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Russia breaks oil output record

RT | November 2, 2013

Russian oil output, the largest in the world, reached 10.59 million bpd (barrels per day) in October, setting the record for the country’s post-Soviet period, Energy Ministry data showed.

The landmark was reached due to Rosneft increasing production at the Vankor field in the Krasnoyarsk Region, the Vedomosti paper reports.

The output at the field was 18.3 million tons last year, with the company planning Vankor reach 25 million tons annually.

Another influential factor is the larger amount of Gazprom-produced gas condensate, which has now reached 350,000 bpd.

The country’s total output in October reached 44,773 million tons, which is 1.3 percent higher than during the same period last year.

According to the International Energy Agency, Russia’s all-time production of black gold reached its peak at 11.41 million bpd in 1988, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

The production of oil in Russia has been steadily growing since the setback caused by the global financial crisis in 2008, which saw output falling to about 9.8 million bpd.

In September 2009, it exceeded a monthly level of 10 million bpd, with the country overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer the next year.

Oil and gas remain the No.1 source of income for Russia, as hydrocarbons account for 80 percent of the country’s export.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , | Leave a comment

Sun Sets on U.S. Wind Industry

Lisa Linowes | Wind Action | November 4, 2013

The U.S. wind power market staggered this year adding less than seventy (70) megawatts of new wind in the first three quarters. This is down from 4,743 megawatts installed during the same period in 2012.

Only three states reported wind expansions:

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) wasted no time blaming the precipitous drop in installations on uncertainty surrounding the wind production tax credit (PTC), the federal incentive most often credited for market growth in the sector.

That’s a convenient excuse that might resonate with sympathetic members of Congress, but it’s not accurate.

Wind’s Bubble Bursts

AWEA’s CEO Tom Kiernan bellyached last week that his people were exhausted by the “boom-bust” behavior sparked each time the industry faced possible withdrawal of the PTC. He showed no remorse that big wind was still economically impotent despite decades of public handouts meant to stimulate self-growth.  Instead he dug in and insisted the PTC be extended.

This is indicative of an industry that’s been coddled for too long and asked to show little in return. And why should it?

Every megawatt-hour generated by an eligible project during its first ten years of operation earns the production tax credit regardless of the location of the plant, the time of day and year when the energy is produced, or whether the energy is even needed. At $23/MWh, the PTC on a pre-tax basis ($35/MWh) equals or exceeds the wholesale price of electricity in many parts of the country. NO other form of reliable electric generation receives a federal subsidy as generous and condition-free as the PTC.

But wind didn’t falter in 2013 because of  Congressional indecision.

We’ve long known that Section 1603, the cash grant program enacted under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), fueled a wind bubble that was certain to burst, and it did.

Under 1603, roughly 30,000 megawatts of new wind was installed, more than doubling the wind capacity in the country. As much as 90% of the 13,000+ MW of wind installed last year alone can be attributed to Section 1603, not the PTC.

In order to receive the grant, projects needed to be in-service by the end of 2012. Developers raced to meet the deadline which flushed the industry’s project pipeline. It will take several years before additional proposals reach the shovel-ready stage.

Forecasting Wind Growth Based on RFPs

Despite no growth, AWEA touted the rosy potential for new wind development by pointing at the number of  utilities announcing RFPs (requests for proposal) for new renewables this year. Over 4,000 MW of new wind proposals are pending according to the trade group.

But RFPs and/or signed power contracts for the energy do not mean facilities will be built.

Consider the situation in New England as an example.

In September, four utilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced joint contracts to acquire 565 MW of new wind capacity from six wind projects to be sited in Maine and New Hampshire. Of the six projects, only one (Oakfield) has been approved for construction but the permit is under appeal in U.S. Federal Court.

Of the remaining five, one was withdrawn (Fletcher Mountain), and two (Passamaquoddy Wind Project and Peskotmuhkati Wind Project) were reported in breach of the utility contracts for failure to deliver the required development security payments.

Another (Bingham) was informed in August of serious environmental concerns by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. And the one New Hampshire project (Wild Meadows) is experiencing intense opposition from environmental groups and the host and surrounding communities. At this point, it’s not clear whether any of these projects will be built.

There are many other project proposals in the U.S. we can point to which are equally speculative but are likely still included in AWEA’s rosy forecast.

Other Challenges in the Wind

There are other significant challenges facing wind development which will make adding new projects more difficult. These include the lack of transmission capacity, record-low natural gas prices, and a growing, more organized public opposition to the towers.

Press reports about wind are increasingly negative and the PTC is starting to sound less like government ‘investment’ and more like corporate cronyism and government waste. Investors are rightfully worried about an industry that is subject to the whims of Congress and public opinion.

We are also learning lessons from the European Union which is several years ahead of the U.S. in terms of wind deployment.

Last month, CEOs from ten utilities in Europe responsible for nearly half of the energy capacity in the European Union argued for an end to wind and solar subsidies which they say are driving up energy prices for consumers and destroying Europe’s competitiveness. E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen commented that the “subsidies are reaching a level which is totally unbearable. … This industry is the biggest kid on the block now, not a child any longer. And no longer needs a child’s nutrition.”

We agree!

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

US military doctors participate in torture of detainees, report says

RT | November 4, 2013

An independent report has charged that medical personnel, working under the direction of the Department of Defense and CIA in military defense facilities, violated medical ethics by participating in the torture of detainees.

The services provided by American doctors and psychologists included “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees, according to the report.

The 19-member task force concluded that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA ordered medical professionals to assist in intelligence gathering, as well as forced-feeding of hunger strikers, in a way that inflicted “severe harm” on detainees in US custody.

The authors of the 269-page report, entitled “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror’” is based on information from unclassified, publicly available information.

The task force revealed that a “theory of interrogation” emerged in US detention facilities, including Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that was based on “personality disintegration” as a means of breaking down the resistance of the detainees in an effort to extract confessions and information.

Over time, new interrogation methods were developed by interrogators and psychologists from techniques used in the pre-9/11 Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program that was designed for training US troops to withstand interrogation and mistreatment techniques in the event they were captured.

The interrogators and medical professionals transformed torture-resistant tactics into abusive methods of interrogation, which they employed on detainees. This included so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, such as waterboarding, which involves covering a restrained detainee’s face with a towel and then soaking it with water. The technique is said to induce a feeling of drowning and complete helplessness.

The detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the mental anguish caused by their torture.

The report also gave special mention to the Bush administration, which declared that the legal safeguards regarding the treatment of prisoners of war set down in the Geneva Convention did not apply to the “unlawful combatants” (i.e. terrorists) in the War on Terror.

The lack of any judicial restraints on the part of the military and medical personnel involved opened the door to “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners at GITMO under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Task Force member, Dr. Gerald Thomson, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University, said physicians violated medical code of conduct by willingly becoming “agents of the military.”

“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” Dr. Thomson said in a released statement. “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice.”

The medical community has “a responsibility to make sure this never happens again,” he added.

The authors cited a number of sources that informed their study, including recently published accounts of force-feeding hunger-striking detainees, a 2008 Senate report on the treatment of terrorists in custody, and a Red Cross probe of CIA interrogation measures that was leaked to the New York Times.

Dr. Thomson summarized the feelings of many people when he called the participation of physicians in the torture and interrogation of detainees a “big striking horror.”

“This covenant between society and medicine has been around for a long, long time — patient first, community first, society first, not national security, necessarily,” he continued. “If we just ignore this and satisfy ourselves with the (thought that), ‘Well, they were trying to protect us,’ when it does happen again we’ll all be complicit in that.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, reviewed the charges contained in the report and called them “wholly absurd.”

“The health care providers at the Joint Strike Force who routinely provide not only better medical care than any of these detainees have ever known, but care on par with the very best of the global medical profession, are consummate professionals working under terrifically stressful conditions, far from home and their families, and with patients who have been extraordinarily violent,” Breasseale told NBC News.

Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, said the medical personnel working at Gitmo may believe they are doing something valuable for society.

“What I’ve seen over the years is that people (doctors) who don’t want to do that, don’t. They find ways to avoid it, get out of it, or get reassigned,” Caplan told NBC News. “But for someone who does it, that doctor’s impulse may be to say: ‘I want to fight terrorism. I want to get information that protects the American people.’ They think they’re doing the right thing.”

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The DNA of Iranians and Under Secretary Sherman

By SASAN FAYAZMANESH | CounterPunch | November 4, 2013

On October 22, 2013, the following exchange took place at the Daily Press Briefing between Deputy Spokesperson for the Department of State Marie Harf and an unidentified, tenacious reporter:

QUESTION: Earlier this month, the L.A. Times quoted Under Secretary Sherman saying in a Senate briefing that, quote, “Deception is part of the DNA of the Iranian leadership.” It’s only now picking up in Iranian media and Foreign Minister Zarif has condemned this remark. Do you have a response to that, or can you clarify what she may have meant?

MS. HARF: No, thank you for the question. I will make a couple points on that. I think first that doubtless each side has said things that have offended the other side over the last, what, thirty years now, and each side has commented publicly on its inability to trust the other side. I think focusing on those things that divide us really isn’t going to get us anywhere. We have a lot of work to do. We were in Geneva, as you know, last week, and I think the Iran delegation and the American delegation, led by Under Secretary Sherman, began to understand each other in ways—new ways during this last round of the P5+1 talks. In addition, their bilateral meeting, which was the first, I think, since 2009 between the U.S. and Iran, which we hope will continue as we go forward with the P5+1, will help, I think, set aside those years of mistrust and really start a—more of a direct dialogue.

QUESTION: So are you saying she misspoke?

MS. HARF: No, no. Not at all. The President in his UNGA speech said that there are decades and a long history of mistrust. This mistrust has deep roots, and we don’t think it can be overcome overnight, but we made some progress last week in Geneva, and we hope to continue making progress, including with additional bilateral meetings going forward.

QUESTION: Well, there is a difference between deep mistrust and saying that deception is in their DNA. If it’s in their DNA, that means they can’t ever change. Right?

MS. HARF: I don’t—I guess I don’t have any further comment on that than this. We –

QUESTION: So –

MS. HARF: — had good meetings last week.

QUESTION: I –

MS. HARF: Under Secretary Sherman had a good bilateral meeting with her Iranian counterparts and we believe we began to make process [sic] and hope to continue to do so.

QUESTION: Maybe this is something that stem cells can fix, yeah? Can you explain — Under Secretary Sherman, when she made those comments on the Hill, was talking specifically about President Rouhani in his previous capacity as an—as the Iranian nuclear negotiator when she said deception runs in the DNA.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve made a lot of comments about –

. . . 

QUESTION: So you don’t believe that President Rouhani is genetically incapable of being not deceptive? Do you—is that correct?

MS. HARF: We have said repeatedly over the last few weeks and months that President Rouhani—that we are encouraged by the words he said. We are encouraged with his conversation with President Obama. We’re encouraged by Foreign Minister Zarif’s conversations that he had with the Secretary and then at the P5+1. We also have said coming out of the P5+1 that there—this was a new level of seriousness, this was a new level of specificity in these talks that we have never seen before. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what we’re focused on going forward.

QUESTION: So Under Secretary Sherman’s comment was not meant to imply that President Rouhani is genetically incapable of telling the truth or being –

MS. HARF: In no way. We’ve been very clear that we appreciate some of the—many of the things President Rouhani has said, that we appreciate the tone coming out of him and the rest of the Iranian delegation to the P5+1, and hope to continue that tone going forward.

The painful exchange between the persistent reporter and inarticulate Ms. Harf continued for a bit longer. Yet, to the very end, the reporter could not get an answer to his basic question: Does Under Secretary Sherman believe that Iranians are genetically deceptive?

To be fair, what Wendy Sherman actually stated in her Senate briefing was: “[W]e know that deception is part of the DNA.” As some news media in Iran pointed out, the statement did not explicitly refer to “Iranians.” However, as some others correctly pointed out, Sherman did not need to be explicit; given the context of her conversation, her meaning was clear. Indeed, on October 25, 2013, in an interview with the Voice of America, the propaganda wing of her own State Department, Sherman was given the chance to clarify her statement and, perhaps, rectify its racist overtone. Yet, she stuck to her guns, and even implicated President Obama, by stating: “I think those words spoke to some deep mistrust that President Obama discussed, and that we have to really work to get over that mistrust.” She was then asked about calls in Iran to boycott nuclear talks with the West if she were present. She answered: “The President, the Secretary of State, have asked me to lead the US delegation. I think colleagues will say that I am a fair [and] balanced negotiator.”

It is difficult to picture Wendy Sherman as a fair and balanced negotiator in the meetings between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council—the US, Britain, France, Russia and China—and Germany). This is not because she considers Iranians as genetically deceptive, but because of the history of her role in these negotiations. As I pointed out in my March and June essays, in the past meetings between Iran and the P5+1 Sherman appeared to represent mostly the interests of a colonial entity allied with the US, Israel. In these meetings she would put forward the Israeli manufactured demands and then go to Israel to report on the Iranian reactions. For example, as Haaretz reported on May 25, 2012, following the Iran-P5+1 meeting in Iraq, Sherman went straight to Israel to “update Israeli officials on the talks in Baghdad, and on preparations for the third round of talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19.” “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed US official on the following day. According to the same report, in her trip to Israel, Sherman was accompanied by Gary Samore, President Obama’s Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control. Similar to Sherman, Samore represented the position of Israel in the Obama Administration before his departure in September of 2013. He was—along with Dennis Ross, the architect of Obama’s Iran policy, and Richard Holbrooke—one of the original leaders of “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI), an Israeli lobby group which has been actively seeking sanctions and the use of military force against Iran. After leaving the White House, Samore became the President of UANI! It was probably associates such as Gary Samore that Wendy Sherman had in mind when she stated “colleagues will say that I am a fair [and] balanced negotiator.”

In sum, neither Wendy Sherman nor many of her colleagues are what they pretend to be. They are not honest and objective negotiators who are genuinely trying to resolve peacefully a dispute between the West and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. In the guise of representing the interests of the people of the United States of America, these individuals are in fact representing the interests of a colonial power in the Middle East. There is a saying in Persian to the effect that the pagan considers everyone else to have the same faith as himself.  It appears that when Mrs. Sherman stated that “deception is part of the DNA,” she was thinking of herself and many of her own colleagues.

Another round of Iran-P5+1 meeting is scheduled for November 7 and 8. It follows the meetings on October 15-16 in Vienna, which were the first of such meetings during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani. In these meetings Iran offered a set of proposals. Even though the details remained confidential, there were some reports as to what was proposed—all of which, of course, were denied by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to these reports, the set of proposals included Iran freezing its production of 20% enriched uranium and converting the stock of such uranium into fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor that produces medical isotopes. In addition, it was reported, Iran offered to relinquish spent fuel from a yet-to-be-operational Arak heavy water reactor. Moreover, the reports contended that Iran agreed to sign the so-called Additional Protocol—which would allow for the most intrusive inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency—once unilateral and multilateral sanctions were lifted.

Iran’s set of proposals, if in fact true, were not that far apart from what had been offered by the P5+1 to Iran during the presidency of Ahmadinejad. Under normal circumstances, one would expect the two sides to reach some sort of agreement, given that their offers and counter offers were close. But we are not dealing with normal circumstances. As I have pointed out in my previous essays, Israel, which is not interested in any peaceful settlement of the dispute, basically sets the agenda for these meetings, not only through US officials, such as Wendy Sherman, but through British and French officials. Just before the last meetings, on October 10, 2013, Haaretz reported that “high-ranking” British and French diplomats arrived in Israel to meet with their “Israeli counterparts.” The delegations, according to the report, included individuals who represent Britain and France at the P5+1 and Iran meetings.

More importantly, Israel has nearly a veto power over any agreement that might ever be reached. Reuters reported on October 12, 2013, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande to tell them “sanctions must not be eased.” The same message has been delivered ad nauseam by Netanyahu et al. to President Obama. But that is not all. Israel fortifies its position by pressuring the US Congress, mainly through its numerous lobby groups and its surrogate Senators and Congressmen. The Jewish Daily Forward reported on October 25, 2013, that for “members of Congress, the pressure is to not just maintain, but to increase the current far-reaching economic and trade sanctions against Iran. And it’s coming not just from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington but also from the local level, district-by-district, where Jewish groups are engaged in a push that is almost unprecedented in its intensity and breadth.” The situation is such that the White House has to beg these same groups to allow negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran to proceed, at least temporality. On October 29, 2013, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that a “small coterie of Jewish organizational leaders” will meet “with top staff at the National Security Council to discuss Iran, according to the White House and officials of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” The following day Al-Monitor reported that the officials who were present at the meeting were National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisors Antony Blinken and Ben Rhodes, and, of course, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman.

The Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy” toward Iran, originally manufactured by Israeli lobby groups, has failed to bring about its desired results. The economic pain, induced by the most colossal sanctions ever imposed on a country, has not succeeded in bringing the disgruntled Iranians into the streets and preparing the ground for a naval blockade of Iran and military actions. The failure of the policy, as well as the departure of some of the original brains behind it, such as Dennis Ross and Gary Samore, has created an opportunity for the US to change course. But would Israel, its lobby groups and its surrogates in the US government, allow a different path to be followed? Would they allow the P5+1 and Iran to settle the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program? Or would they veto any peaceful resolution of the conflict and push for more sanctions and war? Whatever the answer, the DNA of Iranians has no bearing on the matter.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.  His new book Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy” will be available in December, 2013.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Lead Iran Negotiator Misrepresents U.S. Policy (and International Law) to Congress

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By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Going to Tehran | November 3, 2013

Last month, while testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wendy Sherman—Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the senior U.S. representative in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran—said, with reference to Iranians, “We know that deception is part of the DNA.”  This statement goes beyond orientalist stereotyping; it is, in the most literal sense, racist.  And it evidently was not a mere “slip of the tongue”:  a former Obama administration senior official told us that Sherman has used such language before about Iranians.

If a senior U.S. government official made public statements about “deception” or some other negative character trait being “part of the DNA” of Jews, people of African origin, or most other ethnic groups, that official would—rightly—be fired or forced to resign, and would probably not be allowed back into “polite society” until after multiple groveling apologies and a long period of penance.

–But a senior U.S. official can make such a statement about Iranians—or almost certainly about any other ethnic group a majority of whose members are Muslim—and that’s just fine.

Of course, it’s not fine.  But that’s the America we live in.

Putting aside Sherman’s glaring display of anti-Iranian racism, there was another egregious manifestation of prejudice-cum-lie in her testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that we want to explore more fully.  It came in a response to a question from Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) about whether states have a right to enrich under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  Here is the relevant passage in Sherman’s reply:

It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.  It simply says that you have the right to research and development.”

Sherman goes on to acknowledge that “many countries such as Japan and Germany have taken that [uranium enrichment] to be a right.”  But, she says, “the United States does not take that position.  We take the position that we look at each one of these [cases].”  Or, as she put it at the beginning of her response to Sen. Rubio, “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all” (emphasis added).

Two points should be made here.  First, the claim that the NPT’s Article IV does not affirm the right of non-nuclear-weapons states to pursue indigenous development of fuel-cycle capabilities, including uranium enrichment, under international safeguards is flat-out false.

Article IV makes a blanket statement that “nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”  And it’s not just “countries such as Japan and Germany”—both close U.S. allies—which affirm that this includes the right of non-weapons states to enrich uranium under safeguards.  The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries and the Non-Aligned Movement (whose 120 countries represent a large majority of UN members) have all clearly affirmed the right of non-nuclear-weapons states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to pursue indigenous safeguarded enrichment.

In fact, just four countries in the world hold that there is no right to safeguarded enrichment under the NPT:  the United States, Britain, France, and Israel (which isn’t even a NPT signatory).  That’s it.

Moreover, the right to indigenous technological development—including nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities, should a state choose to pursue them—is a sovereign right.  It is not conferred by the NPT; the NPT’s Article IV recognizes states’ “inalienable right” in this regard, while other provisions bind non-weapons states that join the Treaty to exercise this right under international safeguards.

There have been many first-rate analyses demonstrating that the right to safeguarded enrichment under the NPT is crystal clear—from the Treaty itself, from its negotiating history, and from subsequent practice, with at least a dozen non-weapons states building fuel-cycle infrastructures potentially capable of supporting weapons programs.  Bill Beeman published a nice Op Ed in the Huffington Post on this question in response to Sherman’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, see here and, for a text including references, here.  For truly definitive legal analyses, see the work of Daniel Joyner, for example here and here.  The issue will also be dealt with in articles by Flynt Leverett and Dan Joyner in a forthcoming special issue of the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs, which should appear within the next few days.

From any objectively informed legal perspective, denying non-weapons states’ right of safeguarded enrichment amounts to nothing more than a shameless effort to rewrite the NPT unilaterally.  And this brings us to our second point about Sherman’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony.

Sherman claims that “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.”  But, in fact, the United States originally held that the right to peaceful use recognized in the NPT’s Article IV includes the indigenous development of safeguarded fuel-cycle capabilities.

In 1968, as America and the Soviet Union, the NPT’s sponsors, prepared to open it for signature, the founding Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, William Foster, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—the same committee to which Sherman untruthfully testified last month—that the Treaty permitted non-weapons states to pursue the fuel cycle.  We quote Foster on this point:   “Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III.”  [Note:  In Article II of the NPT, non-weapons states commit not to build or acquire nuclear weapons; in Article III, they agree to accept safeguards on the nuclear activities, “as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”]

Thus, it is a bald-faced lie to say that the United States has “always” held that the NPT does not recognize a right to safeguarded enrichment.  As a matter of policy, the United States held that that the NPT recognized such a right even before it was opened for signature; this continued to be the U.S. position for more than a quarter century thereafter.

It was only after the Cold War ended that the United States—along with Britain, France, and Israel—decided that the NPT should be, in effect, unilaterally rewritten (by them) to constrain the diffusion of fuel-cycle capabilities to non-Western states.  And their main motive for trying to do so has been to maximize America’s freedom of unilateral military initiative and, in the Middle East, that of Israel.

This is the agenda for which Wendy Sherman tells falsehoods to a Congress that is all too happy to accept them.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Palestinian Resistance Downs Israeli Drone in Gaza

Al-Manar | November 3, 2013

hacked-israeli-DronePalestinian Resistance announced on Sunday its fighters has managed to control and then down an Israeli drone flying over the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, said its fighters managed to down the drone.

This is the second time the resistance in Gaza manages to down an Israeli drone, as the Al-Qassam Brigades declared during the latest Israeli war on Gaza, a year ago, that it managed to down an Israeli drone, and documented the incident.

An Israeli military spokesperson stated Sunday that the drone fell inside the Gaza Strip, effectively falling in the hands of the resistance.

He said that the drone landed and crashed due to a “malfunction”, an issue that the resistance challenged.


November 4, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli military rules that mock attacks in Palestinian villages are acceptable

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By Celine Hagbard | IMEMC News | November 4, 2013

The Israeli Military’s Advocate General ruled Sunday that Palestinian villages can continue to be used for Israeli military training under the principle of “belligerent occupation”.

This is an Israeli military concept that allows its soldiers virtual impunity with regard to their behavior in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, under the pretext that the Israeli military is the sovereign authority over the entire territory. This edict contradicts international law and numerous United Nations resolutions that question the Israeli claim to sovereignty over all Palestinian land.

The Israeli military frequently invades Palestinian towns and villages, with soldiers running through streets and alleys with loaded automatic weapons, ransacking homes and terrorizing residents, for the purposes of ‘training’.

When a human rights organization filed a challenge to this practice earlier this year after several particularly egregious ‘training’ raids, the Israeli military said they would respond to the complaint. Today, several months later, the military ruled that the training is all in accordance with the dictates of martial law as it applies to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the military Advocate General’s statement, there is “no legal obstacle to holding training in inhabited areas as part of maintaining security in the area. The orders issued for the drills that take place in populated urban areas include a statute requiring coordination with the ones doing the drill. It will also be made clear that as part of the training exercises, the soldiers must avoid putting the population at risk, damaging their property or causing unreasonable disturbance to their daily routine.”

However, the Palestinian residents subjected to these ‘training exercises’ and the human rights groups representing them have provided numerous examples of the soldiers tearing through homes and yards, breaking into houses, running up and down stairs and taking over rooftops of family homes as part of these exercises.

All of the villages where this training take place have experienced actual Israeli military invasions on a regular basis, and since the military makes no attempt to differentiate or announce that any particular invasion is a ‘training exercise’, the villagers are just as terrorized as they are during actual raids.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Where Does the USA Unequivocally Stand on Israeli Annexation of Palestine?

By Jim Surfer | Dissident Voice | October 28, 2013

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

– Art. 49, Fourth Geneva Convention

American news agencies (AP, Reuters, any major news organization or outlet) in reference to Israeli settlements (which could more accurately be termed “colonies”), routinely comment that these settlements are “considered illegal by most nations.” This is dishonest, as it creates the impression that the legality of settlement activity is murky and subject to debate. When I encounter this phrase I often ask the source to identify which nations consider settlement building on occupied territory legal. I neither receive or expect a reply because, of course, no nation besides Israel itself would argue their legality.

In order to drive this to ground, on August 8 I sent requests to both the U.S. Dept. of State and to Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to provide a written statement of official U.S. policy on the legality of settlement building on occupied territory.

With no response being offered, on August 16 I began placing calls to State and the Congress, which I continued over the the following twenty-five days. By email and/or by telephone I contacted several offices at State along with spokespersons for Senators Menedez and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) and the Congressional Representative of my home district, Loretta Sanchez. Specifically, I spoke to Kerry, Carlos, Kirby, Jose, Jennifer and Cameron, a gaggle of bright young staffers who ranged from earnest to annoyed and aloof. They all shared an abject inability to summon a response to my question. This includes the emailed response I finally received from Sen. Menendez on September 9, which reads as follows:

Dear  Mr. Hurt :

Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding a two-state solution to the Israel – Palestinian conflict.  I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter and having the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, the Palestinian Authority proposed a resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) regarding issues under direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, namely borders and settlements.  Regardless of the content of such a resolution, our country’s consistent position has been that this and other issues linked to the Middle East peace process can only be resolved by the two parties negotiating directly with each other.

A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is long overdue, and we must ensure that peace is sustainable and both parties are fully committed to a resolution.  The merits of any peace proposal between the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to be weighed against the assurances Israel requires for its security.  Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is inalienable and must be explicitly recognized by its neighbors.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.   Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

The reader will note that Sen. Menendez’s response is mere boilerplate and utterly fails to address the question. It also opens with a striking disregard for the truth: At no point did I “express (my) views regarding a two-state solution…” I immediately hit “Reply” and sent a polite, carefully worded message pointing out that my question remained unaddressed. In return, I was summarily notified by an entity labeled “senatepostmaster” that my reply was undeliverable.

Sen. Menendez has a spotty political record, often taking positions closer to Republican than Democratic. When it comes to Israel, however, he is reliably and staunchly in support, and maintains a close relationship with AIPAC. (Please read his address to AIPAC, March of this year.) He has recently sent a letter to the president laying out conditions for the Iranian nuclear negotiations that appear to be penned by Netanyahu himself, going far beyond Obama’s objectives and well beyond anything the Iranians could accept. Not surprising then that in his letter above, Menendez speaks entirely from an Israeli perspective, for example stressing the Israeli security requirements with nary a word about Palestinian security.

I had also forwarded this question (our nation’s official position on the legality of Israeli settlements) to the Council on Foreign Relations, and was pleased to receive a reply penned by Elliot Abrams, who, though still encumbered by significant moral and legal baggage (Central American death squads, Iran-Contra), must be respected as a scion of American diplomacy. Mr. Abrams, whose reply provides a neat history of the issue, from Reagan (“not illegal”) to Obama (“illegitimate”), while still failing to state our national position on legality, which position quite clearly does not currently exist.

The episode described clearly illustrates that our “representative democracy” is a charade. A representative democracy whose government declines to discuss or even express policy is nothing more than a plutocracy and our elections become merely an opportunity to select from a limited pool of plutocrats. It also calls into question our ability to perform an elemental and essential role of government: to create and conduct policy. It further questions the quality, capability and experience of our leadership and certainly our commitment to fundamental American values, namely the rule of law. The Fourth Geneva Convention was incorporated into Customary International Law in 1993, making it applicable to all nations. It’s clear that in this case our government willfully ignores and refuses to even acknowledge international law.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

BICOM and the peace process façade: On the views of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre

By Hilary Aked, Tom Mills, David Miller and Tom Griffin | MEMO | November 4, 2013

Renewed ‘peace talks’ between Israeli and the Palestinian Authority officials have quietly been going on behind closed doors and a U.S.-imposed media blackout for three months now. Like all previous such exercises they will almost certainly break down without delivering justice or bringing peace.

Even though the Palestine Papers made it clear that the leaders of the PA, a creation of the Oslo process, have offered huge concessions in past rounds of talks, pro-Israel commentators are nonetheless pre-emptively rehearsing their arguments to blame the Palestinian side and obfuscate the fundamental longstanding issue: Israeli intransigence. A key – though little known – organisation engaged in this activity in British political circles is BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

‘BICOM: Giving peace a chance?’, a new report published by Spinwatch, subjects this organisation to detailed scrutiny for the first time. It concludes that BICOM, like Israel itself, seeks to maintain the façade of progress towards peace, but in practice exhibits deep disdain for international law.

BICOM was established in 2001 in the wake of the Second Intifada and increasing international exasperation with Israel. Looking back a decade later, its primary funder, the billionaire businessman Poju Zabludowicz, neatly articulated its raison d’etre: ‘We have learnt over the last 10 years… that the key to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain is convincing people in this country that Israel seeks a lasting peace… As long as this argument remains credible then people will generally forgive mistakes and difficulties even if peace continues to be elusive’, he wrote.

So BICOM’s aim is not to contribute to peace, but to convince people that peace is what Israel wants. The professions of support for a two state solution BICOM issues seem to be little more than a rhetorical device to foster, in Zabludowicz’s words, a ‘supportive environment’ in which people will ‘forgive’ Israel for its ‘mistakes’.

The existence of a broad international consensus in support of Palestinian statehood is enough to explain why BICOM judges it must pay lip service to the abstract idea of a Palestinian state. But the devil is in the detail. Though BICOM poses as the voice of sensible centrism, its political positions, when subjected to scrutiny, are far from moderate. In practice BICOM opposes key tenets of international law that serve as the framework for implementing the recognised prerequisites of a Palestinian state. It echoes Israeli exceptionalism on the four key issues of the conflict: borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees. The following is based on an analysis of BICOM’s own statements.

After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the UN Security Council passed resolution 242 which called for Israel to end its occupation of territories captured during the war. Following the Israeli government’s unique interpretation, however, BICOM argues that the absence of either the word ‘the’ or ‘all’ from the English language version of resolution 242 when referring to ‘territories captured’, means that Israel need not withdraw to pre-67 borders. This, despite the resolution’s preamble clearly asserting the ‘inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’.

On settlements too, despite international consensus on their illegality as articulated in UN Security Council resolutions and reiterated in 2004 by the International Court of Justice, BICOM stands by the Israeli government’s position which is, again, at odds with the international community. Israel disputes the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention which outlaws the transfer of civilians into the occupied territories. Indeed, whilst engaging in talks supposedly intended to demonstrate its commitment to achieving peace, Israel yet again announced more settlement construction and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of solidarity to Israeli settlers in Hebron.

While BICOM, for obvious reasons, generally tries to avoid spelling out the extent to which its positions contradict with the requirements of international law, Luke Akehurst, who manages the BICOM spin-off group We Believe in Israel, has explicitly challenged the internationally accepted interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But more frequently, since Israel is in violation of so many laws and UN resolutions, BICOM simply dispenses with international legal principles as an explanatory framework. Instead its stances are frequently premised upon – and justified by way of reference to – what Israelis are ‘willing to contemplate’ or the ‘broad consensus in Israel’.

On Jerusalem, for example, BICOM asserts that ‘most Israelis would not be willing to contemplate’ Israeli ‘loss of Israeli sovereignty’ over the city. Thus it endorses the Israeli government’s unilateral rejection of the international political and legal consensus. BICOM’s attitude is illustrated in its use of language too. It euphemistically refers to settlements as ‘communities’ or ‘neighbourhoods’, to the West Bank as ‘disputed’ rather than occupied territory and calls the Jerusalem ‘the capital of Israel’ – though even the United States does not recognise this and therefore maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.

On the thorny issue of the Palestinian refugees BICOM claims that in the 1948 war ‘there was no deliberate, co-ordinated Jewish policy to expel the Arabs’. This Zionist myth has long been disproved by Israel’s so-called New Historians, such as Ilan Pappe, who have shown convincingly that the contrary is in fact true. At any rate, the right of the approximately 700,000 refugees – and their descendants – to return to their homes is upheld in UN resolution 194. Yet BICOM’s take on the refugee issue appears, once more to ignore international law and UN resolutions. Instead it offers the legally insubstantial argument that ‘Israel does not believe it is responsible for resettling the refugees, believing their plight to be the responsibility of the Arab states that rejected the 1947 Partition Plan [and] started the war’.

Cutting to the heart of the situation is BICOM’s statement (again couched in terms of Israeli desires, not legality) that ‘no Israeli government will accept a solution that would allow millions of Palestinians to settle in Israel [as] this would effectively spell the end of the Jewish majority’. Even without reference to the return of refugees, BICOM’s research director, Toby Greene, writing in BICOM’s recently launched glossy publication ‘Fathom‘, speaks of a ‘demographic threat’ posed to Israel – and its self-definition as a Jewish state – by natural Palestinian population growth alone. This illuminates the underlying ethnic exclusivism in BICOM’s vision of ‘two states for two peoples’.

Just as the ‘peace process’ functions as a fig leaf for continuation of the status quo, BICOM’s lobbying activities – which focus on encouraging the British media to take what it paradoxically refers to as ‘the most objectively favourable line‘ – serve to ward off condemnation of Israel. This seems to be true amongst the strategically vital political elite at least, though grassroots trends show increasing pro-Palestinian feeling.

Ultimately it is symptomatic of the tenuous nature of democracy in the UK that by maintaining close relationships at the top – with the likes of the influential Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel groups – BICOM is able to inculcate in the political class the idea that Israel is a benign and reasonable actor in search of peace, while its underlying arguments and Israel’s actions, belie this narrative.

The report BICOM: Giving peace a chance? will be launched on the 7th of November. Register to attend the launch event here.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment