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New EU economic sanctions to hit Russian oil, defense investments – report

RT | September 4, 2014

The European Union is looking at introducing more economic sanctions against Russia over its alleged role in Ukrainian conflict, targeting the country’s oil and defense industries with investment bans, according to a new report.

EU diplomats have started drawing up new economic sanctions in Brussels, indicating that they could be passed as soon as Friday, The Telegraph reported, citing a three-page document.

The confidential document was reportedly handed over to ambassadors from several European countries this week.

It calls to “prohibit debt financing (through bonds, equities and syndicated loans) to defense companies and to all companies whose main activity is the exploration, production and transportation of oil and oil products and in which the Russian state is the majority shareholder.”

The new wave of sanctions could potentially ban state-controlled Russian oil and defense companies from raising funds in European capital markets, cutting off foreign investment.

“This extension would significantly increase the burden placed on the Russian state to finance its companies,” the document suggests.

The sanctions would affect Rosneft – Russia’s largest oil producer – in turn impacting British energy company BP, which has a 20 percent stake in the company.

Moreover, Russia’s oil prospectors could be blocked off from accessing exploration, production and refinery services.

“Measures could be extended… to provision of future associated services (such as seismic campaign-related services, drilling, well testing, logging and completion services, supply of floating vessels etc) for deep water, oil exploration and production, Arctic oil exploration and production or shale oil projects in Russia,” said the paper.

That may even include “prohibiting the provision of new additional technologies, for instance refining technologies needed to upgrade crude oil to EURO 4 standards.”

The banking sector will also be targeted further, making borrowing money from the EU even more difficult for Russian state-owned companies.

“Possible measures [include] prohibiting EU persons from participating in syndicated loans to major Russian State owned banks and other entities with a view to further restraining access to capital and closing a possible gap in the current regulation,” said the EU document. “[Also] lowering the maturity beyond which certain debt instruments are restricted bringing it form the current 90 days to 30 days.”

READ MORE: France says it cannot deliver Mistral warship to Russia over Ukraine

Some of the measures not being considered at this time, but reportedly being held in reserve, include bans on the purchase of newly issued Russian government bonds and a boycott of non-industrial diamonds.

Aside from the economic measures, other forms of sanctions are also being considered.

“Beside economic measures, thought could be given to taking coordinated action within the G7 and beyond to recommend suspension of Russian participation in high profile international cultural, economic or sports events (Formula One races, UEFA football competitions, 2018 World Cup etc),” according to the document.

AFP reported, citing a source, that the World Cup boycott idea is being considered as a “possibility for later on, not now.”

On Wednesday the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, said there was no chance of the 2018 World Cup being taken away from Russia.

“We are not placing any questions over the World Cup in Russia,” the head of world football’s governing body said at an event near Kitzbuehel, Austria, according to the DPA news agency. “We are in a situation in which we have expressed our trust to the organizers of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.”

“[A boycott] has never achieved anything,” Blatter stressed.

Meanwhile, President Putin has outlined a seven-point plan to stabilize the situation in the crisis-torn region of eastern Ukraine.

Putin also expressed hope that final agreements between Kiev and the militia in southeastern Ukraine could be reached and secured at the coming meeting of the so-called contact group on September 5.

The military conflict has killed 2,593 people since mid-April and displaced over a million Ukrainians, most of whom sought refuge in Russia.

So far, attempts at temporary ceasefires between Kiev and self-defense forces in the past months have failed to improve the situation in southeastern Ukraine. The fighting has continued, with both sides blaming each other for breaking the truce.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kiev in retreat

 

[Don’t miss the second half]

Ukraine’s civil war has grounded in stalemate and the economy is crashing. This has created an opening for dialogue. Will all parties seize the moment or will Moscow continue to be blamed?

CrossTalking with Karel van Wolferen, Neil Clark and Gilbert Doctorow.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama’s War on Ukraine

By Renee Parsons | CounterPunch | September 2, 2014

obama-war-is-peaceAmidst a slew of unverified allegations in recent weeks of Russian invasions, violations of Ukraine sovereignty and NATO’s current claim of Russian troops and Russian tanks fighting on the side of the federalist rebels, the upcoming annual NATO Heads of State Summit in Wales, threatens a widening violence and heightened military activity throughout eastern Europe.

Add to the equation that the tide of war appears to be turning against the US-imposed Kiev government as a successful offensive by the rebels captured the coastal town of Novoazovsk near Crimea opening a new front in the southeast and holding the line in Elenovka as rebel forces maintain their ground in Donetsk, the Kiev government needs to save face by claiming that  Russian troops are aiding the out-manned, under-supplied rebels. Russia’s envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov added that the only Russian troops in Ukraine were the nine paratroopers who wandered across the border recently while on patrol.

NATO Summit

It is worth noting that the largest gathering of international leaders to ever assemble in the UK, will include non NATO member Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko as part of a ‘special NATO meeting’ on Ukraine but will exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin.    While that omission may be a sure sign that negotiating a political settlement regarding the US-sponsored fiasco in Ukraine is not a NATO or US priority, the subject of Ukraine will be front and center on the agenda as the EU/NATO/US alliance already know their plans with regard to NATO expansion and the future of Ukraine.

President Obama will attend the Summit after visiting the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while ‘reaffirming’ the US commitment to the region.   It did not used to be common for the US President to visit every little nickel and dime country (no offense intended) along the way but in this case such assurance along with a Presidential visit can mean only one thing:  that those self-proclaimed ‘threatened’ strategically-located countries  (with Estonia and Latvia on Russia’s border and Lithuania and Poland bordered by Russian-ally Belarus) need the President to personally shore them up for a new NATO missile defense system going further east than the former Iron Curtain, and in advance of any possible turbulence spillover within their borders.

On the eve of the Summit, outgoing Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen offered the following:

“We are at a crucial point in history, our peace and security are once again being tested. NATO support for the sovereignty and total integrity of Ukraine is unwavering.  Our partnership is long-standing.  NATO is working even more closely with Ukraine to reform its armed forces and defense institutions.   NATO stands ready to support Ukraine with advisors and assistance. We are advising Ukraine on defense planning and defense reform and are ready to intensify this cooperation.   As a sign of strong support and solidarity, we have decided to hold a ‘special meeting’ with Ukraine at the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales.   We will continue to improve the ability of NATO and Ukraine soldiers to work together.   It is the right of every country to choose its own foreign policy without foreign interference.  NATO fully respects that right but today Ukraine’s freedom and future are under attack.”

In addition, in a series of recent interviews with European newspapers, when asked whether there would be permanent international deployments under a NATO flag in east Europe, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “The brief answer is yes ….’for as long as necessary.’   In addition, Rasmussen promised a readiness action plan to provide rapid reinforcements with ‘a more visible NATO presence in the east.”

In accordance with the promise made in Bucharest in 2008 that both Georgia and Ukraine would become members, it is doubtful whether the Summit will formally act given NATO’s inability to accept new members with borders in dispute but would rather allow each to function as proxy states.   As every NATO member fully understands, membership approval of any of the encirclement countries can be expected to trigger Russia’s long time vehement opposition to a missile presence on its borders.

NATO Accusations

None of this is reassuring especially that the recent accusations have yet to establish whether NATO’s images are date and time stamped, accurate and reliable.  Nevertheless, just as the unfounded accusations regarding MH 17 flight continue to fuel enmity toward Putin, the latest ‘invasion’ charge will be provocative enough, as US-dominated NATO members congregate, to escalate a war effort that has already claimed over 2,600 fatalities, according to the UN. It was, of course, the ouster of the democratically elected President Yanukovych and the imposition of a pro-EU, pro-NATO and a pro-IMF government in Kiev that sparked the revolt in east Ukraine.

One immediate flaw in NATO’s latest assertion is that, given its total dependence on creating military conflict, reliance on their version of anything should be subject to intense scrutiny. With an estimated 50,000 plus Ukrainian troops in action (not counting CIA and US mercenaries), the question is whether sending 1,000 Russian troops into Ukraine is worth the risk to Putin who has consistently followed a diplomatic path while US diplomacy has been dominated by threats and bullying.

What makes more sense is that if the situation in Ukraine reached the critical point of no-return, that Putin would send in a sufficient force the size of a field army accompanied by an impressive number of tank battalions, support convoys and enough heavy artillery to finish the job – and presumably there would be no doubt about whether or not the Russians had moved into Ukraine to protect the civilian population from continued merciless attacks.  The other option is that the Russian air force could easily put an end to Ukraine’s shelling and bombing of defenseless citizens.

Perhaps the best response to the latest ‘invasion’ disinformation has come from Alexandre Zakharchenko, Chair of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk National Republic, given in a recent press briefing.  When an English speaking reporter inquired whether Russian military units were fighting with the rebels, Zakharchenko replied that if ‘you think that Russia is sending its regular units here, then let me tell you something.  If Russia was sending its regular troops here, ‘we would not be talking about the battle of Elenovka; we’d be talking about the battle of Kiev.”  Zakharchenko, an attorney who made an impressive presentation, went on to remind the media that “A territory has the right of self-determination and separation after a referendum,” a referendum that was approved by Donbass voters in May.

What is not debatable is that for some weeks, a conservative estimate of 4,000 Russian volunteers (including some ‘off duty’ military and women) have crossed into Ukraine to fight on the side of the ‘rebels.’ That number may have also been augmented by volunteers sent by Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov whose “statements in support of the illegal annexation of Crimea and support of the armed insurgency in Ukraine,” were cited as reasons for his inclusion in a recent round of sanctions.

Obama’s Unprovoked Attack on Russia

In reaction to NATO’s invasion charge, President Obama, whose State Department was intimately involved in the February coup, spoke at the White House voicing the usual provocations:

“Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine.  The violence is encouraged by Russia.  The separatists are trained by Russia.  They are armed by Russia.  They are funded by Russia.  Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“In Estonia, I will reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies”  and  “At the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom, we’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the Alliance remains prepared for any challenge”  and “There is no doubt that this is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine.”

In a stunning denial of self-reflection, the president has consistently failed to mention his own Administration’s role as sole cause of the violence,  the $1 billion of  Congressional support for Kiev,  the $5 billion of US aid revealed by Secretary of State Victoria Nuland last spring or the NATO build up in Poland, the Baltic states and elsewhere in eastern Europe.   There is never serious mention of the humanitarian catastrophe on a civilian population, no mention of the fatalities, no mention of a ceasefire, no mention of the withdrawal of all non-Ukraine factions from meddling and no mention of requiring the Kiev government’s direct negotiations with the federalist rebels to determine the future of their own country.

Putin Redefines Russia’s National Interests

After the  Gorbachev – Yeltsin years overseeing the dissolution of the USSR in which much of its national interests were imprudently relinquished to a market economy, Putin addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007.   During that speech, he redefined contemporary Russia’s national interests and its geopolitical concerns as he established himself as an independent, critical thinker with an international perspective – and, therefore, a threat to US dominion.   The speech is worth reading in its entirety and here are several excerpts:

Decrying a “greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law.   One state, first and foremost, the United States has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

In referring to “Russia’s peaceful transition to democracy.   Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity?”

In referring to an earlier speaker,  “I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. If he really does think so, then we have different points of view. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN.”

With regard to expanding NATO with missiles on Russia’s borders:  “It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders  I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe.  It represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”

And lastly, Putin quoted the “speech of NATO General Secretary Manfred Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee“.

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.

 

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia proposes roadmap for peace in Ukraine

Press TV – September 3, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes for Kiev and pro-Russian militias to reach a peace agreement on the spiraling crisis in east Ukraine on Friday.

Putin made the remark on Wednesday as he outlined a seven-point peace plan which calls for the end “of active offensive operations by the (Ukrainian) armed forces” and pro-Russia forces “in the southeast of Ukraine.”

“I believe that a final agreement between the authorities of Kiev and southeastern Ukraine can be reached and cemented during a meeting of the Contact Group on September 5,” said Putin.

He was referring to the European-mediated negotiations planned to be held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Friday.

The blueprint calls for the Ukrainian forces to halt airstrikes on cities in the volatile east.

Putin also called for the deployment of international observers to monitor a ceasefire, the unconditional exchange of prisoners as well as the establishment of corridors for humanitarian aid supply to crisis-stricken cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The roadmap raises hopes of an end to months-long fighting which has left more than 2,600 people dead.

Earlier in the day, Kiev said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Putin had agreed to a “permanent ceasefire” in the volatile eastern Ukraine. Russia, however, said the leaders agreed on steps towards peace in eastern Ukraine but not a truce as Moscow is not a party to the crisis.

Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Moscow forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence the pro-Russians there in mid-April.

Violence intensified in May after the two flashpoint regions of Donetsk and Lugansk held local referendums, in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.

Western powers and the Kiev government accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies the accusation.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

France says it cannot deliver Mistral warship to Russia over Ukraine

RT | September 3, 2014

France has suspended delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia, due to events in eastern Ukraine.

“The situation is serious. Russia’s recent actions in the east of Ukraine contravene the fundamental principles of European security,” said a statement from the office of President Francois Hollande.

“The president of the Republic has concluded that despite the prospect of ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place.”

The office informed AFP that the suspension would be next reviewed before November.

“Legally, nothing has changed and the contract is still in force, and the first vessel is still due for delivery on November 1. But a political decision has been taken. The President is saying that if nothing changes, he cannot allow the delivery to go through,” one of Hollande’s representatives told Russia’s RIA news agency.

As the rift over Ukraine has widened, Russian officials have repeatedly said that they would accept the French government’s failure to deliver the ships, as long as it paid the penalty for breaking the contract, which, could potentially exceed the cost of the ships themselves.

“This is not a tragedy, though of course the news is unpleasant. It will not affect our armament plans. We will act in accordance with international laws and the statutes of the contract,” said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, in a statement.

The two ships were commissioned by Russia in 2011 at a cost of $1.6 billion. The first of these, the Vladivostok, was due to come into service at the end of this year, with the second, the Sevastopol, due to be completed in 2015.

France’s suspension does not fall under the sectoral sanctions the EU and the US imposed upon Russia for purported meddling in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, introduced last month. That raft of sanctions did not cover deals signed before their imposition.

But it could be covered under new sanctions sanctions the EU is expected to introduce this week, which may earn France a temporary reprieve from compensation under the terms of the contract.

While Moscow officials earlier admitted that in terms of efficiency and versatility the cutting-edge Mistral has no equivalent in the Russian Navy, the deal was always considered controversial, as France was a Cold War adversary, and is a founding member of NATO.

Indeed, there had been speculation of NATO taking over the Mistral order from Russia, following a proposal from a group of US congressmen back in May. Earlier this week, the Alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen did not rule out the possibility, but said that it “remains a national decision, not for NATO to interfere.” In the aftermath of the announcement from Hollande, NATO maintained that it wasn’t forcing France to suspend the sale.

Previously US President Barack Obama said France should “press the pause button” on the deal, while fighting in Ukraine is in progress.

Previously, French officials resisted, citing concerns over reputational damage, and saying that the financial penalties might hurt Paris more than Moscow. Even if France does now decide to sell the ships to someone else, it will have to refit them, as every aspect, from the helicopter pads to hull alloys is custom-made to Russian specifications.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

UNRWA calls for end of Gaza siege

IMEMC News | September 3, 2014

UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, says that the reconstruction process of Gaza may take over a decade, if the current blockade on the Gaza Strip is not lifted.

According to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency, Kraehenbuel declared, during a two-day official visit to Switzerland, that the blockade on Gaza “must be lifted”.

“I would like to thank the government and people of Switzerland for their generous and unwavering support to UNRWA and the refugees we serve. The recent fighting in Gaza and the UNRWA response demonstrated once more how vital our services have become,” he said.

“As the discussions intensify about the reconstruction of Gaza, it is becoming clear that UNRWA will be central to that effort. But we have to remember that Swiss funds are supporting our services beyond Gaza, across the Middle East in war-torn Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank.”

Mr. Krähenbühl announced that at least 20,000 homes were destroyed during the recent Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, and that there had been widespread destruction of public infrastructure.

He states that it was “an imperative for the international community and for the people of Gaza to reconstruct after the devastation”, which was unprecedented in recent history:

“I visited Gaza three times during the recent conflict and the impact of the fighting on individual human lives, particularly the young, is palpable and profound. Hundreds of thousands of children are deep in trauma. We estimate that of one thousand injured children out of three thousands will suffer permanent disabilities.”

Krähenbühl noted that several hundred UNRWA counselors are working to restore a sense of normality to the region. “UNRWA will do all it can to restore human dignity to a community that has suffered enough,” he said.

He also expressed his concern for “more than 50,000 people” who are still living in Gaza’s UNRWA schools due to the fact that their homes had been destroyed:

“We need to do all we can to find alternative accommodation for these people, as we are determined to begin our delayed school year on 14 September… It will be a challenge.”

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Prisoner hospitalized after being tortured in Israeli jail

Ma’an – 03/09/2014

RAMALLAH – A Palestinian prisoner has been moved to a hospital ward after undergoing torture at Israel’s Russian Compound detention center, a Palestinian Authority prisoners committee said Wednesday.

Muhammad Hussein Rabee, 33, from Beit Anan village near Ramallah, suffered health complications as a result of being tortured while being held at the Jerusalem detention center for 40 days, the committee said.

He was first moved to Hadassa hospital last week, and is now in the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Rabee was detained on July 27 and his family did not find out his whereabouts until 30 days later.

“We did not know where Muhammad was until after a month of his detention, and his lawyer was not allowed to visit him until after 35 days of being at the Russian compound,” his brother Usama told Ma’an.

Rabee’s lawyer said he had been “harshly tortured.”

Former prisoner Khaldun Jumhur, who was being held in the Russian Compound with Rabee, said that interrogators used a method of putting pressure on the victim’s neck, as well as beating him on his hands, legs and head.

A doctor at the detention center requested an x-ray for Rabee, but was refused by the Shin Bet agency.

The Prisoner Affairs Committee demanded human rights organizations to hold Israel accountable for torturing Palestinian prisoners.

Some 4,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launched hunger-strike action in 2013 to protest the death of Arafat Jaradat, who died in Israel’s Megido jail after being tortured by Israeli interrogators.

Around 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, more than 2,000 of whom were arrested over summer alone.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Russian sale of S-300 system to Egypt a threat to Israel

MEMO | September 3, 2014

Israeli military magazine Israel Defence has reported that Israel is concerned over the possibility of Russia supplying Egypt with the developed anti-aircraft system S-300.

According to foreign media reports, Israel does not possess the proper technology to undermine the work of such an advanced system.

Sources told the magazine that Israel may not allow for Egypt to deploy such anti-aircraft missiles, if they are in fact being obtained, in the Sinai Peninsula.

A source in the Russian military industrial complex told Russia News Agency last month that the anti-aircraft system Egypt is currently negotiating with Russia over was initially produced for Syria. However, Egyptian partners have now “expressed interest in S-300 purchases”.

“The system may be re-equipped for Egypt in a short period of time,” the source added.

Israel Defence noted that if the anti-aircraft system were to be placed in Suez, its radar would cover half of Israel, and if placed in Port Said, it would cover almost the entire area of Israel.

This means that any Israeli plane flying towards Egypt or any Israeli rocket launched at Egypt would be monitored while still inside Israel.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

E-Mail the University of Illinois Board of Trustees

By Corey Robin | September 3, 2014

This is part 2 of a two-part post. In the last post, I read through the Salaita Papers, which were released under Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act; in this one, I canvas the other events of the day.

First, last night’s report that Chancellor Wise would be forwarding Salaita’s appointment to the Trustees was wrong. Several members of the UIUC faculty met with her today. According to Michael Rothberg, chair of the English department:

Together with two colleagues I just met with Chancellor Wise, at her invitation. The main message from our discussion was that there is no change in the status of the case. It seems that the students were not accurate in their impression. She doesn’t know if the Board of Trustees will be voting on the case at their 9/11 meeting, but she indicated that she thought a reversal was very unlikely.

So status quo. I’ll come back to that 9/11 meeting at the end of this post.

Second, tonight, the English Department became the fourth department at UIUC to take a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the University of Illinois—the trustees, the president, and Chancellor Wise. From what I’m hearing, the departments of history, comparative and world literatures, and East Asian Languages and Cultures will be voting on similar motions sometime this week.

Third, the number of canceled events grows. We now have a second cancelled conference. Today, Columbia law professor Katharine Franke canceled series of lectures she was to give at the UIUC in late September. This was an especially nice touch:

I have long held the view that the use of boycotts as a tactic to protest an unjust practice by a state, business or academic institution may be appropriate in the right context, such as the current crisis at the UIUC, but that those who pledge to honor a boycott cannot rest their political commitments exclusively on a promise not to do something. Rather they should also pledge to affirmatively engage the injustice that generated the call for the boycott. For this reason, rather than merely boycotting your institution, I plan to travel to Urbana-Champaign in mid September at my own expense to participate in a forum (located off campus) with members of the UIUC community in which we will explore the manner in which the termination of Professor Salaita’s employment at UIUC threatened a robust principal of academic freedom.

I just found out that University of Nebraska philosophy professor Mark Van Roojen canceled a scheduled lecture as well. In fact, the list of canceled lectures and events seems to have exploded overnight. There’s now a poster listing all of the cancellations. John Protevi’s also keeping track over at his blog. If you’re cancelling something, please let him know.

Fourth, a group of graduate students has now organized its own boycott pledge. It’s one of the more powerful statements, as it dramatizes the real long-term costs of the Salaita dehiring.

As the rising generation of scholars and public intellectuals, we are troubled about what this signals about the work environments, hiring conditions, and the larger academe we are working to enter.

UI-UC’s actions have signaled to the graduate student community that in order to secure employment, we should stay silent on political questions, eliminate our online interactions with others in the public and in the scholarly community, and cease researching and asking tough questions that may displease those in authority. These conditions trouble us all, and will deter many graduate students from applying to faculty positions at UI-UC in the future.

We hold that the value of scholarly efforts must not be determined by how readily they appease the powerful or cater to the status quo; instead, such efforts must be weighed by their degree of due diligence and attention to the ethical pursuit of knowledge, as well as the imperative to voice righteous criticisms when necessary. To constrain our research and public engagement in such a way as to protect ourselves from the treatment Professor Salaita has received promises to strip the academy of all relevance to society as an institution that values intellectual debate.

If you’re a grad student, please sign it.

Fifth, the American Historical Association, the official professional body of historians, issued a scorching denunciation today of Chancellor Wise’s decision.

The First Amendment protects speech, both civil and uncivil. It does so for good reason. The United States made a wager that democracy can flourish only with a robustly open public sphere where conflicting opinions can vigorously engage one another. Such a public sphere rests on the recognition that speech on matters of public concern is often emotional and that it employs a variety of idioms and styles. Hence American law protects not only polite discourse but also vulgarity, not only sweet rationality but also impassioned denunciation. “Civility” is a laudable ideal, and many of us wish that American public life had more of it today. Indeed the AHA recommends it as part of our own Statement on the Standards of Professional Conduct. But imposing the requirement of “civility” on speech in a university community or any other sector of our public sphere—and punishing infractions—can only backfire. Such a policy produces a chilling effect, inhibiting the full exchange of ideas that both scholarly investigation and democratic institutions need.

If allowed to stand, your administration’s punitive treatment of Steven Salaita will chill the intellectual atmosphere at the University of Illinois. Even tenured professors will fear for their job security, persuaded that their institution lacks respect for the principles of academic freedom. The unhappy consequences for the untenured will be even more pronounced. A regimen of defensive self-censorship will settle like a cloud over faculty lectures and classroom discussions. Faculty will be inclined to seek positions elsewhere. This, surely, is not the future you wish for your historically great institution.

The AHA joined the Modern Languages Association, the professional organization of literature and language scholars, and the American Studies Association, in putting the weight of a major disciplinary organization behind Salaita’s case. I hope American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, and other disciplinary organizations join in soon.

It has become clear from various UIUC faculty I’ve spoken with that the trustees are now the main focus of our campaign. Between now and 9/11, we have to bombard them with emails and phone calls urging them to do the right thing. Unfortunately, we don’t have all of their contact information, but Thanks to John Protevi’s heroic efforts (and a little angel who came to my aid after this post went live), we have most all of them. Here they are (plus a few others that are relevant).

If you’ve already joined a boycott, signed the petition, and emailed Chancellor Wise, I want to ask you—all of you, in the tens of thousands now—to rattle the trustees with your voices. As John says: “Be polite but firm, open, frank, forthright, unapologetic, and exigent when writing these folks.”

Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees: chris@northbankandwells.com

Robert A. Easter, President: reaster@uillinois.edu

Hannah Cave, Trustee: hcave2@illinois.edu

Ricardo Estrada, Trustee: estradar@metrofamily.org

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee: patrick.fitzgerald@skadden.com

Lucas N. Frye, Trustee: lnfrye2@illinois.edu

Karen Hasara, Trustee: hasgot28@aol.com

Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee: pholmes@schiffhardin.com

Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee: timothy.koritz@gmail.com or tkoritz@gmail.com

Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee: dleibo2@uic.edu

Edward L. McMillan, Trustee: mcmillaned@sbcglobal.net or mcmillaned@msn.com

James D. Montgomery, Trustee: james@jdmlaw.com

Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee: pbstrobel@comcast.net

Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel: bearrows@uillinois.edu

Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University: kies@uillinois.edu

Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees: lmckeever@wpmck.com

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Reading the Salaita Papers

By Corey Robin | September 2, 2014

There are many developments today in the Salaita affair, so I’m going to do this as a two-part post. Part 2 is here.

This morning, the News-Gazette released 280 pages of documents obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act revealing extensive donor pressure on Chancellor Wise.

As news spread in late July about a new University of Illinois faculty hire and media outlets began publishing some of his profanity-laden tweets, a number of wealthy donors threatened to stop giving money to the university, recently released documents show.

The letters about professor Steven Salaita started arriving in Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s inbox July 21, and the writers did not hold back.

“Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years, I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses,” wrote one UI business school graduate.

The letters from donors, some of them identifying themselves as members of the UI’s $25,000-plus “presidents council,” have also raised questions about the motivation behind the administration’s decision to not forward Salaita’s name to the board of trustees for formal approval last month.

The chancellor, however, through a spokeswoman, maintains her decision was not influenced by them, but was based out of concern for the students, campus and community.

Then tonight Phan Nguyen sent me 443 pages of documents he had posted online. These are all the documents released by the UIUC in response to four different FOIA requests from various news organizations. I’ve now spent the entire evening reading through these documents and here are some of the highlights.

When the Salaita story first broke in the local press, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs Robin Kaler said, “Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.” That was on July 21. The UIUC documents reveal that not only was Chancellor Wise apprised of that statement minutes after it was emailed to the media, but that she also wrote back to Kaler: “I have received several emails. Do you want me to use this response or to forward these to you?” (p. 101) In other words, this was not the rogue statement of a low-level spokesperson; it reflected Wise’s own views, including the view that Salaita was already a university employee. Even though Wise already had been informed of Salaita’s tweets.

In the days following this forthright defense of Salaita, the Chancellor and her associates begin to back-pedal. Around July 23, Wise starts reaching out to select alumni, trying to arrange phone calls (and in one instance, struggling to rearrange her travel schedule just so she can meet one alum in person [pp. 78-94]). To another such alum, she writes, “Let me say that I just recently learned about Steven Salaita’s background, beyond his academic history, and am learning more now.” (p. 293) That “beyond his academic history” is going to get Wise in trouble on academic freedom grounds.

In the background of this change of tune are the donors and the university’s fundraising and development people. In a July 24 email to Dan Peterson, Leanne Barnhart, and Travis Michael Smith (all part of the UIUC money machine), Wise reports about a meeting she has had with what appears to be a big donor. In Wise’s words:

He said that he knows [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] well and both have less loyalty for Illinois because of their perception of anti-Semitism. He gave me a two-pager filled with information on Steven Salaita and said how we handle this situation will be very telling. (p. 206)

Once Wise and her team start back-tracking, the trustees are brought into the picture. On July 28, Susan Mary Kies, who is the secretary of the Board of Trustees, writes Wise, who had been apologetic about “filling your inbox” with Salaita info, “No problem, we will place the letters in weekly dispatch (as we did last week) so the trustees can see the depth of the matter!” (p. 62) The next day, Kaler starts writing to complaining alums that the final decision regarding Salaita lies with the trustees (this is the first we hear of what will become the ultimate strategy of the administration: putting it all on the trustees):

While I cannot comment on any specific employment decisions of the university, pursuant to the governing documents for the university the final decision for any faculty appointment at the level of assistant professor or above rests with the Board of Trustees. I, therefore, have passed your concerns along to the Secretary of the Board of Trustees. (p. 62)

What’s most stunning about these documents is that they show how removed and isolated Chancellor Wise is from any of the academic voices in the university, even the academic voices on her own team. As she heads toward her August 2 decision to dehire Salaita, she is only speaking to and consulting with donors, alums, PR people, and development types. Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, makes exactly one appearance in these 443 pages. That is on Tuesday, July 22. Even though Wise has been inundated with emails about Salaita for days, she only finally emails Adesida about the matter a day after the story has broken in the local press. His response: “Thanks for sending these emails. I was not aware of any controversy on this person until yesterday!” (p. 95) And he’s never heard from again.

Then on August 4, two days after Wise has informed Salaita and Robert Warrior, chair of the American Indian Studies department, that Salaita won’t be hired, Warrior writes Brian Ross, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to find out what happened. Warrior first gets an email back from one of Ross’s associates, who says, “Brian is not in the office today, and I’m not sure he knows anything about this because I presume he would have discussed it with me if he had” (p. 361). And then Ross himself writes back, “i am in NY, traveling back tomorrow. I have not seen the letter but have a request in and will let you know when I hear any more” (p.362). In other words, even two days after the Chancellor has dehired Salaita, she still hasn’t informed the dean of the largest college at the UIUC of her decision.

What’s also clear from reading these documents is just how high up the chain Salaita’s appointment had gone, and how ensconced at the university he was becoming—up until the day that he wasn’t. On September 27, 2013, for example, Reginald Alston, one of two associate chancellors who works directly in Phyllis Wise’s office, writes the following report on Salaita’s candidacy (pp. 238-239):

After closely reviewing Dr. Steven Salaita’s dossier, I support the Department of American Indian Studies’ (AIS) request to grant him the rank of Associate Professor with indefinite tenure at the University of Illinois. The uniqueness of his scholarship on the intersection of American Indian, Palestinian, and American Palestinian experiences presents a rare opportunity to add an esoteric perspective on indigeneity to our cultural studies programs on campus.

Again, I support offering Dr. Salaita a tenured position because of the obvious intellectual value that his scholarship and background would bring to our campus. His presence would elevate AIS internationally and convey Illinois’ commitment to maintaining a leading academic program on the historical and sociopolitical intricacies of American Indian culture.

On January 15, 2014, his appointment is approved by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access, which is one of the key and most powerful offices in any university hiring decision; if they don’t sign off, the appointment goes nowhere (p. 398).

Then, between July 22 and July 25, while the chancellor and her aides are formulating their strategy to deal with the backlash, Salaita and Warrior email back and forth about Salaita’s moving expenses. The UIUC had originally promised to cover up to $5000 of Salaita’s expenses (p. 387), but when the University-approved moving company comes back with an estimate of $7500, the department decides to cover the difference (pp. 341-347).

And then, when the tech support start asking Warrior about Salaita’s computer needs (“Did Steven Salaita say he had any special PC laptop needs? Does he run SPSS or any other resource intensive applications? Does he need something geared toward video work or any other special area?”), Warrior replies, “He’s pretty much a meat and potatoes user. Nothing complicated” (pp. 341-347).

That was on August 1. The next day, Chancellor Wise fired Salaita.

Update (12:20 am)

Apparently, Carol Tilley on Twitter revealed earlier today the identity of that the alum whom Wise scrambled to rearrange her schedule over. His name is Steve Miller; the UIUC redactor failed to catch it. Tilley then tweeted some other information about Miller. He’s a huge venture capitalist. In 2010, he donated a half-million dollars to endow a professorship in the UIUC business school. He’s given money for years to endow the Steven N. Miller Entrepreneurial Scholarships. He believes in “venture philanthropy.” And he’s on the board of Hillel.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

EU source: Gaza reconstruction aid is ‘made in Israel’

school_damaged_in_operation_protective_edge_gaza_city_7_august

A Palestinian school damaged during Operation Protective Edge. 7 August, Gaza City. [Jordi Bernabeu Farrús/Flickr]
EurActiv | September 3, 2014

A row is brewing over claims that Israel is earning millions of euros from a de facto policy of preventing non-Israeli reconstruction aid from entering the Gaza Strip.

At least 65,000 people in the Gaza Strip are homeless after the recent seven-week conflict. Infrastructure ranging from water desalination centres to power plants lies in ruins.

No formal Israeli ban prevents the import of reconstruction materials that were not made in Israel, but EU sources speaking on condition of anonymity say that in practice, Israeli security demands present them with a fait accompli.

“If you want aid materials to be permitted to enter, they will almost inevitably come from Israeli sources,” an EU official said. “I don’t think you’ll find it written down anywhere in official policy, but when you get to negotiate with the Israelis, this is what happens. It increases construction and transaction costs, and is a political problem that has to be dealt with.”

As well as Israel’s security restrictions on aid, “it can be very difficult to export materials to Gaza,” the official said. “A lot of goods for a Gaza private sector reconstruction project we had, ended up being held in Ashdod port for very lengthy periods of time – months if not years – so there was de facto no alternative but to use Israeli sources.”

The source added that the policy had benefited Israel’s economy to the tune of millions of euros and was, in his view, deliberate.

The European Commission donates some €300 million in development aid to Gaza and the West Bank every year, and around €200 million in humanitarian aid.

The EU official’s allegation received backing from international agencies canvassed by EurActiv and is broadly in line with findings in a UN report due to be published later today (3 September).

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study will say that half of all donor assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza – who the UN body say constitute a captive market – is spent on servicing a trade deficit to Israel.

‘Dual use items’

Tel Aviv imposed a full blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007 after the ascent to power of the Islamist Hamas movement, which has used suicide bombing and rocket attack tactics against Israel’s occupation, that have claimed hundreds of civilian lives.

But the UN and international NGOs have protested the blockade’s prevention of free movement and trade for the vast majority of Gazans as a collective punishment.

Building materials such as steel and cement, necessary for the reconstruction of Gaza, have been designated by Israel as ‘dual use’ items – adaptable for munitions – that may only be imported to Gaza by the UN and aid agencies under Israeli supervision.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime ministers’ office, denied claims that Israel’s entry policy to Gaza prevented non-Israeli-made reconstruction materials from entering the Strip.

“I know that policy, and it is not true,” he told EurActiv over the phone from Jerusalem. He was unable though to give examples of non-Israeli reconstruction materials allowed into Gaza, referring inquiries on to Cogat.

The Israeli body, Cogat, which coordinates the entry of aid into Gaza, did not respond to requests for comment.

But “there are not many choices,” Amir Rotem, the public affairs director for Gisha, an Israeli NGO, told EurActiv. “The Israeli market has a monopoly of cement in just one company, and I don’t know of any Palestinian-made cement in the West Bank, so there’s not much to choose from.”

‘Chutzpah writ large’

International reactions to the EU official’s claims were strong.

“It is outrageous that a country which has just demolished 25,000 houses is demanding that their construction industry benefit from rebuilding them at the expense of the international community,” one Western diplomat told EurActiv.

“Talk about chutzpah writ large!” he said.

Mahmoud el-Khafif, UNCTAD’s special coordinator for assistance to the Palestinian people, told EurActiv that he believed the EU official’s claims were correct.

“If you look at steel or cement, I think the only source for it would be Israel,” he said. “It is a serious problem in my opinion as an economist. What happened in Gaza and what is happening in the West Bank in terms of controlling Area C is an ongoing process to reduce the ability of the Palestinian economy to produce, and the only alternative is to import from Israel.”

Later today, a new UNCTAD report will say that economic growth (measured by GDP) in the economy of the occupied Palestinian Territories declined from 11% in 2011 to just 1.5% last year, far below the rate of population growth.

‘An unliveable place before 2020’

Even before the recent fighting, unemployment in Gaza was running at 36% and people were poorer than in the 1990s, when the Oslo peace process began.

Rebuilding the battered Strip now will take 20 years under the current regime of restrictions, according to a report published earlier this week by Shelter Cluster, an NGO chaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council, with the participation of the UNHCR and the International Red Cross.

That could be too late for many Gazans. The UN’s relief and works agency (UNRWA) has previously estimated that Gaza will not be “a liveable place” by 2020 because of population increase and a depletion of fresh water sources by 2016.

“lf Gaza was going to be an unlivable place by 2020 – before the latest fighting – it will now be an unlivable place considerably before then,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA told EurActiv, from the Gaza Strip.

“With at least 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed, with miles of water infrastructure devastated, with millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the sea every day, and the corrosive impacts of blockade, the sustainability of Gaza will be even more short lived,” he said.

More than 2,100 Palestinians – mostly civilians – were killed in Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge, as were 73 Israelis – mostly soldiers.

The international reconstruction effort in Gaza could cost more than $6 billion, according to the Palestinian deputy prime minister.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

What would real proof look like?

By Patrick Armstrong | US-Russia.org | August 31, 2014

Once again the headlines shout that Russia has invaded Ukraine. Once again NATO offers blurry satellite shots from a commercial service for evidence. Here are June’s “invasion” satellite photos. This month’s “invasion” satellite photos are here. Again from a commercial source, Digital Globe. Photo 1: some “Russian” SPGs in Ukraine (everybody uses “Russian” ie Soviet equipment and the rebels have captured quite a lot). Photo 2: Some deployed artillery in Ukraine (ludicrously explained as how “trained military professionals” would deploy it. Hasn’t anyone in NATO HQ realised that the east Ukrainian rebels are pretty competent?) Photo 3: A Russian base with stuff in it and without stuff in it (but aren’t we continually told about the Russian “buildup on the border”, always alarming, always threatening, whatever the numbers: “very, very sizable” in March, 40K in April, 12K in July, 20K in August. One should not be surprised that there’s some variance of equipment at a given base over time). Photo 4 and 5: Some guns in Russia pointing towards Ukraine (where, by the way, as NATO intelligence may know, there is a war going on with occasional firing into Russia. All military are trained to expect the worst.) And, by the way, if Russia did invade, don’t you think it would do it in strength rather than a couple of tanks here and a gun or two there? No wonder the Russians are laughing at this “evidence”; this isn’t evidence of anything except how gullible NATO thinks its taxpayers are.

Its time to consider what real evidence would look like. The United States has spent billions and billions of dollars on intelligence-gathering equipment; and supposedly has more assets than anyone else has ever had or dreamed of having. So, given this vast array of sophisticated devices which, one has to assume, have been watching Ukraine and western Russia for months, what would real evidence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine look like?

We would see a series of photographs, maybe even a continuous moving picture, perhaps backed up by intercepted communications, of Russian equipment forming up in a base. We would follow that column, photo by photo, moving towards Ukraine. We would watch that column, photo by photo, as it crossed the frontier and deployed. We should also have photos of Russian artillery actually firing – after all, the guns they show are right out in the open and artillery doesn’t fire single shots. If the Russians were actually firing across the border regularly, there would be real satellite evidence showing it. That is what real proof would look like and that is what these pathetic efforts are not. Although they are negative evidence: if NATO had real evidence, we’d see it 24/7; this paltry effort demonstrates that it does not.

It’s all reminiscent of the two British reporters who said they saw Russian armour head across the border into Ukraine a couple of weeks ago, My smart phone has a camera and it has GPS too and there’s lots of map software available (I recommend City Maps 2Go, download Rostov Oblast. I’m sure their newspapers would stand the $3 it costs). A real report would have said this is the time, this is where we are, this is what we saw, here’s photos. But oops, whaddaya know! they forgot to take their smart phones with them. Gee, so we have to trust them and take their word for it.

WELL, I DON’T TRUST THEM.

And I don’t trust NATO and its pitiful commercial images, I don’t trust reporters who “forget” to record things and I don’t trust Marie Harf and her “social media and common sense”.

As Paul Craig Roberts puts it: “The latest Washington lie, this one coming from NATO, is that Russia has invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops and self-propelled artillery. How do we know that this is a lie? Is it because we have heard nothing but lies about Russia from NATO, from US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, from assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, from Obama and his entire regime of pathological liars, and from the British, German, and French governments along with the BBC and the entirety of the Western media?”

Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment