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Manipulation or Not? US Role in German Bundestag Elections

Sputnik – October 15, 2017

The Bundestag elections were “undoubtedly” influenced by the US, an ex-head of a German trade union, Friedhelm Klinkhammer, said, commenting on a recent Ifop poll according to which many Europeans believe the US interferes in political processes in other countries. However, German researcher Dr. Martin Thunert adheres to a different point of view.

Many mainstream German journalists are members of the pro-American “Atlantic Bridge” foundation, which is why they often cover certain events in a biased manner, the former division head of one of the largest German trade unions, ver.di, at the NDR broadcast company, told Sputnik Germany.

“Before their appointment, all of these journalists visited the United States, where they clearly perfected their pro-American position,” Klinkhammer said.

He stressed that during the parliamentary election campaign in Germany, Merkel’s domestic policy was barely covered and without any criticism, while her foreign policy was presented in an exaggeratedly positive manner, with the chancellor being portrayed as an outstanding German politician and the actual head of the EU.

“This line of ‘silence’ in domestic politics and exaltation of her foreign policy that was consistently followed by the media guaranteed that Merkel didn’t attract negative attention, even though she alone was responsible for the consequences of Germany’s migration strategy. Thus journalists diverted attention from Merkel and focused on the Alternative for Germany (AfD) instead,” Klinkhammer noted.At the same time, Dr. Martin Thunert, an expert on the US and research fellow at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, does not believe that the influence of the “Atlantic Bridge” foundation determined the results of the elections to the German Bundestag.

Thunert himself attended the meetings of the organization, and he is confident that journalists are not blind executors of other people’s orders.

“I think that if the US would have really applied some kind of manipulations in this area, Merkel’s results would be better,” the expert said.

Moreover, Thunert believes that the situation in which different factions, united by common interests, support some candidates and campaign against others is a normal process in a pluralistic society. Influence should not be equated to manipulation, he noted.

Commenting on the fact that most of the Europeans surveyed by Ifop think that the Americans manipulate elections in other countries, the expert said: “I do not fully understand this, because I think that influencing or expressing a preference for a certain person is not the same as manipulating. Before the Brexit referendum, Obama quite clearly said that Britain should refrain from supporting the withdrawal from the EU. Influence? Yes. But manipulation is something else, something illegal, for example, when individuals try to ‘hack’ vending machines or bribe voters.”

The latest public poll conducted by the leading French pollster Ifop shows that one-third of UK residents think that the US exerts influence on elections in other countries. The percentage is even higher in Germany and France (over 40 percent).At the same time, only 21 percent of UK residents and less than 30 percent of continental Europeans, however, believe that Russia influences the elections of other countries.

SEE ALSO:

‘Shaping Politics’: Why the US ‘Interferes’ in Elections in Foreign Countries

US Interference Represents Real Threat to Security in Middle East – Iran Foreign Ministry

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

How Netanyahu Pulls Trump’s Strings

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 15, 2017

In the final presidential debate of 2016, Hillary Clinton famously called Donald Trump the “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But what’s increasingly clear is that Trump has a more typical puppet master for a U.S. politician – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since Sept. 18, when the two men met in New York around the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu has been pulling Trump’s strings on almost every foreign policy issue. Arguably, the puppet/puppeteer relationship began much earlier, but I’ve been told that Trump bridled early on at Netanyahu’s control and even showed a few signs of rebellion.

For instance, Trump initially resisted Netanyahu’s demand for a deeper U.S. commitment in Syria by ordering the shutdown of the CIA operation supporting anti-government rebels, along with the Trump administration’s statement that U.S. policy no longer sought “regime change” in Damascus.

Immediately after that announcement, Netanyahu had some success in getting Trump to reverse direction and fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base on April 6. The attack followed what one intelligence source told me was a staged chemical weapons incident by Al Qaeda operatives in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, possibly using sarin delivered via drone from a Saudi/Israeli special operations base in Jordan. Yet, although apparently duped by the subterfuge into the missile strike, Trump still balked at a complete reversal of his Syrian policy.

Then, in May, Trump picked Saudi Arabia and Israel as his first overseas trip as president – essentially following the advice of his son-in-law Jared Kushner – but I’m told he came away feeling somewhat humiliated by the over-the-top treatment that involved him getting pulled into a ceremonial sword dance in Saudi Arabia and facing condescension from Netanyahu.

So, over the summer, Trump listened to advice about a possible major overhaul of U.S. foreign policy that would have checked Israeli/Saudi regional ambitions, opened diplomatic doors to Iran, and addressed the Korean crisis by brokering negotiations between the North and the South over some form of loose confederation.

There was even the possibility of a Nixon-goes-to-China moment with tough-guy Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the two countries restoring diplomatic ties, a process that could have given U.S. companies a better chance to compete in the Iranian market.

Those proposed moves had the advantage of reducing international tensions, saving the U.S. government money on future military adventures, and freeing U.S. corporations from the tangle of economic sanctions – exactly the “America First” strategy that Trump had promised his working-class base.

However, instead Netanyahu succeeded in pulling Trump’s strings during their conversations on Sept. 18 in New York, although exactly how is still a mystery to some people close to these developments. One source said the Kushner family real-estate company has exposure to substantial Israeli financing that could be yanked, although Jared Kushner’s financial disclosure form only lists a $5 million unsecured line of credit, held jointly with his father, from the Israel Discount Bank.

Trump also has major pro-Netanyahu donors to his political war chest and his legal defense fund who are strong advocates for war with Iran, including casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has plowed $35 million into the pro-Trump Super PAC Future 45 and has publicly called for dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran as a negotiating tactic. So, Netanyahu had a number of potential strings to pull.

Going on Rants

Whatever the precise reasons, on Sept. 19, Trump turned his maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly into a war-like rant, personally insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” threatening to “totally destroy” his nation of 25 million people, and parroting Netanyahu’s calls for another regime change project aimed at Iran.

Most diplomats in the audience sat in stunned silence as Trump threatened aggressive war from the podium of an organization created to prevent the scourge of war. The one notable exception was Netanyahu who enthusiastically applauded his  success in jerking Trump into the neocon camp.

So, rather than shift U.S. policy away from confrontation, Trump jettisoned the diplomatic strategy although it already had dispatched intermediaries to make contacts with the Iranians and North Koreans. Instead, Trump opted for the classic neocon approach favored by Netanyahu, albeit with Trump dressing up his neocon surrender in some “America First” rhetoric.

The U.N. speech left some of the U.S. intermediaries scrambling to explain to their contacts in Iran and North Korea why Trump had repudiated the messages that they had been carrying. Privately, Trump explained to one that he just liked to “zigzag” and that the intended end point hadn’t changed.

Some of these tensions surfaced in late September when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the extraordinary step of announcing the behind-the-scenes contacts with North Korea during a state visit to China.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Tillerson said. “We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.” Tillerson added, “We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang … We do talk to them. ,,, Directly. We have our own channels.”

In reaction to Tillerson’s efforts to salvage the backchannel initiatives, Trump showed that his obeisance to Netanyahu and the neocons outweighed loyalty to either his Secretary of State or the intermediaries who had ventured into dicey situations on Trump’s behalf.

In Twitter messages, Trump belittled the idea of a dialogue with North Korea, tweeting: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”

“Save your energy Rex,” Trump added, before slipping in another thinly veiled threat of a military strike: “we’ll do what has to be done!”

While on the surface, Trump’s repudiation of Tillerson might have been viewed as another “zigzag,” it is now clear that Trump’s “zigzag” explanation was just another lie. Rather than zigzagging, he is instead following a straight line marked out by Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Netanyahu seems to have won more concessions from Trump. The U.S. military appears to be helping the remnants of Islamist forces still fighting the government, according to Russian officials. Their accusation is that the U.S. is secretly aiding the Islamist terror groups with weapons, tactical advice and aerial reconnaissance.

In other words, Trump appears to be continuing U.S. military intervention in Syria – just as Netanyahu desires.

Falling in Line

Trump further showed that he is following Netanyahu’s marching orders with the extremist speech about Iran on Friday, essentially repeating all the Israeli propaganda lines against Iran and burning whatever bridges remained toward a meaningful diplomatic approach.

Trump’s Iran speech was so ludicrous it almost defies serious analysis. It ranks with the reckless rhetoric of President George W. Bush when he pronounced an “axis of evil,” with the incongruous linking of Iraq and Iran (two bitter enemies) and North Korea accompanied by Bush’s bogus claims about Iraq’s WMD and Iraq’s alleged collaboration with Al Qaeda.

In Friday’s speech, which looked like the handiwork of John Bolton, one of Bush’s neocon advisers who was seen entering the White House last week, Trump repeated all the nonsense tying Iran to Al Qaeda, presumably thinking that the American people still don’t understand that Al Qaeda is a fanatical Sunni terror group that targets both the West and Shiites, the dominant Muslim faith in Iran, as heretics deserving death.

The inconvenient truth is that Al Qaeda has long been connected to Saudi Arabia, which has supported these fanatics since the 1980s when Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden was supported in his jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, who were there trying to protect a secular regime.

Though officially the Saudi monarchy insists that it is opposed to Al Qaeda, Saudi intelligence has used Al Qaeda as essentially an unconventional fighting force deployed to destabilize and terrorize adversaries in the region and around the world. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’sThe Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable.”]

As the Israelis have developed a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia in recent years, they also have expressed a preference for an Al Qaeda victory in Syria if necessary to destroy what Michael Oren, former Ambassador to the U.S. and now a deputy minister under Netanyahu, has described as the Shiite “strategic arc” running from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut.

One of the frequent Israeli complaints about Iran is that it has assisted the sovereign government of Syria in defeating Al Qaeda and its militant allies (as well as Al Qaeda’s spinoff Islamic State), which should tell you a lot about where Netanyahu’s loyalties lie.

A Compromised Media

Yet, as dishonest as Trump’s Iran speech was, the U.S. mainstream media won’t criticize it as harshly as it deserves because virtually all the important journalists and talking heads have swallowed Israel’s anti-Iran propaganda whole. They have frequently repeated the canard about Iran as “the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism” when that title clearly should go to the Saudis and the Qataris if not others.

The West’s major news outlets also have ingested all the sophisticated propaganda against the Assad government in Syria, particularly the claims about chemical weapons attacks while ignoring evidence that Al Qaeda’s operatives and their “civil defense” collaborators have staged attacks with the goal of provoking a direct U.S. military intervention. [See Consortiumnews.com’sA New Hole in Syria-Sarin Certainty.”]

In his Friday speech, Trump also touted one of the earliest canards about Iranian “terrorism,” the attack by Lebanese Shiite militants on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 killing 241 Americans.

When that attack happened, I was working at The Associated Press as an investigative reporter specializing in national security issues. While the precise Iranian role was not clear, what should have been obvious was that the attack was not “terrorism,” which is classically defined as violence toward civilians to achieve a political goal.

Not only were the Marines not civilians but the Reagan administration had made them belligerents in the Lebanese war by the decision to order the USS New Jersey to shell Muslim villages. Reagan’s National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, who often represented Israel’s interests inside the administration, was the spark plug for this mission creep, which killed Lebanese civilians and convinced Shiite militants that the United States had joined the war against them.

Shiite militants struck back, sending a suicide truck bomber through U.S. security positions, demolishing the high-rise Marine barracks in Beirut. Reagan soon repositioned the surviving U.S. forces offshore. At the AP, I unsuccessfully argued against calling the Beirut attack “terrorism,” a word that other news organizations also sloppily applied. But even senior Reagan officials recognized the truth.

“When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides,” Gen. Colin Powell wrote in his memoir, My American Journey. In other words, Powell, who was then military adviser to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, recognized that the actions of the U.S. military had altered the status of the Marines in the eyes of the Shiites.

(Although this “terrorism” is always blamed on Hezbollah, the group did not officially come into existence until 1985 as a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon which did not end until 2000.)

Opposed to Putin

So, Trump is now on the path to wars with both North Korea and Iran, neither of which Russian President Putin favors. Putin, who played a key role in helping President Obama achieve the Iran-nuclear agreement, now sides with the Europeans in opposition to Trump’s decertification.

Putin also favors a prompt end to the Syrian conflict with the defeat of Al Qaeda and its allies, and he wants peaceful negotiations with North Korea over its desire for security against threatened American aggression. Trump is on the opposite side of all these Putin priorities.

In other words, not only does the Russia-gate hysteria have core evidentiary problems – both on the issues of “hacking” Democratic emails and claims about suspected “Russia-linked” entities paying for an infinitesimal number of ads on social media (including some about puppies and another promoting a critical documentary about Donald Trump’s golf course in Scotland) – but Trump is behaving in ways that are directly contrary to Putin’s desires and interests.

If indeed Clinton were right that Trump was Putin’s “puppet,” then he would have agreed to negotiations to address the North Korean crisis; would have accepted constructive diplomacy toward Iran; and would have ended all U.S. support for the Syrian militants and encouraged a quick end to the bloodletting.

Instead, Trump is moving in opposite directions, lining up with Netanyahu and the neocons, whom some European allies refer to as “America’s Israeli agents.” Although dressing up his capitulation to Netanyahu in tough-guy phrasing, Trump is doing what most U.S. politicians do – they grovel before Bibi Netanyahu.

And, if you have any doubts about that reality, you can watch how often both Republicans and Democrats jump to their feet when Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress, an honor that he has received three times, tying him with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Those moments of American humiliation – as almost all 535 members of Congress act like puppets on invisible strings – represent the actual subservience of the U.S. government to a foreign power. And that power is not Russia.

President Trump is just the latest American politician to have his strings yanked by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

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

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

PKK presence in Kirkuk amounts to declaration of war, says Iraqi government

Press TV – October 15, 2017

The Iraqi government has accused authorities from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of bringing militants from Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to the disputed oil province of Kirkuk, saying it considered the move as a “declaration of war.”

The National Security Council, headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said in a statement on Sunday that the presence of “fighters not belonging to the regular security forces in Kirkuk” was a “dangerous escalation.”

“It is impossible to remain silent” faced with “a declaration of war towards Iraqis and government forces,” the statement said, adding, “The central government and regular forces will carry out their duty of defending the Iraqi people in all its components including the Kurds, and of defending Iraq’s sovereignty and unity.”

The Iraqi government has said that it will seek to impose its authority over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

The statement came just hours before the expiry of a deadline for Kurdish peshmerga fighters to withdraw from strategic areas.

Kurdish troops have already rejected a call from the Iraqi government forces to withdraw from a strategic location in Kirkuk’s southern region. Early on Sunday, a Kurdish security official announced that Peshmerga fighters had not withdrawn from a key junction south of of Kirkuk.

Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of Peshmerga forces were deployed to Kirkuk at the request of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Peshmerga forces moved into Kirkuk in 2014, when the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group launched an offensive across Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds deny presence of PKK militants

On Sunday, Kurdish Iraqi officials denied that any PKK militants were present in Kirkuk.

“There are no PKK forces in Kirkuk, but there are some volunteers who sympathizes with the PKK,” said General Jabar Yawer, the secretary general of the Peshmerga ministry.

Tensions have been simmering between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG over a recent controversial referendum on the secession of the region.

The plebiscite took place on September 25, drawing strong objection from Baghdad. Iraq’s neighbors and the international community also voiced concern about the repercussions of the vote, which was only supported by Israel.

Meanwhile, Kurdish leaders have dismissed the Iraqi government’s demand that the KRG annul the results of last month’s independence referendum.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 2 Comments

Pharmaceuticals can be a license to print money

By Pete Dolack | Systemic Disorder | October 11, 2107

It’s no secret that the United States suffers from by far the world’s highest costs for health care. As the most market-oriented health care system among advanced capitalist countries, this is no surprise. Health care in the U.S. is designed to deliver corporate profits, not health care.

On that score, the U.S. system is quite successful. Pharmaceutical companies are at the head of the class in this regard, frequently justifying the spiraling costs of medications by citing large research and development costs that include the costs for drugs that don’t make it to market. There are many drugs that fail to survive testing and become a cost that will never be compensated, that is true. But are these failures really so high to justify the extreme costs of successful drugs?

It would seem not. Firmer proof of that lack of justification has been published by the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, which found that revenue for cancer drugs far outstrips spending on research and development. The article, “Research and Development Spending to Bring a Single Cancer Drug to Market and Revenues After Approval,” prepared by Drs. Vinay Prasad and Sham Mailankody, found that revenue from 10 drugs (one by each of 10 companies) exceed those companies’ total research and development costs by more than seven times.

The total revenue hauled in from these 10 drugs did vary considerably. Two of them earned more than US$20 billion after approval. Both of these high performers cost less than $500 million in research and development costs. The revenue from each of the 10, however, exceeded costs, with widely varied margins. Still profitable: The median revenue of these 10 drugs was $1.7 billion, more than double the median development cost of $648 million, the JAMA Internal Medicine authors report.

The authors write that the median cost to develop a cancer drug represents “a figure significantly lower than prior estimates,” adding that their analysis “provides a transparent estimate of R&D spending on cancer drugs and has implications for the current debate on drug pricing.”

To obtain these figures, the authors analyzed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissions filings for pharmaceutical companies with no drugs on the U.S. market that received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a cancer drug from January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2015. Cumulative R&D spending was estimated from initiation of drug development activity to date of approval. Earnings were tracked from the time of approval to March 2017.

The sky’s the limit for pharmaceutical prices

The increase in pharmaceutical prices (blue) versus the general increase in commodities prices (red).

Another way of looking at this would be to examine the increases in the cost of pharmaceuticals against other products. Here again the numbers stand out. Using data gathered by the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, the consumer price index for pharmaceutical preparation manufacturing for the first quarter of 2017 was 747.8, with January 1, 1980, as the benchmark of 100. In other words, the price of pharmaceuticals is seven and half times higher than they were at the start of 1980. (See graph above.)

How does that compare with inflation or other products? Quite well — for pharmaceutical companies. That more than sevenfold increase in drug prices is an increase nearly two and half times greater than inflation for the period, and nearly four times that of all commodities.

So, yes, unconscionable price-gouging is the cause here. By the industry as a whole, not simply individuals like “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, who might be an outlier in his brazenness but not in his profit-generation plan.

Although not the entire picture, this snapshot of corporate extortion plays a significant role in why the cost of the United States not having a universal health care system is more than $1.4 trillion per year.

Among 19 broadly defined “major” industrial sectors in the U.S., health technology is again expected to be found the most profitable for 2016, with a profit margin of 21.6 percent. Higher even than finance at 17 percent. When narrowing to more specific, narrowly defined industry categories, generic pharmaceuticals sit at the top with an expected 30 percent profit margin for 2016. Major pharmaceuticals rank fourth at 25.5 percent on a list in which health products and finance claim nine of the top 10 spots.

The sky’s the limit for pharmaceutical profits

That’s a repeat of 2015, when health technology had the highest profit margin of 19 broadly defined industrial sectors, at 20.9 percent, topping even finance, the second highest. When a separate study broke down profit margins by more specific industry categories, health care-related industries comprised three of the six most profitable.

Nothing new there, either. A BBC report found that pharmaceuticals and banks tied for the highest average profit margin in 2013, with five pharmaceutical companies enjoying a profit margin of 20 percent or more — Pfizer, Hoffmann-La Roche, AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly. The world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical corporations racked up a composite US$90 billion in profits for 2013, according to the BBC analysis. As to their expenses, these 10 firms spent far more on sales and marketing than they did on research and development.

If those facts and figures aren’t enough, here’s another way of looking at excessive profits — a 2015 study found that, of the 10 corporations that have the highest revenue per employee among the world’s biggest corporations, three are health care companies. Two of the three, Amerisourcebergen and McKesson, both distribute pharmaceuticals, and the other, Express Scrips, administers prescription drug benefits for tens of millions of health-plan members. Each of these primarily operates in the United States, the only advanced-capitalist country without universal health coverage.

The extra layers represented by those three companies demonstrate that there are ample opportunities for corporate profiteering that contribute to extraordinarily high health care costs in the U.S., beyond drug manufacturing and insurance.

And because corporations have the ear of politicians and other government officials, it’s no surprise that one of the primary ongoing goals of the U.S. government for so-called “free trade” agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is to impose rules that would weaken the national health care systems of other countries. This was done in TPP negotiations at the direct behest of U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies, incensed that countries like New Zealand make thousands of medicines, medical devices and related products available at subsidized costs.

By far the most expensive system while delivering among the worst outcomes and leaving tens of millions uninsured, where tens of thousands die from lack of health care annually. That is the high cost of private profit in health care. Or, to put it more bluntly, allowing the “market” to decide health outcomes instead of health care professionals.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , , | 2 Comments

If you work for Justice in Palestine, why won’t you let Palestinians speak?

By Amena Elashkar | Dissident Voice | October 14, 2017

Until I came to the US last year, I had never met an Israeli, and only one American Jew. As a third generation Palestinian refugee living in a camp in Lebanon, such opportunities did not exist.

Then, when 85-year-old Mariam Fathalla and I came last year to speak throughout the US and Canada about the views of our community in Lebanon, I suddenly met lots of Jews, and a few Israelis, as well. In fact, it was often Jewish Voice for Peace groups that invited us or were among the co-sponsors of our events, as part of the North America Nakba Tour. This year I am touring with 84-year-old Khawla Hammad. Mariam and Khawla are both survivors of the 1948 Nakba (Palestinian genocide). We are all stateless, without any form of citizenship.

We were also invited by a roughly equal number of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups on many campuses. Everywhere we went, our presentation was enthusiastically received and our message welcomed. We were so pleased that it was such a success, and we made so many friends and allies (even a border officer we met re-entering the US from Canada last weekend).

But some refused to hear us, and we didn’t expect otherwise. The US is known for having some of the strongest Zionist groups and defenders of “Israel”, so we didn’t really expect to go unchallenged. That’s all right. They will spread their message and challenge ours, and we will do the same to them.

What surprised us, however, was that some of the groups calling themselves “Students for Justice in Palestine” would also challenge us. The first was at Stanford University last year, where they expressed a concern that Alison Weir had come with us to hear our talk, and where I was told that I should not say that “Israel” has no right to exist (which is not part of our presentation, but which is a view held by millions of Palestinians).

This earned us a reputation as “anti-Semites” in some circles, despite the fact that no one has shown anything anti-Semitic in any of our presentations. Some groups also object to statements made by some of the people in our organizing committee, composed of Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the International Solidarity Movement – Northern California and the Free Palestine Movement. But no one has produced any anti-Semitic statements from any of these groups, either. Most recently, we were informed by the SJP group at George Washington University in Washington, DC that our October 19 talk would be cancelled because we were “anti-Semitic”.

Of course, we expect such talk from our Zionist enemies, and we give it little importance. But to hear it from a group that claims to be standing for justice in Palestine? Do these groups really expect to have any credibility among Palestinians when they do this?

We have heard from some of them (including Stanford) that they are under tremendous pressure, and we don’t doubt that this is true. But why isn’t their first priority to defend and promote the voices of Palestinians speaking for themselves? Why don’t they stand up to whatever pressure is being placed upon them, even if they lose allies and are not recognized as a campus group? Do they think they are pursuing justice by allowing themselves to be intimidated? Don’t they care for their integrity?

Of course, we realize that many of these groups actually have plenty of integrity. In fact, last year, immediately after the terrible experience at Stanford, SJP-Pitzer welcomed us with open arms. The same is true of 72 other groups that sponsored or co-sponsored us last year, including other SJP and JVP chapters. What we’re saying is that it’s a disgrace for a group calling itself “Students for Justice in Palestine” to cancel one of our events or to allow itself to be pressured by groups or individuals that clearly do not stand for justice in Palestine and who have appointed themselves gatekeepers of what Palestinians may or may not say about their own genocide or anything else.

As a Palestinian, I request such groups to stop using “Justice in Palestine” in their name. We Palestinians understand what justice does and does not mean, and we do not give you permission to use our name or the name of our country for your corrupted image of justice.

Amena Elashkar is a stateless 23-year-old Palestinian translator and journalist living in the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Do you have hep C? Pharma hopes so

The sicker you get, the richer they become.

By Martha Rosenberg | Intrepid Report | October 13, 2017

The campaigns are everywhere. On ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, Animal Planet, the Game Show Network and Syfy. In People, Popular Mechanics and Better Homes and Gardens magazines. On the radio and along subway lines. If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you could have hep C, screams Gilead Sciences, which makes the hep C drug Harvoni.

The campaign seeks to sound like a message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addressing public health. But the Hepatitis C “facts” resulting from an Internet search are paid searches from Pharma, not from public health agencies.

Is there new information that shows baby boomers are newly prone to Hep C? Why have we not heard from the “CDC” about this pressing public health threat until now? There is new information—sales information that Gilead Hep C drugs are “plummeting” and new markets are needed.

“Gilead’s hep C blockbusters are in freefall, and its pool of eligible patients has shrunk dramatically thanks to the success of its meds,” says FiercePharma. “If all baby boomers got tested for the virus, though? That could help stem the tide—and it’s exactly the move the company is recommending with its latest awareness push.” Just trying to help.

David Johnson, Gilead VP, U.S. sales and marketing for liver diseases, admits the shameless disease mongering.

“This has been a planned evolution of our disease awareness efforts, to reach a much broader audience once the pool of already diagnosed patients who often had advanced disease and were in need of curative therapy, had been treated,” he says. “This staged approach was also important to ensure healthcare providers were equipped to support patients asking to be tested, as even for primary care providers, this disease was not something that was high on their radar due to the lack of scientific advances in the past to treat the disease.”

Only a handful of drug classes have been advertised more aggressively than hep C drugs, reports Stat News—drugs for erectile dysfunction and psoriasis “that afflict far more patients in the United States” than hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C drugs weigh in at $1,000 a pill—$84,000 for a course of treatment—and have been sacking the taxpayer-funded budgets of state Medicaid programs. States have considered suing over the heisting of their dollars and a Senate committee has looked at the price gouging. “If Gilead’s approach is the future of how blockbuster drugs are launched in America, it’s going to cost billions and billions of dollars to treat just a fraction of patients in America,” said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.

Congress is aware of the profiteering. The Senate’s Special Committee on Aging released a 130-page report revealing how “four pharmaceutical companies have taken advantage of our health care system to enrich themselves and their executives, harming patients and taxpayers,” according to the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson.

The chairwoman of the committee, Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Claire McCaskill, a ranking member, Democrat from Missouri, say they have only begun to scratch the surface. They seek to “stop bad actors who are acquiring drugs that have been off-patent for decades and driving up their prices solely because they can,” they say.

Seeking to sell obscenely priced drugs paid for by the public’s dime to patients with no symptoms is bad enough. But the hep C meds are not even the wonder drugs they were billed as in the beginning. They were rolled out so fast to please Wall Street that Pharma did not know or care that patients with pre-existing, dormant hepatitis B infections could experience reactivation of the infections on the drugs and even die.

A year ago, the FDA found that 24 patients with pre-existing, dormant hepatitis B infections experienced reactivation of the infections while taking the hep C drugs. Two patients died and one required a liver transplant. The FDA promptly added boxed warnings on the hep C drug labels about the possible reactivation of hep B infections.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported unintended liver effects with the aggressively marketed drugs. In one year, between June 2015 and June 2016, 165 people who took Sovaldi (an earlier drug) and Harvoni worldwide died, 524 had liver failure and 1,058 had severe liver injury. Could states have their money back?

Gilead’s unethical ads are halfway right. A terrible thing does happen if baby boomers don’t take its $1,000 a pill: Gilead makes no money.

Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Fueling More Bloodshed in Ukraine

By James W. Carden | Consortium News | October 14, 2017

Last January, Sen. John McCain led a delegation along with his longtime sidekick, Sen. Lindsey Graham, to a contingent of Ukrainian troops not far from the front line in eastern Ukraine. In the presence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Graham told the soldiers: “Your fight is our fight … 2017 will be the year of offense. All of us will go back to Washington and we will push the case against Russia.”

McCain promised the assembled troops, “we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win.”

When contemplating the long careers of the two Republican senators, it is hard to escape the conclusion that McGeorge Bundy’s quip about the famed Cold War columnist Joe Alsop – that he had “never known him to go to any area where blood could be spilled that he didn’t come back and say more blood” – applies equally to McCain and Graham.

Indeed, last month’s National Defense Authorization Act shows that – if nothing else – McCain and Graham are as good as their word: the recently passed defense appropriations bill provides for $500 million, including “defensive lethal assistance” to Kiev, as part of a $640 billion overall spending package.

The aid comes at a good time for the embattled Ukrainian President Poroshenko, whose approval rating hovers around 16 percent. In a bid to stave off the possibility of a far-right coup d’etat, Poroshenko is back to banging the war drums, promising, well, more blood.

In a little covered speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Sept. 19, Poroshenko promised that “American weapons will help us liberate the Donbas and return Ukrainian territories.” He also noted that Ukraine spends roughly 6 percent of its GDP on defense, “a figure,” he observed, “much bigger than the obligation for the NATO members.”

Clearly Washington’s condemnation of governments that wage war “against their own people” remains selective, contingent upon who is doing the killing and who is doing the dying. In this case, it would seem that Russian-speaking Ukrainians simply don’t rate.

In addition to promising a wider war in the Donbas, Poroshenko has repeatedly promised that he will seek NATO membership. In August, during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Poroshenko declared: “Our Ukrainian caravan is on a roll and we have one road to travel upon — a wide Euro-Atlantic highway, leading to membership in the European Union and NATO.”

Ukraine’s Human Rights Abuses

There are a number of objections to yet another round of NATO expansion. As I reported in February 2015: “The current [Ukrainian] government has, according to organizations that could hardly be described as Kremlin friendly (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), committed war crimes in its attempt to defeat the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas. … NATO’s principal consideration should not be whether NATO will make Ukraine more secure, but whether Ukraine will make NATO more secure. The answer is self-evident.”

It is true that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as recently as this month, insisted to Russian state media that NATO is not contemplating Ukrainian membership, telling Sputnik that “There is no MAP [membership action plan] on the agenda.” Yet Stoltenberg has also said, as he did in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament in July, that he believes Ukraine “has the right to choose its own security arrangements” further noting that “last month, NATO welcomed Montenegro as the 29th member of our Alliance. This shows that NATO’s door remains open.”

So the issue doesn’t seem to be going away.

Poroshenko’s push to join NATO, which is being made against the backdrop of ever-worsening relations between the U.S. and Russia, ignores, perhaps purposefully, one of the principal causes of the morass in which Kiev and Moscow find themselves. It was Moscow’s not unfounded fear that Ukraine might join NATO that helped spark the Ukrainian crisis in early 2014.

In the weeks prior to Russia’s annexation of Crimea (and just over a month before the outbreak of full hostilities in the Donbas), three former presidents of Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko) called on the post-Maidan regime to renounce the 2010 Kharkiv agreement which allowed for Russia to base its Black Sea naval fleet in Crimea (in return for discounted prices on Russian natural gas).

It is perhaps not unreasonable that this last move, in addition to the foreign policy and security protocols embedded within the European Union Association agreement (which Poroshenko signed in June 2014), would cause the Russian government to at the very least suspect that NATO was setting the stage for Ukraine’s eventual absorption into the alliance.

Indeed, Kiev’s launch of its violent and indiscriminate “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against the Donbas – with the effect of intimidating and alienating otherwise loyal Russian-speaking citizens in the eastern part of the country – surely played a role in the Kremlin’s decision to come to the aid of the rebels later in the summer of 2014 and again at Debaltseve early the following year.

Less Dangerous Options

One reasonable alternative to NATO membership would be a treaty along the lines of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, which was an agreement reached between the four post-World War II occupying powers (U.S., USSR, Great Britain and France) that granted Austria its independence “with the understanding,” according to the U.S. State Department, “that the newly independent state of Austria would declare its neutrality, creating a buffer zone between the East and the West,” meaning it would join neither NATO nor the Soviet-run Warsaw Pact.

Petro Poroshenko in 2014 (Photo credit: Atlantic Council)

Charles Bohlen, the legendary American diplomat who served as ambassador to Moscow from 1953-57, recalled in his memoir Witness To History that, with regard to the Austrian State Treaty, he believed “that the Kremlin leaders, and probably the Soviet military chiefs, decided that a genuinely neutral Austria was of more value to Soviet Russia than the maintenance of a divided country where the Red Army would occupy only the poorer half.”

The situation in postwar Austria – occupied by East and West – is not perfectly analogous to the situation that obtains in Ukraine today, but there seem to be lessons from what Bohlen intuited were the Kremlin’s motives that might be drawn upon to inform Western diplomacy.

But instead of trying to implement the Minsk peace agreement (which calls for the Donbas to remain as part of Ukraine but with more autonomy from Kiev) or search for a reasonable alternative to what are indeed perplexing and pressing matters of national security, Poroshenko has continued to ring one alarm over another, this time illusory, Russian invasion.

In a recent speech before the Ukrainian parliament, Poroshenko claimed “there is more and more evidence for [Russia’s] preparations for an offensive war of continental proportions.”

Yet perhaps the danger isn’t as clear and present as Poroshenko portrayed it. As Mary Dejevesky of the U.K.’s Independent has observed: “NATO itself had held exercises in the Black Sea and before that in and around the western borderlands of Ukraine. Who, it has to be asked here, is threatening whom?”

Indeed, if Russia was on the precipice of launching a land war in Eastern Europe, would it have cut its defense budget by 25 percent to $48 billion a year, as was recently announced by the Kremlin?

As difficult as it might be for our hearty band on new cold warriors to believe (some of whom have scant knowledge about the topic of U.S.-Russia relations on which they so frequently choose to declaim), the push for a peaceable settlement in Ukraine is coming not from Washington, but from Moscow and Berlin.

Nevertheless, the stalemate continues: a resolution to the Ukrainian conflict – through the implementation of the Minsk agreements, as well as a settlement of the outstanding security concerns of all parties to the conflict – seems to remain tragically out of reach.

James W. Carden served as an adviser on Russia policy at the US State Department. Currently a contributing writer at The Nation magazine, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Quartz, The American Conservative and The National Interest.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment