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Hillary Clinton flip flops, attacks Sanders on healthcare

RT | January 13, 2016

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton joined her mother, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on the campaign trail this week to attack the single-payer healthcare plan proposed by opponent Bernie Sanders.

Even though Hillary asked “since when do Democrats attack one another on universal health care?” during a 2008 speech in response to a mailer from her opponent at the time, Barack Obama, she called the Sanders plan to cover everyone regardless of their ability to pay as a “risky deal”.

The Sanders plan would destroy private insurance and drug companies, who have donated millions of dollars to Hillary’s campaigns for senate and president.

Clinton famously told candidate Obama “shame on you” in 2008, but now she’s defending his legacy healthcare program dubbed Obamacare, which delivered millions of new customers to for-profit insurance companies through its mandatory coverage clause.

Mother Jones described the new attacks as “an abrupt shift” with just a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Chelsea falsely claimed that millions of people would lose coverage under the Sanders plan during a campaign stop on Tuesday in New Hampshire, where Sanders is now leading in the polls.

“Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era – before we had the Affordable Care Act – that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

In fact, not only would those Americans currently covered by Obamacare continue to be protected by the Sanders plan, but it would also cover the millions of Americans who still can’t afford insurance under the so-called “Affordable Care Act”.

Sanders believes healthcare should be a human right and available to all, regardless of wealth or income.

Chelsea, on the other hand, married a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, lives in an expensive New York City condo, serves on several boards including her father’s controversial Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, and previously worked at a hedge fund.

Sanders voted for Obamacare, but believes it has not gone far enough to provide adequate care for all.

“Deductibles remain much too high for people,” Sanders explained on the MSNBC program Morning Joe. “The question we have to ask is, why are we paying almost three times more per capita than the folks in the UK, 50 percent more than the French, and they guarantee health care to all of their people?”

Sanders proposes Medicare for all, which he says will save taxpayers about $500 billion per year including the initial costs of transitioning from Obamacare.

He also wants to tackle pharmaceutical companies who have been accused by doctors of letting patients die for the sake of profit and donated more money to Clinton’s campaign than any other candidate from either party.


Bernie gains double-digit lead on Hillary in New Hampshire – poll

Clinton Conflicts: Bill cashes in on Hillary’s diplomacy

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey blockades Syrian Kurdish areas surrounded by ISIS

RT – January 13, 2016

Turkey has established a strict blockade of the Kurdish regions in Syria surrounded by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), depriving Syrian Kurds of essential supplies and shooting people trying to enter Turkey from Syria, RT’s Murad Gazdiev reports.

The Turkish border with the Kurdish territories in the northern Syria, which stretches for 750 kilometers, has been fitted with two layers of barbed wire, a huge minefield, and sniper towers at regular intervals. It has only two border crossings that are closed most of the time.

“They [Turks] do not let anything across: neither food, nor humanitarian aid, nor medicine. They only let returning refugees cross,” Hadir Mustafa, the head of one of the border crossings on the Syrian side, told RT.

“The Turkish soldiers do not cooperate, they are aggressive and hostile. They push, hit people and tell them to never come back,” he added.

Murad Gazdiev reported from the border that Turkish border guards had refused to let an ambulance cross the border that was transporting a man critically injured in a terrorist act in a nearby Syrian Kurdish town, saying they needed to receive permission from Turkish provincial authorities first.

Apart from maintaining the blockade, Turkish snipers on towers also target civilians on the Syrian side. They recently shot and killed a Kurdish schoolboy, who was trying to cross the border in order to find work in Turkey.

“The Turks shot him 70 meters from the border, on the Syrian side. I saw the place myself,” the boy’s father told RT.

On Sunday, a 16-year-old girl was also shot dead as she was trying to get to Turkey from Kurdish territories in Syria, while others from her group were injured and had to be treated for gunshot wounds.

The Turkish blockade of Syrian Kurdistan is “total,” Gazdiev reports citing the locals.

“The large part of what we grow here we throw away because we can’t sell it outside,” a Kurdish fruit and vegetable seller named Beze told RT, adding that it is easier to smuggle goods through IS-controlled territories than to transport them through the Turkish border.

“Things that do not grow here also have to be smuggled in. By the time they get here they cost ten times as much,” Beze added.

At the same time, the Turkish border with jihadist-controlled territories in Syria remains open. Weapons, fighters and goods flow freely through checkpoints manned by Islamic militants.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Trump is blaming Bill Clinton for 9/11, that’s partly true, the full truth is that bin Laden was a US asset’

Press TV – January 13, 2016

American scholar Dr. Kevin Barrett says the full truth about the 9/11 Zionist coup d’état in the United States is probably too politically explosive for Donald Trump to ever tell since it would destabilize the US political system.

Dr. Barrett, a founding member of the Scientific Panel for the Investigation of 9/11, told Press TV on Wednesday that if the Republican presidential front-runner did that he would be immediately shut down and taken out physically or attacked quite brutally in the media.

The author of Questioning the War on Terror made the remarks when asked to comment on Trump’s recent statement in which he blamed former US President Bill Clinton for the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The New York billionaire said Clinton could have prevented the death of thousands of American people had he authorized Osama bin Laden’s assassination.

“Donald Trump started a big controversy in the Republican Party when he blamed George W. Bush for 9/11 – quite correctly. He didn’t go so far as to point out that the Bush administration itself was actually complicit in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which it was, but he implied that perhaps Bush allowed 9/11 to happen through incompetence,” Dr. Barrett said.

“Now he is blaming Bill Clinton for 9/11, and that’s partly true too. Of course, Trump is basically seeking political gains from these remarks. I don’t think that Donald trump is a truth teller by any means, but he is letting a little bit of truth to seep out as he seeks political gains,” he added.

“He did gain enormously by blaming Bush for 9/11. He essentially destroyed the candidacy of Bush’s brother, Jeb. And now he is doing what many Republicans and Conservatives have been telling him to do which is shift the blame toward Clinton. And that’s not entirely wrong.”

CIA had 10 opportunities to capture or kill bin Laden

Dr. Barrett said, “We do know that according to Michel Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s ‘Get bin Laden Unit’, that Scheuer and his unit had ten opportunities to capture or kill bin Laden during the run-up to 9/11, and every single one of them was nixed by higher-ups. So clearly bin Laden was a protected asset of the United States, or whoever is really in charge of the United States, from 1996 to 1999, when Scheuer was the head of that unit.”

“We also have a number of other indications suggesting that bin Laden was under protection not only during the Clinton administration but also during the early days of the Bush administration prior to 9/11, and perhaps even thereafter,” he stated.

Bin Laden was treated in American Hospital in Dubai

Dr. Barrett said that” bin Laden met with the CIA station chief when bin Laden was being treated in the American Hospital in Dubai in July 2001. He was treated there by Dr. Terry Callaway, an American kidney specialist. And of course bin Laden had fatal kidney disease.”

“He was apparently such a valuable asset that the CIA – the real CIA, not the division that Scheuer headed, because they apparently were not in the loop – was keeping bin Laden alive and protecting him for a reason, and that reason became clear on the night of 9/11 itself when bin Laden was under treatment once again for his fatal kidney disease in the military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, under the watchful eyes of the Pakistan military and intelligence people who themselves were very closely linked to American military intelligence,” he noted.

“So the upshot here is that Donald Trump is getting at little bits and pieces of truth, but the full truth probably is too politically explosive for Donald Trump to ever tell – not that it would help him politically to tell it, because he would be immediately shut down and taken out—whether physically, by being killed, which certainly could happen, or by being attacked quite brutally in the media.”

Full truth about 9/11

The American analyst said, “The full truth is that bin Laden was a US asset, an undeniable American asset, since the days he was recruited by the CIA and the Saudi leadership to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, and he continued to play that role right up until his death in 2001.”

“He almost certainly died in December 2001, but the American neoconservative faction that engineered the 9/11 Zionist coup d’état in America needed bin Laden to play the role of a pasty, the big bad wolf, the villain with which they were trying to scare the American people into submission to their plans for perpetual war for Israel and the shredding of their constitutional rights,” he argued.

“So they kept bin Laden, blew him up into a myth, and the myth of Osama bin Laden lived on. We have also these stories about how Obama finally killed him and threw him in the ocean according to Islamic custom, the story which had been completely proven ridiculous and false by none other than Seymour Hersh among others,” he stated.

“I don’t know that Donald Trump even would consider telling this full horrible truth, but it would be nice if somebody would, because the American people are being taken for a ride – we’re losing our rights, we’re losing our economy, and we’re dragged into this endless cycle of wars to destroy Middle Eastern countries for the benefit of Israel,” the scholar concluded.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela’s Upcoming Double-Confrontation

By Gregory Wilpert | teleSUR | January 13, 2016

Venezuela is heading for two confrontations, each reinforcing the other – a political and an economic one. The future is very uncertain.

Following the Venezuelan opposition’s recent electoral victory in the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, the opposition seems to be more determined than ever to steer towards an outright confrontation with the president. The goal is to destabilize the government as much as possible, with the aim of achieving his ouster before the end of the year.

The new National Assembly president said that his aim is to have a plan in place for president Maduro’s ouster within the first six months of 2016. Ramos Allup furthered this confrontation Jan. 6, when he swore in three opposition members as representatives, whose election the Supreme Court had previously put on hold due to electoral irregularities. On Monday, January 11, the Supreme Court thus declared that the National Assembly president had acted in defiance of the Court and that from now on all laws that the National Assembly passes are null and void, since the assembly had incorporated members into its body that should not be there.

The political confrontation between the legislature and the executive is thus programmed. The next conflict will be about the amnesty law, by which the opposition intends to free all so-called political prisoners, that is, all opposition figures who have been involved in violent protest of one kind or another, many of whom have been held responsible for deaths of innocent bystanders. Ramos Allup already warned Maduro that if he and the Supreme Court do not implement the amnesty law, he will begin removing ministers from Maduro’s cabinet: “Whether or not he accepts [the amnesty law] will not matter, to which we will say, ‘We do not accept his naming of ministers.’”

The options for the new opposition-dominated National Assembly to get rid of Maduro are several. As mentioned above, it can remove not only the ministers and the vice-president (though this could lead to new National Assembly elections if the vice president is removed three times in a row), remove the heads of other branches of government, such as the Supreme Court, the attorney general, or the National Electoral Council (with prior approval from either the Supreme Court or the attorney general), amend or reform the constitution (which then has to be submitted to a referendum), or call for a constitutional assembly (followed by a referendum).

Also, there is a lot of speculation that the opposition might try to organize a recall referendum against Maduro, but doing so would require the collection of 20 percent of registered voters’ signatures, which amounts over 3.8 million signatures. This latter course is a difficult undertaking. In comparison, when the opposition organized the recall referendum against president Chávez in 2004, it had to collect only 2.5 million signatures because the electorate was substantially smaller.

Aside from the project to remove Maduro and to give amnesty to its law-breaking supporters, the oppositional National Assembly also plans to introduce a number of laws that could undermine the Maduro presidency. A populist measure that the opposition has wanted to pass for a long time is to give ownership titles to the beneficiaries of the housing mission. Over the past five years the government has constructed one million public homes, which it has essentially leased to families in perpetuity, but without giving them a title that can be bought and sold. The reasoning behind this is to avoid the development of a speculative housing market of homes built with public funds. The opposition is betting that most public housing beneficiaries would prefer a saleable ownership title, so that they can sell the home and thereby possibly make a profit from it.

Another law that would probably get the president into trouble is a rumored project to dollarize the economy. It is obvious to everyone in Venezuela that the current economic situation of high inflation, frequent shortages of basic goods, long lines at supermarkets, and a massive black market for price-controlled products, is not sustainable. One “solution” to these problems that some opposition leaders have favored it to simply get rid of the local currency, the bolivar, and base the entire economy on dollars, just as Ecuador did in 2001. Aside from undermining the country’s economic sovereignty, such a move would also almost definitely mean major painful displacements for economy, leading to increased inequality and unemployment. No doubt the opposition would then try to blame Maduro for this, but it is possible of course that they themselves would end up carrying a large part of the blame, which is why the opposition will enter into this project neither unambiguously nor unanimously.

Other major projects on the opposition docket include the repeal of a wide variety of progressive laws that were passed during the Chavez and Maduro presidencies, beginning with the land reform, re-privatization of key industries, and the dismantling of price controls, among other things.

Finally, the opposition has also announced that it will convoke special investigation commissions. Among these are commissions to investigate corruption within the executive and another to investigate the credentials of newly appointed Supreme Court judges. The investigation of the judges could lead to the removal of several of these because the Supreme Court law allows for the removal of judges who do not meet the fairly tough requirements for appointment.

On the Chavista side of the confrontation the options for maneuvering are even tougher. Here the foremost issue for the government is how to deal with the on-going economic crisis, which is bound to get worse especially since the price of oil is tumbling. While the price of an average Venezuelan barrel of oil reached a high of US$55 per barrel in early 2015, the most recent figures point to half that amount, at US$27 per barrel. Unless this price recovers, this could be devastating for Venezuela, especially since 95 percent of the country’s export earnings and 50 percent of its fiscal budget come from the sale of oil.

The 50 percent collapse in the price of oil over the past eight months, however, means a far larger collapse in revenues because a large proportion of Venezuela’s oil is extra-heavy oil that is expensive to extract, reaching a high of around US$20-$25 per barrel, leaving relatively little to no profit at such low prices. In other words, a 50 percent drop in the price of oil represents a far larger than 50 percent drop in revenues for the state.

Maduro recently named a new cabinet, reshuffling many positions, but in the key position of vice president for the economic area, Luis Salas, Maduro appointed someone considered to be a proponent of the same policies as before, who says that price controls and the currency control must be maintained and that the government’s main weakness has been in the area of enforcement of existing policies. In other words, even though the country is now waiting for the announcement of a promised “economic emergency plan,” it seems doubtful that this plan will signal a significant departure from the economic policies so far.

The drop in revenues, combined with an inflationary spiral that the economic war of smuggling, hoarding, and speculation and that the black market for dollars have inflicted on Venezuela, signal a very difficult near-term future for Venezuela’s economy and everyone in it. Some economists warn of possible hyperinflation and of an inability to pay its foreign bills (balance of payments crisis).

In short, Venezuela is heading towards two confrontations simultaneously, where each threatens to exacerbate the other: one economic and the other political. What the prospects are for overcoming these confrontations is impossible to predict at this moment. Within the chavistasocial movements and the governing party, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), more and more voices are calling on the government to organize a massive consultation process with the grassroots, which is something that Maduro has endorsed, but it remains an open question whether these will happen in time and if it does, whether it will be able to provide solutions that will allow the Bolivarian Revolution to move forwards, despite the reinvigorated opposition in parliament.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Eight Problems With Police “Threat Scores”

By Jay Stanley | ACLU | January 13, 2016

The Washington Post Monday had a piece about the use of “threat scores” by law enforcement in Fresno, California. This story follows release of information about this predictive-policing program obtained through an open-records request by my colleagues at the ACLU of Northern California.

The scores are generated by software called “Beware,” made by a company called Intrado. According to a promotional pamphlet obtained by the NorCal ACLU, the software’s purpose is “searching, sorting and scoring billions of commercial records” about individuals. It scours the internet for social media posts and web site hits and combines it with other information such as public records and “key data elements from commercial providers.” Intrado claims that its product is “based on significant amounts of historical work in mathematical science, decisioning science and link analysis,” and “uses a comprehensive set of patent-pending algorithms that search, sort and score vast amounts of commercial records from the largest and most reputable data mining companies in the industry.”

Intrado boasts that its software can target an address, a person, a caller, or a vehicle. If there’s a disturbance in your neighborhood and you have to call 911, the company would have the police use a product called “Beware Caller” to “create an information brief” about you. Police can also target an area: a product called “Beware Nearby” “searches, sorts and scores potential threats within a specified proximity of a specific location in order to create an information profile about surrounding addresses.” So the police may be generating a score on you under this system not only if you call the police but if one of your neighbors calls the police.

The prospect of a democratic government making unregulated, data-driven judgments about its own citizens outside the protections of the justice system raises some fundamental and profound questions about the relationship between the individual and the state. Citizens in a democratic society need to be able to monitor their government, and make judgments about how it is performing. Is it healthy for the government to begin to do the same to its citizens? At what point does that begin to resemble China’s incipient “citizen scoring” system, which threatens to draw on social media postings and include “political compliance” in its credit-score-like measurements?

The governmental scoring of citizens is an imperative we have seen before, not just in the context of policing—for example in Chicago’s “Heat List”— but in other security contexts as well. The TSA, for example, pushed hard under President Bush for a program known as CAPPS II, under which the government would have tapped into commercial data sources to perform background checks on the 100 million Americans who fly each year, and build a profile of those individuals in order to determine their “risk” to airline safety. As with this Beware software, it was originally envisioned as giving a red, yellow, or green light to each subject. CAPPS II was highly controversial from the start, and after a battle that lasted approximately five years the government abandoned the concept (though it does threaten to come creeping back).

There are numerous problems with this or any system for generating “threat scores” on citizens:

  • Scoring Americans in secret. Like the TSA before it, Intrado says that its methods for generating risk assessments will be secret. This is a cutting-edge technology being used for a novel and highly sensitive purpose. Given the vast uncertainties that surround the making of automated predictive judgments about individuals, especially in a law enforcement context, public transparency is vital so that we as a society can begin to evaluate such approaches. We are a democracy after all, and the highly fraught value judgments about what if any uses of “big data” to make in policing must be made publicly.
  • Inaccurate data. We do know that the source data used for such judgments is likely to include many errors and inaccuracies. Anyone who has looked at their credit report knows how frequently those reports get basic facts wrong, confuse different individuals with similar names, etc. The contracts among commercial data brokers and their clients “include few provisions regarding the accuracy of their products,” the FTC has found. For private data companies, accuracy levels beyond a certain point are simply not worth the cost. But the FBI too felt compelled to exempt its primary criminal database from a legal requirement that the agency maintain its records with sufficient accuracy to “assure fairness to the individual” — and damage to people’s lives has been the predictable result. With the Beware software’s scoring formula kept secret, there will be little check against such errors.
  • Questionable effectiveness. Without public scrutiny, the public will not know what data sources are used to generate the scores, how reliable that source data is, how the different variables are weighed and interpreted, and how valid the assumptions behind the inclusion and relative weight of each variable are. Those are highly methodologically and sociologically complex questions, and robust, valid, broadly acceptable answers are unlikely to emerge from the corporate suite of a small company that sells software to police, no matter how much “mathematical science” it brings to the task. Even if the project of rating citizens were acceptable, it could never be done properly without the broad public and expert scrutiny that transparency to “a million eyeballs” brings. Another effectiveness problem comes from the limited ability of key word-based evaluation systems to understand human communications. Scary-sounding language used in private almost always consists of sarcasm, irony, hyperbole, jokey boasting, quotations of others, references to works of fiction, or other innocuous things. Despite many advances, computers are still far away from understanding human social life with enough sophistication to tease out such contexts.
  • Unfairness and bias. Without transparency a major question about secret risk scores is whether and to what extent they will have intentional or unintentional racial, ethnic, religious, or other biases, or whether they include elements that are just downright unfair (such as guilt-by-association credit ratings that penalize people for shopping at stores where other customers have bad credit). There is nothing magical about taking a lot of data and creating a score; the algorithm by which that is done will do no more than reflect its creators’ understanding of the world and how it works (at least if it is not based on machine learning—which I doubt this system is, and which in any case has other problems of its own). Ultimately the danger is that existing societal prejudices and biases will be institutionalized within algorithmic processes, which just hide, harden, and amplify the effects of those biases.
  • Potentially dangerous results. The consequences of inaccurate and biased data may be dangerous and even deadly if it leads police officers, many of whom are already far too prone to use force, to come into an encounter already frightened and predisposed to believe that a subject is dangerous. And officers who do use unnecessary force will inevitably cite the scores as evidence that their actions were subjectively reasonable.
  • An unjustified government intrusion. These risk assessments are being built out of two sources of data that we should not want our government to access: citizens’ social media conversations, and the dossiers that the data broker industry is compiling on virtually all Americans. While public social media postings, unlike private online conversations, are not protected by the Fourth Amendment, as a policy matter we do not want our law enforcement troweling through our online conversations. This would largely waste the time of the public officials we are paying to keep us safe, and create chilling effects on our raucous online discourse. We don’t want secret police in America, or their computerized equivalent, circulating among law abiding citizens as they exercise their constitutional rights—online or off—just to monitor what they are doing. We don’t want Americans to have to pause before they speak to ask, “will this be misinterpreted by a computer?” Nor should the authorities be buying information, directly or indirectly, from the privacy-invading data broker industry, which builds dossiers on virtually all Americans without their consent. While it does this for commercial reasons, the result is nonetheless comparable to what we’ve seen in totalitarian states. The questionable benefits of these invasions of privacy are not worth the chilling effects and danger of abuse they bring.
  • First Amendment questions. Other First Amendment problems stem from the fact that our law enforcement unfortunately has a long history of antagonism toward even peaceful political activists and protesters seeking to make the world a better place—a history that has continued right up to the present. This alone provides ample reason to worry that a ratings system will hurt and chill political activists. The problem is only confirmed by the inclusion (as my colleague Matt Cagle describes) of hashtags such as #Blacklivesmatter, #Mikebrown, #Weorganize, and #wewantjustice on a police social media monitoring list of key words touted as “extremely effective in pro-active policing.” A timid citizen considering tweeting about a political protest could be seriously chilled from expressing himself by the prospect that doing so might make him a “yellow light” in the eyes of the authorities.
  • Mission creep. If this system is sold, snuck, or forced into American policing, it will, once entrenched, inevitably expand. First, in the data that it draws upon as companies and agencies seek ever-more data in a futile quest to improve their inevitably crude assessments of individuals’ risk. Second, the purposes for which it is used may expand as police departments go beyond using them for individual police calls to other uses (force deployment decisions, perhaps, and who-knows-what-else). Risk assessments may be created not just on an individual basis for police calls, but on a wholesale basis for entire populations. And of course the scores may be shared with and adopted by other agencies for use in a wide variety of governmental purposes. They may also spread to the private sector—starting with corporate security forces, perhaps, which often work very closely with police and might use them for anti-union activities, the vetting of customers, or any other corporate goals. In general the danger is that these assessments, once brought into being, could come to reverberate through individuals’ lives in many ways.

Overall there is a lot more easily accessible data floating around about everybody in today’s society. How should the police make use of all that data? How much should be fed to officers in different situations, and in what form? The data revolution raises complex questions for policing that we as a society are going to have to work through—but any law enforcement use of big data needs to be approached carefully and thoughtfully, and hashed out publicly and democratically. That means total transparency. And the risk scoring of individuals should have no part in it.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: Right-Wing Politicians Accept Supreme Court Ruling

teleSUR | January 13, 2016

The Venezuelan Supreme Court had declared the leadership of the right-wing dominated National Assembly in contempt over their defiance.

Three right-wing Venezuelan politicians have finally decided to follow the rule of law and accept the Supreme Court ruling that suspended their election victories until an investigation into allegations of vote buying is concluded.

During National Assembly’s session Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruling was read aloud inside the chamber.

National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup then affirmed that the leadership of the assembly would “abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Socialist lawmakers, who had been demanding the Supreme Court’s ruling be respected, responded with vehement applause.

The three suspended lawmakers wrote to the leadership of the National Assembly Tuesday seeking that their swearing-in be reversed. The majority MUD coalition swore in the lawmakers despite the court order in a defiant provocation last week.

Ramos Allup told CNN that he had received a letter from the three suspended politicians Tuesday evening.

Julio Ygarza, Nirma Guarulla and Romel Guzamana, representing the right-wing MUD coalition, were elected in the state of Amazonas during parliamentary elections held last month. But the electoral chamber of the Supreme Court accepted a challenge to the results over allegations of vote-buying and electoral irregularities.

​The court ordered that all candidates elected in the state of Amazonas be temporarily suspended while an investigation is conducted.

However, the MUD coalition defied the Supreme Court and had the three suspended candidates sworn in. In response, socialist PSUV lawmakers went before the Supreme Court to protest the MUD’s violation of the constitution.

The Supreme Court agreed and ruled Monday that the leadership of the National Assembly were in contempt and any decisions made by the National Assembly would be void after the right-wing MUD alliance swore in the three legislators.

​A fourth candidate from the state of Amazonas, a socialist from the PSUV, was also suspended, but he did not attempt to take his seat in the assembly.

The MUD won a two-thirds supermajority in the Dec. 6 elections, granting it powers to make sweeping changes, including overhauling the constitution and calling a recall referendum on the presidency of President Nicolas Maduro.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Turkey’s ‘Sunni-Only’ Refugee Camps Worsen Crisis

Sputnik – January 12, 2016

Part of the problem with Turkey’s refugee policy is the establishment of discriminatory policies for non-Sunnis in an attempt to craft a new Syrian state, according to Turkish human rights activist Ozturk Turkdogan.

Turkey’s attempts to use refugees as a political bargaining chip have hurt both the refugees and the situation in Syria, President of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) Ozturk Turkdogan told Sputnik Turkiye.

Turkey recently made a 3 billion euro settlement with the European Union to keep refugees from leaving through smugglers.

“I must note that accepting refugees into ‘its’ camps, Turkey acts selectively, giving priority to Sunni Arabs. This discriminatory approach is part of Ankara’s erroneous Syrian strategy, the goal of which is to create a new state in Syria, propped up with Sunni Muslims.”

According to Turkdogan, the refugee agreement between Turkey and the EU does not solve the refugee problem, and Turkey should have appealed to the UN for aid instead.”Today’s refugee issues are the result of wrong-headed policy on Syria,” Turkdogan added.

Refugee smuggling in Turkey has previously been linked to organized crime groups, which make as much as 1 billion euros per year from smuggling.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

4 journalists sentenced to 3 years for disseminating false news, belonging to banned group

Mada Masr | January 12, 2016

In what appears to be an ongoing security crackdown on media personnel, four journalists were sentenced to three years in prison by the Sayeda Zeinab Criminal Court on Sunday. They were convicted of disseminating false information and belonging to a banned organization.

Abu Bakr KhallafElectronic Media Syndicate chairperson Abu Bakr Khallaf was the only defendant present in the courtroom for the sentencing — the three other journalists were tried in absentia.

Khallaf allegedly made his LE1,200 bail on Monday, defense lawyer Hany al-Sadeq told the local rights group Journalists Against Torture Observatory, but it is unclear whether he has yet been released from detention. The first hearing in his appeal has been scheduled for March 17.

Khallaf was arrested on July 21 after the state-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation summoned him to their headquarters for interrogation on charges of operating the Electronic Media Syndicate (which was established in 2011) without a license. He was also accused of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The other journalists in the case — Mohamed Adly of the privately owned Al-Tahrir newspaper, Hamdy Mokhtar of the privately owned Al-Shaab newspaper and videographer Sherif Ashraf — were arrested while reporting outside the Zeinhom morgue on July 1. The journalists say they were there to report on the deaths of nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders fatally shot by police forces in a 6th of October City apartment on that day.

Rights organizations including the New York-based Human Rights Watch have questioned whether police claims of a “shootout” with the nine men were covering up a case of “extrajudicial execution.”

The Journalists Syndicate’s Liberties Committee will hold a session on Tuesday to discuss the three prison sentences issued in absentia, according to a statement posted to the syndicate’s official website. In that meeting, the committee also plans to discuss the referral of six journalists — including three chief editors — to judicial hearings at the request of Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend.

The committee will seek to resolve these cases in favor of the journalists, as well as five other lawsuits that have been filed against media workers, the syndicate said.

On Monday, the prosecutor general ordered investigations into charges that high-profile journalist and editor Ibrahim Eissa and his colleague Ahmed Samer insulted the judiciary. The investigations were ordered after a lawsuit was filed against the two men for defamation.

Samer was targeted for his article, “The state that spurns itself,” published in the privately owned Al-Maqal newspaper, which is edited by Eissa. The article discussed the recent prison sentence levied against reformist preacher Islam al-Beheiry for religious commentary on his talk show.

As of last month, at least 32 journalists were in detention across Egypt, the Liberties Committee said, of whom 18 were arrested while reporting in public space.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Ankara Vows to Press Academics Calling to Stop War Against Kurds’ PKK

Sputnik – 13.01.2016

Turkey’s top higher education authority vowed to take measures against academics who signed a letter calling to stop military operations against Kurdish militants, local media reported Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sharply criticized the so-called Academicians for Peace group, accusing them of undermining Turkey’s national security after their declaration was read at press conferences in Istanbul and Ankara on Monday.

After an urgent meeting, Turkey’s Higher Education Board issued a statement saying that the institution would do whatever it took regarding the academics, Today’s Zaman newspaper reported. The body does not have the authority to directly punish the academics, but could pressure university administrations to do so, according to the paper.

Over 1,000 academics from 89 Turkish universities have signed a declaration urging to end the ongoing fighting between Ankara forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

The declaration calls on the government to restore a peace process with the PKK that was abandoned in July 2015.

The Kurds, Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, have been striving to gain independence from Turkey. The PKK, founded in the late 1970s to promote the self-determination for the Kurdish community, is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara.

Severe clashes between Ankara forces and PKK militants have been arising sporadically since a July terror attack in the city of Suruc, which killed over 30 people, most of them Kurds. As Kurds killed two Turkish policemen in what has been said to be a retaliation strike, Ankara launched a military campaign against the group.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Yemen: A very British war

By Dan Glazebrook | RT | January 11, 2016

Britain is at the heart of a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions unfolding in the Yemen.

At least 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi bombing campaign against Yemen began in March 2015, including over 630 children. There has been a massive escalation in human rights violations to a level of around 43 per day and up to ten children per day are being killed, according to UNICEF. Seventy-three percent of child casualties are the direct result of airstrikes, say the UN.

Civilian targets have been hit again and again. Within days of the commencement of airstrikes, a refugee camp was bombed, killing 40 and maiming over 200, and in October a Medicins San Frontier [Doctors Without Borders] hospital was hit. Schools, markets, grain warehouses, ports and a ceramics factory have all been hit. Needless to say, all of these are war crimes under international law – as is the entire bombing campaign, lacking, as it does, any UN mandate.

Beyond their immediate victims, the airstrikes and accompanying blockade – a horrendous crime against a population which imports 90 percent of its basic needs – are creating a tragedy of epic proportions. In August 2015, Oxfam warned that around 13 million people were struggling to find enough to eat, the highest number of people living in hunger it had ever recorded. “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” the head of the International Red Cross commented in October. The following month, the UN reported that 14 million now lacked access to healthcare and 80 percent of the country’s 21 million population are dependent on humanitarian aid. “We estimate that over 19 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation; over 14 million people are food insecure, including 7.6 million who are severely food insecure; and nearly 320,000 children are acutely malnourished,” the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator told reporters in November. He estimated that around 2.5 million have been made refugees by the war. In December, the UN warned that the country was on the brink of famine, with millions at risk of starvation.

Statements from British government ministers are crafted to give the impression of sympathy for the victims of this war, and opprobrium for those responsible. “We should be clear” said Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in September 2014, “the use of violence to make political gains, and the pointless loss of life it entails, are completely unacceptable. Not only does the recent violence damage Yemen’s political transition process, it could fuel new tensions and strengthen the hand of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – threatening the security of all of us…Those who threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, or violate human rights, need to pay the price for their actions.”

Indeed. So presumably, one might have thought, when the Saudis began their massive escalation of the war six months after Hammond made this statement, the British government must have been outraged?

Not quite. The day after the Saudis began ‘Operation Decisive Storm’, David Cameron phoned the Saudi king personally to emphasize “the UK’s firm political support for the Saudi action in Yemen.”

Over the months that followed, Britain, a long-term arms dealer to the Saudi monarchy, stepped up its delivery of war materiel to achieve the dubious honor of beating the US to become its number one weapons supplier. Over a hundred new arms export licenses have been granted by the British government since the bombing began, and over the first six months of 2015 alone, Britain sold more than £1.75 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis – more than triple Cameron’s usual, already obscene, bi-annual average. The vast majority of this equipment seems to be for combat aircraft and air-delivered missiles, including more than 1000 bombs, and British-made jets now make up over half the Saudi air force. As the Independent has noted, “British supplied planes and British made missiles have been part of near-daily raids in Yemen carried out by [the] nine-country, Saudi Arabian led coalition.”

Charities and campaign groups are unanimous in their view that, without a shadow of a doubt, British patronage has greatly facilitated the carnage in the Yemen. “The [British] government is fuelling the conflict that is causing unbearable human suffering. It is time the government stopped supporting this war,” said chief executive of Oxfam GB, Mark Goldring. The director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, said: “The UK has fuelled this appalling conflict through reckless arms sales which break its own laws and the global arms trade treaty it once championed…. legal opinion confirms our long-held view that the continued sale of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is illegal, immoral and indefensible.”

For Edward Santiago, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen, the UK’s “reluctance to publicly condemn the human cost of conflict in Yemen gives the impression that diplomatic relations and arms sales trump the lives of Yemen’s children,” whilst Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, has written that “UK fighter jets and UK bombs have been central to the humanitarian catastrophe that is being unleashed on the people of Yemen.” Leading lawyers including Philippe Sands have argued that Britain is in clear breach of international law for selling weapons which it knows are being used to commit war crimes.

Now it has emerged that it is not only British weapons being used in this war, but British personnel as well. According to Sky News, six British military advisors are embedded with the Saudi air force to help with targeting. In addition, there are 94 members of the UK armed forces serving abroad “carrying out duties for unknown forces, believed to be the Saudi led coalition,” according to The Week – although the government refuses to state exactly where they are.

Indeed, even British airstrikes in Syria may have been motivated in part by a desire to prop up the flagging war effort in Yemen. Questioning of Philip Hammond in parliament recently led him to admit that there had been a “decrease in air sorties by Arab allies” in Syria since Britain’s entry into the air campaign there due to the “challenges” of the Yemen conflict.

For Scottish Nationalist MP Stephen Gethins this suggests that, by stepping up bombing in Syria, Western countries were effectively “cutting them [Arab states] a bit of slack to allow them to focus on the Yemen conflict,” especially needed given that support for the Yemen campaign has been flagging from states such as Jordan, Morocco and Egypt. It is particularly ironic that British MPs’ supposed commitment to destroying ISIS in Syria is actually facilitating a war in Yemen in which ISIS is the direct beneficiary.

Finally, it is worth considering British support for the Saudi bid for membership of the UN Human Rights Council. The Council’s reports can be highly influential; indeed, it was this Council’s damning (and, we now know, fraudulent) condemnation of Gaddafi that provided the ‘humanitarian’ pretext for the 2011 NATO war against the Libyan Jamahiriya. And the Yemeni government’s recent expulsion of the UN Human Rights envoy shows just how sensitive the prosecutors of the Yemeni war are to criticism. It would, therefore, be particularly useful for those unleashing hell on Yemen to have the UN Council stacked with supporters in order to dampen any criticism from this quarter.

Britain, then, is the major external force facilitating the Saudi-fronted war against the people of Yemen. Britain, like the Saudis, is keen to isolate Iran and sees destroying the Houthis as a key means of achieving this. At the same time, Britain seems perfectly happy to see Al-Qaeda and ISIS take over from the Houthi rebels they are bombing – presumably regarding a new base for terrorist destabilization operations across the region as an outcome serving British interests.

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onward examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

How Obama Went From the Anti-Bush to a Bush on Steroids


Sputnik – January 12, 2016

In a recent article for independent German magazine Zeiten Schrift, contributor Klaus Faissner reflected on the US president’s journey from an electrifying candidate with a savior-like quality to a tired leader tarnished by drone strikes, mass surveillance, and a relationship with the media reminiscent of the worst days of the Nixon administration.

In his article, republished and translated by foreign media translation service, Faissner recalled that in the run-up to his presidency, while he was still a candidate, Barack Obama “was presented as the savior of the world – almost a Messiah.”

“He was rapturously greeted by a crowd of over 200,000 in Berlin in 2008 – even before he had been officially crowned as President of the USA. “Yes, We Can!” was the campaign slogan that electrified the crowd, even before he began speaking. The American presidential candidate gathered bigger crowds in Germany than even the Pope, rock stars, or a football game with the national team. He promised to liquidate nuclear arms, reestablish good relations with Russia, pull American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan – and to close the US’s nefarious concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay.”

“As the US’s first black president,” Faissner reflected, “Barack Obama ought to have become the antithesis of everything that George ‘Dubya’ Bush had stood for – a president whose wars had run through the world like cancer, whilst clamping down on basic freedoms for his own people. This was the way the media presented the incoming President Obama – and the world believed the simulacrum they’d been given.”

Unfortunately, the journalist recalled, “what the press wasn’t reporting, however, was that [by the end of his first term], Obama signed more orders for drone assaults than Bush Jr. had done in the entire eight years of his presidency. These were drone strikes which caused catastrophic levels of non-combatant casualties, which America simply wrote-off under the euphemism of ‘collateral damage.'””Like his predecessor, Obama threw all his weight behind GMO agriculture; he didn’t give the slightest thought to his promises to close Gitmo; he showed no interest whatsoever in improving relations with Russia, and he worked actively on destabilizing the situation in the Middle East.”

A ‘Tense’ Relationship With Journalists

“In 2009,” Faissner recalled, “the incoming president declared his intentions for a previously unprecedented level of transparency in government and the apparatus of national administration. ‘Openness will strengthen our democracy,’ as he stressed in subsequent legislation.”

However, “now that Obama has been at the helm for nearly seven years, it’s clear that all these promises were empty piffle. No president after Richard Nixon has been so aggressively opposed to the media, as was highlighted in a piece written by the former Washington Post chief editor Leonard Downie, published in 2013 – about freedom of speech in the United States. Downie suggested the Obama administration was operating a misinformation policy, used electronic snooping on journalists, and was behind a ratcheted-up campaign of persecution against whistleblowers and journalists involved in investigation.”

“An atmosphere of fear pervaded the work of journalists, Downie wrote, with their investigations permanently occluded in secret observation by the state. Despite the administration’s promises to end the ‘unreasonable secrecy’ that typified the Bush era, Obama has in fact continued to expand it. Often entirely irrelevant documents are systematically classified ‘top secret’ to deny reporters access to them.””On top of this,” Faissner laments, “Obama administration staffers frequently take personal offense to articles criticizing government policy. To ward off the increasing frequency of such articles, the Obama administration is increasingly reaching out for the 1917 Espionage Act. Although it had only been employed three times in the first 90 years of its existence, over the period between 2009 to 2013… eight different government officials were arraigned with it, charged with passing governmental information to journalists, putting out a powerful resonance on Capitol Hill. One of those thus charged was Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on government snooping on the whole world’s population by the National Security Agency. Bob Woodward, who broke the news of the Watergate scandal in the Nixon era, warns that any fight against critical journalists only leads in the long term to weaken the nation’s national security.”

A Unique and Powerful Surveillance System

“In reality,” Faissner warned, “Obama has set up a unique system of surveillance. It was done in such a way that people around the world have no idea that Obama’s policies are a continuation, or even a worsening of those of George W Bush. Since October 2011 government staffers in every branch of the administration have been encouraged to snitch on their colleagues. Staff in Federal departments have been obliged since 2012 to report all their contacts with the media, and moreover to report on suspicious colleagues. Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA, said the program had been incepted to ‘block all contact.’ Even staffers of new agencies who are remote from revolutionary activities, such as Associated Press or Fox News have come under the crosshairs of the Obama administration.”

“One such journalist has been James Rosen of the Fox News television channel, who came under observation from the Justice Department, for using information he had received from a highly-placed government official.  The information referred to the international community ratcheting up sanctions against Pyongyang over new nuclear weapons testing by North Korea. The Washington Post notes that the FBI monitored Rosen’s phone calls, and even screened his private email correspondence.”Moreover, Faissner suggests, “the situation worsened drastically in 2015. In a document entitled ‘Law on War’ [a set of instructions on the legitimate warfare practices approved by the US military], the Pentagon stated that journalists could be treated as ‘unprivileged belligerents,’ a status which, according to a representative from the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, ‘gives U.S. military commanders across all services the purported right to at least detain journalists without charge, and without any apparent need to show evidence or bring a suspect to trial.'”

“If the Pentagon is putting spying in the same basket as journalism, the New York Times noted, then this is a step in the same direction as totalitarian regimes. It’s hardly surprising that in the World Press Freedom Index for 2015, the USA is rated at 49 place – on a par with El Salvador, Burkina Faso and the Republic of Niger.”

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment