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Prospects for Syrian peace are looking up

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 20, 2018

After prolonged hibernation, the Astana Process on Syrian peace is kinetic, with the troika of ‘guarantor’ states – Russia, Turkey and Iran – set to hold a round of talks in the Kazakh capital on November 28-29. Delegations of the Syrian government and the opposition are also expected to attend. A renewed effort is commencing to create traction for the UN-sponsored negotiations in Geneva.

Much water has flown down the Euphrates since the 9th round of the Astana Process took place in May. Six months is a long time in politics – especially in Middle East politics. But, paradoxically, while Middle Eastern politics is in turmoil, the prospects for peace in Syria may have improved. The setting for tomorrow’s meet – it’s unclear at what level the event will take place – has become largely favorable. At least 10 major reasons can be attributed. … continue

OPCW Votes Against Russian Proposal to Limit Power of Chemical Weapons Watchdog

Sputnik – 20.11.2018

Russia’s envoy to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Alexander Shulgin stated earlier in October that the organisation was doomed unless it reconsidered a decision that allowed it to attribute responsibility for chemical attacks.

The motion, proposed by Russia and China was voted down by the OPCW members, with 30 countries voting for and 82 — against it. Moscow and Beijing proposed establishing a special group that should broaden the scope of OPCW mandate.

“Thirty delegations voted for the Russian-Chinese draft decision, 82 against, 31 more abstained, and 10 left the site of the vote. Thus, 71 delegations did not support the western camp. This means that the split in the OPCW is only deepening,” Russian Deputy Trade Minister Georgy Kalamanov noted.

He also stated that Russia was unlikely to join the new attribution mechanism of the organisation. … continue

French bank pays huge US fine for doing business in Cuba, Iran

RT | November 20, 2018

Societe Generale has agreed to pay $1.34 billion to US federal and state authorities to settle a pending legal dispute over violations of US trade sanctions against Iran and other countries.

One of France’s largest banks has also pledged to pay $95 million to resolve another dispute over violations of anti-money laundering regulations. … continue

EU Mulls Iran Sanctions in Light of Alleged Plots in France, Denmark – Reports

Sputnik – 20.11.2018

Until now the EU has been unwilling to join the US sanctions on Iran preferring to maintain close trade ties with the Islamic Republic.

In a most recent policy U-turn, European Union foreign ministers hinted on Monday that their countries could be prepared to impose new economic sanctions on Iran, Reuters reported.

The sudden shift of policy came after France and Denmark accused Tehran of being allegedly behind a series of plots to carry out attacks on their soil. During a meeting in Brussels French and Danish foreign ministers filled in their fellow EU counterparts on the details of the alleged Iranian plots, although no details or names were discussed, Reuters quoted diplomats as saying on Tuesday.

France has imposed sanctions on two Iranians and Iran’s intelligence service over what it says was a botched attempt to stage a bomb attack at a rally near Paris organised by an exiled Iranian opposition group. … continue

Israel razes Palestinian lands, uproots 500 palm trees in Jericho

Ma’an – November 20, 2018

JERICHO – Israeli bulldozers razed and leveled Palestinian-owned agricultural lands, and uprooted about 500 palm trees, on Tuesday, in Jericho City, near road 90, in the central occupied West Bank district of Jericho.

Ibrahim Ahmad, the tenant of the razed lands, said that Israeli forces along with several bulldozers stormed the area and razed agricultural lands that belong to the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) Department.

No reason was given for the razing and leveling of the lands. … Full article

UNRWA reduces deficit from $446m to $21m

MEMO | November 20, 2018

The Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said on Monday that its budget deficit for 2018 has been reduced from $446m to $21m. Pierre Krähenbühl made the announcement during a conference in Jordan, at which he thanked donor countries including Japan, EU members, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, as well as the agency’s Advisory Committee, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the Republic of Turkey.

Krähenbühl told the conference that this year was “very difficult” due to the US government’s decision to stop its donations to UNRWA. Apart from a relatively small amount of core funding from the UN’s main budget, UNRWA relies entirely on voluntary donations from UN member states.

According to the Jordanian newspaper Al-Sabeel, the Commissioner General noted that the budget deficit caused much “tension and suffering” for Palestinian refugees. An end to American support, he pointed out, had “repercussions” for the essential basic services provided by UNRWA to the refugees.

He called for those countries which have pledged support for the agency to “turn their pledges into funds in UNRWA’s bank accounts” in order to cover the remaining deficit.

Registering Israel’s Useful Idiots

FDD and AIPAC need adult supervision

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • November 20, 2018

Depending on what criteria one uses, there are between 200 and 600 groups in the United States that wholly or in part are dedicated to furthering the interests of Israel. The organizations are both Jewish, like the Zionist Organization of America, and Christian Zionist to include John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, but the funding of the Israel Lobby and both its political and media access comes overwhelmingly from Jewish supporters and advocates.

Many of the groups are registered with the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes as 501(c)3 “educational” or “charitable” foundations, which enables them to solicit tax exempt donations. One might dispute whether promoting Israeli interests in the United States is actually educational, but as of right now the Department of the Treasury believes it can be so construed, protected by the First Amendment.

But there is a more serious consideration in terms of the actual relationships that many of the groups enjoy with the Israeli government. To be sure, many of them boast on their promotional literature and websites about their relationships with the Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet, so the issue of dual loyalty or, worse, acting as actual Israeli government agents must be considered. … continue

Airbnb pledges to remove occupied West Bank settlement listings, Israel hits back

RT | November 20, 2018

Global home-rental company Airbnb says it will remove listings of homes located in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli officials have predictably called the move anti-Semitic and a surrender to terrorism.

Human Rights Watch applauded Airbnb’s move, which came a day before the group’s publication of a (presumably damning) report on the human rights impact of tourist rental listings in settlements. Waleed Assraf, who runs an anti-settlement group for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, was hopeful other companies would follow Airbnb’s example, noting “this will contribute to achieving peace.”

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called Airbnb’s move “discriminatory” and ordered his ministry to formulate a retaliatory plan to “limit the company’s activities” in Israel, adding that the country would back settlement listers’ lawsuits in both Israeli and US courts. … continue

Israeli Forces Wound 25 Palestinians, Including AP Cameraman, in Gaza Boat Protest

IMEMC News – November 20, 2018

The weekly protest at the Gaza beach to protest the ongoing Israeli closure of sea access to Gaza was met with violence from Israeli forces today, who fired live ammunition at protesters in boats and along the shore. 25 were wounded with live bullets, including an AP camera operator.

The protest took place off the coast of Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, when hundreds of Palestinians gathered on the shore and then took off in small fishing boats bearing Palestinian flags into the Mediterranean Sea.

Almost immediately, the Israeli Naval ships stationed off the coast began firing live ammunition toward the protesters, according to local sources.

The Israeli Navy also fired tear gas canisters, causing passengers on the boats to suffer from tear gas inhalation.

One of the people wounded by the Israeli forces’ live ammunition was a camera operator working for the Associated Press (AP), who was shot in the foot.

In a separate protest Monday along the Gaza-Israel border, a 13-year old boy was reportedly injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces, according to local sources. … Full article

UN Special Rapporteurs give Israel 60 days to respond to ‘deep concerns’ regarding Jewish Nation-State Law

Adalah – 15/11/2018

Four Special Rapporteurs express ‘deep concern’ that Nation-State Law is ‘discriminatory in nature and in practice against non-Jewish citizens and other minorities and does not apply the principle of equality between citizens, which is one of the key principles for democratic political systems.’

Following a special request for action issued by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, four United Nations special rapporteurs have given Israel a 60-day deadline to respond to their grave concerns regarding the Jewish Nation-State Law, adopted by the Knesset on 19 July 2018.

The 60-day period began on 2 November 2018 when UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes, and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume sent a communique to Israeli authorities expressing their deep concerns regarding the impact of the new law.

In their letter, the special rapporteurs expressed “deep concern” that the Israeli Basic Law appears “to be discriminatory in nature and in practice against non-Jewish citizens and other minorities and does not apply the principle of equality between citizens, which is one of the key principles for democratic political systems.”continue

America’s big box stores sucked up corporate welfare and killed Main Street — now they’re ducking property tax

By Cory Doctorow | BoingBoing | November 17, 2018

For a generation, big box stores have swept across America, using predatory pricing and other dirty tricks to kill the independent retail sector; they used their corporate lobbying muscle to tempt cities and towns into handing out massive corporate welfare checks to lure them to town, and now, with the help of hustling contingency lawyers, they are promulgating a property-tax scam called “the dark store theory” that is cutting their taxes in half or more, with further reductions every year, and no end in sight.

The “dark store theory” holds that property taxes on thriving, super-profitable big box stores should not be based on how much the property sold for, plus the capital investment, minus depreciation — instead, these stores should be valued based on the selling price of nearby failed big-box stores that have been sold at knock-down prices. … continue

Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?

By Dean Baker | CounterPunch | November 19, 2018

The right would like us to believe that the inequality we see in the United States, and increasingly in other countries, is a natural outcome of market processes. Unfortunately, many on the left seem to largely share this view, with the proviso that they would like the government to alter market outcomes, either with tax and transfer policy, or with interventions like a higher minimum wage.

While redistributive tax and transfer policies are desirable, as is a decent minimum wage, it is an incredible mistake to not recognize that the upward redistribution of the last four decades was brought about by conscious policy, not any sort of natural process of globalization and technology. Not recognizing this fact is an enormous mistake from both the standpoint of policy and politics. … continue

Trump Starts to Fix Clinton’s Catastrophic Crime Bill Mess

By Jack Hunter • The American Conservative • November 19, 2018

Nearly 25 years ago, President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton led a robust campaign for tougher sentencing laws that would become the 1994 crime bill. At the time, the NAACP called it a “crime against the American people.”

The next quarter century would prove the NAACP right.

“Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history,” human rights advocate Michelle Alexander reminded Hillary Clinton supporters in 2016. “By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and basic public benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow,” said Alexander, who wrote a book on the subject, The New Jim Crow.

“It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done,” she lamented.

Senator Rand Paul’s wife put a number on that damage. The Clintons’ harsh sentencing laws had “resulted in a 500 percent increase in the number of people behind bars in this country,” she claimed in a television interview.

Kelley Paul—who, along with her husband, has been a major advocate for criminal justice reform—reminded Fox & Friends viewers that a major purpose of the current Senate legislation was to “enact prison reforms and sentencing reforms to correct some of the terrible effects of the 1994 Clinton crime bill.”

A few hours after Mrs. Paul said this on Wednesday, President Trump announced his support for the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill supported by Republican senators Paul, Mike Lee, Tim Scott, and Chuck Grassley, and many Democrats too. … continue

Russo-Japanese peace treaty is doable

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 19, 2018

A new template is forming in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific – Russo-Japanese concord. The two regional powers with a troubled history are moving in the direction of concluding a peace treaty that could formally end their World War 2 hostilities and open a new page in their relations.

The negotiations are being handled at the highest level of leadership and, therefore, every single meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is invested with high importance. Both statesmen are known to be ardent supporters of a robust partnership between their countries.

The conclusion of a peace treaty is a prerequisite to put the relationship on a higher trajectory and to realize its full potential. But both nations are also riding a wave of nationalism and when territorial concessions are involved, feelings run high. … continue

Israel razes land, confiscates vehicles in East Jerusalem

Ma’an – November 19, 2018

JERUSALEM – The staff members of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality stormed the Silwan neighborhood, in occupied East Jerusalem, under the heavy protection of Israeli forces, on Monday.

A Ma’an reporter said Israeli bulldozers razed a land in the Silwan neighborhood, which belonged to Palestinian resident, Khaled al-Zir.

Sources added that Israeli forces confiscated a Palestinian-owned vehicle, umbrella, and chairs.

Israeli forces also confiscated several vehicles in the neighborhood under the pretext that the owners did not obtain an Israeli license.

The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee adopted a resolution in July 2017 reaffirming the international body’s non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, and condemned Israeli policies in the Old City.

The resolution referred to Israel as an “occupying power” in East Jerusalem, and stated that UNESCO “regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.”

Illegal Israeli Colonists Attack Homes Near Nablus

IMEMC News – November 19, 2018

A group of fanatic illegal Israeli colonialist settlers attacked many homes in Orif village, south of Nablus, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank on Monday at dawn.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israel’s colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the assailants came from the Yitzhar colony, which was built on illegally confiscated Palestinian lands.

He added that the assailants hurled stones and objects at homes, in the eastern neighborhood of Orif, hundreds of meters away from the illegal colony.

Daghlas also said the colonists tried to burn an agricultural tractor, but were noticed before they managed to carry the attack out.

The official said that residents from the Local Guards Committees, which is a group of unarmed volunteers from the village, noticed the assailants and chased them out of their village. Owners of three of the attacked homes have been identified as Samir Hashash, Ahmad Shehada and Monir an-Nouri.

Critically injured Palestinian among others shot by Israeli forces

Ma’an – November 19, 2018

RAMALLAH – Four Palestinian youths were shot and injured by Israeli live ammunition, on late Sunday evening, in the village of Deir Abu Mashal, in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces opened fire at a Palestinian vehicle passing by, injuring four Palestinian passengers.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed that the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) medical crews transferred four injured Palestinians to a nearby hospital.

The ministry added that one of the four was shot and critically injured in the leg, while the other three suffered minor injuries.

Chile Admits Cover-up of Police Killing Video of Mapuche Leader

teleSUR | November 19, 2018

Chile’s Interior Minister Andres Chadwick admitted Sunday that the officers responsible for the killing of the young Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca destroyed the cameras they were carrying during the clash, days after the military police affirmed that the officers were not carrying any.

The ministry added that four police officials were removed from their functions as a result of the revelations, including the police chief in the Araucania region Mauro Victoriano and Iván Contreras, prefect of Special Forces. They will be probed by the Araucania’s prosecutors, a decision that the relatives of the victim criticized, saying that it would not involve officers of higher command.

Camilo was killed in the middle of a police operation in the community of Temucuicui, Ercilla, in La Araucania region. Chilean police entered the area firing indiscriminately against the Mapuche community during the evening of Nov. 14.

Around 200 police entered the area leaving five people injured. Catrillanca, the grandson of the Lonko (community leader) Juan Catrillanca, was shot in the back of the head. He was later taken to a health center where he died.

In reaction to the murder of Catrillanca, various human rights organizations have called on the Chilean government to investigate and punish those responsible for the murder. They also called for an end to anti-terror laws in Mapuche territories and the removal of militarized police from areas inhabited by the Indigenous population.

More Than 500 Safety Scares Recorded at UK’s Trident Nuclear Base Since 2006

Sputnik – 19.11.2018

There have long been concerns about the security of the UK’s Trident submarine fleet based in Scotland. Accusations that the government has covered up safety scares have long been in circulation. Now, it appears that such concerns were well founded.

More than 500 safety events of “near-misses” and “human error” have been recorded at the storage place of the UK’s ‘Trident’ nuclear deterrent since 2006, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

According to the Daily Mail Online, the Minister of Defence Procurement, Stuart Andrew, wrote in a letter to the British parliament that overall, 505 “events” over the past 12 years were recorded at HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, Scotland, were the overwhelming majority of the UK’s nuclear submarines are based.

​The findings come on the heels of a public row last year when Downing Street was accused of trying to cover up a missile malfunction when the weapon was tested and failed mid-flight off the coast of Florida in June 2016.

In the letter, Mr Andrew’s rather alarmingly explains how the events that occurred consisted of “near-misses, equipment failures, human error or procedural failings.”

In what could be described as a peacenik’s worst nightmare, two of the accidents that happened were recorded as ‘Category A’, which means that they were of the upmost level of danger. … Full article

The Reason for Killing Iranians

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | November 19, 2018

While U.S. sanctions technically permit Iran to import medicines, it is actually just a ruse to make it look like U.S. officials are kind, compassionate, and benevolent. In actuality, the way the sanctions work will mean that the Iranian people will inevitably be deprived of much-needed medicines. That’s because the U.S. extends its sanctions system to banks that process payments to Iran, which is likely to inhibit the importation of medicines into Iran.

But that’s the point behind the sanctions: to kill as many Iranians as possible in the hope that they will rise up in a violent revolution, oust Iran’s anti-U.S. regime from power, and install another pro-U.S. regime, like that of the Shah of Iran, who the CIA installed into power in its 1953 coup that destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy.

Never mind that the Iranians, who live in a country that has strict gun control, lack the means to violently overthrow their government. And never mind that hundreds of thousands of Iranians would likely die in such a revolution, just like what has happened in the U.S.-supported revolution in Syria.

Those deaths wouldn’t matter to U.S. officials. They would be considered “worth it,” especially if they brought a pro-U.S. regime into power in Iran.continue

The Only Regime Change that Is Needed Is in Washington

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | November 19, 2018

… the only regime change that is needed is in Washington and it would include Jeffrey, Bolton, Haley, Pompeo, and Miller. And while we’re at it, get rid of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his claque of Orthodox Jews, Jason Greenblatt the “peace negotiator” and David Friedman the U.S. Ambassador in Israel. None of them are capable of acting to advance any American national interest, which they wouldn’t recognize even if it hit them in the butt. Once they are gone the U.S. can bid the Middle East goodbye and leave its constituent nations to sort out their own problems. … Read full article

‘Highly likely’ that Magnitsky was poisoned by toxic chemicals on Bill Browder’s orders – Moscow

RT | November 19, 2018

Russian accountant Sergey Magnitsky may have been poisoned and his former employer, financier Bill Browder, is possibly behind the murder, prosecutors revealed. Now, Moscow will place Browder on the international wanted list.

UK businessman Browder had much interest in the death of Sergey Magnitsky after receiving what he wanted from the accountant, an adviser to the Russian Prosecutor General, Nikolay Atmonyev, told the briefing.

“Based on the documents that were shown, an obvious conclusion can be made that, having received a false statement from Magnitsky that was used for provocation, Browder was interested in Sergey Magnitsky’s death more than anyone else in order to avoid exposure,” Atmonyev said.

Journalist Oleg Lurie, who shared a prison cell with Magnitsky in 2009, testified both at a New York court and in Moscow that lawyers working for Browder had tried to make Magnitsky sign false documents regarding theft from the Russian budget. Russian prosecutors believe that the testimony is further proof that Magnitsky’s death was in the interest of the US-born investor.

Moscow also suspects Browder of being involved in the murder of three men allegedly linked to his business – Octay Gasanov, Valery Kurochkin and Sergey Korobeinikov. Gasanov and Kurochkin were initially thought to have died naturally of health problems, while Korobeinikov died in an accident. … continue

The Picasso Problem

By Willis Eschenbach | Watts Up With That? | November 17, 2018

“What good are computers? They can only give you answers.” – Pablo Piccaso

Let me start explaining the link from Picasso to climate science by looking at what Dr. Nir Shaviv called “the most boring graph I have ever plotted in my life”.

This is the graph of the changes in the best estimate of the range of what is called “climate sensitivity” over the last forty years or so. … continue

Foregone Conclusion: CIA says MBS Ordered Khashoggi Assassination & Another Wife Appears

Penny For Your Thoughts | November 18, 2018

Couldn’t let this pass – let’s call it a foregone conclusion. As had been expected: Fitting the intelligence to the agenda.

Also interesting, another Khashoggi wife has come out of the shadows… continue

Yemeni Houthis halt missile strikes, offer wider ceasefire if Saudi-led coalition really wants peace

RT | November 18, 2018

After years of bloodshed, Yemen’s Houthi movement is urging the Saudi Arabia-led coalition to join a comprehensive ceasefire if it really “wants peace,” the leader of the rebel group Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said Sunday.

At the request of Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, the group is stopping ballistic missile and drone attacks on the coalition countries.

Al-Houthi also stressed the rebels’ readiness to freeze military operations on all fronts in an effort to reach a “just and honorable” peace.

Earlier this week the UN official told the UN Security Council that Yemen’s warring parties had agreed to hold talks in Sweden “shortly.” … Full article

Settlers attack olive pickers in al-Khalil

Palestine Information Center – November 18, 2018

AL-KHALIL – A group of Israeli settlers on Saturday evening attacked Palestinian citizens picking olives in Jabal Jales area, east of al-Khalil city.

Rashed al-Tamimi said Israeli settlers hurled stones at his family and other Palestinians while they were harvesting olives.

Israeli settlers a few days ago destroyed and uprooted olive trees owned by al-Tamimi family with the aim of stealing more Palestinian lands in favor of settlement expansion plans.

‘Zionism is a narrative based on fabricated ideas’

MEMO | November 18, 2018

The Palestinian case is a narrative as is Zionism, but the latter is made up “mostly if not entirely of fabricated ideas”, Palestinian author Ramzy Baroud told an international audience in Istanbul, Turkey, today.

Zionism, which is the basis of the state of Israel, “has been communicated to the Western world to be truth,” Baroud continued, but “it has so little to do with the truth or is the complete opposite of the truth. The Palestinian narrative is the truth.”

However, Palestinians “are losing” because “for 25 years we have been distracted by the narrative that is the peace process and anyone who deviates from this narrative is classed as either a radical, a terrorist or a terrorist sympathiser,” he said during a discussion on the “Global discourse of the Palestinian narrative”.

But Palestinians and those working to attain their rights “should not buy in to this nonsensical narrative that paints Palestinians as terrorists.” … continue

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian ambulance in Hebron

Ma’an – November 18, 2018

HEBRON – A large number of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian ambulance, on predawn Sunday, on the al-Shuhada Street in Hebron City, in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron.

According to local sources, the ambulance was passing through al-Shuhada Street in Hebron City, in order to transfer a Palestinian patient to a hospital nearby, when Israeli settlers attacked the ambulance by hurling rocks at it.

Material damages, such as shattered windows, resulted from the attack.

Sources confirmed that the ambulance belonged to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).

Eid Abu Munshar, an ambulance officer, said that Israeli settlers attacked the ambulance with rocks, while he was passing by through al-Shuhada Street to transfer a patient from the Tel Rumeida neighborhood. … Full article

US warns of ‘consequences’ as Palestine joins international bodies

Press TV – November 18, 2018

The United States has threatened “consequences” as Palestinians step up efforts for statehood demanding accession to almost a dozen international bodies and conventions.

The threat came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the documents on Thursday to join the Universal Postal Union, a UN agency that coordinates international postage, and 10 international protocols and conventions.

The move infuriated the US, Israel’s staunch ally, with a State Department official claiming that the Palestinian efforts to join international institutions were “premature” and “counterproductive.”

“We are currently reviewing possible consequences of the Palestinians’ recent actions,” the official said in a statement published by the Times of Israel on Sunday. … continue

1,252 Palestinian homes damaged in Israel’s latest attacks

Palestine Information Center – November 18, 2018

GAZA – Hundreds of Palestinian residential homes were damaged in the latest Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, according to a Palestinian official on Sunday.

“A total of 1,252 housing units have been damaged in the last Israeli military escalation in Gaza,” Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Gaza-based Housing Ministry, told a press conference in Gaza City.

He said 77 residential units have been totally destroyed in the Israeli attacks.

At least 14 Palestinians were martyred by Israeli airstrikes and artillery across the blockaded Gaza Strip after rocket fire earlier this week. … Full article

Life in fear: Report says 1 in 3 US drone-strike deaths in Yemen are civilians, including children

RT | November 18, 2018

Bombings by the Saudi-led coalition may have devastated Yemen, but the country faces another deadly threat in the sky – US drones. A third of those killed by them in 2018 were civilians, including children, according to a report.

“We live in fear. Drones don’t leave the sky,” said one farmer, describing the day that two of his relatives were killed in a US drone strike. His is one of several testimonies recorded in a new report by Associated Press documenting the rising civilian death toll caused by the US drone war against Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni franchise.

While gathering an official toll of civilian deaths caused by US drone strikes is difficult – due to the inability to confirm identities or allegiances – estimates by AP show that a third of those killed so far in 2018, or some 30 people, were not members of the terrorist group. Some 215 civilians were killed by drones since the campaign started in 2002, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. … Full article

NATO’s Greatest Enemy is Itself

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 18.11.2018

Accidents happen. For Norway at the conclusion of NATO’s Trident Juncture 2018 military exercises, such an accident occurred with its Lockheed Martin Aegis-equipped frigate, HNoMS Helge Ingstad.

After a collision with an oil tanker, the frigate’s captain ordered the ship aground to prevent a total loss. The quick thinking may have saved the lives of Norwegian sailors and made salvaging operations easier. Thankfully no lives were lost and only eight injuries are being reported by the Western media.

The NATO exercises the Helge Ingstad was participating in simulated an invasion of Norway. As the Council on Foreign Relations made clear in their article, “NATO’s Trident Juncture Exercises: What to Know,” the imaginary invaders were obvious stand-ins for Russia.

The CFR piece would claim:

The aggressor in the simulation is fictitious, but the setting and the scale of the exercises point clearly in one direction. Tensions between NATO and Russia, which shares an Arctic border with Norway, are running high. In the last five years, Russia has annexed Crimea, destabilized eastern Ukraine, provided military aid to a brutal regime in Syria, meddled in Western elections, and either walked away from or allegedly violated major multilateral security treaties.

Of course none of what the CFR alleges is true and many of the accusations leveled against Russia by the article have long been abandoned by even most in the Western media.

The fact that Norway lost an expensive ship in the middle of this NATO exercise to prepare for a Russian invasion that will never happen suggests that the greatest threat much of Europe faces is from NATO itself, not Moscow. … continue

US-Made TOW Missiles Reportedly Discovered in Syria

Sputnik – 18.11.2018

Local media have on multiple occasions reported that the Syrian Arab Army has found major weapons and ammunition depots containing Western-made arms during mop-up operations in regions liberated from terrorists.

The Syrian Arab Army has discovered a cache with weapons and ammunition on a farm between the southern suburbs of Damascus Babila and Beit Sahm after being tipped off by a local, SANA reported.

The news agency cited a field commander as saying that a large number of rifles, machine guns, unpacked US-made TOW anti-tank missiles stored in wooden and metal boxes, rockets for RPG-29 anti-tank rocket launchers, grenades and other weapons were found at a farm during a clean-up operation. … Full article