Aletho News


New Aussie Film on Ukraine Civilian Bombings: a PR Disaster for The US / EU

Russia Insider | August 19, 2015

One of the more extraordinary aspects of the Ukraine war has been the brutal war crimes committed against civilians, by and large exclusively by one side: Kiev.

No less extraordinary has been the refusal of the western media to cover this story, thereby leaving most people in the West simply unaware of the extent of the horrors being perpetrated in their name, funded and cheered on by their leaders. Most of the politicians are as misled as the general populace because they also get their facts from the media.

This situation has always struck us here at RI as a political time bomb waiting to go off, because the story is just too big, too ugly, too heart-breaking, and too widespread to be swept under the rug, and there are too many outlets happy to cover it – Russian state media for starters, but also the enormous alternative media. It was just waiting for the right voice and the right tragic personal story to relate, the Rosa Parks of Donbas.

That voice might well be a young Australian amateur filmmaker named Chris Nolan who has been posting excellent short films to Youtube for over a year now, describing the Kiev revolution (Maidan), and the ensuing war.

Nolan is a musician in a rock band in Brisbane who makes the films in his free time using footage he finds on the internet.

Anna Tuv: lost her husband, daughter and arm to Ukraine shell

In his latest film, he tells the story of Anna Tuv who has become a hero in the global anti-Kiev community and in Russia. Tuv lost her husband, two children, and her arm when her house was shelled.  She is just one of thousands who suffered similar horrors. Her personal story has become a symbol of the insane criminality being pushed by Kiev, and indirectly by Obama, Merkel and Cameron.

Watch the trailer, it is very well done.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Video, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

After the Default: A Neoliberal Debt Solution For Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s debt crisis will likely lead to the privatization of public enterprises including the electrical power authority and the water agency. The proposed solution reflects the application of neoliberal policies as if they were magic recipes for resolving a most complex situation.

By Carlos Marichal | NACLA | August 18, 2015

The capitol building in San Juan. Payments on Puerto Rico's public debt will likely favor large U.S. investment firms at the expense of small local creditors. (Wayne Hsieh / Creative Commons)

The capitol building in San Juan. Payments on Puerto Rico’s public debt will likely favor large U.S. investment firms at the expense of small local creditors.
(Wayne Hsieh / Creative Commons)

This past June 29, the governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, declared the island’s $72 billion public debt unpayable and said that his government would likely be forced to default on its next round of scheduled payments. A month later, García Padilla’s government did exactly that, paying only $628,000 of the $58 million payment due on its Public Finance Corporation (PFC) bonds.

The inevitability of the default has become a major—and contentious—subject of debate on the island and in the U.S. financial media. New York-based financial information agencies, have warned that the default could pose serious problems for several major U.S. investment firms and money funds. Ominously, the debt crisis also threatens to accentuate the economic and social decline of the island’s population, which has long lived in political, social, cultural, and economic limbo.

In all probability, the fiscal and financial dilemmas faced by García Padilla’s government will be resolved by a proposed debt exchange in which new bonds are issued with terms more favorable to the borrowers—the Puerto Rico financial administration. But not all creditors are likely to be treated equally. The noted Puerto Rican economist, Elías Gutiérrez, has argued that the decision by the Puerto Rican government to suspend payments to PFC bondholders on August 1 was not due to a lack of funds but to the willingness to allow the weakest creditors pay for the lack of foresight shown by fiscal and financial authorities. In other words, the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico will play an important role in the resolution of this crisis.

It is estimated that a significant percentage of PFC bonds were sold to small investors resident in Puerto Rico. The bondholders placed their savings in the public bonds because they had confidence in the longstanding positive debt service record of the Puerto Rican government. Among these small bondholders are cooperatives, small banks, 401K pension funds, retirement funds as well as many individuals.

Gutiérrez argues that the government of García Padilla is following its lawyers’ legal and financial advice, essentially dividing the debtors into separate groups: the most powerful—basically U.S. banks and money funds—which will continue to get full service and payment, while the second group, the weaker local investors, would be forced to accept delays and an unfavorable debt exchange. This outcome is the most likely because big Wall Street firms and banks will take their cases against Puerto Rico to the federal courts and, if precedent is followed, probably win. This has been the case in decisions handed down in recent years by New York courts regarding Argentina’s debt. On the other hand, cooperatives, small savers and Puerto Rican retirees are most likely to lose their cases.

The current Puerto Rican financial crisis is different from the older Latin American debt crises because the public debt incurred by the government of Puerto Rico from 1950 to the 1990s was quite small. Budgets were traditionally balanced and deficits limited. The Government Development Bank, founded in 1942, was long effective in raising finance on good terms for development and infrastructure programs and projects, which helps explain the success of the Puerto Rican economic expansion, at least until the 1970s. The oil crisis of the 1970s hit the local economy hard, but continued emigration to the United States made it possible to avoid social collapse. (While the island now has about 3.5 million inhabitants, there are an estimated five million self-identified Puerto Ricans—either born on the island or of Puerto Rican descent—resident in the United States, with over a million living in New York City.)

Puerto Rico’s public debt began to more closely resemble those in Latin America in the 1990s when the conservative administration headed by Governor Pedro Roselló went on a loan binge, increasing the public debt by over ten billion dollars. Roselló was head of the Partido Nuevo Progresista, which is closely linked to the Republican Party, and while in office led an unsuccessful campaign to make Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state. He also privatized state companies, reinforced law-and-order programs and negotiated loans for public works that benefitted major companies linked to his party.

Nonetheless, the administrations of the rival Partido Popular, which held office from 2001 to 2009, did not do much better. Aside from accusations of electoral fraud, corruption, and lax handling of public finances, Puerto Rico’s public debt—much of it issued as municipal bonds—rose by another 22 billion dollars.

The champion in the debt game, however, was the conservative government headed by Governor Luis Fortuño between 2009 and 2013, which managed to add on another 17 billion dollars to the public debt in a mere four years. This profligacy is a major cause of the current debt crisis, which cannot simply be ignored, not least because the economy of Puerto Rico has fallen on hard times.

From the 1950s to the late 1970s, Puerto Rico successfully moved away from the old agricultural export model to light industrialization based principally in textiles, and subsequently to investments by U.S. multinationals, particularly in pharmaceuticals and some electronics. This was complemented by expansion of construction and by a tourist boom. But in the 1980s, the economy took a downturn, and unemployment increased.

In the 1990s this trend was temporarily reversed as U.S. companies took advantage of the tax credits available under section 936 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, which had been designed specifically to attract mainland investors to Puerto Rico. After 2000, however, these tax breaks were reduced dramatically, and hundreds of factories on the island closed, leading to a notable drop in manufacturing employment and tax income. As a result, local governments increased public spending to maintain the economy and sustain employment.

In recent years, more and more bonds have been issued in large part to refinance the old ones. But the debt game has reached a breaking point. The government of Governor García Padilla recently decided on a new strategy and commissioned a study by former officials at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The officials recommended a debt relief program which includes exchanging old bonds for new ones with a longer period of amortization and lower interest rates.

According to a confidential copy obtained by The New York Times, one of the chief authors of the report, Anne O. Krueger, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, commented: “There is no U.S. precedent for anything of this scale or scope.” This document has been baptized the “Krueger Report,” an ironic choice, considering that as vice president of the IMF in 2001, Krueger recommended that Argentina not be given any debt relief, forcing that nation to default.

A likely sequel to the Puerto Rico debt crisis is the privatization of public enterprises including the electrical power authority and the water agency, which in all probability will be declared bankrupt if Governor García Padilla can convince the U.S. Congress to treat them as if they were private companies and to apply Chapter 11 to them. Of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion in bonds, some $25 billion have been issued by public corporations.

As in so many Latin American nations in the 1980s and 1990s, responses to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis entail privatizations and the application of neoliberal solutions as if they were elements of a magic recipe for a most complex situation. In this case, neoliberalism and neocolonialism appear to have much in common.

Carlos Marichal is professor of economic history at El Colegio de Mexico and author of studies on the history of Latin American debts. 

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Argentina Creates Indigenous Film School

Argentina Creates Indigenous Film School

teleSUR | August 19, 2015

As this year’s Indigenous Film Festival concluded over the weekend, the Argentine Governor of Chaco province, Jorge Capitanich, announced the creation of a national school for indigenous cinema.

“Today we confirm the (creation of) the Indigenous School of Cinema. Its a call on people to their own history, based on what they are capable of doing,” Capitanich said.

Indigenous films aim to portray modern and historic events from the perspective of colonized peoples who continue to suffer from extreme inequality.

The school will be created within the Culture Institute, and its creation falls under Law 26,522 Audiovisual Communication Services.

The Indigenous school will provide training in audiovisual basics and will promote production of local content in the different indigenous communities of Capitanich’s province.

The Indigenous Film Festival began in 2008, with the idea that movies are a social tool that go beyond entertainment and transform reality through social inclusion. The festival supports full rights for the indigenous peoples of the Americas and brings locally produced films to other regions.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador Opposition Leader Urges Police, Military ‘Rebellion’

teleSUR | August 19, 2015

Ecuadorean opposition leader Carlos Perez called on the Ecuadorean military and police to rebel against the government during an interview with Ecuadorean TV channel TeleAmazonas Tuesday.

“I call on the military, police you must rebel. You cannot blindly follow an illegitimate act, you cannot do this,” Perez told the interviewer from TeleAmazonas. “If I go to prison for saying this, I welcome this.”

Perez was being interviewed together with his partner Manuela Picq. Both were detained during violent protests last week against the government of Rafael Correa in the Ecuadorean capital. Picq’s detention led to scrutiny of her immigration status, which was found to be “irregular.” A judge ruled Monday that Picq — who said she would begin the process to obtain permanent residency — could stay in the country.

​Perez called for the rebellion while commenting on a clash Monday between opposition protesters and police in the province of Loja, where police — backed by the military — arrived to clear an illegal roadblock and were attacked with sticks, rocks, and fire bombs. One police officer was later kidnapped, but managed to escape his captors during the night.

Perez’s remarks are likely to generate controversy in the country, given that the failed 2010 coup against the Correa government began as a police rebellion. In June, a disturbing video surfaced that appeared to incite the Ecuadorean police force to join opposition protests against proposed tax increases on Ecuador’s wealthiest sectors.

Perez, who previously served 8 days in prison for interfering in the delivery of public services, was caught on video Thursday calling on his supporters to surround the presidential palace, where government supporters had assembled. Following his remarks, protestors clashed with police, who were blocking access to the area in order to avoid conflict between the sides.

During the interview, the pair accused the government of illegally detaining them during the violent protests. Picq had previously told the El Comercio newspaper that she “was treated like a criminal simply for walking on the street,” however, she then admitted on Tuesday that she physically interfered with police, who were attempting to detain Perez.

President Correa said opposition groups have opted to turn to violence due to the “failure” of the work stoppage called by opposition-aligned groups last week. The political coalition United Front, which supports the government, also said the national action had failed, citing that no work stoppages had taken place and the protests had lower turnout than expected.

The violent tactics of segments of the opposition have come under heavy scrutiny. In a statement, the Ecuadorean ombudsperson’s office said, “Violent acts are incompatible with democracy, which is why we challenge all forms of aggression that violates rights, regardless of where it comes from.”

In an interview with the Andes news agency, Mario Ramos, director of the Andean Center for Strategic Studies said, “We do not have democratic opposition, that must be clear: there is a subversive opposition that is acting against the security of the Ecuadorean state, against democracy, against the Constitution. Let me be clear, this is not a democratic opposition, this is a subversive opposition.”

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Bomb the Budget: US Stealth Bomber Financials Defy Laws of Physics

Sputnik – 19.08.2015

The US Air Force apparently made a ‘slight’ miscalculation worth several billions of dollars regarding the cost of research, procurement and support of its upcoming top-secret long-range bomber, according to media reports.

In 2014, in its annual report to the US Congress, the Air Force estimated the cost of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program between fiscal years 2015 through 2025 would be $33.1 billion. A year later however a similar report contained quite a different figure — $58.4 billion for fiscal 2016-2026.

In an attempt to explain this ‘minor’ discrepancy, Air Force officials claimed that both figures were in fact off the mark, with the correct numbers in both cases being $41.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.

US Air Force spokesperson Ed Gulick said in a statement that the program costs remained stable and that the service “is working through the appropriate processes to ensure” the report, requested by lawmakers is “corrected, and that our reports in subsequent years are accurate.”

The Air Force originally intended to award the development and production contract for the bomber in June or July, but eventually delayed the announcement until September. Currently, two entities, Northrop Grumman and a joint team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, – are working to secure the contract.

The Pentagon intends to use the new stealth aircraft to bolster its aging bomber fleet. According to the US Air Force’s estimates, it would cost about $55 billion to construct up to 100 of the new bombers, with each aircraft being worth about $550 million.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Supreme Court Releases Hunger-Striking Prisoner

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | August 19, 2015

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that hunger striking Palestinian prisoner, 31 year-old Mohammed Allan, will be released from administrative detention… but only if medical tests show that he’s suffered “irreversible” damage as a result of his 65-day hunger strike. Apparently, a healthy Allan was a grave national security threat. While a near-dead Allan poses no such threat.  While the Court has done the decent, humane thing, it erased any good will it might’ve generated by compelling Allan had to prove that his ordeal had caused damage to his body and mind so severe that it supported freeing him.

If he recovers and shows no sign of permanent damage, he could be rearrested and forced to serve the remainder of his term under administrative detention. Further, he could be rearrested at any time by authorities under a new order. Such is the caprice of the Israeli legal system regarding security offenses. Under administrative detention, a victim need not be charged with a crime. And such detentions may be extended for six month periods indefinitely. That is why prisoners have begun to resort to hunger strikes. Killing themselves seems to be the only message that moves the hardened Pharaonic hearts of Israel’s security services.

Israel was placed in this “awkward” position by a ruling from the national medical association refusing to participate in force-feeding him, which had been the prison service’s plan. After no doctor would agree, it had to let the hunger strike run its course. It is a pleasant surprise that the Israeli security police couldn’t mange to find a professional willing to perform such a ghoulish procedure. Keep in mind, that a number of countries including the U.S. do permit force-feeding of hunger strikers.

This is a cold, brutal judicial decision in line with a string of such judgments offered by this Court since a hardline majority took over in the past several years.  Lest any apologists continue prattling about the liberal views and support for human rights offered by the highest judicial body as a counter to the racism of the legislative branch, the days of Aharon Barak are long past. Nor are we likely to see such a person on the court in the future.

That doesn’t mean the extreme right in Israel is any less angry at this Court.  In fact, one minister said last week the Court should be “bulldozed.” Apparently, having a court that is obeisant to the right-wing policies of the government as this one is, isn’t enough. They want a Court that opens its sessions with the Likud anthem and swears allegiance to Rabbis Ginsburgh and Lior.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Hanford Whistleblower Vindicated, Receives $4.1 Million Settlement

By Joshua Frank | The Investigative Fund | August 14, 2015

What a long, strange trip it’s been for engineer Dr. Walter Tamosaitis. Well, perhaps not so much strange as it has been heart-wrenching. Nonetheless, every once in awhile those who are maligned end up being vindicated. That’s exactly what happened last week for Tamosaitis, who has been entangled in five strained years of litigation against his former employer URS (now owned by AECOM). 

On August 12, Tamosaitis agreed to a $4.1 million settlement of his federal whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against Hanford contractor URS. While AECOM refused to acknowledge any wrong-doing in the ordeal, there’s no question it didn’t want to drag on the case that could well have made the contractor look even worse than it already did. URS was hired by Bechtel to turn the radioactive sludge at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington into glass rods. It’s proven to be a costly and complex task, and the longer the clean up drags on the more money the contractors make.

“We are very pleased that Walter can get on with his life after five years of litigation, and that he has been vindicated,” said Jack Sheridan, the Seattle attorney who represented Tamosaitis, “This settlement sends a message to whistleblowers everywhere that integrity and truth are worth fighting for, and that you can win if you don’t give up.”

In 2011, I wrote an investigative piece for Seattle Weekly, reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund, that not only looked into the very serious safety concerns raised by Tamosaitis at the Hanford nuclear reservation, put also exposed how his superiors plotted to silence him by removing him from his position and forcing him to work in an off-site, windowless basement. It was an egregious attempt to kill the messenger — a message that put millions of contract dollars at risk. 

What URS didn’t expect, however, was that Tamosaitis would refuse to go down without a fight. He openly spoke with me about a greedy management culture at Hanford run amok. He was candid in explaining that the Hanford cleanup was a cash cow for URS and its parent contractor Bechtel, the same company accused of bilking tax-payers over its botched Iraq reconstruction projects. As such, he accused them of putting profits above safety of its employees and the public. 

Tamosaitis was in charge of overseeing a sludge mixing project at Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant (WTP), where, if certain deadlines were met, Bechtel and URS would walk away with a $6 million bonus. Yet Tamosaitis wasn’t about to sign off on it, because the mixing process wasn’t working out. 

“The drive to stay on schedule is putting the whole [WTP] project at risk,” Tamosaitis told me in 2011. “”Not on my watch’ is a standard mantra among [DOE and Contract] management who like to intimidate naysayers like me. These guys would rather deal with major issues down the road than fix them up front … Cost and schedule performance trump sound science time and again.”

In 2011, Tamosaitis filed a federal whistleblower complaint under the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA). By 2013, Tamosaitis was let go for “lack of work.” Initially his case was dismissed by Federal District Court Judge Lonny Suko, who found that there was insufficient evidence to support his retaliation claim and that he didn’t have the right to a jury trial under ERA. In 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Judge Suko, stating there was “plenty of evidence that Bechtel encouraged URS E&C to remove Tamosaitis from the WTP site because of his whistleblowing, that URS E&C knew that Tamosaitis’s whistleblowing motivated Bechtel, and that URS E&C carried out the removal.”

The 9th Circuit also found that Tamosaitis indeed had a right to a jury trial. In July 2014, AECOM announced it would acquire URS and has since been pushing for a resolution. While no parties admitted liability, with a $4.1 million settlement, it’s clear who was victorious. Of course, the bigger issue is, will this set a precedent and help ensure that future Hanford employees aren’t afraid to step forward and voice concerns about public health and environmental safety?

That’s the hope, insists Tom Carpenter, director of the Seattle-based nonprofit watchdog group that keeps a close eye on all things Hanford. 

“This is great news for Walt and great news for the public. Walt is a hero who staked his career to raise nuclear safety issues that could have resulted in a catastrophe down the road,” Carpenter said after the settlement announcement. “His issues were investigated and validated, and those safety issues are being scrutinized and corrected. This settlement brings justice to Walt, and is a necessary step in the quest to address a broken safety culture at Hanford that has historically punished employees for bringing forward concerns.”

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Environmentalism | , , , | Leave a comment

Nearly 400 kids killed in Yemen since late March: UNICEF

Press TV – August 19, 2015

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says around 400 children have been killed in Yemen since late March, when Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against its impoverished neighbor.

In a report titled “Yemen: Childhood Under Threat”, the UNICEF said that as many as 398 children have been killed and nearly 600 others sustained injuries since March 26.

“Since the conflict escalated on 26 March 2015,” the report said, “Nearly three children are being killed every day and another five injured.”

The report also described Yemen as one of “the most terrifying places in the world to be a child,” stressing that almost 10 million children are in the dire need of humanitarian assistance.

“Overall, around 1.8 million children are likely to suffer from some form of malnutrition in Yemen in this year alone,” the reports said.

It said that 95 schools have been completely destroyed due to shelling or airstrikes by Saudi Arabia, and 305 other schools have been damaged since the end of March.

It said that almost 3,600 schools have been closed in the country, which has affected over 1.8 million children.

Julien Harneis, the representative for UNICEF in Yemen said, “This conflict is a particular tragedy for Yemeni children.”

“We urgently need funds so we can reach children in desperate need,” said Harneis, adding, “We cannot stand by and let children suffer the consequences of a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Saudi Arabia launched its aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an effort to undermine Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to the country’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

The UN says the conflict in Yemen has killed more than 4,000 people, nearly half of them civilians, since late March. Local Yemeni sources, however, say the fatality figure is much higher.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US expands support role in Saudi war on Yemen: Report


Press TV – August 19, 2015

The United States has more than doubled the number of its military staff “providing intelligence, munitions and midair refueling” for Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes on Yemen.

The number of so-called American advisors working at joint military operations centers in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has risen from 20 to 45, The Los Angeles Times reports.

In addition, US warships have also helped enforce a naval blockade in the Gulf of Aden and southern Arabian Sea.

US officials stress the sea cordon is intended to prevent weapons shipments to Ansarullah fighters.

However, human rights groups say the blockade has hindered imports of basic commodities, including food and fuel, to the impoverished nation.

Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an effort to undermine Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, whose fighters had forced the US-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, into exile.

A US special operations team was deployed at al-Anad, the country’s largest airbase, to collect intelligence and launch drone strikes in southern Yemen, until it was driven out in March as Ansarullah fighters advanced.

American officials said last week that they will not deploy the team back to Yemen until Hadi, the fugitive former president, is restored to power.

The humanitarian situation has become critical in Yemen, with many international aid organizations seeking a safe passage into the country to supply medical and humanitarian supplies to the most affected people.

Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report that the Saudi airstrikes have mostly pounded populated areas with no identifiable military targets nearby, leaving a “bloody trail of civilian death.”

The onslaught has claimed more than 4,300 lives and forced more than 1.3 million others from their homes since March, according to United Nations agencies.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment