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Current News and Analysis

Accused ETA Militant Extradited to Spain Despite Torture Claims

teleSUR | March 2017

Swiss officials announced on Thursday they would extradite a former Basque politician and purported ETA activist to Spain after denying her request for asylum given allegations she was brutally tortured while in a Spanish prison.

Nekane Txapartegi had fled to Switzerland after a 2007 conviction for supporting the Basque separatist group ETA’s activities, later claiming asylum on the basis that she had been suffocated with a plastic bag, raped, beaten and subjected to electroshock treatment while in a Spanish prison after a 1999 arrest.

At the time of her arrest, Txapartegi was an elected city councilor in Asteasu in the Basque region of northern Spain and was later elected mayor while still in prison awaiting trial.

After several years underground in Switzerland, Txapartegi was arrested in Zurich, Switzerland in April 2016 on an international warrant and has been in detention awaiting the judgment in her asylum request case.

The World Organization Against Torture had intervened in Txapartegi’s case noting that her confession of supporting illegal ETA activities had been extracted via torture, allegations supported by a prison doctor who examined Txapartegi after her detention and found injuries consistent with torture. … continue

Colombian Paramilitaries Kill Another Indigenous Leader

teleSUR | March 24, 2017

Colombian Indigenous Nasa activist Javier Oteca was killed by right-wing paramilitaries in the Corinto area of the Cauca Department on Wednesday, Rebelion reports, adding to the growing list of murdered native activists in the country.

Oteca, a staunch defender of Indigenous land rights in Cauca, was shot dead at 1:30 pm by “private military officers” dressed as farm workers, witnesses told the site.

Members of Colombia’s National Army were just a few meters away from the site where Oteca was shot, but did not detain those responsible, witnesses also claim. Minutes after the assassination, members of Cauca’s Indigenous community rushed to the site, detaining six suspects who appeared to be related to the murder.

Oteca’s Nasa tribe is currently carrying out an independent investigation of the killing. The tribe will also host a community hearing on Saturday, inviting all Corinto Indigenous groups, to publicly denounce the murder.

Violence against Colombia’s Indigenous Nasa is so rampant that the country’s Constitutional Court was forced to declare the tribe “at risk of extermination” in 2016. The judicial organ has reported approximately 20,800 displacements, 650 homicides, 550 injuries, 500 illegal detentions, 100 disappearances, 60 acts of torture and 15 acts of rape between 1996 and 2016, El Tiempo reports.

Oteca is one of many Indigenous activists that have been killed by right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia in recent years.

Earlier this month, Indigenous campesino leader Alicia Lopez Guisao was killed in Medellin while shopping at a grocery store. Guisao, a leader of Colombia’s Indigenous Asokinchas community, organized the Agrarian Summit Project, which distributed land and food for 12 Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the department of Choco.

Originally from the rural Uraba Antioquia, Guisao and her family were displaced from the region by U.S.-backed paramilitaries in the late 1990s, forcing them to move to Medellin. … Full article

Venezuela Slams US-led Calls for Elections as ‘Interventionist’

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | March 24, 2017

Venezuela has accused the US of “aggression”, after a group of 14 nations issued a joint statement Thursday demanding new elections in the South American country.

The statement accused Venezuela of jailing political dissidents, and warned of a breakdown of institutional order and rule of law.

“We reiterate that inclusive and effective dialogue is the right path to achieve lasting solutions to the challenges faced by the Venezuelan people,” the statement read.

One of the statement’s key supporters, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, called for Venezuela to “re-establish democracy.”

Venezuela has responded by accusing signatories of the statement of acting under direction from Washington. … Full article

Third Mexican Journalist Slain This Month

teleSUR | March 23, 2017

Another Mexican journalist was killed on Thursday in the northern state of Chihuahua when Miroslava Breach, a 54-year-old senior correspondent and mother, was shot multiple times outside of her home, where murderers reportedly left a sinister message.

After leaving her home in the state capital of Chihuahua around 7 a.m., Breach was shot multiple times while inside her vehicle, according to the newspaper she worked for, La Jornada. Witnesses say they saw several men walking toward her vehicle before the shooting.

Breach was believed to have been with one of here three sons when the attack occurred. She was rushed to hospital, but died during the transportation. La Jornada reported that a sign was left next to the crime scene with the words “por lengüona,” meaning big-mouth.

She worked as a correspondent for the paper for over 15 years and specialized in covering politics and security around northern Mexico. She was born in the southwest of the state and studied Political Science at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur.

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed Breach as the victim, but it was not certain how many attackers were involved. The governor of Chihuahua said that “we will do everything we have to do so that this rouge crime does not go unpunished and punish those responsible.” Commonly, however, with high levels of impunity, murders of journalists are seldom caught or brought to justice.

Breach is the third journalist that his been killed in Mexico this month. On Sunday, journalist Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was shot dead Sunday while leaving a restaurant with his family in the state of Veracruz. On March 2, Cecilio Pineda was shot dead earlier this month in Guerrero state as he lay resting in a hammock.

At least 48 journalists were killed in Mexico in 2016 and 72 in 2015… Full article

Climate change helped cause Brexit, says Al Gore

Former Vice President echoes warnings from US military that global warming is causing dangerous political instability

By Ian Johnston | The Independent | March 23, 2017

Brexit was caused in part by climate change, former US Vice-President Al Gore has said, warning that extreme weather is creating political instability “the world will find extremely difficult to deal with”.

Mr Gore, speaking at an event in which he previewed a sequel to his landmark 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, said the “principal” cause of the Syrian Civil War had been the worst drought in 900 years, which forced 1.5 million people to move from the countryside to the cities.

There they met a similar number of Iraqis who had fled the conflict in their homeland, creating powder keg conditions that Syrian government officials privately feared would explode. … Full article

Climate Change Could Lead To An Uptick In Type-2 Diabetes

Yet another way global warming poses a risk to health

By Alexander C. Kaufman | Huffington Post | March 21, 2017

Global warming already widens the footprint of Lyme disease while Zika virus exacerbates asthma and lung diseases and increases the risks posed by violent weather and wildfires.

Now, new research suggests rising temperatures lead to a surge in diagnoses of type-2 diabetes. … Full article

Left degeneracy plumbs new depths

By Patricia Greanville | March 13, 2017

An appeal landed in my mailbox yesterday from I suppose the editors of Mother Jones or their marketing machine in conjunction with an outfit called Citizens United. The letter blares across the page something that can only be of interest to people suffering from a bizarre sense of priority, abysmal ignorance or clinical stupidity:

Donald Trump just SLANDERED President Obama!

The implication is that we should urgently do something about this. … continue

The Obama Plot to Sabotage Trump

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • March 24, 2017

Devin Nunes just set the cat down among the pigeons.

Two days after FBI Director James Comey assured us there was no truth to President Trump’s tweet about being wiretapped by Barack Obama, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump may have had more than just a small point.

The U.S. intelligence community, says Nunes, during surveillance of legitimate targets, picked up the names of Trump transition officials during surveillance of targets, “unmasked” their identity, and spread their names around, virtually assuring they would be leaked.

If true, this has the look and smell of a conspiracy to sabotage the Trump presidency, before it began. … continue

Bahraini teenager succumbs to injuries from regime forces’ fire

Press TV – March 24, 2017

A teenage boy shot and critically injured by Bahraini regime forces during a sit-in held in solidarity with prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim nearly two months ago has died of his wounds, medics say.

Mustafa Hamdan succumbed to his injuries at Salmaniya Medical Complex in the capital Manama on Friday. Doctors at the public hospital told Hamdan’s family that the 17-year-old teenager had stopped responding to treatment since previous day, Arabic-language Bahrain Mirror news website reported.

Hamdan was struck in the head on January 26, when Al Khalifah regime mercenaries attacked a sit-in near Sheikh Qassim’s residence in the village of Diraz, firing live bullets at unarmed protesters. … Full article

Israeli forces injure several Palestinians, 5 with live fire, during anti-settlement protest

Ma’an – March 24, 2017

RAMALLAH – At least five Palestinians, reported to be “youth,” were injured with live fire, while seven others were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets by Israeli forces on Friday during what started out as a peaceful anti-settlement demonstration in the eastern Ramallah district of the central occupied West Bank. … Full article

US-Israel settlement negotiations stall

MEMO | March 24, 2017

The Americans and Israelis said yesterday that Donald Trump’s administration has reiterated its concerns regarding Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The comment came after a series of talks which failed to agree on a settlement freeze in the territories within which the Palestinians want to establish an independent state.

The meetings were held at the highest level for four days in Washington and are the most recent step by Trump’s advisors to open the way to diplomatic efforts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. They went ahead despite deep doubts on the part of the US and Middle East states regarding the chances of success.

Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who returned recently from a visit to the region, led the US delegation in the talks that were described as “intensive discussions”. The Israeli team was led by Yoav Horowitz, the Israeli prime minister’s chief of staff, and foreign policy adviser Jonathan Schachter.

Despite his more positive attitude towards Israel than his predecessor Barack Obama, President Trump urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” during his visit to the White House last month. The two leaders agreed to allow their aides to agree on the limits of how much Israel can build and where.

“The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes [US] concerns into consideration,” said a joint statement issued by the White House at the end of the latest meetings. “The talks were serious and constructive, and they are ongoing.”

Israel prevents Palestinians from accessing agricultural lands to make settlers ‘comfortable’

Ma’an – March 24, 2017

SALFIT – Israeli forces on Friday prevented Palestinians from accessing areas around the Wadi Qana valley west of Deir Istiya village in northern Salfit in the central occupied West Bank, in order to create a “comfortable atmosphere” for illegal Israeli settlers in the area.

Member of the Deir Istiya Municipality Nathmi Salman told Ma’an that Israeli authorities closed the entrance of Wadi Qana, preventing Palestinians from entering the area from 8 a.m to 3 p.m Friday to provide a “comfortable atmosphere” for Israeli settlers from the nearby Karnei Shomron settlement who organize an annual “spring march” in the area.

According to Salman, Israeli forces had put up signs in Hebrew reading “no entry” late Thursday and informed farmers that the area was closed by Israeli forces on Friday.

Salman said that Israeli settlers arrived in the area early Friday with power generators and “entertainment tools.” … Full article

1 Palestinian teen killed, 3 critically injured after Israeli forces open fire on vehicle

Ma’an – March 23, 2017

RAMALLAH – A Palestinian youth was killed and three others were critically injured Thursday evening after Israeli forces opened fire on a Palestinian vehicle near the al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah city in the occupied West Bank.

Ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society transferred the four youths, all residents of al-Jalazun camp, to the Ramallah Government Hospital, where one was pronounced dead. […]

Local sources told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers fired heavily at the the vehicle while the teens were inside, from military tower near the entrance of the camp. … Full article

New Israeli settlement projects planned in Jordan Valley

Palestine Information Center – March 24, 2017

JORDAN VALLEY – The Israeli Civil Administration delegation visited the Jordan Valley Regional Council, compromising of 21 illegal settlements, on Friday to discuss ways to establish new development projects in the Jordan Valley settlements, Israeli media sources said.

The delegation included David El Hayani, mayor of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and Aravot HaYarden, chairman of the council.

The delegation discussed ways to develop agriculture, tourism, and other economic sectors in the settlements.

Nearly one million tourists arrived last year in the Jordan Valley, half of whom came to visit the religious sites in the area, which were recently developed by the Civil Administration, Hayarden said.

For his part, El Hayani revealed plans to establish new tourism projects in the area including restaurants and parking. … Full article

Two UK universities cancel speeches by author of UN anti-Israel report

Press TV – March 24, 2017

Two British universities have cancelled lectures by international law professor Richard Falk after he co-authored a UN report which concludes that Israel is an “apartheid” regime.

Falk said Middlesex University called off his speech, citing “health and safety” concerns, while University of East London cancelled his lecture, claiming that the approval for the speech had not followed proper procedures.

“As far as I can tell, there is a growing kind of feeling that the educational establishment in Britain, specifically in England, has been kind of intimidated in dealing with those who are seen as critics of Israel,” Falk told the Middle East Eye news.

Falk denounced the cancellations as the “intensification” of a trend of restricting academic freedom on university campuses, warning that depriving students of delving into controversial issues restricts their experience for becoming engaged citizens. … continue

US troops to stay in Iraq after fight against ISIS ends – Defense Dept. officials

RT | March 24, 2017

American troops will apparently remain in Iraq even when the fight against Islamic State has ended, according to Pentagon officials, including US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said that keeping soldiers on the ground is in America’s “national interest.”

The US Defense Department’s top officials expressed their desire to keep US troops in Iraq at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Mattis made it clear that US involvement will not end when Mosul is finally captured from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“I believe it’s in our national interest that we keep Iraqi security forces in a position to keep our mutual enemies on their back foot,” he said, as quoted by the Military Times.

The defense secretary went on to say that he does not “see any reason to pull out again and face the same lesson,” adding that the US “needs to remain decisively engaged in Iraq and in the region.” … continue

US senators introduce bill to tighten sanctions on Iran

Press TV – March 23, 2017

A bipartisan group of US senators in Congress have introduced a bill that would impose tighter sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile tests and other non-nuclear activities.

The bill was introduced on Thursday by 14 Democratic and Republican senators, including senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The legislation would set mandatory sanctions for anyone involved with Iran’s missile program and those who trade with them. It also would apply sanctions to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Lawmakers were expected to roll out the new sanctions ahead of a conference by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is scheduled to start Sunday. … continue

The Clinton-Directed ‘Daily Beast’ Doesn’t Think You Should Believe In The Deep State

By Caitlin Johnstone | Newslogue | March 22, 2017

The Daily Beast, whose corporate owner is co-directed by Chelsea Clinton, has made another contribution to the steadily mounting gaslighting campaign to convince the American public that the deep state is not a thing. In an article consisting of approximately 80 percent empty vitriol and 20 percent straw man argument, the consistently awful Michael Weiss attempts to advance the notion that because the head of the FBI testified before congress and said that the Bureau is investigating Russiagate, the deep state cannot possibly exist.

It is unclear from the article what mental gymnastics Weiss needed to do in order to make this feel true for himself, but his argument is a complete misrepresentation of what the deep state is; the term refers to the self-evident fact that there are power structures which remain in America amid the comings and goings of elected representatives. The man who first popularized the term in America includes among the components of those power structures the donor class, the military industrial complex, the intelligence community, national security institutions, and, of course, the mainstream media, whom Weiss is employed by.

Due to its immensely powerful ability to influence the way Americans think and vote, the mainstream media is plainly one of the strongest arms in the deep state power structure. The extensive amount of collusion that WikiLeaks revealed between mainstream media outlets and the establishment candidate Hillary Clinton makes it clear that there are power structures which have a tremendous influence over American affairs. It’s not a uniform, coordinated thing where everyone’s on the same side in all ways, and it’s certainly not the secret cabal of illuminati that the mainstream media is trying to spin it as; it’s just the result of the simple and undeniable fact that you don’t need to be an elected official to have power in America, and that people who have power tend to make alliances. Some of those people in power plainly have it in for Trump.

The Daily Beast article is just the most recent and most cartoonish of the “there is no deep state” spin pieces the corporate media has been desperately churning out with greater and greater frequency as the official narrative keeps getting undermined. Here’s one Salon published yesterday. Here’s one from Sunday by the LA Times. Here’s another recent one by the New York Times boldly titled “What Happens When You Fight a ‘Deep State’ That Doesn’t Exist”. Here’s comedian/establishment propagandist Samantha Bee jumping on the train a few days ago if you want to spend some time not laughing and feeling so manipulated you’ll want to take a shower afterwards. All to convince the American people to not pay attention to the very glaringly obvious fact that there are powerful groups in the United States who are not democratically elected. … Full article

David Rockefeller & a dark legacy in Brasil – A critical obituary

Brasil Wire | March 20, 2017

On March 20, David Rockefeller died at the age of 101. As the obituaries for one of the world’s richest men gush over his philanthropy, it needs to be pointed out that he was a major player in several Latin American coups, supported extremely corrupt military dictatorships, post-dictatorship neoliberal policies that greatly exacerbated income stratification and poverty and that his dark legacy will continue to influence the region long after his death. … continue

No Interference in Foreign Electoral Processes From Russia – Lavrov

Sputnik – 23.03.2017

MOSCOW – Russia does not interfere in the affairs of other countries, particularly on pre-election processes, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday.

“We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other states, including the processes of preparing and holding elections,” Lavrov said at a Russian Armed Forces General Staff Military Academy lecture.

He expressed indignation at “absolutely fictitious and most importantly not smart” media reports claiming Russia’s “total influence on the electoral processes” in France and Germany.

London terrorist attack: Westminster’s jihadis come home

By Gearóid Ó Colmáin | March 23, 2017

One year to the day after the Brussels terrorist attacks, a terrorist drove a car into Westminster parliament buildings killing four people and wounding several others. The British public are in shock. Westminster is considered to be a monument to British ‘democracy’. The date 3/22 will be remembered among those who mourn over the skulls and bones of loved ones lost to terrorism.

Today, many of those mourners are in Syria. Just a few hours earlier, 50 destitute families staying at the al Badiya Dakhilya school in the village of Mansoura on the outskirts of Raqqa, were blown to pieces after an air strike by the ‘international coalition’. The Pentagon said it would “investigate” the atrocity. The British Government and its Western partners were silent. Thirty-three people were murdered. The United Nations – the international arm of US imperialism- was mute. The Syrian government asked them why. No answer was given.

On the same day, Al Nosra terrorists entered the village of Majdal, Northwest of Hama. Several women and children were reportedly killed. There are not enough reporters in Syria to cover all the atrocities committed almost every day by psychopathic killers the Western media calls ‘moderate rebels’. … continue

Court Rules in Favor of Police Who Pounded on Wrong Door, Didn’t Identify Themselves, Then Killed Innocent Man for Holding a Gun

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | March 23, 2017

ATLANTA, Ga. — According to a federal appeals court, police will not be held accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense. Although 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

In ruling in favor of qualified immunity for police, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has given law enforcement agencies further incentives to engage in aggressive “knock and talk” practices, which have become thinly veiled, warrantless exercises by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night. … continue

Bahrain detains former AFP photojournalist on unspecified charges

Press TV – Mar 23, 2017

Bahraini authorities have arrested a former photojournalist for the France-based AFP news agency, who had covered years of protests against the ruling Al Khalifah regime in the kingdom.

Mohammed al-Shaikh, a prize-winning photographer, was arrested at the airport and transferred to the country’s Criminal Investigation Unit after he arrived from vacation in India, reported the Agence France-Presse news agency, better known by its French acronym AFP, late Wednesday.

Bahraini officials have not specified the charges pressed against the journalist, who has been denied access to a lawyer, according to the report.

Shaikh’s accreditation to work for the AFP expired in August last year, with the Bahraini Information Affairs Authority refusing to renew his permit.

The photojournalist won the Bayeux-Calvados prize in 2014 for his coverage of the popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifah family, which has been met with a harsh crackdown by the Bahraini regime backed by other Persian Gulf Arab states. … Full article

Israeli forces raid Tulkarem print shops, confiscate equipment

Ma’an – March 23, 2017

TULKAREM – Israeli forces raided and sacked two Palestinian print shops in the northern occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem at dawn on Thursday and confiscated equipment.
Ali Abu Saleh, the owner of the two print shops, told Ma’an that large numbers of Israeli troops raided his home in the Shweika neighborhood and demanded that he let them access his stores.

Abu Saleh said that Israeli soldiers searched his shop in the Shweika area, where they confiscated equipment, printed materials, and destroyed security camera footage.

Israeli forces also raided Abu Saleh’s other print shop in central Tulkarem, breaking the front door and also confiscating equipment and materials.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces had raided the shops because they printed “inciting material.”

However, Abu Saleh rejected the army’s claims, calling them baseless, adding that 20 people were out of work following the raids. … continue

Israeli settlement building rose by 40 percent in 2016: Official data

Press TV – March 22, 2017

The Israeli regime has stepped up settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land, with over 700 more housing units built last year compared to the previous year, official data show.

Figures released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday show that 2,630 settlement units were constructed in the occupied West Bank last year, marking a rise of 40 percent from 2015. … Full article

Trump Envoy Asks Israel to Halt Construction Outside Settlement Blocs

IMEMC News & Agencies – March 23, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East reportedly asked, during last week’s meeting, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction in Jerusalem and outside the large settlement blocs. According to Al Ray, Netanyahu expressed reservations at an official freeze.

Channel 2 News reported, on Wednesday, that Jason Greenblatt, who visited Israel last week, asked Netanyahu to freeze construction in isolated settlements and restrict it to East Jerusalem and outside the large settlement blocs.

In addition, Washington also reportedly asked to set a fixed number of houses that can be built each year.

The Israeli security cabinet has rejected these requests, demanding that Israel has the right to build in any part of the West Bank.

Video shows Israeli police officer violently assaulting Palestinians in East Jerusalem

Ma’an – March 23, 2017

JERUSALEM – An Israeli police officer physically assaulted and injured several Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz on Thursday morning, a video filmed by a witnessed showed.

The video shows a plainclothes police officer aggressively verbally confronting a Palestinian truck driver — later identified as 50-year-old Mazen Rafaat Shweiki — after the latter allegedly hit the officer’s car.

Over the course of the nearly two-minute long video, the officer proceeds to headbutt, slap, punch, kick, and knee the Shweiki in the lower abdomen.

“I was heading to work in my truck, which was parked in the Ministry of Interior’s parking lot in Wadi Joz as usual this morning, when I was surprised by an Israeli special force officer who headed towards me and asked me: ‘Why did you hit my car?’” Shweiki recounted.

“I told him that I had hit his car on Tuesday and that I had tried to find out who was the owner of the car to help repair it, but that I hadn’t been able to find him,” he said, adding that the officer then started cursing at him.

Shweiki told Ma’an that he sustained fractured ribs following the assault.

Ahmad al-Tawil, a 26 year-old Jerusalemite who witnessed the scene, told Ma’an that Shweiki was starting up his vehicle when the Israeli officer, dressed in civilian clothing with a gun on his belt, went up to the truck driver and started berating him.

Al-Tawil said that he tried to intervene once the officer began assaulting Shweiki, only for the Israeli officer to hit him several times in the head and stomach, injuring al-Tawil in the eye.

The video then goes on to show at least two other Israeli police officers arriving at the scene, before the first officer violently kicks Shweiki in the back as he attempted to enter his vehicle.

Al-Tawil said that three Israeli special forces officers arrived at the scene at the time when the video cut off, and assaulted Palestinian men present at the scene, pulling their guns on them while the first Israeli officer went on to assault Shweiki.

Shweiki confirmed that the police officers who arrived later on the scene also assaulted him and the other Palestinians who had tried to defuse the situation. … Full article

Israeli Soldiers Abduct A Legislator, Confiscate His Car, In Jenin

IMEMC News – March 23, 2017

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Wednesday evening, a Palestinian legislator after stopping his car at ‘Arraba town junction, southwest of Jenin, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, and illegally confiscated his car.

The WAFA Palestinian News Agency said the soldiers abducted legislator Ibrahim Dahbour, while he was returning home from Jenin.

The soldiers cuffed and blindfolded the democratically-elected legislator, and took him, along with his car, to an unknown destination. … Full article

Israeli naval forces detain 2 Palestinian fishermen off Gaza coast

Ma’an – March 23, 2017

GAZA – Israeli naval forces detained two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, Palestinian security forces said.

Gaza naval police said in statement that Israeli forces detained Khader al-Saadi and Rajab Abu Mayala, both residents of the al-Shati refugee camp, while they were sailing three nautical miles from the shore of Gaza City.

Gaza police added that Israeli forces also confiscated the fishermen’s boats and equipment. … Full article

New York Man Arrested for Spray Painting Swastikas on Own Home

Sputnik – 23.03.2017

In the latest in a bizarre string of hoax hate crimes in the US since Donald Trump was elected president, a New York man has been arrested for spray painting swastikas on his own home.

The Schenectady Police have arrested Andrew King, a man who made the rounds on local television stations expressing his fear about being targeted for his Jewish faith, for filing a false report. … continue

Dual US-Israeli citizen arrested for wave of bomb threats against Jewish centers

RT | March 23, 2017

A 19-year-old US-Israeli citizen has been arrested in southern Israel on suspicion of carrying out a wave of telephone bomb threats targeting Jewish centers and communities around the world.

The months-long, multi-agency investigation led Israel Police’s International Crime Investigations Unit to the city of Ashkelon, where the suspect and his father were arrested, and a search of their home was conducted on Thursday, local media reports.

“This specific investigation was complex in terms of the suspect and its nature,” Micky Rosenfeld, foreign press spokesman for the Israel Police, told the Jerusalem Post.

“There was a significant breakthrough in the investigation which led us to make the arrest of the suspect who lives in Southern Israel.”

“He was the main suspect behind the numerous amount of threats which were made to different Jewish communities and organizations around the world,” Rosenfeld added.

The Anti-Defamation League has recorded 165 bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions around North America since January, as well as in New Zealand and Australia in 2016, according to Haaretz. … continue

Why Israel is ‘Deeply Interested’ in Continuation of Syrian War

Sputnik – March 23, 2017

Israel is likely to try to retain the existing status quo in Syria since it has benefited from the ongoing conflict in the war-torn neighboring nation, political analyst Sergei Balmasov asserted, saying that Tel Aviv’s combat missions are not aimed at President Bashar al-Assad, but are rather meant to prevent the crisis from being resolved.

“Israel is deeply interested in the ongoing standoff between the Sunnis and the Shia. Tel Aviv wants them to continue killing each other. Nothing presents a threat to Israel as long as this war is ongoing. The Israeli Air Force launches airstrikes against Shia militias in Syria, tipping the balance. This evens out the chances and the war drags on,” he told RT.

Balmasov, an expert at the Middle East Institute at the Russian International Affairs Council, also suggested that Israel could use a border incident to move its forces into southern Syria.

“One could not rule out that Israel does not deploy its troops to the southern buffer zone which borders the Golan Heights to create a territorial entity on the basis of Druze settlements using some kind of an incident as a pretext,” he said. … continue

SIGAR Report Notes US Failures in Afghanistan

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 23.03.2017

A report of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), especially prepared for the US Congress and the Trump administration, finds what should be called a magnanimous failure of the US in achieving any of its major objectives in Afghanistan even after spending almost 16 years in the country. Ironic though it may sound, this report, along with its list of grave threats that the US needs to tackle, endorses the war as, what Trump himself has called, totally “disastrous” for the US. While the actual intention behind the preparation of this report seems to be to impress upon the president and the Congress to sanction more funds, commit more US troops and continue the rehabilitation programme (read: Trump has vowed to end the programme), it ends up enlisting the US’ multiple failures in Afghanistan, ranging from eliminating the Taliban completely to restoring even a semblance of peace and establishing a strong security force in the war torn country. Hence, the question: will commitment of more resources (funds and troops) to Afghanistan make any difference, especially when the proposed increase is nothing compared to what the US had committed and continued to utilize for years after it invaded Afghanistan in 2001? … continue

American civil war is good for world peace

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 22, 2017

… To my mind, this is about the appropriate time to begin pondering about a world sans America. That is to say, an international system where America has taken “time out”. Is it a good thing to happen? Well, it is already having some salutary effect on the international climate. The global tensions have noticeably eased. If it was commonplace during the Obama era to discuss a potential war between Russia and the US, including a nuclear war, no one wastes breath over such things anymore.

A good case can be made that if the American civil war continues to be fought as savagely by the country’s elites as it has been so far, and if the fratricidal strife continues for another 4 or 8 years — ideally, through the entire Trump presidency — it will be a great boon for the world community. Never again will Americans be able to be preachy that the world cannot do without them. And the ruling elites in countries such as India will also get accustomed to a life without America. … Read full article

It’s Time to End America’s Longest War

By Thomas Knapp | CounterPunch | March 23, 2017

In the latest round of saber-rattling between the US and North Korean governments, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid down the well-worn line. “All options,” he said during a visit to South Korea, “are on the table.”

If he’s serious, here’s an option that never seems to get much discussion lately:

US president Donald Trump should send Tillerson to tell Yun Byung-se, his counterpart in Seoul, that the US is withdrawing its troops from the Korean peninsula by a specific date, and that after that date the US will cease to guarantee, or accept responsibility for, the South’s security. … continue

Russia Ready to Discuss Nuclear Arsenal Reduction – Lavrov

Sputnik – 23.03.2017

MOSCOW – Russia is ready to discuss the possibility of reducing nuclear arsenals, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a Russian Armed Forces General Staff Military Academy lecture Thursday.

“We are ready to discuss the possibility of further reducing nuclear capabilities, but only taking into account all the factors and not just the number of strategic offensive weapons,” Lavrov said.

Meanwhile, he added that Russia is ready for dialogue with the United States on the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons and believes that more countries need to be involved in the process. … continue

Russia Warns Norway over Missile Defense Plans

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 23.03.2017

Russia has warned Norway over consequences of joining NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans. According to Russian ambassador to Oslo, Moscow will retaliate. Norway’s possible accession to NATO’s missile shield «will be a new factor that will be considered in our strategic planning as the emergence of an additional problem in the Arctic region», Teimuraz Ramishvili told the Norwegian state media network NRK.

In 2017, Norway may become a part of BMD. The Norwegian government has appointed an expert group to consider a possible Norwegian contribution to the missile shield. A detailed report on the issue is currently being prepared by experts from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment and the US Missile Defense Agency to be submitted the year.

Norway has no interceptors on its soil but there are other ways to contribute into the anti-missile plans. Denmark does not host missiles but it committed itself to the bloc’s BMD in 2014, working to equip its frigates with advanced radar systems capable of detecting and tracking ballistic missiles. The missile defense program continues to be implemented despite the fact that after the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, there is no rationale for it. … continue

Over 100 NATO military vehicles arrive in Estonia as part of ‘biggest deployment since Cold War’

RT | March 23, 2017

Scores of tanks, self-propelled artillery guns and other military hardware have started to arrive in Estonia from the UK and Germany, in what the UK defense minister has called the largest deployment in Eastern Europe since the Cold War.

The first of hundreds of UK military vehicles have arrived in Estonia on Wednesday, delivered by a ferry from ports in Britain and Germany, the UK Ministry of Defence reported.

The heavy military equipment – Challenger 2 tanks, Terrier, Titan and Trojan armored battlefield engineer vehicles as well as Warrior infantry fighting vehicles – will be moved from an Estonian port to a military base in Tapa, the ministry statement said.

The delivery is aimed to support a British battle group in the eastern European country, it added, emphasizing that it’s “one of the largest ever NATO deployments” to the region.

“This is the start of one of the biggest deployment in Eastern Europe since the Cold War,” UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said, adding that by the end of April there will be “800 British troops, with armor, with tanks” in Estonia, close to Russia’s borders.

NATO has justified the arrival of the vehicles, which follow a deployment of over a hundred British military personnel to Estonia, by boosting security in the region against hypothetical “Russian aggression.”

American, French and German troops have already arrived to Estonia within NATO’s international battalions, Interfax reported, citing the local Postimees newspaper. By the end of next month, some 1,650 international troops are expected to be present at the Tapa and Amari military bases, with the latter to host NATO’s air forces from Germany.

The buildup is part of a large NATO mission to deploy four multinational battalions in the Baltics, agreed by the military alliance last year. Moscow has repeatedly criticized the move, saying NATO’s eastward expansion on the Russian border with the expected 4,000 troops plus tanks, armored vehicles, air support and high-tech intelligence centers in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland will only undermine the security balance on the continent.

Air Forces of 6 NATO States Participating in Exercises in Bulgaria

Sputnik – 23.03.2017

The air forces of six NATO countries are carrying out various exercises aimed at the improvement of the tactical training of the military and transport aviation in Bulgaria, which will conclude on April 7, country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

According to the statement, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are participating in the exercises.

The flight exercises are expected to start on Monday and end on April 6, the statement continued, and will be followed by a ceremony to mark the completion of the training.

The exercise participants plan to conduct various maneuvers during this period, of which include flying at low and very low altitudes.

The alliance agreed to carry out the military exercises in Bulgaria in 2017 at last year’s NATO Summit in Warsaw.

Hong Kong: Anglo-America’s Struggling Foothold in China

By Joseph Thomas – New Eastern Outlook – March 22, 2017

Prominent American propagandist Howard French recently published a lengthy editorial in the Guardian titled, “Is it too late to save Hong Kong from Beijing’s authoritarian grasp?,” in which he attempts to buttress an otherwise categorically false narrative surrounding an alleged indigenous struggle for democracy and independence within Hong Kong.

French attempts to hold China accountable for backtracking on an agreement made with Britain over the return of its own territory taken from it by force in 1841. He also attempts to portray Beijing’s crackdown on US-UK subversion in Hong Kong as “authoritarian,” never making mention of the extensive funding and meddling both the United States and the United Kingdom are engaged in within Chinese territory.

The article documents only one side of the so-called “independence” movement in Hong Kong, sidestepping any critical analysis of the colonial background of the ongoing political crisis or the neo-colonial aspects that shape current events even now.

The lengthy piece was paid for by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a Washington D.C.-based front that collaborates with the New York Times, PBS, NPR, Time Magazine and other mainstays of US propaganda. These are the same media outlets that helped sell the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as US-led attacks on Libya and US meddling in Syria beginning in 2011. By supporting French’s work, they now help sell to the public a narrative that undermines Chinese sovereignty an ocean away from American shores. … continue

Importing Democracy: US Breeds Activism in Belarus

Sputnik – 22.03.2017

Recently, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a tender for its Community Connections project in Belarus. The main goal of the project is to use professional exchanges to establish connections between the people of Belarus and their US colleagues, in order to promote free market and democratic values.

USAID reported that under the program Belarusian activists would visit the US for a three-week-long training to share experience, including communications with American experts and activists.

Washington has already implemented several programs via USAID, aimed at promoting democratic values in Belarus. For example, Washington unveiled $9 million to support the development of democracy and fair governance in Belarus in 2017, compared to $8.3 million in 2016 and $7 million in 2015.

In December 2016, the State Department announced a grant of $520,000 for non-profit organizations to train independent journalists in Belarus.

Moreover, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) provided financial support to election observers in 2014, as well as to Belarusian human rights organizations and activists. In 2016, NEED unveiled over $2 million to support civic society and independent media in Belarus. … Full article

US-Led Coalition Bombs School in Raqqa, Mainstream Media Diverts Attention

Sputnik – 22.03.2017

More than 30 Syrian civilians were killed when the US-led coalition bombed a school in the town of al-Mansour in the Raqqa province, Turkish Anadolu news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, an informed source cited by the SANA news agency also said that the US-led coalition raid struck a school south of the town of Mansour, nearly 19 miles west of Raqqa. Unverified reports estimated up to 33 people may have been killed in the strike. The school was being used as a shelter for refugees.

The refugees were peaceful citizens who had fled the fighting from the cities of Aleppo, Raqqa and Palmyra and had come to al-Mansour for safety. … Full article

Land Rights Activist Shot Dead in Brazilian Hospital

teleSUR | March 22, 2017

Waldomiro Costa Pereira, an activist with the Landless Workers Movement, MST, was killed Monday when gunmen stormed a hospital in Parauapebas in northeastern Brazil’s Para state, activists said in a statement.

Five armed men burst into a small town hospital in the Brazilian Amazon, surrounded security guards and shot dead the prominent land rights activist, in the latest deadly attack on land campaigners.

The motive for Pereira’s murder was unclear, the MST said, but the activist had been recovering in the hospital from a previous assassination attempt.

“This is yet another murder of workers in the state of Para,” the MST said in a statement. “Impunity has become commonplace as has the action of criminal militia groups,” the group said, adding that Pereira was a longtime activist in the “struggle for agrarian reform.” … continue

Australia finds no funds diverted in World Vision probe, further debunking Israeli claims against al-Halabi

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – March 22, 2017

In yet another blow to the propaganda-driven case against Palestinian aid worker Mohammed al-Halabi, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported on Tuesday, 21 March that “an internal review into World Vision funding in Gaza has uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government aid funding to Hamas.”

Al-Halabi was seized by Israeli occupation forces at the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing and in August 2016, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, went on a propaganda offensive, claiming that Halabi had redirected World Vision funds to the Palestinian resistance organization, Hamas. Israeli occupation officials declared that he had diverted $43 million in charitable funds to the Palestinian resistance, including a video from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing Palestinians of not caring about their people. The amounts cited dwarfed the actual budget to which al-Halabi had access, by all accounts. These seemingly impossible claims were made after nearly a month of interrogation, during which Halabi was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment.

The claims against Halabi were accompanied by similarly touted claims against civil engineer Waheed Bursh, a contractor with the UN Development Program, also accused of redirecting resources to the Palestinian resistance – in his case, rubble from the Israeli bombing of Gaza. However, despite the large-scale publicity surrounding Borsh’s arrest, he was released seven months later, indicating that no serious charges were ever made. He was cited as a “witness” againat al-Halabi, and later confirmed that he completely denied any allegations against the aid worker.

“The news DFAT found no evidence of the misuse of World Vison funds comes as Mr Halabi’s trial continues in Israel. He has rejected a plea deal offered by Israeli authorities and has pleaded not guilty, claiming he is innocent of all charges,” reported the Australian Brodcasting Corporation. The plea agreement he rejected would have seen him imprisoned for three years, a short sentence which again indicates a lack of serious charges or evidence in the case.

Indeed, rather than presenting any evidence to back up the widely-publicized public claims against World Vision and Halabi, Israeli occupation officials have instead submitted additional, lesser charges against Halabi that have no relation to diverting funds or his work with World Vision; two such charges are those of “passing information to the enemy” and of “aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war,” with the enemy in question being Palestinians in Gaza. Al-Halabi is, himself, of course, a Palestinian living under occupation and siege in Gaza. … continue

15-year-old Palestinian killed, 2 injured by Israeli shelling in Rafah

Ma’an – March 22, 2017

GAZA CITY – An 15-year-old Palestinian was killed and two other Palestinians were injured by Israeli shelling in eastern Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip before dawn on Wednesday.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli drones were also flying overhead as the sound of gunshots and explosions were heard.

Spokesperson for Gaza’s Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement that Youssef Shaaban Abu Athra, 15, was killed while two others sustained multiple injuries from shrapnel as a result of the artillery fire. He was initially reported to be 18-years-old.

The two injured were taken to the Abu Youssef Najjar Hospital in Rafah for treatment. Their identities and their medical conditions remained unknown.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israel forces had “detected three suspects” near Israel’s military border fence in southern Gaza, and that Israeli forces responded by “firing with a tank toward the suspect,” adding that “one hit was confirmed.”

However the spokesperson did not explicitly acknowledge that someone had been killed or elaborate on what had been suspicious about their behavior. … Full article

30 more administrative detention orders issued to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – March 22, 2017

Israeli occupation forces issued another 30 administrative detention orders for the imprisonment without charge or trial of Palestinians between 13 and 20 March, 2017.

Palestinian lawyer Mahmoud Halabi reported that the orders included 12 new orders and 18 renewals of existing administrative detention orders. One of the detention orders renewed here was that of Mohammed Harb, 23, from Jenin, one of the comrades of slain Palestinian youth leader Basil al-Araj, who was assassinated by Israeli occupation forces on 6 March. Harb was among five young Palestinians imprisoned with al-Araj in Palestinian Authority prisons for five months; he was seized by Israeli occupation forces soon following his release. Seif al-Idrissi, Mohammed al-Salameen and Haitham Siyaj are also held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

There are currently nearly 600 Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial under administrative detention, out of nearly 7,000 total Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. … Full article

Israeli occupation most malignant in the world, says UN rapporteur

MEMO | March 22, 2017

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, has described the Israeli occupation as “the most malignant” in the world. The Canadian official added that perpetuating an alien rule over almost five million people, against their fervent wishes, inevitably requires the repression of rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the abrogation of international commitments and the imposition of deeply discriminatory practices.

Lynk accused Israel of humiliating the Palestinians and intensifying the crackdown on human rights activists. He presented his report to the UN Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Council during its latest session on Israel. Israeli and US diplomats boycotted the session dedicated to several UN reports criticising Israeli settlements, the blockade of Gaza and the excessive use of force against Palestinians.

The report also criticised the Palestinian authorities for their violations, including unlawful killings and detentions. It comes after the resignation of the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Rima Khalaf, after her report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state was rejected by the international body under pressure from Israel and the US. … continue

Israeli forces detain Palestinian, confiscate vehicles in northern Jordan Valley

Ma’an – March 22, 2017

TUBAS – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning detained a young Palestinian man in the village of Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank and confiscated a tractor and a private vehicle in the area.

Muataz Bisharat, an official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Ma’an that Israeli forces, escorted by several Israeli Civil Administration jeeps, detained Mahmoud Muhammad al-Hroub, 23, and confiscated a tractor belonging to his father and a vehicle belonging to Hayil Turkman.

The confiscated vehicles were taken to the Nahal military site in the al-Maleh area of the Jordan valley, Bisharat said. … continue

Palestinian legislator Mohammed al-Tal seized by Israeli forces; Samira Halaiqa indicted by military court

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – March 22, 2017

The number of imprisoned Palestinian Legislative Council members climbed to 11 on Tuesday, 21 March after a pre-dawn raid by Israeli occupation forces seized PLC member Mohammed al-Tal from al-Khalil, along with 19 more Palestinians. Al-Tal has previously spent 11 years in Israeli prisons, half of those in administrative detention without charge or trial.

Also on Tuesday, 21 March, an Israeli occupation military court at Ofer submitted an indictment against PLC member Samira Halaiqa, 53, from al-Khalil, accusing her of participating in political and social activities and engaging in “incitement” for making political posts on Facebook. Halaiqa was seized on 9 March by occupation forces who invaded her home. She, along with her husband Mohammed Halaiqa, had previously been imprisoned for one year in 2006 under administrative detention, following her election to the PLC.

Both Halaiqa and al-Tal are part of the Change and Reform bloc, the PLC bloc associated with Hamas. … Full article

Israel plans to annex territorial waters in dispute with Lebanon

MEMO | March 22, 2017

The Israeli government is planning to annex a large area of territorial waters also claimed by Lebanon, which has issued bids for gas and oil investment, Ynet News revealed on Tuesday. The area in question is believed to be rich in natural resources and has been disputed between Israel and Lebanon for years, with the US and UN failing to settle the argument.

Ynet News said that the bill is “aimed to claim Israel’s sovereignty over the area, mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural recourses like oil and gas.” However, it did not say when the proposed bill will be presented to the Knesset (parliament). According to the Israeli news website, the area is a rough triangle of around 800 square kilometres.

International maritime law seeks to resolve such disputes by dividing the territorial waters between disputed countries by mutual agreement based on the “mid-point” between the two countries. The Israelis claim that Lebanon has broken the status quo by advertising for tenders to search for natural resources.

The bill, added the website, is a means by which the Israeli government wants to define the maritime border with Lebanon. The triangle, it noted, is regarded by Tel Aviv as Israeli territory.

Netanyahu to Putin: Israeli airstrikes in Syria will continue

RT | March 22, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israeli forces will continue airstrikes in Syria if they deem it necessary.

“If there is feasibility from an intelligence and military standpoint – we attack and so it will continue,” Netanyahu said during a visit to China, adding that he had informed Putin of Israel’s intentions.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli PM also dismissed reports that Russia was insisting that Israel cease its military operations on Syrian territory.

On Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad told visiting Russian MPs that he is counting on Russia to prevent further Israeli attacks on Syrian soil and to help Damascus avoid a full-blown conflict with Tel Aviv.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Gary Koren, to demand explanations for the airstrikes Israel conducted near the Syrian city of Palmyra on Friday morning. Israeli warplanes hit several targets near Palmyra, allegedly destroying advanced arms provided to the Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah.

Syria’s air defense force fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli planes as they were returning to base. Syrian media reported that one plane was downed, while Israel denied any losses. … Full article

Global Laundromat update: “Bank did bank things with famous person”

OffGuardian | March 22, 2107

… Today’s article is simply a readjustment of all same talking points mentioned several times each yesterday, only chopped up into a different order. Like that episode of the Simpsons where Marge keeps chopping up one Chanel suit into a variety of different outfits.

You can tell they are desperate to get people clicking, because they’ve tried to tie it into an actual talking point: Donald Trump’s “Russia connections”. The entirety of this “new information” is contained within the headline:

Bank that lent $300m to Trump linked to Russian money laundering scam

That’s it. That’s not a teaser for more information. That’s not a summary of a complex plot. That is literally all the information. … Read full article

Ukraine Asks US for ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ Status

Sputnik – 22.03.2017

KIEV – Ukraine’s parliament passed a resolution on Wednesday, asking the United States to grant it the status of a major non-NATO ally.

The resolution, addressing US Congress, was backed by 232 lawmakers and cleared the parliament after previously failing to attain the required 226 votes.

“In line with the spirit of the Bucharest Memorandum [on Security Assurances] and the developing strategic partnership between our states we ask the US to consider a defense agreement with Ukraine and grant it the status of a major non-NATO ally,” the resolution said. … Full article

A Breach in the Anti-Putin Groupthink

Consortium News | March 21, 2107

The mainstream U.S. media has virtually banned any commentary that doesn’t treat Russian President Putin as the devil, but a surprising breach in the groupthink has occurred in Foreign Affairs magazine, reports Gilbert Doctorow. – Read article

Trump opens the Russia file, finally

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 21, 2017

The first half of April will witness the first major forays by the United States into the foreign policy arena under President Donald Trump. The summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping is slated for April 6-7 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. On April 12, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be visiting Moscow.

There is much heartburn already in Washington and in some European capitals that Trump administration is showing preference for big powers and is ‘ignoring old allies’. The lamentation is factually baseless. There have been a string of visits by leaders of allied powers to meet with Trump in the White House – Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe and so on.

Interestingly, however, Tillerson showed disinterest in attending the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on April 5-6 and is instructing his deputy Tom Shannon to represent the US, pleading he will be preoccupied with Xi’s visit to Florida. The Reuters reported that NATO offered to re-schedule the Brussels meeting to suit Tillerson’s convenience, but that Washington ‘rebuffed’ the offer.

If so, it is a big statement on the Trump administration’s foreign-policy priorities. … continue

‘Russiagate’ and the House Intelligence Committee

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | March 21, 2017

FBI Director Comey’s and NSA Director Rogers’s public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday 20th March 2017 cast some interesting light on the ‘Russiagate’ allegations, though these were not the ones the media has sought to emphasise.

Firstly, almost from the moment the House Intelligence Committee began its session, the establishment media as one chose to highlight Comey’s public confirmation that the FBI is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the US election, and that this involves investigating allegations of collusion between some of President Trump’s associates and the Russians, as if this was a major revelation.

Suffice to say that this was the headline story in all the British newspapers on Monday and on the BBC, as well as in the Washington Post. The confirmation was called a ‘bombshell’, or at least a ‘setback’ for the President.

It should be said clearly that it was nothing of the sort. … continue

British police accused of hiring Indian hackers to spy on journalists & campaigners

RT | March 22, 2017

The Metropolitan Police is under investigation after complaints it uses hackers in India to illegally crack into the email accounts of journalists and environmental activists.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is looking into the allegations after receiving an anonymous letter from a person claiming to have been working in the intelligence unit responsible for the hacks.

The letter was originally sent to Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb.

“For a number of years the unit had been illegally accessing the email accounts of activists,” the letter read.

“This has largely been accomplished because of the contact that one of the officers had developed with counterparts in India who in turn were using hackers to obtain email passwords.” […]

The allegations come as the IPCC investigates the national domestic extremism and disorder intelligence unit for the possible destruction of several documents in May 2014. Just last month, the watchdog revealed that it had found evidence of the mass shredding of files. This was despite instructions advising that documents should be kept intact to serve as evidence in an inquiry into the undercover policing of political groups.

This week’s whistleblower stated that the destruction of the documents had “been happening for some time and on a far greater scale than the IPCC seems to be aware of.”

“The main reason for destroying these documents is that they reveal that officers were engaged in illegal activities to obtain intelligence on protest groups,” they added. … Full article