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Blood Diamonds: Human Rights Campaigners Want ‘Kimberley Process’ to Suspend Israel

Palestine Chronicle | June 16, 2018

Human Rights campaigners say that Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) must suspend Israel and ban Israeli diamonds exports.

A global coalition of organizations working for justice and peace in Palestine have called on the EU to seek the suspension of Israel from the Kimberley Process and a ban on Israel diamond exports at next week ’s meeting of the diamond regulatory body in Antwerp.

The KPCS is the process established in 2000 to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/56 following recommendations in the Fowler Report.

The process was set up “to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.”

In the wake of the latest Israeli massacres in Gaza, which Human Rights Watch said “may amount to war crimes” and called on the international community to “impose real costs for such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives” it is imperative that diamonds which generate revenue used to fund the Israeli military are banned.

Israel is the biggest net beneficiary of the global diamond trade with exports worth US$11 billion net in 2014 when diamonds accounted for 30% of manufacturing exports.

Revenue from the Israeli diamond industry is a highly significant source of funding for the Israeli government and its violent settler-colonial project in Palestine.

Despite generating an estimated $1 billion per year in funding for Israeli occupation forces which stand accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, the proliferation of unregulated nuclear weapons and the enforcement of a system of apartheid jewelers claim diamonds processed in Israel are conflict-free.

Diamonds that are a significant source of funding for violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law are regarded as blood diamonds.

The jewelry industry refuses to ban all blood diamonds and limited the remit of the KPCS to “conflict diamonds” which are defined as rough diamonds used by rebel groups to fund violence against legitimate governments.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time for America to Cut Loose Our Useless So-Called ‘Allies’

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.06.2018

US President Donald J. Trump spent the last week or so churning out initiatives that seemed deliberately calculated to set his critics’ hair on fire:

  • He met as an equal with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – who is a very bad man!
  • He stated again his willingness to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin – an even worse man!
  • He mocked and threatened our trading partners – and slapped tariffs on them!
  • He suggested that an impenitent Russia (a very bad country!) should be let back into the genteel company of the Group of Seven!
  • He topped everything off by suggesting that Russian-speaking Crimea should be part of – Russia!

As summed up by vulgar Republican, Never-Trump apparatchik Rick Wilson:

‘After the last week, Trump is clearly a man who puts the dick in dictator. He’s a fanboy of Putin, Kim, Duterte, and a dog’s breakfast of the worst examples of oppression, thuggery, and anti-Western values the globe has to offer. [ . . . ]

‘[T]his week, Trump’s love of authoritarians, dictatorships and his actions and words came together. Donald Trump first went to the G-7 to wreck the proceedings with a combination of insult-comic schtick, diplomatic demolition derby, Putin cheerleading, and giant-toddler petulance.

‘He followed that with the Singapore Shitshow. It was a monstrous reality TV event, as was intended. But it left our putative allies wondering at the new Axis of Assholes Trump has joined—the CRANK: China, Russia, America and North Korea. By the end, it didn’t feel like he was after denuclearization but management tips from the portly little thug Kim.

‘For the American president to normalize, excuse, and ally himself with the worst of the world’s bad actors while insulting, degrading, and destroying our allies and alliances would be appalling in any circumstance. The fact that Trump acts like a bumbling, eager fraternity pledge, desperate to join Phi Sigma Dictator makes it all the worse.’

For the moment, let’s put aside Trump’s alleged sympathy for authoritarianism and focus on the accusation that Trump is “insulting, degrading, and destroying our allies and alliances,” a view held across the Establishment spectrum, from neoconservatives like Max Boot to far-Left Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters (famed for her concern about Russian aggression in nonexistent Limpopo). How dare Trump threaten such valuable relationships!

Except these so-called ‘allies and alliances’ aren’t valuable to the United States. They’re a positive danger and a detriment.

Let’s get one thing straight: the United States has no real allies. There are countries we dominate and control, more properly termed client states or even satellites. (True, given Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s lock-stock-and-barrel ownership of the American political class, it seems rather that we are their clients, not the other way around…) Conversely, on an almost one-to-one correspondence, countries that are not satellites are our enemies, either currently (Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria) or prospectively (China).

But do we have any actual allies – that is, countries that provide mutual security for the United States, and whose contributions actually make us Americans safer and more secure in our own country?

Try to name one.

Let’s start with the granddaddy of our alliances, NATO. How does having a mutual defense pact with, say, virulently anti-Russian Poland and the Baltic States make America more secure? How does, say, tiny corrupt Montenegro, contribute to US security? Are these countries going to defend America in any conceivable way? Even if they wanted to, how could they possibly?

For that matter, against what ‘threat’ would they defend us? Is Latvia going to help build Trump’s Wall on the Mexican border?

‘Our NATO allies help out in Afghanistan,’ we are told.  NATO-Schmato – it’s Americans who do almost all the fighting and dying. It’s our treasure being wasted there. Maybe without the fig leaf of an alliance mission, we might long since have reevaluated what we still are doing there after 17 years.

But comes the answer, ‘Russia!’ Except that Russia isn’t a threat to the United States. Despite their hype even the most antagonistic Russophobic countries in NATO themselves don’t really believe they’re about to be invaded. And even if they were, that still doesn’t make Russia a threat to us – or wouldn’t except for the very existence of NATO and a forward American presence on Russia’s borders and in the Black and Baltic seas littorals. How does gratuitously risking conflict with the one country on the planet whose strategic arsenal can annihilate us make Americans safer?

As Professor Richard Sakwa has observed, ‘NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence.’

Let’s look at other supposedly valuable alliances.

Why do we need South Korea and Japan? ‘China!’ But except for a nuclear stockpile much smaller than our intercontinental deterrent China doesn’t present a military threat to us. ‘Yes, but Beijing poses a danger to South Korea and Japan.’ Maybe, maybe not. But even if that is so why is it our problem?

Why do we need Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and bunch of other Middle Eastern countries? We aren’t dependent on energy from the region as we arguably were when Jimmy Carter proclaimed a vital national interest there four decades ago. ‘Well then, Iran!’ But the Iranians can’t do anything to us. ‘Yes, but they hate Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc., etc.’ Again, what’s that got to do with us?

In each case the argument of a US interest is a tautology. The US ‘needs’ allies for the sole purpose of defense against purported threats not to us but to those very same allies. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

It would be bad enough if these faux alliance relationships were only detrimental in terms of getting embroiled in quarrels in which we have no interest, wasting money and manpower in areas of the world where our security is not at stake. But there’s also a direct economic cost right here at home.

Based on the claimed need for “allies” US trade policy since World War II could almost have been designed to undermine the economic interests of American workers and American producers. Starting with Germany and Japan, our defeated enemies, we offered them virtually tariff-free, nonreciprocal access to our huge domestic market to assist with their economies’ recovery from wartime destruction; in return, we would take their sovereignty: control of their foreign and security policies, as well as their military and intelligence establishments, plus permanent bases on their territory.

This arrangement became the standard with other countries in non-communist Europe, as well as some in the Far East, notably South Korea. As much or more than puffed-up claims of military threats (and companies that benefit from inflated military spending) lopsided trade is the glue that keeps the satellites in place. In effect, our “allies” cede geostrategic control of their own countries and are rewarded at the expense of domestic American economic interests. Already of questionable value in its heyday, this pattern not only survived the end of Cold War 1 but continued to grow, contributing to the rise of Cold War 2.

Put into that context, this is where Trump’s tariffs dovetail with his other blasphemies, like expecting the deadbeats to pony up for their own defense. He challenges them to reduce tariffs and barriers to zero on a reciprocal bilateral basis – knowing full well they won’t do so because it would spoil their cozy arrangement at the expense of American workers. He threatens the sanctity of the North Atlantic Treaty’s vaunted Article 5 obligation of mutual defense on whether countries meet a two percent of GDP level of military spending – knowing that few of them will since they don’t in fact face any external military threat and would rather keep the money.

In his own unvarnished, zigzaggy way, Trump is doing what he said he would: putting America and Americans first. As he has said, that does not mean hostility towards other countries, whose leaders have aduty to put their countries and peoples first as well. It means both stopping our allies’ sandbagging us, while restoring to them their unsought-for – and for many of them, undesirable – sovereignty and independence.

In the final analysis, what the likes of Rick Wilson are really afraid of is disruption of a decades-old, crooked racket that has been so lucrative for countless hangers-on and profiteers. As James P. Pinkerton, former aide to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, describes it: ‘[T]he basic geopolitical foundations of the last seven decades are being challenged and shifted – or, as critics would prefer to say, being subverted and betrayed. Yet in the meantime, even as his myriad foes prepare their next political, legal, and punditical attacks, Trump is the man astride the world stage, smiling, shaking hands, signing deals – and unmistakably remaking the old order.’

Let’s get on with it.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Aspartame Sweet Misery

OffGuardian :

This documentary describes the alleged toxicity of the artificial sweetener known as aspartame and the questionable methods employed in order to secure FDA approval.

The mainstream view remains that aspartame is safe and even beneficial. See the official NHS page on aspartame, and SNOPES.com.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Russia inserts itself into North Korea game

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asian Times | June 16, 2018

When it comes to North Korea, Japan and Russia may seem like two “lost souls” in Northeast Asia, standing on the fringes anxiously looking on as China, South Korea and the United States dominate the headlines.

The tremors set in motion by the meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last Tuesday add to the angst.

In reality, Russia is way ahead of Japan. The meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the visiting Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Yong-nam, the number two man in the hierarchy in Pyongyang, underscores this.

Clearly, the two countries are keeping up the momentum in high-level exchanges.

Japan out, Russia in

Japan, on the other hand, is groping for a way to somehow make an entry. Notionally, it is aligned with the US at the leadership level. But then, Trump is a lone ranger. Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and setting up high-level contacts needs protracted efforts.

Besides, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been the most forceful proponent of the “maximum pressure” policy toward North Korea. He probably overreached, overlooking Trump’s propensity to make abrupt shifts. Indeed, the shift in the tectonic plates this week caught Tokyo flat-footed. Quick backtracking is necessary.

Kim must first decide when, how urgently or even whether to meet Abe. It’s a fraught situation for Tokyo, because Japan is a stakeholder and is most vulnerable to North Korea’s missiles. But with Kim having twice met both Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Abe is the only major regional leader yet to establish eye contact with the top man in Pyongyang.

Clearly, Kim is prioritizing Beijing and Moscow before Tokyo. The plane carrying Kim from Singapore to Pyongyang on the return journey reportedly landed in Beijing airport and someone “disembarked.” And, at the Kremlin meeting, Kim Young-nam handed over to Putin a letter from his supreme leader.

Putin’s remarks suggest that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Pyongyang on May 31 has re-injected some dynamism into the longstanding ties between the two.

The Russians invited a dignitary from Pyongyang to the FIFA World Cup inaugural ceremony – although the North Korean soccer team has not qualified. Kim Young-nam represented North Korea at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and Putin received him again just before the gala ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Putin recalled the “old and very good relations” between Russia and North Korea and took the opportunity to “welcome and praise the outcome of the meeting” in Singapore between Trump and Kim on Tuesday. He said that this has been “the first step towards a full settlement” and the goodwill of the two leaderships made it possible.

Putin assessed the meeting as creating conditions for further progress and reducing the overall level of tension in the region. Putin added that a large military conflict would have had a “very dire outcome,” and thanks to the meeting in Singapore, “a possible negative scenario has been postponed.” He noted, “now there are prospects of resolving the problems by peaceful political and diplomatic means.”

Putin reiterated Russia’s cooperation and stressed its readiness to “establish ties” in economic cooperation. Without doubt, the long-standing Russian proposals to link the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Korean railways systems, and to run a new pipeline from the Russian Far East through North Korea to energy-thirsty South Korea, are high on Putin’s agenda. Kim Young-nam responded that North Korea’s new strategy aims to “concentrate all its resources and efforts on economic construction.”

Putin also showed an interest in an early meeting with Kim Jong-un. He suggested that the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September might provide an occasion for Kim to visit Russia, but added that a “stand-alone” visit is also possible.

The positive tone of all this is self-evident.

If the US is determined to keep Russia out of the peace process looming ahead, Moscow is equally determined to be present at center stage. Ideally, Russia would have preferred a resuscitation of the long-moribund, Beijing-sponsored six-party talks format, which gave it a habitation and name at the high table.

But that is unlikely to happen, given Trump’s preference for the Art of the Deal – a “bilateral deal” with Kim, with Xi and Moon acting as facilitators. At any rate, Trump has disclosed that Washington intends to keep the negotiations on a peace treaty as a matter between North Korea, China, South Korea and the US.

However, Moscow can be expected to play an active role. Unsurprisingly, Russia emphasizes the “denuclearization” of the entire Korean Peninsula, which includes the future US military presence and a host of attendant issues.

From Kim’s perspective, Russia, by its sheer presence, creates more space for him to negotiate. In fact, Moscow is compelled to play an active role, since it shares a border with North Korea and any expansion of American influence in that country there impacts vital Russian interests.

North Korea’s integration into the region is a key template of Russia’s “pivot to the East.” The development of the Russian Far East is significantly dependent on the success of this pivot policy. North Korea’s re-construction opens up business opportunities for Russian companies and provides a transit route for Russia’s trade with the Asia-Pacific region.

Putin has a rare genius for optimizing geopolitics by combining it with geo-economics, although the two are often regarded as fundamentally different paths.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

‘Occupation’: How Norway Was Scaremongered Into Doubling US Military Presence

Sputnik | June 16, 2018

Norwegian historian and Russia specialist Bjorn Nystad explains how his country’s political class, media, academics and filmmakers have artificially pumped up a fear of its eastern neighbor.

Oslo has opted to violate its own established practice of refusing to station foreign troops on the country’s soil during peacetime, and is more than doubling the number of US marines stationed in Norway from 330 to 700, and providing bases for US surveillance aircraft and fighter jets. The Marines will be moved from Trondheim, about 1,500 km from the Russian border, to the northern county of Troms, about 300 km from Norway’s border with Russia.

Opposition lawmakers slammed the government for failing to put the issue up for debate in parliament. Social Left Party leader Audun Lysbakken complained this week that more US troops would only “increase the tension,” in the region. “It’s sad that the government believes it is in Norway’s interest to say yes to whatever the US is asking for,” he said.

Speaking to Sputnik, Dr. Bjorn Nystad, a former University of Oslo professor who lost his job in 2010 over alleged “Russophilic views,” said that the growing US military presence is taking place against the background of a steady campaign of spreading anti-Russian sentiments in the Norwegian media.

The latest manifestation of this anti-Russian paranoia occurred this week, when the NRK and TV 2 broadcasters decided to head to the World Cup with brand new laptops and phones out of fear of being “monitored” or “cyberattacked” while in Russia.

Nystad believes these anti-Russian attitudes are being injected into the Norwegian consciousness from above. “It’s enough, for example, to write an article about Putin being a ‘dictator’, or something like that, and you will get a job at a university without any problems,” he said. The professor’s own 2016 biography on Putin was met with hostility, with Aftenposten’s editor describing it as a “dangerous rewriting of history.”

There are many in Norway who have a neutral attitude toward Russia, Nystad said, but they fear running into trouble with the established narrative. “Academics, experts, and journalists understand very well that if they say something ‘wrong’ about Russia, they could lose their jobs. Therefore everyone avoids running into conflict with authorities,” he noted.

Okkupert

Probably the “pinnacle” of the anti-Russian campaign is the widely publicized TV series Okkupert (Occupied), whose storyline features Russia occupying Norway in response to a Europe-wide energy crisis. The most expensive television series in Norway’s history, Okkupert has been picked up for a third season.

“For some part of the population, these kinds of series probably have an effect,” Nystad noted. But others understand that this is “stupidity and anti-Russian propaganda,” he added. “People are losing trust in the media and politicians. They are starting to think critically. Alternative media have appeared, along with popular bloggers. And our elite is now terrified of losing power,” the academic concluded.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

White Helmets: A tool for ‘regime change’ in Syria that’s too important to stop funding?

RT | June 16, 2018

Washington’s decision to resume funding for White Helmets after a brief freeze highlights how important the controversial group is for the US-promoted regime-change agenda, journalists and Syrian conflict observers have told RT.

“The Pentagon planners have probably finally realized just how important the White Helmets are to the regime change operation,” Mike Raddie, co-editor of BSNews and an anti-war activist, told RT. “The fact that they have been so successful in proving fake imagery and fake evidence… just means that they can be relied upon whenever there is a need for a pretext for another missile attack or even a full-scale invasion.”

The anti-war activist recalled how the so-called Syria Civil Defence units, better known as the White Helmets, have been instrumental in the justification of the US strikes on Syria in April of 2017, and the trilateral strikes by the UK, France, and the US in April 2018.

The strikes, Raddie stressed, were all conducted as a hasty ‘retaliation’ against the Syrian government at times when the international community was horrified by fresh footage of alleged chemical incidents, conveniently provided by the likes of the White Helmets.

Calling the self-styled volunteer organization a clearly “belligerent party” with links to al-Qaeda terrorists, Raddie noted that the supposedly patriotic grassroots group has been actively calling for a “no-fly zone, which obviously means full invasion.” Thus, he believes, the State Department decided to release some $6.6mn in previously frozen funding for the group, just in case another pretext for a strike against Syria or a similar intervention is needed.

Meanwhile, Vanessa Beeley, an independent investigative journalist who has recently visited Syria, believes Washington never really intended to cut off the group’s funding. “The funding freeze largely was a fake funding freeze,” Beeley told RT. “The funding freeze, in my opinion, was actually a way to secure further and more diverse funding for the White Helmets.”

The investigative journalist pointed out that in April, after the US announced the freeze, Raed Al Saleh, Head of the Syria Civil Defence, the White Helmets, came to the US to receive an award at the Sedona Forum 2018, hosted by the McCain Institute for International Leadership. That event was attended by US top leadership, including Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, and John Mattis, Secretary of Defense.

While nothing official was announced, following that meeting the White Helmets were allegedly awarded contracts with Turkey and Qatar, Beeley said. Furthermore, she noted that British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to maintain and even increase the funding for the White Helmets. “The British government has directly financed the White Helmets to the tune of almost 39 million pounds,” according to Beeley.

While the money is allegedly intended for the group to carry out its humanitarian work on the ground, Beeley, who has recently returned from East Aleppo and East Ghouta, says she could not find a single person to confirm that the White Helmets actually rescued civilians.

“I’ve heard that the White Helmets were there to work as agents for the terrorist groups, to help them when they are under attack by the Syrian Arab Army and their allies,” she stressed. Thus Beeley “strongly disputed” the State Department’s claims that the group saved some “100,000 lives” in Syria and has demanded proof to support that assertion.

Read more:

US Special Forces helping FSA plot chemical attack to trigger strikes on Syria forces – Russian MoD

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | Leave a comment

At least 10 dead as blast hits meeting of Taliban & Afghan forces during landmark ceasefire

RT | June 16, 2018

At least 10 people were killed as an explosion rocked a meeting of Taliban and Afghan security forces, which gathered during an unprecedented ceasefire for the Eid holiday, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, officials said.

Casualties include Taliban and civilians, Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar, said.

The timing of the bombing appears to be significant. On Saturday, Taliban members entered the Afghan capital, Kabul urging people to come forward and take selfies with them. The unusual move reportedly occurred elsewhere in the country, as photos and videos on social media showed Taliban fighters giving hugs to locals and Afghan forces across several provinces.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation, saying the truce between the government and the Taliban will be extended.

The government freed at least 46 Taliban prisoners amid the ceasefire, the president’s office confirmed, as cited by Reuters. Ghani’s office urged the militant group to extend their ceasefire, saying that the government is waiting for their response.

Earlier in June, the Taliban made a surprising statement announcing the suspension of hostilities with the government forces for three days to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid. This is the first time that the Taliban has ever extended an offer of this kind to Kabul.

The ceasefire came two months after the group announced its annual spring offensive, as they vowed to target the “American invaders.” Heavy clashes repeatedly broke out across a number of Afghan provinces, with casualties inflicted among Afghan soldiers and police officers.

The militants attacked a number of cities across the country, seizing large quantities of weapons and equipment.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | | 2 Comments