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Russia at the gates? US State Dept, Pentagon grilled over NATO expansion

RT | October 17, 2014

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby have been challenged over the Department of Defense’s claims that the US must “deal” with “modern and capable” Russian armed forces on NATO’s doorstep.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu expressed “grave concern” and “surprise” at a Wednesday speech made by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference. Hagel declared that US armed forces “must deal with a revisionist Russia – with its modern and capable army – on NATO’s doorstep.”

During a State Department briefing on Friday, however, an AP journalist suggested that it would be more logical to say that “NATO has moved closer to Russia’s borders.”

“Is it not logical to look at this and say – the reason why Russia’s army is on NATO’s doorstep, is because NATO expands,” journalist Matt Lee said.

“That’s the way [Russian] President Putin probably looks at it, it’s certainly not the way that we look at it,” Kirby said in response to the journalist’s reasoning.

Though he eventually admitted that NATO has expanded, Kirby added that “NATO is not an anti-Russia alliance, it is a security alliance.”

“It wasn’t NATO that was ordering tons of tactical battalions and army to [the] Ukraine border,” Kirby added, before being reminded that Ukraine is not part of NATO.

Kirby then refused to agree with the point that the Russians could understandably perceive NATO’s expansion as a “threat,” especially given that the alliance existed as “anti-Soviet” for half a century.

“I’m not going to pretend to know what goes in President Putin’s mind or Russian military commanders… I mean, I barely got a history degree at the University of South Florida,” Kirby joked, dodging the question.

Kirby assured that NATO’s moves were not “hostile and threatening,” but rather a matter of security. He added that he was “worried about their [Russia’s] moves around Ukraine.” Psaki then cut in, saying that “other countries feel threatened,” and urged the conversation to move on.

In terms of new threats at NATO’s borders, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Friday that it is the US which has been “stubbornly approaching… closer to our doors.”

Relations between Russia and NATO have been tense since the alliance accused Russia of becoming involved in the Ukrainian conflict – a claim Russia has continuously denied.

Following Crimea’s accession to Russia in March, the US and Europe bombarded Moscow with sanctions. NATO also significantly increased its military presence near Russia’s borders, especially in Poland and the former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which have expressed concern at the potential for Russian incursions into their territories.

READ MORE: US works on military ‘scenarios’ near our borders – Russian defense minister

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Putin: Ukraine’s new Donbass law ‘not perfect, but a step in right direction’

RT | October 17, 2014

The new law giving special status to troubled regions in eastern Ukraine is ‘not perfect,’ but might be used to finally stabilize the situation in the area, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in Milan.

“Perhaps it’s not a perfect document, but it’s a step in the right direction, and we hope it will be used in complete resolution of security problems,” Putin said after closed-door talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday.

The two presidents met in Milan privately on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), a summit of Asian and European leaders.

The document on special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions was signed by Poroshenko on Thursday.

The legislation “defines temporary order of local government in certain districts,” according to the Ukrainian president’s official website.

The special order enacts governance “in the cities, towns and villages” to be “carried out by territorial communities through local government bodies under the Constitution and the Laws of Ukraine,” with local elections scheduled in the districts for December 7.

It also aims to restore the regions’ infrastructure and “create conditions” to stabilize the situation in the area.

The new law, which will be valid for three years from the date of its publication, is part of the agreement reached between Kiev authorities and eastern Ukrainian militias in Minsk on September 5.

The Minsk protocol, which also includes decisions on a ceasefire and the exchange of war prisoners, should be the guideline in Ukraine’s conflict management, Putin said.

“I’d like to point out that these agreements, unfortunately, are not fully implemented by either side,” added the Russian leader, speaking to journalists after the Milan talks.

Italy, France, Germany, and Russia have expressed willingness to use drones to monitor the situation in the region, Putin said. He added that the technical side of the plan will be discussed in the near future, when specialists gather at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe) headquarters in Vienna.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Military Intervention Will Never “Fix” the Middle East

Who Will Show the Moral Courage to End the US’s Middle East Wars?

By Col. DOUGLAS MACGREGOR | CounterPunch | October 17, 2014

American military interventions tend to follow a familiar pattern. The path to intervention begins when Washington decides to support one side in an ongoing conflict. Regardless of its true nature, the side Washington chooses is elevated to sainthood while the side Washington decides to attack is demonized.

Soon, the usual suspects, Neocons and Liberal Interventionists who are only nominally Republicans or Democrats, trot out the old mantra, “It’s the 1930s and we can’t we can’t let another Hitler rise again.” In 1991 it was Saddam Hussein. In 1995, the villains were Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. In 1999, the principle villain was Slobodan Milošević. All were guilty of heinous crimes and deserved the worlds’ contempt, but none were radically different from most of their contemporaries governing peoples at the same time in the Balkans and the Middle East.

To the uninformed American public remote from the regions where their armed forces will operate, it did not matter. With the added boost from America’s enthusiastic media, the usual suspects stampeded the nation into military action.

Today, things are a little different.  After 13 years of ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, after watching 123 Islamist Militias overrun Libya in the aftermath of the United States-led NATO bombing campaign, Americans are more circumspect. True, ISIS, the Sunni Islamists in pickup trucks ransacking towns across the wastelands of the Middle East, is barbarous and savage, but the support for all-out war to destroy ISIS involving tens of thousands of American Soldiers and Marines is tenuous. The solution: an “airpower only” answer to Washington’s need to “do something.”

Today, it’s a re-run of the Kosovo Air Campaign across Mesopotamia. It’s worth pausing to recall the events of the air campaign that lasted from 28 February 1998 until 11 June 1999.

In Kosovo American and NATO pilots found few if any good targets on the ground. Once Yugoslav (Serbian) tanks, artillery and troops dispersed across mountainous and forested terrain inside a region smaller than Wales, American Airpower had enormous trouble finding and attacking Serb forces. Old, but robust Serb air defenses skillfully integrated with commercial radars made effective air strikes launched from below 11,000 to 15,000 feet extremely dangerous, if not impossible.

Confronted with this situation, General Wes Clark expanded the air war beyond Kosovo into Serbia where the aircraft could easily identify and strike infrastructure. Initially, the resulting strikes in Serbia looked impressive on television and acted as a tonic for NATO’s beleaguered leaders. The destruction of electrical power plants and bridges over the Danube ruined Serbia’s economy, but it did little to influence events on the ground in Kosovo.

America’s European allies grew impatient. Why, Europeans asked, had NATO’s military Leaders not anticipated Serb military action to expel Kosovo’s Muslim Albanian population?  Why not refocus the air campaign on Serb forces in Kosovo? To make matters worse, small numbers of Serb and Albanian civilians died in air strikes meant for Serb troops or infrastructure. Predictably, public support for the air campaign in the United States and Europe weakened.

Undeterred, General Clark pressed for the commitment of U.S. and European ground forces. Clark believed the air campaign was the equivalent of “Rolling Thunder;” the 1965 air campaign that led to the commitment of U.S. Ground Forces to Vietnam. It was not to be.

After weeks of negotiations, Ambassador Strobe Talbot succeeded in persuading Moscow to abandon Belgrade. Moscow deserted Belgrade because Moscow needed American and European support to cope with Russia’s shattered economy and a relentless Muslim rebellion in Chechnya.

Without Russian material support in terms of food and fuel, Milošević had no choice but to capitulate. Without food and fuel, hundreds of thousands of Serbs would die in the fierce Balkan winter.  Serbian forces withdrew in good order from Kosovo. Pushing the Serbs out of Kosovo cost roughly $4.5 billion. Air strikes inflicted $9 billion of damage on little Serbia.  Damage to the economies of the States in the Danube River Valley, to Italy and Greece ran into the billions of dollars too.

President Clinton was understandably relieved. He’d escaped from the Balkan disaster just in time.

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the Middle East is not tiny Kosovo. There is no easy retreat from the strident declarations made at the outset of his generals’ hasty, ill-conceived policy of intervention from the air. Once again, there are few, if any, lucrative target sets for American Airpower. Worse, the Middle East is in the grip of societal collapse and radicalization.

From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, the old Cold War military alliances are crumbling and many of the Sunni Arab ruling elites that supported them fear their own populations. Millions of Sunni Muslim Arabs admire ISIS. They do so because they are struggling with dysfunctional governments mired in corruption and they fear the encroaching power and influence of Shiite Iran in Damascus, Baghdad, and the Persian Gulf Emirates.

More significantly, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is leading Turkey’s population of 77 million on an Ottoman Revival intertwined with the re-invigoration of Turkey’s centuries’ old Islamic identity. Since taking office, Erdogan has rejected every American diplomatic and military initiative in the region. Frustrated with the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to secure power in Egypt, Erdogan has no interest in obstructing ISIS’s attacks on his regional opponents, apostate Shiites, Christians, Jews and, most of all, Kurds.

Erdogan and his Sunni Islamist supporters in the region are furious with Washington’s support for the Kurdish independence and Iran’s client Shiite State Baghdad. American air strikes are rescuing Ankara’s enemies from destruction at the hands of ISIS. Whatever else ISIS may be, in Erdogan’s mind, they are fellow Sunni Islamists and many of its fighters are Turks from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as Anatolia. Under these circumstances no one in Washington should be surprised that the Turkish Army, the largest in NATO, obedient to Erdogan’s orders recently attacked Kurds, but not ISIS fighters.

More time, new tactics, more money, more troops and better strategic “partners” will not change these regional realities. The logical choice for President Obama is to tell the American people the truth: America’s military interventions in the Middle East and Southwest Asia are festering sores, bottomless pits for American blood and treasure. Americans can secure their own borders, enforce the rule of law and build economic prosperity at home, but Americans in uniform cannot and will not “fix” the Middle East.

Of course, suspending military operations that are both ineffective and counterproductive takes both understanding and moral courage. In Washington DC, moral courage is always in short supply. British Prime Minister, Sir Benjamin Disraeli made the same point over a hundred years ago: “You will find as you grow older,” Disraeli said to a new member of the House of Commons, “that courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.”

 

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Oligarchy and Zionism – Part 3

Rinnief

Third part of a documentary produced by Béatrice Pignède, with footage shot by Jonathan Moadab, Sylvia Page, Jean-Sébastien Farez and Saber Farzard. Music by Gilad Atzmon.
Click below for other segments of the documentary:
Part 1
Part 2

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Excluding the right of return from the Palestinian discourse

By Dr. Abdel Sattar Qasem | October 7, 2014

News about developments of the Palestinian issue continue to pour in through all media outlets, and statements and political speeches do not stop, but we hardly hear about the core and essence of the Palestinian issue which is the problem of Palestinian refugees.

Most of the actions related to finding a solution for the Palestinian case revolve around the establishment of a Palestinian state, or the so-called two-state solution. Meanwhile the issue of the refugees remains excluded, or marginalised, from these steps, in light of very weak hints by Palestinian politicians.

In the United Nations there are Palestinians and Arabs who mention the suffering of the Palestinian refugees with implicit sentences in order to get sympathy from those who have none. On the internal Palestinian front, there is a clear absence of the issue of refugees in all educational, cultural and media related facilities, and it is rare for the issue to be a topic of debate or discussion, whether private or public. As for the international arena, the world is completely silent about this issue and we don’t hear countries or human rights organisations putting the case up for discussion.

The Palestinian cause is torn into pieces after it was a whole cause that represented an entire people, but it was transformed into one of many issues such as an independent mini-state, a non-member state at the UN, settlements, a speech for Mahmoud Abbas at the UN, salaries, tax revenues collected by Israel, the war on Gaza, reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and other issues.

The Palestine case is first and foremost the case of refugees; it is the case of a people, who were expelled from their homeland, and in its essence, it is a case of a people who live in camps under very difficult economic and social conditions and it is not a secondary case.

It is true that the secondary issues are important, but they are not a priority, and we should not allow them to affect the issue of Palestinian refugees or overstep its high priority amongst the Arab and Palestinian interests.

If there is a solution to the Palestinian case, it can’t be realised without including a program to facilitate the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties occupied in 1948. This is why the issue of refugees must be the main concern for all those who seek peace in the Arab and Islamic region and on the international level. All those who try to evade the acknowledgment of the rights of Palestinian refugees are actually evading serious efforts to find a solution for the case, and are trying to keep the Arab and Islamic worlds in constant war, and are threatening world peace.

The right of return

Countries, international conventions and human rights organisations always talk about human rights, but such talk always stops when it comes to the rights of Palestinian refugees. International conventions, religious teachings and history lessons all acknowledge the right of refugees to return to their homeland, and so many countries, mainly large ones, call for the return of refugees and expelled people to their homes and properties, but these countries become silent when it comes to Palestinian refugees. Even the United Nations did not live up to its responsibility when it settled for only issuing UN Security Council Resolution 242 which calls for a just solution for the issue of refugees without mentioning who these refugees are, and without talking about specific international conventions related to refugees, and without confirming the General Assembly’s Resolution 194 for the year 1948 concerning the return of Palestinian refugees.

International norms state that countries in conflict must first look for ways to face humanitarian problems before starting negotiations about political, economic and security problems. Humanitarian problems have a priority over all other issues, and that’s why countries at war always start with talking about two vital issues: refugees and prisoners.

First, they agree to return refugees or those who were displaced due to the war, and then they agree to swap prisoners. Those two issues did not get prioritised in the Palestinian case, and Israel’s security remained the main issue that dominated negotiations between Israel, the PLO and the Arab regimes.

For many years, the negotiations table acted as a support for Israeli security while the displaced Palestinians had to stand guard at the gates of the Israeli kingdom.

And instead of looking for arrangements for the return of Palestinian refugees, the search was focused on how the Palestinians must provide security and military services to Israel. Some Palestinians had to commit moral crimes against themselves where they would defend Israel’s security while Israeli warplanes were killing children, destroying homes, and their army was confiscating lands and building settlements.

The meaning of justice was changed during the negotiations between the Arabs and Israel, as the meaning of justice now meant the defence of settlers and Israel’s right to exhaust the Palestinians, crush them, kill them and destroy their homes. Justice now meant protecting Israel, its security and its interest, as well as the absence of the case of Palestinian refugees.

The harshest blow to Palestinians’ morale as a result of this change was the fact that refugees who grew up and lived in refugee camps were now defending Israel’s security. There are Palestinian refugees who work as leaders in Palestinian security services and coordinate with Israel against their own people and nation.

The search for a state

The issue of establishing a Palestinian state was not presented as a Palestinian constant that must be fought for; there were only two constants: the right of return and the right to self-determination.

The idea of establishing a Palestinian or Arab authority in the land occupied in 1967 was only raised once in 1968 by Zionist Yigal Alon who presented a proposal for a solution for the Palestinian case in cooperation with Jordan. Juldamir repeated the idea in 1973, but former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was clearer when he, in 1978, proposed the establishment of a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Bethlehem as its capital, and where it would have a police that is armed by Israel in order to enforce internal order. However, Ariel Sharon is the one who adopted the idea practically and sought to establish a Palestinian Authority by means establishing the Village League system for this purpose.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation refused the idea at all its stages and considered accepting the establishment of a Palestinian Authority and autonomy to be treason that should be punished by death. The translation of this rejection was in the form of the PLO’s assassination of Yousef Al-Khatib, the head of the Village League in Ramallah.

However, time showed us that the position of the PLO was not based on national principles, but on the PLO’s vision and idea of who should be leading the national treason. This is why it easily accepted the signing of the Oslo agreement which represents a bad copy of the Menachem Begin proposal for the establishment of Palestinian autonomy.

It was clear in the PLO’s agenda for 1974 that it was moving towards accepting autonomy and the establishment of a Palestinian Authority. The official Palestinian position evolved after that into a search for a state in light of the Zionist occupation, and then Palestinian media outlets adopted the idea of establishing this state so it would become a Palestinian constant, while it is actually close to being an Israeli constant as Israel is the one that initially proposed the idea.

The state at the expense of the right of return

It was important for the Palestinian leadership to adopt the idea of establishing the state and using it to distract the Palestinian people from it, which was at the expense of right of return. It was clear from the actions of the Palestinian leadership in both the internal and external arenas that it had given up on the right of return and that it is only providing media services in this regard in order to throw dust in the eyes of the Palestinians.

This is a result of a conviction formed by this leadership that believed that Israel would never agree to the right of return, and that insisting on it would completely abort all other efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the case, and that if the Palestinian people wanted peace with Israel, they would have to give up on the right of return first, and also give up their right to self-determination.

After the Oslo accord, Palestinians started realising that many security officers began to publicly say that demanding the right of return will stand in the way of the peace process with Israel. I heard, with my own ears, Palestinians saying that those who want the right of return do not want peace in the region.

As for the right to self-determination, it is clear that the PLO and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority do not mention it, even though the UN General Assembly recognised the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in 1974.

The Palestinian Authority, and those with it, exert so much effort to remind the people of the UN General Assembly’s resolution relating to recognising Palestine as a non-state member at the UN, but they do not bother to remind people of the right to self-determination which is much more important than the recognition resolution, because the establishment of a state is included in the right to self-determination.

The Palestinian leadership, as well as the Arab regimes, are evading the refugees’ right of return. Their overlooking of the clause in the Arab Initiative regarding the refugees shows the irresoluteness of the Palestinian and Arab positions towards this issue.

This clause states the importance of looking for a just solution for the refugees’ case (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242) in light of the General Assembly’s Resolution 194 which concerns the refugees’ right of return.

The truth is that this decision circumvents the issue of refugees, or at best presents it in a vague manner, while this is supposed to be clear and unambiguous, and should explicitly state the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties in the land occupied in 1948, and the text must leave no room for misinterpretation that the right of return would be to the land occupied in 1967.

The irresolute positions of the different factions

The Palestinian factions were not serious in their position towards the Oslo agreement and the consequent decline in Palestinian positions, as well as the decline of the Palestinian cause on the regional and international arena. The Oslo agreement did not eliminate the refugees’ right of return, but it postponed looking into it. This delay is considered a national crime. On the other hand, acknowledging Israel, certainly involves denying the refugees’ right of return.

It was expected for those who agreed with the Oslo accords to follow the national standard which has been followed since the British mandate and which called for boycotting all those who cooperate with the enemy and belittle Palestinian rights.

The Palestinian factions that are part of the PLO immediately built friendly relations with those that signed and accepted the Oslo Accords, and asked the Palestinian Authority for jobs for their members. Their leaders started to hold meetings with those who were cooperating with Israel on the security and civil levels, while continuing to issue statements of verbal abuse and insults against Oslo.

On the other hand, Islamic factions did not boycott those who cooperated with the occupation either and some of their leaders also asked for jobs for their sons and matters even reached the point of these factions going under the umbrella of the Oslo Supporters after the 2014 war.

These factions who supported the Oslo agreement led negotiations on behalf of the Palestinian resistance, and none of the resistance leaders mentioned, neither during the war nor during negotiations, the right of return. This has put all factions in the same trench; a matter that requires the Palestinian people to intensify their efforts to preserve their inalienable national rights.

Translated by MEMO from Al Jazeera net

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

NPR’s standards editor & ombudsman minimize and/or ignore NPR ethics requirements regarding David Brooks

By Alison Weir | October 15, 2014

In recent weeks I’ve phoned and emailed the NPR ombudsman’s office several times about commentator David Brooks’ conflict of interest – Brooks’ son has been serving in the Israeli military while Brooks has been commenting on Israel without divulging that his son was in the Israeli army. Ombudsmen are charged with publicly addressing ethical breaches by a news organization’s journalists.

Now I’ve also been in touch with NPR’s Standards and Practices Editor, Mark Memmot, who is in charge of ensuring that NPR journalists adhere to ethics standards. Last week NPR’s ombudsman’s office sent me an email that contained a statement by Mr. Memmott. I discussed this statement in a previous post and now will expand on this a bit more, specifically including information about NPR’s own ethics code.

Below is the email containing Mr. Memmott’s statement:

Dear Alison,
Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. We appreciate your comments and your thoughts will be taken into consideration as we continue to monitor the reporting.
The Ombudsman is currently working on a blog post about this issue. You may be interested in this statement from our standards and practices editor:

David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secretWe [sic] agree with the Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column [see my comments on the Rosenthal and Sullivan statements here]. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still [sic] discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time.

There are a number of problems with this statement, one of which is that it largely fails to apply NPR’s own ethics requirements to Mr. Brooks.

The fact is that NPR’s ethics codes place a strong emphasis on impartiality and transparency. They include the activities of family members among the activities that may interfere with impartiality, and decree that NPR journalists inform NPR of any potential conflicts of interest. And they apply these ethical requirements to analyses and commentaries, not just to reportorial activities.

NPR’s full ethics handbook states:

“All NPR journalists, including those of us who work for the arts and music desks, must tell our supervisors in advance about potential conflicts of interest.”

NPR’s ethics handbook states:

“Our methods are transparent and we will be accountable for all we do.”

and:

“We are vigilant in disclosing to both our supervisors and the public any circumstances where our loyalties may be divided – extending to the interests of spouses and other family members – and when necessary, we recuse ourselves from related coverage.”

The handbook has an entire section on the importance of impartiality. Below is a particularly relevant section:

Impartiality in our personal lives

Guideline

Be aware that a loved one’s political activity may create a perception of bias.

Some of our family members — including spouses, companions and children — may be involved in politics or advocacy. We are sensitive to the perception of bias. So we inform our supervisors and work with them to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest [emphasis added].

NPR journalists recuse themselves from covering stories or events related to their family members’ political activities. We may go so far as to change job responsibilities (for instance, moving off the “politics desk” to an area of coverage well removed from that subject). “You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don’t have the right to cover any beat you want” if the potential conflicts appear to be too great, as Tom Rosenstiel of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said to the Los Angeles Times.

The ethics handbook includes additional statements specifically about commentary, concluding:

Our commentaries must also hew to other Guiding Principles, reflecting honesty, accuracy and transparency.

In other words, NPR’s own standards indicate that Mr. Brooks should have informed his editors of his son’s employment in the Israeli military. They also suggest that he should recuse himself from commenting on Israel. If Mr. Brooks chooses not to recuse himself from this subject matter, and if NPR fails to require this, its ethics codes direct that he should at least divulge to the public the fact that his son is serving in the military of the foreign country he is discussing.

Yet, so far NPR

  • has not informed listeners that Brooks had a close personal interest in a subject in which he was supposedly offering disinterested analysis,
  • has not asked Mr. Brooks to recuse himself from future commentary on a subject in which he has a personal interest, and
  • has not stated clearly that this conflict of interest will be divulged in the future (only saying that they might discuss this with Mr. Brooks “if the situation arises”).

There are a number of factual errors and logical inconsistencies in Mr. Memmott’s statement (which I also discussed in my previous post):

1. While Mr. Memmott claims that Mr. Brooks’ situation is “no secret,” in reality, the large majority of NPR listeners quite likely have no idea of Mr. Brooks’ conflict of interest.

The only place the information about Brooks has appeared in print to date is a Hebrew version of an Israeli newspaper, and possibly the Los Angeles Jewish Journal (whose online article was the first place to reveal it in English; it was also on the New York Magazine website). It has not appeared on any mainstream radio or TV broadcast that I’m aware of.

2. While Mr. Memmott is correct in stating that Mr. Brooks is not a reporter, this does not exempt Mr. Brooks from the necessity of abiding by ethics requirements. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists‘ decrees that opinion writers should disclose potential conflicts of interest.

3. It is entirely correct that Mr. Brooks has “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being,” which is precisely why Mr. Brooks should recuse himself from commenting on matters that concern Israel.

The reality is that Mr. Brooks is a powerful and influential journalist whose  commentary about Israel does indeed have the capacity to affect his son’s “safety and well-being.”

Commentary that defends Israel to the American public serves to help keep American tax money ($8-10 million per day) and American diplomatic support for Israel flowing, both of which are extremely important for his son’s safety and well-being.

Commentary that pointed out the illegality and immorality of Israel’s recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military in which his son is serving would quite likely interfere with his son’s well-being, as an increasing number of Americans would join those around the world calling for war crimes tribunals.

Since Mr. Brooks does the former and not the latter, his commentary, at minimum, gives a strong appearance of bias.

According to NPR’s ethics handbook, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is also responsible for addressing ethical violations. In fact, the ombudsman is called NPR’s Chief Ethics Officer. He is also responsible for informing the public about such matters.

Yet, so far Mr. Schumacher-Matos has failed to weigh in on this matter, most recently choosing instead to write about what to call the Washington DC football team.

Important as that issue is, it is hard to feel that it is more important than the life-and-death issue of Israel-Palestine and the recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military that David Brooks’ son was serving in while Mr. Brooks was praising Israeli actions on NPR.

I hope that Mr. Schumacher-Matos will eventually step up to the plate and call on NPR, which proclaims its dedication to honesty, transparency, and the highest principles of journalism, to inform the public that commentator David Brooks has been issuing opinions on an issue in which he had a hidden interest. I hope he will also recommend that NPR look for another commentator to replace Mr. Brooks – one who doesn’t believe he is above ethical obligations.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

No breakthrough in Milan talks on Ukraine crisis

‘Difficult, full of disagreements’

RT | October 17, 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a breakthrough was not reached in Friday morning’s talks on Ukraine, Reuters reports.

“I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far,” Merkel said after top EU leaders met with Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of an EU-Asia summit.

“We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she added.

A political solution to the conflict in Ukraine has not yet been found, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy commented after the meeting, according to RIA Novosti.

Rompuy said the participants have all agreed on the need to follow through on the peace agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus at the beginning of September.

“What we agreed was the protocol of Minsk on the ceasefire, and the peace plan is of crucial importance,” Rompuy said.

“We have to implement this. This would guarantee again a future for Ukraine. So implementation, implementation, implementation — those are the key words.”

Earlier Vladimir Putin described his meeting with the Ukrainian president on Friday as “positive.” The Russian president’s spokesman however noted some of the meeting participants were reluctant to understand the true situation in eastern Ukraine.

“It was good, it was positive,” a smiling Putin told reporters after the discussions at the margins of a summit of Asian and European leaders in Italy according to Reuters.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile acknowledged the negotiations were “difficult” ones due to a number of differences and misunderstandings among the participants.

“The negotiations are really difficult, full of disagreements, full of misunderstandings,” Peskov said. “Nevertheless they are still taking place. There’s an exchange of opinions.”

“The participants have discussed in detail the implementation of the Minsk agreements effectively enough,” Peskov said.

“Unfortunately, some of the breakfast participants demonstrated their complete reluctance to understand the real situation in the southeast of Ukraine.”

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine met on Friday morning in Milan. They were joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The meeting was hosted by the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who said that while some progress had been made, “a lot of differences” still remain on the Ukrainian crisis.

There’s a possibility Putin and Poroshenko will hold a bilateral meeting at the summit, Peskov said, adding that Russia would like journalists to participate.

“[Journalist participation] will depend upon our Ukrainian partners. We are open – we hope they are too.”

Putin drew gas figures for Merkel

Russian gas supplies to Ukraine are expected to be one of the most difficult issues on the summit agenda. Kiev is due to pay out $3.1 billion debt to Gazprom until the New Year, according to the latest Russia-Ukraine agreement. There are fears, though, that the crisis-struck country will not be able to make the payment, possibly leading to disruptions of gas supplies, including those to Europe via Ukraine.

The gas issue was among things the Russian president discussed with the German chancellor during their meeting on Thursday.

“Yesterday Putin informed Merkel in detail about the gas issues,” Putin’s spokesman said. “He literally took a pen and drew figures on a piece of paper to explain the situation.”

More gas discussions are to follow, as Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak and head of Gazprom Aleksey Miller are part of the Russian delegation in Italy.

According to Peskov, Thursday’s reports from Poland have shed much light on the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“Our Polish partners have reacted in such a lively way to news of Ukraine wanting to get Polish coal almost free of charge,” Peskov said. “This is the best illustration of what’s going on in the gas sphere. The Poles were greatly impressed and did not conceal their shock. But still they can fully understand the desire to have gas free of charge.”

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments