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IMF gives green light for $17 bn Ukraine aid package

RT | April 30, 2014

The International Monetary Fund has approved a two-year $17.1 billion loan package for Ukraine. The immediate disbursement of $3.2 billion will allow Ukraine to avoid a potential debt default.

The IMF’s 24-member board agreed to the two-year program to aid Ukraine’s troubled economy on Wednesday.

The approval gives the green light for the immediate release of $3.2 billion to Ukraine, which will allow the nation not to fall into default, Reuters reports. More than half of that money will be dedicated to supporting the country’s budget.

The package will open up loans from other donors totaling around $15 billion. The goal is for Ukraine to use the money to stabilize its economy.

“The authorities’ economic program supported by the Fund aims to restore macroeconomic stability, strengthen economic governance and transparency, and launch sound and sustainable economic growth, while protecting the most vulnerable,” the IMF said in a statement.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde commented on the aid package, stating that the plan may come with geopolitical and implementation risks.

“On the implementation front, we are taking all the precautions we can in order to mitigate those risks,” Lagarde told reporters on Wednesday. “On the geopolitical front, clearly the bilateral international support, and the cooperation of all parties, will be extremely helpful to reinforce the position of the economy of Ukraine.”

“We believe that Ukraine has an opportunity to seize the moment, to break away from previous practices, both from the fiscal, from the monetary, and from the governance point of view,” Lagarde added.

Ukraine’s crisis was exacerbated after months of anti-government protests and Crimea’s referendum to join Russia.

The country’s economy is forecast to contract by three percent due to the chaos and lack of order, according to Ukrainian authorities. The nation’s output dropped 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

The ongoing protests, especially in the east of the country, are not helping the nation get its economy back on track. In fact, Ukraine’s acting President Aleksandr Turchinov said on Wednesday that Kiev’s government cannot control the situation in the east of the country, and called to speed up the creation of regional militias loyal to Kiev.

In return for the aid package, Ukraine promised to implement a number of reforms, including increasing gas prices by more than 50 percent for domestic households.

Earlier in April, Ukraine’s finance minister, Oleksandr Shlapak, said that paying off debt to Russia would not be a top priority for Ukraine when it secured its first tranche of International Monetary (IMF) bailout cash.

Ukraine’s total debt to Russia, including the $2.2 billion bill for gas, now stands at $16.6 billion, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Unity

Hope and Gloom in the Beach Refugee Camp

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | April 30, 2014

For years, Palestinian factions have striven for unity, and for years unity has evaded them. But is it possible that following several failed attempts, Fatah and Hamas have finally found that elusive middle ground? And if they have done so, why, to what end, and at what cost?

On April 23, top Fatah and Hamas officials hammered out the final details of the Beach Refugee Camp agreement without any Arab mediation. All major grievances have purportedly been smoothed over, differences have been abridged, and other sensitive issues have been referred to specialized committees. One of these committees will be entrusted to incorporate Hamas and the Islamic Jihad into the fold of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

A rift lasting seven years has been healed, rejoiced some headlines in Arabic media. Israelis and their media were divided. Some, close to right-wing parties, decried the betrayal of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of the ‘peace process’. Others, mostly on the left, pointed the finger at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for pushing Abbas over the edge –“into Hamas’s arms” per the assessment of Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing party Meretz.

It is untrue that the rift between Fatah and Hamas goes back to the January 2006 elections, when Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and formed a government. The feud is as old as Hamas itself. The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, was founded in Gaza with two main objectives, one direct and the other inferred: to resist the Israeli military occupation at the start of the First Palestinian Intifada in 1987, and to counterbalance the influence of the PLO.

Since then, a staple argument has clouded the judgment of many analysts, most of them sympathetic to Palestinians. They claim that Hamas was the brainchild of the Israeli intelligence Shin Bet, to weaken Palestinian resistance. That too is a misjudgment.

Hamas founders were not the only Palestinians to have a problem with the PLO. The latter group, which represented and spoke on behalf of all Palestinians everywhere, was designated by an Arab League summit in 1974 as the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people. The target of such specific language was not Hamas, for at the time, it didn’t exist. The reference was aimed at other Arab governments who posed as Palestine’s representatives regionally and internationally.

The ‘sole representation’ bit, however, endured even after surpassing its usefulness. Following the Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982 that mainly targeted PLO factions, the leading Palestinian institution, now operating from Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and other Arab entities, began to flounder. Its message grew more exclusivist and was dominated by a small clique within Fatah, one that was closest to former leader Yasser Arafat.

When the 1987 uprising broke out, it was a different breed of Palestinians who seemed to reflect the new mood on the ground, far away from Tunis and all Arab capitals. New movements included the United National Leadership of the Intifada, although it was quickly coaxed by PLO leadership in exile. Other movements, like Hamas, survived on its own.

That was the original rift, which grew wider with time. When Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, the once unifying character of the ‘sole representative’ of Palestinians began to quickly change. The PLO shrunk into the Palestinian Authority, which governed parts of the West Bank and Gaza under the watchful eye of Israel; and the parliament in exile became the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), a much more restricted parliament at home that was still under occupation. The blurred lines grew between the PLO, the PA and Fatah. It was clear that the liberation project, mounted by the PLO and Fatah in the early 1960’s, became anything but that.

In fact, the whole paradigm was fluctuating at all fronts. ‘Donor countries’ became the true friends of Palestine, and geography suddenly became a maze of confusing classifications of areas A, B and C. The status of Jerusalem was a deferred topic for later discussions; the refugees’ Right of Return was a mere problem that needed to be cleverly and creatively resolved with possible symbolic gestures.

The befuddling peace process has remained in motion, and is likely to continue even after the unity deal. On April 18, former Israel lobbyist and current US peace envoy Martin Indyk returned to the region in a last desperate effort to push both parties to an agreement, any agreement, even one that would simply postpone the US-imposed deadline for a ‘framework agreement’. But little could be done. Netanyahu had no reasons to move forward with the talks, especially being under little or no pressure to do so. Abbas’s only hope that Israel would release a few Palestinian prisoners, from the thousands of prisoners it currently holds, was dashed. He had nothing to show his people by way of an ‘achievement’.

Twenty some years after Abbas helped facilitate the Oslo agreement, he had nothing to show except for more settlements and a seemingly unbridgeable divide between factions within his own Fatah party, but also with others. With the imminent collapse of the peace process, this time engineered by Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas needed an exit, thus the Beach Refugee Camp agreement with Hamas.

The timing for Hamas was devastatingly right. The group, which once represented Palestinian resistance, not just for Islamists, but for others as well, was running out of options. “Hamas is cornered, unpopular at home and boxed in as tightly as ever by both Egypt and Israel,” wrote the Economist on April 26. “Its former foreign patrons, such as Qatar, have been keeping their distance, withholding funds for projects that used to bolster Hamas.”

Indeed, the regional scene was getting too complicated, even for resourceful Hamas, a group that was born into a crisis and is used to navigating its way out of tough political terrains. Despite putting up stiff resistance to Israeli wars and incursions, the group has in recent years been obliged to facilitate hudnas (ceasefires) with Israel, doing its utmost in keeping Gaza’s border with Israel rocket-free. The destruction of the tunnels since the Egyptian army coup against the government of Mohammed Morsi in July had cost the Hamas government nearly 230 million dollars. To manage an economy in a poor region like Gaza is one thing; to sustain it under the harshest of sieges is proving nearly impossible.

As is the case for Abbas’s PA, for Hamas the agreement was necessitated by circumstances other than finding true ground for national unity to combat the Israeli occupation. In fact, the Beach Camp deal would allow Abbas to continue with his part of the peace process, as he will also remain at the helm of the prospected unity government, to be formed within a few weeks from the signing of the agreement. Although Arab governments were not directly involved in bringing both parties together – as was the case in previous agreements in Sana, Mecca, Cairo and Doha – some still hold a sway.

Egypt, in particular, holds an important key, the Rafah border with Gaza. Hamas is looking for any space to escape the siege and its own isolation. Egypt knows that well, and has played a clever game to manipulate, and at times, punish Hamas for its closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Americans and the Israelis have the largest keys to quashing the unity deal. Netanyahu immediately suspended the peace process, as the Hamas-Fatah agreement was a last minute escape route for his government to disown the futile talks, whose collapse is now being blamed on the Palestinians. The Americans are in agreement with Israel, as has always been the case.

Scenes in Gaza tell of much hope and rejoicing, but it is a repeated scene of past agreements that have failed. Sometimes despair and hope go hand in hand. The impoverished place has served as a battlefield for several wars and a continued siege. It is aching for a glimmer of hope.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Donald Sterling Thinks He Owns Basketball Players, But Really Does Own the NAACP

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon | April 30, 2014

For us at Black Agenda Report, the most telling angle on the story of Donald Sterling, the racist billionaire owner of the LA Clippers, was that the Los Angeles NAACP, which had been about to give Sterling a second – not a first but a second “Lifetime Achievement Award” eagerly stepped forward to offer redemption and forgiveness for the small cost of a few more strategic donations from the deep pockets of Donald Sterling.

This won’t be the first time Sterling has purchased absolution for his many sins. In 2003 Sterling settled a housing discrimination lawsuit paying $5 million to plaintiff attorneys alone, and in 2006 he was accused again of refusing to rent apartments to African Americans and Latinos. But a steady stream of donations to big-name so-called civil rights organizations amounting at most to a few ten thousandths of his net worth, were sufficient to make it OK in the eyes of those outfits, and in the case of the NAACP, they were sufficient to get him that first “lifetime award.”

Depending on the rich and powerful to pay their bills while pretending to speak for the poor and oppressed is not a mere bug in the way our 21st century civil rights organizations function, it is a fundamental feature, baked into the bones not just of the NAACP, but of the National Urban League, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the National Conference of Black State Legislators, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and many others of this kind.

In the practice of catching corporate racists with their pants down and extracting a franchise here, a dealership there, a TV show or hefty donations to worthy causes the hunter always gets captured by the game. In Georgia where I live, the Southern Christian Leadership Council got the CEO of Georgia Power to head up their building fund. Residents of Shell Bluff, a poor, mostly black town invited Rev. Joseph Lowery of SCLC to their town to show him their cancer epidemic, evidently caused by radiation from a leaking Georgia Power nuclear plant, while federal agencies refused to fund testing of their air, water, soil, wildlife or persons. Georgia Power is now building brand new nuclear plants next to the old ones with $800 million in loan guarantees from the Obama administration. But all that SCLC could do was tell them, “go vote.”

Wells Fargo had aggressively sold sub-prime mortgages to blacks, and is believed to have engaged in thousands or tens of thousands of the same kinds of robo-signings and illegal foreclosures that Bank of America plead guilty to. So after the bailout, Wells Fargo partnered with the NAACP to do “financial literacy” classes for youth. There are examples like this in any direction one cares to look.

Donald Sterling may imagine he owns basketball players. But he really does own the NAACP, just as surely as Verizon and Comcast, Aetna, Wal-Mart, MSNBC and others own the National Action Network, Rainbow-PUSH, the Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the rest of our politically bankrupt black misleadership class.

Bruce A. Dixon lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | | Leave a comment

May Day ~ Palestine

By Reham Alhelsi | May 1, 2009

Every morning, thousands of Palestinians say goodbye to their families and go to work. Teachers, doctors, farmers, labourers, fishermen, etc… They go to school to teach children, defying the Israeli tank standing outside the school. They go to their fields to work them, defying fanatic Jewish settlers armed with weapons and hate. They repair their nets and go fishing, defying Israeli pirate ships shelling and hijacking the area. They drive their ambulances and rush to save lives, defying Israeli snipers aiming to kill. They take their pens and recording equipment to register Israeli crimes, defying Israeli tanks with their cameras. They go to their jobs every morning defying daily Israeli crimes committed under the eyes, ears and noses of the whole world that prefers to remain silent. They go to their jobs because they want their children to have food on the table, a roof over their heads, an education as a weapon in their hands, and a future that is free of Zionists and military occupation. The 1st of May is a day to remember every Palestinian who wakes up to a new day, full of new hopes and new strength to face and defy the siege, the closure, the military occupation, the fanatic settlers, the terror aiming to starve us as a nation and make us fall to our knees.

On the 1st of May we remember Zionist massacres committed against Palestinian labourers. We remember the massacre of Oyoun Qara (Rishon Lezion), when on 20.5.1990 an Israeli soldier lined up some 100 Palestinian labourers who were on their way to work, and in cold blood killed 7 of them with a sub-machine gun. As with all massacres committed by individual Israelis, the Israeli government rushed to declare the soldier deranged. Ami Popper, the IOF soldier, had come upon the group of Palestinians, asked them to in kneel down in 3 lines, and after checking their IDs and making sure they were Arabs he started shooting randomly at them. Their only fault was that they were Palestinians. They had lost their homes and everything else they owned in 1948, and were made refugees by the Zionist state. And as the tragedy of the Nakba continued, the suffering of these people knew no end. For, in order to feed their children, they were forced to work like slaves for those who made refugees out of them. The photos of the massacre show the extent of hate and brutality of the IOF soldier: young and elderly, drowning in pools of blood, their lunch packages scattered around them. And when the Israeli police finally arrived to the scene of the massacre, they started beating those Palestinian workers who had survived the death machine that day. On the 1st of May we remember:

Abdil Rahim Baraka – 23 years old from Khan Younis.

Ziyad Swed, 22 years old from Rafah.

Zayid Alamour, 23 years old from Khan Younis.

Suleiman abu Anza, 22 years old from Khan Younis.

Omar Dahles, 27 years old from Khan Younis.

Zakariya Qdeh, 35 years old from Khan Younis.

Younis Abu Daqa from Khan Younis.

On the 1st of May we remember the 3 Palestinian labourers who were burned to death in a shed in Or Yehuda near Tel Aviv on 9.8.1988. As the 3 men cried out for help, spectators stood watching while the fire ate the men alive. When interviewed by the press on the incident, the residents of Or Yehuda showed unanimous support of the hideous murder. One Israeli witness to the burning said: “It was all organized beautifully.” Adding, “look, I could put 10 in a line and shoot them. That’s okay. But burning, I can’t do. When it happened I sat on the veranda and, if I didn’t have family reason not to, I would dance. I wouldn’t help them. Let them be burned, the Arabs.” His 17 year old brother added: “I will go to the border guards to kill Arabs by beating them with clubs”. Another resident serving in the IOF said: “They did well to burn them. Why should they be ashamed” … “It’s a Mitzvah, what they did …”. Only one person, an IOF soldier, tried to help and that only because the 3 men were screaming out for help in Hebrew and he thought them Jews. One of the 3 men ran out of the shed while burning, but the residents of Or Yehuda stood watching as he was burned alive. Another Israeli told a reporter that they should do to the Arabs what Hitler did to the Jews, and that he didn’t care if they put Arabs in concentration camps. One 16 year old said, “what does it matter if an Arab burns? What does an Arab matter at all? It’s not a human being. I wouldn’t care if more than 2000 burned.” His friend added: “I would burn 5,000 more.” This is the same Or Yehuda whose residents publicly burned hundreds of copies of the New Testament on 15.5.2008. On the 1st of May we remember:

Abdallah Khalil, 30 years old from Khan Younis.

Said Ismael from Rafah.

Naseem Ayid from Magazi Refugee Camp.

On the 1st of May we remember many more massacres committed by the Zionist state and its IOF against innocent civilians working for their daily living. We remember the Eretz Checkpoint massacre, when on 17.7.1994 Israeli soldiers killed 11 Palestinian labourers and injured 200 who were waiting at the checkpoint to go to their work. We remember the Tarqumia massacre, when on 10.3.1998 IOF soldiers stopped a van full with unarmed Palestinian labourers on their way home after a long day. The soldiers opened fire without warning, killing 3 men. Others survived death because the bodies of their murdered comrades fell over them and protected them from the bullets. We remember those who were shot dead at checkpoints on their way to work or on their way back home. We remember those forced to sleep in sheds like animals. We remember those forced to wear badges like the yellow Star of David the Nazis forced the Jews to wear. We remember those beaten almost to death by Israelis for being Arabs and for wanting to clean the cities of them.

On the 1st of May we remember Palestinian teachers who despite restrictions and arrests continue to teach Palestinians, generation after generation, about Palestine, about freedom and about our non-negotiable rights. We remember the teachers who went on strike after Israel occupied East Jerusalem and forced its Zionist curriculum in Arab schools. We remember those who refused to teach this curriculum despite Israeli threats or the promised rewards in case they concede to teaching the curriculum. We remember those who were punished and sent to teach in isolated schools far away from their homes, that they had to wake up at 4 every morning to be able to reach their schools and continue teach Palestinian children. We remember school and university teachers who after Israel closed all educational institutions during the first Intifada, organized secret learning groups, risked their lives to meet with their pupils and give them lessons and worked day and night preparing work material for their students so the educational process could go on. We remember our teachers, who stood with such dignity despite being humiliated and beaten by teenage IOF soldiers who had no respect for anything. We remember those teachers who try to protect us from the shelling of our schools, from the armed soldiers at checkpoints, from the fanatic settlers waiting at every corner to attack us. We remember those teachers who risked their freedom to teach us about Palestinian history, folklore and culture. We remember all those teachers who spend years in Israeli prisons, those who were tortured and those who were killed by the IOF or illegal Jewish settlers. We remember Hani Na’eem, a 38 year old school teacher who was killed by an Israeli missile attack on a school in Beit Hanoun on 7.2.2008. Three 16 year old pupils were wounded in the attack. We remember Wafa’ Al Daghma, a 34 year old teacher killed in her home and in front of her three children during an Israeli raid on 11.5.2008. Wafa’s head was blown away as the IOF blasted open the front door of her house with explosives. They then locked the children aged 2 to 13 in a room for five hours, and continued their military incursion while the body of Wafa lay on the ground.

On the 1st of May we remember doctors, nurses and all medical personnel who were killed while performing their duty. We remember the medical personnel who were beaten, tortured or killed by illegal settlers. We remember those brave men who continue their work despite Israeli attacks, shelling, curfews and incursions. We remember those doctors who were killed while performing first aid to wounded Palestinians and those who were blown to pieces together with their ambulances by Israeli bombs. Ample evidence shows that such attacks are not isolated incidents or mistakes, but represent an adopted policy of deliberate targeting to kill even those whose duty is to save lives. We remember the 23 Palestinians killed and the 850 injured in the Al Aqsa mosque massacre on 8.10.1990. According to media reports, nurse Fatima Abu Khadir who witnessed the massacre said: “we went into the mosque precincts in an ambulance. I saw a large number of injured who had fallen on the ground. Then I saw lots of soldiers, hundreds of soldiers. They were about 30 meters from the ambulance and kneeling on one knee the way snipers do, and their weapons were aimed inside the ambulance.” Physician Muhammad Abu ‘Alya said: “I got out of the ambulance carrying a first-aid kit. I was wearing a white uniform. The soldiers saw me and knew I was a doctor. But when I got to the wounded person nearest me and bent down to treat him, I got three bullets in my back in the region of the kidney. At that very moment, the wounded man near me died. But he could have been saved if I hadn’t been hit.” We remember the 16 medical personnel killed while on duty by the IOF during the latest war on Gaza:

Rami Al Salut, 27 years old, medical lab. specialist, Sheikh Radwan.

Azmi Abu Dalal, 26 years old, medic, Nuseirat.

Ahmed Abdallah, 26 years old, nurse, Rafah.

Ihab Al-Shaer, 32 years old, physician, Rafah.

Zeyad Abu Teir, 32 years old, nurse, Khan Younis.

Mohammad Abu Hassira, 21 years old, medic, al daraj.

Ihab Al-Madhoun, 35 years old, physician, al daraj.

Yaser Shbeir, 25 years old, medic, Shati Refugee Camp.

Anas Na’im, 23 years old, medic, Al Zaytoon.

Ra’fat Ibrahim, 20 years old, medic, Al Sabra.

Arafah Abdul Dayem, 35 years old, medic, Beit Hanoun.

Salem Al-Bensh, 57 years old, nurse, Rafah.

Albina Al-Jaru, 25 years old, physician, Gaza.

Issa Saleh, 32 years old, physician, Jabalia.

Abdullah Al-Imawi, 22 years old, nurse, Gaza.

Zayed Jneid, 30 years old, medic, Gaza.

On the 1st of May we remember journalists, camera persons and other media personnel who died while reporting on Israeli crimes and exposing Israeli terror to the world. We remember those wounded and those imprisoned for fighting Israel with their pens. We remember Nazeh Darwazeh and Fadel Shanna, two cameramen whose last minutes were caught on camera. We remember Imad Abu Zahra, Ihab Al-Wahidi, Hamza Shaheen, Omar Silawi, Muhammad Al-Bishawi, Raffaele Ciriello, James Miller, Mohamad Abu Halima, Basil Faraj, and many other journalists killed and injured by the IOF. We remember Issam Tillawi, whose story is similar to that of thousands of Palestinian families: a story of losing a home, wandering and suffering in the Diaspora, waiting for the day to come back home. In 1948 Issam’s family was forced out of their hometown of Tell and found temporary refuge in Iraq, after which the family moved to Kuwait. During the 2nd Gulf War, the Tillawi family was deported from Iraq and moved yet again to Jordan. Issam decided to go back to his home country; to Palestine. He worked at the voice of Palestine as a journalist and hosted 2 weekly programs: “International Affairs” and “Nahar Jadid”. While covering a demonstration in protest of the Israeli military occupation in the Manara Square in Ramallah on the night of 22.9.2002, Issam was shot in the back of the head by an IOF sniper. He was wearing a jacket stating clearly that he’s a journalist and had his recording equipment with him, so any sniper would have seen clearly what he was shooting at. Issam lay 10 minutes bleeding on the street before the ambulance was allowed to reach him, but the medics couldn’t save his life. As usual, the IOF claimed it was not responsible for his death, adding that he was among a group of demonstrators. Issam was 32 when he was murdered, and today he finds his final resting place in Tell, that small village from which his parents were uprooted in 1948. He is back in Palestine for good.

On the 1st of May we remember Palestinian farmers working their lands, protecting them and standing steadfast on these lands in the face of the Israeli war being waged against them to kick them out. We remember those attacked by the illegal Jewish settlers during harvest time. Palestinian farmers have been working their fields under threatening conditions. They have been shot at, attacked and harassed by the IOF and by illegal settlers. Many have been killed and hundreds wounded. Fields have been burned, harvest stolen and Olive trees uprooted and replanted in illegal Jewish settlements as decoration. Greenhouses and water wells have been destroyed, complete olive and fruit fields have been bulldozed and cattle have been butchered or stolen. Farmers living close to the Apartheid Wall are often blocked from reaching their lands, and need permits from the IOF to enter the field of their ancestors. Their land is being confiscated, their hard work stolen. Not satisfied with stealing the land and the harvest, settlers often set fire to whole fields, diminishing the hard work of years into ashes. The water Palestinian farmers need for their fields is being stolen by Israel and used to fill swimming pools in illegal Jewish settlements. One Palestinian farmer was reported saying: “it seems that we are going to pay with blood for each olive oil drop. The Palestinian olive oil this year is going to be mixed with the blood of its owner.” For another farmer “being with the tree is like being in heaven. I am not crazy but I open my heart to the trees. I think of the trees as I do of my family. I speak to them when I have troubles.” We remember Yahia Atta Bani Monia. The 18 year old shepherd from the Nablus area was executed in cold blood by a group of Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Etamar on 27.9.2008. After they were done with him, Yahia was left with some 20 bullets riddling his body. One bullet was not enough for these killers. We remember the group of shepherds attacked by masked settlers from the illegal settlement of Susia near Hebron. The shepherds, including an elderly couple of 58 and 60 were attending their sheep on their lands, when ordered by the settlers to leave the land. Upon refusal, they were attacked. We remember Yasser Tmeizi from Ithna near Hebron who was arrested by the IOF while working in his land with his son. The soldiers beat him with batons until he lost consciousness, and later died. The IOF claimed Yasser tried to snatch the weapon of one of the soldiers at a checkpoint, although many witnesses saw him being arrested and beaten on his land away from any checkpoint.

On the 1st of May we remember every Palestinian whose story rarely made the news and whose name we don’t know. We remember the teacher who died of a heart attack after being beaten by the IOF. We remember the doctor who was tortured and hanged on a tree by fanatic Jewish settlers. We remember labourers, students, taxi drivers facing death squads at Israeli checkpoints. We remember farmers who risk their lives to reach their fields and work them for the next generations. We remember the fishermen of Gaza, practicing their right of fishing in their national waters and defying Israeli warships. We remember all those who fight every single day to provide some normality to their families under a most brutal situation. We remember those who despite Israeli terror, continue to live and protect their land and homes and families. We remember those who wake up every morning, think of the loved one that was killed yesterday, or the house that was demolished, or the field that was uprooted, and then go and hug their children and tell them about Palestine, build a new house on the ruins of the demolished one, plant more olive trees. And because we are Palestinians, because we cherish and love life and freedom and because the land is ours, we will continue hoping, and waking up every morning despite the daily terror, work to defend our land and protect it to hand it over to the next generations of Palestinians. We will continue to fight for our legitimate rights, for independence, for freedom. And one day we will tear down the Apartheid Wall and all the illegal settlements, break the siege, rebuild the destroyed towns and villages, free the prisoners, replant the fields desertified by Israel, because they will never kill our soul nor our will and we will keep waking up every morning for a new day in Palestine.

According to the PCHR: from the beginning of the 2nd Intifada on 29.9.2000 till 20.12.2008 3,741 Palestinian civilians have been killed by the IOF and 1,130 have been killed in armed clashes with the IOF. 26,063 have been injured.

During the 2nd Intifada at least 37 Palestinian teachers were killed by Israel, 55 were wounded and 190 detained. No less than 12 Palestinian journalists and camerapersons were killed.

During the latest Israeli war on Gaza 1417 Palestinians have been killed by the IOF, 926 of them were civilians. 5303 were injured.

16 Palestinian medical personnel were killed, 25 wounded.

12 teachers were killed, 5 wounded.

No less than 21 farmers killed, 2 fishermen and 92 labourers were killed.

Sources:
www.wrmea.com/backissues/1088/8810020a.htm
http://www.imemc.org/
http://www.pchrgaza.org/
http://www.poica.org/
http://www.palissue.com/
http://www.palestinemonitor.org/
www.american.edu/TED/ice/olive-tree.htm
http://www.cpj.org/
http://www.phrmg.org/monitor1999/jun99-specific.htm (on the Tarqumia massacre of Palestinian labourers and the massacre at Rishon Lezion)

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Shabak Torture Drives Israeli Palestinian Lawyer to Suicide

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | April 29, 2014

12915Amjad al-Safadi was an East Jerusalem defense attorney whose clients were Palestinian security prisoners. Two months ago, he himself was arrested by the Shabak and detained for 45 days. He was charged with aiding Palestinian militant groups and their detainees. During his detention he was tortured by Shabak interrogator goons. Among his claims were that electric shocks were used against him. He was released from prison and placed under house arrest (the same process used in the case of Majd Kayyal). Yesterday, five days after his release, he hung himself at his home and died.

News1, in that breathless credulous way Israeli media has of reporting Palestinian security “crimes,” claims (Hebrew) that four Palestinian lawyers were arrested (the charge sheet was filed on April 4th) after being recruited by a former prisoner to pass messages to arrestees from Islamic Jihad and Hamas housed in various prisons within Israel.

They were accused of “tens” of violations of various security statutes including “contact with a foreign agent,” “serving an unlawful association,” and “obtaining materials to facilitate in acts of terror.” The accused purportedly passed messages from the prisoners to the leadership of the militant groups with which they were affiliated. The attorneys were allegedly paid between $100-150 for each message delivered, with the funds coming from the militant groups in Gaza. The messages were designed to coordinate protests within the prisons against treatment of security detainees, including hunger strikes, attempts to establish “radio contact between Gaza and the prisons,” transfer of funds among the prisons and coordination between the organizations and their imprisoned leaders. The origin of these funds was allegedly an unnamed lawyer representing the organizations in Gaza.

For Israeli TV news coverage of the original arrests, see here.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know of my profound skepticism about virtually any criminal charge offered by the security services. While I haven’t been able to delve into the evidence offered, the charges in this case strike me as dubious, if not ludicrous. How some of the most highly surveilled prisoners in the Israeli prison system would’ve been able to create surreptitious radio communication between the prisons and Gaza, how they would have been able to transfer tens of thousands of dollars between prisoners and militant groups on the outside, how specifically the defendants aided in acts of terror–what materials they procured, and who they give them to? It all appears to be an elaborate fictional conspiracy.

These alleged activities began, according to the charge sheet in January 2012 and continued till their arrest.  How such a conspiracy involving so much money, equipment and co-conspirators could’ve extended for a period of two years in some of the most secure facilities in the State of Israel beggars belief.

There are always readers who point out the heinous charges against the victims as if they were proven. So let’s keep in mind that not only weren’t the charges proven, the victims hadn’t been tried, let alone convicted. There is a presumption of innocence in most democracies, though my right-wing readers often conveniently forget this when a Palestinian is involved.

Whether or not al-Safadi was guilty of any of the charges, the very notion of torturing a defense attorney in a so-called democracy is beyond repulsive.  What does it say about Israel that it’s torturers can make a well-educated professional man kill himself when released?  Don’t Israelis understand that when their representatives do such heinous things it reflects on the entire nation?  Or do they not care because they can create a wall between “us,” the Jews, and “them,” the Palestinians?  What they do to “them” is somehow insulated from “us?”

All this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israeli ‘democracy’ is skin deep and reserved for the Jewish sector. Among Israeli Jews there is a prevalent notion that their country can be a democracy even with the Palestinian minority being denied democratic rights. The very notion is preposterous and indicates Israel is an ethnocracy rather than a democracy.

I have only been able to find one instance of an Israeli Palestinian prisoner committing suicide in an Israeli prison and none of prisoners killing themselves shortly after release from the torture chambers (there is of course the example of Ben Zygier, who committed suicide in his cell).  It’s always thrilling when Israel achieves yet another milestone in its march toward democracy and the rule of law!

I contacted the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and asked what they knew about the case. Ishai Menuchin the director told me that they’d tried to locate Amjad within the prison system twice during his detention without success.  They heard he was at the Russian Compound (Jerusalem).  When they arrived to see him they discovered he’d been moved to Ramon, a different prison.  When they asked to meet with him there they were told he’d been released.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Trans-Atlantic global leadership at stake in Ukraine – Kerry

“NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance… can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis”

RT | April 30, 2014

NATO must return to its original goal of fending off Russia, seizing the chance presented by the Ukrainian crisis to sever Europe from Moscow and move it closer to America, the US secretary of state said. Or else the bloc’s global leadership may be lost.

John Kerry delivered the confrontational call in a speech to the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, DC. He said the stand-off in Ukraine had resulted from a “uniquely personally-driven set of choices” and is “a wake-up call” for NATO. He added that now the military bloc must turn the page on two decades of focusing on expeditionary operations and take a stand against “Putin’s Russia.”

“After two decades of focusing primarily on our expeditionary missions, the crisis in Ukraine now call us back to the work that this alliance was originally created to perform,” Kerry told the audience.

NATO’s original purpose was to oppose the Communist Soviet Union, giving the West the military backbone to the ideologically-driven stand-off with the East. Kerry described it as “to defend alliance territory and advance trans-Atlantic security.”

“Today, Putin’s Russia is playing by a different set of rules,” the secretary stated. “Through its occupation of Crimea and its subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe.”

“Together we have to push back against those who try to change sovereign border by force. Together we have to support those who simply want to live as we do,” he added.

Kerry didn’t mention NATO’s own operations against Yugoslavia, which helped change sovereign borders in Europe. But he said NATO must not allow that the situation continue to develop as it is, because Russia is challenging the position NATO members have held since the end of the Cold War.

“Our entire model of global leadership is at stake. If we stand together, if we draw strength from the example of the past and refuse to be complacent in the present, then I am confident that NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance, can meet the challenges, can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis,” he stressed.

Kerry suggested three points on how trans-Atlantic partners can preserve their leadership and contain Russia. He said all NATO members must comply with the alliance’s benchmark of 2 percent GDP defense spending, which is not observed by many European members of the alliance, including European economic powerhouse Germany.

“Clearly, not all allies are going to meet the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of GDP overnight or even next year,” Kerry said. “But it’s time for allies, who are below that level to make credible commitments to increase their spending on defense over the next five years.”

NATO members must also help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy and develop economic ties with America by speeding down the pipeline the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, Kerry said.

The agreement would certainly give more access to European markets to some US corporations, as it would require freeing up European regulations on things like fracking, GMOs, copyright and finance.

Kerry’s policy remarks are in line with those made recently by some other members of the US political establishment. For example Senator John McCain, one of the most vocal critics of Russia, went on the same lines of presenting Russia’s stance on Ukraine a personal choice by President Vladimir Putin and calling for more defense spending in Europe in his speech at Vilnius University, Lithuania, on Wednesday last week.

“Considering what President Putin is doing right now in Ukraine, it is more important than ever for every NATO ally to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense,” McCain said. “I’m pleased that Lithuania has pledged and is planning to do this, and the sooner you follow through on that commitment the better.”

The US and Russia have been trading accusations of meddling with Ukrainian crisis lately. Washington says Moscow is sowing dissent in eastern Ukraine, fanning up anti-government protests there. Russia says the US sponsored the February coup in Kiev, which brought into power the current Ukrainian central authorities and has been playing a dominant role in defining the policies of the new government.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fool, the Demagogue and the Former KGB Colonel

By Edward S. Herman • Z Magazine • May, 2014

The fool is John Kerry, who has looked bad in his rushing around between Washington and Tel Aviv trying to get in place a “framework” agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that would show progress in the efforts of the honest broker, assailing Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela for his “terror campaign against his own people,” and, of course, denouncing the Russians for their “aggression” against the coup-regime of Ukraine. His statement that “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext,” has to be regarded as an Orwellian classic, and may be his signifier in future history books, in the unlikely event that he makes it at all. His punch line has been the subject of many jokes and laughs in the dissident media, but the mainstream media have hardly mentioned it and certainly haven’t made it the butt of jokes and a basis for discrediting the man (just as there has been no discrediting of Madeleine Albright based on her statement on national TV that killing 500,000 Iraqi children via the sanctions of mass destruction in the 1990s, which she helped engineer, “was worth it”).

Of course, it is possible that Kerry really believed he was speaking truths, having internalized the assumptions that flow from U.S. “exceptionalism,” which make words like “invasion,” “aggression” and “international law” inapplicable to us as the world’s policeman; and what might be a “completely trumped up pretext” if offered by the Russians is only a slight and excusable error or misjudgment when we do it. And after all the New York Times quickly used the word “aggression” in editorializing on the Crimea events (“Russia’s Aggression,” March 2, 2014), whereas it never used the word to describe the invasion-occupation of Iraq, nor did it mention the words “UN Charter” or “international law” in its 70 editorials on Iraq from September 11, 2001 to March 21, 2003.1

A bit more subtle but more calculated, dishonest, hypocritical, often absurd, and demagogic were the words of President Barack Obama, speaking in Belgium, as he tried to confute the charges of hypocrisy that Russian President Vladimir Putin leveled against Western denunciations of the Crimean independence vote and subsequent Russian absorption of Crimea. (“Remarks by the President in Address to European Youth,” Brussels, March 23, 2014). It is amusing to see how outrageously he can twist history and his own record. According to Obama our founding fathers put into our “founding documents” the beautiful concept that “all men—and women—are created equal.” He apparently forgot about slavery and the 3/5th value per slave for the South’s representation credit, and that women didn’t get the vote till the twentieth century. He speaks about the ideal of “uncensored information” that will “allow individuals to make their own decisions,” but this is the man who has worked hard to control the flow of information and to make it costly for whistleblowers to break through a growing wall of government secrecy.

Obama is aghast at “the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way—that rejected maxim that might somehow makes right.” The United States has its immense military budget and 800-plus military bases not to allow it to bully smaller nations but for its national security! He is also impressed with Russia’s “challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident… [including] that international law matters.” This statement is brazen given that U.S. officials (e.g., Dean Acheson, Madeleine Albright) have explicitly stated that they don’t take international law seriously in fixing U.S. policy; that Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush dismissed it as a joke — “International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn’t bring that up to me” — and we can observe a steady, even growing, stream of actions that violate international law, including many engineered by Obama. Violating international law is as American as apple pie.

Putin, of course, pointed this out in reference to Iraq, but Obama answers him: ”Now it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world but in the United States as well. I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.”

We may note the laughable evasion of the issue of “international law,” which he has said really “matters” in considering Russian actions, but dodges in addressing the U.S. case. His mentioning a “vigorous debate” is not only irrelevant to the question of law violation, it is also highly deceptive, as it is well established that Bush and his small coterie of advisers had determined to attack Iraq long before any public discussion of the subject, and they picked on “weapons of mass destruction” as the excuse on the basis of its saleability. So it was an aggression built on a lie and then ultimately in a “trumped up case.” On the “working within the international system,” the UN Charter is basic to a meaningful international system, and the invasion was a gross violation of that key ingredient. He brags that we didn’t steal their resources and eventually got out. He doesn’t point out that we got out only after many years of killing and destruction which actually helped create a resistance that, in effect, pushed us out. He doesn’t mention that our major international law violation in Iraq was responsible for the death of probably a million people, the creation of four million refugees, and huge material destruction. By contrast, that awful Russian action in the Crimea seems to have resulted in fewer than half a dozen deaths.

Obama also fails to mention that Iraq is far away from the United States, and the U.S. attack there was an acknowledged “war of choice” that had nothing to do with protecting U.S. security. Crimea, by contrast, is adjacent to Russia, its people are linguistically and culturally close to Russia, it houses a major Russian naval base, and the coup in Kiev, engineered with the support of the United States and other NATO powers, posed a genuine security threat to Russia. Its leaders were taken unawares by the coup and threat to its naval base, and its moves were arguably defensive and a “war of necessity.”

969321_294553067360127_845462323_n-300x264The referendum carried out in Crimea, which produced an overwhelming vote supporting secession from Ukraine and integration into Russia, would seem like a relatively democratic procedure and consistent with the principle of self-determination. Obama and company found it a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and a violation of international law. Here we have two principles seemingly at odds with one another, and in this case the United States and its allies chose the one that serves their interest and the Russians go for the other. But Putin points out that in the case of Kosovo as part of Serbia, the NATO alliance strongly supported a secession on self-determination principles.

Obama tries to rebut Putin’s mentioning of Kosovo, saying “But NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years. And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.” But NATO didn’t just “intervene,” it carried out a massive bombing war that was itself a violation of the UN Charter and hence of that sacred “international law” to which Obama is so devoted. Obama ignores the fact that the CIA had been training KLA terrorists in Kosovo for some time (and they had been designated “terrorists” by U.S. officials) and the KLA was well aware that actions that induced Serb retaliation would serve their interests in helping justify a NATO attack. The day before the NATO bombing war began the British Defence Minister told the British Parliament that the KLA had probably killed more civilians in Kosovo than the Serb army.

Obama also lies on an alleged referendum in Kosovo—none took place. On February 17, 2008, the Kosovo Albanian-dominated parliament issued its Declaration of Independence, and that sufficed for the United States and its closest allies, now so indignant at the Crimea referendum. That Kosovo vote also took place after a NATO war and Kosovo Albanian actions had driven large numbers of Serb and Roma residents out of Kosovo. The United States constructed a huge military base in Kosovo during its war and occupation of Kosovo, which was not agreed to by Serbia or by any vote of the Kosovo or Serbian population. Russia had a naval base in the Crimea by long-standing agreement with the Ukraine government. It didn’t bomb the Ukraine as a prelude to the referendum vote and the vote was essentially uncontested and unprotested by any local constituencies. So as Obama says, there is no comparison between the two cases.

Obama draws a picture of the freedom loving West, with NATO standing as a vigilant sentinel, with the dark and evil forces behind the Iron Curtain being kept at bay. “The United States and NATO do not seek any conflict with Russia… Since the end of the Cold War, we have worked with Russia under successive administrations to build ties of culture and commerce and international community.” But he admonishes that Russia must be a “responsible” power. “Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine doesn’t mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine’s future. On the fundamental principle that is at stake here—the ability of nations and peoples to make their own choices—there can be no going back. It’s not America that filled the Maiden with protesters—it was Ukrainians. No foreign forces compelled the citizens of  Tunis and Tripoli to rise up—they did so on their own.”

Obama fails to mention that since the end of the Cold War NATO has worked steadily, in violation of a pledge by U.S. officials not to move “one inch” toward the Russian borders, to encircle Russia, to press up against its borders, and to support border regime leaders openly hostile to Russia. So Western support of a regime hostile to Russia in Ukraine would have to be regarded by Russian officials as an unfriendly and threatening action. Obama’s claim that it was only Ukrainians who were protesting in Maiden twists the evidence, as the United States was actively supporting some of them, including the most violent, and was therefore itself trying to “dictate Ukraine’s future.” It is notorious that a compromise transition government plan negotiated between Ukrainian factions, with EU support, was quickly overturned by violent protesters, leading immediately to the coup government headed by Victoria Nuland’s first choice, and effectively “fucking the EU’s” effort to end the strife peaceably. The unelected government then in place, loaded with right wingers in strategic positions, represented a non-Russian “dictation” of Ukraine’s government, and one that definitely threatened Russians within Ukraine and the Russian state. In that context the Crimean referendum represented an important and justifiable case of where the ability of “peoples to make their own choices” (Obama) was applicable.

An argument can be made that the Western, and mainly U.S., intervention and role in overthrowing the elected government of Ukraine was a form of aggression against Russia, which would make Russian actions actually a response to aggression. An important modern form of Western-sponsored regime change has been via encouragement, training and material and propaganda aid to dissident groups that disorganize and discredit a target government and help dislodge it from power. This is done under the PR heading of “democracy promotion,” but it is often de facto “democracy demotion.” This is not done in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, but rather in Serbia, Ukraine and Venezuela. The government displaced in Ukraine was elected; the coup government that has replaced it was not. In his Brussels speech Obama mentions that ”Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies,” but he fails to point out that scads of those dictatorships were U.S. sponsored, and that while it supported tyranny in Venezuela for many years, the United States has been consistently hostile to the left-oriented Bolivarian democracy that has been in place for more than a decade; and that while Obama was speaking in Brussels his government was encouraging the often violent protesters in Caracas, denouncing Maduro, and threatening sanctions and more in the traditional U.S. “democratic demotion” mode. (See Kerry’s pugnacious statement of March 13, 2014 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on “Advancing U.S. Interests Abroad: The FY 2015 Foreign Affairs Budget.”)

Comparing Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federation on March 18, 2014 dealing with the Crimean referendum and associated crisis with Obama’s March 23rd address in Brussels is no contest—Putin wins hands down. This, I believe, is a result of the fact that Russia is under serious attack and threat by the United States, which is a still expanding empire that cannot tolerate serious rivals and actually turns them into enemies that must resist. This is mainly Russia and China, and U.S.-NATO actions have succeeded in transforming Russia from a virtual client in the Yeltsin era to the enemy and ”aggressor” today. It is amazing to see how the mainstream media and intellectuals can fail to see the security threat to Russia posed by the Western-underwritten change in government in Kiev, and the continuity in the extension of this threat in NATO’s steady expansion on Russia’s borders. And the double standard on aggression and international law is breath-taking. Putin sardonically notes , “Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law—better late than never.” He makes his point in low key and with wit. Obama is never funny in Brussels and his stream of clichés and misrepresentations is painful. He is defending the indefensible, and his target looks good by comparison, both intellectually and morally.

But Putin is the loser in mainstream America. He is a victim of the standard demonization process that is applied to any challenger or target of the imperial state. It is amusing to see him so often referred to as the “former KGB colonel”—can you imagine the U.S. media regularly referring to George Bush-1 as the “former head of the CIA”? And, of course, every blemish in his career, and they are real—Chechnya, his position on gay rights, the weakness of Russian democracy and power of the oligarchs (which he inherited from the U.S.-supported Yeltsin)—is featured regularly. But underneath this all is the fact that he represents Russian national interests, which conflict with the outward drive and interests of the U.S. imperial elite.

For just a tiny illustration of the bias. We may consider the media treatment of the Pussy Riot band, jailed after an action in a major Moscow church, and made into virtual saints in the U.S. media. They feature the badness of Putin and his Russia. The New York Times had 23 articles featuring the Pussy Riot band from January 1, 2014 through March 31, a number of them with pictures of the band visiting various places in New York. They met with the Times editorial board and were honored by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others. They are not good musicians and often do things that would land them in jail in the United States, but they denounce Putin.

One of them, Maria Alyokhina, was even given op ed space in the paper (“Sochi Under Siege,” February 21). Two interesting contrasts: John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political scientist and author of several important books on foreign affairs, wrote an op ed column “Getting Ukraine Wrong,” published on March 14 in the International New York Times, but not in the U.S. print edition. His message was too strong for the main NYT vehicle as he argued that “The taproot of the current crisis is NATO’s expansion… and is motivated by the same geopolitical considerations that influence all great powers, including the United States.” This is not opinion and analysis fit to print.

Another interesting comparison is this: in February 2014, while the trials and opinions of Pussy Riot were hot news, the 84 year old nun, Sister Megan Rice, was sentenced to four years in prison for having entered a nuclear weapons site in July 2012 and carried out a symbolic action there. The New York Times gave this news a tiny mention in its National Briefing items under the title “Tennessee Nun is Sentenced for Peace Protest,” on February 19, 2014 on page A12. Megan Rice was not invited to visit the Times editorial board or write an opinion column. Her sentencing was news barely fit to even marginalize.

  1. Howard Friel and Richard Falk, The Record of the Paper, chap. 1.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | Leave a comment

Canada deploys six fighter jets to Romania

Press TV – April 30, 2014

Canada has sent six fighter jets to Romania as part of its contribution to NATO’s military presence in Eastern and Central Europe.

The six CF-18 fighter jets were deployed from Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Quebec on Tuesday.

Canada’s Defense Minister Rob Nicholson, who was present for the aircrafts takeoff, told the pilots and their support staff that they were being sent in response to the crisis in Ukraine.

“Soon you will join our allies as part of Canada’s contribution to NATO’s efforts to reassure our allies in Central and Eastern Europe,” Nicholson said. “The work will be key in supporting international efforts to find a solution that respects the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.”

Meanwhile, Denmark has also sent four warplanes to the region.

On April 28, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu expressed concern about what he described as an unparalleled increase in US and NATO military activity along Russia’s borders.

The planes, along with support staff, will be stationed in Romania, and will take part in NATO air patrols of the Baltic region and training activities. The air patrols operate on a rotational schedule, and the six Canadian CF-18s will be rotating in.

According to reports, some 150 US troops have been deployed in western Estonia and another 450 are presently stationed in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Tensions between Moscow and the Western-backed interim government in Kiev heightened after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and rejoined Russia following a referendum on March 16, in which almost 97 percent of the participants voted for rejoining the Russian Federation.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Video | , | Leave a comment

Meet TISA: Another Major Treaty Negotiated In Secret Alongside TPP And TTIP

psi_badge_tisa_en

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | April 29, 2014

This Wednesday evening there is to be a “Public Information Session and Discussion” (pdf) about TISA: the Trade in Services Agreement. If, like me, you’ve never heard of this, you might think it’s a new initiative. But it turns out that it’s been under way for more than a year: the previous USTR, Ron Kirk, informed Congress about it back in January 2013 (pdf). Aside from the occasional laconic press release from the USTR, a page put together by the Australian government, and a rather poorly-publicized consultation by the European Commission last year, there has been almost no public information about this agreement. A cynic might even think they were trying to keep it quiet.

Perhaps the best introduction to TISA comes from the Public Services International (PSI) organization, a global trade union federation representing 20 million people working in public services in 150 countries. Last year, it released a naturally skeptical brief on the proposed agreement (pdf):

At the beginning of 2012, about 20 WTO members (the EU counted as one) calling themselves “The Really Good Friends of Services” (RGF) launched secret unofficial talks towards drafting a treaty that would further liberalize trade and investment in services, and expand “regulatory disciplines” on all services sectors, including many public services. The “disciplines,” or treaty rules, would provide all foreign providers access to domestic markets at “no less favorable” conditions as domestic suppliers and would restrict governments’ ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public and privatized or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations.

The Australian government’s TISA page fills in some details:

The TiSA negotiations will cover all services sectors. In addition to improved market access commitments, the negotiations also provide an opportunity to develop new disciplines (or trade rules) in areas where there has been significant developments since the WTO Uruguay Round negotiations. There negotiations will cover financial services; ICT services (including telecommunications and e-commerce); professional services; maritime transport services; air transport services, competitive delivery services; energy services; temporary entry of business persons; government procurement; and new rules on domestic regulation to ensure regulatory settings do not operate as a barrier to trade in services.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because very similar language is used to describe TAFTA/TTIP, which aims to liberalize trade and investment, to provide foreign investors with access to domestic markets on the same terms as local suppliers, to limit a government’s ability to regulate there by removing “non-tariff barriers” — described above as “regulatory settings” — and to use corporate sovereignty provisions to enforce investors’ rights.

Those similarities suggest TISA is part of a larger plan that includes not just TAFTA/TTIP, but TPP too, and which aims to cement the dominance of the US and EU in world trade against a background of Asia’s growing power. Indeed, it’s striking how membership of TISA coincides almost exactly with that of TTIP added to TPP:

The 23 TiSA parties currently comprise: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union (representing its 28 Member States), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland,, Turkey and the United States.

Once more, the rising economies of the BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa — are all absent, and the clear intent, as with TTIP and TPP, is to impose the West’s terms on them. That’s explicitly recognized by one of the chief proponents of TISA, the European Services Forum:

the possible future agreement would for the time being fall short of the participation of some of the leading emerging economies, notably Brazil, China, India and the ASEAN countries. It is not desirable that all those countries would reap the benefits of the possible future agreement without in turn having to contribute to it and to be bound by its rules.

The Australian government’s page reveals that there have already been five rounds of negotiations — all held behind closed doors, of course, just as with TTIP and TPP. The Public Information Session taking place in Geneva this week seems to mark the start of a new phase in those negotiations, at least allowing some token transparency. Perhaps this has been provoked by the growing public anger over the secrecy surrounding TPP and TAFTA/TTIP, and fears that the longer TISA was kept out of the limelight, the worse the reaction would be when people found out about it.It seems appropriate, then, that the unexpected unveiling of this new global agreement should be greeted not only by an updated and more in-depth critique from the PSI — “TISA versus Public Services” — but also the first anti-TISA day of protest. Somehow, I don’t think it will be the last.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IPCC Third Assessment Report and the hockey stick

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | April 29, 2014

Back in April 2011, I had a post on The U.S. House of Representatives Hearing on Climate Change: Examining the Processes Used to Create Science and Policy.  John Christy’s testimony is worth revisiting, in two contexts:

  • problems with the IPCC process, most recently highlighted in context of WG3 [link]
  • the Steyn versus Mann and Mann versus Steyn lawsuits [link]

John Christy has a unique perspective on how the hockey stick became the icon of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) – he served as a Lead Author (along with Michael Mann) on Chapter 2 Observed Climate Variability and Change. Relevant excerpts from Christy’s testimony:

In simplified terms, IPCC Lead Authors are nominated by their countries, and downselected by the IPCC bureaucracy with help from others (the process is still not transparent to me – who really performs this down-select?) The basic assumption is that the scientists so chosen as Lead Authors (L.A.s) represent the highest level of expertise in particular fields of climate science (or some derivative aspect such as agricultural impacts) and so may be relied on to produce the most up-to-date and accurate assessment of the science. In one sense, the authors of these reports are volunteers since they are not paid. However, they do not go without salaries. Government scientists make up a large portion of the author teams and can be assigned to do such work, and in effect are paid to work on the IPCC by their governments. University scientists aren’t so lucky but can consider their IPCC effort as being so close to their normal research activities that salary charges to the university or grants occur. Travel expenses were paid by the IPCC for trips, in my case, to Australia, Paris, Tanzania, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Victoria, Canada. Perhaps it goes without saying that such treatment might give one the impression he or she is an important authority on climate.

As these small groups of L.A.s travel the world, they tend to form close communities which often re-enforce a view of the climate system that can be very difficult to penetrate with alternative ideas (sometimes called “confirmation bias” or “myside bias”.) They become an “establishment” as I call them. With such prominent positions as IPCC L.A.s on this high profile topic, especially if they support the view that climate change is an unfolding serious disaster, they would be honored with wide exposure in the media (and other sympathetic venues) as well as rewarded with repeated appointments to the IPCC process. In my case, evidently, one stint as an L.A. was enough.

The second basic problem (the first was the murkiness of our science) with these assessments is the significant authority granted the L.A.s. This is key to understanding the IPCC process. In essence, the L.A.s have virtually total control over the material and, as demonstrated below, behave in ways that can prevent full disclosure of the information that contradicts their own pet findings and which has serious implications for policy in the sections they author. While the L.A.s must solicit input for several contributors and respond to reviewer comments, they truly have the final say.

In preparing the IPCC text, L.A.s sit in judgment of material of which they themselves are likely to be a major player. Thus they are in the position to write the text that judges their own work as well as the work of their critics. In typical situations, this would be called a conflict of interest. Thus L.A.s, being human, are tempted to cite their own work heavily and neglect or belittle contradictory evidence (see examples below.) In the beginning, the scientists who wrote the IPCC assessment were generally aware of the new responsibility, the considerable uncertainties of climate science, and that consequences of their conclusions could generate burdensome policies. The first couple of reports were relatively cautious and rather equivocal.

In my opinion, as further assessments were created, a climate “establishment” came into being, dominating not only the IPCC but many other aspects of climate science, including peer-review of journals. Many L.A.s became essentially permanent fixtures in the IPCC process and rose to positions of prominence in their institutions as a side benefit. As a result, in my view, they had a vested interest in preserving past IPCC claims and affirming evermore confident new claims to demonstrate that the science was progressing under their watch and that financial support was well spent. Speaking out as I do about this process assured my absence of significant contribution on recent and future reports. Political influence cannot be ignored. As time went on, nations would tend to nominate only those authors whose climate change opinions were in line with a national political agenda which sought perceived advantages (i.e. political capital, economic gain, etc.) by promoting the notion of catastrophic human-induced climate change. Scientists with well-known alternative views would not be nominated or selected. Indeed, it became more and more difficult for dissension and skepticism to penetrate the process now run by this establishment. As noted in my InterAcademy Council (IAC) testimony, I saw a process in which L.A.s were transformed from serving as Brokers of science (and policy-relevant information) to Gatekeepers of a preferred point of view.

A focus evolved in the IPCC that tended to see enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations as the cause for whatever climate changes were being observed, particularly in the 2001(Third Assessment Report or TAR) which was further solidified in 2007, (the Fourth Assessment Report or AR4.) The IAC 2010 report on the IPCC noted this overconfidence when it stated that portions of the AR4 contained “many vague statements of ‘high confidence’ that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or are difficult to refute.’” (This last claim relates to the problem of generating “unfalsifiable hypotheses” discussed in my recent House testimony.)

My experience as Lead Author in the IPCC TAR, Chapter 2 “Observed Climate Variability and Change”, allowed me to observe how a key section of this chapter, which produced the famous Hockey Stick icon, was developed. My own topic was upper air temperature changes that eventually drew little attention, even though the data clearly indicated potentially serious inconsistencies for those who would advocate considerable confidence in climate model projections.

First, note these key points about the IPCC process: the L.A. is allowed (a) to have essentially complete control over the text, (b) sit in judgment of his/her own work as well as that of his/her critics and (c) to have the option of arbitrarily dismissing reviewer comments since he/she is granted the position of “authority” (unlike peer-review.) Add to this situation the rather unusual fact that the L.A. of this particular section had been awarded a PhD only a few months before his selection by the IPCC. Such a process can lead to a biased assessment of any science. But, problems are made more likely in climate science, because, as noted, ours is a murky field of research – we still can’t explain much of what happens in weather and climate.

The Hockey Stick curve depicts a slightly meandering Northern Hemisphere cooling trend from 1000 A.D. through 1900, which then suddenly swings upward in the last 80 years to temperatures warmer than any of the millennium when smoothed. To many, this appeared to be a “smoking gun” of temperature change proving that the 20th century warming was unprecedented and therefore likely to be the result of human emissions of greenhouse gases.

I will not debate the quality of the Hockey Stick – that has been effectively done elsewhere (and indeed there is voluminous discussion on this issue), so, whatever one might think of the Hockey Stick, one can readily understand that its promotion by the IPCC was problematic given the process outlined above. Indeed, with the evidence contained in the Climategate emails, we have a fairly clear picture of how this part of the IPCC TAR went awry. For a more detailed account of this incident with documentation, see http://climateaudit.org/2009/12/10/ipcc-and-the-trick/.

We were appointed L.A.s in 1998. The Hockey Stick was prominently featured during IPCC meetings from 1999 onward. I can assure the committee that those not familiar with issues regarding reconstructions of this type (and even many who should have been) were truly enamored by its depiction of temperature and sincerely wanted to believe it was truth. Skepticism was virtually non-existent. Indeed it was described as a “clear favourite” for the overall Policy Makers Summary (Folland, 0938031546.txt). In our Sept. 1999 meeting (Arusha, Tanzania) we were shown a plot containing more temperature curves than just the Hockey Stick including one from K. Briffa that diverged significantly from the others, showing a sharp cooling trend after 1960. It raised the obvious problem that if tree rings were not detecting the modern warming trend, they might also have missed comparable warming episodes in the past. In other words, absence of the Medieval warming in the Hockey Stick graph might simply mean tree ring proxies are unreliable, not that the climate really was relatively cooler.

The Briffa curve created disappointment for those who wanted “a nice tidy story” (Briffa 0938031546.txt). The L.A. remarked in emails that he did not want to cast “doubt on our ability to understand factors that influence these estimates” and thus, “undermine faith in paleoestimates” which would provide “fodder” to “skeptics” (Mann 0938018124.txt). One may interpret this to imply that being open and honest about uncertainties was not the purpose of this IPCC section. Between this email (22 Sep 1999) and the next draft sent out (Nov 1999, Fig. 2.25 Expert Review) two things happened: (a) the email referring to a “trick” to “hide the decline” for the preparation of report by the World Meteorological Organization was sent (Jones 0942777075.txt, “trick” is apparently referring to a splicing technique used by the L.A. in which non-paleo data were merged to massage away a cooling dip at the last decades of the original Hockey Stick) and (b) the cooling portion of Briffa’s curve had been truncated for the IPCC report (it is unclear as to who performed the truncation.)

In retrospect, this disagreement in temperature curves was simply an indication that such reconstructions using tree ring records contain significant uncertainties and may be unreliable in ways we do not currently understand or acknowledge. This should have been explained to the readers of the IPCC TAR and specifically our chapter. Highlighting that uncertainty would have been the proper scientific response to the evidence before us, but the emails show that some L.A.’s worried it would have diminished a sense of urgency about climate change (i.e. “dilutes the message rather significantly”, Folland, 0938031546.txt.)

When we met in February 2000 in Auckland NZ, the one disagreeable curve, as noted, was not the same anymore because it had been modified and truncated around 1960. Not being aware of the goings-on behind the scenes, I had apparently assumed a new published time series had appeared and the offensive one had been superceded (I can’t be certain of my actual thoughts in Feb. 2000). Now we know, however, that the offensive part of Briffa’s curve had simply been amputated after a new realization was created three months before. (It appears also that this same curve was apparently a double amputee, having its first 145 years chopped off too, see http://climateaudit.org/2011/03/23/13321/.) So, at this point, data which contradicted the Hockey Stick, whose creator was the L.A., had been eliminated. No one seemed to be alarmed (or in my case aware) that this had been done.

Procedures to guard against such manipulation of evidence are supposed to be in place whenever biases and conflicts of interest interfere with duties to report the whole truth, especially in assessments that have such potentially drastic policy implications. That the IPCC allowed this episode to happen shows, in my view, that the procedures were structurally deficient.

Even though the new temperature chart appeared to agree with the Hockey Stick, I still expressed my skepticism in this reconstruction as being evidence of actual temperature variations. Basically, this result relied considerably on a type of western U.S. tree-ring not known for its fidelity in reproducing large-scale temperatures (NRC 2006, pg. 52).

At the L.A. meetings, I indicated that there was virtually no inter-century precision in these measurements, i.e. they were not good enough to tell us which century might be warmer than another in the pre-calibration period (1000 to 1850.)

In one Climategate email, a Convening L.A., who wanted to feature the Hockey Stick at the time (though later was less enthusiastic), mentions “The tree ring results may still suffer from lack of multicentury time scale variance” and was “probably the most important issue to resolve in Chapter 2” (Folland, 0938031546.txt). This, in all likelihood, was a reference to (a) my expressed concern (see my 2001 comments to NRC below) as well as to (b) the prominence to which the Hockey Stick was predestined.

To compound this sad and deceptive situation, I had been quite impressed with some recent results by Dahl-Jensen et al., (Science 1998), in which Greenland ice-borehole temperatures had been deconvolved into a time series covering the past 20,000 years. This measurement indeed presented inter-century variations. Their result indicated a clear 500-year period of temperatures, warmer than the present, centered about 900 A.D. – commonly referred to as the Medieval Warm Period, a feature noticeably absent in the Hockey Stick. What is important about this is that whenever any mid to high-latitude location shows centuries of a particularly large temperature anomaly, the spatial scale that such a departure represents is also large. In other words, long time periods of warmth or coolness are equivalent to large spatial domains of warmth or coolness, such as Greenland can represent for the Northern Hemisphere (the domain of the Hockey Stick.)

I discussed this with the paleo-L.A. at each meeting, asking that he include this exceptional result in the document as evidence for temperature fluctuations different from his own. To me Dahl-Jensen et al.’s reconstruction was a more robust estimate of past temperatures than one produced from a certain set of western U.S. tree-ring proxies. But as the process stood, the L.A. was not required to acknowledge my suggestions, and I was not able to convince him otherwise. It is perhaps a failure of mine that I did not press the issue even harder or sought agreement from others who might have been likewise aware of the evidence against the Hockey Stick realization.

As it turned out, this exceptional paper by Dahl-Jensen et al. was not even mentioned in the appropriate section (TAR 2.3.2). There was a brief mention of similar evidence indicating warmer temperatures 1000 years ago from the Sargasso Sea sediments (TAR 2.3.3), but the text then quickly asserts, without citation, that this type of anomaly is not important to the hemisphere as a whole.

Thus, we see a situation where a contradictory data set from Greenland, which in terms of paleoclimate in my view was quite important, was not offered to the readers (the policymakers) for their consideration. In the end, the Hockey Stick appeared in Figure 1 of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, without any other comparisons, a position of prominence that speaks for itself.

So, to summarize, an L.A. was given final say over a section which included as its (and the IPCC’s) featured product, his very own chart, and which allowed him to leave out not only entire studies that presented contrary evidence, but even to use another strategically edited data set that had originally displayed contrary evidence. This led to problems that have only recently been exposed. This process, in my opinion, illustrates that the IPCC did not provide policymakers with an unbiased evaluation of the science, whatever one thinks about the Hockey Stick as a temperature reconstruction.

Judith Curry comments:  Christy’s assessment, when combined with the University of East Anglia emails, provides substantial insight into how this hockey stick travesty occurred.  My main unanswered question is:  How did Michael Mann become a Lead Author on the TAR?  He received his Ph.D. in 1998, and presumably he was nominated or selected before the ink was dry on his Ph.D.  It is my suspicion that the U.S. did not nominate Mann (why would they nominate someone for this chapter without a Ph.D.?)  Here is the only thing I can find on the U.S. nomination process [link].  Instead, I suspect that the IPCC Bureau selected Mann; it seems that someone (John Houghton?) was enamored of the hockey stick and wanted to see it featured prominently in the TAR.  The actual selection of Lead Authors by the IPCC Bureau is indeed a mysterious process.

The IPCC process is clearly broken, and I don’t see anything in their recent policies that addresses the problems that Christy raises.  The policy makers clearly wrought havoc in context of the AR5 WG3 report; however there is a more insidious problem particularly with the WG1 scientists in terms of conflict of interest and the IPCC Bureau in terms of stacking the deck to produce the results that they want.

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Obama Ends Asian Tour With Little to Show for it

Prensa Latina | April 29, 2014

340097_President ObamaManila – U.S. President Barack Obama ended a tour today that included four Asian countries, accomplishing only the signing of a military agreement with the Philippines.

Of all the issues in Obama’s agenda, that was the only agreement to be brought to fruition, while Japan delayed its joining to a free trade agreement and Malaysia did not sign on either.

Obama’s South Korean stopover included a confirmation of Washington’s military reinforcement to Seoul, but the president met with no success in his attempt to improve relations with Tokyo, a regional ally.

The defense and security agreement with the Philippines will facilitate a greater U.S. naval presence in the archipelago, but thousands of people took the streets to protest the visit and the agreement.

Although the White House backs the Philippines in a territorial dispute with China, Obama clarified that the bilateral agreement does not aim at Beijing, with whom the United States maintains a constructive relationship.

Obama’s Asian tour cost taxpayers almost one billion USD, taking into account that a single day abroad for Obama costs more than $100 million USD.

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment