Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Hollow Privacy Promises from Major Internet Service Providers

By Jeremy Gillula and Kate Tummarello | EFF | April 18, 2017

It’s no surprise that Americans were unhappy to lose online privacy protections earlier this month. Across party lines, voters overwhelmingly oppose the measure to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules for Internet providers that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law.

But it should come as a surprise that Republicans—including the Republican leaders of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission—are ardently defending the move and dismissing the tens of thousands who spoke up and told policymakers that they want protections against privacy invasions by their Internet providers.

Since the measure was signed into law, Internet providers and the Republicans who helped them accomplish this lobbying feat have decried the “hysteria,” “hyperbole,” and “hyperventilating” of constituents who want to be protected from the likes of Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Instead they’ve claimed that the repeal doesn’t change the online privacy landscape and that we should feel confident that Internet providers remain committed to protecting their customers’ privacy because they told us they would despite the law.

We’ve repeatedly debunked the tired talking points of the cable and telephone lobby: There is a unique, intimate relationship and power imbalance between Internet providers and their customers. The FTC likely cannot currently police Internet providers (unless Congress steps in, which the White House said it isn’t pushing for at this time). Congress’ repeal of the FCC’s privacy rules does throw the FCC’s authority over Internet providers into doubt. The now-repealed rules—which were set to go into effect later this year—were a valuable expansion and necessary codification of existing privacy rights granted under the law. Internet providers have already shown us the creepy things they’re willing to do to increase their profits.

The massive backlash shows that consumers saw through those industry talking points, even if Republicans in Congress and the White House fell for them.

Now that policymakers have effectively handed off online privacy enforcement to the Internet providers themselves, advocates for the repeal are pointing to the Internet providers’ privacy policies.

“Internet service providers have never planned to sell your individual browsing history to third parties,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FTC acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen wrote in a recent op-ed. “That’s simply not how online advertising works. And doing so would violate ISPs’ privacy promises.”

Aside from pushing back on oversimplification of the problem at hand, we should be asking: What exactly are the “privacy promises” that ISPs are making to their customers?

In blog posts and public statements since the rules were repealed, the major Internet providers and the trade groups that represent them have all pledged to continue protecting customers’ sensitive data and not to sell customers’ individual Internet browsing records. But how they go about defining those terms and utilizing our private information is still going to leave people upset. These statements should also be read with the understanding that existing law already allows the collection of individual browsing history.

Comcast said it won’t sell individual browsing histories and it won’t share customers’ “sensitive information (such as banking, children’s, and health information), unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent.” It also said it will offer an opt-out “if a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads.” We think leaving browsing history out of the list of information Comcast considers sensitive was no accident. In other words, we don’t think Comcast considers your browsing history sensitive, and will only offer you an opt-out of using your browsing history to send you targeted ads. There’s no mention of any opt-out of any other sharing of your browsing history, such as on an aggregated basis with third parties. While we applaud Comcast’s clever use of language to make it seem like they’re protecting their customers’ privacy, reading between the lines shows that Comcast is giving itself leeway to do the opposite.

Verizon similarly pledged not to sell customers’ “personal web browsing history” (emphasis ours) and described its advertising programs that give advertisers access to customers based on aggregated and de-identified information about what customers do online. By our reading, this means Verizon still plans to collect your browsing history and store it—they just won’t sell it individually.

AT&T pointed to its privacy policies, which carve out specific protections for “personal information … such as your name, address, phone number and e-mail address” but explicitly state that it does deliver ads “based on the websites visited by people who are not personally identified.” So just like Verizon, we think this means AT&T is collecting your browsing history and storing it—they’re just not attaching your name to it and selling it to third parties on an individualized basis.

In a filing to the FCC earlier this year, CTIA—which represents the major wireless ISPs—argued that “web browsing and app usage history are not ‘sensitive information’” and said that ISPs should be able to share those records by default, unless a customer asks them not to.

The common thread here is that Internet providers don’t consider records about what you do online to be worthy of the heightened privacy protections they afford to things like your social security number. Internet providers think that our web browsing histories are theirs to profit off of—not ours to protect as we see fit. And because Congress changed the law, they are now free to change their minds about the promises they make without the same legal ramifications.

These “privacy promises” are in no way a replacement for robust privacy protections enforced by a federal agency. If Internet providers want to get serious about proving their commitment to their customers’ privacy in the absence of federal rules, they should pledge not to collect or sell or share or otherwise use information about the websites we visit and the apps we use, except for what they need to collect and share in order to provide the service their customers are actually paying for: Internet access.

That would be a real privacy promise.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Hillary Clinton Really Lost

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 19, 2017

An early insider account of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, entitled Shattered, reveals a paranoid presidential candidate who couldn’t articulate why she wanted to be President and who oversaw an overconfident and dysfunctional operation that failed to project a positive message or appeal to key voting groups.

Okay, I realize that people who have been watching Rachel Maddow and other MSNBC programs – as well as reading The New York Times and The Washington Post for the past four months – “know” that Clinton ran a brilliant campaign that was only derailed because of “Russian meddling.” But this insider account from reporters Jonathan Allen and Annie Parnes describes something else.

As The Wall Street Journal review notes, the book “narrates the petty bickering, foolish reasoning and sheer arrogance of a campaign that was never the sure thing that its leader and top staffers assumed. … Mr. Allen and Ms. Parnes stress two essential failures of the campaign, the first structural, the second political. The campaign’s structure, the authors write, was an ‘unholy mess, fraught with tangled lines of authority, petty jealousies, and no sense of greater purpose.’”

The book portrays Hillary Clinton as distant from her campaign staff, accessible primarily through her close aide, Huma Abedin, and thus creating warring factions within her bloated operation.

According to the Journal’s review by Barton Swaim, the book’s authors suggest that this chaos resulted from “the fact that Mrs. Clinton didn’t know why she wanted to be president. At one point no fewer than 10 senior aides were working on her campaign announcement speech, not one had a clear understanding of why Americans should cast their vote for Mrs. Clinton and not someone else. The speech, when she finally delivered it, was a flop – aimless, boring, devoid of much beyond bromides.”

The book cites a second reason for Clinton’s dismal performance – her team’s reliance on analytics rather than on reaching out to real voters and their concerns.

There is also an interesting tidbit regarding Clinton’s attitude toward the privacy of her staff’s emails. “After losing to Mr. Obama in the protracted 2008 primary,” the Journal’s review says, Clinton “was convinced that she had lost because some staffers – she wasn’t sure who – had been disloyal. So she ‘instructed a trusted aide to access the campaign’s server and download the [email] messages sent and received by top staffers.’”

Nixonian Paranoia

In other words, Clinton – in some Nixonian fit of paranoia – violated the privacy of her senior advisers in her own mole hunt, a revelation that reflects on her own self-described “mistake” to funnel her emails as Secretary of State through a private server rather than a government one. As the Journal’s review puts it: “she didn’t want anyone reading her emails the way she was reading those of her 2008 staffers.”

But there is even a greater irony in this revelation because of the current complaint from Clinton and her die-hard supporters that Russia sabotaged her campaign by releasing emails via WikiLeaks from the DNC, which described how party leaders had torpedoed the campaign of Clinton’s rival for the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and other emails from her campaign chairman John Podesta, revealing the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks and some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

WikiLeaks has denied that it received the emails from Russia – and President Obama’s outgoing intelligence chiefs presented no real evidence to support the allegations – but the conspiracy theory of the Trump campaign somehow colluding with the Russians to sink Clinton has become a groupthink among many Democrats as well as the mainstream U.S. media.

So, rather than conducting a serious autopsy on how Clinton and the national Democratic Party kicked away a winnable election against the buffoonish Donald Trump, national Democrats have created a Zombie explanation for their failures, blaming their stunning defeat on the Russians.

This hysteria over Russia-gate has consumed the first several months of the Trump presidency – badgering the Trump administration into a more belligerent posture toward nuclear-armed Russia – but leaving little incentive for the Democrats to assess what they need to do to appeal to working-class voters who chose Trump’s empty-headed populism over Clinton’s cold-hearted calculations.

The current conventional wisdom among the mainstream media, many Democrats and even some progressives is that the only way to explain the victory by pussy-grabbing Trump is to complain about an intervention by the evil Russians. Maybe Maddow and the other Russia-did-it conspiracy theorists will now denounce Shattered as just one more example of “Russian disinformation.”

The Times’ View

The New York Times’ review by Michiko Kakutani also notes how Shattered details Clinton’s dysfunction, but the newspaper inserted a phrase about “Russian meddling,” presumably to avoid a head-exploding cognitive dissonance among its readers who have been inundated over the past four months by the Times’ obsession on Russia! Russia! Russia!

However, the Times’ review still focuses on the book’s larger message: “In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned ‘a winnable race’ into ‘another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.’

“It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and ‘spirit-crushing’ campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.”

So, perhaps this new book about how Hillary Clinton really lost Campaign 2016 will enable national Democrats to finally start charting a course correction before the party slams another Titanic-style campaign into another iceberg.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Book Review | , | 1 Comment

Why the Democrats are Dead: DeLauro Says No to Single-Payer

By Russell Mokhiber | CounterPunch | April 19, 2017

If you want to know why the Democratic Party is dead, dead, dead, look no further than Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut).

She’s a member of the House Progressive Caucus, which as a group has endorsed HR 676, the single payer bill in the House.

A cool one hundred of DeLauro’s colleagues have co-sponsored HR 676, including a blue dog from Tennessee (Jim Cooper) and a member from Mississippi (Bennie Thompson) (See Single Payer Action’s running total.)

But not DeLauro.

We asked why, but her office did not respond.

DeLauro’s legislative aides have told constituents recently DeLauro would vote for single payer if it came to the floor.

But pushing single payer now is a diversion.

The imperative is to defend Obamacare from the Republican onslaught.

One DeLauro aide told a constituent that when he hears from constituents “Obamacare sucks, we need single payer — it shows they don’t understand the reality in DC that we cannot get a single payer bill even to a vote with the current makeup of Congress and we have to spend all our energy and focus defending what we have.”

But the same aides have said that HR 676 is not good enough — that it lets the Veterans Administration stand and therefore is not true single payer — signaling that she’s for a tougher single payer bill.

“Democrats who, like Rosa DeLauro, support the Affordable Care Act are out of touch with the fact that the ACA can’t be fixed, that the only way to solve our healthcare crisis is to get rid of private insurers and create a single publicly-financed plan such as national improved Medicare for All and that the majority of Democratic Party voters and the public in general support Medicare for All,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit.

“We recognize that Medicare for All is off the table no matter which of the major corporate parties is in power and that it will take an organized movement of movements to put it on the table and pass it. We cannot wait any longer for a real solution to the healthcare crisis. Every day, people across the country are suffering and dying from lack of access to necessary care. This is the most important reality — that people are suffering and dying needlessly in the richest country in the world because members of Congress are more concerned with politics than with doing the right thing.”

DeLauro supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary battle against Bernie Sanders.

Single payer fueled Sanders’ run through the primaries, but now Sanders is traveling the country with Democratic National Committee Chair and Clinton supporter Tom Perez on a “come together and fight back tour.”

In a joint statement announcing the tour, Sanders and Perez say they will speak out on minimum wage, climate change, infrastructure spending, immigration, tax reform — nothing about single payer.

(Sanders’ aides, who last year took DeLauro’s line and said that single payer was a diversion from defending Obamacare, now say that Sanders will introduce a single payer bill in the Senate sometime soon.)

The reason the 100 members of the House have co-sponsored HR 676 is because at every town hall meeting, single payer is the driving force.

DeLauro too is hearing it from her constituents in Connecticut.

But DeLauro and the four other members of the House from Connecticut — all Democrats– John Larson, Jim Himes, Joe Courtney and Elizabeth Esty — have yet to relent.

Not yet, Connecticut.

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Corruption | , , , , | Leave a comment

California University Students Vote to Make US Flag at Meetings ‘Optional’

Sputnik – 19.04.2017

The Student Senate at the taxpayer-funded University of California, Davis, has decided to drop the requirement that they display the American flag at their meetings, because “the concept of United States of America and patriotism is different for every individual.”

Senate Bill 76, introduced by Student Senator Jose Meneses, states that “it shall not be compulsory for the flag of the United State of America to be displayed at ASUCD Senate meetings.”

“It should be at the discretion of the Senate whether presenting the flag is presently necessary,” the bill continues. “Considering that the flag is seldom present at Senate meetings, it should not be mandated by the Bylaws as a codified practice.”

Now, Senate members will have the option of petitioning for the flag to be displayed at individual meetings, 24 hours prior to its start.

The UC-Davis College Republicans are outraged by the bill, and have called it a “slap in the face” to American military members.

“The University of California has long been a public university dedicated to the education of its students. The flag of the United States of America stands for the educational opportunity provided by America, as well as the sacrifice of our military soldiers and veterans to provide us with this freedom,” Deborah Porter, political director of the UC-Davis College Republicans, told Campus Reform.

“Restricting the flag to be displayed at the mercy of the President pro-tempore is a slap in the face to our military members, and their sacrifice, even to the death, for our freedoms. I hold our military members in high respect, and thus vehemently oppose Senate Bill 76.”

The change has also sparked outrage from alumni, who have been emailing the student Senate saying that they will no longer be donating to the university, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“When I introduced the bill, I didn’t know it would be controversial,” Meneses told the Sacramento Bee.

Meneses claims that he was simply trying to make the Student Senate in compliance with federal law, which says that an organization cannot mandate displaying the flag.

“The opinion in that case is that you can’t force people to pledge your allegiance, by (the flag) being there; by extension, you are pledging your allegiance to a symbol that you don’t relate to or that you don’t equate yourself with,” Meneses said, citing a 1943 US Supreme Court decision that West Virginia couldn’t force students to pledge allegiance to the flag.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

A Just Bill for Palestinians

By Christian Sorensen | CounterPunch | April 19, 2017

What would a just U.S. foreign policy look like? This faux bill lays forth a vision regarding one pillar of such a policy: justice for Palestinians.

115th CONGRESS

HR 001948

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

1 June 2017

AN ACT

To express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Palestine relationship, to direct the President to submit to Congress reports on actions to enhance this relationship, and to assist in the defense of Palestinians everywhere.

1.

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

From 1948 to the spring of 2017, United States Presidents and both houses of Congress, in accordance with their own histories of supporting violence against Natives in North America and beyond, repeatedly prioritized the interests of extremist Zionist lobbies and the U.S. weapons industry over the interests of the Palestinians and the U.S. citizenry.

(2)

The U.S. National Security State boasts a coherent track record of supporting undemocratic regimes, among them: Sisi in Cairo, Abdullah II in Amman, the House of Khalifa in Al-Manama, Al Thani in Doha, Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, the House of Saud in Riyadh, and Sultan Qaboos in Muscat. In recent years, the people have risen up in Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere, only to be crushed by the full might of anti-democracy forces. The response from the U.S. National Security State has been consistent: overt and covert aid to undemocratic regimes via the provision of weaponry, diplomatic support, intelligence, and military training and advisors.

(3)

Israel, which has engaged in ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people for decades and which continues its sordid history of fomenting instability in the Middle East, is now exploiting regional discord in order to entrench its occupation of Palestine. Israel’s actions violate the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(4)

Israel has possessed nuclear weapons since the 1960s. It refuses to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is a destabilizing criminal enterprise.

(5)

Israel is a strategic burden on the United States. Ardent Zionists will insist that Israel provides the U.S. Government with “valuable intelligence.” That is a ruse. When giving “intelligence” to the U.S. Government, Israel always demands more access to U.S. capabilities in return. Furthermore, the “intelligence” that Israel gives the U.S. Government is politicized, designed to steer U.S. foreign policy in a direction consistent with Zionist goals for the Eastern Mediterranean.

(6)

Over the past several decades, with the assistance of the United States Government, Israel has increased its stockpiles of state-of-the-art military weaponry. Israel uses a substantial portion of the U.S. tax dollars it receives – now up to $3.8 billion annually – to purchase weapons from the U.S. war industry. Such weapons include, but are not limited to: Boeing Apache attack helicopters, Raytheon PATRIOT missile systems, General Electric jet engines, Pratt & Whitney turbines, Colt rifles, Rockwell Collins helmets, and Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft. Israel also boasts a lucrative arms industry of its own. It is now armed to the teeth.

(7)

This status quo is unjust and unsustainable.

2.

Statement of policy

It is now the policy of the United States:

(1) To commit to the security of Palestine.

(2) To void prior lip service regarding the so-called “unbreakable” bond between Washington, D.C., and the Zionist State. The United States Government has ended the lopsided relationship it once had with Israel.

(3) To classify the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as an Agent of a Foreign Power. Counterintelligence operations have been increased against Mossad in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and across the United States.

(4) To schedule a national summit featuring leaders from African American, Native American, and Palestinian human rights groups for this summer, 2017. These leaders will chart the way forward. U.S. Congress will learn from them.

(5) To provide the Palestinian people the capabilities necessary to deter and defend themselves against any threats. This includes assistance in tearing down the apartheid wall as well as the oppressive Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus, which Israel has long used to outsource subjugation of the Palestinian people.

(6) To no longer use the United States’ position on the United Nations Security Council to benefit Israel. Henceforth, the U.S. Government will use its position on all international bodies to respect human rights and abide by International Law. Palestinian self-determination is the overriding priority.

(7) To support the Palestinian people’s inherent right to self-defense. It is not terrorism to defend oneself against an occupying, colonizing military force that is armed to the teeth.

(8) To pursue avenues of cooperation with Palestine, emphasizing technology, agriculture, medicine, health, and energy sectors. The U.S. Congress looks forward to engaging in cultural exchanges with representatives from Ramallah, Nablus, Gaza, Hebron and other cities.

(9) To work tirelessly in order to get Israel to lift the barbaric siege of the Gaza Strip, to expedite humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank, and to push Israel to accept Palestinians’ Right of Return in accordance with longstanding principles of International Law.

(10) To demand Israel remove all of its colonists from beyond the 1967 borders, and to assist Palestine with its on-going efforts to forge a peaceful end to Israeli occupation and oppression. The Palestinian people deserve to live free from an occupying power, free from the meddling of any intelligence apparatuses, and free from the scourge of Western weaponry, whether made in Tel Aviv suburbs or the United States of America.

3.

United States actions to assist in the defense of Palestine and protect U.S. interests

It is the sense of Congress that the United States should take the following actions to assist in the defense of Palestine, the termination of Zionism and its inherent racism, and the promotion of human rights in the region:

(1)

End military cooperation with Israel. This includes ending the annual $3.8 billion gift from U.S. taxpayers to the Israeli government, the majority of which is used to purchase weaponry from the U.S. war industry. The U.S. Government will also no longer help Israel develop military technology, including rocket and missile designs. Israel is no longer allowed to make purchases under the Foreign Military Financing program.

(2)

Support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Provide Palestine with the full resources of the U.S. State Department in order to: encourage boycott of any company that aids or abets Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights; encourage investment vehicles and financial institutions to divest from Israeli companies that profit from occupation; and expand international, national, regional, and local sanctions across the global community against Israel until it meets its obligations as stipulated by International Law.

(3)

Retrieve and rescind defense articles and defense services from Israel through such mechanisms as appropriate. Weapons include but are not limited to air refueling tankers, armored vehicles, missile defense capabilities, specialized munitions, jet aircraft, stolen nuclear triggers, and satellite technology. This includes retrieval, decommissioning, and disposal of munitions from any and all forward-deployed United States stockpiles located within Israel. The U.S. National Security State will no longer share raw Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) with the Israeli regime.

(4)

Renege on any training and exercises that the Israeli military undertakes within the United States. Israeli military personnel have three duty days to leave U.S. territory.

(5)

Enhance economic cooperation between the United States and Palestine as directed by Palestinian civil society.

Report on progress

(1)

Statement of policy

It is the policy of the United States (A) to force Israel respect International Law and Palestinian human rights; and (B) to impose sanctions on Israel until it conforms to international law and ends its militant behavior as a rogue state.

(2)

Report

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on the status of Israel’s relative progress meeting human rights obligations and adhering to the Geneva Conventions.  Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the following: (1) Terminating cooperation between the United States and Israel in matters of war, energy, cyber, and other appropriate areas, especially in light of the extensive espionage efforts against U.S. interests and persons conducted by Mossad and Unit 8200; and (2) Taking all financial and diplomatic steps to help Palestine recover from decades of abuse, ethnic cleansing, and colonization at the hands of Zionist extremists.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Banned Pollutant Detected in Water Under US Marine Base on Okinawa

Sputnik – 19.04.2017

Japan has revealed that high levels of a banned pollutant have been found in groundwater underneath Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, on the island of Okinawa.

Two recent surveys conducted in August 2016 and January of this year have revealed abnormally high concentrations of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and per-fluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both used as aircraft lubricants, fire-retardant foam and a water-repellant, in the groundwater underneath the US Marine base in Okinawa. Both were banned in Japan in 2010.

Both chemicals are known cancer-causing agents, and exposure has been shown to result in tumors and increases in the weight of organs and the body overall, and to cause death in animals, according to Stripes.com.

Reported by the local Okinawa environmental protection department’s water environments control team, spokesman Yoshinari Mi-yahira affirmed that “High levels of contamination was detected in underground water samples taken from the Oyama and Kiyuna districts.”

During the August survey, researchers with the Okinawa water environment control team noted that of the 35 locations monitored, three downstream of the US military base were found to have measurements that exceeded US drinking water health advisory levels.

“The concentration of the substances is notably high in the vicinity of the downstream area of the air station,” Miyahira said, according to Stripes.com, indicating that the source of the toxins is the US base.

Requests by Japanese authorities to address the hazard, as well as calls for an investigation, have gone unanswered by the base or the US government.

“We have asked the military through the Ministry of Defense to provide us with information on the history of the use of the agents that contained the substances and an [on-base] survey by the prefectural government, the military and the Ministry of Defense,” Miyahira said, cited by Stripes.com.

According to Miyahara, health officials in the region have been stymied. “We received a [Japanese ministry] response that the military handles the agents appropriately and that they see no need to conduct the proposed survey.”

Tons of toxic materials on Okinawa were left to rot after the southern Japanese island came into US possession following the end of World War II. More recently, US military veterans serving in the Vietnam War who were exposed to defoliant Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa have won disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

SEE ALSO :

Okinawa: Forgotten Occupation?

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Obama, Comey Relied On Discredited Dossier To Obtain FISA Warrant On Trump Campaign

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | April 19, 2017

James Comey, the man who refused to bring charges against Hillary Clinton despite a mountain of concrete evidence that she, and several members of her staff, knowingly violated several federal laws, apparently used the largely discredited “Trump Dossier” to help secure a FISA warrant to secretly monitor Trump’s former campaign aide, Carter Page, according to CNN.

Among other things, the dossier alleged that Page met senior Russian officials as an emissary of the Trump campaign, and discussed quid-pro-quo deals relating to sanctions, business opportunities and Russia’s interference in the election. Page has denied meeting the officials named in the dossier and says he never cut any political deals with the Kremlin.  Per CNN:

The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.

The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.

This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.

According to the Washington Post, the warrant to monitor Page was obtained in the summer of 2016 which indicates that the FBI was in possession of the now-infamous dossier well before President Obama supposedly received his first briefing on the material in December 2016.

Of course, as we reported back in January (see “Here Is The Full 35-Page Report Alleging Trump Was “Cultivated, Supported And Assisted” By Russia“) the dossier, compiled by ex-British intelligence official Chris Steele, was almost immediately discredited by the public at large after numerous glaring errors were quickly identified and salicious stories of ‘golden showers’ and other sexual acts were also dismissed as pure rubbish.

Allegedly the dossier was even available to the Clinton campaign should they have chosen to use it to discredit Trump, but even they were quickly convinced that no one would buy it.

All of which, once again, brings into question the level of stupidity and/or pure corruption that must have been involved in this process given the shear number of people whose approval was undoubtedly required to authorize the issuance of a FISA warrant that paved the way for Comey and the Obama administration to secretly monitor the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, Carter Page offered a simple reply to this latest revelation saying that he looks forward to the discovery process and testimony that will come from the lawsuit he plans to file in short order.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

After Syria and ‘mother of all bombs’, Trump fakes again

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 19, 2017

A quarter of the way through TV programmes in the weekend on two leading Malayalam channels, it dawned on me that some woolly-headed local “strategic thinker” must have been spreading a yarn that World War III is in the offing because US President Donald Trump has abandoned his campaign pledges and has embraced the classic US imperialistic policies – and that the missile attack in Syria, the use of the ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and the war clouds over North Korea were all symptomatic of the Armageddon.

Of course, I tried to reason by detailing empirical evidence that much of what is happening is due largely to the confusion prevailing in Washington under a president who is hopelessly besieged, and that things are in reality far from what meets the eye.

So, today, I laughed uncontrollably when the American press reports started appearing that, after all, Trump’s show of force in the Far East was a contrived playact. The formidable American armada, the Carl Vinson carrier strike force, apparently never really headed for North Korea! It was a charade!

I had suspected all along that some back-room deal between the US and China was going on and that the pantomime was complex and, perhaps, beyond belief. The first cloud of suspicion arose when the Chinese commentaries began hinting vaguely that if both Pyongyang and Washington showed restraint, it was not coincidental but there would have been a mutual awareness that neither side would push the envelope. Of course, Chinese commentators will never acknowledge whether Beijing acted as a guarantor of sorts to Pyongyang that Trump has no intentions to attack North Korea or decapitate the Kim Jong-un regime.

The Chinese and I are on the same page here, perhaps, being votaries of dialectical materialism. I too believe that the US economy is hardly in a position to start an imperial war anywhere on the planet, and that Trump knows this better than anyone in America. Which only, after all, explains his consistent campaign pledge that much as he’d build up the US military as by far the most powerful war machine that man ever knew and would restore American prestige and influence worldwide, he will not be an interventionist and will use American power most sparingly, only if US interests are threatened – and, most important, that the core of his foreign-policy doctrine is “America First”, as distinct from his predecessor Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s.

Now, let me reproduce the extracts from a Chinese commentary that appeared today in the Communist Party daily Global Times :

  • Most observers say that the Korean Peninsula is approaching the most volatile point, but the possibility of a war remains slim. There are signs that the US President Donald Trump would resort to a tougher Pyongyang policy than his predecessor… However, it will not act rashly… Trump will not forget the promise he made during the presidential campaign. Though he vigorously believes American foreign policy comes from its military might, to “make America great again” can in no way rely entirely on military prowess. In the near future, the Trump administration will attach more importance to the economy, employment and immigration than to diplomacy… The new administration has made it clear that instead of seeking a regime change, it will put “maximum pressure” upon Pyongyang and calls for engagement with the North Korea regime, if and when it changes its behavior.
  • US national interests and domestic politics, especially American citizens’ political appeal, have determined that Trump must give top priority to domestic affairs… It demonstrates the pragmatic and flexible side of the new government. If the US truly implements the new policy, the global community will see the world’s most powerful country spending more time and energy in dealing with domestic affairs. The future circumstances surrounding Pyongyang will likely enter a new phase.

Now, does it mean China will lower its guard? No way. Make no mistake, China won’t take chances with the unstable political environment in which Trump operates. Thus, explicit warnings have also been held out to the US that any attack on North Korea will inevitably trigger Chinese military intervention. This is what an editorial in Global Times warned on Tuesday:

  • Chinese people will not allow their government to remain passive when the armies of the US and South Korea start a war and try to take down the Pyongyang regime. The Chinese will not let something like that happen, especially on the same land where the Chinese Volunteer Army once fought in the early 1950s. It is a land covered with the blood of Chinese soldiers who bravely fought in the early 1950s. Furthermore, if Pyongyang were to be taken by the allied armies of the US and South Korea, it would dramatically change the geopolitical situation in the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, government-owned China Daily reported today that President Xi Jinping in his capacity as the chairman of the Central Military Commission has stressed to the PLA commanders the imperative of being “combat ready”. (China Daily )

So, what lies ahead? My prognosis: Beijing is actively promoting direct talks between the US and North Korea without any pre-conditions, which can be expected in a near future. Would Trump get around to realising his wish to have a McDonald cheeseburger with Kim some day, as he once said? Welcome to the Trump era in world politics.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Trump – two steps forward, one step back

JPEG - 25.7 kb

By Thierry Meyssan | Al-Watan | April 18, 2017

President Trump’s radical change in rhetoric concerning his foreign policy was accompanied by the bombing of an air base in Cheyrat, and that of an Afghan mountain.

The world trembled before the deployment of such force – 59 Tomahawk missiles in Syria and one GBU-4/B3 mega-bomb in Afghanistan. Yet the base in Cheyrat was already operational again the following morning, while the « Mother Of All Bombs » certainly caused the collapse of three exits of a natural tunnel, but did not destroy the kilometres of underground passages created over time by the rivers within the mountain. In short, much ado about nothing.

These two operations were clearly intended to convince the US deep state that the White House was once again supporting its imperial politics. They had the desired effect on Germany and France. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande applauded their lord and master, and called for an end to the Syrian situation. The surprise arrived from elsewhere.

The United Kingdom did not only follow the movement. Their Minister for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson, proposed to levy sanctions against Russia, according to him an accomplice in the Syrian « crimes », and responsible in one way or another for the Afghan resistance and a plethora of other evils.

During the meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs at the G7, Johnson announced the cancellation of his trip to Moscow, and invited all his partners to break off their political and commercial relations with Russia. However, though approving the British initiative, these partners prudently stayed in the background. Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, incontrovertibly dismissed this insane proposition and maintained his trip to Moscow. Brazenly, Johnson then declared that the Europeans had appointed Tillerson to go and talk some sense into the Russians.

Although international protocol states that Ministers are to be received by their opposite numbers, and not by the Head of State, the Atlantist Press presented Tillerson’s welcome by Lavrov as a cooling of Russo-US relations. Before he had the time to salute his guest, Sergey Lavrov was interrupted by a Washington journalist who took him to task. Reminding him of the conventions of basic politeness, the Russian Minister refused to answer him and cut the presentations short.

The meeting, behind closed doors, lasted for more than 4 hours, which seems fairly long for people who have nothing to say to one another. Finally, the two men requested an audience with President Putin, who recieved them for 2 extra hours.

After these meetings, the Ministers gave a Press conference. They declared without irony that they had done little more than take note of their divergences. Sergey Lavrov warned the journalists of the danger that this rupture represented for the world.

However, the next day, the same Lavrov, addressing the Russian Press, indicated that he had concluded an agreement with his guest. Washington had agreed not to continue their attacks on the Syrian Arab Army, and the military coordination between the Pentagon and the Russian army for circulation in Syrian airspace had been re-established.

In appearance, the Trump administration is roaring its power and throwing bombs around, but in reality, it is taking great care not to cause any irreparable damage. The worst and the best are therefore possible.

Translation by Pete Kimberley

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

CNN calls massive car bombing that killed 126 Syrians a “Hiccup”

By Alex Christoforou | The Duran | April 18, 2017

At least 126 people, including 68 children, were killed and dozens of others sustained injuries on bus attack which happened this last Saturday.

Little media attention has been given to the horrific attack which saw a bomber blow up an explosive-laden car, ripping through multiple buses carrying evacuees from Kefraya and Foua villages in Idlib, as they were waiting in al-Rashidin district to enter the city of Aleppo.

CNN reporter Nick Patton Walsh covered the attack, referring to the massive car bombing as a “hiccup”.

68 “beautiful babies” were murdered in this ISIS-Al Qaeda attack.

US President Trump has yet to issue a statement or call for a Tomahawk missile strike against the “moderate rebels”.

US/EU sanctions against ISIS-Al Qaeda sponsors Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have yet to be enforced.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Iran complying with commitments under nuclear deal: Tillerson

Press TV – April 19, 2017

The Donald Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran has been compliant with its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement, and that the administration is reviewing whether a continued suspension of the sanctions serves the national interests of the United States.

In a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration has undertaken a full review of the nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led inter-agency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States,” Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday.

The White House must send certification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA to Congress every 90 days, and it was the first issued by the Trump administration.

Tillerson, however, accused Iran of being “a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods,” and noted the administration would review the nuclear deal with that in mind.

Similar accusations leveled by US officials have in the past drawn strong reactions from Iranian authorities. Early this month, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi advised US Defense Secretary James Mattis against making such “unwarranted and malicious accusations against Iran.”

He said Washington should instead oblige its regional allies to halt their widespread financial, ideological, and military support for the terrorist outfits that have been plaguing several countries.

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump frequently criticized the JCPOA as “the worst deal ever negotiated,” but offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, renegotiate its terms or keep it in place.

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, France, Britain, Russia and China plus Germany – sealed the JCPOA in July 2015 following 18 months of intense negotiations.

Under the deal, which took effect in January last year, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has warned that it would restore its nuclear activities to the pre-JCPOA level, if the US fails to keep its end of the bargain.

At an international conference on nuclear policy in Washington last month, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini strongly defended the JCPOA, pointing out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had confirmed Iran’s compliance five times.

Opponents of the JCPOA, including Israel and its allies in the US Congress, accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and insist that the deal would not guarantee that the country was not striving to that end any longer.

Iran has always said that it seeks to allay international concerns about its nuclear program which is peaceful and civilian.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment