Scores of people have staged a protest in a northern German port city against the deployment and transport of NATO troops and weapons through the city.
The protest was held in the port city of Bremerhaven on Saturday.
US military hardware, including 87 tanks and 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, were docked in the port city a day earlier for eventual transfer to NATO member countries in Eastern Europe to enhance what was described as “deterrence against possible Russian aggression.”
The protesters marched through the city, holding signs and banners that read, “No NATO deployments! End the militaristic march against Russia!” and “Out of NATO.”
“I am here to explain peace to Russians, because I am afraid of new wars… and this big maneuver is one that quite scares me, and I am here to speak against this,” a protester said.
The deployment by the US military, which also includes the mobilization of 4,000 troops, is aimed at shoring up NATO’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve,” which entails military buildup in Poland and the Baltic countries to counter perceived Russian aggression. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the move last year, declaring that the force would take part in regular military drills across the region with NATO allies.
Russia has repeatedly voiced concern about the US-led alliance’s military build-up near its borders. In response to NATO’s aggressive moves, Russia has beefed up its southwestern military capacity.
NATO has suspended all practical cooperation with Russia as part of efforts by the US, Europe, and their allies to exert pressure on the Kremlin following the Crimean Peninsula’s separation from Ukraine and adhesion to Russia. In 2014, the majority ethnic Russians in Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation in a referendum not sanctioned by the Ukrainian authorities.
Western countries have been fearful of a repeat of that scenario in other countries, and have sought to boost their defenses under NATO’s umbrella.
SANTIAGO – A number of pro-Palestinian Chilean MPs are preparing for an international campaign starting from the Chilean capital, Santiago that calls on the United Kingdom to apologize to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the establishment of Israel on the land of Palestine in 1948.
Chilean deputies from the parliament affirmed that the vast majority of the political spectrum in Chile advocates the Palestinian cause.
The deputy of the Christian Democratic party, Fuad Shahin, said in an interview with the Quds Press news agency that half of the deputies of the Chilean parliament support the Palestinian issue and back the UN anti-settlement resolution. They also push to stop importing goods form the Israeli settlements, and expedite the approval of the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 territories.
George Sbakh, MP of the Christian Democratic party, told the Quds Press that the supporters of Palestine are not only in the parliament, but also in all Chilean official institutions, and they don’t face major challenges since supporting Palestine is common among Chilean people. Besides, pro-Israel activists in the Chilean parliament and government don’t pose any danger, he added.
A number of pro-Palestinian Chilean MPs received on Thursday a delegate of Palestinian notables in Europe accompanied by Palestinian journalists. Their visit to Chile comes as a part of activities seeking to shed light on the Palestinians of Chile who make up the largest percentage of Palestinian refugees in Latin American countries.
A group of Chilean MPs are preparing to launch a campaign demanding Britain to apologize to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration on its centennial anniversary. They are also working to unify the endeavors of the pro-Palestinian parliamentarians in Latin America.
Basel Ghattas, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and Member of Knesset, is currently being held by Israeli forces on charges of attempting to bring cellphones to imprisoned Palestinians denied the ability to communicate with their families or political organizations. Ghattas has frequently visited with imprisoned Palestinians, including Palestinians from ’48, long-time prisoners held since the pre-Oslo era, and Palestinian political leaders.
Palestinian prisoners are routinely denied access to communications, whether with their families or their colleagues and comrades. Unlike Israeli criminal prisoners, they are denied access to telephone calls with their family members and can only receive short visits through a glass wall. Family visits are regularly denied under a pretext of “security.” In addition, many Palestinian political prisoners are leaders of the Palestinian movement, targeted for their leadership and political role. The denial of their communications and isolation of these prisoners is an Israeli attempt to silence and disrupt the Palestinian national liberation movement.
On Thursday, 22 December, Israeli authorities announced that Ghattas was being stripped of his parliamentary immunity and had been detained; his arrest was extended until four days until Monday, 26 December on the grounds of “security of the state.” The further extension of his detention will be considered at the Rishon Letzion court at 4:00 pm, while a protest will gather outside organized by Palestinian political groups in ’48 Palestine demanding his immediate release.
Ghattas emphasized following a three-hour interrogation session – before his arrest – that the Palestinian prisoners are human beings first and foremost and that he has always acted to support the prisoners as a humanitarian and moral manner, emphasizing the suffering and isolation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the importance of highlighting the cause of the prisoners.
Ghattas’ detention is being pursued on the pretext that he “poses a risk to the security” of the state or its citizens. His political party, Balad or the National Democratic Aliance (NDA), has engaged in a series of protests demanding Ghattas’ freedom from this “political targeting.” Awad Abdel Fattah said that “This arrest is a continuation of the political persecution of our leadership, our people in general, and the national movement.” MK Jamal Zahalka said that “Despite all borders and laws, he has acted only to help his imprisoned people. We refuse to take the issue of prisoners for granted.”
Ghattas visited Palestinian prisoners Walid Daqqa and Basel al-Bisra in the Ketziot Negev prison last week; he is accused of bringing them several cell phones. While Israeli officials also claimed that he had brought “encrypted messages” to the prisoners, Ghattas and his lawyer Lea Tsemel noted – as was confirmed even by the judge in the case on Friday, 23 December – that these were the political documents and publications of the Balad party and “not a security matter.” Daqqa has spent over 30 years in Israeli prison.
Ghattas noted that the decision to pursue him and strip his immunity was clearly a political action, as other members of Knesset had not had their immunity stripped despite charges of rape, harassment, theft, embezzlement and bribery, including people who were later convicted and sentenced.
In addition to the arrest of Ghattas – which follows on a series of arrests and raids that targeted the NDA’s political activities – and the repression of Palestinian organizing in Palestine ’48, the Israeli state is also attempting to further isolate Palestinian prisoners. On Tuesday, 20 December, the Knesset approved a bill by Internal Security minister Gilad Erdan to prevent MKs from visiting Palestinian security prisoners, obviously targeting MKs who are Palestinian citizens of Israel. Erdan openly spoke to his motivations, saying that “these visits provide a popular platform for the prisoners… and thus impact the security of the state.”
Palestinian lawyer Jehad Abu Raya wrote that “The detentions and harassment of Palestinians and their leaders in 1948 Palestine, including the Knesset member Basel Ghattas, are part of a strategy which Israel has pursed against its Arab citizens since the Nakba. This strategy is aimed at domesticating and defeating Palestinians and at punishing whomever is tempted to challenge the Jewish state.” He noted the ongoing imprisonment of Palestinians in ’48, including Sheikh Raed Salah and former MK Said Nafaa.
Ghattas also participated in the third Freedom Flotilla to break the siege on Gaza. In response to the arrest of Ghattas, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition issued a statement highlighting the isolation and silencing of Palestinian prisoners and calling for phones to be distributed to Palestinian prisoners. “The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails… are entitled to their basic right of communication with their loved ones. If the system does not allow it, civil disobedience is the only route.”
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network demands the immediate release of Basel Ghattas and all Palestinian political prisoners. The political persecution of Ghattas is another attempt to suppress Palestinian organizing and existence in Palestine ’48 and to isolate and cut the communications of Palestinian political prisoners. It is part and parcel of the campaign of isolation and silence waged by the Israeli occupation against over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners.
Fayez Sharary, a British citizen of Palestinian descent, has now been held in Israeli prisons for nearly three months. He traveled with his wife Laila and their daughter, Aya, 3, to Palestine, to visit Laila’s widowed mother and to mark Eid al-Adha in Jerusalem, reports Inminds, the British organization currently leading a campaign to free Sharary. As the family attempted to leave Palestine on 15 September at the bridge to Jordan, they were stopped by Israeli forces; they had a flight scheduled for 17 September to return to the UK.
Sharary was separated from his wife and daughter, while he was interrogated for five hours while his daugher was refused access to a toilet. Laila’s mobile phone was confiscated and Sharary was detained; when she attempted to refuse to leave and stay with her husband, Israeli soldiers screamed at her.
Sharary was held for three weeks in Petah Tikva interrogation center and subject to ill-treatment, abuse and torture throughout that time. He was denied access to a lawyer until he signed a forced confession on 6 October and was moved to Ofer prison. Sharary’s torture by Israeli forces was further substantiated by Judge Azriel Levi, who ordered his release in a hearing in Ofer military court on 26 October, citing his confession as a result of “the method of interrogation, which included pained and prolonged shackling, threats, and a blatant exploitation of the defendant’s demonstrated weakness.” The military judge further said that the confession had a value of “less than zero” and that some of the allegations against Sharary were not prosecutable in the military courts.
However, as is frequently the case when on the rare occasion a military judge orders the release of a detainee, the Israeli military prosecution appealed and Sharary has remained imprisoned ever since.
Daniel Zeichner, the British Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Transport, raised a parliamentary question regarding the involvement of the British consulate in providing support for Sharary’s case; Tobias Ellwood, under-secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, replied that “Our Embassy in Tel Aviv has raised, and continues to raise, the detention of Mr Sharary with the Israeli authorities, most recently on 15 November. Consular officials continue to provide consular support to Mr Sharary and his family.”
Laila Sharary has participated in several protests in London demanding that the UK government act to free her imprisoned husband, 49, who has lived in the UK for 23 years. Sharary is allegedly accused of “contact with an enemy organization,” “services to an illegal organization,” and “bringing money into the region from an enemy.” Part of these allegations allegedly relate to Sharary’s time in Lebanon in 1993 or earlier; Sharary is not a resident of Palestine. The initial judge in the case who ordered Sharary released also dismissed the allegations of financial involvement due to irrelevant claims by the military prosecutor.
Despite these flimsy charges and his experience of torture – all too common, but publicly confirmed in this case by an Israeli military judge – Sharary remains imprisoned and will face a military court in Ofer on Wednesday, 14 December.
Please take action to urge the UK government to intervene and pressure Israel to release torture victim Fayez Sharary. This includes asking for UK representatives to attend the hearing in Sharary’s case at Ofer Military Court.
Email the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at firstname.lastname@example.org and the British Consulate in Jerusalem at email@example.com to express your concern about the case of Fayez Sharary.
You can use the sample letter below or write your own letter:
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in regard to the urgent case of Fayez Sharary, a British citizen currently imprisoned by Israel in its military court system for the occupied Palestinian territories. Sharary, 49, was previously ordered released due to the torture he experienced under interrogation.
Nonetheless, he remains imprisoned and will once again face a military court at Ofer prison on Wednesday, 14 December from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
It is critical that the British government support its citizen Fayez Sharary by pressuring Israel for his immediate release. It is particularly critical that there is a British official presence at the military court hearing on 14 December.
Israeli military trials do not meet international standards for fair trials and can rely on evidence obtained through torture. Please act to release Fayez Sharary and reunite him with his wife and family in Britain.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has dispatched its third consignment of humanitarian aid to war-ravaged people in Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo.
The head of the Relief and Rescue Organization of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), Morteza Salimi, told IRIB that the shipment included 150,000 food cans.
He added that two consignments of relief aid, weighing about 80 tonnes, have already been sent to the crisis-hit city over the past two days. They included tents, blankets and oil heaters.
The IRCS official noted that Iran has so far dispatched 28,000 blankets, 400 tents, 800 rugs, 5,000 oil heaters, 1,400 boxes of dried bread, eight tonnes of medicines, 700 sets of dishware and 165,000 food cans to people in Aleppo.
The UN Syria humanitarian advisor, Jan Egeland, said in the Swiss city of Geneva on Thursday that Russia has proposed setting up four humanitarian corridors to militant-held eastern Aleppo in a bid to let in aid and facilitate evacuations from the battered Syrian city.
Egeland further estimated at least 400 injured people are in need of urgent medical evacuation, adding that talks will be held on using “these corridors to get medical supplies and food in.”
By Wednesday, some 18,000 people had entered Aleppo’s government-controlled areas while about 8,500 had crossed into Sheikh Maqsoud, a Kurdish-held Aleppo district, the UN official said.
Over the past few days, about 30,000 people have received aid after fleeing eastern Aleppo, taking the total number of displaced people in the city to over 400,000, he said.
In another development on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that it was discussing with the Syrian government the issue of gaining access to people fleeing eastern Aleppo.
Dominik Stillhart, director of ICRC operations worldwide, said the Geneva-based humanitarian institution was in touch with all sides to be able to deliver supplies to trapped civilians and to evacuate the wounded.
The movement against South African apartheid was perhaps the most universal and popular movement in the western world in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands protested in a multitude of ways—from letter-writing campaigns to shantytown occupations of city squares and college campus greens. Institutions of all types, from churches to universities, from corporations and banks to city halls, were forced to remove their investments from companies doing business with the racist South African regime, ultimately forcing that regime to end its racist legal system. Even the right wing Reagan and Thatcher regimes were ultimately forced to end their support for Pretoria’s racist system and grudgingly go along with the popular will.
However, as Ron Nixon’s new book, titled Selling Apartheid, makes clear, the South African regime was not going to go down without a fight. In addition to police and military actions of varying brutality, the regime hired advertising men to sell their brand of repression to people and governments around the world. The campaign he describes involved a cynical manipulation of emotions about race, implied white supremacist chauvinism, and outright lies. Advertising campaigns presented South Africa as a tourist destination full of beauty and the perfect climate (which it had) with absolutely no mention of the racial discrimination built into its social and political systems. Glossy photo spreads were bought in newspaper and magazines and television programs were made and sold to television networks in the United States and Britain. These shows were then shown to the unsuspecting viewer as if they were made by agencies independent of the apartheid government and their only agenda was tourism.
In a particularly cynical move, the South African government was able to buy off a few African-Americans over the years in what was ultimately a vain attempt to convince Black Americans that apartheid was okay. The first of these individuals was a former supporter of the Black resistance movement in South Africa, Max Yergan. In what can only be described as a complete sell out, Yergan went from working with early members of what would become the primary resistance organization against apartheid—the African National Congress(ANC)—to giving speeches in the United States and Africa aimed at convincing his audiences that apartheid helped Blacks. Once a committed left-winger, Yergan came under pressure during the McCarthy era in the United States, became an informer for the FBI, and turned against his friends in South Africa; friends that included freedom fighters Nelson Mandela and Joseph Tambo. Yergan was but the first of a few such individuals who would follow in his treacherous footsteps.
The bottom line for the white South African regime and the United States was money. Several US companies had millions invested in South African industry. These companies took advantage of the cheap labor (and maximized profits resulting from that labor) and minimal regulations offered by the Pretoria regime. In turn, they either supported or at the least, tacitly accepted the racism and brutality that defined the apartheid system. Consequently, it was these corporations and financial institutions that were targeted by the anti-apartheid movement’s divestment campaign. Churches, universities, and other institutions that had investments in such companies were ultimately convinced to drop those investments. Sometimes that convincing was purely of a moral plea, other times it required a concerted effort that combined direct action, monetary boycotts, and legislative pressure.
As an advocate of the current campaign against Israeli apartheid, it was more than interesting to compare the similarities in the campaign waged against the movement against South Africa’s apartheid and that currently waged against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement of today. Residents of western nations are constantly barraged with imagery that attempts to portray the Tel Aviv government as a beacon of fairness and democracy in the Middle East. Furthermore, one is constantly told that the Palestinians who resist the occupation of their lands and the ever-present system of discrimination are nothing but terrorists. This latter phenomenon was also the case in South Africa. Indeed, the ANC was not removed from the US list of “terrorist” organizations until 2008, more than fifteen years after apartheid met its well-deserved end. Of course, there are specific differences between the two systems of separation referred to here, but the essential fact apartheid is true for the historic South African regime and the current Israeli one.
Ron Nixon’s text is an essential addition to the volume of work on South Africa’s apartheid regime. Rich in detail, it provides the reader with an extended look at the nature of propaganda in modern society. A one-time journalist for the New York Times, Nixon makes his argument with facts and writing that is both accessible and engaging. In doing so, he exposes the moral vacuousness of those who propagandized for the racists of South Africa not because they necessarily believed in apartheid, but because they made money from doing so. Furthermore, in his telling Nixon doesn’t just rake the white South African regime over the coals, he also points his pen at the equally deserving US and British governments, especially those of Reagan and Thatcher. In terms of how the world seems to work, Selling Apartheid is a tawdry yet familiar tale.
Another symbolic international day for Palestinian rights has degenerated into the usual stale observations and recommendations that do little other than try to impart a semblance of balance between the coloniser and the colonised. Perhaps the UN has preferred to remain loyal to the monstrous history it spawned by approving the Partition Plan on 29 November 1947, rather than address its complicity in the dispossession, ethnic cleansing and displacement of the Palestinians.
Departing from a jeopardising premise, Fiji’s Peter Thomson presided over the 71st session of the UN General Assembly and declared that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is “fundamental to our efforts to realise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and to ensure that they are able to enjoy lives of dignity, opportunity, prosperity and equality.” The Palestinian people have endured a history of premeditated killing for decades because the UN upholds obscurity as a priority over the anti-colonial struggle. Peace, therefore, can be eliminated from the convenient rhetoric as it is nothing but a euphemism for oblivion in the context of Israeli colonial violence and international acceptance and complicity.
Not to be outdone, the Head of the EU Delegation to the UN, João Vale de Almeida, presented a summarised version of the perpetual concerns and condemnations, but added a slight variation to the usual rhetoric. The EU, he claimed, is “alarmed by the advancement in the Knesset of the ‘Settlement Regularisation Bill’ which would allow for the ex post ‘legalisation’ of Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank and de facto confiscation of private Palestinian land.” It is mystifying, to say the least, how an international institution that is normally so well-informed can express “alarm” over violations that have occurred blatantly and in a clear, calculated sequence following the original Zionist plan for Greater Israel. There was more likely to be advance knowledge and acquiescence, not alarm, over the proposed legislation.
Almeida made another obfuscating comment regarding Gaza: “Militant activity and the dire situation in Gaza feed general instability and constitute a recipe for renewed conflict.” He provided no context for the Palestinian resistance in Gaza; no mention of how Israel’s Operation Protective Edge destroyed the enclave and displaced Palestinians in a space that is completely besieged. Hamas “and other militant groups” are also urged to stop “the illicit arms build-up.” Presumably the EU, like Israel, wishes there to be a defenceless population that is completely stripped of the right to defend itself against Israel’s state of the art military technology. Almeida’s statement encourages the abuse of Palestinian civilians by Israel whenever it chooses to field test its latest weapons on live targets before marketing them internationally and thus exposing international hypocrisy with regards to alleged support for Palestinian rights.
Perhaps the symbolic commemoration of “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” should be scrapped, since the UN, the EU and other international institutions are incapable of articulating the trajectory between the initial and the current colonial violence against Palestinians. All of the futile statements which simply rehash decades of other repetitive rhetoric do not help the Palestinians in any way. Sporting a keffiyeh for the macabre day, which is a backdoor commemoration of the UN Partition Plan as well as purported international solidarity, is humiliating, not a show of support. In the absence of a commitment to support Palestine’s anti-colonial struggle, one can conclude that the international agenda for this “day of support” is to devaluate Palestine and downgrade it even further from a symbolic presence to a passive memory.
Umm al-Kheir, Occupied South Hebron Hills – Almost nothing in Palestine is what you expect for the most part. And, this is so true of the negative things you see. No matter how bad you think things are or expect them to be, you are almost always guaranteed that they will be worse (usually much worse) when you actually see them. And if you tell people the truth you may be thought to be making things up. But, this is Palestine and things are this unbelievable and this bad. This was true today for me (to put it mildly). Part of our team was invited by an “inspector” from the United Nations office based here in Al Khalil to go to a Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills where a demolition took place yesterday.
The two demolished structures – with the illegal settlement in the background
Throughout my multiple trips here I’ve been to numerous house demolitions and even sat with families throughout the night waiting for the Israeli Occupation Forces to arrive to demolish a home. I was not ready for what I saw today. On our way to the village our U.N. inspector told us a bit of the history/story of the village. But, when we arrived I just wanted to vomit and I still have a knot in my stomach as I write this. The village of Umm Al Khair was established in 1952 on land the villagers purchased. They have the deed to prove ownership. The village is currently made up of approximately 140 Bedouin (registered) refugees, (approximately 28 families) who are mostly goat herders and farmers. They came here to the West Bank from “the 48” (Israel proper) after their home village was destroyed along with over 500 other Palestinian villages by Israeli Zionists, during the Nakba which created over 700,000 Palestinian refugees.
In 1982 the illegal colonial Zionist settlement of Carmel was established right next to them (less than 50 yards away) on land they stole from the village. Even though we couldn’t see inside the illegal settlement we were informed by the individual from the U.N. that the homes in the settlement were spacious, modern, had green grass lawns and gardens and even a small goldfish pond or two and all of the modern luxuries. In contrast, the village is made up of makeshift tents, crude metal and wood structures with dirt floors. There is no running water, no electricity, and a few crude toilet facilities.
Given that the villagers own the land, according to Israeli law, they cannot be legally evicted. However, the Zionists can make life so miserable that the villagers will give up and leave. This (in all probability) will never happen. They are strong, hopeful, and determined to stay here. This is their home. They will not leave. Even the children who have grown up here and gone off and got university degrees return here to their homes.
Rubble from the most recent demolition
Israel uses the excuse that the villagers don’t have building permits. But Israel doesn’t grant but a few building permits per year (if any) to Palestinians.
Drones routinely fly over the village photographing, looking for any sign of new construction or rebuilding and the soldiers will return and demolish again and again. And if a demolition order is given for a particular home or building, it is permanent and nothing can be built on that spot again.
There have been 5 demolitions in the past year: October 27, 2015; 1 in April 2016; 2 this past August; and the most recent one yesterday where two structures were demolished. Their Community Center which housed the kindergarten, a computer center, an after school program to help kids with homework, and a library has been demolished several times. There are some international aid programs such as the International Red Cross, several U.N. programs, and from the European Union that have helped with building materials and /or small structures for living. None of these programs, however, can help with the Community Center because it does not provide shelter for people or animals. So it is the children who suffer the brunt of these losses.
Rubble from the demolition, with the luxurious houses in the illegal settlement in the background
While one of our team members was conducting a video interview I went outside and was swarmed by young children. All smiling, laughing and excited by my presence and attention to them. All eager to show me around the village, show me their goat herds, their small playground and have me push them on the swings, take their photographs with their goats. They all appeared to be happy and none the worse for wear. But what I am describing is and has been their life. They know nothing else. It doesn’t make how these villagers are treated any less excusable. And this is only one observation from one person visiting one of the scores of similar villages throughout the West Bank. An older woman whose home was demolished in August of this year stated before we left, “We just need the demolitions to stop. We are getting sick and tired of it.” Our U.N. person then said, everyone including most of the aid programs are feeling the same way as this woman and little by little pay a bit less attention as time goes on. Even the government, The Palestinian Authority was called this morning about yesterday’s demolition and they stated they couldn’t come to look they had other things to do today.
Residential dwelling of some of the families
I’ve always thought (and said) that somewhere inside the Israeli Zionist must still have some small bit of humanity left in them. After what I witnessed today I cannot believe that there is even a shred of humanity left in any of them. Today was by far the most overwhelming and depressing day I’ve had in all of my trips here to Palestine, and I’ve seen quite a few depressing and overwhelming things during these trips.
What can you do? Join the Boycott movement in your country. Write to your elected government officials to stop funding the various degrees of genocide that Israel is committing here in Palestine. Write letters to the editor of your newspapers. Talk to your families, friends, neighbors and let them know the truth. Speak up. As long as our country continues to support the behavior of Israel with our tax dollars we are all responsible!
Resistance against the terrorists and rebels controlling eastern Aleppo has been growing among the civilian population trapped in the city, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. Eleven protests have been staged in militant-controlled areas since the beginning of the week.
In the past 24 hours alone, some 1,500 civilians in four Aleppo districts have risen up against the militants, ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov reported on Wednesday, citing intelligence data.
The demonstrations were violently suppressed by the jihadists, his statement said, adding that dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured in eastern Aleppo on Tuesday, when militants opened fire at those protesting the occupation.
On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of Syrian civilians turned to the streets in the rebel-held Bustan al-Qaser district of besieged eastern Aleppo.
The demonstrators chanted for the removal of corrupt rebel commanders and proceeded to plunder the Yarmouk Aid Centre of its goods and distributed it among the local populace.
Although initially reluctant, local rebel factions attempted to dislodge the protests by firing into the air.
Two weeks ago, the Bustan al-Qaser neighbourhood was struck by infighting as Islamist groups overran several checkpoints held by the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Fastaqim Union, effectively disbanding the latter group.
Upwards of 200,000 civilians remain besieged in eastern Aleppo while some 9,000 militants have been accused of using local residents as human shields, refusing to allow their evacuation into government-held western Aleppo.
OUR Walmart, a worker-led activist group, has devised a new app, now available for Android smartphones, that uses artificial intelligence to help workers understand company policies and legal rights. Walmart has told workers to not download the app.
The app, WorkIt, was released Monday to offer advice to Walmart workers on a host of issues, according to OUR Walmart.
OUR Walmart is a labor group, but not a union, as Walmart does not offer collective bargaining rights, which has thousands of paying members and has organized Black Friday protests at Walmart locations nationwide.
The OUR Walmart organization teamed up with software development company Quadrant 2 to develop WorkIt. The app uses IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence bot to answer concerns or questions of employee, who are only identified on the app by their username and store position. Watson accesses a database built by Walmart workers to address user questions. When Watson cannot answer one of about 200 queries, “there is a peer network of experts that will interact with the users,” Jason Van Anden, founder of Quadrant 2, told the Wall Street Journal. Watson then has the ability to learn how to answer certain questions from the peer experts.
For its part, Walmart has already addressed store managers about the app, warning that OUR Walmart is “increasingly trying to get our associates to turn over personal information to the union by using deceptive and slick looking social media and mobile apps,” according to a document reported by the WSJ.
“We just wanted to give you a heads up that if someone tries to get you to download an OUR Walmart work-related app on your mobile device, you may unknowingly be giving away valuable personal information like your location and personal contact information that the union can use however it wants,” Walmart wrote to store managers, according to Bloomberg.
“There is no way to know if the details this group is pushing are correct,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said in a statement. “Our people are smart and see this for what it is; an attempt by an outside group to collect as much personal and private information as possible.”
The app does not track location or ask users to submit their location, according to Cat Huang, a technologist who worked on the app.
“We’re not going to sell the data, ever,” OUR Walmart co-director Andrea Dehlendorf told Bloomberg. “We will share it with researchers and use it to inform conversations with Walmart. But it’s not part of the revenue model.”
The app’s utility emerged in the days when Walmart employees had limited time to access information on the company’s extensive human resources policy guide held on the Walmart intranet known as Wire. (The company says it has offered more access to its policies since early 2016, Bloomberg reported.) In addition, queries to OUR Walmart’s Facebook page became to much for the group to handle.
OUR Walmart directors raised money from various groups, like the Workers Lab, and hired a technologist, Huang, and a developer, Van Anden, to help create the app.
The app will also assist OUR Walmart by gathering data on specific issues that impact employees, allowing the group to address the company with hard proof of the employee experience.
“It will give us real evidence to talk to the company about what’s broken,” Dehlendorf told Bloomberg. “We have to be in a place where we can say, ‘This is the truth. We have massive data.'”
The app does not access Walmart’s policy guide directly, but offers “interpretations of the policies,” Huang told Bloomberg.
OUR Walmart said it expects about 14,000 employees, or around 1 percent of Walmart workers, to download the app by the end of 2017.
In 2016, the fundamentally undemocratic U.S. two-party system presented the public with the two most hated candidates in history. The choice was so dismal that over forty three percent of the voters could not bring themselves to go to the polls. Everyone hated one or the other of the candidates, or both. Whoever won was bound to face vehement opposition.
The unexpected shock of Donald Trump’s victory created mass hysteria, with crowds in tears going into the streets to protest – an unprecedented reaction to an uncontested election.
This hysterical opposition is not the best basis for building the new movement needed to oppose a widely rejected political establishment.
Most of the weeping and wailing comes not from Bernie Sanders supporters, who were prepared for the worst, but from those who believed the Clinton campaign claim that Trump represents nothing but various ways to “hate” other people: sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. The response is to hate Trump. This is sterile and gets nowhere politically.
Trump’s reputation as a racist fiend is largely based on excessive remarks such as his outrageous promise to build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants from entering the country – outrageous, in fact, because the wall already exists! Except that it is called a “fence”.
Washington is not about to be ruled by Nazis, but by reactionary Republicans, which are bad enough but nothing new. If Trump is better than they are on some points, that should be noted and encouraged. An effective opposition should know how to distinguish between hot air and real issues, and to judge issues on their own specific merits.
The Clinton campaign was based on the “identity politics” claim to protect women and minorities from their enemy, Trump. An opposition movement based on perpetuating that claim, with emphasis on how horrible Trump must be personally, is also likely to swallow other aspects of the Clinton campaign line, notably its anti-Russian propaganda. Incited by the mainstream media, the “left” opposition risks echoing the Clintonist accusation that “dictator” Trump is too friendly with “dictator” Putin. And the hysterical opposition will oppose the one positive element in Trump’s campaign: the desire to make business rather than war with Russia.
It is significant that the German foreign minister Ursula von der Leyen wasted no time in demanding that Trump choose between friendship with Putin on the one hand or NATO and “our shared values” on the other. This is a sign that not only the U.S. war party but also the European NATO machine will be putting pressure on Trump to pursue the very same warlike policies favored by Hillary Clinton. And the disappointed Clintonite opposition is likely to be out in the streets not to oppose wars, but to oppose Trump’s opposition to wars, all in the name of our shared democratic humanitarian values and opposition to “dictators”.
This is the danger of hysterical opposition to Trump. It would be a continuation of the worst aspects of this dreadful campaign, totally centered on denouncing individuals, and neglecting serious political questions. A progressive opposition should leave Clintonism behind and develop its own positions, starting with opposition to regime change wars – even if Trump is also against regime change wars. And indeed, it should push Trump to maintain that position, because he will be under strong pressure in Washington to give it up. The opposition should demand that Trump make good on his promise to avoid war, while opposing his reactionary domestic policies. Otherwise, we are heading for the worst of both worlds.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On November 9, Americans woke up to the announcement that they have narrowly avoided the apparent worst-case scenario, i.e. a Hillary Clinton presidency. Most researchers and activists of good will were happy if not outright ecstatic that the wicked witch of the West was finally gone, hopefully for good. Others simply acknowledged that a change in power would take place in January, 2017 but argue that there will be no discernible difference between a Trump administration and the Obama administration just as the Bush-Obama years were those of a seamless transition.
But while we may take some temporary relief in knowing that we avoided the absolute worst-case scenario, it is time to ask, “what now?” We are faced with Donald Trump as President in 2017. So what do we do? Join the Trump team and become a cult follower? Support him until he does something terrible or commits a series of terrible decisions? Start attacking him immediately?
Certainly, complacency should not be an option. Simply sitting back because the outcome was “not as bad as it could have been” is entirely useless and counterproductive.
First, it is imperative that activists and people of good will must recognize that a Trump victory is not necessarily a victory for the American people. A Hillary defeat, although positive, does not equal a win for America, at least not in those simplistic terms.
Now is a time for organization and action.
Activists, activist organizations, and all people of good will must immediately begin to prepare themselves for a new phase in a battle that they have been (or at least should have been) fighting all along. They must begin to put aside petty differences with one another and begin looking at areas of common concern. They must continue their individual battles but must form alliances with one another in order to fight in a united front under a common umbrella. Whether the cause is related to guns, the drug war, war, GMOs, or some other issue, these individuals and organizations must come to understand the concept of enlightened mutual self interest.
Many of these groups currently do not work together over petty squabbles or simple laziness. We need individuals who are willing to establish connections with these groups and act as a uniting factor between them. This, of course, includes individual activists as well as groups. Essentially, we need someone who will be the unifying factor by establishing contacts, finding policies that unify these groups, and helping unite them (acting as the central figure) in current fights for (or against) legislation and for strategically offensive legislative action. These individuals will need to be active and willing to engage in dialogue with widely varying groups, remaining respectful of their perspectives and personal agreements/disagreements with some of their policies. Eventually, these coalitions can be brought together across the barriers of their issues for demands of interest to all.
As for the demands, any movement that seeks to bring about positive change must have a list of requirements in the form of demands or else the movement itself is dead from the start. A list of demands and a set of steady principles are absolutely necessary to the success and the continued life of any movement. For those struggling with the idea of what demands should be central to any resistance movement going forward, please see my article, “A Real New Deal For America – 43 Points.”
Where Trump and his administration are willing to forward any points of our agenda, we should be there to push him along. Where he is willing to forward the agenda of the Anglo-American system, we must be willing to fight him tooth and nail.
We must also remember that the magnitude of what we face as a people is much bigger than a President, as should be clear to anyone who is even slightly informed should be aware. Regardless, it is time that the American people become active and engaged and that activists no longer sit idly by, navel gazing and castrated by egos and selfish interests, but that they immediately begin to join forces and fight for the change they want to see.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President.