Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

US: Peace deal will recognize Israel as “Jewish state”

Al-Akhbar | February 21, 2014

The US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal currently being negotiated by US Secretary of State of John Kerry will include recognition of Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people”,The Times of Israel reported on Friday.

Citing an interview Shapiro conducted with Israel Radio on Friday morning, The Times of Israel quoted him as saying, “It’s too early to know what compromises and concessions both sides will make. But we do believe… that Israel deserves recognition as a Jewish state. That has always been US policy — that Israel is a Jewish state and should remain a Jewish state. That will be one of the elements of the framework we’re working on.”

“I assume that under the framework that we’re currently preparing, that we’ll see that recognition of Israel and a Jewish state, as the nation state of the Jewish people, will appear in the framework,” he added.

“And in the end, we’ll need to know that this is the end of the conflict, and that’s one way of verifying that… that everyone in the region and all of [Israel’s] neighbors will accept that there is a nation state of the Jewish people here, in the Jewish homeland.”

Shapiro’s comments come a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held more than two hours of “constructive” talks on Israeli-Palestinian peace on Thursday, their second session in as many days.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year break. At the time, Kerry said, “Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.”

As that deadline has approached, US officials appear to have scaled back their ambitions, saying they are trying to forge a “framework for negotiations” as a first step though they still hope to hammer out a full agreement by April 29.

Israel’s demand on recognition of its Jewishness is a recent addition to its list of final-status issues to be resolved with the Palestinians in a negotiated settlement, and the ultra right-wing government has rapidly forced it to the top of agenda, making it all but a precondition for entering talks.

Palestinians have refused to recognize of Israel as a “Jewish state” because it would ultimately signify the end of the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces in 1948, as well as offer legitimacy to the discrimination of the remaining non-Jewish population within the 1948 borders.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi Arabia replaces Bandar bin Sultan as leader of Syrian dossier

MEMO | February 21, 2014

Diplomatic sources told AFP on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has sidelined its intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, by transferring key aspects of the Syrian dossier, which he had previously been overseeing, to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

A Western diplomat in the Gulf region told the news agency that Prince Bandar is no longer in charge of the Syrian dossier, leaving Prince Nayef primarily responsible.

According to a source close to the dossier, Prince Nayef participated in a meeting last week in Washington between Western and Arab officials to discuss the situation in Syria.

Diplomatic sources added that Washington has criticised Prince Bandar’s management of the Syrian dossier.

Prince Bandar, the son of the former Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, was appointed in July 2012 as the head of the Saudi Intelligence Service. He had previously served as the Saudi Ambassador to Washington for 22 years and played a key role in encouraging the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003.

The Saudi media have not covered any activity of Prince Bandar’s since January.

A diplomatic source told AFP that he was hospitalised recently in the United States and is currently in Morocco.

Media aligned with the Syrian regime have accused him of backing extremists in Syria.

Prince Nayef is the son of the former Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, and is playing a major role in the war being waged by Saudi Arabia against terrorism and Al-Qaeda.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Saudi Arabia replaces Bandar bin Sultan as leader of Syrian dossier

AT&T’s First Transparency Report Reveals Warrantless Demands for Customer Data

By Matthew Cagle | ACLU | February 19, 2014

In the wake of our shareholder advocacy, AT&T has now joined Verizon and released its first transparency report. AT&T’s report shows how federal, state, and local governments have requested large volumes of customer information, typically without a warrant. While we welcome AT&T’s move, the American public remains in the dark about a lot of what’s happening behind the scenes. Greater transparency is still needed from AT&T and the federal government.

Here’s a breakdown of the many demands AT&T received in 2013. As we have long suspected, the vast majority of these demands lacked a warrant:

  • AT&T received 301,816 demands related to criminal and civil litigation. Only 16,685 of these demands included a warrant based on probable cause.
  • AT&T received 223,659 subpoenas for customer information. This is significantly more than the 164,184 subpoenas Verizon received during the same period.
  • AT&T received 37,839 demands for location information. At least 21,000 of these demands lacked a warrant. AT&T’s full report says a warrant is “almost always required to obtain real-time location information.”
  • AT&T also received 1,034 demands for “cell tower searches” last year, some of them compelling the company to identify the numbers of all phones that connected to a specific cell tower during a given period of time. Cell tower information is ripe for misuse—we know of at least one instance where a cell tower request was made for all phones within the vicinity of a planned labor protest.

AT&T also included information on national security requests (though, not the complete story):

  • AT&T reported receiving between 2,000 and 3,000 National Security Letters (NSLs) from the federal government for customer information including name, address, length of service, and toll billing records. NSLs do not require prior approval from courts and the government has been criticized for misusing them. 4,000 to 4,999 AT&T customers were affected by NSLs last year. Note: Verizon has not yet revealed how many customers were affected by the NSLs it received.
  • AT&T also released information about federal government demands for customer content under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), demands that may result in government access to the telephone and Internet communications of US citizens and persons abroad. For the first six months of 2013, AT&T received 0-999 requests for content that ultimately affected 35,000-35,999 customers. In fact, more AT&T customers were affected by FISA content requests in the first half of 2013 than the combined number of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft customers affected by the same sort of requests during that period.
  • Unfortunately, the report omits important information on the metadata that the government reportedly obtains from AT&T under the call records program (currently being challenged by the ACLU in federal court). Phone metadata includes the phone numbers of parties to a conversation, a call’s duration, and device identifiers—information that can paint a very detailed picture of private lives. We know that the government justifies its access to phone metadata with a section of the FISA law, yet AT&T’s report states that only 0-999 customers were affected by such “non-content” requests. On its own, this lack of detail misleads the millions of AT&T customers whose phone metadata may be subject to these demands.

In addition to a clearer explanation of national security requests, we hope that AT&T’s future reports will also address the following shortcomings:

  • The current report does not include the number of customers or individuals affected by all of the government demands. The company claims that it is “difficult” to tally this information.
  • The report does not describe statistics on how often AT&T complies with demands.
  • This report includes very limited information about demands from foreign governments.

AT&T’s transparency report, limited in what it reveals, also highlights just how essential it is for privacy laws to be updated in both the national security and law enforcement contexts. Technology has advanced exponentially and our privacy laws are still in the digital dark ages, enabling the government to engage in a largely unsupervised shopping spree of the personal data held by AT&T and other companies. This is why you should tell your member of Congress to support the USA Freedom Act and an update to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act. We also urge AT&T to play a larger role by pushing for greater transparency, including far more detail in its future reports, and advocating for stronger privacy protections.  

Matthew Cagle is a Volunteer Attorney for Technology and Civil Liberties with the ACLU of Northern California.

Copyright 2014 American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
Reprinted with permission of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California http://www.aclunc.org

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on AT&T’s First Transparency Report Reveals Warrantless Demands for Customer Data

Unlike What the Media Says or Implies, the Violence in Venezuela Is Being Perpetrated by the Opposition

By Steve Ellner | Venezuelanalysis | February 20, 2014 

The slant of the Venezuelan private media and the international media on what is happening in Venezuela is clear: The government is responsible for the violence. In the first place government-ordered gunmen are shooting at pacific demonstrators and the violence generated by the opposition is just a response to the brutality of police and military forces. But there is considerable evidence that shows that the violence, including that of unidentified motorcyclists against the demonstrators, is being carried out by the opposition. Consider the following:

1. Violent actions have been carried out by the opposition since the time of the 2002 coup. The “guarimba” which means urban violence (or “foquismo”) was publicly advocated by opposition leaders in 2003-2004 as the only way to prevent the establishment of a dictatorial regime in Venezuela.

2. On April 11, 2002, the day Chávez was overthrown, the Venezuelan and international media and the White House used juxtaposition of images of Chavistas shooting pistols in downtown Caracas, on the one hand, and peaceful anti-government demonstrators, on the other to justify the coup. However the Irish-produced documentary “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and other documentaries demonstrated by the flow of the camera that the demonstrators were far away from the Chavistas and that they were shooting in response to sniper fire against them. If snipers were responsible for the 15-20 killings (of opposition demonstrators along with Chavistas) that justified the coup of April 2002, is there any reason to doubt that the unidentified individuals who are attacking demonstrators are not acting on behalf of sectors of the opposition?

3. The violence that has rocked Venezuela during the last two weeks has targeted public buildings, such as the headquarters of the Fiscalía General (Attorney General), the public television channel (Channel 8), the state-owned Banco de Venezuela, the house of the Chavista governor of Tachira, trucks of the state grocery store chain PDVAL, and dozens of metro buses in Caracas.

4. None of the opposition leaders have explicitly condemned the opposition-promoted violence. Opposition mayors in Caracas and elsewhere have refrained from using their police force to contain the violence.

5. The so-called “peaceful” demonstrators engage in disruptions by closing key avenues in an attempt to paralyze transportation. Where I live, on the main drag between the twin cities of Barcleona and Puerto La Cruz, the demonstrators occupy two of the three lanes on both sides and as a result traffic backs up for miles. A number of tragedies have been reported of people in a state of emergency who were unable to make it to a hospital or clinic on time.

6. The term “salida,” which has become a main slogan of the protesters, implies regime change. Obviously the opposition is not calling for a constitutional solution in which Maduro resigns and is replaced by the president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, as the constitution stipulates. Regime change is a radical slogan that implies radical tactics.

7. Political scientist and Venezuelan specialist David Smilde of the University of Georgia, who is not pro-Chavista but rather evenhanded in his analyses, has stated that the Venezuelan government has nothing to gain by the violence.

8. The government has nothing to gain by the violence because the media is largely on the side of the opposition and present a picture of the violence which directly and indirectly blames the government. Consider the following front page article titled “Capital City Suffers Night Violence” of El Universal (February 20), one of Venezuela’s  major newspapers:

“Anoche la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana y la Policía Nacional Bolivariana arremetieron casi simultáneamente contra las diferentes manifestaciones que se producían en distintos puntos de la ciudad capital, mientras el presidente Nicolás Maduro hablaba en cadena nacional de radio y televisión. En los enfrentamientos hubo perdigones, bombas lacrimógenas mientras las cacerolas sonaban desde las ventanas.”

Translation: “Last night, the National Guard and National Police attacked almost simultaneously different demonstrations that were taking place in distinct areas of the capital city,,, In the confrontations  there was gunshot [and] tear gas while people banged on pots and pans from their windows (in protest of the government).”

9. The Venezuelan government has shown great restraint in the context of opposition- promoted violence and disruption. In nearly any other country in the world, the disruption of traffic in major cities throughout the country would have resulted in mass arrests.

10. Governments, particularly undemocratic ones, which lack active popular support and completely control the media effectively use repression against dissidents. This is not the case in Venezuela. None of the non-state channels and newspapers (that the vast majority of Venezuelans get their news from) supports the government and most of them are ardently anti-government. Furthermore, unlike governments that use massive repression (such as Egypt under Mubarak), the Chavista government and movement has a greater mobilization capacity, particularly among the popular sectors of the population, than the opposition. As Smilde says, the use of violence by the government makes absolutely no sense.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Comments Off on Unlike What the Media Says or Implies, the Violence in Venezuela Is Being Perpetrated by the Opposition

Violent Protests in Venezuela Fit a Pattern

By Dan Beeton | CEPR | February 19, 2014

Venezuela’s latest round of violent protests appears to fit a pattern, and represents the tug-and-pull nature of the country’s divided opposition. Several times over the past 15 years since the late, former president Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, the political opposition has launched violent protests aimed at forcing the current president out of office. Most notably, such protests were a part of the April 2002 coup that temporarily deposed Chávez, and then accompanied the 2002/2003 oil strike. In February of 2004, a particularly radical sector of the opposition unleashed the “Guarimba”: violent riots by small groups who paralyzed much of the east of Caracas for several days with the declared goal of creating a state of chaos.  As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has explained, then – as now – the strategy is clear: a sector of the opposition seeks to overturn the results of democratic elections. An important difference this time of course is that Venezuela has its first post-Chávez president, and a key part of the opposition’s strategy overall has been to depict Nicolás Maduro as a pale imitation of his predecessor and a president ill-equipped to deal with the country’s problems (many of which are exaggerated in the Venezuelan private media, which is still largely opposition-owned, as well as the international media).

Following Maduro’s electoral victory in April last year (with much of the opposition crying “fraud” despite there being no reasonable doubts about the validity of the results), the opposition looked to the December municipal elections as a referendum on Maduro’s government, vowing to defeat governing party PSUV and allied candidates. The outcome, which left the pro-Maduro parties with a 10 point margin of victory, was a stunning defeat for the opposition, and this time they did not even bother claiming the elections were rigged. According to the opposition’s own pre-election analysis, support for Maduro had apparently grown over the months preceding the election. As we have pointed out, this may be due in part to the large reduction in poverty in 2012 and other economic and social gains that preceded the more recent economic problems.

Defeated at the polls, the anti-democratic faction of the opposition prepared for a new attempt at destabilizing the elected government, and promoted relatively small, but often violent student protests in early February.  They then called for a massive protest on February 12, Venezuela’s Youth Day in the center of Caracas.  The demonstrations have been accompanied by a social media campaign that has spread misinformation in an attempt to depict the Maduro administration as a violent dictatorship instead of a popular elected government. Images of police violence from other countries and past protests – some several years old – have been presented on social media as having occurred in recent days in Venezuela. A YouTube video that has been watched by almost 2 million viewers presents a one-sided portrayal of the situation and falsely states that the Venezuelan government controls all radio and television in the country, among other distortions. Similar disinformation occurred in April 2002 and in other past incidents in Venezuela, most notably when manipulated video footage was used to provide political justification for the coup d’etat.

While some in Washington foreign policy circles may attempt to portray the leaders of this new wave of protests as persecuted pro-democracy heroes, they in fact have histories of supporting anti-democratic and unconstitutional efforts to oust the government. Both Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado supported the 2002 coup; in López’s case he participated in it by supervising the arrest of then-Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, when López was mayor of Chacao. Police dragged Rodríguez Chacín out of the building where he had sought refuge into an angry mob, who physically attacked him. Corina Machado notably was present when the coup government of Pedro Carmona was sworn in, and signed the infamous “Carmona decree” dissolving the congress, the constitution and the Supreme Court. The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday:

the opposition has a touchy protest history in Venezuela. Early on in former President Hugo Chavez’s administration, the opposition was consistently on the streets calling for an end to his presidency. In 2002, they organized a coup that briefly unseated the president. Though the opposition leadership is not calling for a coup, the reputation the group made for itself barely a decade ago may be haunting it as it vocally pushes back against Maduro’s administration.

Venezuela’s opposition receives funding from U.S. “democracy promotion” groups including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and core grantees such as the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NED, which the Washington Post noted was set up to conduct activities “much of” which “[t]he CIA used to fund covertly” has made a number of grants directed at empowering youth and students in Venezuela in recent years, and USAID has also given money to IRI, NDI and other groups for Venezuela programs. These organizations have a history of destabilizing elected governments and working to unify and strengthen political opposition to left-wing parties and governments. IRI notably played a key role in destabilizing Haiti ahead of the 2004 coup there, and also has engaged in activities aimed at weakening Brazil’s governing Workers’ Party, to name a few. In Venezuela, they funded groups involved in the 2002 coup, and IRI spokespersons infamously praised the coup after it happened.

The Haiti example is instructive. The parallels are numerous: notably, a key part of the strategy was to exaggerate and fabricate killings and other human rights abuses, which were blamed on the elected government (while truly horrific atrocities committed by the armed wing of the opposition were generally ignored). Researchers – including some from the U.N. — have since debunked the most widely-circulated accounts of rights violations, but of course the democratically-elected president (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) had long since been forced from office by then.

The U.S.-funded destabilization of Haiti in the early 2000s also offers lessons as to the endgame of this strategy. As the New York Times reported and as scholars such as Peter Hallward and Jeb Sprague have documented, the IRI counseled its Haitian partners not to accept any compromises from the Aristide government (which made many concessions, including agreeing to a power-sharing arrangement), but to continue to press further.

But the Maduro government is of course in a much stronger position than Haiti’s government ten years ago. A key factor is that while Aristide was relatively isolated politically, Latin American governments, through UNASUR and MERCOSUR, have condemned the violent protests and the opposition’s calls for Maduro to leave office and have expressed support for the Venezuelan government. In this case, when the Obama administration continues to signal that it sides with the violent protests, it is an outlier in the region.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Violent Protests in Venezuela Fit a Pattern

Obama builds nuclear legacy

By Kate Colwell | Friends of the Earth | February 19, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference today, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced finalized government support for constructing the nation’s first new nuclear reactors in almost forty years. The $3.46 billion loan guarantee to Georgia Power and the $3.05 billion loan guarantee to Oglethorpe Power Company will enable the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Plant Vogtle Nuclear Generating Station near Waynesboro, Ga. The U.S. Department of Energy currently has a July 31, 2014, deadline to finalize a separate loan guarantee for $1.8 billion with a third Vogtle partner, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

Below, is a statement of Friends of the Earth’s Nuclear Campaigner Katherine Fuchs, responding to the announcement:

“Fewer than three years have passed since the tragedy at Fukushima demonstrated that nuclear reactors can never be safe. Yet the president and Energy Secretary are ignoring its lessons. The tragedy forced more than 80,000 people from their homes and left an area, roughly the size of Connecticut, uninhabitable. Despite the dangers nuclear reactors pose and the lack of any sustainable solutions for nuclear waste disposal, President Obama’s commitment to nuclear energy succeeds only in condemning future generations to live with the fallout.

By insuring reactors American taxpayers are forced to underwrite a financial gamble that Wall Street deems too risky. A high rate of construction cancellation and history of massive cost overruns have caused Wall Street investors to shun reactor projects. Nuclear reactors are too risky to finance, too slow to build and too dangerous to be part of a meaningful energy solution.”

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Comments Off on Obama builds nuclear legacy

Nuclear Site Safety Official Fired After Her Repeated Warnings of Safety Problems

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | February 21, 2014

Yet another official at the nation’s most challenging environmental cleanup project has been fired after raising serious safety concerns.

This time it was Donna Busche, the head of nuclear safety for cleaning up the former nuclear weapons site at Hanford, Washington, which sits atop 53 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks.

Busche, a nuclear engineer who oversaw a staff of 140, was fired by her employer, URS Corp., one of the federal contractors hired by the U.S. Department of Energy to resolve the Hanford mess.

“The Energy Department’s overall safety culture is broken and all they are doing now is sitting idly by,” Busche told the Los Angeles Times.

Her termination came after she repeatedly warned company executives that the radioactive-waste solution being used was flawed and posed safety problems.

URS denied that her firing had anything to do with her safety complaints, saying she was let go for “unprofessional conduct.”

Busche was the second senior project official fired at Hanford. A third official resigned, after citing safety-related concerns with the $13.4-billion construction project.

Walter Tamosaitis, who headed research at URS, was fired in 2013 after he questioned whether the company’s decision to mix the waste in large tanks might result in a buildup of hydrogen gas, which can explode.

In addition, Gary Brunson, the Energy Department’s engineering division director at Hanford, quit after warning of nearly three-dozen problems not being addressed by another site contractor, Bechtel.

But the worries don’t stop there. The Energy Department’s inspector general and other federal investigators have also warned of management and safety issues at Hanford. With 150 aging nuclear-waste tanks, many of which are leaking, it’s the largest cleanup project leftover from the Cold War.

To Learn More:

Official Who Raised Safety Concerns at Hanford Nuclear Site is Fired (by Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times)

Whistle-Blower Fired From Hanford Nuclear Site (by Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press)

As Hanford Radioactive Leak Continues, Clean-Up Contractor Pays Fraud Penalty (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Six Underground Tanks Leaking Nuclear Waste in Washington State (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With That Location Data

ACLU

Law enforcement is taking advantage of outdated privacy laws to track Americans like never before. New technologies can record your every movement, revealing detailed information about how you choose to live your life. Without the right protections in place, the government can gain access to this information — and to your private life — with disturbing ease.

As long as it is turned on, your mobile phone registers its position with cell towers every few minutes, whether the phone is being used or not. Since mobile carriers are retaining location data on their customers, government officials can learn a tremendous amount of detailed personal information about you by accessing your location history from your cell phone company, ranging from which friends you’re seeing to where you go to the doctor to how often you go to church. The Justice Department and most local police forces can get months’ worth of this information, without you ever knowing — and often without a warrant from a judge.

You can do something here:
https://www.aclu.org/GPSAct

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , | Comments Off on Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With That Location Data