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Russia slams US ‘interference’ for vowing to continue NGO funding

RT | March 30, 2013

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the US over its plan to continue financing certain Russian NGOs. Moscow has accused Washington of meddling in its domestic affairs.

“We consider the statement by the US State Department official representative Victoria Nuland, saying the US is going to continue financing some of Russia’s NGOs through intermediaries in third countries, avoiding the Russian legislature, a blatant interference into our internal affairs,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement on Saturday.

Mass audits of Russian NGOs started on March 21, on orders from the Justice Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s office.

The checks immediately sparked criticism in the international rights community, which labeled them an attempt to pressure activists. Russia has maintained the checks are regular inspections to see if NGO work complies with Russian law – legislation was recently amended to require that NGOs receiving foreign funding register as ‘foreign agents.’

Victoria Nuland, US State Department spokesperson, said that Washington’s NGO funding will continue unabated: “We are providing funding through platforms outside of Russia for those organizations that continue to want to work with us,” she said at a Thursday briefing.

The Russian Foreign Ministry believes the US is engaged in “direct instigating of certain non-governmental and public structures to violate legislation related to the work of non-governmental organisations in the Russian Federation,” according to Lukashevich’s statement.

Russian diplomats were also incensed by Victoria Nuland’s description of the NGO raids as a “witch hunt.” Lukashevich’s statement described his American counterpart’s choice of words as “cynical and provocative.”

Moscow has said that its NGO policy is in line with generally accepted international practices. So far, auditors have reported no infractions in the activities of non-governmental groups, apart from one incident. On Thursday, ‘For Human Rights’ leader Lev Ponomaryov refused to turn over working documents to inspectors, saying that his organization had already been subjected to a recent check.

Law enforcers said the act was a refusal to comply with lawful demands, and started an administrative case against the activist.

President Putin on Friday asked Russia’s top Human Rights Commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, to monitor the situation with the NGO raids. “I would like to rule out any excesses there,” Putin said.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , | 2 Comments

We don’t spy on US citizens, just anti-government groups, says fusion center director

PrivacySOS – 03/28/2013

The Arkansas State Fusion Center

An official from an Arkansas State Fusion Center recently spoke to the press to clear up what he called “misconceptions” about what his office actually does, with depressingly hilarious results. (For some background on fusion centers, click here.)

“The misconceptions are that we are conducting spying operations on US citizens, which is of course not the fact. That is absolutely not what we do,” fusion center director Richard Davis told the local press.

Fusion center employees are in a tight spot to justify the existence of their operations after multiple congressional reports over the past year took them to task for being poorly run, duplicative of other counterterrorism efforts, privacy violative wastes of money, or some combination of the three.

So what does Mr. Davis’ fusion center do, then? Why does it exist?

The Arkansas fusion center director, after having flatly denied that his office spies on US citizens, told the reporter the following:

“I do what I do because of what happened on 9/11,” Davis says. “There’s this urge and this feeling inside that you want to do something, and this is a perfect opportunity for me.”

Davis says Arkansas hasn’t collected much information about international plots, but they do focus on groups closer to home.

“We focus a little more on that, domestic terrorism and certain groups that are anti-government,” he says. “We want to kind of take a look at that and receive that information.

So the fusion center does in fact spy on US citizens! Among them, “groups that are anti-government.” But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here: perhaps Mr. Davis thinks that people who hold “anti-government” views should not be treated as US citizens?

The fact is, in the United States, holding “anti-government” views is protected by the First Amendment. And everyone in the United States, not just its citizens, is protected by the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights.

Disliking the government isn’t a crime. But that’s not stopping many fusion centers from associating dissent with terrorism.

Here in Boston we learned that the Boston police intelligence unit spied on anti-war and other activist groups for years, filing “intelligence reports” on activists at its fusion center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center. Fusion centers in other states have reported on people for high crimes like putting political stickers up in restrooms, or participating in anti-death penalty organizing.

Activists in Los Angeles have brought their concerns about inappropriate political spying straight to the fusion center itself. Perhaps people in Arkansas should tell Mr. Davis how they feel about their tax dollars supporting shadowy surveillance of so-called “anti-government” groups. Then again, they might not want to be listed as “anti-government.”

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Washington Post Confuses Saving the Financial Industry with Saving the Financial System

CEPR Beat the Press | March 30, 2013

The Washington Post published excerpts from reporter Neil Irwin’s new book, The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire, under the headline, “three days that saved the world financial system.” The headline is seriously misleading since it may cause readers to believe the world somehow would have lacked a financial system if the central bankers in Irwin’s story had not succeeded in their efforts.

This is not true. Had a financial collapse actually been the outcome, the central banks had the ability to take over failed banks and restart the system. (This is what the FDIC does all the time.) We would most likely see something similar to what Argentina experienced when it defaulted on its debt in December 2001 and broke the link of its currency to the dollar or what Cyprus is seeing today.

Presumably banks would be shut for a relatively short period of time until the regulators could do some preliminary workarounds. Then people would only be allowed access to a limited portion of their deposits, as is now the case in Cyprus. This situation might persist for weeks or possibly months as more money would gradually be freed up for withdrawal.

If Argentina is viewed as the model, this situation would likely lead to sharp downturn, but then a quick bounce back. By the summer of 2003 Argentina had made up all of the ground lost in the downturn. It was growing rapidly at the time and continued to grow rapidly until the world recession brought growth to a standstill in 2009.

Source; International Monetary Fund.

While the immediate hit from the financial collapse would have almost certainly been worse than what Europe and the rest of the world saw in the immediate wake of the initial euro zone crisis, the euro zone and world economy would almost certainly be much better off today if the central bankers had simply allowed the system to collapse. (This assumes that they are as competent as the economic policymakers in Argentina.)

In this sense, the heroes in Irwin’s book can be seen as saving the bankers, who would have been wiped out in a financial collapse, but not really doing much to benefit the rest of society.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on Washington Post Confuses Saving the Financial Industry with Saving the Financial System

Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law

By Danny O’Brien and Maira Sutton | EFF | March 29, 2013

In July 2009, South Korea became the first country to introduce a graduated response or “three strikes” law. The statute allows the Minister of Culture or the Korean Copyright Commission to tell ISPs and Korean online service providers to suspend the accounts of repeated infringers and block or delete infringing content online. There is no judicial process, no court of appeal, and no opportunity to challenge the accusers.

The entertainment industry has repeatedly pointed to South Korea as a model for a controlled Internet that should be adopted everywhere else. In the wake of South Korea’s implementation, graduated response laws have been passed in France and the United Kingdom, and ISPs in the United States have voluntarily accepted a similar scheme.

But back in Korea, the entertainment industry’s experiment in Internet enforcement has been a failure. Instead of tackling a few “heavy uploaders” involved in large scale infringement, the law has spiraled out of control. It has now distributed nearly half a million takedown notices, and led to the closing down of 408 Korean Internet users’ web accounts, most of which were online storage services. An investigation led by the Korean politician Choi Jae-Cheon showed that half of those suspended were involved in infringement of material that would cost less than 90 U.S. cents. And while the bill’s backers claimed it would reduce piracy, detected infringement has only increased as more and more users are subject to suspensions, deletion, and blocked content.

This Wednesday, Korea’s National Human Rights Commission recommended that the three strikes law be re-examined, given its unclear benefits, and its potential violation of the human rights to receive and impart information and to participate in the cultural life of the community.

Mr. Choi and twelve other members of the Korean National Assembly have taken the first step in that reform. Last week, they announced plans to introduce a law that would repeal three strikes, as well as ensure that ISPs have no need to pro-actively spy on their own users for signs of copyright infringement. Newly formed Korean digital rights group, OpenNet,  is also working hard to drum up political support for this initiative.

The rightsholders have reacted with alarm to the prospect of copyright reform in Korea, and have already begun heavy lobbying for the abandonment of Choi’s initiative. They badly need Korea to maintain this law, even if it damages Korea’s own economy and their citizen’s civil liberties. It’s not surprising that they have already been making frequent calls and meetings with Mr. Choi and other Korean politicians. If Korea rejects three strikes as a disaster, why should anyone else maintain its injustices?

Korean lawmakers need to stand firm. We, along with many other major international Internet rights groups, including Access, Creative Commons Korea, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Freepress, Free Software Foundation, Global Voices Advocacy, La Quadrature du Net, OpenMedia, ONG Derechos Digitales, and Public Knowledge, have written to strongly support Mr. Choi’s brave stand for his own citizens. His stand is based on thorough investigations of Korean Internet users’ experience of this law. We hope that his group’s reform will prevail, and that Korea will be freed of the dubious benefits and growing disadvantages of being the laboratory for this discredited experiment.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law

Obama’s loyalty speech


Al-Ahram | March 27, 2013

Obama’s visit to Israel and Jordan has brought joy to no one but the Israelis. The US president practically swore an oath of fealty to Israel, speaking not just as a friend and faithful ally, not as a head of state, but as a humble subordinate.

He waxed lyrical on Israel as a land of dreams, then advised the Palestinians to ignore the settlements being built on their land and issued stern warnings to Syria, Iran and Hizbullah.

So eager was Obama to court the Israelis that he suddenly started calling Netanyahu — the very man who supported his rival, Mitt Romney, in the elections — “Bibi”. Tensions between the US president and the Israeli prime minister seemed to evaporate as Obama wandered from one Biblical reference to another while praising Israel for its “shining future”.

Dressed in the colours of the Israeli flag, a blue tie over a white shirt, Obama spared the Israelis no compliment, saying that it was his honour to visit them on Israel’s 65th “independence day”.

“It is good to be in this land,” Obama said in Hebrew, before applauding Israel for being the land of kibbutz that made the desert bloom. His rhetoric was reminiscent of that of a century ago, when the promise of a “land without a people for a people without a land,” launched decades of Palestinian suffering.

Obama didn’t neglect to remind his listeners that he had introduced Passover as a White House celebration.

“After enjoying Seders [Passover] with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House. I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah and the story at the centre of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.”

After mentioning the long history of the Jewish people and their years in exile, the sad memories of the Jewish holocaust, Obama showered the Israelis with praise for their many successes.

Then, he lashed out at Iran. Iran’s nuclear programme, he said, is “not simply a challenge for Israel. It is a danger to the entire world, including the United States. A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism. It would undermine the non-proliferation regime,” he stated.

Reiterating US commitment to Israeli security, Obama made a pledge: “The security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important. It cannot be taken for granted. But make no mistake. Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.”

The Israeli website Walla! pointed out that in his speech, the US president mentioned the word “Israel” 82 times and the word “Palestinian” only 21 times.

Obama also visited the tombs of Herzl and Rabin, then the Yad Vashaem Holocaust Memorial. But he declined to visit the tomb of Yasser Arafat. And he refused to meet the daughter of one of the political prisoners held in Israel’s detention camps.

The whole thing seemed as if the US president was telling the Palestinians and Arabs, “This is the land of the Jews; so go look for your land elsewhere!”

Now the writing is on the wall. Those who had taken the US president for a moderate should take note.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Right-Wing Accepts Obama’s Tribalism When It Supports Israel

By Sheldon Richman | Free Association | March 29, 2013

The right-wing seemingly never misses a chance to go after Barack Obama for his collectivism and alleged dislike of America. Yet when Obama embraced blood-and-soil tribalism openly and implied that America was not the “land of the free” for everyone, the right-wing apparently had nothing to say.

Why? The subject was Israel, and the right-wing shares Obama’s tribalist premises on that subject.

In his speech in Jerusalem on March 21, Obama said:

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland. That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.

The first half of the paragraph is full of fable and fabrication, though he’s right about suffering, prejudice, pogroms, and genocide. To understand what’s wrong with those sentences, consult Shlomo Sand’s two excellent books The Invention of the Jewish People and The Invention of the Land of Israel (both available for Kindle). Invention is not unique to the “Jewish people.” Many peoples and nations are the product of what Sand calls “mythistory.”

What I want to focus on in Obama’s statement is this:

And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea–to be a free people in your homeland.

Obama is saying that Jews need to live apart in Israel or they can’t be truly free. Think about the implications. Something about Jews makes it impossible for them to be really at home anywhere—including in what the right-wing (and presumably Obama) tout as the freest nation in the history of the world. So Jews need an ethno-religiously exclusivist state. That view amounts to a wholesale rejection of the western liberal tradition, which was inclusive and universalist and in which all people have the same rights without being seen as members of a tribe. Isn’t it the official line that this is what made America great? So why is Obama rejecting it? And why is the right-wing conspicuously silent?

Of course the right-wing can’t raise any objection because it is staunchly in Israel’s corner, which means endorsing its medieval notions. (Forgive me for writing as though the right-wing is monolithic. It is not. Suffice it to say there are honorable exceptions.) So the right-wing is stuck (like Obama) with a contraction: Jews aren’t fully free and at home in what they claim is the greatest and freest country on earth. This seems to be an insult both to Jews and the United States, but no one will say it. (And people wonder why Chuck Hagel once called the Israel Lobby “intimidating”—before being intimidated into withdrawing the charge.)

Obama and the right-wing would find their position untenable if they had a few facts. Throughout Jewish history, few Jews have had any desire or perceived obligation to move to Israel. (Most of those who went wished to die there in order to be near Jerusalem when the messiah comes and raises the dead.) When the Zionist movement was launched in the late 19th century, most American Jews rejected it firmly; for one thing, they couldn’t imagine a freer place than America. They also realized that there is no Jewish People—no race, no ethnic group, no tribe—but only many culturally diverse people worldwide who (in different ways) embrace Judaism. They were explicitly—vehemently—anti-Zionist and would have been even if Palestine were a “land without a people” (which it certainly was not).

Worldwide, Zionism was a minority position among Jews until World War II, at which point for most Jews it became a humanitarian cause on behalf of the survivors of the Nazi Judeocide. Besides the books linked to above, see Jack Ross’s Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism.)

Understand that Zionism did not begin as a humanitarian cause. The Zionist pioneers (many of whom were secular intellectuals) aspired to remake (invent) the “Jewish People” by getting them away from cities and towns and turning them into tillers of the soil in their own exclusivist nation.  (Theodor Herzl might well have been the first self-hating Jew.) The early Zionists wanted—indeed, expected—all Jews everywhere to take up permanent residence in Palestine. (That’s why the Palestinian Arabs had to be removed, violently if necessary, from the land they inhabited and worked for at least a thousand years.) By the in-gathering standard, Zionism has been a colossal failure. Few Jews want to move to Israel, and many in Israel are emigrating. When the Soviet Union let Jews leave, they overwhelmingly wanted to move to the United States, but the Israeli government conspired with the U.S. government to push them to Israel against their will. (See my “Let the Soviet Jews Come to America” [1991].)

Hence the old joke that Zionism amounts to one Jew raising money from a second Jew to send a third (poor) Jew to Israel.

As one rabbi put it recently,

When we say “Next year in Jerusalem’” [during the Passover Seder] we mean that all Jews should actually be in Israel and in Jerusalem (not just as tourists!). We mean Jerusalem as it is ideally meant to be – with the Temple, the Sanhedrin and a Jewish Monarch. We’re still waiting. Even we here in Jerusalem say “Next year in Jerusalem!” [Emphasis added.]

On the basis of Jews’ demonstrated preference, the rabbi will have a long wait.

Obama’s words are a reminder of the shameful double standard favorable to Israel that many people hold when it comes to the “Jewish state’s” crimes and offenses. As David Bromwich asks, can you imagine Obama’s saying: “Shiite Islam found extraordinary success in many parts of the world but its dream of national realization has attained its full expression in Iran.”

The right-wing wouldn’t have been so silent.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Comments Off on The Right-Wing Accepts Obama’s Tribalism When It Supports Israel

Israeli forces attack annual “Land Day” protests

Olive trees are planted to commemorate Land Day Olive trees are planted to commemorate Land Day (Photo credit – ISM)
Al-Akhbar | March 30, 2013

Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber coated bullets at Palestinians marking the annual Land Day in towns across the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, local media reported.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an News Agency that hundreds of Palestinians gathered in agricultural lands near the West Bank village of Jayyus to plant trees in commemoration of Land Day before Israeli troops stormed the area.

The soldiers fired tear gas canisters at the Palestinians, injuring dozens who inhaled the thick fumes.

In Ramallah in the central West Bank, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets near the Qalandiya checkpoint which separates Ramallah and Jerusalem, a Ma’an reporter said.

In southern Gaza, east of Rafah, Israeli troops fired tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators, injuring several of them.

Palestinians also marked Land Day near Erez crossing and in the town of Beit Hanoun, both in northern Gaza.

Israeli forces had deployed heavily across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and on the northern border with Lebanon, since Friday in preparation for the yearly demonstrations.

Palestinians worldwide have marked every March 30 Land Day since Israeli police killed six Palestinians from inside the Green Line in 1976 who were protesting the theft of thousands of dunums of Arab land.

In Bethlehem, activists marked Land Day near Rachel’s Tomb where they raised Palestinian flags. Lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, joined the commemoration.

“Each day for our people is a land day during our battle with the occupation who steals our land and our future,” Barghouti said. “The only way to respond to the plots against our land is by escalating popular resistance across homeland.”

(Ma’an, WAFA)

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Comments Off on Israeli forces attack annual “Land Day” protests

UNASUR Supports Venezuela’s Electoral System

Agencia Venezolana de Noticias | March 28, 2013

Chief of an electoral observation mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Carlos Alvarez said Wednesday that Venezuela possesses a reliable and transparent electoral system that inspires “plenty of confidence”.

Alvarez said Venezuela’s election infrastructure satisfies the requirements of a free and fair democracy, reported Prensa Latina.

On April 14, the UNASUR Electoral Council will again observe Venezuelan elections, after first doing so last October.

On 7 October 2012, Alvarez recalled, there was high participation rate in Venezuela’s presidential elections, even though voting is not compulsory. In that process, Hugo Chavez won with 55.07 per cent of the ballot; 8,191,132 votes.

Secretary of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), Alvarez added that on April 14 he will chair “a neutral mission, which allows UNASUR to gather information, knowledge and experience to have a stronger Electoral Council.”

“As UNASUR has an Electoral Council fully joined to regional tasks, the self-determination of its electoral processes will be… more guaranteed in the region,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez said that initiatives such as the council remove the need for supervision from the so-called developed nations. “Less and less countries request… international observation [from] the developed world.”

Latin America, he said, “has eliminated electoral fraud and the military coup d’etat, which used to be two tools for the [r]ight to prevent popular processes.”

Concerning the recent passing of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, he said that it “obviously left a very big emptiness, as in Venezuela as in Latin America, as in the rest of the world.”

Edited by Venezuelanalysis

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on UNASUR Supports Venezuela’s Electoral System