If you were murdered today, there’s only a 60% chance of police catching the person who did it. That number drops to 3% if you’re raped. 50 years ago, that number was much higher. What happened?
Despite overwhelming disapproval from the public, the war on drugs wages on and we are witnessing the inevitable materialization of a fascist police state before us.
The irony here is that no matter how much money the state steals from us to fund themselves, and no matter how many tanks or AR-15s they acquire, they are solving far fewer crimes than before.
Police aren’t getting any closer to “winning” this ridiculous and immoral war on drugs either.
So, why aren’t police solving crimes?
The answer to that question can be found by looking at where police allocate much of their time and resources.
Civil asset forfeiture pays. Busting low-level drug dealers by the dozen and confiscating their drugs, guns, cars, houses, and money pays. Writing tickets for victimless crime pays. Pulling you over for window tint, seat belts, arbitrary traveling speeds, and expired license plates; these are the things that pay, not solving crimes.
In criminal justice, clearance rates are used as a measure of crimes solved by the police. The clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes that are “cleared” (a charge being laid) by the total number of crimes recorded.
In the United States, the murder clearance rate in 1965 was more than 90 percent. Since the inception of the war on drugs, the murder clearance rate has plummetted to an average of less than 65 percent per year.
This decline is in spite of there being far fewer murders. It is also in spite of new technological developments to help police solve crimes, like DNA testing, advanced forensic labs, and unethical spying devices like the stingray.
Despite the near complete erosion of the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, the clearance rate for murder continued its free fall. This highlights the fact that no matter how many rights are given up or freedoms diminished, police cannot guarantee your safety.
It’s not just murders that police fail to investigate, it’s rapes too.
According to the Department of Justice, there are currently over 400,000 untested rape kits collecting dust in police evidence rooms nationwide, and many other estimates suggest that this number could be as high as one million.
As a result of this horrific negligence, roughly 3% of rape cases in America are actually solved. This is in spite of the fact that many rape kits have a high chance of leading to an arrest since most rapists are career criminals who have their DNA on file.
In some cases, the victims even know who their attackers were, but they can not prosecute these criminals because the evidence has yet to be processed by police.
Arresting rapists and murderers simply falls short in the two areas police are worried about; revenue collection and keeping their inflated drug war budgets flowing.
It’s not that police are incapable of solving these crimes either; they’re just not interested in doing so.
“Take for example, homicides of police officers in the course of their duty,” University of Maryland criminologist Charles Wellford points out. On paper, they’re the kind of homicide that’s hardest to solve — “they’re frequently done in communities that generally have low clearance rates … they’re stranger-to-stranger homicides, they [have] high potential of retaliation [for] witnesses.” And yet, Wellford says, they’re almost always cleared. … Full article
By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | TeleSUR | March 31, 2015
Amnesty International’s latest report on Venezuela calls for justice for the dozens of people killed during the unrest that shook the country a year ago, while using sleight of hand to deflect attention away from those responsible.
“The Amnesty International report documents events of February 2014 when thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets, resulting in the death of 43 people, including eight law enforcement officials,” Amnesty said in a press release accompanying the release of the report’s executive summary.
While the full report was unavailable online at the time of writing, the executive summary unequivocally laid the blame for 2014’s violence at the feet of state security forces, but ironically chose to shy away from actually admitting how those 43 people died.
“The use of unnecessary or disproportionate force is precisely what exacerbated the wave of tragic events last year,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director.
The summary levels blame at both security forces and government supporters. The latter were accused of engaging in state sanctioned human rights abuses. However, Amnesty’s allegations don’t match the facts. How did those 43 people die?
At the time of the protests, the independent news organization Venezuelanalysis.com listed a total of 40 deaths, 20 of which were deemed to have been caused by opposition barricades, or opposition violence. The deaths included people gunned down while trying to clear barricades, ambulances being blocked from hospitals by opposition groups, and a motorbike rider who was decapitated after opposition groups strung razor wire across a road. A similar death toll count by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reflected a similar consensus: while security forces were indeed responsible for a few deaths, the opposition groups were hardly peaceful. Around half the victims of the 2014 unrest were either government supporters, members of security forces or innocent bystanders.
While condemning the government for supposedly cracking down on freedom, the report shied away from any criticism of the opposition’s intentional restriction of movement through the use of barricades, widespread intimidation and attacks on government supporters, and repeated attacks on journalists ranging from state media workers and community radio stations to international media. For example, in March 2014, a mob of anti-government protesters beat journalists working for organizations such as Reuters and AFP. One photo-journalist, Cristian Hernandez, was beaten with a lead pipe, but was rescued by state security forces.
Another journalist that witnessed the beating tweeted, “They protest for freedom of expression and against censorship, and they attack photo-journalists … for no reason? Where’s the coherence?”
Unlike that witness, Amnesty chose not to question why incidents like this took place – instead preferring to turn a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses committed by anti-government groups.
Indeed, none of this is included in Amnesty’s executive summary. teleSUR did try to contact Amnesty for clarification as to whether any of this would be included in the full report, but received no reply.
One possible explanation is that Amnesty prefers to criticize governments, rather than call out substate actors. However, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. On Feb. 20, 2015, Amnesty International issued a report accusing both Boko Haram and the Nigerian government of human rights abuses. Then on March 26, 2015, they accused Palestinian militants of war crimes, after also condemning Israeli forces for human rights abuses in 2014. Clearly, in many parts of the world, Amnesty is capable of critiquing both sides of a conflict – but not in Venezuela.
At first, the question of what makes Venezuela unique may seem baffling, but it all became clear after I spoke to a former Amnesty employee, who asked to remain anonymous. He explained quite simply that within Amnesty, the biggest priority isn’t human rights. It is securing funding – mostly from wealthy donors in the West.
Amnesty isn’t alone – other former NGO workers I’ve spoken to in the past have made similar comments. Some have gone as far as arguing NGOs will engage in projects or research they know is next to worthless to the people they claim to defend, so long as it produces a photo opportunity that could woo Western donors. These former workers affirmed that human rights are important to many NGOs; they just take a back seat to fund-raising.
The claim that Amnesty and other NGOs are primarily concerned with money may seem excessively cynical, but a glance at pay for those at the top of the organization shatters any rose tinted glasses. In 2011, Amnesty’s 2009 decision to hand their outgoing head Irene Khan more than £533,000 (around US$794,000 at current exchange rates) in a hefty severance package sparked a public outrage. The payout was worth more than four years of Khan’s salary. In late 2012, Amnesty again found itself in the spotlight after it announced plans to offshore much of its workforce from the U.K., sparking a bitter showdown with the Unite workers’ union. While management claimed the offshoring would put a higher proportion of their workforce on the ground in the countries they report on, workers accused the NGO of trying to cut costs, while failing to adequately assess the physical risks to workers. One worker told the Guardian newspaper the deal could turn out to be a “cash cow” for Amnesty.
Assuming cash speaks louder than justice, the reason why Amnesty is willing to criticize the Venezuelan government but unwilling to lift a finger against the opposition suddenly makes perfect sense. While condemning Boko Haram or Hamas is palatable to much of the Western public, criticizing Venezuela’s wealthy, Westernized opposition would be edgy at best, financial suicide at worst. On the other hand, while Venezuela’s government has plenty of supporters in Latin America, it doesn’t have many friends within the well-heeled elite of Western nations. The latter, of course, are prime targets for appeals for donations. In the competitive world of NGOs, Amnesty can’t afford to risk tarnishing its appeal to wealthy donors by accusing Venezuela’s opposition of human rights violations.
In a surprising way, this makes Amnesty an inherently ideological organization, it just doesn’t have its own ideology per se. Instead, because of its pursuit of the wealthiest donors (generally liberal Westerners), Amnesty reflects the ideology of middle and upper class Westerners. It’s staunchly vanilla liberal: willing to call out miscellaneous African militias, but unwilling to accuse an element of Venezuela’s middle class of giving birth to a violent movement. It’s willing to criticize Israeli colonialism in the name of liberal values, but allergic to revolutionary politics driven from the bottom up by the world’s poor. Amnesty doesn’t reflect the ideology of the poor and repressed, but rather of its privileged, yet guilt-stricken donors.
Unfortunately, Amnesty International’s whitewash of the right-wing opposition’s human rights abuses in Venezuela is symptomatic of a deeper crisis in the world of NGOs, where fierce competition for funding means adjusting the message to suit Western audiences — and occasionally letting human rights take a back seat.
Caracas – A recent report has emerged revealing that Venezuelan billionaire and media tycoon, Gustavo Cisneros, donated up to US$ 1 million dollars to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation between 2009-2013, while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State for the Obama administration.
A recent review of the foundation’s disclosures, carried out by the Wall Street Journal, brings to light a number of donors that were previously unknown to the public.
The figures include Argentinian and Ukrainian businesspeople, as well as Prince Turki al-Faisal of the Saudi Arabian Royal Family, who collectively donated up to US$68 million to the organisation over the course of four years. The majority of large donations came from residents in the Ukraine (US$10 million), England (US$8.4 million) and Saudi Arabia (US$7.3 million), according to the report.
Described as Latin America’s “Berlusconi,” Gustavo Cisneros appears in the report as having donated up to US$ 1 million to the couple’s foundation between 2009 and 2013. The exact amount and number of donations that he made are still unclear, however, as the foundation’s disclosure reports only cite donations in ranges as opposed to specific amounts.
The revelation has provoked a fierce backlash from the Republican party, as well as some figures within the Democrat camp. They have cited the donations as an attempt to circumvent an agreement between President Obama and the Clintons, in which the couple vowed to reject donations from foreign governments during Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State.
Designed to insulate Clinton from charges of political corruption, the agreement is reported to have been a deal breaker for her designation as chief diplomat within the Obama administration. Nonetheless, politicians from both parties have pointed out that many of the individual donors to her foundation had strong links to foreign governments and presented a clear conflict of interest with her political position.
This latest report has added to the growing scandal surrounding Clinton who has recently come under fire for using a personal e-mail instead of an official state.gov address during her time as Secretary of State. She also deleted thousands of work related emails from her private account which should have been handed over for independent review by the State Department at the end of her tenure.
The political quagmire has put a dampener on her potential 2016 bid for presidency, which she was widely expected to announce over the next few months.
Who is Cisneros?
Known as Venezuela’s “Rupert Murdoch,” Cisneros runs the Cisneros Group, one of the largest privately held media and entertainment companies in the world. He was originally linked to the Clintons back in 2010 when he was also alleged to have made a donation to their foundation, despite being a staunch supported and friend to former Republican President, George W. Bush.
His commercial empire includes property investment, Venezuela’s largest television channel, Venevision, and forays into international business ventures in the United States and Asia.
As a principle ally of former Venezuelan presidents such as Romulo Betancourt and Carlos Andrez, both tied to the country’s old political regime, Cisneros was one of the major players in the short-lived 2002 “media” coup which attempted to oust then president Hugo Chavez, famed for having brought Venezuela’s two party system to a crashing end with his election.
Cisneros met with coup ringleaders in the immediate aftermath of the putsch and prohibited the circulation of news surrounding the illegal nature of the ousting on Venevision. He also censured reports of the popular uprising which eventually returned Chavez to power.
He currently lives in the Dominican Republic.
Cisnero’s link to the Clintons has particularly angered members of the Republican National Committee, who have suggested that the business tycoon is somehow “tied” to the current Venezuelan government – despite his history of staunch opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution.
An official representative for the Clinton Foundation, however, has responded to accusations by denying any wrongdoing. In responses to press, spokesperson Craig Minassian refuted charges that donations to the organisation had been used to buy political influence or to conduct political lobbying.
“Like other global charities and nongovernmental organizations, the Clinton Foundation receives support from individuals all over the world because our programs are improving the lives of millions of people around the globe,” he asserted.
The Clinton Foundation began to accept donations from foreign governments following Hillary Clinton’s departure from office in 2013.
Plan Colombia has been on the lips of many U.S. officials lately, who tout the 15-year-old plan as a model to stabilize the country and promote human rights and transparency. This week, two new reports alleged sexual exploitation by U.S. security forces in Colombia, underscoring the detrimental (and hypocritical) role of Plan Colombia and U.S. military and police presence in the region.
A report [PDF]released Thursday by the U.S. Inspector General (IG) investigating the DEA found that DEA agents stationed in Colombia allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes bankrolled by drug cartels. This follows last month’s even more alarming report, commissioned to inform peace talk negotiations, that revealed sexual abuse of more than 54 young Colombian children at the hands of U.S. security forces between 2003 and 2007.
According to the IG report, Colombian police officers reportedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties.” It also states that “the DEA, ATF, and Marshals Service repeatedly failed to report all risky or improper sexual behavior to security personnel at those agencies” and expressed concern at the DEA’s general delay and unwillingness to comply with the investigation.
While the sex party report has garnered a fair amount of media attention, the Colombian report of sexual abuse has gone largely unmentioned. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting points out that, although the claims in have received some international attention, there has been almost no coverage of the claims in the U.S. media.) That report was commissioned by the Colombian government and the FARC in an attempt to determine responsibility for the more than 7 million victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. It reported that U.S. military personnel sexually abused 53 young girls, filmed the assaults, and sold the footage as pornographic material. In another instance, a U.S. sergeant and a security contractor reportedly drugged and raped a 12-year-old girl inside a military base. The alleged rapists, U.S. sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz, were later flown safely out of the country, while the girl and her family were forced from their home after receiving threats from “forces loyal to the suspects,” as Colombia Reports described them.
So far, the abuse cases documented in last month’s report have been met with impunity, as Colombian prosecutors’ hands are tied by U.S.-Colombian agreements giving the U.S. security forces in Colombia immunity. (Many such instances have been reported previously to be met with similar impunity.) Similarly, in the “sex party” case, some of the 10 DEA agents that admitted to participating received between two and 10 days of suspension but no further discipline. William Brownfield, currently Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, was U.S. Ambassador to Colombia at the time, with oversight of the DEA.
Commenting on the IG report, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, “Let there be no mistake, this is a national security threat. While the vast majority of employees do quality work, the bad apples highlighted in the report taint their service.’’ However, this isn’t the first time U.S. security forces in Colombia have been linked to such abuses, and the problem is not confined to these “bad apples.” They may take the blame for this particular case, but this is ultimately a systemic problem that must not be covered up.
Sex-crimes and gender-based violence are far from the only abuses perpetrated during the U.S.-led “War on Drugs,” of which Plan Colombia is a part, and represent deeper problems endemic to the U.S.’ heightened military presence in the region. While supporters of Plan Colombia tout its dedication to upholding transparency and security, reports of human rights violations committed by U.S.-trained-and-funded personnel continue to surface. Amnesty International has called the initiative a “failure in every respect,” and several reports show that extrajudicial killings have in fact increased since Plan Colombia went into effect in 2000. In a congressional briefing with CEPR last year, coordinator of the Human Rights Observatory of the Colombia-Europe-U.S. Coordination, Alberto Yepes, noted that between 2000 and 2010 there were 5,763 documented “false positive” extrajudicial civilian killings. This was over the same time period that the U.S. gave $6 billion in military assistance, supplying military advisors and training Colombian troops.
Amid such incriminating evidence of abuses by U.S. personnel and testimony of its flawed training programs, it seems clear that U.S. military and drug war “assistance” should be scaled back– or at the very least reassessed. These revelations should worry policy makers, considering perceptions of such actions condition how U.S. agents are received by other governments. The U.S. has been kicked out of Bolivia for using DEA agents to spy, and DEA agents are under investigation for an incident in which four Afro-indigenous civilians in Honduras were shot and killed from a helicopter, including a 14-year-old boy and a pregnant woman. Something is wrong with this picture.
However, not only does the State Department insist that Plan Colombia is a success, but Vice President Joseph Biden’s recently announced foreign assistance plan hopes to export the Plan Colombia model to Central America. As my colleague Alex Main has noted, proposed military assistance to Colombia under the Biden plan would remain at the same levels as in FY 2014, while funding for International Narcotics Control Law Enforcement assistance to Central America would more than double, from $100 million to $205 million. Such an increase seems to ignore the human rights implications foreshadowed by its model.
If the State Department hopes to avoid future sex party scandals and prevent its military from committing any more sex and abuse crimes, it should reevaluate its militarized approach to the drug war and the endemic impunity that this fosters.
Funding Illegal Israeli Settlements
The Minnesota State Board of Investment is honor bound when it invests monies from Minnesota’s public employee pension funds. Each of the Board members, which includes Governor Mark Dayton (Chair), State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Secretary of State Steve Simon and Attorney General Lori Swanson know, or should know, that by investing in Israel Bonds the Board has violated its fiduciary responsibility to only invest public pension funds prudently. Israel Bonds are government bonds issued by the State of Israel.
Earlier this month I appeared before the Board members to urge them not to invest in Israel Bonds. Immediately after I ended my presentation, the Governor handed the other Board members a previously prepared written motion to continue investing the state’s pension funds in Israel Bonds. All of us in the packed hearing room understood that my testimony had been wasted. Facing members of the pro-Israel Lobby who had been seated in the front row, three of the four board members voted to invest. Only the State Auditor, Rebecca Otto, voted against the motion.
I’ve seen this pressure before. It usually consists of a subliminal threat by the pro-Israel Lobby to cut off any campaign money to those who defy what the Lobby wants. That is the same kind of threat that allowed Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to travel to the United States to dictate to our Congress how American foreign policy should be conducted. I believe that the 36 standing ovations for Bibi and the 47 Republican Senatorial signatures on the letter to Iran were eager messages to the Israeli Lobby telling them how much Congress appreciated the campaign money given each election cycle to its obedient members. When I served in the US Senate I well remember the threats directed against me for not being obedient enough to the Lobby.
The Board of Investment’s vote to use Minnesota pensioners’ money to buy the low-yield bonds issued by Israel is, without question, highly imprudent and illegal, especially because the Board knows how the money will be used. American money plunged into Israel Bond sales is fungible, meaning that the money is lumped into Israel’s General Fund, and then used for anything Israel wants, without restriction. That also means that the money sent to Israel is used for settlements. Israel’s settlements are illegal under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupier from transferring any part of its civilian population into the territory it occupies. Article 49 was adopted by the international community after WWII as a direct response to Nazi Germany’s illegal and brutal occupation of lands belonging to its neighbors. Both the United States and Israel have signed the Fourth Geneva Convention. Even the United States Government has acknowledged that Israel’s settlements are illegal.
Beyond just exploiting American elected officials in their political zeal to become complicit in financing illegal Israeli settlements by using money from taxpayer funded public employee pension plans to do so, Israel has a long history of inflicting damage on American interests. During the 1967 Middle East War, Israel’s military attacked and attempted to sink a fully flagged American Navy vessel—the USS Liberty—which had been ordered to monitor the War by assuming a listening post off the coast of Egypt and Israel. Using fighter jets, as well as torpedo boats, Israel killed 34 American sailors and wounded another 171 sailors in the process.
What was painful for the survivors and the families of those Americans killed and wounded by Israel were the duplicitous actions of our own public officials, starting with President Lyndon Johnson, by refusing to allow fighter jets of the Sixth Fleet to come to the aid of the Liberty when it was under attack and working to cover up evidence of Israel’s deliberate attack on our ship and the killing and wounding of our sailors.
That wasn’t the last injury against American interests by our so called “ally.” In the 1970s, Israel recruited and paid a Pentagon employee, Jonathan Pollard, to sell to Israel a “truckload of secret documents,” as described by our then Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger.
More recently, a Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, was indicted by the Justice Department in 2004 for handing over classified information on Iran to two employees of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the leading lobby for Israel. Franklin, a former United States Department of Defense employee, pleaded guilty to several espionage-related charges and was initially sentenced in January 2006 to nearly 13 years in prison. Amazingly, Franklin’s sentence was later reduced to ten months house arrest and 100 hours of community service. In reducing his sentence, the Judge told Franklin that his community service should consist of “speaking to young people about the importance of public officials obeying the law.”
Franklin had passed highly classified information to AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman, whom AIPAC later fired. Initially indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel, all charges against Rosen and Weissman were eventually dismissed.
These are just a few examples that we know about where Israel’s activities have seriously damaged United States interests. What we do not know, including the extent of the duplicity of our public servants, would most likely fill the pages of a book.
Not only is the Investment Board’s action imprudent and illegal with respect to giving Minnesota retirees’ money to a country that has never hesitated in harming America’s interests and will use the money to violate international law, it also tells Israel that it can do what it wishes, without paying any penalty, and that it can even get the United States to pay the price for it.
The Minnesota Investment Board should obey the law whether or not Israel’s Lobby dislikes that decision.
James Abourezk is a former US senator from South Dakota. He is the author of: Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of an ex-Senator.
It seems that a day rarely passes without news of a new atrocity committed by an increasingly notorious terrorist group. And, without fail, this news is accompanied by an increase in U.S. military interventions around the world.
While for many Americans, supporting intervention may come from a laudable sentiment – the desire to ‘do something’ in the face of widespread suffering – the situation on the ground is always more complicated than it appears, with various powerful interests intersecting. Now, under the guise of counterterrorism efforts – the U.S. military’s alibi of choice since 9/11 – the Pentagon is spreading its ever-expanding footprint throughout the African continent despite the understandably lackluster welcome they are receiving from many ordinary Africans on the ground.
The African front
Just as the specter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has led President Obama to continue indefinitely bombing the Middle East, “terrorism concerns” in Africa are leading to an ever greater American military presence on this otherwise neglected continent. Boko Haram and other radical Islamist groups are wreaking havoc in multiple African countries, taking advantage of states’ lack of resources, corruption or general ineptitude. The Nigerian terrorist group, which recently declared its allegiance to ISIS, now reportedly controls a territory roughly the size of Costa Rica, commands 4,000 to 6,000 well-equipped fighters, and is relentlessly pushing outwards in the region.
Much of this military ‘pivot to Africa’ has taken place under the auspices of the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM. Brought to life by renowned warmonger Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 and authorized by President George W. Bush the following year, AFRICOM aims to “build defense capabilities, […] advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity, according to their vague mission statement. The neoconservative founders should leave no doubt as to AFRICOM’s true motives, however: further military intervention, “national building”, and gaining a hold on Africa’s immensely valuable natural resources.
While Washington initially expected African countries to jump at the opportunity to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, outbidding each other for the contract, only Liberia offered to host a new base. Even close allies of the United States such as Nigeria and South Africa expressed their strong opposition to AFRICOM, with many claiming that the Pentagon’s new offensive is more about mineral and oil interests than peacekeeping or anti-terrorism activities. In the end, AFRICOM announced it would remain headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany for the “foreseeable future”.
America’s favorite dictator
The closest the U.S. has gotten to achieving Rumsfeld’s dream of occupying Africa is AFRICOM’s Camp Lemonnier drone base in the small East African country of Djibouti. Though poor in natural resources, what Djibouti offers is a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, north of anarchic Somalia and across from the Arabian Peninsula. Djibouti’s coastline is also among the most valuable for maritime commerce, bordering both the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
An impoverished country run by aging autocrat Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (or ‘IOG’) since 1999, Djibouti has based its economy around selling its strategic position to the highest bidder. So far, this seems to be the United States, who signed a 20-year lease on Camp Lemonnier in May 2014 at the cost of $63 million a year, plus an additional $7 million per year for “development aid”. However, IOG has additionally courted the Chinese, who are increasingly present in East Africa, even suggesting that Beijing construct their own military base in his small country. Playing one great power off another has not only allowed IOG and his clique to enrich themselves, it has also reinforced his position as dictator-in-residence, as the United States would not risk political instability in a country hosting its 4,000 troops and an undisclosed number of Predator drones.
The tragic but all too typical outcome of America’s military presence in Djibouti is that the population is even worse off. On one hand, civilians have even less hope of ever moving towards greater democracy and accountability from their government as IOG entrenches his position with backing from his powerful allies. Even if its GDP doubled in the last decade, 74% of Djibouti’s population still live on less than $3 a day, lack access to drinking water and are subject to grueling human rights abuses.
On the other, they have to fear the consequences of these allies’ military presence in their country. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a May 2014 suicide attack in the country’s capital, which killed a Western soldier and wounded 11 others. It was the first suicide bombing in Djibouti’s history and the terrorist group vowed others would follow. Furthermore, according to the UK website Drone Wars, there have been at least five drone crashes in Djibouti in the past five years and it goes without saying that the Djibouti population has not been asked how they feel about foreign drones circling overhead.
Boko Haram’s recent allegiance to ISIS will only increase the potential justifications for the Pentagon to extend its reach across the African continent but the Djibouti experience should remind us that military deployments only embroil the United States into further quagmires, make Washington dependent on questionable strongmen, and worsens the situation of the population on the ground.
Sonny Okello is a writer and social entrepreneur based in Uganda.
Still from Ruptly video
Whatever the outcome of the stand-off between President Petro Poroshenko and his subordinate Igor Kolomoysky may be, their conflict over Ukrainian oil giant Ukrnafta reveals realities about post-Maidan Ukraine which mainstream media manages to circumvent.
Firstly, the country is still ruled by oligarchs, not by the people, even though Igor Kolomoysky is formally governor of Dnepropetrovsk region. Kolomoysky’s private army simply took control first of Ukrtransnafta (Ukraine’s oil transportation monopoly) and later of Ukrnafta. What does this tell us about the Ukrainian state?
Secondly, Ukraine’s oligarchs are not at peace with each other; the country is bracing for a major ‘war for assets’ between the country’s richest men (Kolomoysky is worth $2.4 billion on the Forbes list and ‘The Chocolate King’ Poroshenko is worth $1.3 billion).
Thirdly, the Maidan revolution not only left the country without any meaningful legal opposition in the parliament or in the media – as Kost Bondarenko, director of the Kiev-based Foundation for Ukrainian Politics, put it in his article for the Moscow-based Nezavisimaya Gazeta – but the revolution also left Ukraine in a situation of complete lawlessness, when neither laws nor even the words of the president mean much before brutal force and big money (the main weapons of oligarchs).
Igor Kolomoysky, Head of the Dnepropetrovsk Region (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Markiv)
The story of the weekend conflict between Ukraine’s president and the governor of Ukraine’s most important industrial region is a perfect illustration of all these sad truths.
Kolomoysky’s men with submachine guns not only took control of Ukrtransgaz on Friday, but the governor of Dnepropetrovsk was apparently untroubled by President Poroshenko’s reprimand for his “unethical behavior” issued the next day.
Kolomoysky’s response to this “scolding” from Poroshenko was widely reported, along with an officially unconfirmed freeze on the accounts of Poroshenko’s companies in Kolomoysky’s bank (Privat-bank).
Adding armed insult to the financial injury, Kolomoysky’s men on Sunday took control of Ukrnafta, the country’s biggest oil company, presenting themselves as members of the “voluntary battalion Dnieper” (a Kolomoysky-sponsored paramilitary group known for its atrocities against civilians in the rebellious Donetsk Region). Despite Poroshenko’s order to disarm the gunmen and the president’s promise that “there will be no pocket armies in Ukraine,” Kolomoysky’s men did not leave the building on Monday; instead, they started to put up metal fences around it.
How could such things happen? The answer is simple: the traditional post-Soviet alliance of big money and political power (the fertile ground for oligarchs) failed to be destroyed, and has been strengthened by the Maidan revolution.
“Let’s face it: Yanukovich was removed by oligarchs. Some of them financed and supported Maidan. Others, more importantly, betrayed Yanukovich, removing the police guard from the building of his administration in February 2014 and switching the political allegiances of oligarch-controlled TV stations in favor of Maidan,” explained Mark Stolyar, former head of the Kiev-based radio station Stolichnye Novosti and a longtime analyst of the Ukrainian media scene. “After Maidan, these oligarchs demanded their part of the spoils, unleashing another redistribution of property.”
In that sense, Maidan’s sponsor, Poroshenko, was just one of the oligarchs who won the seemingly best prize: the formal position of head of state, adding power to money.
But Poroshenko never took his hands off his business assets after being elected president of war-torn Ukraine in spring 2014 – and this mere fact made him vulnerable. Poroshenko promised to strip himself of all assets, except his TV station – Channel 5 – but he never fulfilled his promise. Today, simply by having his assets and money in many regions, including Russian ones, Poroshenko becomes vulnerable to pressure from richer oligarchs, such as Kolomoysky. The reported freeze on Poroshenko’s capital in Privat-bank is a good illustration of what this pressure could look like. This puts Poroshenko in an awkward situation.
“If Poroshenko does not react to Kolomoysky’s challenge now, he will become a toy figure not only to Kolomoysky, but also to other regional strongmen. In this situation, the state will be badly weakened,” said Valentin Zemlyansky, a Ukrainian political analyst, formerly the chief spokesman for Ukraine’s oligarch-controlled company Ukrenergo.
Vladimir Sinelnikov, a Kiev-based correspondent for Russian radio Vesti-FM, is skeptical about Poroshenko’s resolve to cut Kolomoysky to size.
“It is still a big question, who is more powerful, Poroshenko or Kolomoysky. The whole controversy around Ukrnafta started after the Ukrainian parliament put in question Kolomoysky’s control over that company. Kolomoysky controls 42 percent of the stock of this formally state-owned asset. This allowed him to block the meetings of shareholders, which required a vote by 60 percent of the stock for a meeting’s convention. The parliament lowered this minimum to 50 percent, thus limiting Kolomoysky’s powers, but he quickly showed who the true master of the country was,” Sinelnikov said.
So much for Poroshenko’s promise to cut the oligarchs to size.
This story also tells us where all the Western loans to Ukraine went, and where they will most likely go.
The “democratically elected” billionaires ruling Ukraine after the “democratic” coup of February 2014 have not been able to conceal their rivalries for even two weeks since receiving the first $5 billion batch of the $40 billion loan package pledged to Ukraine by the IMF and other Western financial institutions.
Kolomoysky did not shy away from using his “Russia-stopping” battalions for shielding his assets from the state.
There is little doubt that Poroshenko and other Ukrainian officials will find a way to explain to their Western counterparts that their $40 billion was swallowed by the need to contain “Russia’s intervention” from the east. Some of these billions, however, may help Poroshenko and his allies move up the Forbes ratings of Ukraine’s richest men. And again, the State Department won’t see any link there.
In the same week that The Economist lauded Ukraine’s “commitment to European values,” Kiev’s current regime kicked out Euronews. Who do they think they are kidding?
Ah, The Economist. Without question, it’s is the best informed news magazine in the world… except on subjects I know something about. Take Ukraine for instance, throughout the country’s current crisis, The Economist has been weaving a web of fantasy to its readers. The narrative has continuously blamed Russia for all Ukraine’s misfortunes while painting its post-Maidan oligarchic rulers as being somewhere near God’s right hand.
After wholeheartedly backing last year’s coup, the windy weekly has been unwilling to admit the severity of Kiev’s economic malaise. Instead, it has maintained the pretence that throwing money at its pro-NATO regime will solve all its problems. Anybody who knows the first thing about Ukraine acknowledges that the lion’s share of the dough would be pilfered.
The problem is that a great number of the Western world’s most powerful people take The Economist seriously. The magazine appears both authoritative and credible, and never misses a chance to emphasize its own importance. However, this is “lipstick on a pig” territory. On subjects I’m reasonably informed about (Ireland, Europe, Britain, the ex-USSR for example), The Economist is more often wrong than right. Viewed through that prism, I’m extremely skeptical of the rag’s accuracy on topics I know little of.
In 2005, The Economist announced that Ireland had the highest quality of life in the world. I clearly remember reading the edition in downtown Dublin and that my first thought concerned the quality of the drugs the magazine’s editors were taking. Oddly, I’d penned a column a week earlier for the Ireland On Sunday newspaper predicting a deep recession for my homeland, which was rapidly losing its industrial base as credit-fuelled property madness raged.
Two years later, Ireland’s economy collapsed and a half decade of misery began. Incidentally, the periodical currently lists Melbourne as the best place to reside on earth. If you are in Melbourne right now, given The Economist’s track record, it’s probably best to emigrate before the inevitable happens.
Russia’s strong, determined President
Guided by its pro-interventionist and pro-neo liberal principles, the weekly doesn’t restrict itself to making a dog’s dinner of fiscal forecasts. Indeed, it frequently enters the realm of geopolitics to tackle countries and governments that don’t conform to its worldview. Russia is a case in point. In the 90’s, when Russia was on its knees, The Economist couldn’t get enough of the place. In fact, it broadly welcomed Vladimir Putin’s election in 2000, calling him a “strong, determined man.” By 2002 it trumpeted that “relations between Russia and the West have (sic) rarely been better.”
Now, the same Vladimir Putin is The Economist’s public enemy Number 1 and Russia the re-incarnation of Hitler’s Germany. Moscow’s crime? Standing up for itself and rejecting the Western liberal consensus. Essentially, refusing to pauperize the country to suit a bunch of ideologues in London.
In order to wage its anti-Russia campaign, The Economist pretends to care about Ukraine. The London-based magazine is far from alone in this. Last weekend, it hailed Kiev’s commitment to European values.
“European values like free speech and a commitment to truth remain potent,” it boldly declared. The reason I keep writing ‘it’ is because the article was unsigned, written under the pseudonym ‘Charlemagne.’ The Economist’s journalists don’t sign their work, which is probably for the best considering the kind of rubbish they pen.
The Menace of cliques
The diatribe quotes a scaremongering report written by Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, two activists connected to the shadowy UAE-backed Legatum Institute. Legatum’s Director of Communications is the former Catholic Herald editor, Cristina Odone, who just happens to be married to Edward Lucas, a senior Editor at The Economist. Mr. Lucas has previously advocated the use of Brezhnev-era KGB methods against RT.
Repeating the canard of “lavishly financed Russian media,” The Economist claims that “cash-strapped, fractious Europe will always struggle.” This is pure hokum. Only last month, Germany increased the budget of its Deutsche Welle news agency to $332 million. Meanwhile, BBC’s World Service has $406 million to splurge in 2015, and that’s just for radio/web. Additionally, France 24 spends around $130 million annually. By what stretch of the imagination is European media financially struggling here?
Snooze and you lose Euronews
Nevertheless, in the same week that The Economist was promoting Ukraine’s adherence to “European values,” Kiev revoked the license for the Ukrainian version of Euronews, suddenly claiming the current arrangement was “disadvantageous”. Now, I can’t think of a less offensive outlet. Euronews is so bland, so insipid that you could leave it on at an Israeli-Palestinian arm wrestling extravaganza and nobody would object.
While a private company, Euronews has received significant funding from Brussels over the years and is widely perceived, rightly or wrongly, as EU TV. The Ukraine edition was previously owned by an Egyptian, Naguib Sawiris, but reports suggest that it’s now controlled by Dymtro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch and rival of fellow-billionaire, Petro Poroshenko. Some use the label ‘pro-Russian’ to describe Firtash, but I find that Ukraine’s ultra-rich are usually just pro-themselves.
The Ukrainian President has his own TV network, Channel 5, and apparently objected to competition from Firtash, who he evidently sees as a threat. So, it looks like he used his political power to muffle the voice of Euronews. “European values,” how are you?
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish writer and commentator focusing on Russia and its hinterlands and international geo-politics. Follow him on Facebook
Marc Perkel at Dvorak Uncensored wrote that Clinton used a commercial spam filtering service, MxLogic, now owned by McAfee, to monitor emails coming into her account. To be able to filter out spam, MxLogic had to be able to read the emails. Thus, anyone with access to MxLogic’s system, which could include someone from outside the company, could read emails meant for Clinton. Those emails would include communications coming from the White House and foreign governments.
“So – for example – if I’m a Russian spy, ISIS, North Korea, or Fox News, or a 14-year-old hacker, all I have to do is bribe someone at McAfee or hack their work login, and they get to read all the email of the Secretary of State,” Perkel wrote.
Clinton even has web mail available, so that anyone with internet access can try hacking into her account.
Another potential problem uncovered by Perkel involves Clinton’s email server itself. Perkel was able to run a security test on the server and it came back with a “B” grade, which isn’t what one wants to see when dealing with top-secret communications.
“The system… had numerous safeguards,” Clinton said in her recent press conference. “It was on property guarded by the Secret Service and there were no security breaches. So I think that the use of that server… certainly proved to be effective and secure.” But Perkel begs to disagree. He said it’s likely the server is in fact not in Clinton’s house or office, which are guarded by the Secret Service, but rather in a more vulnerable commercial data center.
To Learn More:
Spam Filtering Service Had Access to Clinton Classified Emails (by Marc Perkel, Dvorak Uncensored )
Did Spam Filtering Service Have Full Access to Clinton Emails (Peter Van Buren, Ghosts of Tom Joad )
From 2009 up to 2013, the year the Ukrainian crisis erupted, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which is headquartered in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, a new report claims.
That places Ukraine as the leading contributor among foreign donators to the Clinton Foundation.
In 2008, Viktor Pinchuk, who made a fortune in the pipe-building business, pledged a five-year, $29-million commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, a program that works to train future Ukrainian leaders “to modernize Ukraine.” The Wall Street Journal revealed the donations the fund received from foreigners abroad between 2009-2014 in their report published earlier this week .
Several alumni of the program have already graduated into the ranks of Ukraine’s parliament, while a former Clinton pollster went to work as a lobbyist for Pinchuk at the same time Clinton was working in government.
The Pinchuk foundation said its donations to the Clinton-family organization were designed to make Ukraine “a successful, free, modern country based on European values.” It went on to remark that if Pinchuk was hoping to lobby the US State Department about Ukraine, “this cannot be seen as anything but a good thing,” WSJ quoted it as saying.
However, critics have pointed to some disturbing aspects regarding the donations, including the coincidence of the Ukrainian crisis, which began in November 2013, and the heavy amount of cash donations being made to the Clinton Foundation on behalf of wealthy Ukrainian businessmen. In any case, given that Hillary Clinton appears to be considering a possible run in the next presidential elections, more scrutiny will be devoted to her past work with the charity that bears the Clinton name.
First, as already mentioned, Clinton was serving as the US secretary of state at the time that the donations to her family’s charity were being made. Although it is true that the Clinton Foundation refused donations directly from foreign governments while Clinton was serving in the Obama administration, the door remained wide open to donations from public citizens like Pinchuk, who has advocated on behalf of stronger ties between Ukraine and the European Union.
Political connections in the Pinchuk family run deep. Not only did Viktor Pinchuk serve two terms as a Ukrainian parliamentarian, but his wife is the daughter of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.
After being introduced to former US President Bill Clinton by Doug Schoen, a political analyst and pollster who has worked for both Clintons, Pinchuk and his wife began making donations to Clinton-family charities, WSJ reported.
During Hillary Clinton’s time at the State Department, Schoen began work as a congressional lobbyist for the Ukrainian oligarch. Schoen defended his lobbying activities, saying there was no connection to Pinchuk’s hefty donations.
“We were not seeking to use any leverage or any connections or anything of the sort relating to the foundation,” he said.
Schoen said he and Viktor Pinchuk met on several occasions with Clinton aides including Melanne Verveer, a Ukrainian-American who holds membership in the influential Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the Trilateral Commission.
The purpose of these meetings, according to Schoen, was to encourage the US government to pressure Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovich to release his jailed predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Whatever the case may be, Ukraine entered a period of severe crisis on November 21, 2013, when Yanukovich suspended plans for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union. The announcement triggered mass protests that led to Yanukovich fleeing Kiev on February 22, 2014.
Social unrest eventually consumed the country, as the eastern part of the country attempted to gain more independence from Kiev. Recently, both sides have agreed to a tense ceasefire, hammered out last month in Minsk, Belarus by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany.
Mubarak-era Interior Minister Habib al-Adly acquitted of corruption charges in last case against him
Giza Criminal Court acquitted former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly of corruption and squandering public funds worth LE181 million, the state-owned EgyNews website reported on Thursday.
The court also annulled a decision to freeze his personal assets and those of his family.
The Illicit Gains Authority referred Adly to court in 2011, after investigations showed that he had accumulated wealth that was over and above his income. The authority alleged Adly had acquired state-owned lands in 6 October City, despite legal restrictions on the possession of such land by public officials. He used his position to accumulate illicit gains worth over LE6.5 million, the authority claimed.
Investigations also showed that Adly bought four properties for his sons and daughters in violation of the law.
He was previously cleared of similar corruption charges in the “license plates” case, in which Adly and former prime minister Ahmed Nazif were accused of squandering public funds worth LE97 million.
He was also accused of killing January 25 revolution protesters, along with former President Hosni Mubarak and other security aides, but these charges were also dropped. The verdict drew widespread condemnation both locally and internationally, and was hailed as a strong return of Mubarak-era regime officials to public life.
Adly was convicted and sentenced to three years for using central security officers as forced labor on land he owned in 6 October City.
Security sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Adly would probably be released from prison, as the period he has already served pending investigations in various cases is equal to the sentence he was given in the “forced labor” case.
If this happens, Adly will be the last Mubarak-era official to be released from prison for corruption charges.