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Halfway to 2017: US Police Still Killing People at Alarming Rate

Sputnik – 06.07.2016

Halfway through 2016, police in the United States have killed over 550 people in the country.

According to the Guardian’s “The Counted” database of police killings, reporting 550 deaths as of July 5, 95 people were killed by police in the month of June. The Killed by Police (KBP) database has an even higher number, with 596 deaths documented, 100 of which were in June.

June was not the deadliest month according to counts, however. March and February topped that number, with the Guardian reporting 99 in each month and KBP reporting 102 in March and 104 in February.

The KBP totals vary from the Guardian’s, as they also count incidences of death in police custody, if those deaths are a result of injuries or circumstances caused by law enforcement. KBP is the first database of it’s kind, launched in 2013, by activists who have chosen to remain anonymous.

From the beginning of this year through June 30, the Guardian has logged 261 white people killed by police, a significantly higher number than other racial groups, as noted by Think Progress. However, black people and Native Americans are killed at a much higher rate, when population density is considered.

Meanwhile, a pro-police website called the Officer Down Memorial Page, is reporting that police deaths in the line of duty are down 17% from this time last year, with 52 officers killed while in uniform. That number includes non-criminal-activity deaths, including car and gun accidents.

Despite an ongoing wave of popular sentiment calling attention to police brutality and several new organizations, including Black Lives Matter, working to counter police abuse — as well as promises from the Department of Justice — not much has changed to stop the violence.

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | | 1 Comment

Climate power play by the AAAS et al.

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | July 4, 2016

The AAAS and affiliated professional societies just shot themselves in the foot with the letter to U.S. policy makers.

Last week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a press release entitled Thirty-One Top Scientific Societies Speak With One Voice on Global Climate Change.  Punchline:

In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of 31 leading nonpartisan scientific societies today reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health.

The text of letter to Congress can be found here [link].  The main text of the letter:

Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.

To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced. In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others.

We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate.

The 28 June letter was signed by leaders of the following organizations: AAAS; American Chemical Society; American Geophysical Union; American Institute of Biological Sciences; American Meteorological Society; American Public Health Association; American Society of Agronomy; American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists; American Society of Naturalists; American Society of Plant Biologists; American Statistical Association; Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography; Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation; Association of Ecosystem Research Centers; BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium; Botanical Society of America; Consortium for Ocean Leadership; Crop Science Society of America; Ecological Society of America; Entomological Society of America; Geological Society of America; National Association of Marine Laboratories; Natural Science Collections Alliance; Organization of Biological Field Stations; Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics; Society for Mathematical Biology; Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles; Society of Nematologists; Society of Systematic Biologists; Soil Science Society of America; University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Whats wrong with this picture?  Where to start is the main challenge.

This statement is a blatant misuse of scientific authority to advocate for specific socioeconomic policies. National security and economics (specifically called out in the letter) is well outside the wheelhouse of all of these organizations. Note the American Economics Association is not among the signatories; according to an email from Ross McKitrick, the constitution of the AEA forbids issuing such statements. In fact, climate science is well outside the wheelhouse of most of these organizations (what the heck is with the statisticians and mathematicians in signing this?)

The link between adverse impacts such as more wildfires, ecosystem changes, extreme weather events etc. and their mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions hinges on detecting unusual events for at least the past century and then actually attributing them to human caused warming. This is highly uncertain territory – even within the overconfident world of the IPCC. And the majority of the signatories to this letter have no expertise in the detection and attribution of human caused climate change.

The signatories whose membership has some expertise on the detection and attribution of climate change are only a few: American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Geological Society of America. The rest are professional societies who are not involved with the physics of climate but explicitly profit from the alarm.

Many professional societies have issued their own policy statements on climate change. One notable absence on the list of signatories is the American Physical Society. While I am not a fan of the APS statement on climate change (see my previous post here), their response as to why they did not sign the AAAS letter is interesting (see this WaPo article):

Of prominent U.S. scientific organizations, only the American Physical Society (APS) abstained from participating in both the 2009 and 2016 letter efforts.

“The American Physical Society did not sign the [2016] letter because it was presented as a fait accompli, and there are significant differences between the letter and the APS Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate,” it said in a statement. “The APS statement went through a two-year vetting process involving multiple committees, the society’s 53,000-plus membership and the board of directors.”

Though the APS statement about climate change is more nuanced than the AAAS letter, stating — for example — “scientific challenges remain in our abilities to observe, interpret, and project climate change,” it in no way disputes the scientific consensus on climate change or the risks it poses.

Well, score half a point for the APS. At least they are thinking for themselves, and not mindlessly joining in the overt advocacy of the AAAS.

‘Scientists speaking with one voice’ on an issue as complex and poorly understood as climate change, its impacts and solutions is something that I find rather frightening. Well, I am somewhat reassured that this is not the population of scientists speaking, but rather the leadership of the professional societies speaking. How many members of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists have an educated opinion, or even care very much, about climate change? And many of these society leaders (who were responsible for signing on behalf of their organization) are not scientists themselves, e.g. Chris McEntee, Executive Director of the AGU, whose background is in nursing (Masters in Health Administration). She is quoted in the AAAS press release:

“Climate change is one of the most profound challenges facing our society. Consensus on this matter is evident in the diversity of organizations that have signed this letter. Science can be a powerful tool in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and we stand ready to work with policymakers as they deliberate various options for action.”

Impact?

So, is this letter going to change the minds of ~50% of Congressional members who do not support President Obama’s climate change plan, either because they don’t like the proposed solutions, or don’t think climate change is dangerous, or don’t think humans are the dominant cause of recent climate change?

Those in Congress that disagree with Obama’s plan have clearly shown themselves not to be susceptible to pressures from scientist/advocates and their consensus enforcement. Further, by broadening the list of signatories to include societies that have little or no expertise in the physics of climate, this whole exercise reinforces the public distrust of these scientific organizations.

It seems that the primary motivation of this is for the leaders of these professional societies to be called to the big table to engage in the Congressional policy deliberations about climate change. So, if you are Lamar Smith or Ted Cruz, would you be calling any of these people to participate in Congressional hearings?

The AAAS and the affiliated professional societies blew it with that letter. They claim the science is settled; in that case, they are no longer needed at the table. If they had written a letter instead that emphasized the complexities and uncertainties of both the problem and the solutions, they might have made a case for their participation in the deliberations.

Instead, by their dogmatic statements about climate change and their policy advocacy, they have become just another group of lobbyists, having ceded the privilege traditionally afforded to dispassionate scientific reasoning to political activists in the scientific professional societies. With a major side effect of damaging the process and institutions of science, along with the public trust in science.

The AAAS et al. have shot themselves in the foot with this one.

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

President al-Assad: Western nations attack Syrian government openly and deal with it secretly

President-al-Assad-interview-SBS-Australia-3

SANA | July 1, 2016

Damascus – President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to the Australian SBS TV channel in which he criticized the double standards of the West – openly attacking the Syrian government politically, but continuing to deal with it through back channels-calling for a more humanitarian and less costly solution to the refugee crisis through stopping support to the terrorists.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you for speaking with SBS Australia.

President Assad: You’re most welcome in Syria.

Question 1: It’s now more than five years since the Syrian crisis began. It’s estimated somewhere around a quarter of a million people have been killed, many of them civilians. There’s an undeniable humanitarian disaster. How far into the crisis do you think you are, and is there an end in sight?

President Assad: Of course, there is an end in sight, and the solution is very clear. It’s simple yet impossible. It’s simple because the solution is very clear, how to make dialogue between the Syrians about the political process, but at the same time fighting the terrorism and the terrorists in Syria. Without fighting terrorists, you cannot have any real solution. It’s impossible because the countries that supported those terrorists, whether Western or regional like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, don’t want to stop sending all kinds of support to those terrorists. So, if we start with stopping this logistical support, and as Syrians go to dialogue, talk about the constitution, about the future of Syria, about the future of the political system, the solution is very near, not far from reach.

President al-Assad-interview-SBS Australia 6

Question 2: Much of the reporting in the West at the moment suggests that the demise of the Islamic State is imminent. Do you believe that’s true, and how far away from seizing Raqqa, this very important city of Raqqa, do you believe you are?

President Assad: It’s not a race. Raqqa is as important as Aleppo, as Damascus, as any other city. The danger of those terrorist groups is not about what land do they occupy, because it’s not a traditional war. It’s about how much of their ideology can they instill in the mind of the people in the area that they sit or live in. Indoctrination, this is the most dangerous thing. So, reaching Raqqa is not that difficult militarily, let’s say. It’s a matter of time. We are going in that direction. But the question when you talk about war is about what the other side, let’s say the enemy, could do, and that’s directly related to the effort of Turkey, especially Erdogan, in supporting those groups, because that’s what’s happening since the beginning. If you talk about Syria as an isolated military field, you can reach that area within a few months or a few weeks, let’s say, but without taking into consideration the Turkish effort in supporting the terrorists, any answer would be a far cry from the reality, an un-factual answer.

Question 3: Mr. President, how concerned are you about recent fatal clashes which have been reported between your longtime ally Hezbollah and your own forces?

There is good Syrian-Russian-Iranian coordination on fighting terrorism

President Assad: Fighting between us and Hezbollah? They are not fighting. They support the Syrian Army. They don’t fight against the Syrian Army, they fight with the Syrian Army. The Syrian Army and Hezbollah, with the support of the Russian Air Forces, we are fighting all kinds of terrorist groups, whether ISIS or al-Nusra or other affiliated groups with Al Qaeda that’s affiliated automatically to al-Nusra and ISIS.

Question 4: So, there have been some recent reports of clashes between… are those reports incorrect.

President Assad: No, they are talking not about clashes; about, let’s say, differences and different opinions. That’s not true, and if you look at the meeting that happened recently between the Ministers of Defense in Iran, in Tehran; Syrian, Russian, and Iranian, this means there’s good coordination regarding fighting terrorism.

Question 5: To be clear, do you categorize all opposition groups as terrorists?

President Assad: Definitely not, no. When you talk about an opposition group that adopts the political means, they’re not terrorists. Whenever you hold machineguns or any other armaments and you terrorize people and you attack civilians and you attack public and private properties, you are a terrorist. But if you talk about opposition, when you talk about opposition it must be Syrian opposition. It cannot be a surrogate opposition that works as a proxy to other countries like Saudi Arabia or any other country. It must be a Syrian opposition that’s related to its Syrian grassroots, like in your country. It’s the same, I think.

Question 6: You said recently that the ceasefire offered Syrian people at least a glimmer of hope. How, five months on, do you think that hope is going?

President Assad: Yeah, it is. It’s still working, the ceasefire, but we don’t have to forget that terrorist groups violate this agreement, on a daily basis. But at the same time, we have the right, according to that agreement, to retaliate whenever the terrorists attack our government forces. So, actually you can say it’s still working in most of the areas, but in some areas it’s not.

Question 7: There are various accounts of how the Syrian crisis began. Some say it was children graffiting anti-government slogans and they were dealt with brutally by the government. I understand you don’t accept that narrative. How, in your view, did the crisis begin?

President Assad: It’s a mixture of many things. Some people demonstrated because they needed reform. We cannot deny this, we cannot say “no everybody was a terrorist” or “everyone was a mercenary.” But the majority of those demonstrators – I’m not talking about the genuine demonstrators – were paid by Qatar in order to demonstrate, then later they were paid by Qatar in order to revolt with armaments, and that’s how it started, actually. The story of children being attacked, this is an illusive story. It didn’t happen. Of course, you always have, let’s say, mistakes happening in the practice on the ground, like what happened in the United States recently, during the last year, but this is not a reason for people to hold machineguns and kill policemen and soldiers and so on.

Question 8: You do say that some of these people legitimately needed reform. Was that as a result of any heavy-handedness from your government at all?

President Assad: No, we had reform in Syria. It started mainly after 2000, in the year 2000. Some people think it was slow, some people think it was too fast, this is subjective, not objective, but we were moving in that regard. But the proof that it wasn’t about the reform, because we made all the requested reforms after the crisis started five years ago, and nothing has changed. So, it wasn’t about reform. We changed the constitution, we changed the laws that the opposition asked for, we changed many things, but nothing happened. So, it wasn’t about the reform; it was about money coming from Qatar, and most of the people that genuinely asked for reform at the beginning of the crisis, they don’t demonstrate now, they don’t go against the government, they cooperate with the government. They don’t believe, let’s say, in the political line of this government, and this is their right and that’s natural, but they don’t work against the government or against the state institutions. So, they distinguish themselves from the people who supported the terrorists.

President al-Assad-interview-SBS Australia 12

Question 9: How do you respond to the fact that some of your ministers defected and cited brutality as reason?

President Assad: Actually, they defected because they’ve been asked to do so by, some of them, Saudi Arabia, some of them by France, it depends on the country they belong to. And now, they are belonging to that so-called opposition that belongs to those countries, not to the Syrians. They have no values in Syria, so we wouldn’t worry about that. It didn’t change anything. I mean it didn’t affect the fact or the reality in Syria.

Question 10: One of your main backers, Russia, has called for a return to the peace talks. Do you think that’s a good idea?

President Assad: You mean in Geneva?

Journalist: Yes.

Geneva negotiations need to have the basic principles in order to be fruitful

President Assad: Yeah, of course, we support every talk with every Syrian party, but in reality those talks haven’t been started yet, and there’s no Syrian-Syrian talks till this moment, because we only made negotiations with the facilitator, which is Mr. de Mistura. Actually, it hasn’t started. So, we support the principle, but in practice you need to have a certain methodology that didn’t exist so far. So, we need to start, but we need to have the basic principles for those negotiations to be fruitful.

Question 11: One thing that intrigues a lot of people about the Syrian crisis is why your close allies Iran and Russia stay so loyal?

By defending Syria, allies are defending their stability and interests

President Assad: Because it wasn’t about the President, it’s not about the person. This is the misinterpretation, or let’s say the misconception in the West, and maybe part of the propaganda, that Russia and Iran supported Assad, or supported the President. It’s not like this. It’s about the whole situation. The chaos in Syria is going to provoke a domino effect in our region, that’s going to affect the neighboring countries, it’s going to affect Iran, it’s going to affect Russia, it’s going to affect Europe, actually. So, when they defend Syria, they defend the stability and they defend their stability, they defend their interest. And at the same time, it’s about the principle. They defend the Syrian people and their right to protect themselves. Because if they defend the President and the Syrian people are not with him and don’t support him, I cannot withstand five years just because Russia and Iran support me. So, it’s not about the President, it’s about the whole situation, the bigger picture, let’s say.

Question 12: Do you have any dialogue either direct or indirectly with the United States?

Western countries are dealing with Syria through back channels

President Assad: At all, nothing at all. Indirect, yes, indirect, through different channels. But if you ask them they will deny it, and we’re going to deny it. But in reality, it exists; the back channels.

Question 13: What are some of those channels?

President Assad: I mean, let’s say, businessmen going and traveling around the world and meeting with the officials in the United States and in Europe, they meet in Europe, and they try to convey certain messages, but there’s nothing serious, because we don’t think the administration, the American administration, is serious about solving the problem in Syria.

Question 14: Well, quite recently, there were reports more than 50 diplomats have called for what they described as “real and effective military strikes” against you, against Syria. Does this in any way concern you, and do you think it signals a more aggressive policy from the United States towards Syria moving forward?

American administrations are famous of creating problems, but they never solve any

President Assad: No, warmongers in every American administration always exist. It’s not something new. But we wouldn’t give a fig, let’s say, about this communique, but it’s not about this communique; it’s about the policy, it’s about the actions. The difference between this administration and the previous one, Bush’s one, is that Bush sent his troops. This one is sending mercenaries, and turned a blind eye to what Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Qatar did, since the beginning of the crisis. So, it’s the same policy. It’s a militaristic policy, but in different ways. So, this communique is not different from the reality on the ground. This is asking for war, and the reality is a war.

Question 15: You referred to the previous government, the Bush government. There are some who say one of the reasons you’ve survived as long as a government has been America’s reluctance to get on the ground in another war in the Middle East. Do you not accept that, based on what you’re saying?

President Assad: Yeah, the American administrations since the 50s are very famous of creating problems but they never solve any problems, and that’s what happened in Iraq. Bush invaded Iraq, in a few weeks he could occupy Iraq, but then what’s next? It’s not about occupying. This is a great power. We’re not a great power. So, it’s not about America occupying Syria. What’s next? What do they want to achieve? They haven’t achieved anything. They failed in Libya, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Syria, everywhere. They only created chaos. So, if the United States wants to create more chaos it can, it can create chaos, but can they solve the problem? No.

Question 16: Do you have a preference who wins the upcoming US election?

President Assad: Actually no, we never bet on any American president, because usually what they say in the campaign is different from their practice after they become president, and Obama is an example, so we don’t have to wait. We have to wait and see what policy they’re going to adopt, whoever wins the elections.

Question 17: So, you can see a circumstance where Syria would work collaboratively with the United States and the West?

We are not against cooperation with the US based on mutual interest

President Assad: We don’t have a problem with the United States, they’re not our enemy, they don’t occupy our land. We have differences, and those differences go back to the 70s and maybe before that, but in many different times, let’s say, and events and circumstances, we had cooperation with the United States. So, we’re not against this cooperation. But, this cooperation means talking about and discussing and working for the mutual interest, not for their interest at the expense of our interest. So, we don’t have a problem.

Question 18: Mr. President, you’ve spent a lot of time yourself, as you’ve just said, in the United Kingdom. Can you see there being any repercussions for Britain’s decision to exit the European Union for Syria and for the Syrian crisis?

British people are revolting against their “second-tier” and “disconnected” politicians

President Assad: I don’t think I can elaborate about that, as it’s a British issue, and I’m not British neither European. But at the same time I can say that this surprising result, maybe, has many different components, whether internal as economic and external as the worry from the terrorism, security issues, refugees, and so on. But this is an indication for us, as those officials who used to give me the advice about how to deal with the crisis in Syria, and say “Assad must go” and “he’s disconnected” proven to be disconnected from reality, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked for this referendum, but I think this is a revolt of the people there against, I would call them sometimes second-tier politicians. They needed special, let’s say, statecraft officials, to deal their country. If another administration came and understands that the issue of refugees and security is related to the problem in our region, this is where you’re going to have a different policy that will affect us positively. But I don’t have now a lot of hope about this. Let’s say we have a slim hope, because we don’t know who’s going to come after Cameron in the UK.

Question 19: Can I ask; Australia is part of the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State. Obviously, that’s one of your goals, so in that instance there’s a shared goal. Do you welcome international intervention when there’s a shared goal like that.

President Assad: Actually, we welcome any effort to fight terrorism in Syria, any effort, but this effort first of all should be genuine, not window-dressing like what’s happening now in northern Syria where 60 countries couldn’t prevent ISIS from expanding. Actually, when the Russian air support started, only at that time when ISIS stopped expanding. So, it needs to be genuine. Second, it needs to be through the Syrian legitimate government, not just because they want to fight terrorism and they can go anywhere in the world. We are a legitimate government and we are a sovereign country. So, only on these two circumstances we welcome any foreign support to fight terrorism.

Question 20: A number of Australians have died fighting for either the Kurdish militia or the Islamic State. Do you have a message for these young people who feel so enraged by what’s taking place in Syria that they travel over here to fight?

President Assad: Again, the same, let’s say, answer. If there are foreigners coming without the permission of the government, they are illegal, whether they want to fight terrorists or want to fight any other one. It is the same. It’s illegal, we can call it.

Question 21: Mr. President, Australian politicians have used very strong language about your role in the crisis, as have other leaders, internationally. Australia’s Prime Minister has referred to you as a “murderous tyrant,” saying that you’re responsible for killing thousands of innocent civilians. Australia’s opposition leader has called you a “butcher.” Yet Australia’s official position is still to work with you toward a peace agreement. How do you reconcile those two very different positions?

Western nations attack Syrian government and yet deal with it under the table

President Assad: Actually, this is the double standard of the West in general. They attack us politically and they send us their officials to deal with us under the table, especially the security, including your government. They all do the same. They don’t want to upset the United States. Actually, most of the Western officials only repeat what the United States wants them to say. This is the reality. So, I think these statements, I just can say they are disconnected from our reality, because I’m fighting terrorists, our army is fighting terrorists, our government is against terrorists, the whole institutions are against terrorists. If you call fighting terrorism butchery, that’s another issue.

Question 22: Australia has agreed to take an additional twelve thousand Syrian refugees; some have already arrived. Do you have a message for these Syrians, many of whom still say they love Syria and they want to return. Do you have a message for those people, as I said, who are in Australia, and other countries around the world?

A more humanitarian and less costly European solution to refugee crisis is stopping support to terrorists

President Assad: Actually, you mentioned a very important point. Most of the refugees that left Syria, they want to come back to Syria. So, any country that helped them enter their new country, let’s say, their new homeland, is welcome as a humanitarian action, but again there is something more humanitarian and less costly: is to help them staying in their country, help them going back by helping the stability in Syria, not to give any umbrella or support to the terrorists. That’s what they want. They want the Western governments to take decisive decisions against what Saudi Arabia and other Western countries, like France and UK, are doing in order to support the terrorists in Syria just to topple the government. Otherwise, those Syrians wouldn’t have left Syria. Most of them, they didn’t leave because they are against the government or with the government; they left because it’s very difficult to live in Syria these days.

President al-Assad-interview-SBS Australia 8

 

Question 23: Do you hope that these people will return and would you facilitate for them to return?
President Assad: Definitely, I mean losing people as refugees is like losing human resources. How can you build a country without human resources? Most of those people are educated, well trained, they have their own businesses in Syria in different domains. You lose all this, of course, we need.

Question 24: The Commission for International Justice and Accountability says there are thousands of government documents which say has proved your government sanctioned mass torture and killings. In the face of that evidence, how do you say that no crimes have taken place, and I point also to other independent organizations, which are critical of deliberate targeting hospitals. Do you concede that some mistakes have been made as you’ve targeted some rebel-held areas?

President Assad: You are talking about two different things. One of them, the first one is the reports. The most important report that’s been financed by Qatar, just to defame the Syrian government, and they have no proof, who took the pictures, who are the victims in those pictures, and so on. Like you can forge anything if you want now on the computer. So, it is not credible at all. Second, talking about attacking hospitals or attacking civilians, the question, the very simple question is: why do we attack hospitals and civilians? I mean the whole issue, the whole problem in Syria started when those terrorists wanted to win the hearts of the Syrians. So, attacking hospitals or attacking civilians is playing into the hands of the terrorists. So, if we put the values aside now for a while, let’s talk about the interests. No government in this situation has any interest in killing civilians or attacking hospitals. Anyway, if you attack hospitals, you can use any building to be a hospital. No, these are an anecdotal claims, mendacious statements I can say; they are not credible at all. We’re still sending vaccines to those areas under the control of the terrorists. So, how can I send vaccines and attack the hospitals? This is a contradiction.

Question 25: Mr. President, as a father and as a man, has there been one anecdote, one story, one image from the crisis, which has affected you personally more than others?

President Assad: Definitely, we are humans, and I am Syrian like the other Syrians. I will be more sympathetic with any Syrian tragedy affecting any person or family, and in this region, we are very emotional people, generally. But as an official, I am not only a person, I am an official. As an official, the first question you ask when you have that feeling is what are you going to do, what are you going to do to protect other Syrians from the same suffering? That’s the most important thing. So, I mean, this feeling, this sad feeling, this painful feeling, is an incentive for me to do more. It’s not only a feeling.

Question 26: What’s your vision for Syria? How do you see things in two to three years?

President Assad: After the crisis or…? Because, the first thing we would like to see is to have Syria stable as it used to be before, because it was one of the most stable countries and secure countries around the world, not only in our region. So, this the first thing. If you have this, you can have other ambitions. Without it you cannot. I mean, if you have this, the other question: how to deal with the new generation that lived the life of killing, that saw the extremism or learned the extremism or indoctrinated by Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, and so on. This is another challenge. The third one is bringing back those human resources that left as refugees in order to rebuild Syria. Rebuilding the country as buildings or infrastructure is very easy; we are capable of doing this as Syrians. The challenge is about the new generation.

Question 27: How do you think history will reflect on your presidency?

President Assad: What I wish is to say that this is the one who saved his country from the terrorists and from the external intervention. That is what I wish about it. Anything else would be left to the judgment of the Syrian people, but this is my only wish.

Journalist: Mr. President, Thank you very much for speaking with SBS Australia.

President Assad: Thank you very much.

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Unindicted War Criminal Tony Blair Calls Brexit a Coup

By Stephen Lendman | The Peoples Voice | July 5, 2016

Britain’s most reviled and discredited leader when leaving office in June 2007 allied with Bill Clinton’s rape of Yugoslavia, George Bush’s naked aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Israel’s war on Palestine.

Greed now drives him. So does selling influence, becoming super-rich over the last decade, using secretive offshore companies and trusts, remaining unaccountable for involvement in genocidal high crimes – from Belgrade to Kabul to Baghdad to Palestine.

Responsible editors wouldn’t touch his rubbish. The New York Times featured it, Blair taking full advantage, mocking a democratic process, calling Brexit a “stunning coup.”

His deplorable record as prime minister featured loyal service to bankers and war profiteers, public welfare be damned. On leaving office, he failed trying to reinvent himself.

Impossible to ignore his sordid record. He’s a warmaker, not a peacemaker, a criminal like the Clintons, Bush and Obama.

He supported Gaza’s siege and Israeli wars of aggression. His appointment as Middle East peace envoy showed occupation harshness would continue, Palestinian statehood prevented.

He called Brexit supporters insurgents, “standard-bearers of a popular revolt… encourage(d) (and) magnified by… social media…”

EU membership comes with a huge price – loss of sovereignty to Brussels, most of all to Washington, doing its bidding, backing its war agenda, enriching its privileged class at the expense of most others, and tolerating no resistance.

Blair is part of the problem. Supporting wrong over right enriched him.

The London Independent once said years of investigation showed he “prostituted himself in pursuing Mammon.” Political friends and foes alike revile him.

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Stephen Lendman can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III.

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

34 violations against Palestinian journalists in June

Israeli-forces-arrested-a-Palestinian-journalist

MEMO | July 5, 2016

Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority carried out 34 violations against Palestinian journalists in June, Quds Press reported an NGO saying.

Palestinian Youth Congress for Journalists said in a statement that the Israeli violations included direct assaults, firing rubber bullets at journalists and cameramen, arbitrary arrests and the closure of media offices.

The group said the attacks happened while the journalists were documenting Israeli aggression at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Photographer Rami Al-Khatib and journalists Osaid Amarneh and Ahmed Jaradat were wounded during the violence.

Moreover, the statement noted that the Israeli policy of arbitrary detention of Palestinian journalists continued as several journalists, including 25-year-old Nasser Al-Khatib from Ramallah, 27-year-old Iyad Al-Taweel and 43-year-old Bassam Al-Safadi from the Golan Heights were arrested.

There are currently 20 journalists being held in Israeli jails, the statement said.

The group added that Israel had closed Musawat TV which broadcasts from occupied Palestinian territories under the pretext that it incites hatred.

The Youth Congress reported 17 violations against journalists at the hands of the Palestinian Authority.

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Free Trade Agreements Have Exacerbated a Humanitarian Crisis in Central America

By Manuel Perez-Rocha | IPS | June 29, 2016

U.S. trade negotiators continue to claim that free trade agreements help to support security, but in reality, they exacerbate the root causes of instability in the Mesoamerican region, IPS’s Manuel Perez-Rocha said in a speech at the AFL-CIO conference on U.S. trade policy.

“Real security encompasses economic, human, financial, and political security,” he said.

Today the Northern triangle of Latin America is one of the most dangerous places in the world. In Mexico alone, there are more than 27,000 people reported missing on top of the 100,000 killed in the so-called war on drugs, Perez-Rocha said.

He explained that the origins of this crisis are rooted in structural adjustment policies that the IMF and the World Bank imposed on Central America to pave the way for free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“Instead of bringing prosperity, [NAFTA] took away domestic protections from Mexico’s food production, leading to greater food insecurity and the widespread loss of our agricultural livelihoods,” he said.

Perez-Rocha said the abandonment of national production of food to favor imports, brought on by NAFTA, has meant the fall of production, employment, and income and the increase of inequality, poverty, and migration. He said this abandonment of the countryside by the government propelled the vacuum that has become occupied by organized crime.

“NAFTA is responsible,” he said. “for the increase of violence and public insecurity in the countryside and in all of Mexico.”

Ten years later, CAFTA was imposed in Central America, ushering in what Perez-Rocha called “the deterioration of economic conditions for working people and major new threats to the environment.”

Perez-Rocha offered one of the most egregious examples in the case of the Pacific Rim mining company which is demanding millions of dollars from El Salvador for protecting its environment.

“This is a deep humanitarian crisis that should be recognized as such,” he said. He quoted U.S. Vice President Biden as saying ‘confronting these challenges requires nothing less than systematic change, which we in the United States have a direct interest in helping to bring about.’

However, the proposal in the Alliance for Prosperity Plan does not address the roots of the crisis, Perez-Rocha said.

“The goal of the alliance, as we see it,” Perez-Rocha said, “is to attract foreign direct investment for the exploitation of natural resources.”

The alliance and agreements like the TPP, on top of the destruction already brought on by NAFTA and CAFTA, will only mean an acceleration of the race to the bottom for the region’s working families, further dislocation and displacement, and regional insecurity, he said.


Read Manuel Perez-Rocha’s full essay on page 43 [PDF).

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Public Editors and Structural Bias

By Edward S. Herman • Z Magazine • July-August 2016

The  tenure of  Margaret Sullivan as Public Editor of the New York Times (NYT) ended on April 16, 2016, with her column “Public Editor No. 5 Is Yesterday’s News.” This followed four years of  challenging work and the 691 columns and blogs she produced in carrying out her role, which she describes as  “spokesperson for readers.” Sullivan was the fifth and best of the paper’s public editors, but there were serious limits to what she did or could do in that position, and she must have known and accepted them in advance. The Times officials who hired her would have vetted her carefully–she had edited the Buffalo News for over a decade– and known that she would operate within acceptable limits. She is moving on to the position of media columnist at the Washington Post  (WP), And her NYT replacement, Elizabeth Spayd, worked for some years at the WP and comes directly from the editorship of the Columbia Journalism Review. Both the NYT and WP are top level establishment institutions: both supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003; both have been durable supporters of the U.S.-Israel alliance and Israeli policy;  and neither has paid significant attention to the war on, and slow decline of, labor unions in the United States over the last 35 years.

Sullivan claims that the NYT has and should maintain “abiding attention to society’s havenots.” To the war on labor and decline of labor unions, which they have scanted for years? She doesn’t speak about treatment of this society’s external victims and those of our client states, which are so commonly treated in the NYT and elsewhere as “unworthy” victims, but Sullivan does mention the importance of  “values,” “journalistic integrity,” “balance,”  and the “core mission… to find and tell the truth ‘without fear or favor’.” These are fuzzy and leave lots of room for ideological and other forms of bias. She also stresses the danger of pushing news defined by the algorithms and priorities of the increasingly important news operations of social media. This is a good point, but more important is the threat  of accepting as news and specific interpretations of the news alleged facts and interpretations that are pushed by governments and powerful  interest groups in their own perceived interest. Recall once again “the lie that wasn’t shot down” by the NYT in 1983 on the shooting down of  KAL-007, in service to a Cold War propaganda program. There is a very good case that this same kind of lie has been pushed by the NYT as regards the July 17, 2014 shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH-17 over southeastern Ukraine.1

Where powerful political interests are involved and a party line has been established, ”balance” and “truth telling …without  fear or favor” go out the window. The war party, which includes the members of the military-industrial complex and pro-Israel interests, led to the party-line acceptance by the NYT and WP of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction threat in 2002-2003 and the major aggression that followed. For many years Israel has been able to engage in a steady and theoretically illegal process of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, punctuated by major acts of war and war crimes, with the steady support of the United States and its allies, and hence the NYT and WP.

There was no “balance” in the news or editorial coverage of this process. Language was adapted to support this political bias—most notably, the Israelis “retaliating” to the “terrorism” of the victimized and terrorized unchosen people who regularly upset a mythical “peace process.”  The evidence of  imbalance in the NYT coverage is massive. Take this small pair of illustrations:  First, in the course of a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Israel on May 5, Major-General Yair Golan, deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, gave a speech in which he denounced “revolting trends” that occurred in Nazi Germany  and were now taking place “among us, in 2016.” These remarks caused an uproar in Israel, with Golan both denounced and defended. His statement was made shortly after a judicial exoneration of an Israeli soldier who had shot dead a wounded Palestinian prisoner. The shooting and decision were widely condemned, but also widely praised. In this context, Defense Minister  Moshe Yaalon, who had denounced this assassination and decision, and said of  their supporters that they “don’t back our laws and values,” resigned, with his defense portfolio  given to the extremist rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak entered this controversy, stating on a TV interview that “extremists have taken over Israel” and that the country has been “infected by the seeds of fascism.” This was reported by Haaretz on May 20, which, among other things, published a satirical piece by one of their regular contributors, B. Michael, entitled “Why would that general compare Israel to 1930s Germany? Hmm…” (May 16). Michael goes on to list 25 possible reasons that might have passed through “that anti-Semitic general’s head” when he made his comparison: To take just two as illustrative—“(13) The brilliant legal sophistry that prohibits the ‘unchosen’ from purchasing state lands. Only the chosen people may do so.…. (24) A state that insists it is the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East, whereas it is actually the only ‘military theocracy’ in the entire world.”

The NYT failed to mention the much debated Golan statement, or the followup remarks of Ehud Barak. They also failed to reprint Michael’s piece!

The second illustration is the small Israeli controversy over the Independence Day festival’s soldiers’ performance where the soldiers  formations depicted a peace dove, a Star of David, and then suddenly formed the phrase: “One Nation, One People.” Some observers found this disquieting, too close to the old Nazi formula of “One Nation, One People, One Fuhrer.”  There is a large minority non-Jewish population in Israel, and a majority in the occupied territories that Israel has gradually and de facto absorbed into a greater Israel. In this connection it is notable that Culture Minister Miri Regev, who organized the ceremony, said that ”The phrase ‘one people, one nation’ is an expression of the just aspiration of the Zionist movement since its inception to establish a Jewish state.” This would seem to make the link to Nazi usage more salient. Commentators in Israel, while mainly stressing the great distance of Israel from the Nazi model, are more frequently calling attention to the threat of trends in the same direction, as did Yair Golan and Ehud Barak.2 The NYT chose to play dumb on this story.

It is not just an angry Israeli critic like B. Michael you are not likely to see in the NYT, you will very very rarely see those outstanding Haaretz reporters Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, or U.S. analysts like Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk and Norman Finkelstein. Of these five, there was a single byline by Amira Hass in 2001 and one each for Chomsky and Falk in the years from January 1, 2000 to May 30, 2016 (grand total, 3). On the other hand, strong supporters of the Israeli establishment and Israeli policy Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross and Bernard-Henri Levy had 19, 16 and 9 bylines in the paper during the same period, for a grand total of  44. Balance anyone?

This imbalance and bias is not confined to the opinion pages. Another important Times-related source on Israel and Palestine is the web site TimesWarp, run since late 2012 by retired journalist Barbara Erickson. She has produced a steady stream of critiques of NYT news coverage of Israel/Palestine, her rather short pieces appearing roughly once a week. Her latest at time of writing is “The NY Times Plays the Israeli Army’s Game: Hyping Threats, Shielding Criminals” (May 30, 2016). The first three paragraphs proceed as follows:

The New York Times reports today that Israel faces ‘monumental security challenges’ and is now caught in a debate over just how tough the military should be with those who threaten to harm its soldiers and civilians.

The story, by Isabel Kershner, is framed around ‘months of Palestinian attacks’ that have left some 30 Israelis dead. She makes no mention anywhere of the more than 200 Palestinians killed by security forces over the same time period, nor does she say anything about the brutal conditions of the occupation that provide the impetus for Palestinian assaults.

Kershner briefly notes that Palestinian and human rights groups have accused the Israeli military of ‘excessive force,’ but she fails to say that the charges go beyond this vague reference: In fact, numerous groups have accused Israel of carrying out ‘street executions’ of Palestinians who posed no real threat to soldiers or civilians.

Erickson’s critiques of the NYT news reporting have been detailed and crushing, yet they have not had any observable impact on the paper’s coverage of this area, and Erickson’s name has never been mentioned in print by the public editor. Israel’s ethnic cleansing is protected by the United States and thus by the editors of the Newspaper of Record. This is how a unified and effective power system does its job.

  1. See Robert Parry, “More Game-Playing on MH-17 ?” Consortiumnews.com, May 24, 2016
  2. See Asher Schechter, “’One People, One Nation’: A Visual Representation of the Ignorance That Threatens to Consume Israel,” Haaretz.com, May 13, 2915

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment