Aletho News


Iraq and Iran’s Oil and Gas Pipeline Politics

By Elie Chalhoub | Al-Akhbar | March 14, 2013

Away from the region’s headlines and wars, plans are being methodically put in place that could redraw the strategic map of the Middle East, erasing one of the region’s key colonial-era features.

Recent moves by Iran and Iraq to press ahead with the construction of a series of new oil and gas export pipelines could be attributed to Iran’s bid to counter international sanctions. The planned pipelines could also reflect Iraq’s economic recovery or perhaps pressure from oil companies for new export routes.

There may be some truth to these explanations. But a closer look makes clear that these schemes are related.

The short-term aims are evident. They include trying to lure Jordan into the region’s “resistance” axis and reducing American influence on Iran’s eastern neighbor Pakistan.

But the long-term objective is more ambitious: to connect the Middle East by way of a web of economic ties that binds them into a regional partnership whose mainstays are Iran and Iraq.

Baghdad is making it increasingly clear where it stands in terms of its regional alignment. In recent months, it has openly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, clashed with Ankara, reached out to Cairo, and been at odds with Riyadh and Doha.

The pipeline schemes also underscore Iraq’s chosen course. The country has opted to assume a role consistent with its historical legacy and its economic and strategic clout.

Iran Lures Pakistan

The latest move in this regard was Monday’s pipeline inauguration by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The pipeline will transport Iranian natural gas to Asian markets via Pakistani territory, providing Pakistan with desperately needed energy supplies.

Negotiations between the two countries began almost a decade ago, but were frequently stalled due to opposition from the US. Washington has long sought to thwart any scheme for transporting oil and gas from or through Iran.

During that period, Iran completed its section of the pipeline from the Pars gas field in the south of the country to the Pakistani border town of Multan. It has a capacity of 750 million cubic meters per day.

Tehran has undertaken to cover a third of the $1.5 billion cost of the 780-km Pakistani section of the pipeline, with the Pakistani government funding the rest.

Wooing Jordan and Egypt

Meanwhile, Iraq and Jordan have begun work on building parallel oil and gas pipelines connecting southern Iraq to the Red Sea port of Aqaba, with the possibility of extending the link to Egypt.

The 1,690-km line, which will take two to three years to complete, is to run from Basra to Haditha west of Baghdad then into Jordanian territory and south to Aqaba. Contracts for the Jordanian portion are to be awarded to companies on a build-operate-transfer basis, with ownership reverting to the Iraqi government after 20 years.

Under the agreement, the oil pipeline will provide Jordan with 150,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day for domestic use at preferential prices (around $20 dollars per barrel below market). Apart from putting an end to Jordan’s chronic fuel crises, the scheme is expected to benefit the country to the tune of $3 billion per year.

A planned second phase of the project envisions the building of a western spur from Haditha through Syrian territory to pump 1.25 million barrels of oil per day to the Syrian Mediterranean port of Banias.

Sustaining Syria

Meanwhile, plans are being developed for a 5,000-km link to transport Iranian gas to Iraq and Syria and on into Europe, providing Iran with an export route that bypasses the Gulf.

Iran and Iraq are due to sign an agreement on the first phase of the project on 20 March. This would enable Iran to pump 25 million cubic meters of gas a day to Iraq. Proposed extensions to the line envision it supplying Jordan and Lebanon with gas.

Iran shares the Pars field – the world’s largest gas field with an estimated 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, around 8 percent of total proven world reserves – with Qatar. The emirate recently unveiled its own plans for a pipeline to carry gas through Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian and Turkish territory to Europe.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iraq and Iran’s Oil and Gas Pipeline Politics

Iran eyes stopping oil exports: Ahmadinejad

Press TV – March 14, 2013

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Islamic Republic aims to reach the point where it would no longer need to export its crude oil.

“We (Iran) plan to get to the point where we would not need to export crude oil anymore. The number of our oil refineries should double in such a case, and it would be of great benefit to our country,” Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.

The Iranian president was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the country’s biggest gasoline plant at Shazand Imam Khomeini Refinery in the central Markazi Province. He said the project was proof that Iran has achieved self-sufficiency in oil refinery construction and does not need foreign assistance in this regard.

Ahmadinejad further called on the Iranian oil industry officials to make their utmost efforts to design and build fully indigenous refineries and even export their expertise.

He also criticized the West’s illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, saying that the bans show the bullying nature of the countries which have adopted them.

The Iranian president stated that refining Iranian crude oil in domestic refineries will generate three to four times more revenue for Tehran than the sale of crude oil, adding that the production of petrochemicals inside the country will also yield five to ten times more earnings than oil exports.

Shazand Imam Khomeini Refinery contains the country’s biggest gasoline production hub with a production capacity of 16 million liters (ml) of gasoline per day.

Production of premium gasoline will increase from the current amount of 1.2 million liters to 3.2 million liters with the opening of the facility.

Following the gasoline plant’s inauguration, its liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) production will increase from 500 tons per day to 2,000 tons.

The treatment facility produces gasoline, liquefied gas, propylene, kerosene, gas oil as well as fuel oil and tar.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , | Comments Off on Iran eyes stopping oil exports: Ahmadinejad

Justice & Security Bill to cover up UK government crimes in & out of Britain

Press TV | March 13, 2013

The so-called Justice and Security Bill will enable the UK government, its security services and spying apparatus to cover up their crimes, such as rendition and torture of detainees.

The Bill, which was pushed through the House of Commons by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government last week, will also raise the specter of an untrammeled dictatorship, so to speak.

Under the bill, government ministers will be able to establish secret trials for civil law cases in which the public and media are excluded from proceedings where the government is a defendant and national security is said to be at stake.

The planned legislation will enable the UK government to suppress information about the handover of Afghan detainees by Britain to Afghan jails where they risk being tortured, or about UK involvement in U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan or elsewhere around the world.

The bill also allows the “government to appoint special advocates to represent the claimants, instead of lawyers of their own choosing, making it impossible for the claimants to know why their cases failed or succeeded”.

It is a profoundly undemocratic bill that marks a major departure in long-held principles of English law-that cases are held and decided in public and that the evidence presented by the other party is disclosed.

As Andrew Tyrie MP and Anthony Peto QC point out in their report, Neither Just nor Secure, secrecy could be imposed to prevent inquiries by investigative journalists, halt or limit protests, prevent people from recovering property seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act and stop injured servicemen from suing the Ministry of Defence for faulty equipment.

Taken together, the bill will make it impossible for claimants to know anything about their case, making it easier for ministers and the security services to cover up their crimes, such as rendition and torture.

As various cases show, the entire British state machinery is guilty of criminality: torture, abduction, extraordinary rendition and the denial of due process.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Justice & Security Bill to cover up UK government crimes in & out of Britain

Colombia: President Santos Announces ‘Profound Changes’

By Kari Paul | The Argentina Independent | March 14, 2013

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced yesterday that he will initiate “an agenda of transformation” in the 16 months he has left in office.

This announcement comes as Santos continues peace negotiations with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Congress announced last week that a resolution will be made with the armed revolutionary group by August.

“Our vision is of a just, modern, and safe Colombia,” Santos said, according to El Tiempo.

He added that disarming FARC is not enough and that the system must change in order to avoid similar situations in the future.

“Some people continue to be stuck in the past, selling us a vision of a Colombia condemned to another 50 years of violence, paralysed by fear and without the capacity to imagine anything more than what it has always been,” he said. “However we, the large majority, believe in our future.”

Officials and Santos finalised this new “comprehensive government strategy” in a meeting Monday.

Beginning today, union directors and business owners will begin meeting to design and begin this project that Santos called “an emergency plan for growth and productivity.”

Beyond lowering rates of violence in the country, the president announced goals of a more “modern Colombia,” including plans to build 317 kilometres of highways this year.

Santos added that he is “committed… to making it so that Colombia can say ‘we have peace’ before leaving the government.”

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Colombia: President Santos Announces ‘Profound Changes’

Chavez Succeeded Where Obama Failed

By Shamus Cooke | Worker’s Action | March 12, 2013

When President Obama campaigned in 2008 in Portland, Oregon over 70,000 people came to hear his speech. And although I missed the event, I was intrigued by the raw emotion that the candidate’s words inspired in my community. Obama re-visited Oregon during his 2012 campaign, but the inspiration had faded from his voice, and the audience had drastically changed. The Oregonian explains:

“The Obama campaign said about 950 tickets, costing $500 to $1,000 were sold for the main fundraiser at the Oregon Convention Center. The president also spoke, out of view of the press, to about 25 donors who bought $30,000 tickets.”

The late President Chavez, on the other hand, steadily increased the crowds of people who came to hear him speak, year after year, election after election, rally after rally. The secret? Whereas President Obama could only speak about “hope” and “change,” President Chavez actually delivered.

It was this delivery that earned Chavez the hatred of both Bush Jr. and Obama. Chavez humiliated Bush Jr. by surviving the U.S.-sponsored military coup against him and humiliated the entire U.S. media by winning election after election by large margins, elections that former President Jimmy Carter said were the fairest in the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. media tied itself into knots trying to explain how a “would be dictator” easily won elections that nobody disputed.

Chavez won elections because he was loved by the working and poor people of Venezuela. Chavez was loved by his people because he was a politician like none they had ever experienced. He was “their” politician, and he loved them.

And one doesn’t become the official politician of working people, the poor and downtrodden in an extremely poor country by using fancy words. Chavez backed up his big talk time after time, consistently overcoming barriers erected by the wealthy by taking bold action that benefited the majority of Venezuelans. Their hope in him was repeatedly renewed by action.

Inequality shrank under Chavez, poverty was dramatically reduced, education and health care improved, and illiteracy was eliminated. When the economy reeled from the 2008 global crisis, Chavez didn’t bail out the banks and pander to the wealthy, but increased social spending for the most vulnerable. When cataclysmic landslides threw hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into homelessness, Chavez housed them all.

President Obama has nearly the exact opposite track record. The big banks remain the big winners in the Obama Administration, having been bailed out and then given an endless supply of cheap money via the Federal Reserve that has boosted their profits. All of this takes place while the job crisis grinds on for working people, creating an endless supply of austerity budgets on the city, state, and national level. When new jobs become available they are below a living wage.

Although Obama’s speeches are masterful renditions of a watered-down Chavez speech, the action component of the English version was always left un-translated.

Whereas Chavez confronted the wealthy and corporations, Obama succumbed to them. Ultimately, these are their respective legacies. Obama, via action, has chosen a path in support of his corporate sponsors, whereas Chavez’s path went in the opposite direction — a much rockier, conflict-laden path, made all the more difficult by U.S. foreign policy in support of Venezuela’s anti-Chavez top 1%. Above all, Chavez insured that the oil wealth of his country did not stay in the hands of Venezuela’s oligarchy, which had previously kept a tight grip on it. Chavez used it to raise millions of Venezuelans out of poverty.

Chavez’s legacy will live and breathe in those who will continue his fight for a better world, still inspired by his words and actions. Obama’s legacy, however, was stillborn after the 2008 elections, with “hope” never delivered alongside “change” never attempted.

Obama’s 2008 campaign slogans now only inspire feelings of betrayal to those who believed in him, while the corporations and wealthy will celebrate Obama’s legacy, a tribute to his pro-corporate policies. In the final analysis, Chavez will be remembered for boldly taking action against the same inhuman inequality that is growing in most countries in the world. In so doing, Chavez earned the hatred of the elite who benefit from this system-wide inequality, while the rest of us on the bottom of the inequality-spectrum owe him our appreciation, since Chavez’s fight was our fight too.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on Chavez Succeeded Where Obama Failed

Armistice’s Day Is Done–Contrary to NYT

By Jim Naureckas | FAIR | March 13, 2013

The New York Times (3/8/13), writing about Korean tensions, reported:

The North said this week that it considered the 1953 armistice agreement that halted the Korean War to be null and void as of Monday because of the joint military exercises. The North has threatened to terminate that agreement before, but American and South Korean military officials pointed out that legally, no party [to an] armistice can unilaterally terminate or alter its terms.

“Nonsense,” says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois (Institute for Public Accuracy, 3/13/13):

An armistice agreement is governed by the laws of war and the state of war still remains in effect despite the armistice agreement, even if the armistice text itself says additions have to be mutually agreed upon by the parties. Termination is not an addition.

Boyle pointed to both U.S. military regulations and international law as evidence that the Times’ claim was wrong:

Under the U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 and the Hague Regulations, the only requirement for termination of the Korean War Armistice Agreement is suitable notice so as to avoid the charge of “perfidy.” North Korea has given that notice. The armistice is dead.

The Army Field Manual states, “In case it [the armistice] is indefinite, a belligerent may resume operations at any time after notice.” Article 36 of the Hague Regulations says:

An armistice suspends military operations by mutual agreement between the belligerent parties. If its duration is not fixed, the belligerent parties can resume operations at any time, provided always the enemy is warned within the time agreed upon, in accordance with the terms of the armistice.

The New York Times should let its readers know that it allowed anonymous officials to mislead them.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Chavez in the Crosshairs

By Laura Carlsen | Americas Program | March 12, 2013

You could almost hear the sigh of relief coming out of Washington at the news of Hugo Chavez’s death on March 5.

President Obama issued a brief statement that failed even to offer condolences, forcing a senior State Department official to patch over the evident callousness and breach of diplomacy by offering his personal condolences the following day.

Within moments of Chavez’s death, commercial media and mouthpieces for the U.S. government were verbally dancing on his grave and predicting the imminent demise of Chavismo—Chavez’s political legacy in Venezuela and abroad.

Time headlined its article “Death of a Demagogue.” The New York Times, which bent over backwards to minimize Chavez’s overwhelming victory in Venezuela’s October elections—and later to portray his battle with cancer as a cover-up, mimicking opposition claims—proclaimed that Chávez’s death“casts into doubt the future of his socialist revolution” and “alters the political balance not only in Venezuela, the fourth-largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States, but also in Latin America”—and this in a news article with no sourcing provided.

The Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S. think tank, concluded that “Chavez’s legacy, and the damage he left behind, will not be easily undone,” and predicted that the social gains and regional institutions Chavez built over his political lifetime will soon fall apart and things will soon return to normal—that is, with the United States back in the hemispheric driver’s seat.

Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) came right out and said “Hugo Chávez was a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear. His death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America. Good riddance to this dictator.”

So why did Washington hate this guy so much?

It never helped that the South American president had a penchant for insulting his adversaries personally. But one supposes that diplomacy rises above name-calling, even if the other guy did it first. The anti-Chavez current in Washington goes far deeper than personal enmity or even political differences.

What scared Washington most about Chavez was not his failures or idiosyncrasies. It was his success.

The official reasons given for demonizing Hugo Chavez don’t hold water. Chavez is accused of restraining freedom of the press in a nation known for its ferociously anti-Chavez private media. And while his Yankee critics called him a dictator, Chavez and his policies won election after election in exemplary electoral processes. You can disagree with his reform to permit unlimited terms in office, but this is the practice of many nations deemed democratic by the U.S. government and considered close allies. And the criticisms of Chavez’s social programs as “patronage” cannot ignore the millions of lives tangibly improved.

Before Chavez turned Venezuela away from the neoliberal model, the nation was a basket case. But throughout his tenure, social indicators that measure real human suffering showed steady improvement. Between 1998, when he was first elected, to 2013 when he died in office, people living in poverty dropped from 43 percent of the population to 27 percent. Extreme poverty dropped from 16.8 percent of the population to 7 percent. According to UNESCO, illiteracy—nearly 10 percent when Chavez took office—has been eliminated. Chavez also reduced childhood malnutrition, initiated pensions for the elderly, and launched education and health programs for the poor.

Venezuela’s human development ranking subsequently climbed significantly under Chavez, reaching the “high” human development category. The programs that Washington scorned as “government handouts” made people’s lives longer, healthier, and fuller in Venezuela.

Now that Chavez is dead, the U.S. press has revived the State Department’s practice of designating the “good left” and the “bad left” in Latin America. Chavez, of course, embodied the “bad left,” while Brazil’s Lula was unilaterally and unwillingly designated the “good left”.

Yet it was Lula da Silva who defended his friend and made the case for Chavez’s lasting positive legacy in the pages of the New York Times. He eulogized the leader and predicted, “The multilateral institutions Mr. Chávez helped create will also help ensure the consecration of South American unity.”

In fact, Chavez’s success in building institutions for alternative regional integration is one of the big reasons Washington hated him. The self-declared anti-capitalist led Venezuela as it joined with regional powerhouse Brazil and other southern cone countries to make a bid to crack the Monroe Doctrine. Along with Andean nations, they also sought, in varying degrees, to wrest control of significant natural resource wealth from transnational corporations to fund state redistribution programs for the poor.

In 2005, Chavez helped scuttle the U.S. goal of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. Later he spearheaded the formation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in 2008. As a Latin American alternative to the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States, the 12-member Unasur proved its value by successfully mediating the Colombia-Ecuador conflict and the Bolivian separatist crisis in 2008. In 2010, Chavez again played a major role with the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, made up of hemispheric partners, excluding the United States and Canada.

The Bank of the South, also promoted by Chavez, seeks greater South-South monetary and financial autonomy. As Lula writes in his editorial on Chavez´s death, the Bank offers an alternative to the World Bank and IMF, which “have not been sufficiently responsive to the realities of today’s multipolar world”.

With stops and starts, these initiatives have moved regional integration forward outside the historic model of U.S. hegemony.

U.S. Moves and the Principle of Self-Determination

What happens next? Venezuela held an emotional funeral on March 8 and is planning for April elections. Most predict that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, selected by Chavez as his successor, will win easily. He has the advantage of Chavez’s blessing: a common slogan in Caracas these days is “Chavez, te juro, que voto por Maduro” (“Chavez, I swear, my vote is for Maduro”). Another sign that Chavismo lives on was the thousands of people at the funeral chanting “Chavez didn’t die; he multiplied.”

The State Department views dimly the prospect of an improved U.S.-Venezuela relationship under Maduro. On March 6, the State Department held a press call on which “Senior Official One” (a State Department practice for “background” when its officials apparently don’t want to be identified with their own public statements) said the department was optimistic following Chavez’ death, but that “yesterday’s first press conference, if you will, the first address, was not encouraging in that respect. It disappointed us.”

He referred to a 90-minute address by Maduro, stating that “the enemy” attacked Chavez’s health. The Venezuelan government also announced the expulsion of two U.S. military personnel in Venezuela, allegedly for having contacted members of the Venezuela military to stir up an insurrection.

The State Department noted that it plans “to move ahead in this relationship” by holding conversations in areas of common interest, citing “counternarcotics, counterterrorism, economic or commercial issues including energy.” It added, “We are going to continue to speak out when we believe there are issues of democratic principle that need to be talked about, that need to be highlighted.”

During the Chavez years, U.S. officials and the press went into contortions to avoid congruency with the basic principle that democracy is measured by elections. With Chavez having indisputably won some thirteen elections, the U.S. government applied new criteria to Venezuela along the lines of “democracy can be wrong.” Despite his broad-based support, many went so far as to dub Chavez a “dictator.”

The U.S. government’s commitment to democracy falters when Washington doesn’t like the results. It supported the failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and blocked the return of Honduras’s elected president after the 2009 coup there.

Now all eyes will be on Washington to see whether it upholds another value reiterated by President Obama—the right to self-determination. Will U.S. “democracy-promotion programs” under NEDIRI, and other regime-change schemes resist the temptation to meddle in Venezuela’s April 14 elections? Venezuela without Chavez will be a test of moral and diplomatic integrity for the second Obama administration and John Kerry’s State Department, and a challenge for Congress and the citizenry to monitor and prevent covert activities that interfere with the exercise of democracy.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Chavez in the Crosshairs

You Won’t Like What Your Facebook ‘Likes’ Reveal

By Adi Kamdar and Dave Maass | EFF | March 13, 2013

Have you clicked “like” next to “Bret Michaels” or “I Love Being a Mom” on Facebook?

Did you also click “like” next to “Austin Texas”?

Or maybe you clicked “like” next to “Never Apologize For What You Feel It’s Like Saying Sorry For Being Real,” because you were inspired by the quote sometimes attributed to Lil Wayne.

Then you’ve just given enough information to Facebook for someone to profile you as a likely drug-user with a low IQ whose parents divorced before you were 21.

That may or may not be wholly true to your specific case, but researchers at the University of Cambridge published a study this week, titled “Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior” that shows—with alarming accuracy—the types of sensitive,  personal information that can be predicted based solely on your Facebook likes.

The researchers—Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell and Thore Graepel—write in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

We show that a wide variety of people’s personal attributes, ranging from sexual orientation to intelligence, can be automatically and accurately inferred using their Facebook Likes. Similarity between Facebook Likes and other widespread kinds of digital records, such as browsing histories, search queries, or purchase histories suggests that the potential to reveal users’ attributes is unlikely to be limited to Likes. Moreover, the wide variety of attributes predicted in this study indicates that, given appropriate training data, it may be possible to reveal other attributes as well.

EFF and other privacy organizations often warn users of social media sites to be mindful of the type of information they make publicly available. We advocate locking down your privacy settings and opting out of tracking programs launched by marketing companies, so your data, to the extent it can, remains under your control.

Nevertheless, the seemingly innocuous things you “like” on Facebook may reveal far more about your life than what you actually like.

The authors write:

Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even one’s Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation, or political views that an individual may not have intended to share. One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life. Importantly, given the ever-increasing amount of digital traces people leave behind, it becomes difficult for individuals to control which of their attributes are being revealed. For example, merely avoiding explicitly homosexual content may be insufficient to prevent others from discovering one’s sexual orientation.

The researchers used a pool of 58,000 volunteers in the United States. Based on “Likes” alone, they were able to predict whether a user was African-American or white 95% of the time, male or female 93% of the time.

They were able to gauge sexual orientation 88% of the time for men and 75% of the time for women. They were also able to predict political leaning (Republican versus Democrat) 85% of the time. On a more personal level, the researchers were able to predict whether your parents divorced when you were a kid 60% of the time.

The study also could make reasonably accurate guesses about whether you were a drug user, drinker, or smoker, as well as a host of other attributes, including emotional stability, satisfaction with life, and extroversion.

The research confirms what we’ve expected all along: Our privacy continues to constrict in an era of big data. Information we put out there for one purpose can now easily be collated and acted upon for wildly different purposes.

In their conclusion, the researchers admit their research is scary, but they also suggest a solution:

There is a risk that the growing awareness of digital exposure may negatively affect people’s experience of digital technologies, decrease their trust in online services, or even completely deter them from using digital technology. It is our hope, however, that the trust and goodwill among parties interacting in the digital environment can be maintained by providing users with transparency and control over their information, leading to an individually controlled balance between the promises and perils of the Digital Age.

With knowledge of tracking schemes, users should be able to tailor their settings to display (and receive) only information they’re comfortable with sharing. We suggest you practice good Facebook hygiene and go through your “Likes” right now to make sure you still actually like those things.

After all, if liking “Harley Davidson” implies a low level of intelligence, you may want to keep your love of motorcycles hush-hush.

Conversely, if you’re smart (or want to come across as smart), you might just go out and like “Curly Fries” or “Morgan Freemans Voice.”

Check out some of the charts from the study here.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , | Comments Off on You Won’t Like What Your Facebook ‘Likes’ Reveal

Step by Step: Honduras Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty

By Greg McCain | Upside Down World | March 13, 2013

Photo by Greg McCain

From February 25 to March 7, I participated in the 200 km Walk (about 124 miles) referred to as Caminata Dignidad y Soberanía Paso a Paso (Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty Step by Step), which culminated with over 400 people from various groups representing the social movements in Honduras reaching the National Congress in Tegucigalpa to demand three things:

1. Abolish the new mining law, which basically gives foreign mining companies carte blanche to take the natural resources of Honduras for their own enrichment while having no regulations to stop these companies from poisoning the rivers and ground water and destroying the environment through mountain top removal and deforestation. In addition, these mining companies have historically exploited the labor of the local communities, paying little to nothing while poisoning the local populations with chemicals such as cyanide used for extraction.

2. Abolish the new Model Cities legislation. This is new legislation passed by decree by the Congress after having been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in November of last year. The following month, the president of the Congress, Juan Orlando Hernandez(JOH), staged what has been referred to as the second coup by holding an emergency session of Congress to vote out 4 of the members of the Constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court who found the original version in violation of the sovereignty of Honduras. JOH and President Pepe Lobo claimed that these magistrates were traitors who were holding back the economic development of the country. He also claimed to have fixed the issues that these “traitors” found to be unconstitutional.

It is for all intents and purposes the same neo-liberal package that gives up huge areas of land to outside developers to create neo-colonial enclaves that don’t have to operate under constitutional regulations. The further claim is that the land under consideration is uninhabited. Two areas that have been proposed, the communities of Puerto Castillo and Santa Rosa de Aguán are traditional Garifuna land along the northern coast in the Department of Colon. The Garifuna are the Afro-Caribe people who have inhabited the northern coast of Honduras for over 200 years. They have been struggling to maintain their land from rich foreigners such as the Canadian Porn King Randy Jorgensen who has bought up at bargain prices much acreage in and around the area of Trujillo.

Jorgensen has built a cruise ship dock on the beachfront in the town of Trujillo, not far from Puerto Castillo, which is also the location of the fruit company, Dole’s, shipping docks.  The Congress refers to the model cities as Special Development Regions (RED in its Spanish acronym). They will combine the exploitation of local labor and natural resources perpetrated by foreign corporations with the destruction of the natural environment such as has happened in Cancun, Mexico and other resort areas around the world, with all of the profits going to the foreign directors of the REDs, and their foreign investors.

3. Freedom for the Political Prisoner Jose Isabel “Chavelo” Morales Lopez. Chavelo Morales has become a symbol of the campesino movement and his imprisonment illustrates the criminalization of the campesinos as they struggle to maintain the land that is theirs by all rights under the agrarian reform laws that had existed prior to 1992. These laws were subverted by the ruling elite when so called “free” trade agreements were first being thought up and hammered out by corporate lobbyists in the US Capital.

Chavelo was framed for the 2008 murder of a family of rich landowners, the Osortos. This moneyed family had illegally obtained thousands of hectares of land at rock bottom prices (some of it free of charge) that were legally recognized as being set aside for peasant farmers. In the late 1990s, the Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MCA), of which Chavelo is a member, took legal routes to obtain the land and began to work it for their own subsistence. The Osortos and their paramilitary guards terrorized the communities, killing leaders of the MCA, and shooting into the houses of families. This occurred while the national police and the Honduran government turned their backs on the illegal actions of the Osortos, presumably due to the bribes that the rich landowners doled out. Indeed, the police and the district attorneys played an active role in criminalizing the campesinos by issuing trumped up arrests warrants (Currently there are over 3080 campesinos with arrest warrants against them). Click here for a more complete background of Chavelo’s story and the travesty of justice in his case.

Chavelo spent the first 2 years in jail without a trial. It was another 2 years before he received his sentence. This is a clear violation of Honduran Penal Process Code 188, which states that a person cannot be incarcerated for more than 2 years from the time of his arrest until sentencing. This alone should be enough for the Supreme Court to annul the conviction and set him free, and indeed this is what Chavelo’s lawyers are hoping to happen in their appeal of causation that they have filed with the high court. But additionally, the sentencing statement that the judges in Trujillo issued gives no concrete evidence linking Chavelo to the deaths that occurred other than a photo of him close by to the scene where some 300 other campesinos and dozens of police had been during a standoff at the Ranch of Henry Osorto, the ex-military, ex-police sub-commissioner, and current penal system investigator. It is with Osortos influence alone that Chavelo is currently imprisoned. Chavelo has spent close to 4 ½ years in prison based on hearsay evidence and the political and economic influence that Henry Osorto has over the judges. Chavelo faces 20 years in prison unless international pressure convinces the Supreme Court of Honduras otherwise.

With these three demands energizing our every step, we entered Tegucigalpa with 400+ walkers who made a silent vigil through the streets until we reached the National Congress. Once there, hundreds more joined us. A small group, accompanied by Padre Melo Moreno, a Jesuit priest and director of Radio Progress, was able to meet with Marvin Ponce, vice president of the Congress. Promises were made that the protesters concerns would be addressed. No one is holding his or her breath.

Another group was able to meet with the President of the Sala Penal of the Supreme Court, basically the chamber of the court that deals with prison issues. This group was made up of Omar Menjivar, Chavelo’s lawyer; Esly Benegas from COPA (the Spanish acronym for the Coordinated Popular Organizations of the Aguán); Merlin Morales, Chavelo’s brother; Myself, Greg McCain, representing La Voz de los de Abajo and the Honduran Solidarity Network, and Brigitte Gynther from SOA Watch. The President of the Sala Penal, Jacobo Antonio Cálix Hernández, began by stating that the court was backlogged by two years, they hadn’t even begun to hear cases that had been sent to the court in 2011. Chavelo’s case had just reached the court at the end of January 2013. He stated that cases were very complicated and that they took a lot of study on the part of the judges. He was basically letting us know that nothing happens fast in the justice system.

We each made our case for why we were there and what we expected from the court, reiterating the lack of evidence and the violation of the procedural code. Chavelo’s brother made explicit Osorto’s influence on the judges in the Trujillo tribunal and the fact that the only evidence was a photo of Chavelo and that the context of the photo was not addressed in the sentencing. He also made the emotional appeal that Chavelo has been unjustly incarcerated while his daughter, father, 2 aunts and grandfather have all passed away without his being able to attend the funerals. I piggybacked on Merlin’s plea by noting the money and political power of Osorto and my hope that it does not reach to the Supreme Court. I also underlined the amount of time that Chavelo has spent in jail and hoped that there weren’t further undue delays of justice.

Judge Cálix made the promise that he would speed up the process for having the trial transcripts of the lower court transcribed by no later than the following week. He then stated that he would schedule the hearing of the case for sometime between April 1st and the 5th. This hearing is basically a formality so that each side, the Defense and the Prosecutor, can present their cases. The judges then legally have up to a year to make a decision. This was huge news. We in the room, along with the threat of having 400+ demonstrators that were still at the National Congress converging on the Supreme Court, cut the process down by two years. Again, none of us are holding our breath. The campaign to put pressure on the Supreme Court has just begun. We need to reduce the year long wait and bring Chavelo home. Pronto!

To send emails and make phone calls to the court between now and the promised April hearing, click here, and you can also follow future actions and the progress of Chavelo’s case.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Step by Step: Honduras Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty


By Pablo Navarrete | Latin America Bureau | March 13, 2013

On Tuesday 5 March, at the age of 58, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez lost his almost two-year battle with cancer and passed away. Within seconds of the news being announced, the wheels of the global media bandwagon went into overdrive, with largely unsurprising results, in both the US and British media. At the most distasteful end of the spectrum was the headline in the New York Post, the paper with the 7th highest circulation in the US, that read ‘Off Hugo! Venezuela bully Chavez is dead’.

New York Post Cover on Chávez

New York Post Cover on Chávez

Other US media followed closely behind. ‘Death of a Demagogue’ ran a headline on the website of Time, the world’s biggest selling weekly news magazine. These and other US media reaction were included in a piece by the US media watchdog Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) that also examined the distorted, often hysterical, US media coverage of Chávez during his presidency. It’s worth recalling that following the 2002 US-supported coup that briefly removed Chavez from the presidency the New York Times declared that Chavez’s “resignation” meant that “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.”

Following Chávez’s death, the antipathy towards a president that had so vehemently challenged the actions and interests of the United States was also evident in the British media. Rightwing outlets displayed the usual cynical disdain that had characterised their reporting of Chávez’s presidency, although Nicolas Maduro, Chávez’s former vice-president, the current interim president and the government’s candidate for the April 14th presidential election, was also now in the firing line. In the UK’s biggest selling broadsheet, the rightwing Daily Telegraph, its chief foreign correspondent David Blair described Maduro’s role as foreign minister under Chavez in the following terms: “Mr Maduro was the obedient enforcer of his master’s highly personal foreign policy”. For Blair, Maduro, rather than responsibly representing his government’s foreign policy, was “a loyal purveyor of ‘Chavismo’ around the world”.

The ‘liberal’ left in Britain

Britain’s liberal-left media also offered a timely reminder of where their loyalties lay in relation to Chavez, whose democratic mandate included presiding over 15 national elections since he took office in February 1999, a greater number of elections than were held during the previous 40 years in Venezuela. In a remarkable editorial, The Independent newspaper opined:

“Mr Chavez was no run-of-the-mill dictator. His offences were far from the excesses of a Colonel Gaddafi, say. What he was, more than anything, was an illusionist – a showman who used his prodigious powers of persuasion to present a corrupt autocracy fuelled by petrodollars as a socialist utopia in the making. The show now over, he leaves a hollowed-out country crippled by poverty, violence and crime. So much for the revolution.”

This from a newspaper that in June 2009, following a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, ran an editorial that included the following:

“The ousting of the Honduran President Manuel Zelaya by the country’s military at the weekend has been condemned by many members of the international community as an affront to democracy. But despite a natural distaste for any military coup, it is possible that the army might have actually done Honduran democracy a service.”

The Independent’s competitor in the UK’s liberal-left newspaper market, The Guardian, showed a similarly hostile stance towards Chavez during his presidency. In a piece on the New Left Project website examining the critical UK media coverage of Chavez following his death, Josh Watts noted how the anti-Chavez bias of Rory Carroll, a Guardian journalist and its former Latin America correspondent, “has been extensively documented”. As Samuel Grove noted in a damming 2011 article, Carroll’s Latin America coverage “has attracted widespread criticism for its selectivity and double standards, brazen anti-left bias, and above all slavish loyalty to Western interests”. There is now surely a book’s worth of material exposing Carroll’s distorted Venezuela coverage.

Carroll has managed to take his agenda beyond the confines of The Guardian. For example, in an Al Jazeera English debate on the continued demonisation of Chavez by the Western media that took place three days after Chavez’s death, Carroll repeatedly tried to present Venezuela under Chavez as an economic failure. He repeated this line of attack in a BBC 3 radio interview in late February, where he accused the Chavez government of being responsible for “decay, ruin, waste” in relation to the economy. Contrast this with the rigorous reports on the socio-economic changes under the Chavez presidency by the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which completely undermine Carroll’s narrative of economic failure.

This fact-based approach to appraising elements of the Chavez legacy has not been lost on The Guardian’s associate editor Seumas Milne, who referenced CEPR’s latest report when he tweeted: “Media claims #Chavez ruined #Venezuela‘s economy absurd: here are the facts on growth, unemployment, poverty @ceprdc

It was precisely these socio-economic gains, especially for those in the low-income neighbourhoods known as barrios that encircle Caracas and other Venezuelan cities and who formed Chávez’s support base, that lay behind his popularity and his repeated electoral victories.

Focus on denigrating the individual

Rather than try to explain Chávez’s appeal to large sectors of the Venezuelan population or understand the process of radical change underway in the country, the West’s media class preferred to focus almost entirely on the figure of Chávez. It was precisely this narrative that was so effective in discrediting the Venezuelan process through concealing the role of collective agency, silencing the people from below, and rendering them insignificant. While the mainstream media routinely ignores the voices of the government’s grassroots supporters, they have been instrumental in driving the Venezuelan process forward and should be at the centre of the story.

Thus, when we contrast Chávez’s popularity at home with the open hostility with which Western political elites viewed him, we’re left questioning the motivation behind the anti-Chávez mass media campaign that has systematically misrepresented events in Venezuela.

John Pilger is right when he writes:

“Never has a country, its people, its politics, its leader, its myths and truths been so misreported and lied about as Venezuela.”

Even though Chávez is dead, his vilification by the US and UK media is alive and kicking.

Pablo Navarrete is a LAB correspondent and a PHD student at Bradford University in the UK, researching the political economy of the Chavez presidency. He is also the director of the documentary ‘Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela’ (Alborada Films, 2009). You can watch the documentary online here.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela says far-right US plot targeted opposition leader Capriles

Press TV | March 14, 2013

Venezuela’s acting President Nicolas Maduro says ‘far-right’ figures in the United States have plotted to assassinate opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Maduro gave the announcement in a televised speech on Wednesday.

“We have detected plans by the far-right, linked to the groups of (former Bush administration officials) Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, to make an attempt against the opposition presidential candidate,” Maduro stated.

According to Venezuela’s opposition party, Capriles did not register his candidacy in person on March 11 over information he had received about being the target of a planned attack. Aides to Capriles delivered the registration papers instead of him.

Venezuela is preparing for presidential election on April 14 to vote for a replacement for late President Hugo Chavez.

On March 8, Maduro was sworn in as acting president, pledging to push ahead the former leader’s agenda.

Before Maduro’s inauguration, over 30 world leaders paid tribute to Chavez at a high-profile funeral.

Chavez passed away on March 5 at the age of 58 after a two-year battle with cancer.

The late Venezuelan leader started the Bolivarian Revolution to establish popular democracy and economic independence and to equitably distribute wealth in Latin America.

Chavez was one of the key players in the progressive movement that has swept across Latin America over the past few years.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Venezuela says far-right US plot targeted opposition leader Capriles