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Current News and Analysis

The Ethics of Climate Change

Calls for massive reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions ignore the impacts on the poor

By Bob Lyman | Watts Up With That? | May 23, 2015

People who believe in the theory of catastrophic human-induced global warming claim that they want to “save the planet” and that this is the moral thing to do. They insist, however, that saving the planet requires stringent reductions in people’s use of fossil fuel energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They never talk about what that means to the poor. I think that, before people decide on the ethics of the debate, they need to consider what the impact would be of sharply reducing energy consumption on the wellbeing of world’s population, and especially on the poor. … continue

Social science provides a lot of useful insight as to why logic and data are rarely convincing

By Matt Manos | Watts Up With That? | May 23, 2015

… In their latest speeches on global warming, Obama and the Pope weren’t trying to convince skeptics that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) is real. Instead, they were sending signals to their supporters on what “all right thinking people” should be saying. This is classic in-group/out-group communication. Obama and the Pope were setting up the talking points for their in-group members to use to determine who can be considered part of the tribe and who should be rejected for being outside of it. This is a process called Othering. Othering turns political foes into non-beings. Others have no value. Others can be discounted and ignored. Others can be mocked.

Obama and the Pope are examples of bellwethers; the sheep with the bell that the other sheep follow. Bellwether is not a derogatory term, it’s a descriptive term. The job of a political bellwether is to indicate the position that their followers should take in their everyday conversations. Obama and the Pope’s latest speeches function as position papers for the delegates of all right thinking people. You meet these people at work, church, school, at the coffee house, etc. The delegates will mirror the words that the President or the Pope used to identify other in-group members, normalize beliefs and mock out-group members. One of the main themes of both speeches was shame. Shame on those who aren’t right thinking people. Shame that they aren’t as intelligent and capable as “us.”

That type of smugness is almost impossible to penetrate. … continue

Morsi’s former aide undaunted by death sentence

MEMO | May 24, 2015

sondos-asemA former foreign press secretary to ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has said that she was undaunted by the death sentence imposed on her last week. Writing in the Washington Post, Sondos Asem said she received with total disbelief the news of her sentencing.

Now a graduate student at University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, Asem described the case brought against her as false and political. Along with over 100 other defendants, including Morsi, she was charged with espionage and sentenced to death in absentia.

“Though I was sentenced in the so-called Grand Espionage case, the Egyptian regime seeks to end my life for no reason other than who I am: an educated, politically active and independent woman with mainstream Islamic views,” she said.

Despite being deeply saddened by separation from her parents, relatives and friends, Asem asserted that the unjust verdict will not break her will and resolve to defend the principles of the Egyptian revolution.

The Concept of WMD, and its Use against Syria, in the Propaganda Systems of Western States

By Stephen Gowans | what’s left | May 20, 2015

John Mueller, the US political scientist who coined the term “sanctions of mass destruction,” to show that “economic sanctions…by large states…may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history” [1], wrote an article two years ago in Foreign Affairs, the major foreign policy journal of the US establishment, challenging the idea that Syria’s chemical weapons (when it had them) were a threat. [2] Mueller examined the history of chemical weapons since WWI to make the point that chemical agents are misclassified as weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

According to Mueller, chemical weapons accounted for less than one percent of battle fatalities during the First World War; it took one ton of Sarin gas on average, during that conflict, to produce a single fatality; and only 2-3% of those gassed on the Western front died, compared to a fatality rate 10 to 12 times higher among those who were struck by bullets or shrapnel from conventional weapons. [3]

In their official history of WWI, the British concluded that “gas made war uncomfortable…to no purpose.” [4] Accordingly, most handsomely funded militaries with generous weapons development programs or the means to purchase highly destructive armaments were quite happy to relinquish their chemical weapons. They are ineffective and conventional arms produce far higher rates of fatalities. … continue

“Fail to obey and we will break your legs”

International Solidarity Movement | May 24, 2015

Baraa1-400x267Al Khalil, Occupied Palestine – On the 21st of May, a 16-year old Palestinian, Baraa Kalaid Madhun, was banned from his own home in Al Khalil (Hebron). Armed Israeli soldiers came to his house at 8 pm and told him to step outside. Allegedly stones had been thrown at the military base, which is adjacent to Baraa’s home, and the soldiers were accusing him of this incident.

For four hours the Israeli forces searched the house, whilst Baraa was held at gunpoint outside. They then told him that for the next 30 days, he was not allowed to be in his house between 6 in the evening and 11 in the morning. The logic behind this arrangement is based on the assumption that if during these 30 days no stones were thrown, then Baraa would be found guilty of the initial incident. The soldiers threatened to break his legs if he did not acknowledge these restrictions. Since then, armed Israeli soldiers have been searching his house each night, to see if he is there.

This latest incident is one of many. The family is constantly being harassed by the Israeli occupation forces. Baraa himself has already been arrested six times. During those previous arrests, the soldiers have been very violent, once even fracturing his shoulder.

Breaking the Silence ‘confessions’ part of the problem, not the solution

By Ghada Ageel and Rela Mazali | Middle East Eye | May 18, 2015

The Israeli veterans’ group “Breaking the Silence” on 4 May uploaded a collection of testimonies describing Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer. These accounts, the group said, were given by more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers who took part in the attack and disclose “systematic policies that were dictated to IDF forces of all ranks and in all zones, [… and which] led to massive and unprecedented harm to the population and the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip”.

Assigning responsibility to top brass and politicians, the statement said that “Policymakers could have predicted these results … and were surely aware of them throughout.”

The testimonies and their acclaimed disclosures made headlines in major news venues in Israel and far beyond, including CNN, Newsweek, The Independent, and The Washington Post. Part of what the group itself and its public reception disclose, however, are the very structures – cultural, social and political – that enable the practices and policies it claims to protest. […]

While the content of the Israeli soldiers’ testimonies is not without value, its seemingly natural claim to special status, both in and beyond Israel, in fact supports the militarised culture engendering, allowing and condoning policies of massive and unprecedented harm to the population and the civilian infrastructure”. – Read full article

Israel To Confiscate 820 Dunams For New Settlements’ Dumping Ground

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC News | May 24, 2015

460_0___10000000_0_0_0_0_0_palestinianlandssettThe Israeli Authorities have decided to confiscate around 820 Dunams (202 acres) of privately owned Palestinian lands to establish new dumping grounds for its illegal colonies, in the central West Bank, in the Ramallah district.

The dump, according to the Israeli authorities, “would serve the settlements and the Palestinians in the area,” but would be run completely by Israel and Palestinians would have no access to it.

If the Israeli government manages to take control of the 820 Palestinian Dunams, the total impacted area from the new dumping grounds would be around 2,000 Dunams, which would be contaminated by runoff and debris.

These lands contain fertile soil and farmland, in addition to many water wells, Palestine TV has reported.

The residents plant their lands with various crops, mainly wheat, and use parts of this land as grazing grounds for their livestock. Some of the land is slated for development as residential areas, but this would be impossible once Israel takes control of the land and turns it into a dump.

Local villagers told Palestine TV that Israel is trying to push them out of the area to turn their land into a dump – many of these villagers have already lost land in past seizures by the Israeli military for the construction of illegal colonies.

Amid Russia tensions, US nuclear bombers to conduct military drills in Sweden

Press TV – May 24, 2015

The Pentagon is planning to send nuclear bombers to Sweden for a military exercise next month amid growing tensions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

The warplanes, the B-52 Stratofortress, will participate in a naval exercise on June 13, Swedish general Karl Engelbrektson said. […]

Engelbrektson said the goal of the exercise “is to increase the different operative capabilities, but also to send clear security political signals that we do these things together with others.”

“How Russia interprets that, they can decide for themselves,” Engelbrektson added. … Full article

Canada bars Russian delegation from international meeting in Ottawa discussing weapons of mass destruction proliferation

New Cold War | May 23, 2015

The government of Canada has barred a delegation from Russia from attending a meeting in Ottawa May 26-28 purportedly devoted to restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The meeting in question is the Operational Experts Group of the Proliferation Security Initiative. … continue

Donetsk Republic: Kiev’s military violate ceasefire 36 times

TASS | May 24, 2015

1094294MOSCOW – The Defence Ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) registered 36 violations by Kiev’s military of the ceasefire during past 24 hours, the authority said on Sunday.

“They shelled 36 times the territory of the Donetsk Republic,” the Donetsk News Agency quoted the ministry. “Information about casualties is being checked now.”

The territory of the republic was shelled 17 times from mortars and two from MICV. The militia fixed one firing from a tank and four from anti-aircraft units and 12 shootings from grenade launchers and small arms.

Under the fire were the city of Donetsk (the area of the airport), Debaltsevo, Gorlovka, Yasinovataya, Dokuchayevsk. Besides, shelling was registered in Yelenovka, Tavricheskoye, Shirokino, Spartak, Zhavichevo, Kalinovka, Sanzharovka, Nizhneye Lazovoye, and Staromikhailovka. … Full article

Reporter Arrested While Covering Protest Against Michael Brelo Verdict in Cleveland

By Andrew Quemere | PINC | May 24, 2015

A reporter for a local news organization was among those arrested in Cleveland Saturday night during protests against the verdict in the Michael Brelo manslaughter trial.

Brelo, a Cleveland police officer, was acquitted earlier in the day after a four-week bench trial. He was one of a number of police officers who killed two unarmed suspects with a barrage of 137 bullets after a high speed chase in 2012.

Kris Wernowsky, the crime editor for the Northeast Ohio Media Group, said he was arrested while livestreaming the protest after police demanded to see his press pass, which he had forgotten to bring with him.

Wernowsky was one of several people arrested after police kettled a group inside an alley, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group. […]

It’s unclear what charges Wernowsky was arrested for or why police would release him after seeing his press pass if he had committed a crime. Press passes are often carried by reporters as proof they are employed by news media organizations, but carry no legal significance.

The Cleveland Police Department tweeted that there were multiple people arrested in the area for unlawful congregation and failure to disperse.

In total, police said they arrested 71 people during protests yesterday and last night. That figure includes two legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild. … Full article

Free Speech Takes Huge Hit as Oakland Implements Anti-Protest Curfew

By John Vibes | The Free Thought Project | May 24, 2015

OAKLAND-BANS-NIGHT-TIME-PROTESTSOakland, CA — This week, the mayor of Oakland has decided to use an old and unknown law to impose an anti-protest curfew to keep demonstrators off the streets at night.

This curfew does not apply to everyone in the city, only those who are involved in organized protests. Mayor Libby Schaaf put the order into effect in the midst of this week’s #SayHerName protest where women and children peacefully protested victims of police brutality.

During the demonstration, protesters were prevented from marching to the police station and were threatened with arrest if they stepped off of the sidewalk. Police informed protesters through a giant sound system that their march was not permitted, and that they could be arrested under Vehicle Code Section 2800, which makes it illegal to disobey anything a police officer says.

Cat Brooks, one of the organizers of the protest says that their right to freely and peacefully assemble was infringed upon. … continue

I Have Witnessed A Crime Against Humanity! – A Message from Caleb Maupin in the Port of Djibouti | May 24, 2015

From the Port of Djibouti in North Africa, it is with great sadness and burning outrage that I announce that the voyage of the Iran Shahed Rescue Ship has concluded. We will not reach our destination at the Port of Hodiedah in Yemen to deliver humanitarian aid.

The unsuccessful conclusion of our mission is the result of only one thing: US-backed Saudi Terrorism.

Yesterday, as it appeared our arrival was imminent, the Saudi forces bombed the port of Hodiedah. They didn’t just bomb the port once, or even twice. The Saudi forces bombed the port of Hodiedah a total of eight times in a single day!

The total number of innocent dock workers, sailors, longshoremen, and bystanders killed by these eight airstrikes is still being calculated.

Furthermore, the Yemeni revolutionaries arrested 15 people yesterday, who were part of a conspiracy to attack our vessel. The plan was to attack the Iran Shahed when we arrived, and kill everyone onboard, including me.

With its so many criminal threats and actions, the Saudi regime was sending a message to the crew of doctors, medical technicians, anesthesiologists, and other Red Crescent Society volunteers onboard the ship. The message was “If you try to help the hungry children of Yemen we will kill you.”

These actions, designed to terrorize and intimidate those seeking to deliver humanitarian aid, are a clear violation of international law. I can say, without any hesitation, that I have witnessed a crime against humanity. … continue

‘Any time US official visits Ukraine, some attack happens afterward’

New York Times Complicit in Spreading False Syria Allegations

By Stephen Gowans | What’s Left | May 14, 2015

The New York Times ran an article on May 12 suggesting that the Syrian government has held back some of its chemical weapons and is using them against rebel fighters. Significantly, the allegation was backed by no evidence, yet the newspaper chose to run the story anyway.

In their story (“Inspectors in Syria find traces of banned military chemicals”) reporters Somini Sengupta, Marlise Simons and Anne Barnard cited a conclusion drawn by an anonymous Western diplomat who was briefed on findings by inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The inspectors had reportedly found traces of toxic nerve agents in Syria. The diplomat was quoted as saying that there’s a “strong suspicion” that the Syrians “are retaining stockpiles which are being held back.”

However, a close reading of the article showed that there was not one whit of evidence to back up the diplomat’s suspicion. … continue

NY Times Promotes Israeli Hypocrisy: “Outraged” Officials Deny Apartheid Label

By Barbara Erickson | TimesWarp | May 21, 2015

Israeli officials have backed off from a plan to bar Palestinians from West Bank bound buses, protesting in loud terms that this would smack of “apartheid,” and The New York Times has devoted much space to letting these spokespersons have their say.

We hear from Mark Regev, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s preferred mouthpiece, from opposition leader Isaac Herzog, and—at considerable length—from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin. We also hear indirectly from Netanyahu himself. Palestinians, who bear the brunt of segregated transportation policies, are represented by a single voice—politician and physician Mustafa Barghouti.

The plan would have forced Palestinians working inside Israel (those few who manage to get permits) to use designated entry points on their return. It was put forth by settlers who objected to riding on the same buses with Arabs and was originally announced last fall but put off until after the election.

The author of the Times story, Isabel Kershner, quotes the settlers along with the officials who denounced the plan, but in spite of many column inches devoted to this debate, she omits a significant detail: Although she writes that the plan has been “shelved” or “ended,” it is actually on hold. … continue

The Right to Record Police

By REBECCA K. SMITH | CounterPunch | May 22, 2015

Last week, federal courts issued two decisions affirming the right of citizens to record police under the First Amendment. In Atlanta, a court held the police department in contempt of court for violating a prior court order to allow citizens to record police. In New York, a court held that recording police is a “clearly established right” under the U.S. Constitution, and that if a police officer violates that right, he or she can be sued in federal court.

First, in Anderson v. Atlanta, the court addressed a prior court order that had ordered the Atlanta police to implement reforms to their training policies and conduct mandatory in-person training for all officers regarding those reforms. In part, the new required policy states: “All employees shall be prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s right to record police activity by photographic, video, or audio means. This prohibition is in effect only as long as the recording by the citizen does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer’s duties.” An officer’s violation of this policy would result in dismissal. … continue

Dragnet surveillance is about power and social control, not public safety

PRIVACYSOS | May 22, 2015

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that USA Patriot Act dragnet spy powers must be extended or else the terrorists will get us.

Lynch said Friday the country would be “less safe” if Congress fails to renew surveillance programs included in the Patriot Act.

Lynch joined other top Obama administration officials, who are urging the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk phone records collection program while renewing other key parts of the post-Sept. 11 law.

“Our biggest fear is that we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad,” Lynch told CBS News in her first interview since becoming attorney general.
If NSA’s phone metadata program expires completely, Lynch said the U.S. government would lose “important tools” to identify terror threats.

“I think that we run the risk of essentially being less safe,” Lynch added. “I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past. And I am very concerned that the American people will be unprotected if this law expires.”

Lynch didn’t marshal any evidence to support her claims about the connection between dragnet spying and public safety. That’s because there isn’t one. … continue

Lawyer: ‘Abandoned’ West Bank church compound was not sold to settlers

Ma’an – May 23, 2015

333285CHEBRON – A Swedish-owned church compound between Bethlehem and Hebron has not been sold to settlers contrary to media reports on Friday, the church’s lawyer told Ma’an on Saturday.

Israeli news source Haaretz reported Friday that right-wing Israeli Aryeh King had purchased the abandoned church compound from the church’s owners three years ago in order to build a settlement outpost.

However, local sources refuted the report, saying that such a sale had not been made and that the current owners are in fact carrying out refurbishments to turn the compound into a hostel.

“The church owns the compound, and is fixing up the existing building to serve as a hostel for Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are passing through,” the church’s Swedish lawyer Ari Souko told Ma’an.

The lawyer also reportedly told Muhammad Ayyad Awad, a spokesman of a local popular committee in nearby village Beit Ummar, that the church “has not been sold to settlers,” and that the Haaretz report was “far from the truth.”

Awad told Ma’an that the compound had been built decades after the owners bought 35 dunams (9 acres) of land from Beit Ummar resident Abd al-Latif Jabir Ikhlayyil. … continue

Israel appeals to Platini to sway FIFA from Palestinian suspension bid

AFP – May 23, 2015

JERUSALEM – The Israel Football Association appealed to UEFA president Michel Platini on Friday to speak out against the Palestinian bid to vote the IFA out of FIFA next week.

The annual FIFA Congress, which begins on May 28, includes the Palestinian Football Association’s proposal to suspend the IFA from world football.

IFA president Ofer Eini told Platini in a letter that FIFA had twice refused his request to have the Palestinian bid removed from the Congress agenda. […]

The PFA says Israel imposes restrictions on the freedom of movement of their players, and protest the existence of five Israeli teams in settlements, built on land they want for a future state. … Full article

New US-Israeli Weapons Deal Approved by Congress

missilesalrayIMEMC News & Agencies | May 23, 2015

Israeli media, on Wednesday, reported that US Congress has approved a new weapons deal with Israel.

Hebrew Channel 7 said that the deal will include 50 model BLU-113 bombs and 700 BLU-109, in addition to some 3,000,000 rockets.

The US State Department alleged that the deal is part of the United States’ commitment to keep the “security” of Israel, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency.

US blocks nuclear disarmament document over Israel, Moscow fumes

RT | May 23, 2015

Washington has blocked the final document of a UN conference that reviewed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, accusing Egypt of manipulating the gathering to target Israel. Moscow has slammed the US for rendering the four-week meeting futile.

The 9th international conference was held in New York from April 27 until May 22. A total of 162 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) participant states were in attendance. These conferences are held every five years to assess the worldwide disarmament process.

The blocked document included a plan to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. To do this, Egypt, who first proposed such a zone in 1980, suggested a regional UN conference on banning weapons of mass destruction. The gathering would have no pre-determined agenda and would go ahead with or without the presence of Israel.

This was stonewalled by the US, with Washington representative Rose Gottemoeller saying the final document reviewed on Friday was “incompatible with our longstanding policies.”

She accused Egypt and other Arab supporters of the nuclear-free zone of being “not willing to let go of these unrealistic and unworkable conditions,” AP reports. … continue

Current Wisdom: Did Human-Caused Climate Change Lead to War in Syria?

By Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger and Patrick J. Michaels | CATO AT LIBERTY | March 5, 2015

Did human-caused climate change lead to war in Syria?

Based only on the mainstream press headlines, you almost certainly would think so.

Reading further into the articles where the case is laid out, a few caveats appear, but the chain of events seems strong.

The mechanism? An extreme drought in the Fertile Crescent region—one that a new study finds was made worse by human greenhouse gas emissions—added a spark to the tinderbox of tensions that had been amassing in Syria for a number of years under the Assad regime (including poor water management policies).

It is not until you dig pretty deep into the technical scientific literature, that you find out that the anthropogenic climate change impact on drought conditions in the Fertile Crescent is extremely minimal and tenuous—so much so that it is debatable as to whether it is detectable at all. … continue

The Clock is Still Running: Neither NSA Reform Nor Reauthorization Advances in Senate

By Lee Tien | EFF | May 22, 2015

Tonight, the US Senate failed to move ahead with the USA Freedom Act, an NSA reform bill that would address phone record surveillance and FISA Court transparency and fairness. It also was unable to muster votes for a temporary reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the section of law used to justify the mass phone records surveillance program. That’s good news: if the Senate stalemate continues, the mass surveillance of everyone’s phone records will simply expire on June 1.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act has been wrongly interpreted in secret by the government for years. We commend every Senator who voted against reauthorizing the unconstitutional surveillance of millions of law-abiding Americans.

In the wake of tonight’s vote, Congress must stop stalling and address the surveillance and secrecy abuses of our government.

The battle isn’t over. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for another attempt to reauthorize Section 215 on Sunday May 31, only hours before the provision is set to expire.

EFF urges Congress to again reject Section 215 reauthorization, and then turn to addressing other surveillance abuses by the US government, including mass surveillance of the Internet, the secretive and one-sided FISA Court, and the problems of secrecy and over-classification that have created the environment that allowed such spying overreach to flourish.

New US drone strike kills five in northeast Afghanistan

Press TV – May 22, 2015

At least five people have been killed and several others injured in a fresh US drone strike in the troubled northeastern Afghanistan, security sources say.

Local Afghan security officials said that the attack took place in Kunar province on Friday evening.

There were no details about the identity of those killed in the drone strike. … Full article

Greek Defense Minister: ‘United States Ask for Our Support on Russian Sanctions’

By Katerina Papathanasiou | Greek Reporter | May 21, 2015

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that the United States attempted to encourage Greece to support a new round of Russian sanctions but Athens still enjoys sharing religious and economic bonds with its “friend” and “ally,” Moscow.

After his meeting with US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP) Christine Wormuth on Wednesday, Kammenos told reporters: “I was asked to extend the sanctions, particularly in connection with Crimea. I explained [to Wormuth] that the Ukrainian issue was very sensitive for Greece as some 300,000 Greeks live in Mariupol and its neighborhood, and these people feel safe near the [Russian] Orthodox Church.” He, also, added that Greece has already lost more than 4 billion due to the Russian sanctions.

Greece’s Defense Minister has often stated in the near past that his country continues to preserve strong ties with Russia, mainly in the sector of defense contacts. In April, Kammenos revealed to Russian news agency Sputnik that Greece plans to continue military-technical collaboration with Russia while he shared Greece’s desire to settle new agreements, if the EU sanctions against Russia end soon.

U.S. Defense Secretary cancels meeting with Greek counterpart

Greek Reporter, May 20, 2015

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was snubbed by his U.S. counterpart, Ashton Carter, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work on his visit to the United States. The U.S. Defense Secretary cancelled the meeting over the weekend, claiming he has a busy schedule.

Kammenos will go to the Pentagon to meet with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. He will also meet with Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State. Reportedly, Greek diplomats made efforts to upgrade the Greek Defense Minister’s contacts without success.

Kammenos will also have lunch with members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and meet with the Chairman of the House’s Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry as well as Representative Frank Pallone and Senator Jack Reed.

Finally, the Greek Defense Minister will visit Lockheed Martin to discuss a 500 million dollar contract to upgrade five military aircraft.

According to analysts, the U.S. government is displeased with Greece’s new law that theoretically releases convicted terrorist Savvas Xeros. The U.S. Ambassador to Greece, David Pearce, had stated that if Xeros — who is responsible for the assassination of U.S. diplomats —  is released from prison, that would be an unfriendly act toward the U.S.

Furthermore, Greece’s flirt with Russia — initiated partly by Kammenos — and certain statements made by the Defense Minister regarding Greece joining the BRICS bank have irked U.S. officials.

Analysts say that Greek-U.S. relations are at the worst point in recent years. Especially at a time when Greece is in the middle of harsh negotiations over its debt and needs all the support it can get.

The MH-17 Propaganda War

Consortium News | May 22, 2015

When called to account for an apparent inaccuracy in a broadcast pinning the MH-17 shoot-down on Russian President Putin, Australia’s “60 Minutes” responded with insults and dissembling. But that behavior has been typical of the propaganda wars around the Ukraine crisis, writes Australian Greg Maybury. – Read article

EU signs new €1.8bn bailout for Ukraine

RT | May 22, 2015

The European Union and Ukraine have signed a third loan agreement for Ukraine worth €1.8 billion. The EU says helping Ukraine’s ailing economy is now one of the biggest challenges for Europe.

The bailout is part of a broader package for Ukraine, which includes €25 billion from the IMF and €15 billion from the EU, according to the European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis. […]

The country’s total debt to foreign lenders is estimated at about $50 billion, 71 percent of GDP in 2014. In 2015, the debt is going to grow and reach 93 percent of GDP, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. … Full article

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry v. His Subordinate Victoria Nuland, Regarding Ukraine

By Eric ZUESSE | Oriental Review | May 22, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on May 12th, responding to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s assertions that Ukraine will retake Crimea and conquer Donbass:

“I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.”

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, as communicated by the U.S. State Department’s Press Office on May 15th, reiterating Poroshenko’s view:

“Assistant Secretary Nuland’s ongoing visit to Kyiv and her discussions with Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatseniuk and President [Petro] Poroshenko reaffirm the United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.”

Will John Kerry reprimand his subordinate for her contradicting what he, her boss, had said three days earlier? If not, then will President Barack Obama fire his Secretary of State John Kerry? If not, then will Victoria Nuland be fired? If not, then who is to trust anything that comes from the U.S. State Department, when the Secretary of State can be contradicted three days later by his subordinate, and both remain in their respective jobs? … continue

Israel fumes over Finnish boycott

Iran Daily | May 19, 2015

image_650_365Tension is running high between Tel Aviv and Helsinki as an Israeli organization is barred from an exhibition in Finland as part of an anti-Israel boycott movement.

Finnish World Village Festival decided on Monday to prevent the Jewish National Fund (JNF) from attending next week’s exhibition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) held annually in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, Press TV reported.

The JNF was informed that it is not permitted to participate in the event due to “the existence of question marks on the legitimacy of its activities”.

Following the incident, Israel’s ambassador to Finland, Dan Ashbel, contacted the Finnish Foreign Ministry officials to express anger over the decision, but the ministry responded by saying, “It is a private event that the Finnish Foreign Ministry has no impact on.” … Full article

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Invokes Medieval French Rabbi to Justify Israel’s Theft of Palestine

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | May 22, 2015

… today Tzipi Hotovely gave her inaugural address to the foreign ministry staff.  It was a doozy. She argued that the MFA in the past has been too concerned about the niceties of diplomacy; about advancing clever legal arguments to advance Israel’s position before the world. Instead, she argued, we have to cease with such sophistries and tell the world what is morally right. It is simply moral, right and just for Israel to own the entire Land of Israel. We know it from our Bible. God has told us so and our sages endorse this.

She harkened back in Jewish history to the Middle Ages and dragged poor Rashi, the 12th century French Talmudist, into the fray on behalf of the nation. Here is how she characterized Rashi’s commentary on the opening verse of Genesis:

“Rashi says the Torah opens with the story of the creation of the world so that if the nations of the world come and tell you that you are occupiers, you must respond that all of the land belonged to the creator of world and when he wanted to, he took from them and gave to us.”

Hoping that the deputy minister had mangled Rashi, I researched his commentary. In truth, Hotovely erred in attributing this to Rashi. The latter was quoting another scholar, Rebbe Yitzchak, who’s quoted as saying:

“Rebbe Yitzchak said, ‘[God] need only have begun the Torah from ‘This month shall be to you” which is the first Commandment which Israel was commanded. For what reason did it begin with ‘Bereishit’?… So that if the nations of the world will say to Israel, ‘You are bandits, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations’ Israel will say to them, ‘The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed is He; He created it and He gave it to the one found proper in His eyes. By His wish He gave it to them, and by His wish He took it from them and gave it to us.’” (Rashi, Bereishit 1:1)

Unfortunately, Hotovely appears to have gotten the passage right. The rabbis did justify the Jewish people’s conquest and eternal control of Israel through resorting to a vague Divine blessing.

But in the process, Hotovely opened up an entirely new can of worms. Who were these “seven nations” from whom Israel might be accused of stealing the Land? They are the nations which occupied the Land of Israel when the Israelites first entered it following their forty years of wandering in the desert: the Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, Perizzites, Amorites, Girgashites, and Canaanites. What happened to them? The Bible recounts wars of conquest in which the tribes were eventually wiped out. In many cases, there were battles, exceedingly bloody ones, in which the tribes were conquered. In other cases, perhaps they were assimilated into the Israelite tribal population.

But in the case of other neighboring tribes like the Amalekites, whom the Israelites battled on their way to Canaan, God commanded his people to utterly wipe them off the face of the earth–every man, woman, and child.  Further, he cursed any Israelite who showed any mercy. This can only be called the earliest record in literature of genocide.

What Hotovely didn’t tell you was that the medieval rabbis she invoked are offering their blessing to this genocide. Which means that by quoting them she herself is approving of historical genocide.  In one of my posts, I wrote of Nakba as Israel’s Original Sin. And in a strict sense that remains so.  But if we want to speak of the entire breadth of Jewish history, the wars of conquest are the Original Sin of the Jewish people.

But unlike today, there’s little we can do to redeem the suffering we caused to the seven nations, since they’ve been wiped out. But there is something we can do regarding Palestine. … Full article

Israel’s deputy FM: ‘This land is ours. All of it is ours’

MEMO | May 22, 2015

Israel’s newly appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely yesterday told ministry employees that all of the land of Israel belongs to Jews only.

Israeli media quoted Hotovely as saying that Israeli diplomats around the world need to begin acting according to the principle of “being right and not just smart”.

Hotovely, 36, who served as deputy transport minister in the previous government said: “Many times it seems that in our international relations, more than emphasising the rightness of our cause, we are asked to use arguments that play well diplomatically.”

“But at a time when the very existence of Israel is being called into question, it is important to be right,” she added.

She went on quoting late settler leader, Uri Elitzur, saying for “the last 40 years, while the Palestinians were demanding their lands, Israel responded that ‘we have strategic interests and security concerns’.” According to her, those arguments are the arguments of a robber.

“If I wear your coat because I’m cold, and I can prove pragmatically and analytically that it really is cold for me, the world will ask a primitive and analytic question: Who does the coat belong to? In this context, it is important to say that this coat is ours; this country is ours, all of it. We didn’t come here to apologise for that,” she said. … Full article

EU drops controls on dangerous chemicals after TTIP pressure from US – report

RT | May 22, 2015

EU proposals to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer, fertility problems and diabetes were allegedly dropped following pressure from US trade officials amid talks on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Draft EU criteria could have banned some 31 pesticides containing dangerous endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), but according to documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe and cited by The Guardian, they were cast aside amid fears of a trade backlash by a powerful US lobby.

According to the report, a high-ranking delegation from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited European Union trade officials in July 2013 in a bid to urge the EU to drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. The TTIP trade deal was at stake, and the EU allegedly agreed to the US demands. … continue

How the Uncertain Outcome of Nuclear Talks With Iran Has Taken Its Economy Hostage

By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH | CounterPunch | May 22, 2015

I recently returned from a six-week trip to Iran. While the primary purpose of my trip was to visit family and friends, I also made some general enquiries into the state of the country’s stagnant economy. These included informal discussions with various strata of economic agents or market players: manufacturers, bankers, shopkeepers, miners, farmers, livestock breeders, workers, teachers, and more.

Sadly, most of these economic actors painted pictures of pessimism and distrust of the country’s economic conditions. The economy is mired in a protracted stagflation, with no government plan or macroeconomic policy for recovery. While the Rouhani administration boasts of having contained or slowed down the inflation, the Iranian people do not cherish that tempering of inflation as it has come about at the expense of deepened recession; that is, at the expense of heightened unemployment and weakened purchasing power. As a retired school teacher, who now works as a taxi driver, put it, lowering inflation by worsening recession is no cause for celebration (paraphrased).

And what is the major culprit behind the depressing recession? The common answer of the overwhelming majority of the economic actors I spoke with was, in a nutshell, uncertainty—uncertainty of the constantly shifting outcome of the unending nuclear negotiations. There is a clear consensus that while onerous economic sanctions against Iran are obviously damaging, the perilous effects of the protracted and uncertain outcome of the negotiations are even more devastating. Equally devastating is the current administration’s neoliberal policies of austerity economics, which have further aggravated the recession by cutting social/public spending while not offering any industrial or developmental program or planning. … continue

Exxon lobbies US government on Iran sanctions

Press TV – May 22, 2015

Exxon Mobil is reported to have stationed lobbyists to push the envelope on Iran sanctions with the US government as Western companies are jostling for access to the Middle East country’s massive oil and gas fields.

According to Bloomberg, the Texas-based oil company has hired a lobbying firm founded by former Republican Senator Don Nickles to press the US government on lifting sanctions against Tehran.

Western companies are eager to work on Iranian fields because they are among the largest and cheapest to develop, it quoted on economist as saying. … continue

US sanctions airlines for selling jets to Iran

Press TV – May 21, 2015

The US government has imposed sanctions on two aviation companies in Iraq and the UAE for selling used commercial aircraft to Iran.

The Treasury Department designated Iraq-based Al-Naser Airlines and Sky Blue Bird Aviation in the United Arab Emirates as sanctions violators. They were targeted over sales of nine used Airbus commercial aircraft to Iran’s Mahan Air earlier this month.

The Treasury order blocks property owned by Al-Naser Airlines and Sky Blue Bird Aviation and prevents Americans from doing business with them.

“We will continue to actively counter Iranian sanctions evasion,” said Treasury’s Acting Under Secretary Adam J. Szubin.

The department said Al-Naser Airlines had transferred at least eight Airbus A340 and one Airbus A320 aircraft to Mahan Air. … Full article

DOJ Calls Out UBS Rap Sheet; Ignores Homegrown Citigroup’s Rap Sheet

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens | Wall Street On Parade | May 22, 2015

When the U.S. Department of Justice held its press conference on Wednesday to announce that five mega banks were each pleading guilty to a felony charge, paying big fines and being put on probation for three years, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell specifically took a battering ram to the reputation of Swiss bank, UBS.

Four banks — Citicorp, a unit of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays — pleaded guilty to an antitrust charge of conspiring to rig foreign currency trading while UBS pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for its earlier involvement in rigging the interest rate benchmark, Libor.

In explaining why the Justice Department was ripping up the non-prosecution agreement it had negotiated with UBS in December 2012 over its involvement in the Libor fraud and now charging it with a felony, Caldwell delivered a scathing attack on UBS, stating:

“Perhaps most significantly, UBS has a ‘rap sheet’ that cannot be ignored. Within the past six years, the department has resolved criminal investigations of UBS three times, resulting in non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements. UBS also has entered into civil and regulatory settlements on multiple occasions within the past few years. Enough is enough.”

Enough is apparently not enough, however, when it comes to serial banking tyrants based in the U.S. Not only does Citigroup have a monster rap sheet that keeps growing, but it’s the bank that contributed significantly to the U.S. financial collapse in 2008 and received the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history: $45 billion in equity infusions, over $300 billion in asset guarantees, and over $2 trillion in low-cost loans from the Federal Reserve. … continue

Four Banks Guilty of Currency Manipulation but, as Usual, No One’s Going to Jail

By Steve Straehley and Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | May 22, 2015

Four major banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland—have agreed to plead guilty in a Connecticut federal court to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the foreign currency market. But instead of sending those responsible for the crimes to prison, various government entities are fining the institutions a total of about $5.5 billion, the cost of which the banks will pass on to shareholders.

“For more than five years, traders in ‘The Cartel’ used a private electronic chat room to manipulate the spot market’s exchange rate between euros and dollars using coded language to conceal their collusion,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the settlements Wednesday morning.

In one of the chatroom conversations, a Barclays employee said: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

Lynch said the currency manipulation “inflated the banks’ profits while harming countless consumers, investors and institutions around the globe — from pension funds to major corporations, and including the banks’ own customers.” … continue

US & Israel inequality champions of developed world – OECD

RT | May 22, 2015

Inequality in the developed world is the sharpest in 30 years, a recent OECD research reveals. Yet even in this context, two countries stand out in the disparity between rich and poor: the USA and Israel.

“In most countries, the gap between rich and poor is at its highest level since 30 years. Today, in OECD countries, the richest 10 percent of the population earn 9.6 times the income of the poorest 10 percent,” said the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a report released Thursday. “In the 1980s this ratio stood at 7:1 rising to 8:1 in the 1990s and 9:1 in the 2000s.”

Compare the average 9.6 index with the US, where the richest 10 percent of the population earn 16.5 times as much as the poorest 10 percent. The poorest citizens of Israel scrape by on one-fifteenth of the earnings of the richest 10 percent.

The US also has the widest gap between the income of the richest and the average households. The top 5 percent of US households own practically 91 times the wealth of the average. … continue

Sowing the GM Seeds of Depopulation?

The Sinister Ideology of the Rich

By COLIN TODHUNTER | CounterPunch | May 21, 2015

If physical violence is to be used only as a final resort, a dominant class must seek to gain people’s consent if it is to govern and control a population. It must attempt to legitimize its position in the eyes of the ruled over by achieving a kind of ‘consented coercion’ that disguises the true fist of power. This can be achieved by many means and over the years commentators from Gramsci to Althusser and Chomsky have described how it may be done.

However, one of the most basic and arguably effective forms of control is eugenics/ depopulation, a philosophy that includes reducing the reproductive capacity of the ‘less desirable’ sections of a population. … continue

CIA torture report won’t be released to public, judge rules

RT | May 22, 2015

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the Senate’s nearly 7,000-page report on the CIA’s torture practices during interrogations in the wake of 9/11 will not be made public, marking a setback for civil liberties advocates.

So far, Senate leaders have only released the 480-page executive summary of the so-called torture report, which revealed numerous gruesome details about the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation practices. The fate of the full report has been up in the air, however, since Republicans took control of the Senate during the most recent midterm elections.

Washington, DC US District Judge James E. Boasberg, in his 26-page decision, said the complete report compiled by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the related “Panetta review,” are exempt from the dictates of the Freedom Information Act. He said the Senate Committee report remains under congressional control and Congress made sure to exempt itself from FOIA requests. … Full article

May – 2015

April – 2015


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