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The Destruction of Libya in 2011

Tales of the American Empire | May 28, 2020

The American empire wanted to oust Muammar Gaddafi for decades. He remained in power as he carefully balanced interests in Libya’s complex tribal society and kept the military under control. Gaddafi was popular since he invested Libya’s oil wealth improving the lives of Libyans rather than in Western banks. Before its 2011 destruction, Libyans were the wealthiest in all of Africa. President Obama chose to destroy Libya despite meeting with Gaddafi after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. His Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the strongest advocate for this war crime. When later asked about Gaddafi’s death, she laughed and exclaimed: “We came, we saw, he died.”

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“General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries in Five Years”; Democracy Now; March 2007; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1M…

“Goldman Sachs Lost 98% of Libya’s $1.3B Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment”; Agustino Fontevecchia; Forbes ; May 31, 2011; https://www.forbes.com/sites/afonteve…

“Hillary Emails Reveal True Motive for Libyan Intervention”; Brad Hoff; Foreign Policy Journal ; Jan 6, 2016; https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/…

“French President Emmanuel Macron says destroying Libya was a mistake”; CGTN Africa; 2017; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMjOJ…

“The Obama Administration Destroyed Libya”; Ted Carpenter; The National Interest ; Sept 16, 2019; https://nationalinterest.org/blog/ske…

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

J’accuse: Pinning down responsibility for Belgium’s dismal record of Covid-19 mortality

By Gilbert Doctorow | May 28, 2020

For a number of weeks in a row as coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths spiraled upwards exponentially, the broad population in Belgium and many other European countries came out at specified times in the evening to collectively celebrate the heroism of their medical cadres on the front lines of the pandemic. For a while I joined in, but then as it became clear that Belgium has the world’s highest number of deaths per capita in the world, and that the explanations for this given by the authorities are utterly unconvincing, my feelings towards our medical profession changed from admiration to pity for their risking their lives only to produce miserable results. Clearly the foot soldiers had been let down by their generals.

As of today, more than 9,500 patients have died in this country of 11.5 million, half in hospital and half in old age and care homes. To put this in proper perspective, in the United States, where the chaotic response of the federal government under President Trump has been exposed to scathing ridicule both domestically and by observers abroad, today was marked with solemnity as the country crossed the threshold of 100,000 Covid -19 deaths. If the official Belgian mortality rate per million were to be projected onto the United States, which is 28 times more populous, we should be marking 270,000 deaths there today.  Of course, given the unruly de-confinement now going in many U.S. states with the active encouragement of the White House, the numbers there may reach and exceed that level in the coming weeks. But they also may not.

If we use another yardstick which has been promoted by the Financial Times, namely the total excess deaths in a given country in 2020 during the months of the pandemic compared to the normal mortality in the same country in the same period over the past several years, Belgium once again comes out at the top of the list of shame, just behind the UK and Italy.

Most of the Covid-19 deaths in Belgium could have been spared had the right decisions been taken at the outset. And I do not mean earlier imposition of confinement. I will explain myself below. Many other unnecessary deaths have continued even up to the present day because of critical errors that are not being corrected due to pure incompetence, aided and abetted by a dysfunctional political system of power sharing, placing political ideology above pragmatism, and being penny wise and pound foolish in the spending to combat the epidemic. In this regard, it is relevant to note that the daily death toll in Belgium this past week has persistently exceeded that in neighboring France, a country with 5 times the population.

In this brief essay, I will ask some of the tough questions that our lame print media seem unable or unwilling to do during the thrice weekly press conferences held by officials of the federal health ministry.

As recently as a few days ago I hesitated to come out with accusations since I am not a health professional and can base my doubts only on the inconsistencies I have remarked between how the epidemic has been handled in other countries including South Korea and Russia where deaths per million are vastly lower, and what is being done and said from high offices in Belgium. However, the very sharp criticism reported on 26 May in the middle-of-the-road French language newspaper La Libre Belgique directed against the Sciensano institute at the center of the Government’s Covid 19 management has brought starkly into the open some of the weaknesses we in lay society had observed among ourselves in kitchen talk. A breach in the Government’s defenses of its policies has opened up and it is high time to march through.

* * * *

La Libre Belgique assigned to the article mentioned above a title sure to attract the attention it merits: “Coronavirus: the Royal Academies castigate the ‘opaque decisions of Sciensano’ which ‘put our country in danger.’” The Royal Academy of Medicine and the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts denounce in particular the monopoly of power exercised by the Scientific Institute of Public Health (Sciensano) with respect to management of the health crisis and the way their own advice has not been taken into account. They call for ‘rethinking the strategy for developing the Belgian medical plan.’ They note that the oncoming pandemic provoked panic in the country. Decisions were taken precipitously and without any well thought out plan despite the fact that the viral outbreak had occurred in China already in December. They insist that Belgium must learn from its errors if it is to face up to the likely second wave of viral infections ahead.

The one specific charge the Royal Academies raise is over the flip-flop on public policy with respect to wearing masks. We are told that “They point their finger at the ‘denial of the interest in the population wearing masks to cover up the shortage [of masks] and a lack of foresight, as well as the ‘restrictions on use of diagnostic tests’ for the asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases of persons having been in contact with a contaminated person.’”

The net result of the démarche is the following: “The two Academies ask Sciensano to collaborate with them in order to ensure transparency, independence and coherence of the decisions taken. They emphasize that they are composed of ‘internationally recognized experts in numerous disciplines concerned by the problem at hand.’”

Finally we are told that the two Academies point to the mistrust which the population is showing with regard to the management of the health crisis, saying ‘’It is urgent that we reestablish confidence and credibility between the decision-making authorities and civil society.”

* * * *

For little Belgium, the open conflict among elites that we see in the article I have summarized above is quite remarkable. We read that the public has lost trust in the authorities, and we read that internationally recognized experts have been sidelined.

Neither phenomenon is particularly unusual in this country where the flip side of the advanced democratic solutions for holding the kingdom together, given the rivalries of the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking regions, is power sharing. This power sharing broadly equates to institutionalized corruption and incompetence. Ministers receive their portfolios by back-room deals among the parties forming the governing coalition of the day. The coronavirus is the sharp end that has driven these abuses out into the open for public scrutiny, particularly as regards the reviled minister of public health Maggie de Bock.

The remarks about government lies about the usefulness of masks when there were none for the hospitals let alone for the general public hit at the most talked about and grating abuses of the Minister of Health. Moreover, she had a year earlier overseen the destruction of millions of masks purchased for the feared ‘bird flu’ H5N1 ten years ago, thereby leaving the country totally exposed in case of some new viral epidemic. On these grounds alone, the Belgian doctors’ association had called for her to be stripped of her license to practice medicine. That may not seem more than a tap on the wrist, but the notion of hauling her into court for dereliction of duty was too improbable of success to be contemplated.

In the meantime, two months into the pandemic, Belgium has stocked up on masks and latex gloves. In my own commune of Ixelles, one of the boroughs in central Brussels, we received a knock on the door a couple of weeks ago, from a communal official delivering for me and my wife individually packaged double layer cloth masks. A very nice gesture, if somewhat late. In Brussels, it is now mandatory to wear masks on public transit and in stores. However, the damage to public trust from the prevarication of the minister was substantial.

What we see in the allegations of the two Academies is that the rot goes much further than one incompetent minister. The Institute advising the ministry, Sciensano, is itself a concoction of political interests rather than a serious center of expertise. It serves two very different administrations: Public Health and Agriculture. Wikipedia tells us that “its core business is scientific research in the fields of public health, animal health and food safety.” The same source spells out the ideology which Sciensanto promotes: “that the areas of human health, animal health and the environment are inherently connected with each other.” Given this ‘green agenda,’ is it any wonder that early on in the pandemic we heard that the high levels of infection and mortality in Belgium might be explained by the high levels of industrial pollution in its cities. I would suggest that this irrelevancy blinded officials to the mortal threat posed by a vicious and uniquely contagious viral infection, full stop.

* * * *

There is no question but that lockdown everywhere has been effective in “flattening the curve” and bringing the daily admissions into hospital, and more particularly into Intensive Care Units, down to manageable levels and so avoiding the kind of pandemonium that we all saw to our horror hit Lombardy in early March.

It is also beyond dispute that imposition of draconian lockdown rules in democratic societies could come only after the existential threat to society was made plain by the kind of disaster that hit Italy. During an interview with the BBC, Italian Prime Minister Conte said as much to justify his foot-dragging in the early days of the epidemic: “Had I imposed lockdown then, all the political classes would have said I was crazy.”

In this respect, we have to give credit to the government of Belgium, and to its Acting Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès for its breaking the political logjam and imposing lockdown in time to avoid the tragedy of Northern Italy. However, it also has to be said that this very rich country did not do what could have changed the game in favor of both saving lives and saving the economy: it did not reach into its wallet to do what China had done so impressively, namely to urgently construct one or more large scale dedicated hospitals to isolate and treat Covid 19 patients. Removing the flow of patients from the normal hospital infrastructure could have maintained essential services to the public., so important to dialysis patients, oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy, those suffering from cardio-vascular events, and the like. Equally importantly, the concentration of fire power in a very few facilities would have helped to ensure proper training and availability of proper protective equipment for those dealing with the Covid-19 patients.  Instead, Belgium chose the cheap and dirty solution, distributing the daily influx of Covid-19 patients among more than 100 hospitals around the country, most of which were very poorly prepared for the daunting challenges ahead.

The second, very important strategic failure of the Belgian health profession was to advise all those who were reporting Covid-19 symptoms to remain at home as long as possible and merely consult with their ‘family physicians’ (which a great many people do not have) by remote. The net result of this practice is that Belgian patients came to hospital by ambulance in advanced and often untreatable condition. Yes, they may have been placed on respirators in ICU’s. Indeed, Belgium never fell short of respirators. We can have no doubt that failure by the health authorities to inform us about the fatality rate of those placed on respirators is simply that the figures are too shocking.

So what do other countries that have been more successful both in patient outcomes and in damage to the economy show us?  First, that those exhibiting or complaining of Covid-19 symptoms should be isolated by the authorities, not by self-quarantine, and that they should be observed closely and given drugs now known to inhibit the reproduction of the virus, among which we find the Gilead substance remdesivir. This is what is being done with great effect in South Korea. It is what is being done in Russia, where another virus-inhibitor discovered in China during the Wuhan treatments is now undergoing massive production in Moscow for widespread distribution to treat the virus. Russian authorities claim that the Chinese pills shorten the Covid-19 recovery time and lessen the damage from the infection by a factor of two compared to remdesivir.

As we all know, Western media have focused on the high incidence of Covid-19 infections in Russia, said to be third in the world after the United States and China, and the very low mortality, with death toll less than 4,000 at last count. The first fact results directly from the massive testing going on in Russia, far greater than in any other country now experiencing this plague.

The reasons for the relative benign outcomes in Russia are simple if you make an effort to understand what is being done. First, the Russians have copied directly the Chinese approach to urgent construction of dedicated Covid-19 field and permanent hospitals. These are state of the art facilities with $60,000 allocated for each bed. Second, the Russians followed the draconian lockdown on the most vulnerable populations, namely those over age 65.  In Russia, seniors are directed, not merely advised to stay at home. No walking the dog, no visits to pharmacies or food stores. As regards the urban population, volunteers bring food and other essentials directly to the apartments of the seniors. This is precisely what the Chinese were doing in Wuhan for the entire population.

Unfortunately, in Belgium as in most of Western Europe and in the USA, China is today viewed only as the source of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yes, they are paid suppliers of our masks and other protective gear.  But we do not see in them solutions to medical management that are proving very effective in Russia and which have parallel, home developed solutions elsewhere in Asia.

Despite all the talk of globalization, the reality here in Belgium with respect to handling the Covid-19 pandemic has been insular and, quite plainly, ignorant. Let us hope that now, when the first wave of the pandemic is receding, we will stop rallying around the interim government and start exercising our minds by challenging the authorities on the points above and many further points which I am sure our medical experts in the Academies are aware of.

©Gilbert Doctorow,  2020

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Annexing the Aquifers: Israel and the Water Crisis in Occupied Palestine

By Fareed Taamallah | Palestine Chronicle | May 28, 2020

Last week, the Palestinian Water Authority blasted Israel for significantly reducing the amount of water allotted to the West Bank. “We are facing this crisis as we enter the summer season, a time of the year when people are usually in need of more, not less water,” PWA leader Mazen Ghneim was quoted as saying.

In my neighborhood in Ramallah, every year during the summer months, we hardly have water in the pipes. Water runs only one day a week. So, all the households must follow the water distribution schedule to plan their house activities such as doing the laundry and house cleaning. Some Palestinian communities in the West Bank are linked to “joint” water networks that serve illegal Israeli settlers. During the dry summer months, water valves leading to the adjacent Palestinian communities are routinely shut off by Israeli authorities, so that the settlers do not suffer water shortages.

The water shortage in the Palestinian territories is not a nature-related water crisis, but rather a result of the Israeli occupation which exploits over 85% of the water resources.

Facts and Figures

Israel controls the main three trans-boundaries aquifers in the occupied Palestinian territories. The first and the biggest one is the West Bank (mountains) aquifer which is fed by rainfall and generates 679 mcm of water per year. The second is the Jordan river which provides Israel with an estimated 450 mcm per year. Palestinians are denied access and supply of its water. The third is the coastal aquifer which generates 450 mcm of water for Israel and 55 mcm for Gaza.

Palestine has a good precipitation rate. Ramallah, for instance, has an annual rainfall average of 615 millimeters which is almost as much as London at 620 mm.

According to the Palestinian water authority report of 2012, around 784 mcm of rainfall is estimated to have recharged the groundwater systems in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, Palestinians are allocated only 375 mcm of that groundwater, while Israel consumes 2,346 mcm annually.

The Oslo Agreement

The water problem started from the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestine but was exacerbated with the Oslo II interim agreement between the PLO and the Israeli government in 1995. The Oslo Agreement stipulated “the equitable utilization of joint water resources for implementation in and beyond the interim period.” But in reality, this has never happened.

The agreement which was supposed to be an interim period of five years bounded the development of Palestinian water resources and was framed on the assumption that Palestinian water needs were 70–80 mcm per year and that the interim water development must be managed through a Palestinian-Israeli mechanism. The topics of ‘common interest’ (water being one) would be further delineated under the permanent status negotiations.

The failure to reach a permanent agreement has meant the inequitable distribution of the West Bank groundwater resources with 15% allocated to the Palestinians and 85% to Israel.

As indicated in the Oslo Agreement, a Joint Water Committee (JWC) was established to oversee all water and wastewater related projects in the West Bank. JWC is made up of an equal number of representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, respectively, and decisions are made by consensus. This gave Israel a veto power over all Palestinian water resource projects and blocked any request by the Palestinians to drill a new well. Wells built or rehabilitated without Israeli-issued permits are systematically destroyed by the Israeli occupation forces.

Water Apartheid

While the Palestinian communities are facing drought and water shortages, the Israeli settlements – located in the same geographical area – are enjoying an abundance of water supplies, allowing settlers to fill their swimming pools and irrigate their gardens and fields. The lack of access to adequate quantities of water necessary for livestock herding and food production leaves Bedouins, livestock owners and farmers particularly vulnerable.

Israeli agricultural settlements in the West Bank, particularly those in the Jordan Valley, enjoy up to 6 times the amount of water of the nearby Palestinian communities. In the Palestinian town of Tubas, the consumption rate is 30 liters per person per day. However, residents of the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Beda’ot, consume around 401 liters per day, according to B’Tselem.

While the Palestinian population has doubled, water availability has decreased. According to the World Bank report of 2018 “With the West Bank and Gaza population of approximately 4.8 million growing at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent, the domestic supply gap is projected to be about 152 and 135 million cubic meters respectively”.

Israeli hydro-hegemony has left Palestinians with a deficit water budget. They have been forced to purchase from Israel around a quarter of domestic water supplies to make up for this deficit.

According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, the daily per capita water consumption rate is around 88 liters. By comparison, the daily per capita water consumption in Israel is 257 liters. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 100 liters of water per capita per day as a minimum. Palestinian consumption is less than the minimum.

In the Gaza Strip, the water situation is even worse. The severe lack of water caused by the Israeli brutal blockade since 2007, has led to a heavy reliance on the underlying portion of the Coastal aquifer as Gaza’s only water supply.

The 2 million inhabitants extracted about 180 mcm in 2017, but this quantity is obtained via unsafe pumping that jeopardizes the sustainability of the source, while the total recharge is only one-third of extraction. The direct consequences of over pumping are seawater intrusion and uplift of the deep brine water; as a result, 97% of the water is undrinkable and does not match WHO quality standards of accepted guidelines for potable water resources.

Annexation Plan

Israel is controlling the two main Palestinian water resources in the West Bank (the Jordan River basin in the east and the western mountain aquifer) which supply Israel with about 900 million cubic meters of water annually.

Through the annexation of the West Bank areas expected this summer, Israel aims to keep the West Bank aquifers behind the new Israeli borders by retaining control of the settlement blocks adjacent to the basins, in particular, the Jordan Valley and the Salfit area where my hometown of Qira is located.

That annexation will perpetuate the high Israeli water-consumption levels while denying basic Palestinian needs and force Palestinians to depend on Israel for water, thus preserving the status quo of a dramatic unjust division of water resources, dimming any hope for a viable Palestinian state and peace in the region.

– Fareed Taamallah is a Palestinian journalist, a farmer, and a political activist based in Ramallah.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 5 Comments

AFRICOM’s gambit: Why a US military command is waging a ‘media war’ on Americans

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | May 28, 2020

A regional US military command tasked with hunting down terrorists across Africa seems to be far more interested in waging psychological operations targeting the American public, the Pentagon and the White House. How curious.

Most countries in the world divide their own territory in military areas of responsibility. Not so the US, whose combatant commands span the entire globe – and beyond. One of these, the Africa Command (AFRICOM) is responsible for the entire African continent – with the exception of Egypt, which somehow ended up in the realm of the neighboring Central Command (CENTCOM).

AFRICOM is one of the US combatant commands that span the entire planet, as well as space now ©  Wikipedia

Tasked with going after terrorist groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), AFRICOM has recently focused its efforts on using friendly journalists, media leak and bombastic social media statements to bypass its military and civilian superiors and lobby in Washington for more power, influence and money.

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action,” goes a quote attributed to James Bond author Ian Fleming. So it was definitely noticeable when AFRICOM made a third bid to attract attention in under a month.

On Wednesday, the left-progressive magazine Nation published an exclusive story based on an AFRICOM document showing that the command was worried about President Donald Trump freezing US funding for the World Health Organization and how China might exploit that for expanding its influence in Africa. Journalist Ken Klippenstein says the document, dated April 23, was leaked to him.

The leak came only a day after AFRICOM posted a series of tweets accusing Russia of sending fighter jets to Libya. One of them quoted its commander, General Charles Townsend, saying that they “watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya – every step of the way.”

Except no proof of this was actually offered, and AFRICOM’s statement qualified the claim with weasel-words such as “assessed” and “likely.” Russian officials have dismissed the claim as ridiculous, especially the part about supposedly camouflaging the fighters’ origins by giving them a fresh paint job in Syria.

AFRICOM has been very sore about Moscow’s alleged military presence in Libya – where its own troops withdrew from in March 2019, per Trump’s orders – claiming that Russia is “destabilizing” Libya and making worse the “migration crisis affecting Europe.” In Tuesday’s statement, it accused Russia of not being “interested in what is best for the Libyan people” but “working to achieve their own strategic goals instead.”

That’s a bit rich, considering that it was the US and its NATO allies that carried out the 2011 regime-change intervention, turning Libya from the most prosperous country in Africa into a hellhole infested with warlords, terrorists and slavers ever since.

While leaking to The Nation appealed to the American left, AFRICOM has previously reached out to the right as well. Back in April, the command used a friendly reporter at the conservative Washington Examiner to claim that the (alleged) Russian presence in Libya is “more dangerous than ISIS,” which actually operated in Libya at one point in time.

“We believe that there will be a need in the future, an opportunity for us to get back into Libya again,” the unnamed official was actually quoted as saying at one point, giving away the endgame.

Between bombastic tweets, anonymous insinuations to friendly conservative reporters and leaks to liberal ones, the picture that emerges is of AFRICOM waging a psychological operation (psyop), a propaganda war on the US public bypassing the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon and even the commander in chief himself to lobby for a bigger piece of the military pie.

This may seem far-fetched, but it isn’t strictly speaking without precedent. Some might remember General Phillip ‘Bwana’ Breedlove, who headed the European Command until May 2016. Emails from his personal account – published in July 2016, following his retirement from the US military – revealed months of effort to lobby the Pentagon and the White House to give EUCOM more attention, including spinning tall tales about a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine. The emails also revealed how Washington-based lobbyists identified the right way of approaching certain officials and the best channels for influencing the Obama administration when it came to Ukraine – notably, Vice President Joe Biden.

At one point, Breedlove even accused Moscow of “weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve” – just as AFRICOM is doing now.

All of which raises the question: when did combatant commands – an organization system invented during WWII to streamline command, control and communication between various branches of the military – morph into de facto feudal fiefdoms, with their commanders as barons more focused on currying favor in Washington than doing their actual job in the field?

In AFRICOM’s case, that job literally involves hunting down terrorists – or helping locals do so themselves, since the command is headquartered in Germany and has only a few actual bases in Africa. Not that any of that is going well at all. So AFRICOM shifted its focus on the home front instead.

One possible explanation may be money. Back in February, a rumor began spreading around Washington that the Trump administration was considering “zeroing out” AFRICOM’s budget. Both the rumor itself and the reported reactions to it have been hotly denied, but that might just help shed some light on Townsend’s gambit. As with any bureaucracy, survival is the highest priority.

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Pro-Israel PAC Funds Go to Democrats To Keep Them in Line

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2020, p. 32

Election Watch

By Delinda C. Hanley and Dale Sprusansky – Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

It’s ironic that despite the Trump administration showering gifts on Israel (moving the embassy to Jerusalem, accepting the annexation of the Golan Heights and giving a green light to annexing even more of the West Bank), the pro-Israel Political Action Committees (PACs) gave most of their cash to Democrats. And we don’t even count Super PACs, which can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. For those pay a visit to http://www.OpenSecrets.org.

Even with so many Israeli dreams coming true under a Republican president, the lobby remained staunch Democratic contributors.

As presidential candidate Bernie Sanders surged ahead in the polls, a pro-Israel super PAC called Democratic Majority for Israel, went after him, airing TV attack ads on the man who would have been the first Jewish president. His crime? Sanders called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” and blasted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for providing a platform “for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

Sanders also said, if elected president, he would leverage the $3.8 in U.S. military aid to push Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians. Enough said. [Editor’s note: A bill to require American taxpayers to give Israel at least that much every year for the next 10 years is poised to be passed right now, unless enough people object.]

But other candidates won their fights with the pro-Israel lobby. Despite receiving more money from pro-Israel PACs than any other candidate running for a House seat this election cycle, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) lost his March primary to a challenger from the left, entrepreneur Marie Newman.

Better known for being the last pro-life Democrat to hold federal office than his support for Israel, Lipinski was nevertheless a dependable pro-Israel vote. In 2014, Lipinski co-sponsored the Protect Academic Freedom Act, which would have denied federal funding to academic institutions supporting a boycott of Israel.

Newman, endorsed by the liberal Zionist group, J Street, issued a lengthy 12-point explainer in 2019, describing her rather mainstream views on Israel/Palestine. She expressed her support for U.S. aid to Israel, a two-state solution, and the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Notably, she did vow to oppose anti-boycott laws that threaten the rights of Americans to boycott Israel.

Lipinski had held his reliably Democratic northern Illinois seat since 2005. He lost the primary to Newman by less than 3,000 votes. Every vote counts, but not every dollar guarantees a win.


Dale Sprusansky is managing editor and Delinda Hanley is executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

‘Muzzling Freedom of Expression’: Facebook Slammed for Appointing Israeli Censor to Oversight Board

Sputnik – May 28, 2020

On 6 May Facebook revealed the first 20 members of its Oversight Board, an independent body entrusted with the final say over certain content moderation decisions for the world’s largest social media platform, the creation of which was announced in November 2018, to avoid accusations of bias over removing content deemed problematic

Facebook has been taking flack for hiring the former director-general of Israel’s justice ministry as a member of its new Oversight Board, which will be able to overturn the company’s own content moderation decisions.

Under Emi Palmor, who headed the justice ministry from 2014 until she was dismissed from her post last year, the Israeli ministry “petitioned Facebook to censor legitimate speech of human rights defenders and journalists because it was deemed politically undesirable,” insisted Palestinian civil society groups in May, writes The Electronic Intifada, an online Chicago-based publication covering the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The groups slammed Facebook’s choice of Palmor to the international panel that will take content moderation decisions for the world’s largest social media platform.

Palmor, they warn, could potentially “muzzle freedom of expression” on the platform, censoring human rights defenders, particularly Palestinian, Arab and Muslim.

The Palestine Digital Rights Coalition, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council and the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network have been quoted as urging Facebook to “consider the grave consequences that electing Emi Palmor may have particularly on Palestinian human rights defenders and on freedom of expression online in defense of Palestinian rights.”

Palmor was employed as a top civil servant during the term in office of Ayelet Shaked as Minister of Justice.

Under Palmor’s oversight, say the groups, the ministry established a cyber unit whose efforts resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of Palestinian posts from social media platforms, with Adalah, a group advocating for the rights of Palestinians in Israel, calling into question the legality of the unit’s practices.

According to Adalah, with “no transparency or legal procedure whatsoever”, the unit directs requests to the Israeli state attorney, demanding that “Facebook and Google remove, restrict or suspend access to certain content, pages or users.”

Adalah claims the procedure leaves users no possibility to defend themselves against allegations that their posts were “illegal or warranted removal.”

The Oversight Board

On 6 May Facebook revealed the names of the first 20 members of its international Oversight Board, an independent body that will be tasked with specific content moderation decisions.

The board will govern appeals regarding content takedowns from Facebook and Instagram users, receiving cases through a content management system linked to Facebook’s own platforms.

The members – a diverse group containing lawyers, journalists, human rights advocates and other academics with expertise in digital rights, religious freedom, content moderation, internet censorship and civil rights – will discuss the case as a group before issuing a final say regarding whether the content should be allowed to stay up or not.

“We are all committed to freedom of expression within the framework of international norms of human rights,” the four co-chairs of the board – Catalina Botero-Marino, Jamal Greene, Michael W McConnell and Helle Thorning-Schmidt – wrote in a New York Times op-ed introducing themselves to the public on 6 May. “We will make decisions based on those principles and on the effects on Facebook users and society, without regard to the economic, political or reputational interests of the company.”

In November 2018, in the wake of a New York Times report that slammed Facebook for social media misuses, the company announced the establishment of an independent panel.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark and one of the board’s four co-chairs, was quoted by CNBC as saying:

“Up until now some of the most difficult decisions about content have been made by Facebook and you could say Mark Zuckerberg… Facebook has decided to change that.”

Set to eventually comprise around 40 members, the board will begin hearing cases in the coming months.

Amid a slew of charges of bias and politically censoring content, the move is seen by many as potentially able to help Facebook avoid the accusations which it emphatically rejects.

Last December, Facebook pledged the board $130 million in funding, with the money set to cover operational costs for at least six years.

In January, however, Facebook outlined the extent to which it remained in control, in a 46-page document.

Facebook outlined the powers and limitations of the board, stating that the board’s decisions do not necessarily set precedents that the company would be called upon to adhere to in the future, and the board is limited when it comes to content it can address.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 2 Comments

Netanyahu on Annexation Plan: Palestinians Will Offer Concession, Not ‘Israel’

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference at the Prime Ministers office in Jerusalem on March 12, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Al-Manar | May 28, 2020

Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians are the side who will offer concession as the Israeli PM eyes implementing the annexation plan of West Bank and Jordan Valley.

“Only if the Palestinians agree that Israel has security and control throughout the territory, they will receive their own entity that (US President Donald) Trump defines as a state,” Netanyahu told Israel Hayom in an interview.

“We are not urged to offer concessions, but the Palestinians are those who will do so,” the Israeli PM added.

Meanwhile, he said that “attempts to set free Israelis held in Gaza are underway,” but noted that he “will not release Palestinian prisoners who “have blood on their hands.”

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran Can Supply Itself With Nuclear Fuel Without Russia’s Help – Atomic Energy Body

Sputnik – 28.05.2020

TEHRAN – Iran is capable of supplying itself with nuclear fuel even without Russia’s assistance, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) spokesman, Behruz Kamalvandi, said on Thursday.

“Fuel is delivered from Russia each time we need it, without any problems. If we run out of fuel, we will be capable of producing it, without resting on any other country,” Kamalvandi told the ISNA news agency.

His comment came soon after the United States announced ending sanction waivers covering Iran’s nuclear projects.

In late April, Russia delivered a fresh batch of nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, necessary for efficient functioning of the reactor.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wait, Twitter, it’s a trap! Social media platform pressured to ‘fact check’ Chinese spokesman after doing so with Trump

RT | May 28, 2020

Twitter seems to be falling further into the trap of de facto becoming a publisher. After ‘fact checking’ President Donald Trump’s tweets, it was pressured to do the same with a Chinese spokesman.

The decision of Twitter to mark some of Donald Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots with notices implying they contained misinformation, may have been welcomed by the many critics of the US president, but some say the move was short-sighted. After all, how does Trump differ from any other public figure whose tweets may need to be ‘corrected’ with a ‘fact check’?

Apparently, in at least one case, Twitter couldn’t come up with a good answer, and instead chose to issue more notices. It dug up some March tweets by Lijian Zhao, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who infamously accused the US military of possibly starting the Covid-19 epidemic by bringing the coronavirus into his country.

Twitter has been labeling what it believes to be Covid-19 misinformation on its platform since mid-May, but those particular notices were issued on purpose. At least that’s what the New York Post believes, saying it was done after they confronted Twitter about its apparent double standards in targeting Trump and not the Chinese official.

Quite a few commentators pointed out that Twitter is putting itself in a vulnerable position by getting involved in what is essentially a political quarrel – regardless of whether Trump delivers on his threat to “regulate or shut down” social media in retaliation.

Twitter’s move against Trump’s tweet is probably horrifying to fellow social media giant Facebook, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, responded to it by reiterating in an interview with Fox News his long-held position that private companies shouldn’t be “the arbiter of truth.”

His counterpart at Twitter, Jack Dorsey, insists that his company is not taking on that role. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves,” he tweeted.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

‘NATO roulette’: Norwegian port to host nuclear-powered US subs despite local objections

RT | May 28, 2020

A municipal port in Norway is set to receive nuclear-powered submarines from NATO after the only naval base in the area was sold and decommissioned – but local politicians and environmental activists aren’t on board with the plan.

When the Olavsvern base in Tromso was sold to private investors in 2009, pressure mounted from NATO to find an alternative point of arrival for reactor-driven vessels, other than Haakonsvern in Bergen, which is currently the only approved port in the country.

Now it appears a “temporary solution” to the problem has been found at Grotsund in Tromso, where the country’s Armed Forces have been told to prepare for the arrival of US submarines, Klassekampen reported.

Military spokesman Brynjar Stordal told the newspaper that the forces had been given “political instructions” to prepare for the reception and that they are working in collaboration with the municipality. “We don’t meddle with the politics,” Stordal told the newspaper.

Local politician and chairman of the board of Tromso Harbor company Jarle Heitmann said having the submarines dock there is “not a good solution” and that people would “rather not see the port used for this purpose.”

Tromso has been strong-armed into accepting the nuclear subs, believes Frode Pleym, leader of Greenpeace Norway.

“Allowing nuclear-powered submarines in Norwegian ports and waters is playing Russian roulette with people and nature. Or more appropriately in this case, NATO roulette,” he told the NRK channel.

“This is about the fact that the government and parliament do not dare to say no to the US,” he added. Pleym stressed that Tromso has appealed for Norway to sign onto the UN nuclear ban and is against hosting both nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered vessels.

Moscow was also less than enthused by the decision to allow NATO submarines to stop at Grotsund when the plan was first announced last year, with Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying that the move was “contrary to the historical traditions of neighborly relations and cooperation in the Arctic” and accusing Oslo of continuing to “escalate tension and increase the risk of military action.”

Unfortunately for locals who are against the plan, the Tromso municipality is bound by the Port Act, which means it has a duty to receive all types of war vessels.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Lavrov blasts leaders who put selfish interests ahead of saving lives during pandemic

RT | May 28, 2020

The elites who rule the West have put selfish or ideological goals first when choosing their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s foreign minister has said in a scathing op-ed.

The ongoing health crisis has exposed the incompetence and failure to adapt that powerful people in the West suffer from. Those people are stuck in the kind of thinking that simply does not work in the globalized world, Sergey Lavrov wrote in a piece published by the Chinese outlet Global Times on Thursday.

The coronavirus came as “an instruction for humility,” said Lavrov, as it posed a threat to all people and nations regardless of their location, wealth, or political preferences. It was a problem that nobody could “sit out in a safe haven, behind moats and walls” or “solve at the expense of others.”

Faced with this challenge, some nations have failed to live up to the values they preach, exposing a “deficiency of humanism,” an “incurable condition” that the ruling elites in those countries suffer from, Lavrov argued. Instead of promoting cooperation, they chose “predatory approaches” and “played the game of Monopoly” in pursuit of selfish goals and settling scores with their “geopolitical opponents.”

“Those who are used to declaring – or declaiming – their moral superiority and rich democratic traditions, are shedding basic properties and ethical inhibitions and acting according to the law of the jungle.”

In recent months, the countries’ responses to the crisis have been unable to avoid taking on political connotations. Washington has continued its attempts to blame China for starting the pandemic and has made accusations against the World Health Organization. It also refused to lift sanctions from countries like Iran and Venezuela for the duration of the crisis.

At the same time, in Europe, Italy faced criticism for accepting humanitarian aid from Russia and China. Behavior like this, Lavrov noted, shows that “the much-lauded solidarity of the Euroatlantic brand is valued more than the lives and health of tens of thousands of common citizens.”

Ironically, Lavrov said, the ultra-liberal economic model that the West peddles to the rest of the world has proven to be a failure when dealing with the pandemic. Nations with “working mobilization mechanisms, clearly defined sovereign interests and original value systems” have dealt with it in more robust ways.

“The elites who rule the West have put selfish or ideological goals first when choosing their response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Russia’s foreign minister said.

Lavrov suggested that people throughout the world, and especially in Europe, need to learn a lesson from this pandemic. He added that it was time for Europeans to stop looking “to other parts of the world” for “existential guidance” and military protection, which “denies the European Union a chance to establish itself as an independent center of influence in the multipolar world.”

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Secret Nuclear Sites of DPRK? Or is Everything Visible from Above?

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 28.05.2020

Since 2018, North Korea has continued to adhere to its moratorium on nuclear, and medium- and long-range missile tests. This has created an impression that DPRK’s missile and nuclear weapons program has been put on hold. Still, analysts have been asking whether this is actually the case and the answer tends to depend on their political bias.  Naturally, those who have come to perceive Pyongyang as an Evil Empire believe that North Korea has not stopped working on such projects and is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction. Within US expert circles, aside from holding such opinions, analysts linked with the Democratic party typically seek ways to show how politically incompetent Donald Trump is. In fact, any of their statements about successes made on the North Korean front actually imply that Donald Trump is being deceived but does not realize this.

Such ideological blinders further restrict the limited capabilities of these “Pyongyang experts”. Analyzing satellite images is essentially the only means they use to learn what is happening in the DPRK. But it is impossible to see everything from up above. Therefore, analysts end up basing their assumptions on a politicized interpretation of information, i.e. if a building can theoretically house a missile, it must be meant for that very purpose.

This, in turn, generates sensational stories about yet another secret site linked to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program being located. Such reports are often published by Beyond Parallel, an analytic vehicle funded by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) or 38 North, currently a project of the Henry L. Stimson Center (formerly a program of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies).

On August 28, 2019, Beyond Parallel wrote that their latest satellite images provided “circumstantial evidence of the construction of a new ballistic missile submarine and preliminary evidence of possible preparations for a test” in the DPRK. Photographs of Sinpo South Shipyard showed “support vessels and a crane” suggesting “possible preparations, based on past practice, to tow the missile test stand barge out to sea for an SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) test flight”. And although the authors of the article stated that there was “no conclusive evidence” that the preparation was nearing completion, media outlets reported that as an evidential fact.

On September 5, 2019, experts of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea submitted a report stating that the Uranium enrichment facility and the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) continued their operations at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.

On September 18, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon was shut down for a sufficient period of time to be “de-fueled and subsequently re-fueled” in its report. The document also stated that there had been “signs of use at the centrifuge enrichment facility” there although “no indications of reprocessing activities” had been detected at the radiochemical lab in the plant.

In December 2019, the 38 North website reported that Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) had “observed activity at the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR)” in Yongbyon indicating that it might be operational. According to the article, the “construction of the ELWR began in late 2010”, and although it appeared to be externally complete in early 2013, the North Korean government “has not spoken publicly about the reactor or its status” since November 2011.

Commercial satellite images made early in 2019 showed “a narrow but steady liquid effluent likely trailing from a pipeline stemming from the Turbine-Generator Building of the ELWR”. The report said that since 2017, photographs have shown “frequent movement of vehicles, cranes and equipment around the reactor’s entrance, the emplacement of a transmission tower and electrical transmission lines in 2017”. And in early 2018, the construction of a dam and spillway were observed. The authors of the article concluded that such activity indicated that the reactor was being prepared “for start-up operation”, and this “could have significant implications for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and would complicate any denuclearization process”. According to the report, “the stated purpose for the ELWR is electricity generation”, but “the reactor could be operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium or tritium for boosted fission or hydrogen bombs”.

On January 30, 2019, South Korea’s leading conservative newspaper the Chosun Ilbo wrote that the DPRK had supposedly “built a large tunnel in Ryanggang Province near the border with China” that appeared “to be an underground missile base”. The conclusion was based on observations of the facility and imagery showing that the tunnel had only one entrance with “two cylindrical objects measuring around 10 m in length” near it, which appeared “to be missile-launching tubes”.

In March 2020, 38 North wrote about “a previously publicly unidentified underground facility (UGF) beneath a hill in Bungang” near the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. The article provided a lot of details, based on satellite imagery, about its construction that had started in 2004. And, most importantly, the author made the following conclusion: “Underground structures in residential areas are not unusual and may be used for storage, civil defense or other innocuous purposes. While there is no evidence that it is related to the North Korean nuclear program, the site’s proximity may raise suspicions. Moreover, there is reason to believe there may be other underground sites in the area that may also provoke the same concerns. Therefore, any future denuclearization agreements covering the Yongbyon nuclear facility may need to take this site and any others discovered nearby into consideration when formulating verification provisions.” The report also mentioned that “no electrical lines feeding into” the UGF were observed, and “no external ventilation systems” were visible.

On March 27, 2020, the 38 North website issued a warning that “a new North Korean version of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), test-fired” in March, could be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

On April 8, citing 38 North, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the DPRK had “recently conducted a dummy missile ejection test at its Sinpo shipyard”. According to the article, satellite imagery from April 5 showed that “the service tower on the ejection test pad pulled back from its static position”. In addition, the photographs also depicted a “glimpse of the bow of the SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine”, however, “it was mostly obscured by the environmental awning”.

Another report published by Beyond Parallel on May 5, 2020 caused quite a stir. It said that a new facility was nearing completion in the village of Sil-li (not far from Pyongyang International Airport), and that it was “almost certainly related to North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile program”. According to the article, it “could be complete and ready for operations sometime during late-2020 or early-2021”.

The author of the story, Joseph Bermudez, based his conclusions on the following information:

  • “A high-bay building within the facility is large enough to accommodate an elevated Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and, therefore, the entirety of North Korea’s known ballistic missile variants.” The building bay doors up to 8 m in height also indicate this.
  • The facility has been constructed next to a UGL “whose likely size is also large enough to easily accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and their associated launchers and support vehicles”.
  • An “unusually large covered rail terminal” and a “new rail spur line” are probably meant “to support ballistic missile operations” at the facility. All the structures there are connected by “a 9- to 10-meter-wide surfaced road network with wide radius turns suitable for the movement of large trucks and ballistic missile launchers”.
  • The facility is “relatively close to ballistic missile component manufacturing plants in the Pyongyang area” (for example, Tae-sung Machine Factory, Mangyongdae Light Electric Factory) and can, therefore, be used for “the assembly of ballistic missiles from components delivered by rail”
  • “There are at least 17 air defense artillery bases and numerous military and paramilitary barracks within a 5-kilometer radius of the facility”.

Citing Joseph Bermudez’s article, ROK’s Yonhap News Agency elaborated that the Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility, nearing completion, could be used to test-fire intercontinental ballistic missiles. And on May 9, it was reported that “multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)” were “newly manufactured in Sain-ri, Pyongsong in North Korea”.

However, a Principal Researcher at Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the former Director General of Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control (KINAC), Hwang Yong-soo was very critical of Joseph Bermudez’s conclusions comparing them to baseless rumors about the North Korean leader’s health.

Hwang Yong-soo pointed out that Bermudez leapt from “hypothesis to inferred conclusion” in his Beyond Parallel report, which was based solely on “interpreted open source satellite imagery”. He was also skeptical that “North Korea’s leaders would construct their most critical missile facility adjacent to Sunan Airport” (DPRK’s national airport). In addition, “transport of large missiles and components to and from Sil-li would be apparent via national technical means to the United States and its allies”.  Hwang Yong-soo also suggested that alternative explanations for large buildings being constructed “next to an airport seem entirely logical as the purpose attributed to these buildings by CSIS”.

It is no secret that North Korea often builds underground facilities to prepare for a possible military conflict during which Pyongyang’s enemies would dominate in the skies. Hence, many of DPRK’s manufacturing and strategic complexes are located underground, but this does not mean that all of them are linked to the missile and nuclear weapons program.

Still, North Korea has surprised the rest of the world on occasion, thus western analysts tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to the DPRK. After all, underestimating one’s enemies is far more dangerous than overestimating them. Nonetheless, it is worth treating reasonable concerns in a different manner to attempts to produce cheaply sensational reports based on biased interpretations or data that is low on quality and quantity.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History is a Leading Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment