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Kansas Teacher Barred from Employment for Supporting BDS

By Stephen Lendman | October 18, 2017

Barring longtime math teacher Esther Koontz from renewing her teaching contract, solely for her political beliefs, is a flagrant First Amendment violation.

She righteously supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.

Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibits state contracts with individuals critical of Israel’s agenda. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the plaintiff against state authorities, cracking down on boycotts of white businesses, saying authority over economic relations doesn’t limit or deny political speech.

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA. In July, it voted to divest from US companies, profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.

She supports Palestinian rights. Her employment papers require a declaration in writing of no support for BDS. She declined and was denied the right to train other teachers.

The Kansas law is unconstitutional. The ACLU supports Koontz. Last week on its web site, she headlined “Kansas Won’t Let Me Train Math Teachers Because I Boycott Israel,” saying:

“Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.”

“I was chosen last spring to participate in a program that trains public school math teachers all over Kansas. After completing a two-day preparation course in May, I was ready to take on the role.”

As a Mennonite Church USA member concerned about human rights, notably longstanding abusive Israeli practices against Palestinians, she won’t buy products made by Israeli companies or from businesses profiting from its ruthlessness.

She’s inspired by how activism helped end South African apartheid, wanting to help the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Last summer, a Kansas State Department of Education email said to participate in its math training program, she’s required “to sign a certification stating that I don’t boycott Israel,” she said.

She was “stunned,” refusing to sign “as a matter of conscience.” Asking if she could still participate in the state’s training program, she was told she could not.

She’s challenging the decision with ACLU help, a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf. A public school math teacher for nine years, she’s trained to teach others how to teach her discipline.

“The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons,” said the ACLU:

“(I)t compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint.”

The suit calls for striking down the Kansas law and barring its Department of Education from requiring contractor/teachers like Koontz from certifying no support for BDS activism.

The First Amendment protects the right to boycott, upheld by Supreme Court rulings. American Revolution supporters boycotted British goods.

Colonists refused to obey the UK Stamp Act. They boycotted British goods in protest. Shop owners signed non-importation agreements. They rejected taxation without representation.

America’s first Supreme Court chief justice John Jay boycotted New York merchants engaged in the slave trade.

The mid-1950s Montgomery bus boycott was a major turning point in the struggle for civil rights. Nationwide anti-war protests in the 1960s and early 70s helped end the Vietnam war.

Boycotts and protests are an American tradition – at risk by extremist governance wanting them curtailed or abolished.

The First Amendment protects these rights. Denying them puts all others at risk.

No federal, state or local authority can legally curtail or prevent free expression in all its forms. Nor is requiring individuals indicate their political beliefs a prerequisite for employment.

If justice is to be served, Koontz will prevail in court, including the Supreme Court if her case goes that far, the unconstitutional Kansas law annulled.

Stephen Lendman’s newest book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 10 Comments

Canada passes US-style sanctions bill targeting ‘corrupt’ Russian officials

RT | October 18, 2017

The Canadian Senate has passed Bill S-226, known as the Sergei Magnitsky Law, mirroring similar US legislation. Moscow has repeatedly slammed the bill as a violation of international law and vowed to respond.

Although the bill, titled “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law),” envisions imposing sanctions on any foreign national, not only on Russians, it mentions exclusively the high-profile cases linked to Russia in its preamble.

Among them is the death of Sergei Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention facility in 2009. Magnitsky was a tax accountant employed by the US-British investor Bill Browder, who was accused by the Russian authorities of orchestrating large-scale tax evasion and embezzling hundreds of millions of rubles from the Russian budget. The lawyer was a prime suspect in the investigation. Browder, however, insisted that Magnitsky fell victim to persecution and torture by the Russian penitentiary system after he allegedly uncovered corruption crimes by Russian tax officials. As result of a three-year lobbying campaign, spearheaded by Browder, in 2012 the US Senate approved the so-called Magnitsky Act, allowing the US to freeze the assets of, and bar entry to, Russians accused of human rights violations. The bill has soured relations between Washington and Moscow.

The other cases listed in the Canadian bill’s preamble refer to the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 In London, which was blamed by British investigators on Russian secret services, the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow in 2015 and the detention of former Ukrainian pilot turned MP, Nadezhda Savchenko, who was tried in a Russian court and found guilty of murdering Russian journalists in Eastern Ukraine. She was subsequently freed in a prisoner swap for two Russian nationals jailed by Kiev.

A foreign national is subject to the restrictions under the Canadian version of the Magnitsky Law if he or she is found to be complicit in torture or other human right violations against “individuals in any foreign country” who wants to shed light on the illegal activity by the government or to “obtain, exercise, defend or promote” human rights. The bill also targets foreign nationals involved in corruption.

Speaking on the bill after it was unanimously approved by the Canadian House of Commons in early October, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the legislation was designed to enable Canadian authorities to impose sanctions and travel bans on foreigners found to be complicit in these offenses.

The bill’s final reading was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. To become law, it now requires royal assent to be given by Canada’s Governor General, which is usually a mere formality.

The legislation’s apparent focus on the alleged misdeeds by Russian officials was slammed by Moscow as aggression that would not be left unanswered.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova described the bill as a copy of the “odious American Magnitsky Act,” saying that it will deal a blow to already strained Russia-Canada relations.

“We warn again that in case the pressure of the sanctions put on us increases … we will widen likewise the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia,” Zakharova said in early October.

Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the Upper House Committee for International Relations, dubbed the bill “yet another confirmation of the existence of the dangerous tendency when national legislation is applied to international relations.” The lawmaker argued that neither Canada, nor any other single country, has the right to play the role of a “global ombudsman.”

“Who has empowered Canada with the right to do such things in the international arena, to decide who is corrupt in other nations and who is not, to apply repressive measures to foreign citizens?” he said.

The spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, Kirill Kalinin, said that while the bill is  “disguised as a pro-human rights and anti-corruption measure” it goes against Canada’s national interests, as it will alienate “one of the key world powers,” in times when diplomacy is of crucial importance.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing the continuation of failed policies, pressed by Russophobic elements,” he said in a statement, noting that Russia would respond “with resolve and reciprocal countermeasures.”

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Facespook! Social media giant becomes arm of US intel

By Finian Cunningham | RT | October 18, 2017

Facebook, the world’s top social media platform, is reportedly seeking to hire hundreds of employees with US national security clearance licenses.

Purportedly with the aim of weeding out “fake news” and “foreign meddling” in elections.

If that plan, reported by Bloomberg, sounds sinister, that’s because it is. For what it means is that people who share the same worldview as US intelligence agencies, the agencies who formulate classified information, will have a direct bearing on what millions of consumers on Facebook are permitted to access.

It’s as close to outright US government censorship on the internet as one can dare to imagine, and this on a nominally independent global communication network. Your fun-loving place “where friends meet.”

Welcome to Facespook!

As Bloomberg reports: “Workers with such [national security] clearances can access information classified by the US government. Facebook plans to use these people – and their ability to receive government information about potential threats – in the company’s attempt to search more proactively for questionable social media campaigns ahead of elections.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment, but the report sounds credible, especially given the context of anti-Russia hysteria.

Over the past year, since the election of Donald Trump as US president, the political discourse has been dominated by “Russia-gate” – the notion that somehow Kremlin-controlled hackers and news media meddled in the election. The media angst in the US is comparable to the Red Scare paranoia of the 1950s during the Cold War.

Facebook and other US internet companies have been hauled in front of Congressional committees to declare what they know about alleged “Russian influence campaigns.” Chief executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, are due to be questioned again next month by the same panels.

Mark Zuckerberg, the 33-year-old CEO of Facebook, initially rebuffed claims his company had unwittingly assisted Russian interference in the last US election in November. But after months of non-stop allegations by politicians and prominent news media outlets vilifying Russia, Zuckerberg and the other social media giants are buckling.

Led, perhaps unwittingly, by US intelligence fingering of Russian meddling, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are now saying they have discovered postings and advertisements “linked to the Russian government.” Notably, the sources impugning the “offending ads” are the intelligence agencies and members of Congress who are hawkish on the Russia-gate narrative.

One glaring weakness in this narrative is that the alleged “Russian ads” involved a spend of $100,000 on Facebook. Twitter identified $274,000 worth of “Russian-linked ads.” Some of the information being promoted appears to be entirely innocuous, such as pet-lovers sharing cute photos of puppies.

It is far from clear how these ads are connected to Russian state agencies allegedly attempting to subvert the US elections. Moscow has dismissed the allegations.

Much of it is assumed and taken on face value from claims made by American intelligence and their political and media associates. But what is clear – albeit overlooked in much US media coverage – is the sheer implausibility that the Russian government intended to warp the US presidential election with a few hundred thousand dollars.

Facebook alone earns billions of dollars from advertising. The alleged Russian ads represent a drop in the bucket. The expenditure and presumed impact on public opinion is also negligible compared to the billions of dollars American corporations donated to the election campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook are among the top 50 biggest US corporate donors in lobbying the Federal government and Congress. Last year, the top 50 corporations reportedly spent over $700 million, of which Alphabet and Facebook contributed $15 million and $8.7 million, respectively. This expenditure is explicitly intended to influence policy and legislation. So, what’s that about Russia allegedly swaying the presidential election with a fraction of the financial muscle?

Despite the irrational focus on Russian meddling, internet companies like Facebook have become willing participants in the official efforts to clamp down on this illusory “enemy of democracy.”

What’s more is the complete oversight on how the US media environment is increasingly dominated and controlled by vested powerful corporate interests.

While the mainstream media and politicians fret over alleged Russian influence on American citizens, there is an absurd absence in the public debate about the disproportionate power of just six US media conglomerates dominating all major American news services.

Social media and internet companies are vying with the traditional news channels. In a recent article, New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote about the “Frightful Five” – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google). He writes: “The Five elicit worries of total social control.”

The influence these US-owned media giants exert cuts across all cultural sectors, from the news received, to books, film and other entertainment. In effect, these companies are molding citizens into the consumers that they want to maximize their profits.

Facebook’s reported plans to employ US government-validated people who can use their intelligence contacts and prejudices to control what millions of ordinary people will read, watch or listen to is another manifestation of the larger drift into a corporate matrix.

Under the preposterous guise of “protecting” from “fake news” and “foreign meddling in elections,” Facebook is turning into a government censor.

This disturbing trend has accelerated over the last year. Far from Russia or some other foreign impostor tampering with freedom of information and free speech – supposed bedrocks of democracy – it is increasingly American companies that are the very real and formidable constraint.

Robert Bridge, a fellow Op-Edge contributor, said Facebook appears to be deliberately blocking links disseminating particular news stories carried by the channel.

Bridge concurs with the experience of many other ordinary people around the world who also have noticed how US internet companies have substantially curbed the search freedom previously enjoyed on the internet.

“It’s really incredible how Google and YouTube have earnestly started manipulating their algorithms and censoring news, ” says Bridge. “I was researching a story recently, and it was so difficult to pull up any relevant information that was not critical of Putin or Russia.”

A similar finding was reported by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), which carried out a study on how search traffic to that site and other left-wing, anti-war online journals has plummeted by over 50 percent since Google announced new search engines to curtail “fake news” back in April.

Facebook and the other big US internet companies are instead directing users to what they call “authoritative” news organizations, which by and large are corporate-controlled entities aligned with government interests. Ironically, these news outlets have peddled some of the biggest fake news stories, such as the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which launched a decade-long US war killing over a million Iraqis.

“Russia-gate” is another fabricated narrative which is being used to crush critical alternative sources.

The infernal paradox is that genuinely alternative, critical news sources are now at risk of being censored by internet companies working in league with nefarious US government intelligence.

Read more:

Welcome to 1984: Big Brother Google now watching your every political move

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Colombian Social Leader Assasinated Weeks After 7 Campesinos Were Killed

Jose Jair Cortes

Jose Jair Cortes | Photo: UN
teleSUR | October 17, 2017

A Colombian social leader, Jose Jair Cortes, was murdered in a rural area of Tumaco municipality located in the southwest department of Narino.

Jair Cortes, a member of the local council of the Alto Mira and Frontera Community, was killed in a sector called Y, located in the heart of the city of Tumaco. The social leader was one of seven community leaders to receive death threats in recent months.

The governor of Narino, Camilo Romero Galeano, denounced the murder that occurred just weeks after a massacre that left seven people dead in the village of El Tandil, in the same municipality.

The state government has urged the authorities to investigate the exact details of the community leader’s murder.

“We have once again resisted accepting that the war will continue to make its mark on the Narino pacific,” Romero said. “Our voice of solidarity for the family of Jose Jair Cortes in this painful moment that keeps the mourning in our south.”

“We are profoundly affected by this death, just days after we met in Tumaco with him and the other members of this Junta de Gobierno, corresponding to the territory where the painful events that six peasants and dozens of wounded and still remain of research,” the official statement said.

The community council in the area has repeatedly denounced human rights violations against the Afro-Colombian, Mestizo and Indigenous peasants in the region. The campesinos in the area have been protesting against government’s plan to reduce the production of Cocoa crop, an important means of livelihood for many in the region.

In the western department of Cauca, over 40 campesinos have been injured and one journalist killed in clashes between the Indigenous community members and the Colombian police.

The Indigenous community members who began their protests 10 days ago are demanding the property in the Coconuco Indigenous Reservation, a rural area of Purace municipality, where the government had promised them land in 2013.

The Mobile Anti-Riot Squads (ESMAD) accused the natives of encroaching private property. ESMAD member, Capt. Edgar Garcia, told Caracol, a local radio station that the natives threw “immense rocks that destroy sticks and all around, equally, they shoot us with artifacts, stones, bottles, and explosives to intimidate us, while we are defending the private property.”

Whereas, a spokesman for the protesters quoted by the local radio station, said that “about 10 ESMAD trucks, two tanks and all the artifacts against the indigenous peoples, entered the community.”

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost

By Mark P. Fancher | Black Agenda Report | October 18, 2017

From the outset, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has incorrectly presumed the stupidity of Africans and others who are concerned about the continent. To answer accusations that the U.S. uses its military to ensure continuing imperialist domination of Africa, AFRICOM has stubbornly insisted that its sole objectives are to advise and support the armies of African government “partners” and to provide humanitarian assistance. But we know the truth to be otherwise.

U.S. Army General Donald Bolduc shamelessly told NBC News: “America is not at war in Africa. But its partner forces are.” But even a soldier can recognize the farce. Former Green Beret Derek Gannon said: “[U.S. military involvement in Africa] is called Low Intensity Irregular Warfare, yet technically it’s not considered war by the Pentagon. But warfare is warfare to me.”

The U.S. maintains two facilities in Africa that qualify as military bases. However, according to NBC the U.S. increased the number of embassy-based military missions called “Offices of Security Cooperation” from nine in 2008 to 36 in 2016. Researchers say the U.S. military now has a presence in at least 49 African countries, presumably to fight terrorism. Even if anti-terrorism were the actual ultimate objective, military.com has pointed out:

“The U.S. has found some of its efforts to fight extremists hobbled by some African governments, whose own security forces are ill-equipped to launch an American-style hunt for the militants yet are reluctant to accept U.S. help because of fears the Americans will overstay their welcome and trample their sovereignty.”

In the face of Africa’s suspicion, the U.S. still sees strategic benefits to extending AFRICOM’s tentacles into every corner of the continent. In one case the Obama Administration sent 100 troops to Niger in 2013 to set up a drone base in a location where the U.S. was already providing aerial refueling assistance to the French. By June of this year, the number of U.S. military personnel in Niger had grown to at least 645, and by now there may be as many as 800 U.S. troops in that country. While the military establishment may believe that ever-deepening engagement of this kind is helpful to U.S. interests, there is a cost. Earlier this month four U.S. soldiers in Niger were killed in a firefight with alleged terrorist forces. According to at least one account:

“On October 5, about 30 Nigerien troops were patrolling in unarmored trucks alongside a dozen U.S. Army soldiers, among them Green Beret special forces. The patrol was coming from a meeting with tribal leaders and came within striking distance of the border between Niger and its war-torn neighbor Mali. The militants rode in on motorcycles and attacked the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing eight: four Nigeriens, three Green Berets, and another U.S. soldier whose body wasn’t discovered until two days after the attack.”

Implicit in AFRICOM messaging is that U.S. troops help African soldiers protect helpless Africans from an unwanted “terrorist” presence. However, a CNN report about the ambush in Niger states:

“Some of the soldiers who attended the meeting with local leaders said that they suspected that the villagers were delaying their departure, stalling and keeping them waiting, actions that caused some of them to suspect that the villagers may have been complicit in the ambush…”

Military commanders who intervene in other countries should know that when non-combatant villagers have taken up the cause of any group — regardless of the group’s objectives — a military victory for the interveners is practically hopeless. Nevertheless, “[m]ultiple officials told CNN that the Trump administration is talking to the Nigerien government about a potential imminent U.S. military action to hit back at the militant group that killed the American soldiers.”

Under U.S. law, Congress has the opportunity to arrest any continuing reckless military engagement by Trump. The War Powers Resolution provides that under certain circumstances a President can deploy troops into combat situations, but there are periodic reporting requirements for a President as well as time limits on how long troops can remain engaged in conflicts without a formal declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization. Nevertheless, the Congress has a history of failing to curb U.S. military intervention in other countries, and we should not expect them to do it now. Notwithstanding the deaths in Niger, Africa is not regarded in the minds of Congress or the broader public as a place where the U.S. is at war.

AFRICOM has been confident of its ability to expand the U.S. military presence in Africa while flying below the radar because of its supposed advisory role. Its plan has been to use proxy African soldiers to engage in actual combat without worries of U.S. casualties and the attendant controversies and backlash. But the deaths in Niger represent an unexpected snafu.

While it may be true that on this occasion, the deaths in Niger faded quickly from media focus, and consequently from the attention of the U.S. public, there is good reason to believe there are more deaths to come. Africans are not stupid, but U.S. military officials are if they ignore the possibility that even the most humble African villagers passionately resent an ever-widening presence of U.S. military personnel in their communities. These humble people may lack the wherewithal to effectively demonstrate their hostility, but the recent killings in Niger with the suspected assistance of villagers evidence the possibility that there are forces eager to exploit African anger and confusion about the presence of U.S. troops.

If the death toll of U.S. troops continues to climb and AFRICOM loses its low profile, there should be no surprise in the Pentagon about its chickens coming home to roost.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes periodically for Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at mfancher(at)Comcast.net.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Israeli occupation forces Carry out Raids on Palestinian Media Firms

© idf.il
Al-Manar | October 18, 2017

Israeli occupation forces raided Palestinian media offices across the occupied West Bank overnight in what a military spokeswoman on Wednesday called a “large-scale operation” against “incitement.”

The raids on eight companies came hours after the Israeli government declared that it would not deal with an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the resistance movement made radical changes.

Israeli officials said the raids targeted companies that provide services to Hamas television stations. Notices were posted saying the companies were to be closed for six months.

“Israeli army forces last night raided eight Palestinian production and media companies that provide services to Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds TV channels,” the head of an Israeli defense ministry unit known as COGAT, Yoav Mordechai, wrote on Facebook, referring to Hamas channels.

“These two channels broadcast constant incitement against the state of Israel. It is no secret that these two channels inspired, several times, terrorists to go out and commit terrorist attacks against innocents.”

Israeli officials provided no specific examples of the alleged incitement. At least one of the companies targeted provides various services to a range of local and international news media.

The Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms”.

“Occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices,” PA government spokesman Yusef al-Mahmoud said in a statement.

He said the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Balfour 100: Celebrating 100 Years of Injustice and Oppression

By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | October 18, 2017

On 7 November, in London’s famous Royal Albert Hall, there’s to be “a unique event drawing Christians and Jews together in celebration of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and all that it led to.”

Christians will be reaching out to support the Jewish community and the state of Israel, or so the organisers claim.

Our vision to stage such a big event at the Royal Albert Hall is ambitious and we recognise our reliance on God to enable every aspect of it.The evening’s programme will follow the history of God’s work through the Balfour Declaration that culminated in the independence of the modern state of Israel. We will use dance, film, song and drama sketches to illustrate how God used both Christians and Jews to fulfil the prophesied return of the Jewish people from exile to their ancient biblical homeland Israel,” says the blurb.

And it adds: “Christian leaders will read statements that will reflect Christians’ desire to…

  • Reconnect with the spiritual heritage of godly men who espoused the restoration of Israel to her Land;

  • Remember the Balfour Declaration and the Jewish-Christian partnerships that made it a reality;

  • Recognise the failure of Britain to fulfil the intent of the Balfour Declaration through the mandate for Palestine;
  • Rededicate ourselves as Christians to support Israel and the Jewish community.”

And the Royal Albert Hall, we are reminded, is where Lord Balfour celebrated with the Jewish community the granting to Britain of the Mandate for Palestine.

The rest of us of course remember Arthur Balfour as the Tory twit whose lamebrain ‘Declaration’ made it possible for Zionists who have no ancestral links to the Holy Land to dispossess, lock up and abuse Palestinians who do.

It was God’s work, we’re told. So that’s alright then And while we recover our composure we may well ask what kind of warped Christians dreamed up this Albert Hall caper, how the Balfour Declaration and its sickening legacy could possible have been “God’s work”, and how many “godly men” were among the perpetrators.

Then let’s cut to another declaration — The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a joint statement by the heads of Palestinian Christian churches, which

  • rejects Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message;
  • rejects the alliance of Christian Zionist leaders with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States; and
  • rejects the teachings of Christian Zionism that advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war.

Thankfully, a sermon recently delivered in Westminster Abbey by Michael Doe, Preacher of Gray’s Inn, added some important context missing from the Royal Albert Hall‘s promo patter: “The Balfour Declaration made way for the creation of Israel. It also said that nothing should be done ‘which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. We British who made the Declaration have an unfinished responsibility to ensure its implementation.

To be precise Balfour’s pledge said it being clearly understood” that nothing should be done to prejudice the rights of non-Jews. What’s not to understand? But that bit was conveniently forgotten within 30 years and is shrugged off today.

Who is behind this cringe-making celebration? Balfour 100. Who is behind Balfour 100? It’s hard to know. The Jewish Leadership Council’s website says that the Balfour 100 steering committee is comprised of 23 British-Jewish communal and Israel advocacy organisations but doesn’t name them. Among those, however, will be a number of fake Christians who are happy to stooge for the Zionists’ vile ambitions.

These pseuds have apparently ignored the cry for help issued only months ago by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches and the entire ecumenical movement. It was signed by over 30 organisations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and can be read in full here.

They say: “We are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unlawful Balfour declaration…. A hundred years later and there is still no justice! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule…. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leader’s callings – Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality.”

The churches’ message ends with these ominous words: “Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse…. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.”

The Royal Albert Hall was built by Queen Victoria to commemorate her beloved husband and consort Prince Albert. I’ll wager the idea of the flag of a rogue foreign military power fluttering from this fine building, or displayed inside, would have both of them spinning in their marbled vault at Frogmore.

And if Theresa May accompanies her guest Bibi Netanyahu to the Albert Hall shindig she’ll hand him and his cruel regime a huge propaganda victory.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

Who’s Afraid of Conspiracy Theory?

By Tim Hayward | October 18, 2017

‘Conspiracy theory’ is frequently used as a derogatory term, a term of disdain and implicit criticism. An effect of this is to discourage certain kinds of legitimate critical inquiry. But surely, in a world where conspiracies happen, we need good theories of what exactly is happening. The only people who really have anything to worry about from conspiracy theories are conspirators who stand to be exposed by them. For the rest of us, if someone proposes a far-fetched theory, we are instinctively sceptical; if they propose a theory that accounts for some otherwise unaccountable occurrences, they may be helping us learn something.

Of course, people can sometimes be misled by conspiracy theories, but people are misled by the beliefs that conspiracy theories challenge too. This betokens a need for careful scrutiny of controversial contentions quite generally. Obviously, a conspiracy theory is only a theory unless there is also proof. But it is one thing to demand the truth of a theory be proven; it is quite another to pronounce that such a theory can never be accepted as true. Unfortunately, even academic critics fail to observe that clear distinction, with some of them going so far as to condemn conspiracy theories in general, pre-emptively.[1]

Yet what are denigrated as ‘conspiracy theories’ are quite often legitimate lines of inquiry pursued in a spirit of critical citizenship, with the aim of holding to account those who exercise otherwise unaccountable power and influence over our lives, including in ways we are not all always aware of.

My argument, then, is that a kind of inquiry that can be intellectually respectable and socially necessary is far too readily sidelined with the categorisation of it as ‘conspiracy theory’. However, since the name has stuck, I propose we should embrace the designation and push back from the sideline to show how it is possible to engage in conspiracy theory using credible methods of research.

The problem that concerns critics, in fact, is a kind of extravagantly speculative activity that involves believing untested hypotheses. This can appropriately be called conspiracism.[2] Conspiracism designates a fallacious mode of reasoning that reduces questions of explanation to posited conspiracies, without properly investigating the evidence. Conspiracists are prone to see conspiracies everywhere, and to believe what they think they see, without giving sufficient consideration to alternative explanations. What is wrong with conspiracism, though, can be specified by reference to standards of inquiry set by good conspiracy theory. So the two things could hardly be more different.

a-conspiracy-theory-has-surfaced-positing-that-the-cia-assassinated-jfk-over-ufosIt is especially important to be aware of the difference, given how it has been effaced in public discussions. Early ideas about a ‘conspiracist mindset’, from Harold Lasswell and Franz Neumann, informed Richard Hofstadter’s influential study of the political pathologies of the ‘paranoid style’ in the 1960s. This association of conspiracy suspicions with irrationality and paranoia was then actively promoted in the United States, especially, and as Lance deHaven Smith notes, ‘the conspiracy-theory label was popularized as a pejorative term by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a propaganda program initiated in 1967.’[3]  The program, created as a response to critical citizens’ questions about the assassination of J F Kennedy, ‘called on media corporations and journalists to criticize “conspiracy theorists” and raise questions about their motives and judgments.’ Its reach has extended greatly since.

Professor Peter Knight of Manchester University, who heads a major international interdisciplinary research network, funded by the European Union, to provide a comprehensive understanding of conspiracy theories, takes it to be a now generally accepted fact that ‘some of the labelling of particular views as “conspiracy theories” is a technique of governmentality.’[4]

So who’s afraid of conspiracy theorists? Is it possible that certain governments want us all to be?

It is interesting to note that Professor Knight thinks that if serious conspiracy theories can sometimes be on the right track, then perhaps what they are finding should not be thought of as conspiracies. For instance, he writes, ‘it is possible that different parts of the labyrinthine U.S. intelligence agencies were involved with some of the 9/11 attackers in contradictory and ambiguous ways that fall short of an actual conspiracy, but which nonetheless undermine the notion of complete American innocence.’ The point is, those contradictions and ambiguities merit study, whatever they are called. Knight’s tantalizing idea of an ‘involvement’ that ‘falls short of an actual conspiracy’ brings to mind of analogous definitional questions that were raised about Bill Clinton’s descriptions of his  ‘involvement’ with a White House intern. Good sense suggests that what people are interested to know is what happened, not what someone calls it. Ultimately, the serious conspiracy theorist – or theorist of conspiracies, as Knight puts it – wants to know what is going on, and hypotheses about ‘involvements’ of all kinds can figure in the inquiry.[5]

We should bear in mind too, that the very name of this field was bestowed upon it by those who sought to pre-empt its development. Its actual practitioners might think their activities could be more aptly designated in one or more of a number of other, albeit less catchy, ways, such as, for instance, critical civic investigation, intellectual due diligence, investigative journalism, critical social epistemology, or critical social theory.

Which brings me to my main reason for speaking out in defence of the activity: as citizens we find ourselves increasingly struck by anomalies and inconsistencies in official and mainstream accounts of public affairs, not to mention in matters of foreign policy. But whenever we try to share our concerns in a public forum, there seem to be people there ready to harangue us with put-downs about being crazy conspiracy theorists. The reason why they do this is something I shall reflect on another time.[6] My point for now is that we have been drawn to conspiracy theory for reasons that are very far from crazy.

Islamic-State-Training-Camp-6-HP

Notes

[1] There is a marked tendency in certain literatures to take this generalized approach to conspiracy theories. Several philosophers – including David Coady, Charles Pigden, Kurtis Hagen, and Lee Basham – have commented critically on it, with Matthew Dentith, in particular, criticizing the failure of such approaches to consider the possibility of finding merits in particular conspiracy theories. He provides examples of ‘generalist positions which take the beliefs or behaviours of some conspiracy theorists as being indicative of what belief in conspiracy theories generally entails.’ (Matthew Dentith,  ‘The Problem of Conspiracism’, Argumenta, [forthcoming in 2017]) An example is Douglas and Sutton who state that ‘in the main conspiracy theories are unproven, often rather fanciful alternatives to mainstream accounts’; they also argue that conspiracy theorists are likely to believe conspiracy theories because they are more likely to sympathise with conspirators. (Karen Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton, (2011) Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire’, Psychology, 50(3), 2011: 544-552.)

[2] On this, I endorse the recent exposition offered by Matthew Dentith (ibid): ‘recent philosophical work has challenged the view that belief in conspiracy theories should be considered as typically irrational. By performing an intra-group analysis of those people we call “conspiracy theorists”, we find that the problematic traits commonly ascribed to the general group of conspiracy theorists turn out to be merely a set of stereotypical behaviours and thought patterns associated with a purported subset of that group. If we understand that the supposed problem of belief in conspiracy theories is centred on the beliefs of this purported subset – the conspiracists – then we can reconcile the recent philosophical contributions to the wider academic debate on the rationality of belief in conspiracy theories.’  He identifies the challenge I am arguing we need to take on: ‘Typically, when we think of conspiracy theorists we do not think of people who theorised about the existence of some particular conspiracy – and went on to support that theory with evidence – like John Dewey (who helped expose the conspiracy behind the Moscow Trials of the 1930s), or Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (who uncovered the conspiracy behind who broke in to the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate office complex in the 1970s). Instead, we think of the advocates and proponents of weird and wacky conspiracy theories … .’

[3] Lance deHaven Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, University of Texas Press, 2013: p.21; see also Chapter 4 passim.

[4] Peter Knight, ‘Plotting Future Directions in Conspiracy Theory Research’, in Michael Butter and Maurus Reinkowski, eds, Conspiracy Theories in the Middle East and the United States, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014: p.347.

[5] ‘Involvements’ amongst people can include any of the typical elements of conspiracy such as collusion, collaboration, conniving, tacitly understanding, secretly agreeing, jointly planning, acquiescing, turning a blind eye, covering up for, bribing, intimidating, blackmailing, misdirecting or silencing, and many other more nuanced kinds of arrangement.

[6] In a third blog of this series I shall be asking ‘Do we face a conspiracy to curtail freedom of expression?’ Meanwhile, the second will be a discussion of ‘Conspiracy theory as civic responsibility’. A full academic paper comprising extended versions of each of these will be available shortly. (And yes, for afficionados who are wondering, there will be a full response to proposals of ‘cognitive infiltration’ to ‘cure’ us. I may even suspend my reputed politeness…)

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | | 7 Comments

Looming Hypersonic Arms Race: Unaddressed Problem

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.10.2017

The US programs to create hypervelocity strike systems in combination with ballistic missile defense plans are elements of strategic first strike capability, said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexander Yemelyanov on October 12 during the Russian-Chinese briefing on the sidelines of the first committee of the UN General Assembly.

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a United States military effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour. Today, there is no such system in the US inventory but technological advancements have made the notion of gliders and air-breathing vehicles flying at Mach 5 or faster significantly viable. The effort includes the X-15 rocket plane, the Boeing X-51 scramjet, the Hypersonic open Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) program, the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), and the Tactical Boost Glide (TBG). In July, the US and Australia concluded secret hypersonic flight series, which involved a Mach-busting missile flying eight times the speed of sound.

According to The Drive, in May 2017, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) hired Boeing to build what will likely be a solely rocket-powered hypersonic, reusable spacecraft, known as the XS-1. The Pentagon wants to test this design as a way of rapidly putting satellites into orbit, with an eye toward other roles in the future. The US military’s goal is a space plane that can fly 10 missions in as many days while carrying a 3,000 pound load.

The military is pouring money into hypersonic research but the information is too scarce to make any conclusions about how efficient the programs are. The Trump administration requested $75 million for “hypersonic defense” in its fiscal 2018 budget as part of $7.9 billion overall funding plan for missile defenses. Capable both of maneuvering and of flying faster than 5,000 km/hr, hypersonic weapons could penetrate most missile defenses and to significantly compress the timelines for response by a nation under attack.

A landmark event took place in June. The unmanned subscale hypersonic SR-72 aircraft was reportedly spotted during flight tests in July. The follow-on step would be development of a full-scale, twin-engined SR-72. Program specifics are off limits as the development is a tightly-kept secret. There are few bits of open information that need to be pieced together to give at least the general picture of what it is.

The optionally piloted flight research vehicle (FRV) test is slated for 2018. Development of the FRV is expected to begin next year and first flights could occur as soon as 2020. The aircraft will roughly have the same proportions as its predecessor – the SR-71.

The proposed reconnaissance plane is expected to hit Mach 6 (7,400 kph) thanks to advanced new hypersonic technology. The SR-72 is to use a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) system to use a turbine engine at low speeds and a scramjet engine at high speeds. There is a breakthrough in the air-breathing side of hypersonics is the propulsion system to make it capable of outrunning missiles. With this speed, there is no need for stealth technology. The Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California, is doubling down on our commitment to speed,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, speaking at the SAE International Aerotech Congress and Exhibition. “Simply put, I believe the United States is on the verge of a hypersonics revolution,” he added.

Besides spy missions, the SR-72 will have strike capability. The SR-72 flight testing follows the planned timeline for the hypersonic High Speed Strike Weapon.

To counter the threat, Russia applies efforts not to lag behind in hypervelocity capability. China does the same. Other nations are launching such programs. About 20 countries, including France, Australia, Japan and India, are already involved in the effort. The technology can be shared and exported. As in the case of nuclear weapons, the problem of proliferation comes to the fore.

The US is exploring the way to counter the hypersonic threat. For instance, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 requires the Missile Defense Agency to “serve as executive agent for the Department of Defense for the development of a capability to counter hypersonic boost-glide vehicle capabilities and conventional prompt global strike capabilities that may be employed against the United States, the allies of the United States, and the deployed forces of the United States.” The problem is that air-breathing engine generates a very different signature from a rocket motor, meaning space-based surveillance assets might not be able to spot one as quickly or keep tracking it during flight, or even spot it at all for that matter. Super-fast flying cruise missiles or drones are extremely hard to counter as they are able to fly in more erratic ways well within the atmosphere, or even changing course in mid-flight.

The hypervelocity arms race is going on though very little attention is paid to the fact. The combination of hypersonic strike capability with a missile defense creates a temptation to deliver a first decapitating strike. An added danger is the potential marriage of hypersonic missiles with nuclear weapons. A weapon projectile flying at a hypersonic speed is too much for contemporary scanning surface- and airborne radars to track and process.

Once the technology is there, the race cannot be stopped but it can be controlled. The issue of hypersonic weapons control and non-proliferation is not included in the international agenda but it should be. As key players in the process, the United States, Russia, and China should launch discussions on the control of hypersonic technology capabilities. The existing arms control regime is gradually eroding, while new problems appear that should become a part of international security agenda but they are not. The overall deterioration of relations between the US and Russia, the US and China stands in the way of addressing burning arms control and non-proliferation issues. A looming hypersonic race is certainly one of them.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

‘Permanent War Economy’: EU Defense Policy ‘Outsourced’ to Arms Industry

Sputnik – October 17, 2107

A report issued by Belgian campaign group Vredesactie (Peace Action) has documented how Europe’s defense industry played a pivotal role in the development of military strategies, with plans closely modeled on proposals made by major arms firms.

In 2016, the European Union took an unprecedented step, setting up the Preparatory Action on Defense Research — a military program worth US$1.05 billion — and proposing the establishment of a European Defense Fund, which allocates almost US$50 billion to the research, development and procurement of weapons over 10 years. While civil society, the academic world, and the European Parliament, were almost entirely excluded from policy discussions, the European arms industry left a “heavy footprint” in negotiations.

​In essence, as the militarization of the 28-member bloc has accelerated rapidly, the arms industry has had access to every stage of decision-making processes, from setting agendas to drawing up the provisions of various action plans, Vredesactie has found.

“Rather than a reflection of what security means and how to ensure it, the European strategy is dominated by developing and selling new capabilities. Supporting the defense industry has become a goal in itself. Meanwhile, actual security challenges remain unanswered and mistakes from past policy choices perpetuated, at a high cost,” the report stated.

Over the course of their investigation, Vredesactie uncovered minutes of a 2015 meeting of the so-called Group of Personalities (GoP), a working group set up by the Commission, whose subsequent report laid the foundations of the European Defense Action Plan. At the meeting, a Commission civil servant said the goal of the group’s report was to “overcome resistance towards a defense research program.”

No Representation

GoP membership was heavily skewed towards the defense industry, with “barely any” independent voices represented, “let alone” critical voices such as peace groups or human rights organisations. The only member of the European Parliament that participated, center-right German Michael Gahler, is “known for his pro-military views” and a board member of a defense lobby organization.

​Vredesactie noted the setting up of a Group of Personalities was “rare” and seems to have been deliberately used to evade “even basic levels of transparency” — the GoP was not registered as an expert group, and expert groups are to a certain extent subjected to rules regarding transparency (e.g. dates of meetings, agendas and minutes are publicly available).

“In the case of the GoP not even these basic rules were enforced. The reasons stated by the Commission for setting up the GoP have been inconsistent. The Commission at first declared the GoP is an expert group and therefore did not include any representatives from civil, but the Commission later denied [this], stating it provided political and strategic advice. In reality the GoP laid down the ideological foundation for the further militarization of Europe,” the report continued.

Disturbing Dynamic

The report concludes there is a “disturbing dynamic” going on at the EU level — what originally began life as a project to ensure continental peace between former perpetually-warring powers, has mutated into a bloc “subsidizing an industry which exports war.”

“The European Defense Fund creates a self-fulfilling and continuous loop between supply and demand, funded with public money. This creates the specter of a European permanent war economy, which has to be constantly funded by public means to remain competitive. The military technologies developed now, shape the wars of the future — the EU has already started developing autonomous systems through the Pilot Project and the Preparatory Action, despite warnings from both the scientific community as well as the European Parliament,” the report cautioned.

Furthermore, the disastrous impact of arms exports on the world has “not even [been] considered by European leaders,” instead viewed as a sign of a “thriving defense industrial base.” Modest calls for an upgrade of arms export control policies have not been heeded, and the European Defense Fund “will not lead to more security — because it is not meant to lead to more security.”

“The fund is an industrial stimulus fund for the major European arms-multinationals, located in only a few European countries. The undue influence of these companies at every level of the decision-making process has led to an outcome which solely takes economic considerations into account. This raises questions on the democratic legitimacy of these policies. Similarly, most Europeans are opposed to increased military expenditures and do not think ‘hard power’ is effective in combating terrorism,” the report concluded.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | | Leave a comment

Busting Upward the Military Budget

By Ivan Eland | Consortium News | October 17, 2017

Although the Senate and House of Representatives have both passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 at the gargantuan sum of $700 billion, most of the largesse has little to do with defending the United States and much to do with policing the informal American overseas empire. Thus, at least some trimming to the huge amount is possible.

Of the $700 billion, about $640 billion is the Pentagon’s base budget and another $60 billion dollars is allocated to fight simultaneous wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. This whopping amount exceeds last year’s $619 billion, thus flouting the “sequestration” spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Trump and the Republicans want to use budget savings from domestic spending to finance the defense spending increases. However, they will need Democratic votes to break the sequestration caps; the Democrats’ price for doing so is a logrolling that would also require increases in domestic spending.

Yet the Budget Control Act has helped control federal spending, budget deficits, and debt accumulation and should be retained. Apparently, when conservatives tout slimming down government, they don’t seem to think the Defense Department is part of the federal bureaucracy.

The idea is preposterous that a country which alone accounts for about half the world’s defense budget needs more money to keep the readiness of its forces high and to rebuild a military that has been depleted by long, senseless wars in the Middle East and South Asia. The Defense Department is already slathered with over $600 billion a year and just needs to reallocate some of its funds to improve readiness and conduct rebuilding.

Yet members of Congress always propose amendments adding extra weapons systems, such as ships and aircraft, to the budget that the Defense Department doesn’t request. Not coincidentally, all this wasteful and unneeded pork spending just happens to be in these members’ home states. Such pork is a regular occurrence in defense budgeting and explains why the Defense budget is so massive, yet force readiness and equipment depletion remain problems.

Other wasteful spending perennially occurs on stateside military bases that even DoD would like to close, but members of Congress like to keep open because it subsidizes local economies they represent. The Pentagon offered a useful proposal that would have opened another round of base closures to save money. These savings could have been put toward readiness and rebuilding. Both the House and Senate rejected it for the aforementioned parochial reason.

Overseas Bases

To save even more money, the United States should close some overseas bases and decommission military units at those bases. Essentially, the military is like a fleet of expensive sports cars that is short on money for gas, repair, and maintenance. The overseas bases and forces need to be pruned so that the remaining forces at home have enough money for operations and support. With a $20 trillion debt, the United States is overextended in the world; the U.S. half of global defense spending is paid for out less than a quarter of the world’s GDP. Pruning the U.S. overseas footprint will help reduce the overextension.

Another way to save money would be to end unneeded and counterproductive wars in the Middle East and South Asia, which lead to increased blowback anti-U.S. terrorism. Sen. Rand Paul, R- Kentucky, laudably proposed repealing outdated congressional authorizations for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, passed in 2001 and 2002. Congress was so scared of the proposal that it didn’t even get a vote.

These two authorizations for the use of force should have been terminated. Going even further, one could question counterproductive (for the same reason as the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars), congressionally unapproved, and therefore unconstitutional air and drone wars in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Libya. Lives and even more money could be saved if they were also ended.

Therefore, eliminating pork spending, unneeded and counterproductive wars overseas, and excessive bases and forces at home and around the world could free up more money for military readiness and any post-war rebuilding necessary without ending the sequestration limits on defense spending needed to control budget deficits and debt accumulation, which are dragging the U.S. economy and preventing higher economic growth rates.

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | | 1 Comment