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Harper promotes Canadian militarism

By Yves Engler · August 16, 2013

The Conservatives’ militarism is unrelenting.

Last month the Harper government launched a Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative at the University of Alberta. The program “allow[s] people to simultaneously obtain a university degree while also gaining leadership experience in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserves.” The four-year Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative will be “co-directed by the University of Alberta and the CAF” and the government hopes to export this “test model” to other universities.

The program is an attempt to reestablish the Canadian Officer Training Corps, which was offered at universities from 1912 until 1968. According to Lee Windsor, deputy director of the University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, the Canadian Officers Training Corps program “introduced university undergraduates to a form of military service on campus, providing them with leadership and other military training and preparing them to join the reserve or the regular force if they wished to do so.”

This latest move onto campus is part of a multifaceted effort to expand the military’s role in Canadian society. When the Conservative government updated the citizenship handbook, ‘Discover Canada: the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship,’ they added over a dozen photos of armed forces personnel. Citizenship and Immigration Canada also decreed that citizenship ceremonies include a military speaker. Introduced at the start of the ceremony, the veteran should declare: “As a Canadian citizen, you live in a democratic country where individual rights and freedoms are respected. Thousands of brave Canadians have fought and died for these rights and freedoms. The commitment to Canada of our men and women in uniform should never be forgotten.”

Huge sums of public money have been spent promoting the military at Canada Day festivities, the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian National Exhibition, Santa Claus Parades, the Grey Cup, NHL hockey games and other cultural and sporting events. Of recent, the Canadian Forces have been spending over $350 million a year and directing 650 staff members to carrying out these public relations efforts.

The federal government’s deference has gone to the military’s heads. Five years into the Conservative government, the Canadian Forces openly proclaimed that it should determine public opinion. In November 2011 Embassy reported: “An annual report from the Department of National Defence says Canadians should appreciate that their values are shaped in part by their military. That represents a shift from past annual departmental reports that said departmental activities were informed by Canadian interests and values. Now it’s the other way around.”

While strengthening the military’s role in the cultural and ideological arena, the Conservatives have also taken a decidedly pro-military position on arms control. Ottawa has refused to ratify the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which is designed to limit weapons from getting into conflict zones or into the hands of human rights violators.

The Harper government also watered down Canada’s adherence to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The director of the Cluster Munition Coalition, Laura Cheeseman, explained “Canada cannot claim to have banned cluster bombs when it proposes to allow its military to help others use the weapons, and even leaves open the possibility of Canadian forces using them.”

Along with its ambivalence towards UN arms control measures, the Conservatives have expanded the list of nations that Canadian defence companies can export prohibited weapons to. In April 2008 Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List was increased from 20 to 31 states and in December they added Colombia, the worst human rights violator in the Americas, to the List. Now, they are looking to add four more countries to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List.

The Conservatives have helped military companies in numerous other ways. They have been supporting the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, the arms industry’s main lobby group, through grants and dedicated trade commissioners. CADSI is also benefiting from direct political support. Senior representatives from the Department of National Defense, the Canadian Forces, Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) have participated in recent CADSI trade missions. After a December 2011 visit to sell weapons to the Kuwaiti monarchy, CADSI president Tim Page applauded what he described as the Conservatives “whole of government effort.”

During the Harper reign the CCC, whose board is appointed by the government, has taken on a more expansive role as a go-between on military sales with foreign governments. According to a June 2011 Embassy article, “the Canadian Commercial Corporation has been transformed from a low-profile Canadian intermediary agency to a major player in promoting Canadian global arms sales.” Traditionally, the CCC sold Canadian weaponry to the US Department of Defense under the 1956 Defence Production Sharing Agreement but during the Conservative government it’s begun emulating some aspects of the US defence department’s Foreign Military Sales program, which facilitates that country’s global arms sales.

In June of last year, Embassy noted: “In the last few years, the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown corporation, has helped Canadian firms sell everything from military hardware and weapons to wiretapping technology, forensics for ballistics, surveillance, document detection, sensor systems, bulletproof vests and helmets, training, and other services.” According to CCC president Marc Whittingham, who wrote in a May 2010 issue of Hill Times that “there is no better trade show for defence equipment than a military mission,” the agency is “partnering with government ministers to get the job done.”

The Conservatives have worked hard to expand Canadian arms sales as well as to convince the public that it should support this country’s military-industrial complex.

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

US could easily verify massacre of Kurdish civilians in Syria if they wanted

RT | August 16, 2013

Defending themselves by all means available is the Kurdish Popular Defense Units’ (YPG) last resort in Syria, the group’s spokesperson Redor Khalil told RT.

Amid Western inaction and Russian condemnation of massacres against the Kurds, Redor Khalil said that evidence is readily available to support the injustice perpetrated against the Kurdish people by militants sponsored from abroad – if anybody were to listen.

RT: Tell us about the Popular Defense Units. Is it your objective to protect the Kurds, or to protect all the residents of this territory?

Redor Khalil: The Popular Defense Units were established to protect all the people – Kurds as well as Arabs. We formed the units in 2011 when the war began. You should know that Syria, including Western Kurdistan, has a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Turkmens, Circassians and so on. Our units were intended to protect all these areas and their residents.

RT: But some are saying that your attacks on enemy positions in Arabic villages are impeding the relations between Kurds and Arabs. Armed clashes in these areas result in losses on both sides.

RK: We don’t believe that our actions will result in social disintegration. Kurds and Arabs have been living side-by-side in these territories for centuries, and they will keep it this way in the future.

We’ve said time and again that we strongly disapprove of ethnic, religious and sectarian wars. However, there are certain powers which have been trying to stir up confusion and to make it look like a fight between Kurds and Arabs for the sake of their own interests.

As you travel through these areas you may ask the local members of minorities and religious groups whether there is a sectarian war taking place here. I can assure you that it’s not the case.

Our traditions, moral values and principles prevent us from starting a war between different religious or ethnic groups. Neither Kurds nor Arabs want this war to happen. But some forces are working on instigating a conflict between us as a part of their plan.

RT: We’ve been around Qamishli, where the clashes take place. The YPG members told us that Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are much better armed. With this in mind, can the YPG really ensure people’s security and extend it to other regions? And what is your opinion on some foreign states supplying weapons to these terrorist groups?

RK: The YPG units are made up of the local population. Our main strategy is defense, not offense. If there are no attacks on our territory, no threats to our towns and cities, we do not take any offensive action. We don’t attack anyone or provoke confrontation. But since our territories are under attack, we have to defend ourselves with all the means available. Our enemy gets support from the outside; they have heavy armaments and plenty of ammunition. I can state openly that the YPG units do not get any support from foreign countries. We employ a defensive strategy in all our operations, using only our own weapons and ammunition.

RT: Recently it was rumored that Kurdish political forces want to create a government of the so-called Western Kurdistan. It’s well-known that there are external Kurdish elements that support the idea. How would you comment on these rumors?

RK: Some parties and movements declare this project their main political objective. On behalf of the YPG members and based on the information we have, I can say that they don’t intend to set up a government for Western Kurdistan. This is just talk meant to drive a wedge between different ethnic groups living in the region. Syria is going through a very difficult and dangerous time right now. There are some places in Syria over which the current regime will never be able to regain control. People living there are in dire need of governing authorities, which the Free Syrian Army has already created in Idlib and Ar-Raqqah. There’s nothing surprising about that, and it’s the same thing the Kurdish people want – self-government over the areas where the Kurds live is an inherent part of our political project. Some political movements claim that it springs from our desire to separate from Syria and create our own state and government. They aim to sow seeds of discord among various ethnic and religious groups living in this area and exacerbate the already complicated state of affairs. They are just pursuing their own selfish goals.

RT: Some opposition groups say that the YPG leaders coordinate their operations with the Syrian government and its army forces. What kind of relations do you maintain with the Syrian government?

RK: We have vehemently denied these allegations before, and we will keep doing so. We don’t maintain any relations with the government. The Popular Protection Units have no connection to the regime. You have seen for yourselves that the government officials stay inside the city. The rest of the territory is under our control. Basically, the YPG is in charge there and responsible for ensuring security.

RT: Speaking of Jabhat al-Nusra’s massacre in Afrin and Qamishli, the Russian Foreign Ministry and several human rights organizations condemned it, but the US State Department said that they have no hard evidence of genocidal intent against the Kurdish people. How would you explain this US stance?

RK: I think that if the US truly wanted to get to the bottom of this, it would be very easy – it’s crystal clear what exactly is happening. The massacre of Kurdish civilians in places like Tal Hasil and Tal Aran is a dark but undeniable fact. There are eyewitnesses of these events, and we at the YPG, as well as several Kurdish civilians, have documentary proof of it. We are ready to give this proof to international organizations and mass media to show them the truth of this horrible war the radical Islamists are fighting on our soil. I think the main reason for this massacre is that the YPG defeated the militants at Ras al-Ayn where they were based, maintaining control over a border checkpoint. After they suffered defeat at Rumeylan the radical groups attacked civilians who are not involved in military action.

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tel Aviv: “Axis of Evil” Cannot Be Allowed to Win in Syria

By Yahya Dbouk | Al-Akhbar | August 16, 2013

It is perhaps one of those rare times that Israel openly clarifies its position regarding the Syrian crisis, and from the mouths of high-ranking officials: the Resistance cannot be allowed to win.

Tel Aviv is increasingly worried about the developments taking place in Syria. They want the West to be more involved, particularly as Washington seems less certain about how far it should go in supporting the opposition there.

This prompted Israel’s minister of war Moshe Yaalon to make his concerns known to his visitor from Washington, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, for all the media to hear: “The axis of evil, which extends from Tehran to Damascus and Beirut, cannot be allowed to win in the ongoing war in Syria.”

After explaining that the most important thing happening in the region is the change sweeping through many Arab countries, he asked Dempsey to consider Iran’s role and the threat it poses to Israel’s security.

“The lack of stability in the region,” Yaalon insisted, “is due to many reasons, at the top of which is the Iranian regime and its involvement in all the crises taking place in the Middle East.”

According to Israel Defense magazine, the minister said that he believed the Syrian crisis would continue for a long time and would not end even if Bashar al-Assad falls, noting that “there are bloody accounts to be settled between the Alawis and Sunnis, in addition to other minorities engaged in the fighting.”
Yaalon repeated statements he had made after the Syrian opposition’s defeat in Qusayr, that Syria is going through a period in which the state is breaking up, suggesting that the Assad regime, contrary to what recent developments suggest, is weakening.

“I don’t see a change [in the regime’s favor],” the minister maintained, “because in Syria there are many places where the opposition is hitting the regime hard, as in Aleppo and the Latakia area, in addition to the Golan. This suggests that the opposition controls more territory than before.”

In the same vein, a high-ranking Israeli official criticized the US administration’s policy, and the weakness it has shown in handling a number of files in the region. On the occasion of Dempsey’s visit to Israel, the official told Yedioth Ahronot that Washington’s hesitation “will only increase Russia’s influence in the area.”

“Israel is very worried about America’s position regarding the region,” the same source added. “The Russians are taking advantage of America’s weakness, and they are waging their battles like a superpower, therefore proving to the countries of the region and President Assad that they can be relied on, while the Americans abandon their allies and partners.”

Of more concern to the source is that the US’ weak stand extend to its confrontation with Iran, asking Washington not to fall into the trap of the country’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, and “to squeeze Iran until it surrenders.”

The source explained that Israelis are generally comfortable with what is going on around them, despite the upheaval taking place in Egypt: “We can work with the Egyptians, Jordanians and other countries, for we have common interests with many parties in the region, and Israel is the one holding up the tent these days.”

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncontrolled by FISA court, NSA commits ‘thousands of privacy violations per year’

RT | August 16, 2013

The National Security Agency broke the law and ignored privacy protections thousands of times in each of the years since Congressional leaders expanded the agency’s power in 2008, according to a new report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The majority of the violations are related to unauthorized surveillance on Americans or foreigners inside the United States, conditions deemed illegal by executive order, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

The account is based on top-secret documents and a May 2012 internal NSA audit that found 2,776 infractions – including unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications – in the preceding 12 months alone. The audit, originally only meant to be seen by top NSA leaders, only accounted for violations at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Virginia, and other locations in the Washington DC region.

Three government sources told the Post that the 2,776 infractions would in fact be much higher had the audit included all NSA data collection centers. Each of the 2,776 violations could have potentially encompassed thousands of communications.

“One key to the Washington Post story,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first published Snowden’s disclosures in June, “the reports are internal, NSA audits, which means high likelihood of both under-counting and white-washing.”

One of the most flagrant examples is a 2008 incident when a “large number” of telephone calls were inadvertently intercepted because a programmer erroneously typed “202” instead of “20,” Egypt’s national calling code, according to a “quality assurance” memorandum never seen by NSA oversight staff.

Another time, the NSA kept 3,032 files they were ordered to destroy by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Each individual file included an undisclosed number of telephone call records, according to the Post.

In a separate incident, the NSA failed to notify the FISA court about a new collection method the agency was using for months, at which point the court deemed the method unconstitutional. The agency reportedly “diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.”

This finding, and others like it, refutes claims made by NSA chief Keith Alexander and other brass that the government does not store or process the information it collects. As per NSA policy, the number of Americans affected was not disclosed in the top-secret documents.

NSA officials also failed to explain why, with the number of violations lower in 2008 and 2009 than in later years, violations only increased as time went on.

US District Judge Reggie Walton, the chief judge of the FISA court, admitted that the court’s rulings are based only on information provided by the government. Consequently, judges entrusted with determining what the NSA may and may not do are forced to rely on the NSA to prove the government has not and will not overstep its legal bounds.

“The [FISA court] is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” Walton wrote to The Washington Post. “The [FISA court] does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the [FISA court] is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”

Privacy advocates have previously expressed concern that the court is never informed of many of the violations. Even when the court is informed of the agency’s intentions, however, the judges are sometimes ignored.

A recently declassified Justice Department review from 2009 discovered a “major operational glitch that had led to a series of significant violations of the court’s order and notified the court.” While specifics of the error were not disclosed, problems including the so-called “over-collection” of phone call metadata were reported.

“The problems generally involved the implementation of highly sophisticated technology in a complex and ever-changing communications environment which, in some instances, results in the automated tools operating in a manner that was not completely consistent with the specific terms of the Court’s orders,” a December 2009 memo to the Senate and House intelligence committees stated.

The Washington Post notified the NSA of Thursday’s report before it was published, at which point the agency said it stops mistakes “at the earliest possible moment, implement mitigation measures wherever possible, and drive them down.”

“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” said one senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You can look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

The documents also described a tutorial that NSA collectors and analysts are required to complete. Titled the “Target Analysts Rationale Instructions,” the training instructs employees on how to complete oversight requirements without revealing “extraneous information” to “our FAA overseers,” a reference to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein said she did not receive a copy of the audit until questioned by the Post, despite her position as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman. She said the committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”

The timing of the report comes just after US President Barack Obama defended the NSA’s widespread domestic and foreign surveillance. Obama said the programs were necessary to protect national security and legitimate partly because of comprehensive oversight.

“If you look at the reports – even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward – all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails,” Obama said.

“What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

After the initial report was published Thursday night the Washington Post issued an appendix revealing that after reporters spoke with NSA leadership, the Obama administration refused allow the Post to publish their names or official titles. The explanation from the newspaper is reproduced in full below:

“The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted “by name and title” on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong. The statement is below.

“We want people to report if they have made a mistake or even if they believe that an NSA activity is not consistent with the rules. NSA, like other regulated organizations, also has a “hotline” for people to report — and no adverse action or reprisal can be taken for the simple act of reporting. We take each report seriously, investigate the matter, address the issue, constantly look for trends, and address them as well — all as a part of NSA’s internal oversight and compliance efforts. What’s more, we keep our overseers informed through both immediate reporting and periodic reporting. Our internal privacy compliance program has more than 300 personnel assigned to it: a fourfold increase since 2009. They manage NSA’s rules, train personnel, develop and implement technical safeguards, and set up systems to continually monitor and guide NSA’s activities. We take this work very seriously.”

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did The NSA Think The Public Can’t Do Math? Attempt To Downplay Data Collection Fails Miserably

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | August 14, 2013

Last week we wrote about the NSA’s ridiculous attempt to justify its surveillance efforts, including this really wacky callout designed to show just how “little” data the NSA collects.

Scope and Scale of NSA Collection

According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6% of that. However, of the 1.6% of the data, only 0.025% is actually selected for review. The net effect is that NSA analysts look at 0.00004% of the world’s traffic in conducting their mission — that’s less than one part in a million. Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA’s total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court.

This was bizarre on a number of levels, not the least of which is the wacky basketball court-to-dime scale. Next time, maybe we can play “is it bigger than a breadbox” with the NSA. But, as for what any of this meant, it hasn’t been at all clear. Since the NSA has already redefined basic English words like “collect,” “target,” “datamine,” and “relevant” it’s not at all clear what is meant by “touch.” However, some are starting to dig into the numbers, and contrary to the NSA’s attempt to suggest that this is “nothing to fear,” a bit of analysis certainly suggests they’re collecting quite a bit of info.

First up, we have Jeff Jarvis, who highlights a bunch of important comparative datapoints including that Sandvine claims that only 2.9% of US traffic is communication traffic and 68.8% of all email is spam — meaning that it’s entirely possible that the NSA collects nearly all non-spam email and it would still be within its 1.6% number. He also points out that 62% of traffic on the internet is considered entertainment, and we can assume that the NSA doesn’t need to collect every copy of Game of Thrones that people are passing around (I’m sure one or two will do the job). He similarly points out that Google itself claims to only index approximately 0.004% of traffic on the internet, suggesting that the NSA may be collecting more info than Google indexes by two orders of magnitude.

Meanwhile, Sean Gallagher, over at Ars Technica, digs a bit deeper into the numbers, suggesting that the NSA’s data collection is closer to being on par with Google, but still greater than Google:

The dime on the basketball court, as NSA describes it, is still 29.21 petabytes of data a day. That means NSA is “touching” more data than Google processes every day (a mere 20 petabytes).

Gallagher also looks much more closely at the recently revealed details of the Xkeyscore program, to show how that 1.6% of “touched” internet communications can cover pretty much everything important.

As a result, if properly tuned, the packet analyzer gear at the front-end of XKeyscore (and other deep packet inspection systems) can pick out a very small fraction of the actual packets sent over the wire while still extracting a great deal of information (or metadata) about who is sending what to who. This leaves disk space for “full log data” on connections of particular interest.

In other words, while the 1.6% number was put forth by the NSA to try to make people think this is no big deal, when you look at what it means, it suggests it’s a very big deal indeed. In fact, the NSA may be collecting even more information that people had believed before.

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Tide Begins to Turn against FIFA in Rio de Janeiro

By Brian Mier | CEPR Americas Blog | August 15, 2013

After two months of protests that started over price gouging in public transportation and spread to a variety of issues spanning the political spectrum, positive results are beginning to be seen in Rio de Janeiro, where governor Sérgio Cabral, once touted in the New York Times as a possible 2014 presidential candidate is now so unpopular that socialist former mayoral candidate Marcelo Freixo said that he doesn’t think he could even get elected as a condominium residents association secretary.

During the last week a series of measures was announced that seem to show a turning of the tide against the hegemony wielded by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Rio de Janeiro state and municipal governments over local residents.

First, after spending over $500 million rehabbing the structurally sound Maracana stadium – its third multi-million rehab in a dozen years – the plan to privatize and sell it off to a group of cronies for a fraction of that value has been stalled. The landmark status for the neighboring high school and Indigenous museum buildings has been upheld by the court system, so they can no longer be destroyed to create a parking garage. Furthermore, the federal government has blocked destruction of the public swimming pool and athletic track that made up part of the stadium compound. According to the privatization agreement, these are deal killers. The original plan was to surround the stadium with parking garages and luxury shops for the white, middle-class patrons who would now be the only ones able to easily afford ticket prices.  The consortium that was poised to take over management of the stadium announced that it was going to back out, then changed its mind but still hasn’t closed a deal. It appears that the new, expensive ticket prices are keeping fans away and this might prove to be a deciding factor in blocking privatization.

Meanwhile, last Friday, the mayor’s office announced that after years of  protests and construction of an alternative participatory development plan by local residents together with social movements and the Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro planning department, it will no longer raze the neighborhood of Vila Autódromo, which was originally marked for destruction in order to “beautify” the neighborhood for the upcoming “mega-events.” Since 2008, the mayor’s office has evicted tens of thousands of people, but it is hoped that this too will mark a turning point against a government that, until its popularity plummeted last month, felt like it could do whatever it wanted.

The much hailed program for setting up police stations in favelas that were previously controlled by drug trafficking organizations and paramilitary militias, called UPP, is also coming under fire. Drug trafficking gangs continue to operate within the pacified favelas, albeit without carrying machine guns around on the street, and a recent study shows that disappearances of residents has increased by over 50 percent in favelas after the UPP Units have been put in place. The disappearance of a construction worker and father of four, last seen being forced into a UPP Police car in front of his house in Rocinha, has turned into a national issue, as people are holding up signs all over the country during protests asking, “Where is Amarildo?”

Across the nation, people are rising up against the planned “state of exception” that FIFA demands take place for two months before and after the World Cup in 2014, coded into Brazilian law as part of the “General Law of the World Cup” of June 5, 2012. This “state of exception” will enable the government to bypass public bidding laws, provide tax abatement on all official FIFA-sponsored products and hire private foreign security forces to replace the local police protecting players and FIFA officials. In accordance with the Brazilian constitution of 1989, a “state of exception” can only be called in cases of war or natural disasters, making the FIFA law technically illegal. But popular and legal challenges to the Brazilian general “Law of the Cup” are mounting. During the World Cup in South Africa FIFA was able to leave the country with $2.4 billion in profits, while South Africans were left footing the maintenance bill for “white elephant” stadiums in towns with no major sports teams. It will be interesting to see how much FIFA is able to get away with this time around, especially since 2014 is an election year in Brazil.

Brian Mier is a geographer and freelance journalist who lives in Brazil and works as a policy analyst at the Centro de Direitos Econômicos e Sociais. He has a podcast, focused on news reported in the Brazilian alternative media, at http://progressivebrazil.tumblr.com/

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Honduran Union Leader Faces Death Threats

By Eric Gottwald | Labor is Not a Commodity | August 15, 2013

Long-time Honduran union leader José María Martínez of FESTAGRO is facing serious and repeated death threats for speaking out for banana workers’ rights.

For the past 20 years, Martínez has hosted a daily radio show called “Trade Unionist on Air” where he shares labor rights, human rights, and citizenship information with Honduras’ agricultural workers and answers questions for callers concerned about rights violations. Since September of 2012, Martínez has been working closely with workers at the Tres Hermanas banana plantations, suppliers for Chiquita Bananas, who have been struggling to win a collective bargaining agreement in the face of harsh employer repression. Since May, the struggle of the Tres Hermanas workers has been a frequent topic on Martínez’s radio program.

On June 25, 2013, unidentified callers used an untraceable number to call Martínez, demanding he “stop talking sh*t on the radio or [they] will shut his mouth for him,” and to “prepare your burial clothes because we are going to kill you.” They repeated those threats the following day. The perpetrators also made repeated calls to his wife reiterating the death threats and citing the specific clothing Martinez wore each day as proof they were following him.

On July 5th, those threats escalated as an unmarked vehicle staked out Radio Progreso, home to “Trade Unionist on Air.” The vehicle circled Martínez’s place of work four times at the hour Martínez was getting off air.  Martínez was forced to escape through a back exit, escorted by Father Ismael Moreno, the Catholic priest who serves as the director for Radio Progreso.

The local police force has warned Martínez to not leave his home without first notifying them for his own protection. Since the 2009 coup, 31 trade unionists, 52 rural workers, and 28 journalists have been murdered in Honduras.

FESTAGRO has asked for supporters to write to the US and Honduran governments to demand protection for José María Martínez and an investigation into these threats:

You can also write to Chiquita Bananas (who buys from Tres Hermanas) and Jose Lorenzo Obregon, owner of the Tres Hermanas Plantation, to ask that they speak out against these threats and use their influence to end Tres Hermanas’ ongoing refusal to bargain with SITRAINBA, workers’ legally recognized bargaining representative.

Eric Gottwald is Senior Policy Analyst at the International Labor Rights Forum.

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil: Senate Approves Law to Fund Public Services with Oil Revenue

By Kahina Boudarène | The Argentina Independent | August 15, 2013

The law to fund public services with oil revenue, headed by Brazil president Dilma Rousseff, was ratified yesterday by the Senate, two weeks after its approval by the lower house.

“We listened to the streets voices,” declared Renan Calheiros, leader of the Senate, referring to the massive social movements that started several weeks ago all around the country.

The senate has approved the move to use 75% of crude oil revenue to finance education and the other 25% to bankroll the health sector.

The law affects all oil contracts that fall within the “declaration of commerciality”, which was signed on 3rd December 2012.

At first, Rousseff wanted to direct 100% of the revenue to education. The measure was part of a pact announced last June to establish “ways to fight effectively against corruption”.

The pact contains four key points: a national mobility plan privileging public transports; 100% of the oil revenue to education sector; bringing thousands of foreign doctors to the country; and meeting with leaders from peaceful demonstrations, youth organisations, trade unions, workers movements and popular organisations.

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

ISM statement: Hoax video designed to harm the Palestinian popular struggle

International Solidarity Movement | August 15, 2013

A video has been put online on a website claiming to be a human right organization with a woman impersonating an ISM volunteer. In the video a woman who claims to have volunteered with the ISM in Palestine says that she was sexually harassed by a prominent Palestinian activist. The ISM want to make clear that this video is a hoax: the woman is not an ISM volunteer and the Facebook and Twitter pages are not of any human rights organization.

We believe this video is designed to harm the Palestinian popular struggle and the international solidarity movement in Palestine.

It is not the first time a video in which someone claims to be an International activist has been produced in order to attack the popular struggle and the solidarity movement. For example, before the freedom flotilla left for Gaza, a hoax video was released in which an Israeli actor posed as a solidarity activist and was eventually exposed.

When cases of sexual harassment or assault occur, as they do everywhere in the world, ISM and our Palestinian partners take reports very seriously and take action to protect people from sexual harassment and violence.

In solidarity,

International Solidarity Movement

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 1 Comment