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An IT expert’s view on climate modelling

By Eric Worrall | Watts Up With That? | June 7, 2015

One point struck me, reading Anthony’s fascinating account of his meeting with Bill McKibben. Bill, whose primary expertise is writing, appears to have an almost magical view of what computers can do.

Computers are amazing, remarkable, incredibly useful, but they are not magic. As an IT expert with over 25 years commercial experience, someone who has spent a significant part of almost every day of my life, since my mid teens, working on computer software, I’m going to share some of my insights into this most remarkable device – and I’m going to explain why my experience of computers makes me skeptical, of claims about the accuracy and efficacy of climate modelling.

First and foremost, computer models are deeply influenced by the assumptions of the software developer. Creating software is an artistic experience, it feels like embedding a piece of yourself into a machine. Your thoughts, your ideas, amplified by the power of a machine which is built to serve your needs – its a eerie sensation, feeling your intellectual reach unfold and expand with the help of a machine.

But this act of creation is also a restriction – it is very difficult to create software which produces a completely unexpected result. More than anything, software is a mirror of the creator’s opinions. It might help you to fill in a few details, but unless you deliberately and very skilfully set out to create a machine which can genuinely innovate, computers rarely produce surprises. They do what you tell them to do.

So when I see scientists or politicians claiming that their argument is valid because of the output of a computer model they created, it makes me cringe. To my expert ears, all they are saying is they embedded their opinion in a machine and it produced the answer they wanted it to produce. They might as well say they wrote their opinion into a MS Word document, and printed it – here is the proof see, its printed on a piece of paper…

My second thought, is that it is very easy to be captured by the illusion, that a reflection of yourself means something more than it does.

If people don’t understand the limitations of computers, if they don’t understand that what they are really seeing is a reflection of themselves, they can develop an inflated sense of the value the computer is adding to their efforts. I have seen this happen more than once in a corporate setting. The computer almost never disagrees with the researchers who create the software, or who commission someone else to write the software to the researcher’s specifications. If you always receive positive reinforcement for your views, its like being flattered – its very, very tempting to mistake flattery for genuine support. This is, in part, what I think has happened to climate researchers who rely on computers. The computers almost always tell them they are right – because they told the computers what to say. But its easy to forget, that all that positive reinforcement is just a reflection of their own opinions.

Bill McKibben is receiving assurances from people who are utterly confident that their theories are correct – but if my theory as to what has gone wrong is correct, the people delivering the assurances have been deceived by the ultimate echo chamber. Their computer simulations hardly ever deviate from their preconceived conclusions – because the output of their simulations is simply a reflection of their preconceived opinions.

One day, maybe one day soon, computers will supersede the boundaries we impose. Researchers like Kenneth Stanley, like Alex Wissner-Gross, are investing their significant intellectual efforts into finding ways to defeat the limitations software developers impose on their creations.

They will succeed. Even after 50 years, computer hardware capabilities are growing exponentially, doubling every 18 months, unlocking a geometric rise in computational power, power to conduct ever more ambitious attempts to create genuine artificial intelligence. The technological singularity – a prediction that computers will soon exceed human intelligence, and transform society in ways which are utterly beyond our current ability to comprehend – may only be a few decades away. In the coming years, we shall be dazzled with a series of ever more impressive technological marvels. Problems which seem insurmountable today – extending human longevity, creating robots which can perform ordinary household tasks, curing currently incurable diseases, maybe even creating a reliable climate model, will in the next few decades start to fall like skittles before the increasingly awesome computational power, and software development skills at our disposal.

But that day, that age of marvels, the age in which computers stop just being machines, and become our friends and partners, maybe even become part of us, through neural implants – perfect memory, instant command of any foreign language, immediately recall the name of anyone you talk to – that day has not yet dawned. For now, computers are just machines, they do what we tell them to do – nothing more. This is why I am deeply skeptical, about claims that computer models created by people who already think they know the answer, who have strong preconceptions about the outcome they want to see, can accurately model the climate.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

UN spurns Palestinian children

Palestinian-youth-arrested-by-Israeli-soldiers-in-Beit-Hanina

Hemaya Center for Human Rights |June 8, 2015

Gaza, Occupied Palestine – Ban Ki-moon’s decision not to include Israel on the list of violators of children’s rights twists the knife in the heart of every Palestinian parent, making it very clear that in the eyes of the United Nations, Palestinian children’s lives don’t count.

When a military with the most sophisticated and accurate weaponry on the planet can kill more than 500 children in cold blood with complete impunity, as Israel’s absence from the list shows, it reveals more than just the complete disregard for Palestinian lives that has become so commonplace in the halls of power. It also makes it abundantly clear that the UN, the single most important international organisation charged with protecting the lives of the most vulnerable, is failing spectacularly.

Children are the lifeblood of the future. How can any world citizen look at the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Palestinian child death toll from the 2014 Israeli aggression, and this decision, and not be appalled?

At best it reflects the paucity of  responsible leadership evident in the UN under Ban Ki-moon’s secretaryship, which has seen public faith in the international organisation reach an all-time low.

At worst it underlines the gross politicisation of an organisation purporting to uphold the rights of ALL humans – and failing.
The only way Ban Ki-moon’s decision – if not his entire leadership in relation to the Palestinian issue – can be called a success is if the intention is to ‘grow’ a generation of increasingly angry cynics with no respect for the abject hypocrisy emanating from Geneva and New York.

Hemaya expresses its utmost disappointment in the attitude to Palestinian children that the decision represents, and calls on human rights bodies and concerned citizens everywhere to roundly reject it by supporting and valuing those Palestinian children who survived, and who continue to suffer under illegal occupation, repression and siege.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 7 Comments

Multiple Cops Don their Batons and Turn a Mentally Ill Man into a Human Pinata

By Jay Syrmopoulos | The Free Thought Project | June 8, 2015

Salinas, Calif. – A brutal attack on a mentally ill man by Salinas police was caught on cell phone video Friday. The graphic video shows officers relentlessly beating a man with batons as he lay on the ground.

Police claim Jose Velasco, 28, was attempting to shove his mother into oncoming traffic. However, a woman claiming to be Velasco’s sister, Antionette Ramirez, disputed the police narrative, claiming “He didn’t try to kill my mom. … She walked away just fine,” she said.

The victims mother had initially called police about her son running into traffic. The responding officers’ claim they saw Velasco slamming his mother onto the pavement upon their arrival on the scene.

Police claim Velasco attempted to grab an officer’s Taser, removing it from its holster, with an officer then firing another Taser at him twice with no effect, according to The Californian.

The video catches none of that.

While police have taken the stance that five officers were beating Velasco mercilessly with batons to force compliance and put him into handcuffs, it seems clear from the video that the brutal beating was extreme and excessive.

Multiple officers can be seen hitting the victim with haymaker power swings with their batons while Velasco is laying prostrate on the pavement. The video then appears to show the officers holding Velasco down until another officer arrives on the scene. The newly arrived officer immediately begins brutalizing him with his baton as other officers restrain Velasco on the ground.

Salinas police are no strangers to controversy, as another video of Salinas police officers beating a suspect, which is eerily similar to this incident, came to light last January.

It’s clear from the video that these officers were not attempting to restrain this man, but rather were caught up in a frenzy of violence and attempting to inflict severe damage on Velasco by beating him like a pinata. There is a distinct line between attempting to force compliance and sadistically exacting punishment.

The victimization of the public is unmistakable. These cops were engaging in punishment; not an attempt at compliance or protecting themselves from harm. Actions such as these are why people are increasingly beginning to perceive police in a negative light.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , | 2 Comments

Russia has better things to do than start WW3

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | June 8, 2015

Vladimir Putin said this weekend that “Russia would attack NATO only in a mad person’s dream.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of mad people working in western politics and media.

If the G7 were based on GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, it would be comprised of the USA, China, India, Japan, Russia, Germany and Brazil. Such a lineup would have remarkable clout. Members would boast 53% of the globe’s entire GDP and the planet’s 3 genuine military superpowers would be represented.

The problem for Washington is that this putative G7 might actually be a forum for a real debate about the world order.

Instead of a real G7, we have a farce. An American dominated talking shop where the US President allows ‘friendly’ foreign leaders to tickle his belly for a couple of days. There is no dissent. Washington’s dominance goes unquestioned and everyone has a jolly time. Especially since they kicked out Russia last year – Vladimir Putin was the only guest who challenged the consensus.

However, the problem is that this ‘convenient’ G7 is way past its sell-by-date. The days when its members could claim to rule the world economically are as distant as the era of Grunge and Britpop. Today, the G7 can claim a mere 32% of the global GDP pie. Instead of heavyweights like China and India, we have middling nations such as Canada and Italy, the latter an economic basket case. Canada’s GDP is barely more than that of crisis-ridden Spain and below that of Mexico and Indonesia.

Yet, the Prime Minister of this relative non-entity, Stephen Harper, was strutting around Bavaria all weekend with the confidence of a man who believed his opinion mattered a great deal. Of course, Harper won’t pressure Obama. Rather, he prefers to – metaphorically – kiss the ring and croon from the same hymn sheet as his southern master.

NATO and the G7 – 2 sides of 1 coin?

There was lots of talk of “Russian aggression” at the G7. This was hardly a surprise given that 6 of the 7 are also members of NATO, another body at which they can tug Washington’s forelock with gay abandon. Obama was at it, David Cameron parroted his guru’s feelings and Harper was effectively calling for regime change in Russia. It apparently never occurred to the trio that resolving their issues with Russia might be easier if Putin had been in Bavaria? The knee-jerk reaction to remove Russia from the club was hardly conducive to dialogue.

Meanwhile, Matteo Renzi stayed fairly quiet. It has been widely reported that the Italian Prime Minister privately opposes the EU’s anti-Russia sanctions due to the effects on Italy’s struggling economy. Also, Renzi’s next task after the G7 summit is to welcome Putin to Rome.

With that visit in mind, Putin gave an interview to Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera where he essentially answered the questions that Obama, Cameron and Harper could have asked him if they hadn’t thrown their toys out of the pram and excluded Russia from the old G8. Putin stressed that one should not take the ongoing “Russian aggression” scaremongering in the West seriously, as a global military conflict is unimaginable in the modern world. The Russian President also, fairly bluntly, stated that “we have better things to be doing” (than starting World War 3).

Putin also touched on a point many rational commentators have continuously made. “Certain countries could be deliberately nurturing such fears,” he added, saying that hypothetically the US could need an external threat to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. “Iran is clearly not very scary or big enough” for this, Putin noted with irony.

A world of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’

For Washington to maintain its huge military spending, it has to keep its citizens in a state of high alarm. Otherwise, they might insist that some of the armed forces’ cash is diverted to more productive things like hospitals and schools. These services, of course, are not very profitable for weapons manufacturers or useful for newspaper and TV editors looking for an intimidating narrative.

Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia was too weak and troubled to be a plausible enemy. Aside from its nuclear arsenal – the deployment of which would only mean mutual destruction – the bear’s humbled military was not a credible threat. Instead, the focus of warmonger’s venom shifted to the Middle East and the Balkans, where Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic and Osama Bin Laden kept the general public’s attention occupied for roughly a decade and a half. However, they are now all dead and pro-war propaganda needs a new bad guy to play the Joker to America’s Batman.

Kim Jong-un looked promising for a while. Nevertheless, the problem here is that North Korea is too unpredictable and could very feasibly retaliate to provocations. Such a reaction could lead to a nuclear attack on Seoul, for instance, or draw Washington into a conflict with China. Even for neocons, this is too risky. Another candidate was Syria’s Basher Al-Assad. Unfortunately, for the sabre rattlers, just as they imagined they had Damascus in their sights, Putin kyboshed their plan. This made Putin the devil as far as neocons are concerned and they duly trained their guns in his direction.

Russia – a Middle East/North Africa battleground?

In the media, it is noticeable how many neocon hacks have suddenly metamorphosed from Syria ‘experts’ into Russia analysts in the past 2 years. Panda’s Mark Ames (formerly of Moscow’s eXILE ) highlighted this strange phenomenon in an excellent recent piece. Ames focused on the strange case of Michael Weiss, a New York activist who edits the anti-Russia Interpreter magazine (which is actually a blog). The Interpreter is allegedly controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a shadowy foundation called Herzen (not the original Amsterdam-based Herzen) of which no information is publicly available.

Weiss was a long-time Middle East analyst, who promoted US intervention to oust Assad. Suddenly, shortly before the initial Maidan disturbances in Kiev, he re-invented himself as a Russia and Ukraine ‘expert,’ appearing all over the US media (from CNN to Politico and The Daily Beast ) to deliver his ‘wisdom.’ This is despite the fact that he appears to know very little about Russia and has never lived there. The managing editor of The Interpreter is a gentleman named James Miller, who uses the Twitter handle @millerMENA (MENA means Middle East, North Africa). Having been to both, I can assure you that Russia and North Africa have very little in common.

Weiss and Miller are by no means unusual. Pro-War, neocon activists have made Russia their bete noir since their Syria dreams were strangled in infancy. While most are harmless enough, this pair wields considerable influence in the US media. Naturally, this is dressed up as concern for Ukraine. In reality, they care about Ukraine to about the same extent that a carnivore worries about hurting the feelings of his dinner.

Russia’s military policy is “not global, offensive, or aggressive,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia has “virtually no bases abroad,” and the few that do exist are remnants of its Soviet past. Meanwhile, it would take only 17 minutes for missiles launched from US submarines on permanent alert off Norway’s coast to reach Moscow, Putin said, noting that this fact is somehow not labeled as “aggression” in the media.

Decline of the Balts

Another ongoing problem is the Baltic States. These 3 countries have been unmitigated disasters since independence, shedding people at alarming rates. Estonia’s population has fallen by 16% in the past 25 years, Latvia’s by 25% and Lithuania’s by an astonishing 32%. Political leaders in these nations use the imaginary ‘Russian threat’ as a means to distract from their own economic failings and corruption. They constantly badger America for military support which further antagonizes the Kremlin, which in turn perceives that NATO is increasing its presence on Russia’s western border. This is the same frontier from which both Napoleon and Hitler invaded and Russians are, understandably, paranoid about it.

The simple fact is that Russia has no need for the Baltic States. Also, even if Moscow did harbor dreams of invading them, the cost of subduing them would be too great. As Russia and the US learned in Afghanistan and America in Iraq also, in the 21st century it is more-or-less impossible to occupy a population who don’t want to be occupied. The notion that Russia would sacrifice its hard-won economic and social progress to invade Kaunas is, frankly, absurd.

The reunification of Crimea with Russia is often used as a ‘sign’ that the Kremlin wishes to restore the Soviet/Tsarist Empire. This is nonsense. The vast majority of Crimean people wished to return to Russia and revoke Nikita Khrushchev’s harebrained transfer of the territory to Ukraine. Not even the craziest Russian nationalist believes that most denizens of Riga or Tallinn wish to become Russian citizens.

Putin recalled that it was French President Charles de Gaulle who first voiced the need to establish a “common economic space stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” As NATO doubles down on its campaign against Moscow, that dream has never looked as far off.

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish writer and commentator focusing on Russia and its hinterlands and international geo-politics. Follow him on Facebook

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): A week in photos 24-30 May 2015

CPTnet | June 8,2015

STONED BY SETTLERS

Pictured here: A Mexican tourist in Hebron was struck in the head with a rock, thrown from the Beit Romano settlement. The Red Crescent ambulance responded. (30/05/2015)

RESISTANCE STARTS EARLY

Pictured here: A young Palestinian girl looks through the wall of the soldiers. The weekly settler tour restricts freedom of movement for Palestinians in Hebron’s old city. (30/05/2015)

ARMED FOR PRAYER

Pictured here: Despite the heavy military presence to protect them, some Israeli settlers walk to the Sanctuary of the Patriarchs armed with their own machine guns. No civilian is supposed to be allowed in with a weapon, yet every Shabbat armed settlers can be seen on their way to the sanctuary in Hebron. (29/05/2015)

UNPUNISHED ARSONISTS

Pictured here: ِAbu Shamsiyeh, a Palestinian resident of Tel Rumeida, is explaining to a CPTer the violent attack he and his family suffered from settlers on Saturday night. Around midnight, settlers set fire to a couch at his front entrance. It took a long time to extinguish the flames. The Israeli police haven’t charged anyone for the crime. The Abu Shamsiyeh family is one of the main targets of settler violence in Tel Rumeida, which almost always goes unpunished. (30/05/2015)

SOLDIERS ON THE ROOF

Pictured here: Israeli soldiers on top of a Palestinian rooftop in the Old City of Hebron. Soldiers also entered one house while providing escort for about 100 settlers and their visitors while they made a tour in the souq (old Market). (30/05/2015)

END OF SCHOOL YEAR

Pictured here: Last week was the end of the school year in Palestine. On the last morning of school, our Kindergarten friends sang for us. These children who are filled with joy, also brought us a lot of joy. (27/05/2015)

KINDNESS AMIDST TENSION

Pictured here: We are greeted with such warmth and kindness every day from this juice vendor in Hebron’s old city. (30/05/2015)

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on the Delegitimization of Israel

By JOHN V. WHITBECK | CounterPunch | June 8, 2015

June 5 marked the 48th anniversary of the “preemptive” attack on Egypt with which Israel launched the fateful “Six-Day War” that permitted the Zionist movement to complete its conquest of historical Palestine.

As the “State of Palestine” (the legal designation for the 22% of historical Palestine conquered in 1967, which is now recognized as a state by 136 other states and the United Nations) enters its 49th year of an apparently perpetual occupation by the State of Israel, the Israeli government and its friends in the United States are mobilizing to fight a new war – a “Legitimacy War” against the “delegitimization” of “Israel”.

The quotation marks around “Israel” are intended to emphasize a fundamental point: When Israelis and their friends speak of the “delegitimization” of Israel or of Israel’s “right to exist”, they are not referring to the legitimacy or continued existence of any physical territory or of any group of people. They are referring to the legitimacy or continued existence of the particular ethno-religious-supremacist political system established in 1948 on the territory previously named Palestine, a territory in which the current population is roughly 50% Jewish and 50% Palestinian.

Why has “delegitimization” suddenly become such an existential threat to “Israel”?

Until relatively recently, very few people seriously questioned the continued existence of “Israel” – either because they considered the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the dispossession and dispersal of the Palestinian people to make room for a “Jewish State” to be a good thing or because they considered it, like the genocide of the indigenous peoples of North America to make room for European colonists and their African slaves, to be a irreversible injustice, not worth thinking about any more.

Until relatively recently, the world’s attention has been focused on ending the occupation of the portion of Palestine conquered in 1967, in large part because that more recent injustice was assumed to be reversible through a “two-state solution”.

However, as Israeli leaders have become more honest and explicit about the perpetual nature of their occupation of the State of Palestine and about their deeply held belief that there is no difference between the portion of Palestine conquered in 1948 and the portion of Palestine conquered in 1967, both being their god’s gift to them and to them alone, the world’s attention has begun to broaden, both regarding the possibilities of the future and regarding the realities of the past.

In the face of the clear Israeli intention to maintain the current undemocratic and discriminatory system of “one state with two systems”, many people have started to look again at the seminal injustice, the original sin, of 1948 and at the inherent nature of political Zionism and to think seriously about the desirability of reforming and transforming ethno-religious-supremacist “Israel” into a fully democratic state with equal rights and human dignity for all who live there – the same political system which Western governments profess and proclaim to be the ideal form of government for all other states.

Of course, nothing would be more likely to make Israelis question the sustainability of their very comfortable status quo and become seriously interested in actually achieving a decent “two-state solution” than a realization that both Western public opinion and Western governments are starting to question both the “rightness” of how “Israel” came into existence and the legitimacy in the 21st century of an ethno-religious-supremacist regime, whether it calls itself “the Jewish State” or “the Islamic State”.

Hence the sudden rise of the existential threat of the “delegitimization” of “Israel”.

No one has done more to delegitimize “Israel” in the eyes of the world than Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Perhaps those who seek equal rights, equal human dignity and some measure of justice, whether in two states or in one, should hope that Mr. Netanyahu keeps up his good work in the “Legitimacy War”.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who as advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

US presidential hopeful: Sanctions don’t facilitate ‘rapprochement’ with Russia

RT | June 8, 2015

Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president, has questioned the US policy of imposing sanctions on Russia. There are “better ways to get rapprochement” with Moscow, he said.

“I should think there would be better ways of getting a rapprochement with Russia,” Democratic presidential hopeful Chafee, a fierce critic of rival frontrunner Hillary Clinton over her 2002 vote on Iraq War, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“They’re so important in the world, and especially to the countries, the former Soviet Republics, such as Ukraine,” said Chafee, who previously served in the Senate as a Republican.

He added: “We need to wage peace in this world. That’s our responsibility. That’s the charge that we’re given with our economic power that we have.”

When asked how he would reshape relations with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, Chafee said to start with the US needs to learn from previous mistakes.

“Stop making mistakes that Secretary Clinton made when we were trying to restart our relations with Russia and Sec. Clinton presented the foreign minister with a symbolic gesture and they got the Russian word wrong. It’s those types of mistakes that set back a relationship – little symbolic mistakes.”

In 2009, the then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, with a little gift meant to highlight the Obama administration’s readiness “to press the reset button” in relationships with Moscow. Instead of the Russian word for “reset” (perezagruzka) the box featured a different word – peregruzka, which translates as “overload” or “overcharged.”

“You’ve got it wrong,” Lavrov noted with a smile. The grammatical gaffe created a stir in the media.

The carrot-and-stick policy in regard to Russia has been considered unconstructive and ineffective by a number of politicians and economists. A senior member of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), Matthias Platzeck, told Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper in May that among other things, “The process of disintegration in the Middle East, in Iran, Afghanistan and Syria can only be solved with Russia.”

Greece revealed last month it was asked by the US to prolong anti-Russia sanctions. Athens replied that Russia is a strategic ally and the “sanction war” is causing it an estimated loss of €4 billion a year.

“I was asked to support the prolongation of the sanctions, particularly in connection with Crimea. I explained the Ukrainian issue was very sensitive for Greece as some 300,000 Greeks live in Mariupol and its neighborhood, and they feel safe next to the Orthodox Church,” Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was cited as saying on the Ministry of National Defense website.

Italian media also previously reported that the sanctions have affected the country’s economy, with trade turnover falling by 17 percent, and the Italian economy losing 5.3 billion euros. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in May that “Italy can’t afford to close the doors to Russia” and “can’t cut ties” with Moscow. Gentiloni also told La Stampa newspaper that Russia plays a major role in resolving world crises.

European experts estimate that due to the sanctions, the West lost €40 billion last year, which includes a €12 billion loss by European farmers. Despite the economic difficulties that the sanctions against Russia, imposed over its stance on the conflict between Kiev and rebels in eastern Ukraine, have brought to the EU, leaders gathered at the G7 meeting on Sunday called for even tougher measures. Russia was expelled from the club last year in protest over its support for the referendum in Crimea, where the majority of residents voted for secession from Ukraine and in favor of joining Russia.

According to a statement issued by the White House after a one-on-one meeting between Angela Merkel and Barack Obama in Bavaria, it was restated that the “duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s full implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Ahead of Obama’s visit to Germany, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated, however, that the introduction of the sanctions on Russia has not brought any positive results.

“I would acknowledge that we have not yet seen the kind of change in behavior that we have long sought now,” Earnest said in his daily press briefing.

The Obama administration has maintained that the longer the sanctions are in place, “the more of an economic bite they take out of the Russian economy.” This, despite the fact a number of EU members have been hit hard by Russian counter-sanctions.

“I think these sanctions are affecting Europe much more as a whole than was expected, and the others on the other side of the Atlantic are not affected at all,” former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT in November.

The Minsk-2 deal, reached on February 12, includes a requirement to withdraw heavy weapons from the contact line and establish a buffer zone. But tensions have been running high in eastern Ukraine recently, leading to growing concerns that the fragile ceasefire was on the verge of collapse.

Kiev forces shelled Donbass on June 3, killing at least six people and injuring 90 others. The RT crew recorded dramatic footage of the shelling’s aftermath. The US State Department refused to acknowledge that the Kiev authorities are violating the Minsk peace agreements, however, turning a blind eye to daily OSCE reports that equally implicate the government and the rebel forces. The Ukrainian General Staff acknowledged last week that Kiev’s forces were using heavy artillery that had previously been withdrawn from the frontline under February’s Minsk peace deal.

Moscow, meanwhile, believes that the timing of the new tensions is directly connected with the upcoming EU summit, which is to take place in Brussels later this month.

2637716 06/06/2015 Firemen extinguish fire at the Oktyabrksy market caused by a shell hit during the shelling of Donetsk. Irina Gerashchenko/RIA Novosti

2637716 06/06/2015 Firemen extinguish fire at the Oktyabrksy market caused by a shell hit during the shelling of Donetsk. Irina Gerashchenko/RIA Novosti

“Yes, indeed, in the past Kiev had already heated up tensions amid some large international events. This is the case, and now we are seriously concerned about the next repetition of such activity,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week.

At the United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told its members that he has noticed “frustration” with Kiev’s “flagrant violation and blunt ignorance of the Minsk agreements” among even those Western states that are “loyal to Kiev.” The UN Security Council members urged both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to exercise restraint and uphold the ceasefire last week.

The conflict erupted in April 2014 after Kiev sent troops to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as local residents refused to recognize the coup-imposed authorities in the capital. According to the UN Human Rights Office, at least 6,116 people have been killed and 15,474 wounded during a year of fighting.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drone victim sues US government over family deaths in Yemen

Reprieve – June 8, 2015

A Yemeni man, whose innocent nephew and brother-in-law were killed in an August 2012 U.S. drone strike, has today filed a lawsuit in his ongoing quest for an official apology over his relatives’ deaths.

Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who filed suit today in Washington D.C., lost his brother-in-law Salem and his nephew Waleed in the strike. Salem was an anti-al Qaeda imam who is survived by a widow and seven young children. Waleed was a 26 year old police officer with a wife and infant child of his own. Salem had given a sermon preaching against extremism just days before he and Waleed were killed.

The lawsuit requests that the D.C. District Court issue a declaration that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful, but does not ask for monetary compensation. Faisal is jointly represented by Reprieve and pro bono counsel at law firm McKool Smith.

Leaked intelligence – reported in The Intercept – indicates that U.S. officials knew they had killed civilians shortly after the strike. In July 2014 Faisal’s family were offered a bag containing $100,000 in sequentially-marked US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official who had requested the meeting told a family representative that the money came from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.

In November 2013 Faisal travelled to Washington D.C. and met to discuss the strike with Senators and White House officials. Many of the individuals Faisal met offered personal regrets for the deaths of Faisal’s relatives, but the U.S. government has refused publicly to acknowledge or apologise for the attack.

In April of this year, President Obama did apologise for the drone deaths of an American and an Italian citizen held in Pakistan – Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto – and announced an independent inquiry into their killings. The complaint notes the discrepancy in the President’s handling of those cases and the bin ali Jaber case, asking: “The President has now admitted to killing innocent Americans and Italians with drones; why are the bereaved families of innocent Yemenis less entitled to the truth?”

Faisal bin Ali Jaber said: “Since the awful day when I lost two of my loved ones, my family and I have been asking the U.S. government to admit their error and say sorry. Our pleas have been ignored. No one will say publicly that an American drone killed Salem and Waleed, even though we all know it. This is unjust. If the U.S. was willing to pay off my family in secret cash, why can’t they simply make a public acknowledgement that my relatives were wrongly killed?”

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Soros Pushes US Bailouts and Weapons for Ukraine

By Ron Paul | June 7, 2015

If you look at the track record of the interventionists you might think they would pause before taking on more projects. Each of their past projects has ended in disaster yet still they press on. Last week the website Zero Hedge posted a report about hacked emails between billionaire George Soros and Ukrainian President Poroshenko.

Soros is very close to the Ukrainian president, who was put in power after a US-backed coup deposed the elected leader of Ukraine last year. In the email correspondence, Soros tells the Ukrainian leadership that the US should provide Ukraine “with same level of sophistication in defense weapons to match the level of opposing force.” In other words, despite the February ceasefire, Soros is pushing behind the scenes to make sure Ukraine receives top-of-the-line lethal weapons from the United States. Of course it will be up to us to pay the bill because Ukraine is broke.

But Soros seems to have the money part covered as well. In an email to Ukrainian leaders, he wrote that Ukraine’s “first priority must be to regain control of financial markets.” Soros told Poroshenko that the IMF would need to come through with a $15 billion package, which was confident would lead the Fed to also come through with more money. He wrote: “the Federal Reserve could be asked to extend a $15 billion three months swap arrangement with the National Bank of Ukraine. That would reassure the markets and avoid a panic.”

How would the Fed be convinced to do that? Soros assured Poroshenko: “I am ready to call Jack Lew of the US Treasury to sound him out about the swap agreement.”

So George Soros will use his influence in the US government to put the American people on the hook for a bankrupt Ukraine — forcing us to pay for weapons, more military training, and Ukraine’s crippling debt.

Who is thrilled with Soros’ drawing the US government into more intervention in the region? The military-industrial complex for one is happy at the prospect of big weapons “sales” to Ukraine. The bankers are thrilled. Washington power-brokers are thrilled. There is something in this for everyone who is politically well-connected. The only losers are the people who will be forced to pay for it, the American taxpayers.

No one seems to ask why we are involved in Ukraine at all. Is it really any of our business if the east wants to break away from the west? Is it a vital US interest which flag the people wish to hang in Donetsk?

One thing we should be sure of is that Ukraine’s debt will not be paid. As in other bailouts, much of it will be transferred to the US taxpayer through the IMF and the Federal Reserve. All of this is only possible because of the perception that the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency. But this too is coming to an end. US military and financial interventionism worldwide are only speeding up the process.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment