The United States urged its NATO allies to vote against the UN General Assembly’s draft resolution calling for the initiation of negotiations on nuclear weapons prohibition and to ignore the talks in case they started in 2017, local media reported Wednesday.
“The United States calls on all allies and partners to vote against negotiations on a nuclear weapons treaty ban, not to merely abstain. In addition, if negotiations do commence, we ask allies and partners to refrain from joining them,” a letter obtained by the Kyodo news agency on Tuesday said.
The letter is said to be dated October 17.
According to the news agency, in case of enforcement of the nuclear weapons ban treaty, it could have a “direct impact” on the US capability to implement its commitments on the NATO and Pacific deterrence, as well as on the US partners’ and allies’ possibilities to participate in joint operations with nuclear-weapon states.
Earlier in October, a draft UN resolution on launching negotiations on nuclear weapons ban was introduced by delegations from Australia and other non-nuclear-weapon states.
According to Kyodo, over 50 states expressed support for the initiative by the end of the previous week.
The draft resolution is expected to be submitted for confirmation this week in order to be considered by the General Assembly at the plenary meeting in December.
Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly has voted for impeaching President Nicolas Maduro accusing him for violating democracy. The anti-government vote came after the Supreme Court blocked the parliament’s plan to hold a referendum to try and recall President Maduro. The Venezuelan socialist government has dismissed the move as meaningless.
Lajos Szaszdi, a Latin America expert, told Press TV that President Maduro has the support of the Supreme Court, the security forces and people, as a result of which the National Assembly would not be able to remove President Maduro from power.
The executive branch of the government “has the upper hand” in the division of power in Venezuela; therefore, President Maduro will be able to survive attacks by the opposition, Szaszdi said.
The analyst went on to say that the president of Venezuela has control over police, security and military forces and “of course, there is a broad base of supporters,” and “there is no danger for his hold on power.”
The Supreme Court will not accept any anti-government resolution issued by the National Assembly of Venezuela until the parliament invalidates three opposition lawmakers who are being accused of having bought votes in the last general elections, he added.
“The opposition is desperate,” Szaszdi argued, adding that the opposition is trying to resort to “extreme measures,” but people, the armed forces and the Supreme Court would support President Maduro.
The desperation of the opposition has increased after the National Electoral Council put a stop to the opposition-driven plebiscite against Maduro when four state courts called the signature-gathering process fraudulent.
The Venezuela’s government, which is facing economic difficulties and all-out pressure from the opposition legislators, has said the country is the victim of an international plot against Socialism, led by the United States.
You should know if the government thinks it can deputize your email provider to scan through your messages.
Like most people, we were shocked at reports earlier this month that Yahoo scanned its hundreds of millions of users’ emails looking for a digital signature on behalf of the government. We join millions of Yahoo users in wanting to know how this happened.
Together with a host of other civil liberties groups – including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the ACLU, and the Sunlight Foundation – we sent a letter today asking Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to release information about the scanning, how the U.S. government justified such a privacy-invasive search, and whether the government has conducted similar searches.
The letter warns that Yahoo’s “massive scan of the emails of millions of people, particularly if it involves the scanning of email content, could violate the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], the Fourth Amendment, and international human rights law, and has grave implications for privacy.”
Although the letter calls on the government to release additional details about the Yahoo scanning order, a recent law passed by Congress requires its declassification and release, or, alternatively, that the government produce a declassified summary.
It’s crucial that Clapper follow through on his pledge for transparency and release information about how the U.S. government justified the email scanning under FISA, as has been reported. We need to know whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted FISA – which authorizes targeted surveillance of certain foreigners’ (such as spies or terrorists) communications – to mean that the government can conscript Yahoo into mass surveillance of all of its users’ emails.
The letter also calls on Clapper to acknowledge whether the scan also involved scanning the content of the emails, disclose the kinds of search terms used in this surveillance, and to identify when this kind of surveillance first started and the total numbers of times an order like this has been used.
When Islamic State beheads someone it is terrorism. When an Iraqi housewife beheads an ISIS fighter and cooks his skull, it is freedom. That is the CNN doctrine.
CNN reports the story of 39-year-old Wahida Mohamed aka Um Hanadi, an Iraqi woman who supposedly leads a tribal militia force of around 70 men south of Mosul. She and her band allegedly helped “government forces” drive Islamic State out of a small town.
“I began fighting the terrorists in 2004, working with Iraqi security forces and the coalition,” she told CNN. CNN cites no other source other than Um Hanadi herself and Facebook in its coverage.
As a result, Um Hanadi said, she attracted the wrath of what eventually became al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which later morphed into ISIS. “I received threats from the top leadership of ISIS, including from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself,” she says. “I’m at the top of their most wanted list, even more than the [Iraqi] Prime Minister.”
Um Hanadi stated al Qaeda/AQI/ISIS planted car bombs outside her home in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2014.
Along the way, her first husband was killed in action. She remarried, but ISIS killed her second husband. ISIS also killed her father and three brothers. They also killed, she added, her sheep, her dogs and her birds, and tried to otherwise assassinate her six times.
Where Has Um Hanadi Been Hiding All These Years?
Despite her claim to have worked with the U.S. coalition, to be higher on the ISIS hit list than the Prime Minister, to have been the target of multiple bombing attempts, and to be a very, very, very rare example of a Muslim woman leading Muslim men in combat, I could not find any references to Um Hanadi that predate the CNN report. Um Hanadi does have a self-created social media presence which she updates between battles.
In addition, Um Hanadi may be the luckiest person in Iraq, apparently cheating death on a near-daily basis.
CNN did not explain in its coverage how it came to locate and interview Um Hanadi amid the chaos of present-day Iraq.
Now, on to the beheadings.
CNN quotes Um Hanadi as saying of ISIS “I fought them. I beheaded them. I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies.” CNN states “She made no excuses, nor attempted to rationalize this. It was delivered as a boast, not a confession.”
“This is all documented,” she said. “You can see it on my Facebook page.”
The CNN reporter wrote that he indeed checked her Facebook page and saw photos, and though he could not verify them, still “got the point.”
This is propaganda of the worst, and most infantile, kind. In addition to the broad question of whether or not any of this is even true, the question of who set CNN up to meet with Um Hanadi is left unanswered. That CNN would run this story on its television news, and website, is a shameful descent into the decaying corpse of the First Amendment. Media around the globe, including the once venerable New York Times, have reprinted the story.
Lastly is the horrific idea that atrocities such as beheading people are somehow right when an anti-ISIS person does it, and justification for an entire undeclared war by the U.S. when ISIS does it.
CNN have you no shame? Hah, trick question, you bast*rds really don’t, do you?
The Kingdom of Bahrain’s authoritarian ruler King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa visited British Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street on Wednesday, despite outcry from human rights and anti-arms trade groups.
The Gulf regime is a close ally of both the UK and Saudi Arabia, as well as being a major UK arms customer, and is currently bearing much of the cost for building the Royal Navy’s new Mina Salman naval base.
Human rights groups have highlighted widespread abuses committed by Bahraini government forces against pro-democracy activists during the 2011 Arab Spring.
The king’s visit was met with protests by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and Campaign against the Arms Trade (CAAT) on Wednesday afternoon. Two activists were escorted away by police.
Already in 2016, senior British Royals, who are known for their closeness to the Gulf monarchies, have been criticized for meeting the Bahraini monarchy both in the UK and during trips to the nation.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will soon visit Bahrain on behalf of the UK government, despite long-standing concerns over human rights abuses and UK arms sales.
In April, a report for the Foreign Affairs Select Committee blasted Bahrain’s record on human rights abuses, not least during the violent crushing of Arab Spring protests with the direct support of another controversial UK ally, Saudi Arabia.
The report also argued that human rights had effectively been downgraded by the UK government in a bid to shore up relations with the authoritarian state, which enjoys arms trading and security arrangements with Britain.
A broad campaign is currently underway, including MPs, to put a halt to UK arms sales to the Saudi regime in light of repeated reports of war crimes in its UK-assisted aerial bombing campaign in Yemen.
A family member holds an image of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, kidnapped and disappeared in 1981 when he was 14 years old. | Photo: EFE
Marco Antonio Molina Theissen was kidnapped by the military in 1981 when he was 14 years old. His family never saw him again.
Guatemala made a new breakthrough Tuesday in the decades-old struggle for justice for historical crimes against humanity, including systematic rape, as a court indicted former military chief of staff Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia and four other high-ranking officials on a number of crimes linked to the 1981 kidnapping and disappearance of 14-year-old boy Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, including the torture and rape of his sister Emma Guadeloupe.
In the presence of Marco Antonio and Emma Guadeloupe’s mother, Emma Theissen de Molina, in the criminal court, Judge Victor Herrera Rios announced that all five former top military men were involved in crimes against humanity, forced disappearance, and aggravated rape.
Lucas Garcia, the brother of former dictator Romero Lucas Garcia and the four others accused — former commanders Francisco Luis Gordillo and Edilberto Letona and former military intelligence agents Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña and Manuel Antonio Callejas — have been in pre-trial detention since being arrested in January.
Initially, only four were linked to the case. Lucas Garcia — currently facing prosecution along with several other former military officers for the disappearance of at least 558 civilians between 1981 and 1988 — was added when additional charges were announced in August for charges related to his role overseeing counterinsurgency strategy at the time that Emma Guadeloupe was detained and Marco Antonio was disappeared.
In Tuesday’s hearing, the judge established that Lucas Garcia’s role as military chief of staff from 1978 to 1982 held him responsible for the actions of the military brigade under his command in Quetzaltenango, where Molina Theissen was kidnapped in 1981. In that year, Gordilla and Letona were first and second in command, respectively, of the Quetzaltenango army unit, while Zaldaña was the intelligence official to the chief of staff and Callejas was in charge of intelligence at the Quetzaltenango base.
The indictments in the Molina Theissen case are a step toward clarifying the historical truth in brutal crimes carried out at the hands of the military during Guatemala’s bloody 36-year civil war.
In 1981, Emma Guadeloupe, a young activist at the time with the Patriotic Worker Youth, was detained at a military checkpoint for being in possession of items deemed political propaganda. She had previously been detained, tortured and raped by the military officials five years earlier in an incident that saw her boyfriend and two other students killed at the hands of the army.
Intelligence agent Zaldaña, one of the five indicted, was in charge of the checkpoint where Emma Guadeloupe was arrested in 1981. The young leftist — following in the footsteps of other dissidents in her family targeted for speaking out against the military regime — was locked up at the military base in Quetzaltenango.
She managed to run away from the military base nine days later, but the army swiftly retaliated. Just days after her escape, suspected military intelligence agents dressed in plain clothes stormed the Thiessen Molina home, beating the mother and kidnapping 14-year-old Marco Antonio. The family never saw him again.
According to the Washington Office on Latin America, the Molina Theissen family’s attorney has warned that the high-ranking positions of the accused — along with the fact that some of them have been implicated in organized crime operations — raises a risk of witness intimidation and other forms of obstruction of justice in the case, leading him to urge authorities to deny the accused alternative measures.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Guatemalan state guilty in the Molina Theissen disappearance in 2004, opening the door to a decade-long investigation in hopes of prosecuting the masterminds behind the heinous crimes.
Earlier this year, a landmark sexual slavery trial in Guatemala sentenced two former soldiers to 120 and 240 years in jail and established that rape was systematically used by the military as a weapon of war under the dictatorships. It was the first case of wartime sexual abuse prosecuted in the Central American country, raising hopes among human rights defenders that it could set a precedent for other cases of systematic rape.
The five accused will continue to be held in preventative detention.
Trump said Tuesday that Obama knew about Clinton’s email arrangements while she served as secretary of state during the president’s first term in office from 2009 to 2013.
“That’s why he stuck up for Hillary, because he didn’t want to be dragged in. Because he knew all about her private server,” Trump told Reuters. “This means that he has to be investigated.”
The White House did not give any comments about Trump’s accusations, but Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier on Tuesday that Obama did not know where Clinton’s server had been located or other details, although he did have her personal email address.
Clinton has said her decision to use the private server installed at her home at Chappaqua, New York, for official government business was a mistake and has apologized.
New documents released last month by the FBI showed at least one State Department official had told investigators that there was pressure by senior department officials to mislead the public about the presence of classified information in Clinton’s emails ahead of their public release.
This added fuel to Republicans’ claims that officials in the Obama administration had sought to protect Clinton from criminal liability as she seeks to succeed Obama.
In a March 2015 television interview, Obama said that he had learned of the private email server through news reports.
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks, which has been releasing hacked emails in chunks for several weeks, disclosed a batch of emails from the account of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, which showed how her campaign reacted following Obama’s televised interview.
“We need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say state.gov.,” Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton aide, wrote in an email to Podesta after Obama made the comments.
“State.gov.” is the State Department’s internet domain name, and its presence in the sender’s email address would prove it came from an official account.
In January, the State Department said it had found 18 instances of messages exchanged between Clinton and Obama among some 30,000 work emails Clinton sent back to the department in 2014.
None have been released due to a law that protects presidential communications from becoming public for years.
In recent years “nationalism” has become a bad word in Europe, a synonym of closure, racism and wars. Over the past 20-25 years European elites have instead embraced a concept of globalization based on a world without economic, physical and social borders.
This view assumes the gradual affirmation of a set of shared values internationally, consisting of human rights and economic freedom, that however much the remaining closed, autocratic regimes may try, will inevitably become the standard for the entire world.
It is essentially the argument put forward by Francis Fukuyama in “The End of History:” liberal democracy and free markets have won the ideological war, and represent the culmination of human evolution.
The political events of 2016 are upending this view of the globalization of human rights and economic liberalism. The American electorate has supported a series of outsiders – most notably Donald Trump, who has run his campaign in direct opposition to the U.S. political and financial class, invoking economic protectionism and a stronger national identity.
Against expectations, the population of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, marking an irreparable break in the supposedly inevitable process of European unification. And across Europe support is growing for more extreme, anti-system political forces, that threaten not only to withdraw from the common currency – the Euro – but also to seal the borders in response to economic and security threats associated with immigration.
It is no exaggeration to speak of the failure of the entire transatlantic political establishment. Since the 1970s, Western economies have undergone a post-industrial transformation that has favored short-term gain over long-term investment. The notion of economic freedom has translated principally into support for deregulation and speculative finance.
Central Banks have made unlimited resources available to the financial sector while large areas of the real economy struggle to survive, feeding discontent among the population. It is true that new economic sectors have arisen, along with widespread changes made possible by technologies that were inconceivable until a few years ago, but the overall effect has been to hollow out the middle class and create large-scale income equality.
In Europe, the principal vehicle of this process has been the economic policy of the European Union. From the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, European nations have been stuck in a monetary straitjacket, that prevents governments from taking effective economic action. In the name of market principles, liberalization has been implemented that favors large financial interests while lowering standards of living for the middle class.
Countries are constitutionally required to move towards a balanced budget, with the European Commission and the European Central Bank essentially having veto power over national policies. This has translated into harsh austerity, including the massive budget cuts and tax increases inflicted on countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy in recent years.
Despite paying lip service to the need for change, the economic and political elites have refused to abandon this approach, that not only ignores the suffering of the population, but actually makes the problem worse. In fact the austerity causes a drop in economic activity and thus exacerbates budget problems, leading to a vicious cycle that Europe seems unable to stop.
A Big Backlash
The resulting backlash is calling into question the process of European integration as a whole, provoking a strenuous defense by the elite of institutions that are said to have guaranteed “50 years of peace” after the Second World War.
It is true, of course, that there are some benefits to E.U. integration, and that nobody wants to return to a situation of conflict among the member states. But the current policies are quite different than the fruitful cooperation that existed until the 1990s, when the financial elite began its move to exert supranational control.
Now, the failed economic policies of the past 20 years are no longer sustainable. Governments are forced to negotiate over .1 percent of the budget deficit with the bureaucracy in Brussels, while the need for public and private investment runs in the trillions.
The pro-finance, anti-production policies must change not for ideological reasons or to serve some specific interest group; they must change because there is no other choice. People are revolting against a political class that does not respond adequately to widespread economic and social discontent. In times of economic distress the population becomes more vulnerable to demagogues, raising the risk of dangerous outcomes, as seen with Fascism and Nazism in the 1920s and 1930s.
Currently, there are unprepared and unpredictable political forces with growing support across Europe, that in some cases represent a threat to the democratic rights and values that the European Union aims to promote. Defending the orthodoxy of E.U. policy against popular movements that target failed economic policies, will only further damage precisely those values on which Europe is said to stand.
What to Do
At this point Europe needs a return to measures that promote productive investment and innovation, rather than cut social welfare programs and encourage further deregulation.
There are two potential directions: a wholesale change in the policies of the E.U. institutions, without modifying their essential structure, or a step back from the process of cancellation of national sovereignty.
The first option seems unrealistic, for various reasons. These include the constitutional nature of many economic and budget constraints, and the stubbornness demonstrated by the European ruling class in recent years; a class that, despite numerous alarm bells, does not at all seem ready to abandon an elitist view of globalization.
The response to the Brexit vote is a glaring example. Representatives of the E.U. institutions lashed out with arrogance and bitterness, essentially accusing half of the British population of being ignorant, racist and isolationist. It’s a comforting excuse based on partial truths, that avoids reflection on Europe’s own mistakes.
At this point a return of decision-making power to national governments is becoming inevitable: not in order to stop international cooperation, or to reject shared values, but because the model pursued by the supranational institutions and their allies in the financial world has failed, and risks producing both serious internal conflicts, and unacceptable strategic failures in an increasingly complex world.
Andrew Spannaus is a freelance journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news, analysis and consulting to Italian institutions and businesses.
On October 21, on the initiative of the UK, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) met to discuss the recent situation in Aleppo. The discussions demonstrated a huge divergence of opinions and views on the realities in Aleppo and the Syrian crisis as a whole.
HRC has been reviewing the Syrian file for more than four years now, but regrettably its assessments are becoming a far cry from reality due to the efforts of certain states, including those who call themselves the “Friends of Syria”, to politicize the matter. The current session has been a case study in this.
Instead of supporting the fight against international terrorism, the initiators of the HRC special session, as a matter of fact, tried to let the terrorists off the hook, save them from defeat and allow them to regroup and continue to commit atrocities in Syria. There is no other explanation for the fact that a HRC draft resolution didn’t demand the terrorists and militants cease hostilities, obstructing humanitarian access, using civilians as human shields, and stop preventing residents and medical workers from leaving the city via established humanitarian corridors.
Moreover, these countries tried to blame Russia for most of the developments in East Aleppo, while failing to pressure the rebels to abide by the ceasefire and respect humanitarian efforts. In fact, the whole situation in East Aleppo is held hostage to the terrorists designs.
Against this backdrop, the crimes committed by the US-led coalition are being silenced, despite their devastating strikes on civilians and Syrian army units. They are also systematically destroying the economic infrastructure in the Syrian Government-controlled areas (perhaps to make Syria depend on financial assistance for post-conflict reconstruction?). Now, it seems that ISIL fighters are being deliberately squeezed from Iraq’s Mosul into Syria.
Even more perplexing was the voting on Russia’s amendments to the HRC draft resolution. UK, France, Belgium and several other Western and Gulf countries flatly refused to admit the existence of foreign assistance to terrorists in Syria, to recognize the need to separate the jihadists from the moderate opposition (which is the subject matter being discussed by experts in Geneva as a follow-up to the recent multilateral talks in Lausanne) and to support the efforts of UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to remove the jihadists from eastern Aleppo. Such a stance suggests that the public rhetoric of those governments on the need to fight international terrorism in Syria does not reflect their true intentions and goals.
Our Western partners should understand that using HRC for attaining their own political goals is counterproductive and discredits this vital human rights agency and the doctrine of human rights as a whole. We hope that they will eventually see reason, stop supporting the jihadists and start fighting against them, facilitate the separation of terrorists from the moderate opposition, help oust Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies from Aleppo, stop supplying terrorists with arms and recruits, and promote the continuation of inter-Syrian talks to eventually settle the conflict in Syria. It has to be understood that if al-Nusra leads the opposition on the battlefield, it will call the tune at the talks on the side of the opposition. We must not allow them dictate to Syria and the world.
On its part, Russia will continue working towards a political settlement in Syria through talks between Damascus and the opposition based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Gambia has followed in the footsteps of Burundi and South Africa by declaring its intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The West African country’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang announced the decision on television Tuesday night, accusing the ICC of being biased against Africa.
Bojang said that the court — set up to pursue some of the world’s worst crimes — had been used “for the persecution of Africans and especially their leaders” while ignoring crimes committed by the West.
He singled out the case of Tony Blair, a former British prime minister, whom the ICC failed to indict over the 2003 Iraq war.
“There are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted,” the Gambian minister said.
He said the tribunal was an “international Caucasian court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”
The minister said Gambia has begun the process of withdrawing from the ICC, which involves notifying the United Nations secretary general and takes effect a year after the notification is received.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is ironically a former Gambian justice minister.
Only Africans have been charged in the six ICC cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary investigations have opened elsewhere, too.
The ICC has opened probes involving Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda and Mali.
The International Criminal Court was set up in 2002 to try war criminals and the perpetrators of genocide.
Last Friday, the South African government gave a formal notice of its intention to pull out of the ICC. Earlier that week, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza had signed a decree to quit the court’s jurisdiction.