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Iran FM urges West to lift sanctions before next round of talks

Press TV – April 16, 2012

The Iranian Foreign Minister has called on Western governments to lift their sanctions against Iran before the next round of talks between Tehran and the six world powers in Baghdad in late May.

“The Istanbul meeting was a turning point in the talks [between Iran and the world powers],” Ali Akbar Salehi said on the sidelines of a Monday visit to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).

Previously, the other side did not step into the negotiations with the intent to resolve the issues, “but presently things have changed,” he added.

Referring to the country’s successful indigenous production of nuclear fuel, Salehi said, “The other side has realized Iran’s progress despite all the restrictions and pressures.”

Salehi added that the other side hoped Iran would surrender its nuclear energy rights under pressure, but when faced with the resolve and resistance of Iranians, the West decided to come to the negotiation table.

“Today, they returned to the talks; it was not us who returned to the talks as we were committed to negotiations from the start.”

Salehi added that another reason why the West decided to resume negotiations was the adverse impact that tensions against Iran was having on the US economy.

Iran’s policy is one of “transparency, dialogue and win-win solutions,” Salehi said, adding, “We are ready to create the conditions that can help alleviate the fabricated concerns that they [Western powers] have made up in their minds because we are sure of ourselves.”

Elsewhere, Salehi underlined the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear energy program and referred to a fatwa, religious decree, issued by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei which declares atomic weapons as haram, or forbidden according to Islam.

Iran and the P5+1 group – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – wrapped up two rounds of negotiations in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday and agreed to hold the next round of talks in Baghdad on May 23, 2012. Both sides hailed the talks as “constructive” and “positive.”

The EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton described the talks as useful and constructive, saying that Iran has the right to have a civilian nuclear program.

Tehran and the P5+1 previously held two rounds of talks, one in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2010 and another in Istanbul in January 2011.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | Comments Off on Iran FM urges West to lift sanctions before next round of talks

France refuses to give Press TV team visas; no explanation offered

Press TV – April 16, 2012

The French Embassy in Tehran has refused to issue visas for a Press TV team that wanted to participate in the annual MIPTV and MIPDOC film festivals in Cannes, France, Press TV reports.

The Press TV team completed the application procedure on February 15 and was told by the visa section of French Embassy in Tehran that the initial response would come on March 7, 2012.

The embassy, however, gave no clear answer to the application until April 9 when a French Embassy employee contacted Press TV to announce that visa requests for the team had been rejected. No clear explanation was given for the rejection.

Press TV officials also wrote a letter to French Ambassador to Tehran Bruno Foucher asking him to provide them with a proper explanation. The French embassy, however, gave no answer to the letter.

MIPDOC and MIPTV festivals are purely cultural events which were held in the southern French port city of Cannes from March 30 to April 4, 2012.

Press TV has been regularly participating in both festivals since 2008.

In addition to Press TV crews, eyewitnesses said, it has become a habit for the French embassy to refrain from issuing visas to Iranian university professors and even physicians who want to participate in scientific events in France.

Experts believe that the measure is a clear sign that the incumbent French government is not willing to continue cultural and media cooperation with Iran.

This is not the first time that a major member of the European Union has taken hostile positions on Press TV and its staff.

In late January, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) took a questionable measure and without offering a valid response to the Press TV CEO’s letters, revoked the channel’s broadcasting license and finally removed it from the Sky platform. Before revoking Press TV license, Ofcom had hit Press TV with a fine of 100 thousand pounds.

The British media regulator stepped up pressure on Press TV after the news channel covered British police crackdowns on anti-austerity protesters in London and other British cities.

Also, on April 3, under pressure from the German government, Munich media regulatory office (BLM) made an illegal decision to remove Press TV from the SES Astra satellite platform.

Vice President of the SES Platforms Services Stephane Goebel wrote in an e-mail to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting officials that the BLM had asked Press TV be immediately removed from the platform claiming that the channel did not have a license for broadcast in Europe.

Experts believe that such moves are clearly part of a scheme orchestrated by the West to silence the voice of the Iranian English-language channel.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Disturbing Privacy Dangers in CISPA

By Trevor Timm | EFF | April 15, 2012

This week, EFF – along with a host of other civil liberties groups – are protesting the dangerous new cybersecurity bill known as CISPA that will be voted on in the House on April 23. Here is everything you need to know about the bill and why we are protesting:

What is “CISPA”?

CISPA stands for The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a cybersecurity bill written by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) (H.R. 3523). The bill purports to allow companies and the federal government to share information to prevent or defend from cyberattacks. However, the bill expressly authorizes monitoring of our private communications, and is written so broadly that it allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government with no judicial oversight—effectively creating a “cybersecurity” loophole in all existing privacy laws.  Because the bill is so hotly debated now, unofficial proposed amendments are also being circulated [link] and the actual bill language is in flux.

Under CISPA, can a private company read my emails?

Yes.  Under CISPA, any company can “use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property” of the company. This phrase is being interpreted to mean monitoring your communications—including the contents of email or private messages on Facebook.

Right now, well-established laws, like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, prevent companies from routinely monitoring your private communications.  Communications service providers may only engage in reasonable monitoring that balances the providers’ needs to protect their rights and property with their subscribers’ right to privacy in their communications.  And these laws expressly allow lawsuits against companies that go too far.  CISPA destroys these protections by declaring that any provision in CISPA is effective “notwithstanding any other law” and by creating a broad immunity for companies against both civil and criminal liability.  This means companies can bypass all existing laws, as long as they claim a vague “cybersecurity” purpose.

What would allow a company to read my emails?

CISPA has such an expansive definition of “cybersecurity threat information” that many ordinary activities could qualify. CISPA is not specific, but similar definitions in two Senate bills provide clues as to what these activities could be. Basic privacy practices that EFF recommends—like using an anonymizing service like Tor or even encrypting your emails—could be considered an indicator of a “threat” under the Senate bills. As we have stated previously, the bills’ definitions “implicate far more than what security experts would reasonably consider to be cybersecurity threat indicators—things like port scans, DDoS traffic, and the like.”

A more detailed explanation about what could constitute a “cybersecurity purpose” or “cyber security threat indicator” in the various cybersecurity bills can be read here.

Under CISPA, can a company hand my communications over to the government without a warrant?

Yes. After collecting your communications, companies can then voluntarily hand them over to the government with no warrant or judicial oversight whatsoever as long is the communications have what the companies interpret to be “cyber threat information” in them. Once the government has your communications, they can read them too.

Under CISPA, what can I do if a company improperly hands over private information to the government?

Almost nothing. CISPA would affirmatively prevent users from suing a company if they hand over their private information to the government in virtually all cases. A broad immunity provision in the proposed amendments gives companies complete protection from user lawsuits unless information was given to the government:

(I) intentionally to achieve a wrongful purpose;
(II) knowingly without legal or factual justification; and
(III) in disregard of a known or obvious risk that is so great as to make it highly probably that the harm of the act or omission will outweigh the benefit.

As Techdirt concluded, “no matter how you slice it, this is an insanely onerous definition of willful misconduct that makes it essentially impossible to ever sue a company for wrongly sharing data under CISPA.” This proposed immunity provision is actually worse than the prior version of the bill, under which companies could be sued if they acted in “bad faith.”

What government agencies can look at my private information?

Under CISPA, companies are directed to hand “cyber threat information” to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Once it’s in DHS’s hands, the bill says that DHS can then hand the information to other intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, at its discretion.

Can the government use my private information for other purposes besides “cybersecurity” once they have it?

Yes. When the bill was originally drafted, information could be used for all other law enforcement purposes besides “regulatory purposes.” A new amendment narrows this slightly. Now—even though the information was passed along to the government for only cybersecurity purposes—the government can use your personal information for either cybersecurity or national security investigations. And as long as it can be used for one of those purposes, it can be used for any other purpose as well.

Can the government use my private information to go after alleged copyright infringers and whistleblower websites?

Up until last Friday the answer was yes, and now it’s changed to maybe. In response to the overwhelming protest from the Internet community that this bill would become a backdoor for SOPA 2, the bill authors have proposed an amendment that rids the bill of any reference to “intellectual property.”

The bill previously defined “cyber threat intelligence” and “cybersecurity purpose” to include “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.” Now the text reads:

(B) efforts to gain unauthorized access to a system or network, including efforts to gain such unauthorized access to steal or misappropriate private or government information

But it is important to remember that this proposed amendment is just that: proposed. The House has not voted it into the bill yet, so they still must follow through and remove it completely.

A more detailed explanation of how this provision could be used for copyright enforcement and censoring whistleblower sites like WikiLeaks can be read here.

What can I do to stop the government from misusing my private information?

CISPA does allow users to sue the government if they intentionally or willfully use their information for purposes other than what is described above.  But any such lawsuit will be difficult to bring.  For instance, the statute of limitations for such a lawsuit is two years from the date of the actual violation.  It’s not at all clear how an individual would know of such misuse if it were kept inside the government.

Moreover, suing the government where classified information or the “state secrets privilege” is involved is difficult, expensive, and time consuming. EFF has been involved for years in a lawsuit over Fourth Amendment and statutory violations stemming from the warrantless wiretapping program run by the NSA—a likely recipient of “cyber threat information.” Despite six years of litigation, the government continues to maintain that the “state secrets” privilege prevents the lawsuit from being heard.

Given that DHS is notorious for classifying everything—even including their budget and number of employees—they may attempt to prevent users from finding out exactly how this information was ever used. And if the information is in the hands of the NSA and they claim “national security,” then it would get even harder.

In addition, while CISPA does mandate an Inspector General should issue a report to Congress over the government’s use of this information, its recommendations or remedies do not have to be followed.

Why are Facebook and other companies supporting this legislation?

Facebook and other companies have endorsed this legislation because they want to be able to receive information about network security threats from the government. This is a fine goal, but unfortunately CISPA would do far more than that—it would eviscerate existing privacy laws by allowing companies to voluntarily share users’ private information with the government.

Facebook released a statement Friday saying that they are concerned about users’ privacy rights and that the provision allowing them to hand user information to the government “is unrelated to the things we liked about HR 3523 in the first place.” As we explained in our analysis of Facebook’s response: the “stated goal of Facebook—namely, for companies to receive data about cybersecurity threats from the government—does not necessitate any of the CISPA provisions that allow companies to routinely monitor private communications and share personal user data gleaned from those communications with the government.” Read more about why Facebook should withdraw support from CISPA until privacy safeguards are in place here.

What can I do to stop this bill?

It’s vital that concerned Internet users tell Congress to stop this bill. Use EFF’s action center to send an email to your Congress member urging them to oppose this bill.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Argentina to nationalize Spanish owned oil firm

Press TV – April 16, 2012

The Argentine government says it will present a bill to the country’s senate for the nationalization of the YPF oil company which is owned by Spanish firm Repsol.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said on Monday that the bill would allow the government to expropriate 51 percent of YPF shares, while the country’s oil producing provinces would get 49 percent.

“This president is not going to answer any threat, is not going to respond to any sharp remark, is not going to echo the disrespectful or insolent things said,” Fernandez said.

YPF has been under heavy pressure from the Argentine government over the past two months for not investing enough in the country’s oil fields.

The move has already been criticized by the Spanish government. Spanish officials say Argentina risks becoming “an international pariah” if it takes control of the YPF, in which Repsol has a 57.4 percent stake.

Spain is Argentina’s largest foreign investor and YPF is Argentina’s biggest oil company.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Argentina to nationalize Spanish owned oil firm

Technologies of Control: The Case of Hewlett Packard (HP)

Who Profits | February 2012

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is maintained and preserved by daily practices of surveillance and control. In recent years, these practices have increasingly relied on technological mechanisms provided by international and local corporations. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is one of the companies that unable this technological supervision and oppression.

Through its subsidiary EDS Israel, HP is the prime contractor of the Basel System, an automated biometric access control system installed and maintained by HP in checkpoints throughout the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

Another control mechanism with which HP is involved, is Israel’s ID card system, which reflects and reinforces the state’s political and economic asymmetries as well as its tiered citizenship structure. HP was charged by the Ministry of Interior with the manufacturing of biometric ID cards for the citizens and residents of Israel (Jewish and Palestinians). In addition, HP also provides services and technologies to the Israeli army.

Furthermore, two of HP’s technological service providers in Israel are Matrix and its subsidiary, Tact Testware, which are located in the illegal West Bank settlement of Modi’in Illit. HP further participates in the “Smart City” project, implemented in the illegal West Bank settlement of Ariel, providing a storage system for the settlement’s municipality.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on Technologies of Control: The Case of Hewlett Packard (HP)

Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | April 16, 2012

In a recent interview, one of the more moderate ministers in the current government, Dan Meridor, conceded that a notorious phrase widely attributed to Iran’s leaders including Pres. Ahmadinejad, that Iran would wipe Israel from the map, is false.  Though Meridor, a senior cabinet member in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, believes that Iranian statements about Israel being a cancer in the region are equally distressing to Israel, he acknowledged that neither of Iran’s current leaders had ever called for destroying Israel.  That of course, didn’t prevent him from lapsing back into precisely the same claim not once, but twice later in the interview.  It seems that some tropes are so engraved in a nation’s consciousness that a politician can intellectually know they are false, publicly admit it, and then contradict himself.

The interview proved interesting as well for exposing some of the underlying assumptions of Israeli attitudes and policy toward Iran.  When asked about the unique dangers that Iran posed to Israel or the Middle East, Meridor claimed that Iran has introduced a dangerous element into the region: religion.  Now, there’s no question that Islam is a critical element of the Iranian regime.  But was Iran the first to introduce such religious nationalism?  What about that notion of Israel being a “Jewish” state?  Seems to me that is a clear expression of it as well.  Of course, Israelis will argue that the character of religious expression in the Iranian state is fanatical, intolerant and homicidal, while the character of religious expression in Israel is moderate and tolerant.  That may be what Israelis would like to believe.  But is it true?

One of the primary elements of Israeli national purpose these days is the settlement enterprise.  The justification for it is purely religious in nature.  God gave us the land and commanded us to settle in it and warned us never to part with it.  That’s more or less the gist of the argument.  So if the Muslims and Arabs of the Middle East see such a fundamental element of Israeli nationhood underpinned by religious theology, what are they to think?

Further, when Bibi Netanyahu lays out his argument for Israel attacking Iran what language does he use?  The Holocaust.  Once again, this is discourse that is fundamentally religious in nature.  A Jew may argue that the prime minister has no choice because the Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust for their religion.  But the plain fact is that Netanyahu has many arguments he could wield in making his case.  The fact that he’s offered this one hundreds of times over the years indicates not only that he finds it a powerful one, but that it resonates deeply inside him as a Jew, and he believes it will affect his domestic and international audience in a similar way.

If I were to have to isolate one of the most important parts of my mission in writing this blog it’s to point out to both sides, but especially to Jews and Israelis, that whatever fanatical notions you seek to attribute to the other side, you better look in the mirror first, because it’s more than likely that your co-religionists and fellow citizens have expressed thoughts equally as fundamentalist in nature.

In yesterday’s Times, Steven Erlanger also reveals a certain western awkwardness about the injection of religious rhetoric into political discourse.  He says that Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements about Iran’s nuclear intentions are shrouded in a “fog” of theological terms:

Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not only the leader of Iran’s government but also the final authority on Islamic law, often uses religious language when he talks about the nuclear issue, which can jar Western analysts trying to gauge the meaning of such strong statements.

This is a further indication of how clueless secular western journalists can be to the role of religion in regions like the Middle East.  The unstated implication of such statements is that because Iran’s leaders are religious fanatics their word may not be trusted, nor can we ever know for sure what they really mean.  A further implication is that western secular leaders, when they make political statements, are speaking clearly in a language every reasonable person can understand.

This assumption is riddled with unsupported cultural assumptions.  If this were only a case of cultural misunderstanding, that wouldn’t rise to the level of an issue worth being overly concerned about.  But the fact is that western misimpressions of the states, cultures and religions of the Middle East has caused round after round of mayhem throughout history.  And we may be walking into yet another one.

James Risen, in an article from yesterday’s Times makes the following racist claim:

…Some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei’s denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.

Why is it that some otherwise excellent reporters seem to lose their heads when writing about this subject?  Note Risen refuses to tell us who “some analysts” are so we can judge the credibility of this.  Further, while I’ve seen neocons, anti-jihadis and other crackpots make this claim about Shiites, I’ve never heard anyone support it with any proof that any Shiite has ever used taqiyya as justification for lying in a political context.  Just as Jews may annul vows in a purely religious context on Kol Nidre, I’m sure taqiyya is a similarly religious-based precept having nothing whatsoever to do with politics.  This is at best shoddy journalism and at worst outright racism.

Another interesting side issue that arose in the Meridor interview was a reference by the reporter to a statement by Avigdor Lieberman during Cast Lead that Israel should level a crushing blow upon “Hamas” (by which he meant Gaza) that would destroy its will to resist. He likened such a blow to the atom bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan to end WWII. Meridor claims Lieberman never made the statement, and clearly believes the interviewer is making it up. Unfortunately, he is not and Maariv provides the proof.

In the context of the interview, Lieberman’s statement is important because it shows that Israeli leaders have spoken with bellicosity equal to anything Iran’s leaders have said about Israel. Israel has used homicidal, if not genocidal rhetoric in reference to its Arab neighbors no less than Iran may have. I would actually argue that no matter how troubling or hostile some of Iran’s rhetoric may have been, Iran has repeatedly said that it had no plans to attack Israel pre-emptively. Israel has repeatedly threatened to do precisely that to Iran. So whose rhetoric is worse?

In the interview, Meridor repeats another false claim often made by Israeli leaders and journalists: that the IAEA report released a few months ago says that Iran “has” a military nuclear “plan.” At another point, he says that Iran is “aiming” at building a “nuclear warhead” for its missiles so that they might reach Israel.  At another point in the interview he claims the IAEA has said:

Yes, they [the Iranians] are going for nuclear weapons… They are after nuclear weapons.  They [the IAEA] described the plan very well.

This is at best a wild overstatement of what the report actually said and at worst a tissue of outright lies.  The report said there are indications that Iran may have such a program.  After the interviewer points out to Meridor that all of the U.S. intelligence establishment believes that Iran has not made a decision to get a nuclear bomb, the Israeli minister says:

They said, if I remember correctly, that Iran is going after nuclear weapons… A general understanding between us and American, I think, and Europe–England, France, Germany–is, with no doubts whatsoever, that Iran has made a decision to go there…

Er, well no, they didn’t say that nor do any of the countries named believe that.  Of such errors are wars made.

Then Meridor surprised even me, by tearing a page right out of Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes and invoking Kulturkampf to explain Iran’s supposed desire to wipe out Israel and the entire western world.  The grandiose conspiratorial nature of his thinking reveals just how delusional is the mindset of some of Israel’s key decision-makers:

I think that the standoff between America and Iran, and the Muslim world is a sort of Kulturkampf, a clash of civilizations.  And some groups that are not nationally based, but religiously based–call them Al Qaeda or Jihad or Taliban and others–who think that this is a way to stop the west and the domination of those ideas, will have a real boost in a victory of Iran over those westerners that are trying to change the course, the historical course…

With thinking like this coming from one of the more moderate and supposedly sophisticated members of the Israeli governing coalition, you might as well have Anders Breivik making Israel’s strategic decisions.  There doesn’t appear that much difference in thinking between Meridor and Breivik regarding the threat posed by the Muslim world.

When the Al Jazeera reporter asked Meridor whether Israel shouldn’t join the NPT protocol and lay its own nuclear program open to the same inspections that Iran allows. The Israeli almost laughably says that Israel’s refusal to join is a “sound and good” policy and “does not bother anyone seriously.”  He also states that the question of whether there will be a war in the Middle East is “in the hands of Iran.”  This reminds me in a number of ways of the thinking of the bullies, child abusers or wife beaters who tell their victims that the question of whether they will beat them up is solely in the victims’ hands.  At the very least, it seems like putting the cart before the horse.

On a related note, the single most comprehensive debunking of the “wipe Israel off the map” claim is this article from the Washington Post.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction

Israeli military court sentences Palestinian journalist

Palestine Information Center – 16/04/2012

RAMALLAH — The Israeli military court in Ofer passed a four-month imprisonment term against Suhaib Al-Asa, 26, along with 3000 shekels fine.

Aziz, the father of Suhaib Asa, said that the sentence falls in line with the Israeli occupation authority’s constant attacks on the Palestinian people and journalists.

He said that the sentence also reflects the IOA fears of a free press that defends Palestinian rights.

Israeli occupation forces stormed the home of Asa, who works with Bethlehem 2000 radio station and a correspondent for a website, in Obaidiya to the east of Bethlehem on 5 February and took him away after searching his home and confiscating personal computers.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment