Aletho News


I’m confused, can anyone help me? Part Three

RT | November 18, 2014

I’m confused. The first thing I’m confused about is democratic legitimacy after elections are held in war-torn countries.

Western leaders have hailed the recent parliamentary elections in Ukraine, as a great triumph of “democracy.”

Barack Obama said it was “an important milestone in Ukraine’s democratic development.” Top EU officials said it represented “a victory of the people of Ukraine and of democracy.”

Yet large parts of war-torn Ukraine took no part in the vote. Turnout, according to the Ukraine Central Election Commission was just 52.42 percent.

In May’s presidential elections, turnout, according to official figures, was 60.3 percent. They were won by Petro Poroshenko with 54.7 percent of the vote. Again, western leaders hailed the results as a great victory for “democracy.”

Now let’s consider the case of Syria, another war-torn country where there were also important elections this year.

Unlike Ukraine’s elections, leading western politicians did not say the result of Syria’s first multi-candidate presidential election in over forty years represented an “important milestone in Syria’s democratic development”- even though, according to official figures, the turnout was much higher than in Ukraine, at 73.42 percent.

Far from it, the same people who hailed the elections in Ukraine haughtily dismissed the election in Syria as a “farce.”

“This election bore no relation to genuine democracy. It was held in the midst of civil war,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“Today’s presidential election in Syria is a disgrace,” said US State Department spokesperson Maria Harf.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Syria’s election a “fake.” Fabius did not telephone Bashar al-Assad, the winner, to offer his “warmest congratulations” as he did with Poroshenko.

How come one election held in a country divided by war is hailed as a “victory of the people and of democracy” but another election- where the turnout is higher -denounced? Why are Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk deemed to be the legitimate representatives of the Ukrainian people but Bashar al-Assad, despite his higher level of popular support, denied any kind of democratic legitimacy? I’m confused. Can anyone help me?

At the recent G20 summit in Brisbane, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Vladimir Putin to “get out of Ukraine.” Leaving aside the fact that there’s no hard evidence that Russia is in Ukraine – and that Harper didn’t produce any- the statement seems to imply that the Canadian Prime Minister doesn’t like other countries interfering in the affairs of others and believes in state sovereignty and the inviolability of state borders.

But in 2003, Harper was a strong supporter of the US-led invasion of Iraq (and wanted Canada to join in), a clear example of one county “getting” into another. He actually thought it was a “mistake” of the then Canadian government not to take part in the invasion of Iraq. Why is Stephen Harper so concerned about a non-existent Russian invasion of Ukraine, but happy to support a real, actual, and blatantly illegal invasion of Iraq?Does the Canadian Prime Minister support state sovereignty and the inviolability of state borders, or doesn’t he? I’m confused. Can anyone help me?

David Cameron tells us that ISIS poses a “clear and present threat to the United Kingdom.” Yet only last year he was trying desperately to persuade Parliament to vote for air strikes against a secular Syrian government that was fighting ISIS and other radical extremists associated to al Al-Qaeda. Cameron describes ISIS as “an evil against which the whole world must unite,” but even now the British government, in common with other western governments is still working for the violent overthrow of the government in Damascus whose forces are the only ones on the ground in Syria capable of defeating ISIS. If defeating ISIS really was so important, why is the west trying to topple the anti-ISIS Syrian government? Why, if “the whole world must unite” against ISIS, won’t the British and western governments work with the Syrian government? I‘m confused. Can anyone help me?

To coincide with the launch of RT UK, we’ve seen a wave of attacks on RT by self-proclaimed “democrats” and “liberals” in the British media.Some of these attacks have urged Ofcom – the broadcasting regulator – to take action against RT. I always thought that being a “democrat” and “liberal” meant support for alternative voices being heard, not trying to stop people from hearing them. John Stuart Mill, the author of On Liberty, a classic text on liberalism, wrote of the “peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion” and that “all silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.”

So how come western “liberals” want to silence the opinions expressed on RT? Why are those who claim to be anti-censorship, so censorious when it comes to RT? I would have thought people calling themselves “democrats” and “liberals” would welcome a wide variety of news channels for people to watch, yet instead of that supporters of “free speech” are attacking a channel which broadcasts opinions which they don’t agree with it. I’m confused. Can anyone help me?

Western politicians say that they are appalled by the “barbarism” shown by ISIS in the various beheading videos they have released.But if beheading people is so bad (as most people would agree that it is), why is there no similar condemnation of the beheadings which take place in Saudi Arabia? In August, Amnesty International reported a “surge” in beheadings in Saudi Arabia, amounting to at least 23 in three weeks. Why are beheadings by ISIS “savage” but the ones carried out in Saudi Arabia acceptable? I’m confused. Can anyone help me?

Pussy Riot, the Russian punk protest group who were jailed after a demonstration in an Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow are feted as heroes in the West, with a whole range of public figures including the pop star Madonna coming forward to express their support. But there was no such celebrity support for Trenton Oldfield, a protestor who was jailed for six months in Britain after trying to disrupt the Oxford- Cambridge University boat race in 2012. Oldfield said he was protesting against elitism, inequality and government cuts. If Pussy Riot’s cause is deserving of “progressive” support, then why isn’t Oldfield’s? Why are some anti-government protestors who go to jail hailed as heroes, but others totally ignored? I’m confused. Can anyone help me?

You can read I’m confused, can anyone help me Parts One and Two.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Interview with Serena Shim’s Sister

See also, Press TV Reporter Killed in Car Accident Following Threats by Turkish Intelligence, which includes videos of Shim, including one of her last reports before her death.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Nuclear Space Flights

By Karl Grossman | CounterPunch | November 18, 2014

The recent crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and explosion on launch three days earlier of an Antares rocket further underline the dangers of inserting nuclear material in the always perilous space flight equation—as the U.S. and Russia still plan.

“SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly,” Virgin Galactic tweeted after the spacecraft, on which $500 million has been spent for development, exploded on October 31 after being released by its mother ship.  One pilot was killed, another seriously injured. Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic founder, hoped to begin flying passengers on SpaceShipTwo this spring. Some 800 people, including actor Leonard DiCaprio and physicist Steven Hawking, have signed up for $250,000-a person tickets to take a suborbital ride. SpaceShipTwo debris was spread over the Mojave Desert in California.

Three days before, on Wallops Island, Virginia, an Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. blew up seconds after launch. It was carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. The cost of the rocket alone was put at $200 million.  NASA, in a statement, said that the rocket “suffered a catastrophic anomaly.”  The word anomaly, defined as something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected, has for years been a space program euphemism for a disastrous accident.

“These two recent space ‘anomalies’ remind us that technology frequently goes wrong,” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. “When you consider adding nuclear power into the mix it becomes an explosive combination. We’ve long been sounding the alarm that nuclear power in space is not something the public nor the planet can afford to take a chance on.”

But “adding nuclear power into the mix” is exactly what the U.S. and Russia are planning. Both countries have been using nuclear power on space missions for decades—and accidents involving their nuclear-powered space devices have happened with substantial amounts of radioactive particles released on Earth.

Now, a major expansion in space nuclear power activity is planned with the development by both nations of nuclear-powered rockets for trips to Mars.

One big U.S. site for this is NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “NASA Researchers Studying Advanced Nuclear Rocket Technologies,” announced NASA last year. At the center, it said, “The Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion team is tackling a three-year project to demonstrate the viability of nuclear propulsion technologies.” In them, a “nuclear rocket uses a nuclear reactor to heat hydrogen to very high temperatures, which expands through a nozzle to generate thrust. Nuclear rocket engines generate higher thrust and are more than twice as efficient as conventional chemical engines.”

“A first-generation nuclear cryogenic propulsion system could propel human explorers to Mars more efficiently than conventional spacecraft, reducing crew’s exposure to harmful space radiation and other effects of long-term space missions,” NASA went on. “It could also transport heavy cargo and science payloads.”

And out at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the DUFF project—for Demonstrating Using Flattop Fissions—is moving ahead to develop a “robust fission reactor prototype that could be used as a power system for space travel,” according to Technews World. The laboratory’s Advanced Nuclear Technology Division is running the joint Department of Energy-NASA project. “Nuclear Power Could Blast Humans Into Deep Space,” was the headline of Technewsworld’s 2012 article about it. It quoted Dr. Michael Gruntman, professor of aerospace engineering and systems architecture at the University of Southern California, saying,“If we want solar system exploration, we must utilize nuclear technology.” The article declared: “Without the risk, there will be no reward.”

And in Texas, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Ad Astra Rocket Company of former U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz is busy working on what it calls the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket or VASMIR. Chang-Diaz began Ad Astra after retiring from NASA in 2005. He’s its president and CEO. The VASMIR system could utilize solar power, related Space News last year, but “using a VASMIR engine to make a superfast Mars run would require incorporating a nuclear reactor that cranks out megawatts of power, Chang-Diaz said, adding that developing this type of powerful reactor should be high on the nation’s to-do list.”   Chang-Diaz told Voice of America that by using a nuclear reactor for power “we could do a mission to Mars that would take about 39 days, one-way.” NASA Director Charles Bolden, also a former astronaut as well as a Marine Corps major general, has been a booster of Ad Asra’s project.

Ad Astra and the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion project have said their designs would include nuclear systems only starting up when “out of the atmosphere” to prevent, in the event of an accident, “spreading radiation back to Earth.”

However, this isn’t a fail-safe plan. The Soviet Union followed this practice on the satellites powered by nuclear reactors that it launched between the 1960s and 1980s. This included the Cosmos 954. Its on board reactor was only allowed to go critical after it was in orbit, but it subsequently came crashing back to Earth in 1978, breaking up and spreading radioactive debris on the Northwest Territories of Canada.

As to Russia now, “A ground-breaking Russian nuclear space travel propulsion system will be ready by 2017 and will power a ship capable of long-haul interplanetary missions by 2025, giving Russia a head start in the outer-space race,” the Russian news agency RT reported in 2012.  “Nuclear power has generally been considered a valid alternative to fossil fuels to power space craft, as it is the only energy source capable of producing the enormous thrust needed for interplanetary travel…. The revolutionary propulsion system falls in line with recently announced plans for Russia to conquer space… Entitled Space Development Strategies up to 2030, Russia aims to send probes to Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, as well as establish a series of bases on the moon.”

This year OSnet Daily, in an article headlined “Russia advances development of nuclear powered Spacecraft,” reported that in 2013 work on the Russian nuclear rocket moved “to the design stage.”

As for space probes, many U.S. and Russian probes have until recently gotten their on board electrical power from systems fueled with plutonium— hotly radioactive from the start.

Also, the U.S. has begun to power Mars rovers with plutonium. After using solar power on Mars rovers, in 2012 NASA launched a Mars rover it named Curiosity fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium. NASA plans to launch a Mars rover nearly identical to Curiosity, which it is calling Mars 2020, in 2020.

As devastating in terms of financial damage were last week’s explosions of the Virgin Galactic SpaceshipTwo and Antares rocket, an accident involving a nuclear-powered vehicle or device could be far more costly.

The NASA Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Curiosity (then called Mars Science Laboratory) mission states, for example, that the cost of decontamination of areas affected by dispersed plutonium would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”

Odds of an accident were acknowledged as being low. The EIS said a launch accident discharging plutonium had a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined… within… 62 miles of the launch pad” on Cape Canaveral, Florida. The EIS said that “overall” on the mission, the likelihood of plutonium being released was 1-in-220. If there were an accident resulting in plutonium fallout that occurred before the rocket carrying Curiosity broke through Earth’s gravitational field, people could be affected in a broad swath of Earth “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude” on Earth, said the EIS.

Gagnon said at the time: “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining its dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry… The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the lives of all the people on the planet. Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don’t need to be launching nukes into space. It’s not a gamble we can afford to take.”

Curiosity made it up, and to Mars.

But in NASA’s history of nuclear power shots, happening since the 1950s, there have been accidents. The worst among the 26 U.S. space nuclear missions listed in the Curiosity EIS occurred in 1964 and involved the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to Earth, disintegrating as it fell. Its plutonium fuel dispersed widely That accident spurred NASA to develop solar energy for satellites and now all satellites are solar-powered as is the International Space Station.

And in recent times, solar power has been increasingly shown to be practical even to generate on board electricity for missions far out in space. On its way to Jupiter now is NASA’s Juno space probe, chemically-propelled and with solar photovoltaic panels generating all its on board electricity. When Juno reaches Jupiter in 2016 it will be nearly 500 million miles from the Sun, but the high-efficiency solar cells will still be generating power.

In August, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe, similarly solar-powered, rendezvoused with a comet in deep space, 400 million miles from Earth.

Advances, too, have been made in propelling spacecraft in the vacuum of space. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2010 launched what it termed a “space yacht” it called Ikaros which successfully got its propulsion power from the pressure on its large sails of ionizing particles emitted by the Sun.

Among other ways of propelling spacecraft, discussed at a Starship Congress last year in Texas was a system using orbiting lasers to direct beams on to a spacecraft. The magazine New Scientist said “beam sails are regarded as the most promising tech for a starship.”

A scientist long-involved in laser space power research is Geoff Landis of the Photovoltaics and Space Environment Branch at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland who, in a 2002 NASA publication, “The Edge of Sunshine,” wrote: “In the long term, solar arrays will not have to rely on the Sun. We’re investigating the concept of using lasers to beam photons to solar arrays. If you make a powerful enough laser and can aim the beam, there’s really isn’t any edge to sunshine—with a big enough lens, we could beam light to a space-probe halfway to alpha-Centauri!”


November 18, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment


Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

By John Chuckman | Aletho News | November 18, 2014

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is reported by a spokesman, to have had the following exchange with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the Brisbane G-20 summit: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.” Putin is said to have replied, “Impossible. Since we are not there.”

A graceless bit of diplomatic crudity from a truly graceless man, Stephen Harper, someone Canadians know has a history of underhanded practices at home, from introducing ugly personal-attack campaign advertising, using secretive and bullying tactics in parliament, failing to deal with corrupt practices by subordinates especially an American-style election scandal of robo-calls which sent some voters to the wrong polls, to having appointed several unbelievably incompetent and corrupt ministers. He is known for a ferocious temper in private, a very controlling man who grants his political associates absolutely no freedom of expression, and is reported by insiders as having on at least one occasion thrown a chair in a meeting. His silencing of Canadian government scientists from offering their opinions on issues in areas of expertise has been a simmering international scandal, as has his complete suppression of environmental issues.

Before Harper, Canada enjoyed for many decades a reputation for fairness and decency and intelligence in international affairs with statesmanship and openness exhibited by figures like Lester Pearson or Jean Chretien or Paul Martin. Harper has destroyed a great deal of that as he pursues a single-minded role as American junior partner in almost all things.

He completely abandoned Canada’s traditional policies of fairness and balance in the Middle East, literally shocking many Canadians at times with fervent outbursts about Israel, including suggestions that Canadian critics of Israel are anti-Semitic. He does this, as any astute political observer recognizes, to solicit increased campaign funds from Canada’s financially successful Jewish community, taking his cue from Republicans in the United States such as Newt Gingrich who alone received $18 million dollars from one wealthy supporter of Israel for his last nomination campaign in exchange for inserting into his speeches that there was no such thing as a Palestinian, an utterly insincere and ridiculous statement. Since Israel is no admirer of President Putin’s, he being too independent-minded and opposed to the American exceptionalism Israel tightly embraces and by which it prospers, this activity of Harper’s puts him in an anti-Russian frame of mind from the start.

Harper has made an annual photo-op journey to Canada’s North, always trying to appear to voters as the man most concerned with a future there of melting ice creating free access through the Northwest Passage. Ironically, he periodically mentions Russia as the nation he is most concerned about, but Canada’s recent history couldn’t make it clearer that it is the United States which represents the great threat to our Northern waters and shore. Everything from unauthorized American atomic submarine prowling to a giant American oil tanker passing to published American charts showing this future open water as international tells a pretty harsh story. But in every detail, Harper only pretends America is a great and non-threatening friend.

Harper is the single most obsessed leader in Canada’s history with pleasing, almost fawning over, the United States. Had the history of Canada, which included a great deal of disagreement and contention with the United States over its many imperialistic behaviors, included many leaders of Harper’s character, there quite likely would not be a county called Canada today.

So here are the demonstrated qualities of the man performing as Canada’s diplomatic ass at the G-20 in Brisbane. He demonstrates a genuinely anal-retentive temperament, is intolerant of differences of opinion, and embraces a willful blindness to the world’s greatest threat to peace, the United States in its self-appointed role as imperial arbiter among nations.

In case you wonder why a man like Harper even holds office in Canada, it is because the effective opposition was split with internal battles and because the last leader they selected in desperation following those battles was a man of no political intelligence or even experience and a totally unattractive personality to the public, Michael Ignatieff, someone who managed to do almost everything wrong. It also reflects a democratic deficit in our parliamentary structure where a party with just over 39% of the vote can be a parliamentary majority. So despite Canadians consistently being about 60% or higher inclined to somewhat progressive parties, Harper has had a free run at pole-axing the country’s traditional international reputation. Every day we come to be seen as a bit more like the deceptive and brutal American colony in the Middle East he embraces so closely.

We unfortunately live in a time utterly lacking statesmen in the West. I don’t know the detailed backgrounds of those other aggressive fools at the G-20, Abbott of Australia and Cameron of Britain, but I know they are both men who have lied exceedingly and been intimately involved with such nasty business as favors for the unsavory Rupert Murdoch empire. I can think of nothing which recommends either of them as statesmen. Indeed, they both, quite literally, kowtow to America.

Putin is head and shoulders above these men in intellect and focus, readiness to communicate clear views to the world, someone demonstrating considerable patience, and, from all evidence, someone notably free of the blowhard ideology which virtually characterizes Harper, Abbott, and Cameron.

Putin’s moves in Ukraine seem to me appropriate for dealing with a deliberately-induced crisis in an important neighboring country, and one with a long history of connections and associations. He has not invaded Ukraine, something which he could easily do were he so inclined. I suspect he has supplied weapons to East Ukraine, but that is something the United States does all the time, including supplying weapons to some of the most brutal groups and governments on earth, as it is right now doing in Syria, with secret night cargo flights out of Turkey to terrorist cutthroats. Just ask yourself what America would do about a comparable situation in Mexico: patience simply would not exist, and Mexico City would be quickly overrun by tanks.

The people of East Ukraine, Russian in background and sympathies, deserve protection as much as they deserve the huge amounts of emergency supplies Russia has supplied in a conflict owing its origin entirely to the covert acts of America. Had the coup-established government of Ukraine originally offered protection of Eastern interests, including language rights they openly tried suppressing, the story might have been different, but they did precisely the opposite, passing unfair laws, making threat after threat, and attacking their own citizens. Who wouldn’t rebel in that environment, including any of the states of the United States? How easily people forget past rebellions in the United States, the greatest of which was the Civil War, still the bloodiest war Americans ever experienced.

It is quite clear that the United States is responsible for destabilizing Ukraine. Its CIA funds have been invested into many unsavoury projects, perhaps most disturbing is its paying support to a collection of neo-Nazi groups ranging from extremist parties to violent militia forces, some of the very groups who have committed atrocities such as murdering many hundreds of civilians and some of whom actually march under swastika-like flags. It does seem more than a bit strange that men like Harper, Abbott, and Cameron implicitly support that kind of filthy work while charging Putin with dark acts, dark acts which are stated ambiguously and certainly never proved.

It is also clear that the United States has pressured all authorities involved to delay and obscure the investigation into the destruction of Flight MH17, and the only explanation for that can be America’s preventing, for as long as possible while the new coup-created government of Ukraine consolidates its position, the highly embarrassing finding that Ukraine in fact shot it down. The United States has said over and over it has evidence about the crash, yet it has never produced a scrap of it. Just as it never produced evidence for so many past claims from what actually happened on 9/11 to the assassination of a President.

The great irony of the G-20 summit in Brisbane is that its only substantial agreement concerned doing everything possible to promote growth in a world whose economy is dangerously stagnating, yet it wasted time and energy on America’s fantasy stories about Russia and Ukraine, insulted Russia’s President, and threatened in some cases further growth-suppressing sanctions. Nothing could be more contradictory and unproductive or, frankly, just plain stupid.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Palestinians repair thoroughfare in nonviolent action

CPTnet | November 15, 2014

boy-at-road-action-in-at-tuwaniSOUTH HEBRON HILLS — On Saturday, 15 November 2014 the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee (a nonviolent Palestinian organisation resisting occupation in the South Hebron Hills region), coordinated an action to develop the road that connects the city of Yatta to At-Tuwani and surrounding villages located in the area Israel has designated Firing Zone 918. Under the watchful eyes of the Israeli military and police, the action was attended by members of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee, residents of At-Tuwani, Israeli peace activists from Ta’ayush, and internationals from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and EAPPI.

The unpaved road that runs between villages and the town of Yatta is the access route that Palestinians travel for employment, education, water, healthcare, and other necessities of life.  Surrounded by the tarmacked roads developed by the Israeli state for the settlers living illegally in the area, the rubble and holes in the Palestinian roads illustrate the stark inequalities of power that characterise the Israeli occupation, and the specific context of the South Hebron Hills and Firing Zone 918. 

Because Israel bans Palestinian construction with tractors and other machines in the area without rarely-given Israeli permits, busy hands set about with buckets and hoes attempting to remove rubble and stones and fill in the many potholes on the road.

A member of the South Hebron Hills Popular committee from At-Tuwani explained, “This road serves all the people from Yatta and around… This is a very bad road – the school bus can’t [travel on it] and when people need to bring something by tractor, it is very difficult. This road is also not good if you need to use an ambulance to take people to the hospital. Ten years ago it was an asphalt road, but at the start of the Al Aqsa intifada (in 2002), Israel demolished the road.”

He also said, “we need to build a channel for rain water… Last year with the snow, all this is closed with water…You need a machine to fix this road but the DCO asks us for a permit, but will not give one to us to use a machine to work here… Now every week we try to fix it with small things, with our hands, before the rain comes.”

The racial politics of occupation are clear in his statement that “if a Palestinian comes alone to work here, the army and the police would arrest him quickly and stop him working, but it helps having international people and cameras to film everything.”

Despite the slow progress made with hands, buckets and hoes, six Israeli police and military jeeps arrived. They told the Palestinians they could not carry the work out without a permit, and a soldier declared such work a supposed ‘health and safety’ hazard, an ironic statement given the ‘health and safety’ hazards of the current state of the road, not to mention the myriad physical and psychological effects of occupation.

Legal issues surrounding the firing zone and the South Hebron Hills are complex, with numerous bureaucratic intricacies through which it is nigh impossible for Palestinians to gain a permit for construction. Members of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee asserted the unlikelihood of gaining such a permit demanded by the military, and managed to converse with soldiers until the action ended at the time initially planned by the committee.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Missouri governor unable to explain who’s in charge in Ferguson

RT | November 18, 2014

​The governor of Missouri activated the National Guard on Monday ahead of what could be a new wave of mass protests, but doesn’t seem certain at all about who will be in charge of law enforcement operations in the coming days.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to call up the Guard and declare a state of emergency raised questioned on Monday about what authorities are anticipating will happen when a federal grand jury will decide — likely within days — whether or not to indict Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson on charges related to the August shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.

Nixon was largely unable to provide answers during a telephone press conference that occurred with reporters later that day, though. Audio of that teleconference captured by Guardian journalist Jon Swaine is now causing concerns to mount further as reporters realize that the governor might have less of a grasp on the situation in Ferguson than many would like to believe.

The audio, published on the internet by Swaine late Monday, shows Nixon struggling to answer a question posed by Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge: “Does the buck ultimately stop with you when it comes to how any protests are policed?”

“Um, we’re, um, I, you know, it, uh, our goal here is to, you know, keep the peace, and allow all voices to, uh, to be heard,” Nixon replies with a rambling, 14-second-long attempt at a response.

“I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time personalizing this,” Nixon says later, adding, “I’d prefer not to be a commentator on it.”

Nearly two minutes after Sledge first asked Nixon to explain who will be in charge of maintaining the peace at any potential protests, he rephrased his question and attempted again to get an answer.

“Is there any one official or agency ultimately in charge here in terms of response?” Sledge wondered.

Again, Nixon is heard on tape meandering between words while failing to actually explain who will ultimately be tasked with responding to any civil unrest in Ferguson or elsewhere in the coming days — be it the National Guard, local police forces, county sheriffs or whomever — this time trailing off at moments for seconds at a time as he struggles to provide an explanation.

“Well, I mean, it uh, clearly [silence] I feel good about the… we worked hard to establish unified command, to outline our responsibilities now with the additional assets provided by my order today of the Missouri National Guard we have worked through, uh, a number of, uh, operational issues the folks have and, uh, I’ll only say, uh, our efforts today are on top of a lot of last hundred days to make sure we’re prepared for any contingency.”

Nixon’s reply without a doubt was ripe with uncertainty, which rightfully causes concern ahead of what may be mass protests of a caliber previously unseen in Missouri. Demonstrations waged for days in Ferguson for days, then weeks, after Brown was shot and killed by Wilson more than three months ago. Now as the city braces itself to hear whether or not Wilson will be charged with that shooting death, officials are expecting the worst, to say the least: not only has Nixon asked the National Guard for assistance during the coming days, but a warning to law enforcement agencies across the country from the FBI on Monday revealed that the bureau believes the grand jury’s impending decision “will likely” lead to attacks against the police.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli letter to Security Council repeats canard of victimhood

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | November 18, 2014

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, has once again utilised the platform offered by the imperialist organisation to incite against Palestinian resistance. His brief letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Security Council obliterated the entire context of current violence initiated by Israel, while claiming incitement to violence was authored by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The initiative is not surprising, considering Israel’s past exploitation of the international arena to garner support for perpetrating further massacres against Palestinians.

Resistance against settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and Israeli violations committed at Al-Aqsa Mosque were, predictably, manipulated into premeditated violence, projecting the recurring actions of colonial violence upon the colonised and exaggerating in his rhetoric through the language used. “In the past two and a half weeks,” wrote Prosor, “the Israeli people have seen a severe escalation in terrorist attacks.” His use of now mainstream, albeit misleading, terminology appeals to the UN Security Council and its misplaced use of “terror” which encourages further violence or, in the case of Israel, affirms institutional support for its atrocious colonial activities. Prosor also urged the letter to be “distributed as a document of the Security Council.”

Meanwhile, Maan News Agency has reported the murder of Palestinian bus driver Yusuf Hasan Al-Ramouni, aged 32, who was found hanged inside his vehicle; according to relatives, he had signs of torture on his body. Israeli police have, predictably, ruled out criminal activity and allege that the death was suicide. This is a convenient way out that has been claimed in other cases where Palestinians have died in suspicious circumstances. Nevertheless, Al-Ramouni’s family insists that Israeli settlers lynched him. The illegal settlers’ persecution of Palestinian civilians, including children, is documented as an ongoing phenomenon of Israeli colonisation, a fact that the UN acknowledges only as isolated incidents unrelated to the historical process of violence sustaining Israel’s establishment.

While Prosor cites “Palestinian incitement” in his letter to the UN Security Council, a reversal of the statement would prove to be more accurate. Palestinian resistance is the legitimate defence against the incitement inherent in the settler-colonial state, evidenced as a phenomenon endorsed and encouraged by the state through its institutions, notably education, in order to sustain its illegal existence and occupation. Suggesting Palestinian incitement through the leadership of the Palestinian Authority contradicts the foundations upon which the PA is based and recognised; namely complicity and collaboration with Israel in maintaining the conditions for colonial expansion and hence contributing to the escalation in settler violence against the Palestinian population through its frequent concessions to the occupation authorities.

Despite obvious bias towards Israel by the international community, Prosor’s concluding remarks attempt to convey otherwise. “Complacency breeds catastrophe and the international community has been nothing but complacent as Israelis are targeted by terrorists day after day,” he bleats. Complacency towards Israel is a fabrication conjured-up countless times by Israeli representatives and leaders as part of a propaganda campaign aimed at consolidating the old canard of poor, defenceless Israel threatened by the Palestinians. However, repeated assertions of Israel’s illusory victimhood, in particular within the international community and given credence thereby, continue to divert attention away from the Israeli occupation and the oppression suffered by Palestinians in terms of loss of land and memory, displacement and death.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments

French government will not sign TTIP agreement in 2015

EurActiv | November 17, 2014

Matthias Fekl, France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, has made it clear that France will not support the inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) in a potential TTIP agreement. The ISDS is a point of heated debate between the EU and the United States EurActiv France reports.

Europe’s fears over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are not abating, while America is beginning to show signs of impatience. Europe and the United States have reached a standoff in the TTIP negotiations, over the question of the Investor State Dispute Settlement.

This mechanism could give companies the opportunity to take legal action against a state whose legislation has a negative impact on their economic activity.

“France did not want the ISDS to be included in the negotiation mandate,” Matthias Fekl told the French Senate. “We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply its own standards, to maintain the impartiality of the justice system and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values,” he added.

German opposition to the ISDS mechanism is also very strong. The German Minister for Economic Affairs has often expressed his support for the trade deal with the United States, on the condition that it does not include the ISDS.

The disagreement over the ISDS has caused negotiations to stall. “The year 2014 did not see any great advances in the transatlantic agreement,” Fekl said during a speech to the French Senate.

In Brussels, the EU’s position on the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism became clear after the appointment of the new team of EU Commissioners.

In his speech to the European Parliament on 22 October, the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he would not accept any external limitations being placed on the member states’ ability to settle their own industrial disputes.

Negotiators from the United States are trying to move the talks forward, despite reluctance from the European Union.

During a visit to the European Parliament’s October plenary session in Strasbourg, Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, from the United States’ mission to the EU, insisted that the ISDS was an important clause in the TTIP negotiations.

“Our message to the people of Europe is not to remove it from the table, but to conclude the discussion process and to improve it,” he said.

A bad signal

“Removing the ISDS from the negotiations would give off a very bad signal. It would clear the way for the removal of other chapters of the negotiations,” he added.

The American negotiators are beginning to show frustration at the demonisation of these arbitration tribunals. “Investor State Dispute Settlements have never been, and will not be, a way for businesses to challenge legislation they do not agree with,” an American negotiator said in Paris.

The next cycle of negotiations is due to take place in December.

National parliaments remain vigilant

The European Commission’s mandate for the TTIP negotiations was set by the member states, and the American negotiators will have to satisfy not only the Commission, but also the national parliaments of the EU if an agreement is to be reached.

In France, Matthias Fekl reminded the Senate that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was “a mixed agreement”. “It is the parliamentarians who will have the last word when the agreement is finalised,” he said, adding “I don’t think will be any time soon”.


Commission mulls TTIP minus investor arbitration

Commission swamped by 150,000 replies to TTIP consultation

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Venezuela and Russia to Cooperate to Stabilize Price of Oil

teleSUR | November 17, 2014

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez met with the Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in order to discuss potential strategies the two countries could implement in order to stabilize world oil prices. The visit by Ramirez is part of his tour of oil-producing countries in anticipation of the meeting of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna on November 27.

In an interview with teleSUR, Ramirez stated that the two ministers agreed on the need for oil producing countries to have closer coordination in order to preserve the price of oil. “During our comprehensive meeting we exchanged points of view on things we could do in the immediate future in order for us to maintain the price of oil and preserve for our people the income from natural resources.”

The price of oil has dropped 30 percent since June, negatively affecting the amount of income going into government coffers. Ramirez stated that this drop in the price of oil can be attributed to several factors such speculators and the sanctions placed on Russia and Iran. He stated that there is an over-production as a result of oil extracted via the environment-damaging hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, method out of the United States, which has flooded the market with an extra million barrels of oils this year.

Ramirez earlier met with the Iranian Oil Minister, Biyan Namdar Zangane, the two agreed to present a proposal at the upcoming OPEC meeting that would stabilize the price of oil at $USD100 a barrel.

Venezuela and Russia are important oil-producing countries, together with Iran, their oil policies have important effects on the world oil market.

Russian and Venezuelan State Companies Close Oil Deal

teleSUR |November 17, 2014

Russian state oil company Rosneft has signed a deal with the Venezuelan government which will see the state entity import 1.6 million tonnes of oil and 9 million tonnes of oil derivatives from Venezuela’s state owned oil company, PDVSA.

The agreement was finalised in a meeting between Rosneft CEO, Igor Sechin, and Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Rafael Ramirez, earlier on Monday. Ramirez is currently on an international tour, meeting with other oil exporting countries and particularly member-states of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) in order to stabilize the falling price of oil. Russia will be his last stop after visiting Algeria, Qatar and Iran.

“I would like to note the growing volume of cooperation in the oil sphere between Russia and Venezuela. Thanks to Venezuelan … minister of foreign affairs Rafael Ramirez, as well as PDVSA’s new CEO Eulogio del Pino for supporting the new projects,” commented Sechin.

Following the announcement, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, also revealed that the two countries had agreed to coordinate a “special meeting” of OPEC and non OPEC countries as a result of Ramirez’s visit.

This is the second oil exportation agreement to be signed between Rosneft and PDVSA, with the first having been negotiated in the May 2014 St. Petersberg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Russia and Venezuela already have a number of joint oil projects operating in Venezuela, as well as a series of other bilateral agreements.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment