.”

Targeted murders with knives in Vietnam were justified with the same rhetoric that now justifies drone murders.  The similarities include the failure of primary goals, the counterproductive blowback results, the breeding of corruption abroad and at home, the moral and political degradation, the erosion of democratic ways of thinking, and — of course — the racist arrogance and cultural ignorance that shape the programs and blind their participants to what they are engaged in.  The primary difference between Phoenix and drone kills is that the drones don’t suffer PTSD.  The same, however, cannot be said for the drone pilots.

“The problem,” wrote Valentine, “was one of using means which were antithetical to the desired end, of denying due process in order to create a democracy, of using terror and repression to foster freedom.  When put into practice by soldiers taught to think in conventional military and moral terms, Contre Coup engendered transgressions on a massive scale.  However, for those pressing the attack on VCI, the bloodbath was constructive, for indiscriminate air raids and artillery barrages obscured the shadow war being fought in urban back alleys and anonymous rural hamlets.  The military shield allowed a CIA officer to sit behind a steel door in a room in the U.S. Embassy, insulated from human concern, skimming the Phoenix blacklist, selecting targets for assassination, distilling power from tragedy.”

At some point, enough of us will recognize that government conducted behind a steel door can lead only to ever greater tragedy.

In an email that Valentine wrote for RootsAction.org on Monday, he wrote: “Through its bottomless black bag of unaccounted-for money, much of it generated by off-the-books proprietary companies and illegal activities like drug smuggling, the CIA spreads corruption around the world.  This corruption undermines our own government and public officials.  And the drone killings of innocent men, women, and children generate fierce resentment.. . .Tell your representative and senators right now that the CIA is the antithesis of democracy and needs to be abolished.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on CIA: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone

Effort afoot at public television to deep-six hard-hitting “Nuclear Savage” documentary?

By Andrew W. Griffin | Red Dirt Report | May 19, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY – A new documentary film, Nuclear Savage, by documentary filmmaker Adam Jonas Horowitz, should have been shown on PBS this month, but may be running into resistance by persons unknown at the publicly-funded U.S.-based public-television network that includes World Channel content.

A story in this week’s edition of The Marshall Islands Journal, headlined “Nuclear cover-up?,” featured editor and reporter Giff Johnson’s interview with Horowitz. The filmmaker believes someone is trying to keep the hard-hitting Nuclear Savage from airing on PBS channels.

Roundly hailed as an important film on the film-festival circuit, Horowitz’s Nuclear Savage focuses on Project 4.1, the study of radiation effects on humans. This was the same secret project that monitored people exposed to nuclear-testing fallout in the 1950’s on Rongelap and Utrik atolls.

PBS’s World Channel explained to Horowitz that “it is possible for any program to be cancelled and pulled at any time. These decisions are made by the programmers.”

As Amber McClure, with the Pacific Islanders in Communication told Horowitz, the World Channel (which had originally scheduled Nuclear Savage for May), said they wanted to air it during December “during a military-themed time, perhaps around Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).”

Horowitz, though, isn’t buying it. Suspecting official censorship, Horowitz told The Marshall Islands Journal: “To put off this program until Pearl Harbor Day , under the claim it should be grouped at a ‘military-themed time’ does not hold water, and most of all, in my opinion, is an insult to the Marshall Islanders who were the victims of US testing, and who appeared in the film.”

As some readers may recall, last fall, Red Dirt Report was outraged by plans by a Maryland-based “haunted house” attraction that was going to incorporate Project 4.1 as part of the “sick thrill.” Many outraged Marshallese and their allies demanded the haunted-house operation not run this attraction. After all, as we wrote at the time: “Why not have a Halloween “attraction” involving the victims of Pol Pot’s killing fields? Or the Rwandan genocide? There are plenty examples of man’s violence against man that Hallow, Inc. could use as an ‘attraction.’

Sure, we like it that people are having fun and are totally against censorship, but when people profit on the pain and suffering of others we have to call them out on it.”

The legacy of radiation exposure on the Marshallese is a dark chapter in American history. It is one that has yet to be fully exposed and many Marshallese still suffer from the atomic-bomb tests conducted in the Marshall Islands from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

Red Dirt Report has sent email inquiries to both Horowitz and McClure, seeking additional information. We hope to have more on this story in coming days.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Church of Scotland Report Challenging Jews’ ‘Divine Right’ to Palestine Unchanged

By Stuart Littlewood | Palestine Chronicle | May 19, 2013

The Church of Scotland’s revised report ‘The Inheritance of Abraham?’ has now been released ahead of their Assembly.

The Church felt obliged to change some of it after Jewish leaders sought to interfere, one complaining that it was “an outrage to everything that interfaith dialogue stands for…  and closes the door on meaningful dialogue”. Another said “it reads like an Inquisition-era polemic against Jews and Judaism.”

The Israeli ambassador moaned that it belittled the deeply held Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in a way which was “truly hurtful”.

So do the changes amount to a caving-in to Zionist meddlers?

I soon gave up comparing the two versions word for word to spot the difference. The press release gives no clues either. In it, Convener Sally Foster-Fulton simply says: “We believe that this new version has paid attention to the concern some of the language of the previous version caused amongst the Jewish community whilst holding true to our concerns about the injustices being perpetrated because of policies of the Government of Israel against the Palestinian people that we wanted to highlight. The views of this report are consistent with the views held by the Church of Scotland over many years.”

Cool under fire, this lady.

The report’s key conclusion remains that “the Church of Scotland does not agree with a premise that scripture offers any peoples a divine right to territory”. At least they stand firm on that.

They also recap on what they already believe, and here’s where disagreements might flare up. For example,

– “Israel is a recognized State and has the right to exist in peace and security.”

Yet Israel’s right to exist seems somehow inconsistent with the Church’s statement that scripture does not bestow a divine right to someone else’s land. Even if the Church believes that the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan was morally and legally right, what does it say to the Jewish terror groups that were driving Palestinians from their homes before the ink was dry and before the state of Israel was declared? What about the hundreds of towns and villages not even allocated to the Jewish state in the UN Plan but erased by Israel in order to implant itself. What about the systematic ethnic cleansing and the criminal occupation of additional Arab territories in the 1967 war? Perhaps the Church should remain silent on the ‘right to exist’ question, at least until Israel declares its internationally recognized boundaries and halts its illegal expansion.

– “There should be a Palestinian State, recognized by the United Nations that should have the right to exist in peace and security.”

Israel doesn’t recognize the Palestinians’ right to a state.

– “We condemn racism and religious hatred.”

The Jewish state is a racist entity.

• “We are especially concerned at the recent actions of the Government of Israel in its support for settlements, for the construction of the security barrier or ‘the Wall’ within Occupied Territory, for the blockade of Gaza and for the anti-Boycott law.”

“Recent” actions? Israel has been building illegal settlements since 1967. Gaza has been blockaded since 2006. The West Bank has lived under permanent blockade for decades.

– “We assert our sincere belief that to be critical of the policies of the Israeli Government is a legitimate part of our witness and we strongly reject accusations of anti-Semitic bias. We regularly engage with and critique policies of all Governments, where we deem them to be contrary to our understanding of God’s wish for humanity.”

Well said.

Central to the Church’s discussion is this excellent passage,

“To Christians in the 21st century, promises about the land of Israel shouldn’t be intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory; The ‘promised land’ in the Bible is not a place, so much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This ‘promised land’ can be found or built anywhere.”

The report’s key conclusions appear the same as before. Christians should not be supporting any claims by any people to an exclusive or even privileged divine right to possess particular territory… It is a misuse of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) and the New Testament to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land.

And regarding Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory the Church remains committed to the following principles (previously set out and agreed by the General Assembly):

That the current situation is characterized by an inequality in power, therefore reconciliation can only be possible if the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are ended.

The Church of Scotland condemns violence, terrorism and intimidation no matter the perpetrator

The Church of Scotland affirms the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live within secure and fixed boundaries in states of their own.

The Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal under international law.

The Church of Scotland should do nothing to promote the viability of the illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

That human rights of all peoples should be respected, and this should include the right of return and / or compensation for Palestinian refugees.

That negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority about peace with justice must resume at the earliest opportunity and the Church of Scotland should continue to put political pressure on all parties to commence such negotiations, and asking all parties to recognize the inequality in power which characterizes this situation.

That there are safe rights of access to the sacred sites for the main religions in the area.

This stance seems pretty robust to me, and the Church’s support for refugees’ right of return is very welcome. However it also raises questions. Why, having already emphasized that the crisis in the Holy Land is characterized by “an inequality of power”, call for the two sides to be thrown together again in fruitless negotiations? Negotiate what? Freedom? Is that negotiable? The return of stolen lands and property? Is that negotiable? These matters are already decided by international and humanitarian law and numerous UN resolutions waiting to be enforced. How can the Church approve so-called ‘negotiations’ while one party is still under illegal occupation with a gun to his head? What justice is likely to come out of that? The Church does urge the UK Government and the European Union “to do all that is within their power to ensure that international law is upheld”, but that surely must come first, rather than relying on discredited talks.

The report going in front of the Church’s Assembly appears unchanged in substance and has cleverly sidestepped objections. The only caving-in, so far, has been the senior clergy’s agreement to listen to the Zionists’ impertinent demands in the first place.

I can only wish the Assembly an enjoyable week ahead and, on this issue, firm judgment.

– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting http://www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

Henrique Capriles: The Prefabricated Leader

Never before in the history of Venezuela has a politician been so promoted and supported by the media as Henrique Capriles has been, and now more than ever. Never before has a politician received so much coverage, and such fawning attention from the media, especially given that we are talking about someone who isn’t even president.

If we were to look to the past we would find Rómulo Betancout, Rafael Caldera, and Carlos Andrés Pérez—all presidents with great media influence. But they were already president when they received so much coverage and still it was not even comparable to what Henrique Capriles receives today.

The fact that the press gives so much coverage to someone who isn’t even the president is unprecedented in our country. Not even in the case of famous opposition leaders of the past like “Tigre” Eduardo Fernández or the very Caldera and Carlos Andrés Pérez before they were presidents, has so much attention been given to a candidate.

Every single day the businessman Capriles appears in national and international media. Only those who are very naïve could believe that someone with so much support is an “independent” politician.

In the case of President Chavez, he didn’t get nearly as much attention from the media when he was a rising leader and presidential candidate. And when he did it was always with a certain slant, from an angle that attacked, criminalized and delegitimized his struggles and his ideas. Chavez couldn’t dream of having the media be so openly servile when he was candidate or when he was president.

Even the politicians named above, like Caldera or Carlos Andrés Pérez, who had a lot of support from the media, always had some journalists that were critical.  But with Capriles, those same media outlets won’t even touch him with a rose petal.

Capriles the “leader”

Objectively speaking, Henrique Capriles as a politician is rather mediocre: he is not a good speaker, he is not a great leader, he is not politically well-educated, he does not have a clear political platform, and he has little charisma. His rhetoric focuses on the daily problems of average Venezuelans, assuring that he can solve them, but without ever saying how. With so few real abilities, it is obvious that without his money and the media’s support he would not go anywhere as a political leader.

The fact that the media and the international press have converted such a mediocre politician into the “leader” of a large part of the Venezuelan population is something that should be studied by sociologists and marketing experts alike.

Conscious of the limitations of their candidate, ever since the 2012 elections the rightwing leadership has prohibited him from speaking openly with any media outlet that is not completely supportive of his candidacy: in other words, no community, alternative, leftist, or state media in any part of the world, no media that is not “normal” for the communication logic of big capital. On the other hand, Capriles speaks freely to any journalist or media outlet that is at the service of big capital. He speaks freely because he knows that they will never ask him an incisive question.

In his most recent campaign, Capriles’ fear of incisive questions was so great that he invented a new technique as far as electoral campaigns go: the “private” press conference. These are press conferences where only media that are supportive of his candidacy are allowed to enter. Every journalist that attends these “private” press conferences knows that the state media is not allowed to enter, and that no one can ask incisive questions, but not one of those journalists and none of the media outlets where they work has said anything about this censorship occurring among those who supposedly support democracy.

Lately, not only Capriles but also high up members of his campaign like Carlos Ocariz, mayor of Sucre municipality, have taken to ignoring any questions from reporters that they do not like, no matter how polite. But in spite of all this, they are presented by the private media, domestic and internationally, as being the bearers of democracy. If this kind of censorship can occur while they are in the opposition, we can only imagine what would happen if they were in power.

A Political Birth Bought And Paid For

Henrique Capriles does not come from a background of grassroots party leadership or community activism. Far from representing a “new kind of politics”, Capriles represents the exact same kind of politics that existed before, or perhaps even worse because he is disguised as something else.

He began his political career with an obvious political negotiation in the heart of the social-democratic party Copei, a party that nominated him as a representative in Congress for the state of Zulia. From there he was elected to represent a state in which he had never lived before, and above hundreds of regional leaders from a party that had had previous governors from Zulia. But Copei preferred to run the son of a business leader and disparage the merits of so many local leaders.

With the backing of Copei, as a Congressman he immediately became the president of the Congress, as the old political system attempted to recover its losses from the hurricane that Chavez’s new leadership represented. In this way, the young businessman-made-politician rapidly took over one of the most important posts in the Fourth Republic [as the pre-Chavez era from 1958-1999 is known]. With enough financial backing anyone can be elected to any post.

However, as president of Congress, Henrique Capriles did not hesitate to throw Copei to one side, declaring that he “does not respond to political pressures from any party”. It is very easy to say something like that when you’ve already been elected, and much easier when you have an economic empire backing you.

That is how the rightwing creates their prefabricated politicians.

The Communicational Strategy of the Parallel Government

The strategy underway on the part of big capital, its political actors and its media outlets in Venezuela is that of a parallel government. With the argument that Capriles lost by a very narrow margin, and therefore the country is divided in “two halves”, Capriles doesn’t receive the media coverage that he should as the governor of Miranda, or as a defeated candidate, but rather he is treated by the media as if he were the very president of the country. Whatever he says, whatever interview he does, whatever comment he makes on Twitter, it is immediately covered by all the private media that are constantly waiting to report on everything he does or says.

Instead of having an equitable distribution of the news priorities, this posture by the media is clearly a strategy of aggression against our country. There have been recent cases such as Calderón in Mexico with a narrow victory over López Obrador, or that of Bush over Al Gore in the United States. In both cases the defeated candidates were given media coverage for the first few days after the elections, but afterwards they were treated as everyday politicians again, receiving little media coverage. Only here in Venezuela do they keep giving more coverage to the losing candidate than they give to the very President.

Translation by Chris Carlson for Venezuelanalysis.com

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on Henrique Capriles: The Prefabricated Leader

NYPD Cops Arrest Woman Recording Them, Apparently Stealing Wrong Memory Card

By Carlos Miller | Photography is Not a Crime | May 18, 2013

New York City police officers arrested a woman who was video recording them from a public sidewalk as they conducted some type of “vehicle safety checkpoint.”

The officers apparently stole a memory card from a camera, which turned out to be the wrong one, allowing us to view the video.

In the Youtube description, under the headline, “You stole the wrong SD card,” Christina Gonzalez said her boyfriend was also arrested.

We were arrested while filming an NYPD checkpoint on a bridge between a soon to be gentrified Bronx and a quickly gentrifying Harlem. We were charged with OGA, DisCon, and resisting arrest. I was holding a bag of yarn in one hand and a canvas in the other. My partner had food in his hands when he was tackled. Even though their violent actions were unjust, we did not resist. Simultaneous with our “arrests”, the checkpoint was closed down.

We were held for 25 hours.

OGA is obstructing government administration, which generally requires the person to physically obstruct police from doing their job.

According to a New York attorney:

Generally, If you impair or obstruct the administration of law or prevent a public servant (often a police officer) from performing his or her official duty and function, then you have committed this crime. However, the other crucial element is that this intentional obstruction be done through intimidation, interference, physical force or an independently unlawful act.

But Gonzalez didn’t appear to be doing any of the above. She was peppering the cops with questions as to what they were doing and one sergeant tried to answer a question before telling her he wasn’t going to answer more questions.

She kept peppering him with questions, which prompted him to order her to move away.

When she refused, he demanded identification, which she also refused to provide.

That led to her arrest.

I sent her a message asking her to clarify about the memory card. Will update when she responds.

UPDATE: Mickey Osterreicher just emailed the following:

See the following from the NYPD Patrol Guide under PG 208-03 Arrests – General Processing, effective 01-01-2000 that came as a result of a 1977 Consent Decree between NYPD and the NYCLU. In pertinent part that section reads as follows:

OBSERVERS AT THE SCENE OF POLICE INCIDENTS
As a rule, when a police officer stops, detains or arrests a person in a public area, persons who happen to be in or are attached to the area are naturally in position to and are allowed to observe the police officer’s actions. This right to observe is, of course, limited by reasons of safety to all concerned and as long as there is no substantive violation of law. The following guidelines should be utilized by police officers whenever the above situation exists:
a. A person remaining in the vicinity of a stop or arrest shall not be subject to arrest for Obstructing Governmental Administration (Penal Law, Section 195.05) unless the officer has probable cause to believe the person or persons are obstructing governmental administration.
b. None of the following constitutes probable cause for arrest or detention of an onlooker unless the safety of officers or other persons is directly endangered or the officer reasonably believes they are endangered or the law is otherwise violated:
(1) Speech alone, even though crude and vulgar
(2) Requesting and making notes of shield numbers or names of officers
(3) Taking photographs, videotapes or tape recordings
(4) Remaining in the vicinity of the stop or arrest.
c. Whenever an onlooker is arrested or taken into custody, the arresting officer shall request the patrol supervisor to the scene, or if unavailable, report the action to the supervisor where the person is taken.
This procedure is not intended in any manner to limit the authority of the police to establish police lines, e.g., crowd control at scenes of fires, demonstrations, etc.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , , , | Comments Off on NYPD Cops Arrest Woman Recording Them, Apparently Stealing Wrong Memory Card

US robots, Israeli drones to help make 2014 World Cup in Brazil ‘one of safest sporting events ever’

RT | May 19, 2013

Brazil has added 30 US military robots to the Israeli drones and ‘Robocop-style’ glasses with face recognition cameras to its arsenal after the country allocated $900 million to make 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history.”

The 30 PackBot 510 units, which usually cost between $100,000 and $200,000 apiece, will arrive in Brazil as part of the $7.2 million deal the country signed with American iRobot advanced technology company. The contracts include services, spare parts and associated equipment.

“IRobot continues its international expansion, and Brazil represents an important market for the company’s unmanned ground vehicles,” Frank Wilson, iRobot’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “IRobot is excited to be providing the company’s state-of-the-art robotic technologies to Brazil as the country prepares for several high profile international events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”

The first real test for the PackBots will be the visit of Pope Franics to Brazil this July, with the country also looking to use the robots during the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The PackBots are equipped with cameras and are operated remotely in order to detect and examine suspicious objects or explore dangerous environments, while keeping their operators safe from harm.

The devices weigh about 27 kilogram and rely on caterpillar treads to move around, using videogame-style hand controllers to make it more familiar to the users.

More than 2000 of those military robots are currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with PackBots being the first to enter the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Brazil is spending $900 million to bolster its security forces, including high-tech surveillance equipment and helicopters, as the country is hoping to make the 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history.”

The country’s police will be equipped with facial-recognition camera glasses that can capture 400 facial images per second to store them in a central database of up to 13 million faces.

Brazil is also reported to have spent $25 million on four Israeli-made drones, which are expected to make their debut at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June.

There’ll also be plenty of manpower involved in the security operation as the World Cup organizers plan have 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers from the Brazilian Armed Forces at each of the 12 host cities during the event.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on US robots, Israeli drones to help make 2014 World Cup in Brazil ‘one of safest sporting events ever’

Israel’s ‘illegal’ military entry permit bars selected visitors from West Bank – report

RT | May 19, 2013

Many tourists hoping to visit the West Bank are finding it impossible to do so – because Israel requires certain visitors to have an entry permit. Obtaining permission is anything but easy, because Tel Aviv doesn’t explain the process, Haaretz reported.

The requirement for military entry permits reportedly began at the beginning of 2013. However, not everyone is required to obtain the special pass – and no information has been published surrounding the selection process.

Clerics from the US reportedly had to sign a declaration at Ben-Gurion International Airport recently, promising not to enter Area A without permits from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Area A includes all Palestinian cities and their surrounding areas, with no Israeli settlements. The area is fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

COGAT is a military office which coordinates civilian issues between the Israeli government, the Israel Defense Forces, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority.

“I understand that in the event that I enter any area under the control of the Palestinian Authority without the appropriate authorization all relevant legal actions will be taken against me, including deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to ten years,” the English-language version of the declaration reads.

The clerics signed the document, but were not told how they could obtain the special permission.

The clerics told Haaretz that they had been sent from their church to work with Christian communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But their mission ended before it ever began because they were not told how to obtain the military entry permit.

One of the clerics sought help from the US Consulate in Jerusalem – but none of the employees were aware of the restictions. The spokesman for the US consulate declined to answer whether Israel had informed the American authorities about the obligation to sign a statement, and did not explain the viewpoint of the US Department of State.

According to Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, the Entry into Israel Law authorizes the interior minister to decide on the entry of foreigners to the State of Israel. In the case of Judea and Samaria, the Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff makes the determination with a permit from the coordinator’s office.

“When a tourist or foreign national arrives at the international border crossings and it is believed that he wants to enter Judea and Samaria, he should be informed [of the procedure] and asked for his promise to receive a permit from the coordinator’s office before his entry – a permit that constitutes an essential condition [of entry to the Palestinian Authority controlled areas],” she said.

But there is no mention of the existence of such a procedure on COGAT’s English website. The spokesman for the coordinator’s office said the matter of the procedure and the form is being examined.

Meanwhile, lawyers are questioning the legality of the declaration. According to the Oslo Accords, citizens of countries which have diplomatic ties with Israel need only an entry permit for Israel and a valid passport to enter Palestinian Authority territories, Attorney Adi Lustigman said.

The declaration “is not legal because it was formulated for an improper purpose – isolating the occupied territories – and in an improper manner. It makes the assumption that people who arrive in Israel as tourists, as clerics and for other purposes want to act in contradiction to the law, which may not have been explained to them clearly,” Lustigman said.

“If there really is such a procedure, it should be publicized in a simple, clear and accessible manner…it seems there is no operative procedure, nor any procedure for submitting a request. We are left only with a prohibition, which, as we have mentioned, is invalid,” she added.

The practice of requiring tourists to sign such declarations was first reported seven years ago, but was reportedly discontinued and renewed only at the beginning of this year.

Several years ago, the Interior Ministry also began to limit the freedom of movement of tourists with work and family ties in the West Bank, in order to prevent their entry into Israel by means of a permit with the stamp “For the territories of Judea and Samaria only.”

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Comments Off on Israel’s ‘illegal’ military entry permit bars selected visitors from West Bank – report

Kibbutz residents attack Bedouin village in the Negev

Ma’an – 20/05/2013

BETHLEHEM – Israelis from a Negev kibbutz attacked a Bedouin village on Sunday, setting fire to a tent, a Ma’an reporter said.

Residents from the Kibbutz of Retamim attacked the adjacent Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj and set fire to a tent belonging to Eid Abu Habbak, head of the local village council, Salman Ibin Hamid, told Ma’an.

Abu Habbak filed a complaint with Dimona police department.

“The setters of Retamim are acting like they are in the West Bank,” Ibn Hamid added. “These people have the mentality of the occupying settler to attack every Arab.”

Israeli police said that Bir Hadaj residents hurled stones at residents of Retamim, a claim which Ibn Hamid denied.

On May 6, an Israeli government committee approved a draft bill setting a framework to implement the evacuation of “unrecognized” villages in the Negev, most of which existed before the state of Israel.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Kibbutz residents attack Bedouin village in the Negev