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Personal details of murdered journalist & ex-MP found posted on Ukrainian ‘enemies of state’ database

RT | April 17, 2015

Flowers at Ukraine's Embassy in Moscow after the murder of journalist Oles Buzina in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)

Flowers at Ukraine’s Embassy in Moscow after the murder of journalist Oles Buzina in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)

The journalist and ex-MP who were gunned down in Kiev this week were on an ‘enemies of the state’ database – a social media website supported by the aide to Ukraine’s interior minister. The bloggers also have a Twitter account to share ‘successes.’

The volunteer-made website calling itself ‘Mirotvorec’ (Peacekeeper), posts very thorough and comprehensive information on anyone who happens to make the list – journalists, activists, MPs opposing the current Kiev authorities’ policies and rebels fighting against the government in the east. The posts include their addresses, social media account links, a substantial biography and any mentions in the Ukrainian press. There is also labeling involved e.g. “terrorist; supporter of federalization” and other tags.

The website indicates that politician Oleg Kalashnikov’s and journalist Oles Buzina’s details were published on the site no more than 48 hours before both were found dead.

The website has its own social media account, which frequently tweets cryptic messages of “successful missions.”

The website enjoys the support of at least one high-profile Ukrainian official: Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister and a member of the Ukrainian parliament. In one of his Facebook posts, he advised people to post updates to the website.

Praising the work of the website for helping him shoulder the heavy load of information on “terrorists” and “separatists,” Gerashchenko attacks the view that sharing extensive personal information is a breach of privacy.

“Not at all!” he says, citing Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which states, according to him, that “the defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, ensuring its economic and information security is one of the external functions of the state, and is the business of all the people of Ukraine… Everyone who reports a name to the website, or another [resource] is doing the right thing,” Gerashchenko writes.

Below is a video ofUkrainian Interior Minister ArsenAvakov physically assaulting Kalashnikov during a TV show.

The radical Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) organization claimed responsibility for Kalashnikov’s and Buzina’s murder. The statement was made in a letter to Ukrainian political analyst Vladimir Fesenko, who says he received it. The letter is presently being investigated by the Ukrainian police.

This week alone has seen at least four killings of opposition figures in Ukraine. It all started on April 13 with the slaying of journalist Sergey Sukhobok – followed by Kalashnikov two days later and Buzina, the day after that – on the 16th.

The latest murder happened last night when another journalist Olga Moroz – the editor-in-chief of the Neteshinskiy Vestnik, a Ukrainian paper. Moroz was found dead in her home, RBK Ukraine reported.

Her body showed signs of a violent death. Some possessions were missing from the apartment, according to police. Although her work is listed among the causes investigated, the police say there are no allegations relating to any complaints of pressure or threats of violence reported by the journalist.

Buzina’s murder has led to strong condemnation from the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic.

“This appalling act is yet another reminder about the dangers associated with journalism as a profession. This killing must be immediately and fully investigated by the competent authorities… My sincere condolences go out to Buzina’s family and colleagues.”

“I reiterate my call on the authorities to allocate all necessary resources to investigate all attacks on journalists,” she said. “There must be no impunity for the perpetrators and the masterminds behind any violence against members of the media.”

The official also commented on the murder of Sukhobok, who was co-founder of a number of online news portals and contributor to several more Ukrainian media outlets. An investigation is underway.

Mijatovic’s comments are the latest in a long string of international condemnation of the alarming rise of media murders.

In February, the European Union called for stricter observance of freedom of speech in the media by all sides in the Ukrainian conflict.

“We continue to condemn and call for an end to attacks on journalists notably in eastern Ukraine, including killings and abductions,” the statement read.

READ MORE:

2 Ukraine journalists killed in Kiev, Poroshenko suspects ‘provocation’

Series of ‘bizarre suicides’ & murders: Former Ukrainian MP shot dead in Kiev

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear deal or no nuclear deal? That is the question

By Catherine Shakdam | RT | April 17, 2015

As neocons are working to destroy Iran’s tentative nuclear deal, US President Obama will have to either reinvent America’s policy or give in to Israel’s lobby and Saudi Arabia’s paranoiac fear of Shia Islam.

If months of intense political wrangling were crowned earlier this April by the confirmation that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached a tentative framework agreement over one of the most contentious issue of the past three decades – Iran’s nuclear dossier – it appears such diplomatic respite could prelude to a dangerous political standoff.

If by any account Iran’s nuclear negotiations were going to be trying, especially since Tehran’s nuclear ambitions do not necessarily sit at the center of this internationally staged quarrel, Israel’s neocon war campaign against the Islamic Republic risks pushing the world toward yet another lengthy conflict- a global one at that.

With the fires of war already burning bright in the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – the fall of another domino could prove one too many for the word to handle. From a purely geostrategic standpoint a war with Iran, however pleasing to Tel Aviv’s avid warmongers, would likely force Western powers and their Arab allies to commit more military power than they can handle. Bearing in mind that the US has already committed troops and resources to Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and of course Ukraine, how much farther can imperial America really stretch?

However grand the US might think itself to be, and however solid the US might think its alliances to be, Washington has yet to win a war. Claiming victory as George W. Bush did in Iraq on May 1, 2003 did not exactly make it so. And though America basked in the glorious light of its military supremacy over the “Iraqi enemy,” its joy was short-lived as reality soon came knocking. And though starting a war might seem an easy enough business for neocon America, it is really the art of peace this belligerent nation has failed to master so far.

But back to Iran’s nuclear deal

To the surprise of many skeptics, Iran and the P5+1 did reach a deal – and while there were a few near misses, a deal was nevertheless brokered; proof experts actually insisted that Tehran is more interested in diplomacy than its detractors gives it credit for. Iran’s concessions attest to its officials’ determination to engage with the international community and integrate back into mainstream international politics.

As Gareth Porter wrote in a report for CounterPunch this April, “The framework agreement reached on Thursday night [April 2, 2015] clearly gives the P5+1 a combination of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that should reassure all but the most bellicose opponents of diplomacy.”

And although Iran gave every assurance its government will not seek to weaponize its nuclear program, no amount of concessions might prove sufficient enough or comprehensive enough to assuage Washington’s fears vis-a-vis its “great Satan” – especially if the Saudis and Israelis have a say in it.

With the ink of the nuclear framework agreement still left to dry, both the powerful Israeli lobby and Al Saud’s petrodollars went on overdrive, telling the world what a catastrophe Iran’s nuclear deal would be.

One trip to US Congress and a few well-chosen words against its mortal enemy later, Israel seems satisfied it forever drove a wrench into the yet to be formulated and signed nuclear agreement.

As Yuval Steinitz, Israel minister for intelligence and strategic affairs so eloquently told the world on April 6, Israel would try to persuade the P5 +1 “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it”.

Echoing his minister’s narrative, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that since Iran represents a threat to Israel’s very existence, America should abandon all diplomacy and instead beat the war drums. And we don’t really need to know why, only that it is so – If Netanyahu’s drawing did not convince your idle mind of Iran’s evil in 2012 then nothing will!

Just as Israel’s lobby bullied its way through the Oval office, cornering U.S. President Barak Obama into relenting power to Congress, Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, adding a new layer of complication to an already impossible mesh of over-lapping and over-conflicting alliances in the Middle East, thus weaving a dangerous noose around peace’s neck.

Interestingly, if war requires no US Congress oversight you can be sure that peace does!

Caught in between a rock at home and a hard place in the Middle East, US President Obama is faced with one mighty dilemma – one which will determine not his presidency but his very legacy.

If recent tensions between President Obama and the Israeli Premier are anything to go by, it would appear Israel’s lobby suit of armor is not as thick and potent as it’d like it to be, or maybe just maybe, it simply exhausted Americans’ patience. Israel’s greatest ally and supporter, the one power which has quite literally and almost single-handedly carried the Jewish State into being and helped it survive adverse winds since its very inception in 1948: vetoing UNSC resolutions when needed, propping its military and economy when needed, acting a political champion when needed, could be running out of road.

If Israel and Saudi Arabia’s foreign agenda stand now in perfect alignment – their ire directed not at one another but at Iran, changes in the region and fast-moving geostrategic interests have forced the US to re-evaluate its position vis-a-vis Iran and the so-called mythical Shia crescent the world has learnt to be wary of without quite understanding why.

In Netanyahu’s officials’ own words we are to believe that Islamic radicalism, a perverted, acetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which has mapped itself around Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism movement would be preferable to seeing Iran gain a greater footing in the Arab world. In September 2013, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites. “The greatest danger to Israel is by the [Shiite] strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview.

“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Obviously Saudi Arabia would rather eat its own foot than allow the all so devilish Iran from reclaiming its standing in the region, especially since it would essentially mean relenting power to rising calls for democratic reforms in the Gulf monarchies – Bahrain being the flagship of such a desire for change.

Why do that when you can wage senseless wars to assert your dominion?

Iran’s nuclear deal is more than just a nuclear deal. If signed, this deal would become the cornerstone of a broad shift in alliances, the moment when the US would actually choose to put its national interests over that of Tel Aviv and over Riyadh’s billions. Where Israel has bullied the US for decades, Saudi Arabia has bought its policies for decades.

With nothing left to lose but his good name and his legacy, President Obama could be just the man to break this self-destructing cycle and reinvent America’s foreign policy.

And that’s not even wishful thinking it would actually make sense for America to make peace with Iran – economically, politically and in terms of energy security and counter-terrorism Iran could be a more helpful and potent ally than Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that Riyadh’s fingerprints are all over al-Qaeda, ISIS and whatever terror offshoots radicals created those days, Washington might want to consider another ally in its fight against radicalism.

Thing is, America wants change! What it needs now is mastering the courage of its desire.

America is a superpower running out of steam, and more importantly running out of standing in the world. America’s exceptionalism is on its last leg. Too many double-standards, too many incoherencies in its alliances, too many double-talks, double-entendres and double-crossings. America needs a deal.

And though the July deadline seems very far away indeed, especially since Yemen’s war came to yank at diplomacy’s already stretched out rope; not signing the nuclear deal would be far worse than ruffling Israel and Saudi Arabia’s feathers.

For the sake of argument, why not ask Israel to pay the world the courtesy of practicing what it preaches in terms of nuclear transparency. That would be the nuclear deal of the century!

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements. A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others. In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#PalestinianPrisonerDay: Protesters target G4S London HQ over Israeli ‘torture’ complicity

RT | April 17, 2015

Protestors gathered outside the London office of G4S on Friday to highlight the private security firm’s role in incarcerating Palestinian prisoners on behalf of Israel.

Organizers demanded the release of several prisoners, including Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar and more than a hundred child detainees.

They also highlighted the ill treatment of prisoners, including alleged incidents of torture.

The protest in London takes place as part of an international day of action to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day, an annual expression of solidarity with Palestinians detained by Israel.

Palestinian Prisoners Day began as a mass action in support of hunger striking political prisoners on April 17, 2012.

It has grown into an annual event marked by human rights organizations and pro-Palestine groups across the world.

More than 100 people confirmed they would attend the protest on its Facebook page.

Organized by Innovative Minds (Inminds), a group which describes itself as online Islamic activists, the demonstration targeted G4S for its operation of two prisons and two detention centers in Israel and one prison in the West Bank.

Some 6,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisoners, according to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

Addameer’s monthly detention report for February 2015 indicates 163 of these prisoners are children, 13 of whom are under 16.

The vast majority of those incarcerated are male, with only 22 female prisoners.

Lina Jarbouni, a female detainee from Galilee, is the longest serving female prisoner having been in jail for 13 consecutive years.

“Systematic torture and ill treatment” of Palestinian prisoners is well documented, according to human rights group War on Want.

Activists say G4S is complicit in this ill treatment by providing security systems for the Israel-based Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold political prisoners arrested within Palestine.

War on Want claims G4S has acted in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from an occupied territory to the territory of the occupier.

G4S has become the target of an international boycott, with the South African government resolving to end work contracts with the security firm in November last year.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of several notable activists, including Noam Chomsky, to sign a petition calling for G4S to end its participation in Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Protestors outside the London office of G4S highlighted the plight of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel as well as those detained by the security firm.

They demanded the release of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar, who was arrested by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) earlier this month.

The prominent feminist and human rights activist was sentenced to six months in prison without trial for violating a military injunction, which confines her to the city of Jericho and its surrounding.

Army sources told the Times of Israel the restraining order was based on her “incitement and involvement in terror.”

A spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said Jarrar was heavily involved in the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Activists also demanded justice for Jaafar Awad, 22, a Palestinian man who died from health complications resulting from “medical negligence” during his detention in an Israeli prison, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

Another key theme of the protest was the detention of children.

Defense for Children International (DCI) launched an urgent appeal in 2012 after documenting 53 cases in which children were held in solitary confinement at the Al Jalame and Petah Tikva interrogation centers, and Hasharon prison.

Children reported being held in solitary confinement in a “foul smelling” cell measuring approximately 2 meters by 3 for an average of 10 days.

DCI reports no education is provided to them and they are denied access to their parents or lawyers while held in the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) controlled detention centers.

Read more:

Female Palestinian MP snatched by IDF, held without charge for 6 months

G4S posts £148mn profit despite ‘countless’ human rights scandals

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hillary: a Disaster in the Making

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By Robert Fantina | CounterPunch | April 17, 2015

One longs for a candidate for president of the United States possessing those rare traits of statesmanship, honesty and integrity. One looks back in vain to see such an example, and the near and far horizons offer no such hope, either.

We will take no time looking at the GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) candidates, either announced or still keeping everyone on the edge of their seats as they ‘decide’ whether or not to toss their hat into the soon-to-be-crowded ring. Most, including Florida Governor and brother of one of the nation’s worst presidents ever, Jeb Bush, and New Jersey Governor, the obnoxious blowhard Chris Christie, have already decided, but enjoy the spectacle of endless conjecture. So they wait.

But on the Democratic side, no less a worthy than Hillary Rodham Clinton, lawyer, former First Lady, former senator, former Secretary of State, has slow-balled her tattered hat into an otherwise empty ring. Her handlers claim, disingenuously, that she expects competition, and a hard-fought primary campaign. Who, one wants to know, is going to take her on? She has a war chest rumored to hold $2.5 billion, more than twice what Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama each spent on their campaigns in 2012; the total is more than their campaign expenditures combined. The only other potential candidate with anything close to her name recognition is Vice President Joe Biden, and it will be impossible for him to generate the puzzling enthusiasm that seems to follow Mrs. Clinton. And there does not appear to be anyone waiting in the wings to grab the spotlight from her, as Mr. Obama did in 2008.

So, while her various aides struggle to avoid any appearance of invincibility, let us all make the assumption that Mrs. Clinton will be the nominee, and work from there. What possible objections can anyone from the moderate to liberal political philosophy spectrum have to her nomination? Well, this writer asks: how much time do you have?

In the interest of time, let’s just look at a single area; there will be plenty of time to discuss others as the relentless torture session known as a U.S. political campaign drags on.

One of the most horrific oppressions of people currently happening in the world today is being perpetrated by Israel on the people of Palestine. Now, before anyone says that this is a complex, decades-old problem, and Mrs. Clinton can’t be blamed for not solving it, we question these statements, and at the same time object to her worsening of the situation. And, when one looks at her four years as Secretary of State, one can, indeed, blame her for not resolving the situation. Some facts:

* Clinton is beholden to AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee), and takes her disgraceful, self-appointed obligation to that lobby group more seriously than she does human rights. During her stint as Secretary of State, she blocked every effort Palestinians made at the United Nations to achieve recognition; these successful efforts to thwart the self-determination of an oppressed people win the kudos of AIPAC. She has spoken of Israel in almost romantic terms: “Protecting Israel’s future is not simply a question of policy for me, it’s personal,” she said in 2013, discussing various visits she has made to that apartheid land. She regularly worships at the AIPAC altar.

* In 2014, as Israel was using U.S.-provided weaponry, some of it illegal under international law, to carpet-bomb the beleaguered and blockaded Gaza Strip, Mrs. Clinton had nothing but praise for Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu. She further echoed the tired old line about Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ from rocket fire, as if an occupied nation does not have an internationally-recognized right to fight its occupier. One must note that, during 55 days in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip than Gaza fired into Israel in the previous 14 years. Additionally, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel (he is no longer allowed in that country), calls those ‘rockets’ fired from Gaza ‘enhanced fire works’. No one refers to the advanced weaponry the U.S. gives to Israel in such terms.

*During her last campaign for the presidency, she stated that, if Iran attacked her beloved Israel with nuclear weapons, the U.S., under her presidency would attack Iran and could ‘totally obliterate’ it. One must take her at her word, since she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, a nation that in no way threatened the U.S., and in which over half the population was under the age of 15. So she would, one assumes, not hesitate to invade Iran, a nation with twice the population of Iraq, if it, too, did nothing to threaten the U.S.

So why, one wonders, is there so much enthusiasm among Democrats for a woman who, by all accounts, is a hypocritical war-monger, who is more motivated to enhance her own bottom line than to serve the cause of human rights? What is it that draws adoring crowds to her? Perhaps people are seduced by the idea of another first: they elected the first African-American president, so why not follow it up with the first woman president? Maybe it is her resume, which is, indeed, impressive. But any job-seeker will highlight notable job titles on their resume, but once at the interview, may have difficulty pointing to any real accomplishments. The voters, as interviewers, should take a close look at what achievements, if any, Mrs. Clinton has to support those remarkable job titles. They will find little.

But what is all this, when the candidate is surrounded by the magic of invincibility, the aura of newness, and represents the final shattering of the glass ceiling? Does she not deserve the presidency, for all her hard work, regardless of the lack of any real accomplishment? Don’t we, the voters, owe her this?

No, we don’t. She isn’t fit to serve in any capacity in government, due to the reasons detailed above, in addition to many others (stay tuned). In this case it is the empress, not the emperor, who has new clothes, only seen by Democrats stricken with some sudden myopia that prevents them from seeing the reality of her accomplishments which, like the new clothes, simply don’t exist.

One can generally rely on the Republicans to nominate a worse candidate than the Democrats; one hesitates to say the Democrat is usually better, since we are not operating in a ‘good, better, best’ zone here; far beneath it, unfortunately. But this time around, there may simply be no ‘lesser of two evils’ choice to make. And the U.S. will provide yet another tragedy for the country, and the world.

fantinaRobert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Fast Track Bill Would Legitimize White House Secrecy and Clear the Way for Anti-User Trade Deals

By Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton | EFF | April 16, 2015

Following months of protest, Congress has finally put forth bicameral Fast Track legislation today to rush trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through Congress. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, and Rep. Paul Ryan, respectively, introduced the bill titled the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. With Fast Track, lawmakers will be shirking their constitutional authority over trade policy, letting the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative pass Internet rules in back room meetings with corporate industry groups. If this passes, lawmakers would only have a small window of time to conduct hearings over trade provisions and give a yea-or-nay vote on ratification of the agreement without any ability to amend it before they bind the United States to its terms.

The Fast Track bill contains some minor procedural improvements from the version of the bill introduced last year. However, these fixes will do little to nothing to address the threats of restrictive digital regulations on users rights in the TPP or TTIP. The biggest of these changes is language that would create a new position of Chief Transparency Officer that would supposedly have the authority to “consult with Congress on transparency policy, coordinate transparency in trade negotiations, engage and assist the public, and advise the United States Trade Representative on transparency policy.”

However, given the strict rules of confidentiality of existing, almost completed trade deals and those outlined in the Fast Track bill itself, we have no reason to believe that this officer would have much power to do anything meaningful to improve trade transparency, such as releasing the text of the agreement to the public prior to the completion of negotiations. As it stands, the text only has to be released to the public 60 days before it is signed, at which time the text is already locked down from any further amendments.

There is also a new “consultation and compliance” procedure, about which Public Citizen writes [pdf]:

The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement.

Thus, essentially the Fast Track bill does the same as it ever did—tying the hands of Congress so that it is unable to give meaningful input into the agreement during its drafting, or to thoroughly review the agreement once it is completed.

A main feature of the bill is its negotiation objectives, which set the parameters within which the President is authorized to negotiate the agreement. If Congress considers that the text ultimately deviates from these objectives, it can vote the agreement down. Some of these negotiation objectives have been added or changed since the previous Fast Track bill, but none of these provide any comfort to us on the troubling issues from the Intellectual Property, E-Commerce, and Investment chapters of the TPP. Indeed, some of the new text raise concerns. For example:

  • Governments are to “refrain from implementing trade-related measures that impede digital trade in goods and services, restrict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data”. Data flows and the location of the processing of data aren’t solely or even primarily trade issues; they are human rights issues that can affect privacy, free expression and more. The discussion about whether laws that require local storage and processing of certain kinds of sensitive personal data are protective of user rights, for instance, cannot take place in the secret enclaves of a trade negotiation. The bill does allow for exceptions as required to further “legitimate policy objectives”, but only where these “are the least restrictive on trade” and “promote an open market environment”.
  • Trade secrets collected by governments are to be protected against disclosure except in “exceptional circumstances to protect the public, or where such information is effectively protected against unfair competition”. But there are other cases in which there may be an important public interest in the disclosure of such trade secrets, such as where they reveal past misdeeds, or throw transparency onto the activities of corporations executing public functions.

But more troubling than what has been included in the negotiating objectives, is what has been excluded. There is literally nothing to require balance in copyright, such as the fair use right. On the contrary; if a country’s adoption of a fair use style right causes loss to a foreign investor, it could even be challenged as a breach of the agreement, under the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. Further, the “Intellectual Property” section of today’s bill is virtually identical to the version introduced in 2002, and what minor changes there are do not change the previous text’s evident antipathy for fair use. So while the new bill has added, as an objective, “to ensure that trade agreements foster innovation and promote access to medicines,” an unchanged objective is “providing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights.” What happens if those two objectives are in conflict? For example, in many industries, thin copyright and patent restrictions have proven to be more conducive to innovation than the thick, “strong” measures the bill requires. Some of our most innovative industries have been built on fair use and other exceptions to copyright—and that’s even more obvious now than it was in 2002. The unchanged language suggests the underlying assumption of the drafters is that more IP restrictions mean more innovation and access, and that’s an assumption that’s plainly false.

All in all, we do not see anything in this bill that would truly remedy the secretive, undemocratic process of trade agreements. Therefore, EFF stands alongside the huge coalition public interest groups, professors, lawmakers, and individuals who are opposed to Fast Track legislation that would legitimize the White House’s corporate-captured, backroom trade negotiations. The Fast Track bill will likely come to a vote by next week—and stopping it is one sure-fire way to block the passage of these secret, anti-user deals.

Don't Fast Track Train Image

If you’re on Twitter, help us call on influential members of Congress to come out against this bill.

Additional Resources:

Read the text of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 here.

Read about all of our concerns with the TPP agreement:

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Shot In The Eye In Jerusalem

IMEMC News | April 16, 2015

A young Palestinian man was shot in the eye by an Israeli rubber-coated metal bullet, on Wednesday evening, and three others shot in the legs, in the el-‘Eesawiyya town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) has reported that Suleiman Mahmoud at-Tarbi, 20, was walking in the town when the soldiers invaded it, and clashed with local youths.

Member of the Follow-up Committee in Silwan, Mohammad Abu Al-Hummus, said at-Tarbi left his home heading to a local shop, and had no idea the soldiers were going to invade the town.

He added that at-Tarbi came face to face with the soldiers before one of them pointed his rifle at him and fired; the rubber-coated metal bullet struck the Palestinian in the eye, before the soldiers assaulted him.

The young man was later moved the Hadassah Ein Karem Israeli hospital in Jerusalem for treatment, while Israeli army is still claiming he was participating in the clashes.

Three young men were injured in their legs after the soldiers fired rubber-coated metal bullets at them. The soldiers also fired at Palestinian cars shattering the front shields of three vehicles.

Earlier on Wednesday, soldiers invaded the Shu’fat refugee camp in Jerusalem, and clashed with dozens of local youths.

The soldiers invaded the camp just as schoolchildren were leaving school, and fired gas bombs, causing dozens of suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation.

The soldiers also invaded an under construction residential building, and searched it; the building is close to the military roadblock installed by the soldiers on the entrance of the camp.

On March 31, a Palestinian child identified as Zakariyya al-Joulani, 13 years of age, lost his left eye after being shot by an Israeli rubber-coated metal bullet while walking back home from school in Silwan.

His father said that Israeli soldiers occupied the rooftop of a multi-story under construction residential building and opened fire at schoolchildren walking back home.

Eyewitnesses confirmed to Silwanic that the shooting was not as a result of clashes as the situation was calm when it took place.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

20 Palestinian journalists being held in Israeli jails

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Ma’an – 17/04/2015

GAZA CITY – Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian journalist on Wednesday after raiding his home in Nablus, bringing the total number of journalists imprisoned by Israel to 20.

Amin Abdul Aziz Abu Wardeh, 48, is the general manager of the Asda news website, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms said.

Abu Wardeh’s wife told MADA that Israeli forces raided their home at around 2 a.m. and interrogated Amin in a separate room for over an hour before arresting him.

They also seized three laptops and a cellphone.

Abu Wardeh had previously been held in administrative detention for nearly a year after being arrested in November 2011.

According to the Union of Palestinian Radios and Televisions there are now 20 Palestinian journalists being held in Israeli prisons, six of whom were detained in 2015 alone.

The longest serving journalist is reporter for the Sawt al-Haq wa al-Hurriya newspaper, Mahmoud Moussa Issa, who has been imprisoned since 1994.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Hezbollah likens Saudi aggression on Yemen to Israeli atrocities in Gaza

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Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem
Press TV – April 16, 2015

Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has blasted the ongoing Saudi military aggression against Yemen, comparing the move to the Israeli atrocities in the besieged Gaza Strip.

“What Saudi Arabia is committing [in Yemen] is identical to what Israel commits in Gaza,” Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem said in a Thursday interview with France 24.

Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip for over seven years, causing a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave. The Israeli regime has also launched three wars on Gaza, the latest of which came in summer 2014, when nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 11,100 others injured. The 50-day war ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce.

Qassem said the Saudi war “is about attacking infrastructure and shelling civilians.”

Referring to a recent UN Security Council resolution adopted against Yemen’s Houthi movement, the Hezbollah official said, “The Security Council decision in Yemen is unjust, because it looks at one part of the problem, and not at the whole [picture].”

“The Security Council should have stopped the Saudi aggression against Yemen and treated the issues related to the civilians and the wounded and the destruction of infrastructure,” he said.

Political solution

Qassem also called for a political solution to the crisis in Yemen.

“It (the UN) was supposed to set the steps for a dialogue to reach a political solution. This, the Security Council has not done,” the Hezbollah official said.

During an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, Qassem slammed Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen as genocide.

Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen started on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. It has drawn widespread condemnation from international rights groups.

Civilians and Yemeni infrastructure have been the target of the Saudi aggression against Yemen.

According to Yemeni sources, around 2,600 people have been killed in the Saudi military campaign over the past three weeks.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating. Many international aid organizations have sought clearances to dispatch medical and other humanitarian supplies by air and sea to civilians in need.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Tops Latin America in Military Spending Cuts, Slashes Arms Budget by 34%

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | April 16, 2015

Caracas  – According to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Venezuela reduced its military budget by 34 percent in 2014, leading the the region in arms spending cuts.

Venezuela is followed by Uruguay, which decreased its military spending by 11 percent over the past year.

In contrast, United States political allies Paraguay and Mexico led the region in upping military spending, raising their military budgets by 13 and 11 percent, respectively.

Brazil, which is the largest arms spender in Latin America and the tenth largest in the world, cut its military budget by 1.7 percent due to economic difficulties.

The Americas remains the region with the highest military spending, a fact undoubtedly attributable to the presence of the United States, which, despite a modest budget cut of 6.5 percent, retains its spot as the world’s top arms spender.

With an annual military budget of $610 billion, the US accounts for one-third of global spending, amounting to more than triple the budget of the second highest spender, China.

Nonetheless, this enormous disparity in spending has not prevented the US from branding Venezuela a menace to its neighbors, on numerous occasions.

In 2009, then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accused Venezuela of fomenting an “arms race” with its purchase of Russian weapons. That same year, Venezuela led the region in cutting military spending, slashing its arms budget by one-quarter.

Last month, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order labeling Venezuela a “national security threat”, a move which has been vociferously condemned by a host of countries and multilateral blocs across the globe.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uprooted & evicted: World Bank-funded projects force millions off their land

RT | April 17, 2015

World Bank ventures in less developed countries are hurting the people the organization has sworn to protect, with almost four million people across the globe left homeless, forcefully evicted and relocated as a result of World Bank-funded projects.

A probe by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which examined World Bank’s records in 14 countries, discovered that some 3.4 million of the “most vulnerable people” were forced off their land in the last decade.

The World Bank “has regularly failed to live up to its own policies for protecting people harmed by projects it finances,” ICIJ states as one of its key findings.

The World Bank as well as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which distributes the funds, have invested $455 billion in nearly 7,200 projects between 2004 and 2013 in the developing world, ICIJ says. More than 400 were confirmed to have caused the permanent displacement of local communities, while another 550 may have made locals homeless.

“An ICIJ analysis found that between 20 and 30 percent of all projects the bank funded from 2004 to 2013 were deemed likely to cause resettlement,” report’s summary reads.

The World Bank finances thousands of projects ranging from major oil pipelines and dams to small schools and clinics. In some countries the organization reportedly closed its eyes to numerous human rights violations. The ICIJ investigation was surprised to discover that in some instances, the World Bank continued to fund projects in “undemocratic” states even after evidence of abuses such as rape and torture emerged.

For instance in Ethiopia, former officials told journalists that the state used millions of dollars from health and education projects to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions of local populations. Yet despite numerous complaints from human rights groups and the indigenous Anuak population, the World Bank disputed claims that their money has been misused or misappropriated.

Kenyan forest conservation project using World Bank cash is claimed to be another example where funds were used to chase locals out of their ancestral homes.

The 11-month-long ICIJ investigation revealed that most of forced resettlement cases appear to take place in Asia and Africa. In Asia almost 3 million people were either left homeless or resettled, while in Africa that number stands at over 400,000.

The organization’s investment in China resulted in the resettlement of at least 1 million people, the investigation said.

In Vietnam alone some 1.2 million people were displaced during the construction of dams and power plants by the organization.

“Research has shown that millions of people have lost their livelihood and have been pushed into conditions of poverty because of large hydro-electric dams,” environmental and human rights activist and director of Right and Ecology, Annie Bird, told RT. “It is an investment which has not resulted in furthering the mandate of the World Bank, which is eliminating poverty.”

The full list of affected countries also include Albania, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Honduras, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, South Sudan and Uganda.

From 2009 to 2013, the study found, World Bank Group lenders “pumped $50 billion into projects graded highest risk for their “irreversible or unprecedented’” social or environmental impact. That numbers, the authors estimate, is twice as much as the previous five-year span.

ICIJ informed World Bank of their discoveries in March, warning of “systemic gaps”.

“We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern,” Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank’s president, said in a statement at the time. “One is that we haven’t done a good enough job in overseeing projects involving resettlement.”

The organization also compiled a five page “action plan” that it said would improve its programs.

“We must and will do better,” said David Theis, a World Bank spokesman, in response to the reporting team’s questions.

As the largest contributor to the Wold Bank, the US government is largely to blame for the organization’s shortcomings, Bird believes.

“The Bank could take measures to find alternatives for people who are losing their livelihoods to large infrastructure projects, it has just never been prioritized,” she says. “I think a lot of responsibility for that lies with the member nations, particularly with the United States government which has the largest share and voting power in the World Bank and therefore sets an important part of the Bank’s lending agenda.”

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , | Leave a comment

Stop Corporate Welfare Kings

By Ralph Nader | CounterPunch | April 17, 2015

“Tax day” comes and goes each year, but unfortunately, the systemic issues that plague American taxpayers linger on without resolution well past the mid-April deadline.

The U.S. tax code has long been manipulated by corporate lobbyists and their corporate tax attorneys. (President Jimmy Carter once called the loophole-ridden tax laws “a disgrace to the human race.”) A primary purpose of these perforations is to arrange the law and regulations so that certain categories of profit-rich companies can avoid paying their fair share to Uncle Sam.

In many states, it is a literal race to the bottom for elected officials to offer corporations sweeter tax deals to keep jobs in their locality — see the 2013 Boeing controversy in the state of Washington, in which the aerospace industry, much of which is made up of Boeing, was awarded $8.7 billion in tax breaks over 16 years to produce the 777X jetliner in-state. Notably, Boeing paid zero in federal income tax that year — along with many other major U.S. corporations such as GE and Verizon. Some of these Fortune 500 companies even get a rebate check!

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, “American Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $600 billion in U.S. federal income taxes by holding more than $2.1 trillion” of retained profits offshore, which they designate as “permanently reinvested” to avoid a tax liability.

And of course, millionaires and billionaires often pay less in taxes than middle-class Americans do, taking full advantage of tax loopholes, deductions, deferrals and other forms of creative accounting. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives now intends to pass legislation to repeal the estate tax, which would see that “vast amounts of money that has never been taxed will be passed tax-free to the heirs of today’s billionaires,” according to Scott Klinger of the Center for Effective Government.

The end result is that, through a myriad of tax avoidance schemes, the wealthy 1 percent continue to profit using public resources, subsidies and infrastructure while the 99 percent disproportionately pay the bills for it — all while struggling to pay their own bills, mortgages, student loans, and more. And when Wall Street runs amok, it’s the taxpayers who have paid the bills for the catastrophic damage as a result of regulatory surrender. Millions of these taxpayers also lost their jobs and pensions in the 2008-2009 Wall Street collapse of our economy.

This brings us to the Internal Revenue Service — which has been made into a dirty word to many Americans. Those Americans might be surprised to learn, however, that the current IRS enforcement budget is $10.9 billion, after a cut of $346 million from the previous year. To put that in perspective, Apple Inc. spent $14 billion just to buy back its own stock last year, a move that only serves to provide a meager benefit, if that, to its shareholders, while nourishing executive compensation packages.

The IRS loses an estimated $300 billion a year due to tax evasion. A budget proposal by the Obama administration claimed that the IRS could bring in an additional $6 for every dollar it adds to the enforcement budget. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that he pushes this very convincing point in Congress to little reception or reaction. “I say that and everybody shrugs and goes on about their business,” he told the AP in 2014. “I have not figured out either philosophically or psychologically why nobody seems to care whether we collect the revenue or not.”

The effects of these budgetary cuts are already being seen. Current staffing levels at the IRS are at 87,000 — the lowest since the early 1980s. The agency lost 13,000 employees from 2010 to 2014 and expects to lose another 3,000 this year. In the final stretch towards April 15, many taxpayers have experienced excruciatingly long waits on hold and long lines at local IRS offices as a result. Congress doesn’t care. (National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who operates independently within the IRS, detailed this degradation of service in her annual report to Congress. (See taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov.)

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has gone so far as to publicly state his intention to abolish the IRS entirely, calling that radical course of action the “simplest and best tax reform.” It’s not clear how Senator Cruz intends the federal government to collect revenue to pay for his presidential salary, the White House budget and expanding his giant military budget if he should be elected and not recover his senses.

It is clear, however, that significant rational tax reform is necessary. What remains unclear is who will benefit the most from such reform. Americans must seriously ask why individual U.S. taxpayers are fronting the money for hugely profitable corporations. These are funds that could potentially be used to repair critical public infrastructure, create decently paying jobs, or simply reduce the tax burden on middle-income individuals.

One solution to ensure that the interests of small taxpayers are accounted for and protected is to establish taxpayer watchdog associations across the country. These organizations would work full-time in each state to make sure that individual taxpayers get the best deal possible. After all, big corporations can afford to support an army of tax accountants and attorneys to continually update the playbook of tactics to avoid having to pay their fair share. Most taxpayers don’t have this luxury. What they do have, however, is sheer force of numbers. Organization of such watchdog organizations could be facilitated by including a notice on the 1040 tax return inviting people to pay a small due and join these advocacy and educational nonprofit groups. These associations would be supported by membership dues and would receive no tax money. The members would elect a board of directors that could hire researchers, organizers, accountants and lawyers.

Such pressure from united citizen bodies would provide the organizational mechanism to enhance the influence of individuals in the tax-collection and policy-making process — something that is much-needed in our current American plutocracy.

A simple motto to consider when asking what we choose to tax is: “Tax what they burn, not what we earn.” Before we place the largest burdens of taxation on workers, we should tax areas that have the greatest potential negative or damaging influence on our economy and our society. Tax the polluters, the Wall Street speculators, the junk-food peddlers, and the corporate criminals. Consider that just a fraction of a 1-percent sales tax on speculation in derivatives and trading in stocks could bring in $300 billion a year! (See robinhoodtax.org.)

If taxpayers really want to protect their interests, they must organize and fight for them. The corporations certainly have the money — but they can’t match the manpower or votes of an organized citizenry.

In the meantime, big corporations on welfare like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Pfizer, General Electric, Weyerhaeuser, and ExxonMobile should declare April 15 to be Taxpayer Appreciation Day. The corporate welfare kings should have the decency to, at least, thank smaller taxpayers who pay for all the freeloading that the corporatists have rammed through Congress. (See goodjobsfirst.org for much more on this issue.)

Follow Ralph Nader on Twitter : www.twitter.com/RalphNader

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US-NATO Antics in the Nuclear Playground

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | CounterPunch | April 17, 2015

The commander of US-NATO forces, the vigorously vocal General Breedlove, stated on April 7 that the military alliance’s planners “have been working tirelessly to enhance NATO’s Response Force and implement the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and today our progress is manifested in the rapid deployments we see happening in locations across the Alliance.”

Breedlove is the man who declared on March 5 that Russia had sent combat troops and massive quantities of military equipment into Ukraine. He said that President Putin had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine by deploying “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery.”  His military opinion was that “What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

He spoke absolute drivel, because the ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the east of the country was working, albeit shakily, and things were quietening down. The last thing that was needed was provocation. Silence and, or at the most, calm, reasoned comments were essential if both sides were to be encouraged to cool it.

But this man, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man who has the trust of the American president, the prime nuclear button-shover, told a deliberate lie intended to increase tension.

The manufactured tension built up and on April 7 Breedlove’s HQ announced that  the militaries of “11 Allied nations, Germany, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia tested their Headquarters’ response to alert procedures,” while “in the afternoon of 7 April, the 11th Air Mobile Brigade in The Netherlands and the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Czech Republic were given orders to rapidly prepare to deploy their troops and equipment” in a maneuver called “Noble Jump” which conjured up an image of a missile-wielding April bunny leaping into the fray against a coyly unnamed enemy who could be no other than Russia.  (Although perhaps Russia need not be too troubled about some of NATO’s war preparations. My sources told me that the practice mobilization of the Dutch brigade was a shambles.)

While the ground-based martial bunny-hops were going on there was an aerial provocation in progress, this time involving  a US Combat Sent RC-135U spyplane which was on a mission against Russia and flew along its Baltic Sea coastline. To prevent identification its transponder had been switched off  — just like those of the aircraft in the 9/11 hijackings and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which disappeared mysteriously a year ago.

All aircraft have transponders which report their speed, height, heading and identification to air traffic controllers and other aircraft in order to avoid aerial confusion, so when Russian radar detected a large aircraft without such a signal but obviously using transmission devices to collect their radar and other electronic emissions, including civilian commercial communications, they sent up a fighter plane to have a look. Washington threw up its hands in mock horror and issued statements about how dangerous this was. Then the western media went into overdrive with a cavalier disregard for balanced reporting.

The Daily Mail of Britain is a garbage newspaper which maintains enormous readership because it specializes in glamorizing Britain’s sad, tacky and pathetic Celeb culture while concurrently condemning it, sometimes in the most portentous terms. The paper’s masses of online readers try to rationalize their attraction to vulgarity by glancing at items on international affairs and were told breathlessly that “In a maneuver with ominous echoes of the Cold War, a Russian fighter jet ‘aggressively’ intercepted an American plane over Poland, the Pentagon claims. Filing an official complaint to Russia, the State Department alleges a U.S. RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft was flying near the Baltic Sea in international airspace when a Russian SU-27 Flanker cut into its path.”

The average Daily Mail reader might not be able to question the absurdly conflicting phrases “near the Baltic Sea,” “over Poland,” and “in international airspace,” but that doesn’t matter. The message was being spread around by the US-NATO propaganda apparatus that the dreaded Russkies were menacing the Free World. The media lapped it up.

Little attention was paid in the West to the Russian announcement that “an Su-27 fighter on duty was scrambled, approached the unidentified aircraft, flew around it several times, identified it as an RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft belonging to the U.S. Air Force and read its side number, and reported it to the command. After having been intercepted by the Russian fighter, the U.S. Air Force aircraft changed its course and moved away from the Russian border.”

What the Russians didn’t say was that the aircraft’s “side number” was 4849 and that it had been photographed the previous day in Eastern England at the Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall which houses a USAF tanker squadron, about 200 US special forces soldiers with Osprey aircraft and operatives from such elements as 97 Intelligence Squadron.

No doubt the Russians know that last October it was noticed that US RC-135U spy plane number 4849 carries on its side some eye-catching decals.  A photograph taken by Gary Chadwick at Mildenhall shows the “mission markings applied above the crew entry hatch, on the left hand side of the RC-135U Combat Sent 64-14849 ‘OF’ with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron/55th Wing of the U.S. Air Force : five hammer and sickle symbols.”

These symbols may be stickers or stencils, but whatever they are they cost money and take time and effort to apply on the side of an airplane to which they add neither beauty or distinction. So why are they placed there?

It might be thought strange that a US military aircraft in 2015 should have Soviet-era hammer and sickle decals on its side in order to publicly indicate a military exploit involving achievement of an objective of some sort.  And it is interesting that one of the images has been added recently, because when a photograph of 4849 was taken last year there were only four such symbols. What enterprising and gallant mission merited the fifth hammer and sickle? Another addition was a fourth depiction of an aircraft carrier, signifying, no doubt, a successful electronic spying mission involving one of these ships that was not of the United States Navy. What nationality could it have been?

The anti-Russian spy-antics of the US are fully in line with the war-talk of Breedlove and his NATO colleagues who are beavering away in their brand-new billion dollar combat palace in Brussels to justify existence and expansion of their war machine. Russia’s actions have been propagandized accordingly, and the US spy flights are intended to provoke Moscow into taking action which can be used to escalate tension yet further. It would all be childishly funny were it not for the fact that Breedlove and his people are playing with the future of Europe and indeed the world. They are leading us to the nuclear threshold, and must be reined in before they stumble into ultimate confrontation.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment