Aletho News


Colombia Professor Victorious in His Quest for Academic Freedom

KAKE | April 21, 2014

After Iymen Chehade’s class at Columbia College Chicago was canceled, he realized that his academic freedom had been violated and skillfully protested until his class was reinstated. In this interview, Chehade discusses the importance of recognizing and fighting for academic freedom in schools across the globe.

(Interviewer: Kellen Winters @_ITSKELS @_KAKEME – Filmed and edited by @AndrewZeiter & @FragDfilms.)

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Critics say new Egyptian business law to foster corruption

Al-Akhbar | April 24, 2014

A new Egyptian law that prevents third parties from challenging contracts made with the government may encourage foreign investors, but critics say it will increase scope for corruption.

President Adly Mansour on Tuesday approved the law that will restrict the right to challenge state business and real estate deals to only the government, the institutions involved and business partners.

The law is meant to revive investment hit by political instability since a 2011 uprising toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

“Uncertainty over the legality of contracts has been one factor behind the lack of foreign investment into Egypt since the Arab Spring revolution, and so this law could provide the protection that some investors have been craving,” said Jason Tuvey, assistant economist at Capital Economics.

Many state-land and business deals were revoked after court challenges by people with no direct links to the transactions, harming business confidence in a country where population growth has long outpaced job creation.

The lawsuits have been brought by activists and lawyers who allege that companies were sold off too cheaply, reflecting corrupt business practices during the Mubarak era.

Since the 2011 uprising, Egyptian courts have issued at least 11 rulings ordering the state to reverse deals signed by former administrations.

Direct foreign investment in Egypt fell to $3 billion in the fiscal year ending June 2013, $1 billion less than the previous year. Foreign reserves fell to a critical low of $13.4 billion last year and the economy grew a meager 2.1 percent.

Gulf investors have been lobbying for more assurances that their money will be safe in Egypt.

In 2011 a court annulled a deal to sell Egypt’s historic Omar Effendi department store chain to a Saudi investor after activists argued it was sold too cheaply. Similar cases have kept wealthy Saudis wary of buying Egyptian assets, said Abdullah Bin Mahfouz, Chairman of the Saudi Egyptian Business Council.

“I’m sure that due to this law we will see an inflow of investment no less than $15 billion in the next three years because there are huge opportunities in steel and mining and factories that are considered the biggest in the Middle East,” Mahfouz said.

Although the new law is expected to remove legal hurdles, political stability may still deter investment. The new legislation is also likely to anger activists and lawyers who say it would foster corruption.

“Although the law prior to this change was abused constantly, and to a large extent by vexatious litigants, this amendment effectively removes part of the judicial and civilian oversight over government deals,” Mustafa Bassiouny, an economist at Signet Institute, said.

Another concern is that companies that miss out on a tender process have no legal avenue to challenge government decisions.

“This could lead to a situation where the authorities agree to contracts that ultimately represent poor value for money,” said Tuvey at Capital Economics.

Mika Minio-Paluello, researcher at Platform London, an advocacy group focused on social and environmental justice issues, said the new law would undermine democratic oversight.

“There’s no mechanism or means for citizens to intervene and prevent corruption, to challenge breaches of the law and unfair contracts,” said Minio-Paluello.

“If you are a decent investor, it is not in your interest because you will come up against other investors who are dodgy – breaching environmental standards, not paying workers properly.”

Egypt’s government has faced 37 international and domestic arbitration cases worth $14.3 billion in the three years since the 2011 uprising, Ezzat Ouda, head of the state’s lawsuits authority, told state newspaper Al-Ahram.

Since general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled the country’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, last July, Islamist militants based in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks on security forces, killing hundreds.

The government has outlawed the Brotherhood, quashed protests and sentenced hundreds of its members to death.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | | Leave a comment

Putin: Kiev authorities are junta if they use force against civilians

RT | April 24, 2014

If Kiev authorities have started to use force against the civilian population, this is a serious crime, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Taking this action makes them a “junta” and may affect their relations with other countries, he added.

“If the Kiev regime started military actions against the country’s population, this is without doubt a very serious crime,” Putin said at an All-Russia People’s Front media forum.

According to Putin, the current situation in East Ukraine is another proof that Russia was right when it supported Crimeans, when they decided to have a referendum.

“[Otherwise] it would have seen there the same things which are now happening in the east of Ukraine, or even worse,” he said. “That’s one more proof to the fact we did it all right and in time.”

Putin believes that the use of force by the coup-imposed government in Kiev means that it’s actually a junta.

“If current authorities in Kiev have done this [used force], then they are junta,” the president said. “For one thing, they don’t have nation-wide mandate. They might have some elements of legitimacy, but only within the framework of the parliament. The rest of the government bodies are for various reasons illegitimate.”

Vladimir Putin described the use of force in eastern Ukraine as a “reprisal raid” and said that it would have an impact on Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Earlier in the day, fighting erupted just outside Slavyansk, a town in eastern Ukraine where the population voiced their protest against the Kiev authorities. Ukrainian troops in tanks and armored vehicles have been trying to break into the town.

According to the Ukrainian Interior ministry, at least five self-defense guards have been killed and one policeman injured after the “anti-terrorist operation” launched by Kiev in the town. Three checkpoints erected by the anti-government protesters have also been destroyed.

Self-defense forces managed to repel an attack at one checkpoint 3 kilometers north of Slavyansk, forcing at least three infantry vehicles to retreat, Russia-24 TV reports.

On Wednesday, authorities in Kiev announced they were resuming a military operation against protesters in eastern Ukraine, which they described as an “anti-terrorist” one.

Protesters believe the move was contrary to the agreement on de-escalation reached in Geneva.

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 23, 2014

Two days after the New York Times led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the Times published what you might call a modified, limited retraction.

Buried deep inside the Wednesday editions (page 9 in my paper), the article by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer – two of the three authors from the earlier story – has this curious beginning: “A collection of photographs that Ukraine says shows the presence of Russian forces in the eastern part of the country, and which the United States cited as evidence of Russian involvement, has come under scrutiny.”

Photograph published by the New York Times purportedly taken in Russia of Russian soldiers who later appeared in eastern Ukraine. However, the photographer has since stated that the photo was actually taken in Ukraine, and the U.S. State Department has acknowledged the error.

In the old days of journalism, we used to apply the scrutiny before we published a story on the front page or on any other page, especially if it had implications toward war or peace, whether people would live or die. However, in this case – fitting with the anti-Russian bias that has pervaded the mainstream U.S. press corps – the scrutiny was set aside long enough for this powerful propaganda theme to be put in play and to sweep across the media landscape.

Only now do we belatedly learn what should have been obvious: the blurry photographs provided by the coup regime in Kiev and endorsed by the Obama administration don’t really prove anything. There were obvious alternative explanations to the photos that were ignored by the Times, such as the possibility that these were military veterans who are no longer associated with the Russian military. Or that some photos are not of the same person.

And, one of the photos featured by the Times in its Monday lead article, purportedly showing some of the armed men in Russia, was actually shot in the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, according to Maxim Dondyuk, the freelance photographer who took the picture and posted it on his Instagram account.

Here is the tortured way the Times treated that embarrassing lapse in its journalistic standards: “A packet of American briefing materials that was prepared for the Geneva meeting asserts that the photograph was taken in Russia. The same men are also shown in photographs taken in Ukraine.

“Their appearance in both photographs was presented as evidence of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine. The packet was later provided by American officials to The New York Times, which included that description of the group photograph in an article and caption that was published on Monday. … The dispute over the group photograph cast a cloud over one particularly vivid and highly publicized piece of evidence.”

Then, after noting Dondyuk’s denial that the photo was snapped in Russia, the Times quoted State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki as acknowledging “that the assertion that the photograph in the American briefing materials had been taken in Russia was incorrect. But she said that the photograph was included in a ‘draft version’ of a briefing packet and that the information has since been corrected.”

But the misidentification of the photo’s location as Russia, not Ukraine, was not some minor mistake. If the photo was taken in Ukraine, then the whole premise of the claim that these same guys were operating in Russia and have since moved to Ukraine collapses.

Note how the Times framed this point in its Monday article: “Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.” Then, the cut-line below the photo read: “Soldiers in a group photo of a reconnaissance unit, which was taken in Russia, were later photographed operating in towns in eastern Ukraine.” There was no attribution. The location is stated as flat fact.

Still, the Obama administration is not going to let its sloppy mistake get in the way of a potent propaganda theme. According to the Times, Psaki insisted that there was plenty of other classified and unclassified evidence proving that the Russians are behind the eastern Ukrainian uprisings, but none of that supposed evidence was included in Wednesday’s story.

The problem for the Times, however, is different. Many of the flaws in the photographic evidence were there to see before Monday’s front-page article, but the newspaper was apparently blinded by its anti-Russian bias.

For instance, the article devoted much attention to the Russian skill at “masking” the presence of its troops, but that claim would seem to be contradicted by these allegedly secret warriors posing for public photos.

The Times also ignored the fact that the U.S. Special Forces – and indeed the special forces of many other nations – also seek to blend in with the populations by growing beards and wearing local clothing. This is not some unique tactic employed by the nefarious Russians.

[For more on this topic, see’sAnother NYT-Michael Gordon Special?”]


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

6 Reasons Why Obama’s Clemency Program For Drug Offenders Doesn’t Change Mass Incarceration One Bit

By Bruce A. Dixon | Black Agenda Report | April 23, 2014

It’s all over the internet. The Obama administration is talking up the possibility of using presidential clemency powers to release some undetermined number, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of federal prisoners without wealth or political connections from their unjustly long drug sentences. But hold your hosannas, don’t get your hopes up. Though the precise numbers are unclear at this time, what’s unmistakably evident is that this is in no sense whatsoever the beginning of a rollback of America’s prison state. The releases, as the attorney general and government officials are describing them, will not represent any significant or permanent change to the nation’s universal policy of mass incarceration, mainly of poor black and brown youth. Here, in plain English are 6 reasons why.

  1. The Obama administration’s expected releases will use the president’s clemency powers. Presidential clemency amounts to forgiveness after the fact. Clemency does not change a single word or phrase in any of the galaxy of state and federal laws which have already sent literally millions to prison for absurdly long sentences for what authorities call “non-violent drug offenses,” and under which hundreds of thousands are currently serving those same sentences and hundreds of thousands more are awaiting trial and sentencing. Clemency leaves those laws in place, so that the places of those released will soon be filled again.
  2. Presidential clemency will set no legal precedents that current or future defendants in federal or state drug cases, their attorneys or sentencing judges can use to avoid the application of unjust existing laws, including harsh mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines. Like the unjust statutes, the unjust legal precedents which have helped filled state and federal prisons to bursting will also remain intact.
  3. Presidential clemency will have no effect on the predatory conduct of police and prosecutors on the state or federal level. Police departments will remain free to conduct their “war on drugs” almost exclusively in poor and minority communities. Prosecutors will still be able to coerce defendants into accepting plea bargains, and threaten them with longer sentences if they go to trial. If only one in twenty defendants across the board and even fewer in federal court currently go to trial, what does that say about the ability or the willingness of our courts to even try determining guilt or innocence? Federal prosecutors have publicly thumbed their noses at Eric Holder’s feeble questioning of the war on drugs, stated their intention to continue filling the prisons and jails, and local prosecutors in the US are elected officials accustomed to running for office based on how many people they can lock up for how long.
  4. Presidential clemency can only be applied to federal prisoners, who are a mere 190,000, or 11% of the roughly 1.7 million currently serving time. (Another 600,000 are awaiting trial on all levels or serving misdemeanor time.)  If we’re talking about federal prisoners serving drug related sentences, the universe shrinks to only 100,000, or 5% of the nation’s 2.3 million prisoners.
  5. There are more former prisoners than current ones. For the rest of their lives, former prisoners and their families are viciously discriminated against in a host of ways, in the job and housing market, in education and public services and in access to health care, all legally. That won’t change. Even the few that get this clemency won’t be protected from that.
  6. The federal government will NOT even be screening all federal drug prisoners to determine who is eligible for clemency. Attorney General Holder has instead announced that criminal defense lawyers and organizations like the ACLU are being asked to bring to the government’s attention to cases they imagine are most deserving of clemency. Don’t they have, you know, a Department of Justice for that? Depending on private organizations and attorneys to come up with the cases for possible clemency turns the whole thing into an exercise in philanthropy, not the fundamental change in governmental policy that people need, want and demand. It means that prisoners serving unduly long sentences who don’t have vigilant private attorneys and advocacy organizations on their case will remain unjustly imprisoned, while those with outside friends have a chance at early release.

The bottom line is that an act of presidential clemency, while good news for the lucky hundreds or thousands of families involved, will leave no legal footprint and make no institutional impact upon the universal policy of mass incarceration. For this reason, it’s exactly NOT a first step that can lead to something more. It’s a dead end. At the rate the pipelines are pumping them in, their cells will be refilled in a month or two, no problem. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this clemency initiative is nothing more than a lazy, cynical and nearly empty gesture it hopes will buy some black votes and good will in 2014 and beyond.

Is it better than nothing? Yes, of course. It’s just not that much better, and we definitely DO have a right to expect much, much better. There are millions locked up. A couple thousand may be released. But a million is a thousand thousands.  The dead end of presidential clemency for a handful on the federal level simply does not scale even to the beginning of changing the institutional policies of mass incarceration.  On that level it’s bogus.  It will free not one state prisoner a day earlier and initiates no processes or lasting precedents that ever will. It will help none of the hundreds of thousands of families of former prisoners and won’t affect any cases in the pipeline, which will refill the slots of those who receive clemency in weeks, and it doesn’t change what police or prosecutors and courts do either.  

This is not the result of some soaring vision of justice, and cannot lead to any lasting institutional change. It leaves the prison state completely intact, just giving the most hopeful and the most cynical something to talk about in the months leading up to another mid-term election, when the administration, and Democrats need the black vote.

It didn’t have to be this way. During the first two years of the Obama presidency, when his party had a lock on both houses of Congress, the president and congressional Democrats had a chance to write retroactive revocation of tens of thousands of sentences into its so-called Fair Sentencing Act. Despite this being a matter of desperate concern to the constituency that elected them, it was not a priority for the first black president or for the black political class at the time. Every year since, the Obama Department of Justice has had the chance to rewrite the way it distributes federal funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to discourage mass incarceration. Every year the president had the ability to close some of its notorious federal supermax prisons, or find ways to deny funding for such things on the state level. None of this happened. In fact, while a broad citizen movement in Illinois, the president’s home state finally closed a state supermax prison, Obama’s latest Bureau of Prisons budget has the feds buying another unused Illinois prison for conversion into a federal supermax, ADX Thomson, or Gitmo North. The federal prison budget has grown every year president Obama has held office.

Sophisticated apologists for the president will of course chide folks who find “better than nothing” insufficient for being naive and foolish. Are they?  Were the tens of millions who elected Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 foolish for imagining that they have even the right to demand better?  What about the many, many thousands of activists who gave freely of their time and efforts year in and year out to make the careers of the black political class possible, the people who called house meetings, union and church meetings?  Were the folks who went door to door, who rallied and registered voters and more to elect black aldermen, sheriffs, county commissioners, mayors, legislators and finally a black president — the people who DID imagine and DID tell their children and their neighbors that this would make things better — were they all just unrealistic chumps?

I used to be one of them.  They didn’t say – we didn’t say — it was “better than nothing.”  We told each other, and often we actually believed electing black faces to high places was a necessary step toward making things better.  Were we naïve and foolish to imagine a better world is even possible?  Or is our black political class too cynical, too corrupt, too prosperous and too lazy to share the dreams of the ordinary people they supposedly represent?

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , | Leave a comment

Guardian: wounding kids ‘proof of mistrust’

By Jonathon Cook | April 24, 2014

You can understand a lot about journalists and journalism by examining our professional nervous tics. We all have them – and they tell you a lot about the hidden assumptions that drive the news agenda.

Peter Beaumont, the Guardian’s new Jerusalem bureau chief, and a veteran reporter, is a good liberal journalist with both a broad and deep understanding of the region. In the article below he tells us about the long-awaited reconciliation pact between Fatah and Hamas.

But what does the following little tic tell us, not so much about him but about the news agenda he serves?

After the agreement was announced, Israel cancelled a planned session of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. It also launched an air strike on a site in the north of the Gaza Strip, wounding 12 people including children, which underscored the deep mutual suspicion and hostility that persists.

Israel launched an unprovoked and, it seems, largely indiscriminate attack on Gaza that injured only civilians (as Haaretz reports) because two Palestinian factions signed a piece of paper. And that apparently “underscores the deep mutual suspicion” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Peter, here’s another thing the attack may underscore: Israel’s cynical and determined effort to break the agreement before it has time to take hold.

Talking of comments revealing a lack of self-awareness, how about this corker in the same article from Jen Psaki, a state department official, who called the unity pact “disappointing”?

It is hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that doesn’t believe in its right to exist.

And yet the US seems quite happy to have the Palestinians negotiate with a government, Israel, that has never shown any indication that it believes in the right of Palestine to exist.

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Ford and IBM May Have to Answer for Their Role in Apartheid

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | April 23, 2014

The United States court system, whose value to anyone but the rich is rapidly disappearing, may yet play a role in the unfinished business of South African liberation. A federal district judge in Manhattan ruled that a group of South Africans can proceed with a suit against Ford Motor Company and IBM for doing business with the white regime during the time of apartheid. The plaintiffs include victims of torture and relatives of people killed by the racist government. They will have to prove, not only that the American corporations knew that their products would be used to oppress and torture South Africans, but that Ford and IBM’s purpose in doing business in the country was to “aid and abet” the white authorities.

That’s a very high burden of proof. However, it’s a better shot than the U.S. Supreme Court gave to a group of Nigerian refugees who tried to sue Shell Oil for helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s. The High Court’s interpretation of the relevant U.S. law was that the crimes committed in Nigeria didn’t have a close enough connection to the United States. However, the justices left the door open to other cases that might have a stronger connection to the U.S.

This week, federal judge Shira Scheindlin – the same judge who issued the sweeping ruling against New York City’s stop-and-frisk policies, last year – gave the South African plaintiffs permission to make their case. She also rejected Ford and IBM’s contention that multinational corporations are legally shielded from these kinds of lawsuits. Judge Scheindlin found no basis in law to argue that international laws against such things as genocide, slavery, war crimes and piracy “apply only to natural persons and not to corporations.”

The South African plaintiffs are part of the Khulumani Group, which was created as a response to the weaknesses of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the new Black government of South Africa. The Khulumani activists say the government failed to prosecute perpetrators from the old regime and paid out only paltry reparations to the victims. Most importantly, the Black government that came to power in 1994 and its reconciliation program provided no redress for the systematic social and economic crimes of apartheid. The Khulumani Group agreed with Frank Meintjies, a South African activist and intellectual who wrote that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “failed to address the more collective loss of dignity, opportunities and systemic violence experienced by the oppressed.” He continued: “No hearings were held on land issues, on the education system, on the migrant labor system and on the role of companies that collaborated with, and made money from, the apartheid security system” – companies like Ford and IBM.

Thanks to the Khulumani Group’s lawsuit in Manhattan, two U.S.-based multinational corporations may finally have to explain why they gave aid and comfort to South African apartheid.


Glen Ford can be contacted at

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Moscow praises Palestinian reconciliation efforts

MEMO | April 24, 2014

Moscow praised the agreement reached by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government and conduct legislative and presidential elections in Palestine.

According to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday, Moscow looked positively at the practical efforts to resume the process of reconciliation between the Palestinians, which began yesterday with a visit from a delegation headed by Azzam Al-Ahmad to the Gaza Strip.

The Ministry said: “We regard this as a step in the right direction… unless the Palestinians unite on the foundation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Arab peace initiative, it will be impossible to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and achieve a lasting just settlement between Israel and Palestine on the basis of international law.”

It continued: “From our side, we will do our utmost to provide support for the Palestinians to help achieve genuine national unity.”

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

US ‘disappointed’ by Fatah-Hamas reconciliation

MEMO | April 24, 2014

Spokesperson of the US Department of State Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that the Obama administration is “disappointed” by the reconciliation pact between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions.

Speaking shortly after Israel cancelled its latest meeting with the Palestinians in the effort to save the faltering peace talks, Psaki told reporters that news of the political reconciliation was “disappointing in terms of the content as well as the timing”.

She suggested that the pact could “certainly complicate” the peace process, because: “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to sit down and negotiate with a group that denies its right to exist.”

Hamas refuses to normalise the occupation of Palestine by recognising the Israeli government. The peace talks, which resumed last summer under US auspices, stalled after Israel balked at releasing Palestinian prisoners while continuing to expand illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Fatah and Hamas announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have agreed on a reconciliation pact, including the formation of a national unity government within five weeks.

The reconciliation pact was revealed during a press conference held by Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh and the head of Fatah’s parliamentary bloc, Azzam Al-Ahmad. A numbers of Palestinian faction leaders also attended the event.

According to the press statement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) along with Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are to start discussions on the formation of a national unity government immediately, based on the previous Doha and Cairo agreements.

The statement also reiterated that elections for the legislative council, PA presidency and the Palestinian National Council must be held simultaneously and in coordination with other national factions. The elections are to take place six months after the unity government is formed.

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment