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Washington’s Hysteria Towards Russia Hides US Regime Change

By Finian Cunningham  |  Strategic Culture Foundation | March 6, 2014

Legally, Washington and its European allies haven’t a leg to stand on. Both can be rightly accused of violating international law from their gross interference in Ukrainian sovereign affairs – from the instigation of violent street protests that led to the sacking of an elected president and government, to the subsequent climate of lawlessness and fear sweeping across Ukraine and felt in particular by the majority Russian ethnic population in the east and south of the country.

The latest revelations that killings in Kiev’s Maidan Square among protesters and police were covertly carried out by snipers working for the Western-backed agitators are further proof that a coup d’état was orchestrated. A leaked phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, dated February 25, indicates that snipers were used as provocateurs during the demonstrations, with the intention of heightening violence and blaming it on the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

In the phone call, reported by Russia Today, Paet is heard to say: «There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [Western-backed] coalition».

Ashton replied: «I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh».

The evidence for Western-sponsored subversion in Ukraine is so glaring – from the parade of American and European politicians over the past four months whipping up protesters in Kiev, to documented infiltration of civic organizations by the CIA, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Adenauer Foundation, among others, to their own words of admission from the likes of State Department official Victoria Nuland on the desired formation of a new governing administration in Kiev – that in order to distract from this mountain of damning evidence, the Western governments and their servile media are trying to shift the terrain of discourse away from the panoramic obvious.

The latest revelation of snipers used as provocateurs adds a new sinister twist.

However, against all the evidence, it is not the West that is in violation over Ukraine; it is Russia – so they claim.

More than this, the Western leaders and media have gone into hysterical mode, accusing Russia of «brazen aggression» and «bringing the region to the brink of war». Ironically, given the astounding denial of reality by the West, it is now turning around and accusing Russia of peddling propaganda over recent events in Ukraine. One France 24 headline read: «The fanciful claims of Russian propaganda».

Never mind fanciful claims, how about just some hard facts – facts that Western media are in abject denial of?

Apart from the above litany of outrageous Western interference in Ukrainian politics, the fact is that President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent putsch at the end of last month.

Yanukovych was elected in 2010; and in a constitutional democracy his removal from office requires a vote by the electorate, not the diktats of a bunch of gun-wielding paramilitaries. We may not have liked Yanukovych’s alleged authoritarian style of governance or accusations of cronyism, but the only legal way to correct that would have been for an orderly constitutional process of elections or some other form of due process.

Yanukovych signed a national unity deal with political opponents on February 21, which European Union ministers had been involved in brokering. But his opponents immediately trashed the deal with threats of violence unless Yanukovych stood down.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore correct when he told a press conference this week that what has happened in Kiev is «an unconstitutional coup» and «an armed seizure of power».

Legally speaking, and even under the terms of the EU-brokered national unity accord signed on February 21, Viktor Yanukovych is still the lawful president of Ukraine. When Yanukovych subsequently sent a formal letter to Putin requesting military assistance in the light of unconstitutional and violent upheaval, the Russian Federation had a legal and moral mandate to enter into Ukrainian territory.

The differing responses to the February 21 «event» are instructive. Both Washington and Brussels immediately recognized the new office holders in Kiev as the «legitimate government» of Ukraine with its self-declared president Oleksandr Torchynov and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new cabinet, comprising members of the fascist Svoboda party who had been previously waging street war, was also conferred with official Western recognition. The Western media have since gone on to use euphemisms like Kiev’s «fledgling government».

A more accurate definition of the new administration in Kiev is an unelected, self-imposed junta. But the violent, unconstitutional means of taking political power has not stopped British foreign secretary William Hague coming to Kiev this week, followed by US secretary of state John Kerry, to shake hands with the junta. Brussels also invited the mob rulers in Kiev to a ministerial summit this week.

By contrast, Russia is calling for a return to the national unity deal signed on February 21 – a deal which recognizes Yanukovych as the president in office until mutually agreed constitutional reforms are worked out and mandated by the entire electorate of Ukraine – as the legal starting point for any future political settlement. This is the most reasonable and constitutionally legal way forward. Let the people decide whom they want in government by voting, that is by democracy, which, pointedly, Western leaders do not seem able or willing to countenance. The latter prefer imposing governance by force according to their diktat because the real agenda is the economic pillaging of Ukraine by Western capital, an outcome that the Ukrainian people would not vote for if they truly had a democratic choice in the matter.

Given the self-publicized threats of aggression towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine and other perceived political opponents issued by Svoboda and its Right Sector paramilitaries, together with documented acts of recent violence in Kiev, it is was eminently legal and appropriate that Moscow embarked on defensive security measures in Ukraine. Securing military bases and a majority Russian-speaking population in the autonomous southern republic of Crimea this week – at the written requests of President Yanukovych and the Crimean regional prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, as well as under the legal terms of a long-standing bilateral agreement with Ukraine – all that gives Moscow an irrefutable mandate to do so.

Yet, with frothing hysteria, the Western governments and their media have turned reality upside down. There is not a mention of the unlawful Western interference and subversion in the Ukraine or of its hand-in-fist association with neo-Nazi street mobs in executing a violent putsch in Kiev. US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power brazenly denied reality earlier this week when she accused Moscow of citing «imaginary threats» in Ukraine. The bitter irony of that is that Samantha Power is one of the cheerleaders for the so-called «responsibility to protect» which has given her country the fictitious cover to illegally intervene and militarily overthrow governments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and anywhere else the US deems desirable for regime change.

In a feat of sheer doublethink, the West has accused Russia of «illegal invasion» in Ukraine and of using «pretexts for acts of aggression». This hysterical rhetoric is being used to cover up the West’s own glaring transgressions in Ukraine and to shift the blame for the turmoil.

Unabashed by its unequivocal involvement in engineering regime change in Ukraine, American and European leaders are demanding that Russia withdraw troops from Crimea or face sanctions. Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry said the US would isolate Russia «economically, politically and diplomatically» if it did not reverse security measures, or as Kerry put it «aggression».

Meanwhile, there is not a scintilla of indication that the Americans and Europeans have any intention of reversing their unlawful interference in Ukraine. Far from it, Kerry on his visit to the junta in Kiev this week said that the US was offering $1 billion in loan guarantees. The New York Times explained: «The purpose of the loan guarantees is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West».

European Union ministers this week somehow found reserves of €11 billion for the new «Western friendly» administration in Kiev – against the backdrop of millions of EU citizens suffering from unemployment and deprivation. The International Monetary Fund is also drawing up a lure (loan) of $2 billion.

With pro-Western, pro-capitalist Yatsenyuk now at the helm in Kiev (as Nuland prescribed), Ukraine is being steered inexorably into debt bondage by the West. This bondage, facilitated by an unelected junta, will entail an austerity assault on Ukrainian workers, beginning with swingeing cuts in public spending, wages and subsidies on fuel. It will also lead to privatization of Ukrainian oil and gas industries and the full take over of other prodigious Ukrainian natural resources, such as its wheat agriculture, by Western capital. Yatsenyuk, who talks with pride about being willing to commit political suicide for the sake of pro-Western reforms, that is Western subjugation, is exactly the kind of ideologue the West want and need in Kiev, as Nuland duly recognized.

Interestingly, this week the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus, Mykhailo Yeshel, admitted in a media interview that loans (lures) from Washington were being offered on condition of the Ukraine permitting the deployment of American missile systems on its territory – right on the border with Russia.

The emerging picture is clear. Despite all the hysterical nonsense being spouted by Western leaders and their media propaganda machine, demanding Russia to «back off» from Ukraine, the Western regime-change operation in that country is not just being consolidated – it is being ramped up.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lewis and Crok: Climate less sensitive to CO2 than models suggest

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | March 5, 2014

Nic Lewis and Marcel Crok have published a new report on climate sensitivity.

The title of the report is “A sensitive matter: How the IPCC buried evidence showing good news about global warming.”  The report is published by the GWPF. The long version of the report is found [here]; a short version is found [here].

From the press release issued by the GWPF:

A new report published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation shows that the best observational evidence indicates our climate is considerably less sensitive to greenhouse gases than climate models are estimating.

The clues for this and the relevant scientific papers are all referred to in the recently published Fifth Assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, this important conclusion was not drawn in the full IPCC report – it is only mentioned as a possibility – and is ignored in the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM).

For over thirty years climate scientists have presented a range for climate sensitivity (ECS) that has hardly changed. It was 1.5-4.5°C in 1979 and this range is still the same today in AR5. The new report suggests that the inclusion of recent evidence, reflected in AR5, justifies a lower observationally-based temperature range of 1.25–3.0°C, with a best estimate of 1.75°C, for a doubling of CO2. By contrast, the climate models used for projections in AR5 indicate a range of 2-4.5°C, with an average of 3.2°C.

This is one of the key findings of the new report Oversensitive: how the IPCC hid the good news on global warming, written by independent UK climate scientist Nic Lewis and Dutch science writer Marcel Crok. Lewis and Crok were both expert reviewers of the IPCC report, and Lewis was an author of two relevant papers cited in it.

In recent years it has become possible to make good empirical estimates of climate sensitivity from observational data such as temperature and ocean heat records. These estimates, published in leading scientific journals, point to climate sensitivity per doubling of CO2 most likely being under 2°C for long-term warming, with a best estimate of only 1.3-1.4°C for warming over a seventy year period.

“The observational evidence strongly suggest that climate models display too much sensitivity to carbon dioxide concentrations and in almost all cases exaggerate the likely path of global warming,” says Nic Lewis.

These lower, observationally-based estimates for both long-term climate sensitivity and the seventy-year response suggest that considerably less global warming and sea level rise is to be expected in the 21st century than most climate model projections currently imply.

“We estimate that on the IPCC’s second highest emissions scenario warming would still be around the international target of 2°C in 2081-2100,” Lewis says.

I was asked to review this article prior to publication, and then was subsequently asked to write the foreword.  The text of my foreword:

The sensitivity of our climate to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide is at the heart of the scientific debate on anthropogenic climate change, and also the public debate on the appropriate policy response to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Climate sensitivity and estimates of its uncertainty are key inputs into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon.

The complexity and nuances of the issue of climate sensitivity to increasing carbon dioxide are not easily discerned from reading the Summary for Policy Makers of the assessment reports undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Further, the more detailed discussion of climate sensitivity in the text of the fullWorking Group I reports lacks context or an explanation that is easily understood by anyone not actively reading the published literature.

This report by Nic Lewis andMarcel Crok addresses this gap between the IPCC assessments and the primary scientific literature, providing an overview of the different methods for estimating climate sensitivity and a historical perspective on IPCC’s assessments of climate sensitivity. The report also provides an independent assessment of the different methods for estimating climate sensitivity and a critique of the IPCC AR4 and AR5 assessments of climate sensitivity.

It emphasizes the point that evidence for low climate sensitivity is piling up. I find this report to be a useful contribution to scientific debate on this topic, as well as an important contribution to the public dialogue and debate on the subject of climate change policy.

I agreed to review this report and write this Foreword since I hold both authors of this report in high regard. I have followed with interest Nic Lewis’ emergence as an independent climate scientist and his success in publishing papers in major peer-reviewed journals on the topic of climate sensitivity, and I have endeavored to support and publicize his research. I have interacted with Marcel Crok over the years and appreciate his insightful analyses, most recently as a participant in climatedialogue.org.

The collaboration of these two authors in writing this report has resulted in a technically sound, well-organized and readily comprehensible report on the scientific issues surrounding climate sensitivity and the deliberations of the IPCC on this topic.

While writing this Foreword, I considered the very few options available for publishing a report such as this paper by Lewis and Crok. I am appreciative of the GWPF for publishing and publicizing this report. Public accountability of governmental and intergovernmental climate science and policy analysis is enhanced by independent assessments of their conclusions and arguments.

JC comments:  I did think twice about writing a foreword for a GWPF publication.  I try to stay away from organizations with political perspectives on global warming.  That said, GWPF has done some commendable things, notably pushing for inquiries into the Climategate affair.  And there really are very few options for publishing a report like this.

I think it is important to put forward alternative assessments of the key elements of the climate change debate — alternative to reports issued by the IPCC, the UK MetOffice, and the RS/NAS.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homeland Security Detained US Citizen Inside The US, Used Intercepted Emails To Quiz Her About Her Sex Life

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | March 6, 2014

Just recently, we wrote about how the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has been increasingly detaining and harassing people at the border (or near the border) under highly questionable circumstances — and then refusing to comment on any of it. Instead, CBP has relied on a cloak of secrecy to live outside the law, acting out what we’ve come to expect from authoritarian police states. Recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a woman, Christine Von Der Haar, who is a senior lecturer at Indiana University, after CBP detained her at the airport.

She was not entering or leaving the country. She was not even boarding a flight. She merely accompanied a friend to the airport so that he could retrieve some computer equipment that he had shipped separately a few days earlier. After detaining Von Der Haar, CBP officials, who clearly had access to some of the emails Von Der Haar and her friend had sent back and forth, quizzed her about her sex life and if she was planning to marry the friend.

CBP appeared to be concerned that the friend, a Greek national named Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos, was trying to stay in the country illegally. Von Der Haar had first met Papatheodoropoulos 40 years earlier while studying abroad, and the two had recently reconnected thanks to the internet. Papatheodoropoulos had obtained a B1/B2 business/leisure visa to the US which actually let him enter and leave the country for a period of 10 years. He came to the US for business, but while there also wished to visit Von Der Haar since they’d been catching up online.

After detaining and questioning Papatheodoropoulos for some time, CBP officials took Von Der Haar into another room and started asking questions specific to the emails between the two of them. According to the lawsuit:

Given that Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had retained his hard drive that contained the emails, the only way that the Customs and Border Protection Agents could have reviewed the emails is for someone to have surreptitiously monitored the communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos and reported those communications to the agents questioning her. Defendant Lieba admitted that employees of the United States had read email communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos.

This raises all sorts of serious questions. As the post at Papers Please (linked above) notes:

CBP officers grossly exceeded their jurisdiction. Dr. Dr. Von Der Haar’s US citizenship was never questioned; she wasn’t trying to enter, leave, or ship and goods in or out of the country; and she was never accused of any crime. In general, immigration (as distinct from customs) offenses are handled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol, not CBP. We’re curious what basis CBP will claim for its officers’ authority to detain and interrogate Dr. Dr. Von Der Haar or obtain her email.

The post also wonders how or why CBP got access to those emails, wondering if they were shared by the NSA. There are, of course, other possible explanations as various investigations may have resulted in CBP getting access to the emails separately, but it still raises serious questions about under what authority those emails were obtained and why she was then quizzed about her sex life.

The claims that officials made about Papatheodoropoulos were equally questionable. Again, from the lawsuit:

Customs and Border Protection agents seized Mr. Papatheodoropoulos’ passport.

On June 8, 2012, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos was served with notice that a proceeding was initiated against him for removal from the United States. The notice stated, in relevant part:

You obtained your B1/B2 visa by misrepresenting your intentions to come to the United States to wit; It is your intention to immigrate to the United States, you abandoned your foreign residence, you intend to overstay your admission to the United States.

None of this was true.

Mr. Papatheodoropoulos consulted with lawyers and the Greek Consulate in Chicago and the removal action did not proceed.

His passport was returned to him and he left the United States at the end of August of 2012 and has not returned

The whole thing seems ridiculous yet again, and you can expect DHS to use its standard cloak of secrecy. I’m sure they’ll argue some sort of state secrets or national security claim to try to get the entire case thrown out.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Violence in Venezuela: The Myths Versus Facts

By Federico Fuentes | Green Left Weekly | March 5, 2014

Below, Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network activist Federico Fuentes, provides answers to common questions about recent events in Venezuela. Key facts are referenced, largely from media outlets that could not be identified as pro-government.

***

Is recent unrest in Venezuela due to government repression against peaceful protests?

No. This version of events, widely disseminated by the media, ignores the fact that security forces only acted after groups within the protests initiated violent actions. In the case of the first of the current round of protests that gained media attention, in Tachira on February 6, police only moved in after small groups of protesters attacked local governorship offices and home of the local governor.http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140206/maduro-quieren-apl…

When protests took place in Merida the next day, security forces intervened only after armed protesters had carried out actions such as hijacking trucks carrying food and medicine.http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140207/herido-estudiante-…

During protests in Caracas on February 12, which gained international media attention due to deaths on the day, there is clear evidence security forces only moved into action after a small group of protesters had them, destroyed the attorney-general’s office and burned five police trucks.http://www.elsoldemargarita.com.ve/posts/post/id:128117

None of this is to deny there were incidents of heavy-handed action by security forces, or to excuse the death of protesters. One fact the media has studious ignored is that 11 members of Venezuela’s security forces and three Bolivarian National Guard soldiers have been arrested and charged after evidence of wrongdoing.

In relation to the two deaths on February 12 (an opposition student and government supporter), eight SEBIN (intelligence) officers who violated strict orders to not confront protesters were arrested. The head of SEBIN has been replaced.http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/sucesos/ocho-funci…

The pattern is clear: small groups of protesters have consciously tried to incite violence and provoke security forces.

The pattern is all the more obvious when we look at the death toll.

As of March 5, there had been 19 deaths that could be directly attributed to the protests. Of these, three have been attributed to state security forces (including that of a government supporter). http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuela-who-are-…

In comparison, opposition protesters have shot death two National Guard soldiers and a brother of a national assembly deputy.

A further six have been killed as a result of the opposition road blockades (including two motorbike riders nearly decapitated by barbed wire strung across roadways by protesters).

At least 30 people have indirectly died due to the roadblocks blocking access to emergency medical treatment or other vital services.

It is important to recall that far-right opposition force have continuous used violence against pro-government supporters. In the wake of presidential elections in April last year, 11 people — all government supporters — were killed during days of violent protest. None received the media coverage we see today.

Are these protests in response to legitimate grievances?

Not even President Nicolas Maduro’s government denies Venezuela faces crucial challenges regarding crime and the economy. But it is clear these protests have been organised by right-wing forces who, unable to defeat socialist candidates in elections, are seeking to depose the government via violent means.

Just two months before the recent unrest began, pro-government candidates won 54% of the vote in nation-wide municipal elections recognised as legitimate by the opposition. http://www.americaeconomia.com/analisis-opinion/elecciones-municipales-e…

That is why key opposition leaders, such as Leopoldo Lopez from the Popular Will party, have said repeatedly that the only way to get rid of Maduro’s government is via the streets. http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140124/dirigentes-invitan…

On February 2, four days before the student protests began in Tachira, Lopez and the opposition-aligned student federation president at the Central University of Venezuela held a public rally.

Lopez called for opposition supporters to take to the streets of Caracas on February 12, National Youth Day, by saying: “The problem is not just Maduro, it is the heads of all the public powers … all of the have to go”. http://www.laverdad.com/politica/45606-la-oposicion-retoma-las-calles-co…

With this in mind, student leaders aligned with Popular Will instigated protests on February 4 in Tachira. They provoked confrontations with police and used images of “repression” to build momentum for the February 12 rally.

Far from being spontaneous protests over social or economic issues, these protests represented a bid by opposition forces to by-pass the democratic process to bring down the elected government.

Who is Leopoldo Lopez?

Lopez is a former mayor of Chacao, a municipality that covers some of the wealthiest suburbs of Caracas and where most of the recent protests have taken place. As mayor, he actively supported the 2002 military coup that briefly ousted president Hugo Chavez and led the arrest of then-interior minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/20/280207441/5-things-to-kno…

Lopez was found guilty of charges of corruption dating back to his time as an employee of the state oil company PDVSA, when he siphoned money towards starting up a new political party.

Despite this, it is clear Lopez and other opposition figures have received financial support from the US to help their campaign to get rid of first Chavez and now Maduro.

US embassy cables made public by WikiLeaks describe Lopez as “a divisive figure within the opposition … He is often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry …” http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=09CARACAS1408&q=leopoldo-lopez

Nevertheless, the cables reveal a concerted campaign by Washington to promote and maintain unity among opposition spokespeople, including Lopez. http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10388

Embassy cables also reveal US government funding of opposition parties, including Lopez’s. Just this year, the US government earmarked a further US$5 million towards opposition groups. http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/04CARACAS2224_a.html

Does the Venezuela government control all the media?

No. More than 70% of the media in Venezuela is privately owned, with 25% being in community hands and only about 5% being controlled by the state. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19368807

Moreover, 40% of households have cable TV — giving access to Fox and CNN en Espanol.

Almost all private media have shown bias towards the opposition. A study of the three main private TV stations conducted by the Carter Centre during the 2013 presidential elections, found they dedicated 79% of their election coverage to opposition candidate Capriles.https://www.cartercenter.org/news/pr/venezuela-070313.html

These same media outlets have ran constant coverage of the recent protests and statements made by opposition leaders.http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/does-venezuelan-te…

There have been many cases of media outlets deliberately misreporting what is occurring in Venezuela. One example is the continued misrepresentation of media ownership in Venezuela. http://www.fair.org/blog/2014/02/27/nyt-corrects-venezuela-tv-falsehood/

The more brazen example is the continued claim by media outlets in Venezuela and internationally (such as El Universal and the New York Times , to give two examples) that a young man was killed as a result of police actions in Tachira.
http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140228/fallecidos-durante…
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/world/americas/in-venezuela-middle-cla…

This is despite video evidence showing that he had fallen off a building. No correction has been issued by any of these outlets.http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10410

But is the Maduro government a dictatorship? How is it possible to bring him down if not via street protests?

Maduro is democratically elected. The political movement he represents has won 17 out of 18 national elections since Chavez was first elected in 1998.

Despite some opposition claims, Venezuela’s electoral system has been described by former US president Jimmy Carter, whose Cater Center observes elections in many countries, as “the best in the world”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBwQ40TtCFA

Since October 2012 alone, Venezuelans have gone to the polls four times. Each time the election results have been verified by numerous international election observer teams.

Opposition forces claimed fraud after Maduro narrowly won elections last April, but no actual evidence of fraud was ever presented. A recount demonstrated the results were accurate. Moreover, opposition candidates made no complaints when the same voting system was used in the December municipal council elections.

What elections have repeatedly shown is that the “Chavista” movement remains the largest political force in the country.

It is precisely because the right-wing opposition has failed to win elections that they have turned towards violence, just as they did in 2002 with the failed coup against Chavez.

Protests to bring down an illegitimate government is one thing. Violent protests aimed at imposing a government against the will of the majority are another.

How serious is the economic crisis facing the country?

Few, least of all the Maduro government, deny Venezuela is facing some serious economic problems. However, they are nothing like what the private media portrays.

For example, despite problems with inflation and shortages, Venezuela registered a decline in its poverty rate (from 21.6% in 2012 to 19.6% last year) and unemployment rate (from 5.9% to 5.6%). http://www.ciudadccs.info/?p=521684

Last June, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization praised Venezuela for making great strides in lowering malnutrition. Venezuela’s daily rate of calories consumption per person is almost 60% above the FAO’s proposed minimum intake (3182 calories per day in Venezuela, as compared to 1800 calories). http://www.rlc.fao.org/es/paises/venezuela/noticias/venezuela-sera-recon…

Last year, inflation was a very high 56, compared with 23.4% average during the time of Chavez’s presidency (1999-2012). But inflation is not a new problem in Venezuela.

Media outlets have not noted that in the decade prior to Chavez’s elections, the average inflation rate was 52%, with peaks of 81% (1989) and 103% (1996). http://www.elmundo.com.ve/firmas/blagdimir-labrador/la-inflacion-en-vene…

These and many other figures indicate that the picture is far more complex than media portrayals suggest.

Rather than shed light on the situation, the media prefers to highlight selective facts and blame the government for problems. This enables the media to accomplish two things.

First, it conceals the real role that Venezuela’s rich elites are playing in provoking economic problems. In November last year, the Venezuelan government carried out an audit of thousands of private-owned stores and found almost all of them were involved in marking-up prices by 500%-10,000%.

Since then, the government has enacted a new law that would set a 15%-30% limit on profit margins. This law came into effect around the same time the recent unrest began.

Second, the media’s role is to reinforce the idea that any attempt to change the status quo will result in disaster.

From his first days in office, Chavez was vilified by the media and opposed by the elite. They rejected his proposal that the Venezuelan state should control the country’s oil riches and redistribute its wealth n order to more equitably.

Such policies led to a dramatic fall in poverty and contributed to record economic growth rates. It funded a huge expansion of free, accessible public services (health, education, etc) and community empowerment via funding for grassroots neighbourhood committees.

This is why the Maduro government continues to enjoy popular support — as shown in elections and large pro-government demonstrations.

This is also why the rich elites, and the media outlets they own, are continuously working to bring down the government. Part of this campaign involves discrediting the very idea that people’s needs could take priority over the market.

That is also why it’s not a question of defending a government versus protesters. It’s about defending a political movement of the poor against the violent reaction of the old elites.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pensions in Ukraine to be halved – sequestration draft

RT | March 6, 2014

The self-proclaimed government in Kiev is reportedly planning to cut pensions by 50 percent as part of unprecedented austerity measures to save Ukraine from default. With an “empty treasury”, reduction of payments might take place in March.

According to the draft document obtained by Kommersant-Ukraine, social payments will be the first to be reduced.

“The Finance Ministry has prepared a plan for optimizing budget expenditures, which implies budget sequestration is to be in force before the end of March. For this purpose, in particular, it has been proposed to reduce capital costs, eliminate tax schemes and preferences and to cut social benefits, for example, 50 percent of pensions to working pensioners,” Kommersant-Ukraine reported.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy reported on December 1, 2013, that an average pension in Ukraine is $160.
Right after the formation, the self-proclaimed government in Kiev announced that the “treasury is empty”.

Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, promised the government would do its best to avoid a default, adding that he expects an EU/IMF economic stabilization package soon. The plan has been formulated in record time, with the government’s strategy ratified in the Ukrainian parliament on February 27, and the document being sent for evaluation to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade on March 3.

The European Commission offered Ukraine an 11 billion euro loan if Kiev agrees a deal with the IMF, European Commission President Jose Barroso announced on Wednesday. As a rule, help from financial organizations such as the IMF or the World Bank normally includes drastic austerity measures.

Accepting IMF money will mean many sacrifices for Ukraine’s economy, which are likely to include increased gas bills, frozen government salaries, and all around budget cuts.

The government in Kiev has already announced sequestration plans from $6.8 to $8.4 billion in 2014.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

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Housing demolitions carried out under the pretext of unlicensed construction are a common occurrence in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinians are rarely granted permits by the Israeli authorities to build houses in the city. Apartments prices have risen drastically in Jerusalem — 120 m apartment would cost approximately $350,000. As a result, they are forced to build without a permit, which often results in the Israeli authorities issuing demolition orders on unlicensed buildings.

In 2013, 82 houses owned by Palestinians in Jerusalem were demolished, effecting 281 people. In recent years, self-demolition of houses has become common in East Jerusalem as the Palestinian owners of “unlicensed” houses are forced to choose between demolishing the houses themselves or paying the Jerusalem municipality to do so for them.

In this video Muhammad ‘Amireh speaks of his experience of having to demolish his own house.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

US Policy of Isolating Russia and Expanding NATO Is a Dismal Failure

By Rodrigue Tremblay | The People’s Voice | March 5, 2014

[NATO’s goal is] to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.
Hastings Ismay, first NATO Secretary-General

Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.
James Madison (1751-1836), fourth American President

The hazards associated with American foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 should appear obvious to all, because it is precisely this policy that has caused the crisis in Ukraine with all its negative consequences for the coming months and years.

President Barack Obama was candid in admitting it on March 3, 2014: “we are indicating to the Russians [that] if in fact they continue on the current trajectory they’re on, then we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic— that will isolate Russia.”

Well, it is precisely this desire to expand NATO and to isolate Russia by incorporating all the countries bordering Russia into NATO;  i.e., a strategy of geopolitical and military encirclement of Russia, which has provoked that country when it felt threatened in its national security.

This is easy to understand.

For example, what would the United States do if a hypothetical Russian Empire were to incorporate Mexico or Canada into a military alliance? To ask the question is to answer it. Why is it so difficult to understand that the best way to start a war is to threaten a country’s vital interests?

The truth is that NATO should have been disbanded after the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, and especially after the Warsaw Pact was itself dismantled. Europe should have then moved to build an expanded Europe of nations, large, democratic and peaceful, within a framework of economic and political cooperation and peace. But no! The United States wanted to take advantage of the situation and demanded that everything fell into the military-financial U.S. empire.

That is the source of many problems.

In my book The New American Empire, originally published in 2003, just before the onset of the Iraq war, I pointed out the dangers of the American global imperial ambition and explained the reasons. The Middle East was the first to suffer under this global policy of interventionism. And now, Europe as a whole, most unfortunately, may have to pay the price for this unbridled American hubris, under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, although that policy goes back to George H. Bush and Bill Clinton.

This is why President Obama and his neocon advisers do not think beyond their nose, as was the case for the not-too-bright George W. Bush, when they adopted such a global imperialist ideology.

In 2008, it just happened that I wrote an article in which I advanced the idea that Europe had a vital interest in disbanding that relic of another age: NATO. Indeed, we must blame European leaders not to have understood that the fundamental interest of Europe was not to blend into the American Empire but rather to build an independent and united Europe. Because that reality has not been well understood, Europe is now running the risk of falling prey to a new Cold War with divisive and ruinous conflicts, while the United States will try to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, with the U.K. as its convenient ally from within Europe.

It may be not too late for European leaders to rectify the situation. This would, however, require wisdom and the courage to tell the American neo-cons who have designed American foreign policy for a quarter of a century that they are not masters of the world and that the European Union has no intention to pursue an aggressive policy of military encirclement of Russia. Point to the line.

Rather, on the contrary, Russia should be invited to join an expanded Europe of nations, large, democratic and peaceful within a framework of economic cooperation and peace.

What is needed of them is vision, insight, and a spirit of independence, which currently seems to be lacking badly in many current European governments.

Carelessness and the current European abdication in letting Washington decide European foreign policy may serve the interests of the American empire, but this could lead Europe to disaster.

The author can be reach at: rodrigue.tremblay1@gmail.com

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Supreme Court Denies Review of NSA Warrantless Surveillance Case

Center for Constitutional Rights  | March 4, 2014

New York – The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it would not hear Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama, a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of people within the United States. The suit sought an injunction ordering the government to destroy any records of surveillance that it still retains from the illegal NSA program. The Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement in response to the Court’s decision:

The Supreme Court’s refusal to review this case guarantees that the federal courts will never address a fundamental question: Was the warrantless surveillance program the NSA carried out on President Bush’s orders legal? The Court’s decision also guarantees that the Obama administration, which has for the last five years refused to take any position on that question, will now never have to answer either.

Despite mounting evidence of government spying on attorneys’ privileged communications, the Court yesterday declined to review the lower court’s determination that CCR attorneys’ fears of surveillance under President Bush’s NSA program, which involved no review by judges or Congress and flew directly in the face of express criminal prohibitions, were too “speculative” to allow CCR to challenge the program in court.

The Court’s decision comes as increasing evidence suggests the government has been surveilling attorney-client communications for some time. The New York Times recently reported that in 2013 the NSA surveilled law firm Mayer Brown while it represented the government of Indonesia in trade talks with the United States. In 2008, The Times reported Justice Department officials had confirmed that attorney-client communications in terrorism cases were sometimes subject to surveillance. And a document accidentally released to an Islamic charity in 2004 indicated that the D.C.-based attorneys for the charity had been subject to surveillance while speaking to their clients.

A memo released by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicated that the government only excludes attorney-client communications from collection when the client is under actual indictment in the United States. Communications of attorneys not directly with a client (for example, with expert witnesses or investigators abroad), or with a client not formally charged in the United States (including, for example, the Center for Constitutional Rights’ many Guantanamo detainee clients, none of whom are charged in federal courts) might now be subject to surveillance under broad orders issued under the current FISA statute.

press@ccrjustice.org

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment