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Brazil Slum Residents Organize Without State To Fight Virus

teleSUR | April 2, 2020

The packed living conditions, poor sanitation, lack of healthcare and flouting of lockdown measures make Brazil’s slums – home to around 11 million people or 6 percent of the population – particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Emerson Barata draws a circular map of Sao Paulo’s largest slum, Paraisopolis, and begins to mark confirmed coronavirus cases in blue ink. At the center of the favela of around 120,000 people, which crowds between luxury apartment blocks and high-walled mansions, he draws four dots.

“It’s going to get a lot worse,” the 34-year-old tells an assembled medical team, adding another two dots to the favela’s outer districts. “The surge hasn’t hit yet.”

Barata is leading the coronavirus response in this labyrinth of red cinder block homes where, beyond the six confirmed cases, his team suspects another 60.

He is not connected to the Brazilian state, and nor is the medical team around him. The former minor league soccer pro is part of an association of Paraisopolis residents whose deep distrust of government has led them to take things into their own hands.

The residents’ association has hired a round-the-clock private medical service including three ambulances, two doctors, and two nurses, as well as drivers and support staff.

While President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the virus as “a little flu” and told Brazilians to get back to work, Barata is sleep-deprived trying to get his favela ready for what he describes as a “war.”

Barata declined to say how much this would cost or how it was being funded, beyond saying some was covered by donations. Much of it still needs to be raised, he said. The medical team is on an initial 30-day contract, likely to be extended.

“Favelas are going to be hit the worst,” he said, standing in a parking lot outside a mechanic’s workshop that doubles as a base for the medical team. “The places that are already neglected by the state will be neglected even more.” Public health experts agree.

Paraisopolis is likely to be on the front line. Many of its residents work in the nearby wealthy neighborhood of Morumbi, ground zero for the outbreak in Brazil. Across Latin America, many of the first cases were diagnosed in those affluent enough to travel abroad, but the virus is expected to hit the poorest hardest.

Brazil is Latin America’s worst affected nation by the coronavirus so far, with nearly 7,000 confirmed cases and 240 deaths.

The Paraisopolis residents who have tested positive include two who work in the nearby Albert Einstein Hospital, a private medical facility that diagnosed the first case in Latin America. Another was a live-in nanny.

The population density in Paraisopolis is about the same as Manhattan, although most buildings are just two or three stories tall. Residents complain the water runs dry after 8 p.m. and rubbish piles up along the tight, damp alleyways that weave through the community.

“I think it’s going to get ugly… This is a ‘little flu’ that kills,” said Luiz Carlos, a short, grey-haired doctor who is part of the hired medical team.

Roberto de Souza, 41, believes he caught the virus through his job in a pharmacy – despite wearing disposable gloves and a facemask when serving customers. He developed terrible pain in his legs and a constant cough soon followed.

After testing positive he isolated himself in a cramped second-floor flat in Paraisopolis.

“What hurts the most is being locked away, alone,” he said through a facemask, in between coughing fits. “I have to worry, not just about myself but about not giving it to the next person.”

De Souza lives by himself. In Paraisopolis that puts him in the minority.

Reuters visited one cramped home where a woman was self-isolating, sick with coronavirus symptoms. But her three children, mother and brother had nowhere else to go, so continued to live with her.

To address that challenge, the residents’ association is looking to use two local schools – closed due to the outbreak – to house up to 500 suspected and confirmed cases without life-threatening symptoms, removing them from tight living quarters.

Despite all the preparations, Barata is worried residents are not taking the threat seriously enough. Unlike in the rest of Sao Paulo, where a lockdown is in place, most bars and shops remain open in Paraisopolis. The streets bustle. Parties pound.

Barata fears many will change their attitude only once a parent or a friend dies. By then it might be too late.

“We’re trying to get the message out: This is no joke,” he said.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Why Homemade Masks Make Sense

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | April 1, 2020

On Tuesday March 10th – 22 days ago – approximately 55 people gathered for their weekly choir practice at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, an hour’s drive north of Seattle.

At that point in time, only 30 people had died of the coronavirus in the entire United States (compared to 4,000+ today). In a statement released since then, the Skagit Valley Chorale reminds us that, three weeks ago,

There were no closures of schools, restaurants, churches, bowling alleys, banks… or any other businesses. The advice from the State of Washington was to limit gatherings to 250 people.

The volunteer choir has 120 members, but everyone had been advised not to attend rehearsal if they were experiencing any symptoms of illness. According to a news story, the 60 people who showed up brought their own sheet music and refrained from shaking hands or hugging. A greeter provided hand sanitizer at the entrance, and everyone appeared to be healthy. When interviewed afterward, eight people in attendance agreed no one in the room was coughing or sneezing.

A few days later, however, numerous members began to feel feverish. The choir’s public statement explains:

By Monday, the 16th, twenty people had symptoms and we had the first positive test result. By Monday evening, 23 were ill, some of whom attended the rehearsal on March 10, some who had only attended on March 3, and some of whom did not attend either rehearsal… today [March 23rd] we know of at least 21 confirmed positives and 30 people (members and significant others) who are ill.

Two members of this choir have since died. Others have been hospitalized. In the words of Los Angeles Times journalist Richard Read, “The outbreak has stunned county health officials, who have concluded that the virus was almost certainly transmitted through the air from one or more people without symptoms.”

That’s the tricky thing about this virus. We can be carriers and not know it. Even if we wash our hands frequently, we may be infecting others far more easily than the experts have imagined possible.

As a result, a grassroots #Masks4ALL movement is gathering steam. Every time we open our mouths, micro droplets are released into the air. Some of these fall to the ground quickly. Others stay airborne for somewhat longer, and appear to travel farther than expected.

If we all start wearing homemade masks in public (sewn from new fabric, cut from old t-shirts, or improvised with bandanas and scarves), the volume of droplets in the air will decrease – which means fewer germs will be settling on, for example, the items currently lining grocery store shelves.

These masks won’t be equivalent to the N95 masks that keep medical staff safe. But remember that old saying: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Homemade masks will reduce the volume of germs now contaminating public spaces. If I protect you by wearing my mask, and you protect me by wearing yours, we’ll all improve our odds.

According to this video, the citizens of the Czech Republic began making and wearing masks of their own accord, in a grassroots movement that has swept the country.

Police officers who wear bulletproof vests can, of course, still be shot in the head. Homemade masks won’t guarantee our safety, but they provide significant protection.

There’s also the concept of viral load. Our bodies have a better chance of fighting off a smaller amount of virus compared to a higher concentration. A homemade mask may reduce the degree to which we become infected.

In many countries, the authorities have been understandably focused on reserving as many masks as possible for use by medical personnel. As a result, they appear to have blatantly lied to us about masks and the general population. If you don’t have time to watch all the videos embedded in this post, please consider the 3-and-a-half-minute one from the Czech Republic directly above.

There’s no reason to be passive. There’s no reason to wait for officials to come to their senses.

Each of us can make our own mask and start wearing it today.

#Masks4ALL

LINKS:

April 1, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Solidarity and Activism, Video | | Leave a comment

A Russian firewall for Venezuela against US sanctions

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 29, 2020

The optics of the Russian oil leviathan Rosneft’s decision to sell its subsidiary Rosneft Trading SA and sell all its assets in Venezuela after the US Treasury sanctioned its trading arm two weeks ago as part of Washington’s regime change project to oust president Nicolás Maduro, may not look good to the uninformed outside observer.

It may appear, prima facie, that Russia is ditching Maduro and succumbing to US president Donald Trump’s latest act of weaponisation of sanctions against the Venezuelan government. At least, that was how the BBC Radio’s morning bulletin today projected the development.

But as one digs deeper, it emerges, on the contrary, that the Kremlin is having the last laugh. What Russia is doing is, funnily enough, borrowing from the US diplomatic toolbox — the equivalent of what the US does constantly in its war on terrorism, that is, whenever a terrorist group that Washington sponsors gets exposed on the battlefield, it gets promptly rebranded and reappears as a new avatar, and life moves on.

So, what is happening needs to be understood as follows: Rosneft is disengaging from its trading arm Rosneft Trading SA, the Geneva-based trading subsidiary, in a deliberate ploy to create a firewall against potential US sanctions in future.

This is important for preserving Rosneft’s global operations — Rosneft accounts for about 6 per cent of global oil production — which might otherwise be risking the US sanctions in the downstream.

Rosneft is acting with prudence since, although Rosneft is majority-owned by the Kremlin, it is listed in London, and counts BP and the Qatari sovereign wealth fund as large minority shareholders.

A Rosneft spokesman has ben quoted as saying, “As a public international company, we have made a decision in the interests of our shareholders in the context of the situation that has objectively developed. Now we have the right to expect from American regulators to fulfil their publicly given promises.” The last reference is to statements from the US that sanctions against its trading arm would be removed if Rosneft wound down its Venezuelan business.

Interestingly, an unnamed company owned entirely by the Kremlin will be buying the Rosneft subsidiary and its oil services and trading operations in Venezuela. The deal between Rosneft (headed by Igor Sechin) and the Kremlin (headed by Vladimir Putin) boils down to the latter now directly taking over assets in Venezuela amounting to more than 80m tonnes in oil reserves and oil production of 66,500 barrels a day via five joint ventures with PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company.

A Rosneft subsidiary will receive 9.6 per cent of the company’s stock from the Kremlin in exchange for the assets. That leaves with Trump an only remaining option of sanctioning the Kremlin itself if he wants to punish Maduro.

Moscow honed this innovative technique to outwit Trump’s sanctions earlier also in Venezuela when it rebranded a joint-Russian/Venezuelan bank facing US sanctions with the Russian joint-venture partners — VTB and Gazprombank —transferring their shares to the Russian government.

Clearly, the deal between Rosneft and the Kremlin (read between Sechin and Putin — who are of course longstanding associates in Russian politics through thick and thin — gives an unambiguous signal that Moscow is in Venezuela for the long haul, no matter what it takes.

The geopolitical implications are hugely consequential for the future of the Maduro government, enhancing Russia’s overall standing in the western hemisphere and highlighting the limits to US hegemony in its own backyard. (Isn’t it Ukraine in reverse order?) The Latin American countries (and China) will be closely watching, too.

Sechin, a former KGB officer himself, has been a key figure in the Kremlin hierarchy who choreographed and founded Moscow’s close relationship with Caracas. He had an exceptionally warm personal friendship with late Hugo Chavez, the self-styled leader of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ in Venezuela. (A 2012 Guardian thumb sketch zeroed in on Sechin as “the head of the Kremlin’s siloviki clan, made up of nationalist hardliners with a security or military background.”)

At any rate, between 2014 and 2018, Rosneft had advanced a loan of $6.5 billion in loans to Chavez to help Venezuela tide over the economic difficulties due to the US’ hostile policies. Venezuela has since mostly paid back the Russian loan in oil deliveries.

Rosneft was marketing between half and two-thirds of Venezuela’s oil and Rosneft Trading SA was Venezuela’s sole supplier of gasoline. The business now will be handled by the unnamed Kremlin company. Evidently, this is a strategic move which signals Russia’s determination to retain its commanding presence in Venezuela’s oil sector.

This has implications for the world oil market, since Venezuela’s proven oil reserves — 300 billion barrels as of 2016 — accounts for over 18 percent of proven oil reserves all over the world and ranks the country as No 1 in the world.

At a time when the OPEC is mutating and the OPEC+ is caught up in the maelstrom of the sharp fall in oil prices due to coronavirus, the future of world oil market has become highly volatile and uncertain. It is already having a deleterious impact on the US shale industry which cannot survive unless oil sells at $45-50 per barrel. But oil prices are certain to go up in the coming years and Venezuela is destined to be a big presence in the world oil market in the long term.

Suffice to say, the Kremlin is playing the long game, while strengthening in the process in immediate terms the Maduro government’s capacity to withstand the US pressure and to retain its strategic autonomy.

March 29, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Yemen’s Al-Houthi offers to exchange Saudi pilots for Hamas prisoners

MEMO | March 27, 2020

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi movement, Sayyid Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, has made an offer to release Saudi captives in exchange for members of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, being held in Saudi Arabia.

“We are fully prepared to release one of the captured pilots along with four Saudi officers and soldiers,” Al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Al-Masirah. “This will be in exchange for the release of those from Hamas arrested in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Last September, Saudi detained 81-year-old Dr Muhammad Saleh Al-Khodari, a prominent member of Hamas who has served as the movement’s officially-acknowledged representative in the Kingdom for 20 years. He was also the head of Hamas’s General Shura (Consultative) Council.

Earlier this month it was reported that the Saudis were preparing to prosecute Palestinians held in its prisons. Al-Khodari and his son, Hani, are among the detainees. Their arrests on “terrorism” charges are seen by some to be politically-motivated following Saudi Arabia’s increasing normalisation of relations with Israel under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Last week the Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, urged King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to release the Palestinian prisoners, citing health concerns given the spread of coronavirus Covid-19.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar welcomed the proposal by the Houthis: “The initiative of the leader of Ansar Allah has pleased the hearts of all Palestinian resistance fighters,” he was reported as saying by Al Mayadeen.

A statement by Hamas also expressed appreciation for the solidarity and support shown by the Houthis: “We greatly appreciate the spirit of brotherhood and sympathy with the Palestinian people and support for their steadfastness and resistance. We express our thanks for this interest and this self-initiative.”

Speaking on the fifth-anniversary of the US-backed, Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen yesterday, Al-Houthi said, “Unfortunately, the regimes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have presented [themselves] as worse than Israel.”

Al-Houthi also said that his movement is “ready for peace and stopping the war if the aggressor is serious about stopping the aggression and siege.” He vowed that the sixth year of the conflict will involve “advanced military capabilities” and will entail new surprises for the coalition. “The general evaluation and studies confirm that the economic losses of the Saudi regime are great and its ambitions have failed,” he added.

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

China Wants Iran Sanctions Lifted to Avoid Damage to ‘Economy and People’s Lives’ Amid Pandemic

Sputnik – March 16, 2020

Beijing calls for lifting Iran sanctions as the Islamic republic fiercely struggles to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

“China urges countries involved to immediately lift the relevant sanctions against Iran to avoid further damage to the Iranian economy and people’s lives,” the ministry’s spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Keeping sanctions in force at a time when the fight against the virus in Iran “has entered a crucial stage” would be antihuman, he added.

The diplomat warned that the restrictions would get in the way of the United Nations and other organisations providing assistance to virus-hit Iran.

“Beijing will continue providing assistance to Tehran based on the needs of the Iranian side and its own capabilities, and we also call on the international community to cooperate with Iran to ensure public health security at a regional and global level,” he stressed, noting that China had already sent humanitarian medical supplies and experts to help Iran.

According to the Iranian health ministry, 1,053 new cases of Covid-19 infection have been reported in the country in the past 24 hours.

In a letter to world leaders on Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that crippling US sanctions had cost the national economy some $200 billion in less than two years and curbed the effective fight against the pandemic. He urged the global community to show unity in the face of the deadly viral disease and abandon any policy that hinders global efforts to combat it.

Iran is suffering from the biggest coronavirus outbreak after China and Italy, with nearly 14,000 confirmed cases and over 720 deaths.

March 16, 2020 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , | 3 Comments

Russia Reportedly Creating ‘Medical Special Ops Units’

Sputnik – March 10, 2020

The Russian Defence Ministry will be creating medical special ops units in all military districts starting this year, Russian media reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed military source.

Each of the medical units will comprise around 200 military medics capable of working in acting combat zones, in zones with declared emergency situations and epidemic zones.

Besides military medics and necessary medical equipment, the newly introduced units will also include field kitchens, bathhouses, tents and truck-mounted dressing rooms.

“Highly qualified medics, capable of carrying out complicated surgery are very important in acting combat zones as it can save the health and lives of servicemen. It’s of critical importance to receive professional surgery in the first hours after a heavy injury,” the source said.

According to the source, the medical special ops units could take part in military campaigns as well as conduct peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

Previously, such units were used for relief efforts in Syria, assisted the authorities of the Republic of Guinea during the Ebola virus outbreak and helped to deal with outcomes of the last year’s devastating floods in Russia’s Irkutsk Oblast.

March 10, 2020 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | | 1 Comment

Russia gives Iran 50k coronavirus testing kits to help fight epidemic

Press TV – March 10, 2020

Russia has provided Iran with tens of thousands of testing kits for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as the Islamic Republic steps up the battle against the flu-like virus originating from China.

Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali said Tuesday that the Russian government had donated 50,000 diagnostic kits to Tehran’s Embassy, adding that the equipment will be supplied to the medical personnel at the front line of the fight against the coronavirus outbreak inside Iran as soon as possible.

He also hailed Russia’s cooperation with Iran to counter the epidemic and stressed that both countries were determined to enhance ties in the health sector.

“Iran has taken necessary measures to contain the coronavirus and prevent its spread,” said the diplomat, but added that “eradicating this virus requires regional and global cooperation.”

The Iranian ambassador further expressed hope for closer Tehran-Moscow cooperation against the growing epidemic, which he described as an international threat.

Iran is developing its own diagnostic kits, which will be supplied to the market as of March 20.

On Tuesday, Iran confirmed 54 news deaths, the highest daily toll so far, raising the total fatality count to 291. A total of 8,042 infections have been diagnosed. And 2,731 patients have recovered, the Healthy Ministry said.

Most of the infections have been reported in the provinces of Tehran, Mazandaran, Isfahan, Rasht and Qom, where the virus was first found.

The coronavirus initially emerged in China late last year and is now spreading in Europe and across the Middle East, sparking fears of a global pandemic.

The illness, whose symptoms are fever, cough and difficulty breathing, may cause lung lesions and pneumonia.

Since December 2019, over 114,510 people have been infected in several countries, with more than 4,020 deaths mostly in China.

March 10, 2020 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , | 2 Comments

US: Pro-BDS store wins major legal victory against Israel advocates

MEMO | March 2, 2020

Advocates for the state of Israel have suffered an embarrassing defeat in a decade-long legal battle to sue Olympia Food Co-op over its decision to boycott Israeli goods. The US grocery store, which campaigns for ethical food consumption, was fully vindicated by a Washington appeals court on 20 February in a legal case that is likely to have positive ramifications for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

The original case that was filed in 2011 by five co-op members, purporting to act on behalf of the co-op and seeking to block the boycott, sought to collect monetary damages against the board members.

The case was dismissed five months later as a SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, but reinstated when Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute was struck down.

Two years later, an appeals court upheld that judge’s ruling and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay $160,000 in statutory damages – $10,000 to each of the 16 co-op board members – as well as other legal fees.

Last week’s ruling dismissed the case a second time.

Board member, Grace Cox, who supported a measure to ban Israeli products from the store’s shelves, were put through years of litigation by several former Co-op members who worked closely with the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs.

The right-wing Israel lobby group is reported to have secretly planned the lawsuit in coordination with Israeli government officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been authorised to lead the global campaign against BDS.

In its press release, the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which has represented the defendants during the entire legal battle, said that it had discovered emails between the plaintiffs celebrating the news from StandWithUs that the lawsuit had successfully discouraged other co-ops from boycotting Israeli goods.

StandWithUs, which is described as one of many groups trying to suppress the growing US movement for Palestinian freedom, took credit for filing the case, stating that it was a by-product of the partnership between StandWithUs and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Following their victory Cox said: “As a co-defendant, I am pleased, but not surprised, that the courts have once again found in our favor. When the plaintiffs first threatened to sue us, they promised a nuisance lawsuit, and they have delivered.”

Deputy Legal Director for the Centre for Constitutional Rights Maria LaHood spoke of the wider ramifications of the case, viewing it as a victory for free speech. “In the face of widespread assault, the right to advocate for Palestinian freedom, including via the time-honored tradition of boycotts for social change, has again been vindicated,” said LaHood. “This victory demonstrates that although the fight can be long, it’s necessary in order to achieve justice.”

Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that the Centre for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech.

The two organisations have documented the widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism, and baseless legal complaints. Palestine Legal has responded to 1,494 incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights between 2014 and 2019.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 5 Comments

Hamas: Israel’s aggressive mindset poses a threat to the entire region

Palestine Information Center – February 24, 2020

GAZA – The Hamas Movement has called for pooling the Arab nation’s efforts to confront the Israeli expansionist project in the region.

In a press release on Sunday night, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said that Israel’s “bombing of resistance sites in Damascus vindicated further the Israeli government’s aggressive mentality that keeps targeting the Arab nation and posing a threat to their region.”

“This entails uniting and integrating the entire nation’s efforts in order to confront the Zionist expansionist project and put an end to its ongoing aggression and its existence on the Palestinian land,” spokesman Qasem added.

The spokesman also described Israel’s renewed aggression against the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian resistance’s response to its crimes as “an ongoing battle between an arrogant colonial power and a people striving to extract their freedom and live with dignity on their own land.”

“This battle is to be won by our people, the rightful owners of the land and history, while the passing colonist will not have a place on our Palestinian land,” he said.

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sayyed Nasrallah: Trump’s Two Recent Crimes Usher Direct Confrontation with Resistance Forces

By Mohammad Salami – Al-Manar – February 16, 2020

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stressed Sunday that the United States of America has recently committed two major crimes, the assassination of the head of IRGC’s Al-Quds Force general Qasem Suleimani as well as the deputy chief of Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and the announcement of Trump’s Mideast plan.

Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that those two crimes had ushered a direct confrontation with the axis of resistance in Lebanon, calling for forming a comprehensive resistance front against the United States all over the world.

Delivering a speech during Hezbollah’s “Martyrdom & Insight” Ceremony which marks the anniversary of the martyrs Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Sayyed Abbas Al-Moussawi and Hajj Imad Mughniyeh and the 40th day after the martyrdom of General Suleimani and Hajj Al-Muhandis, Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized that in this confrontation with the United States, we have to trust God’s help, keep hopeful for a bright future and challenge our fear.

Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that the so-called “deal of the century” cannot be described as a ‘deal’ because it refers merely to the plan of the US president Donald Trump’s plan to eradicate the Palestinian cause.

All the Palestinian forces have rejected and may never approve Trump’s scheme, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who considered that this is basic in frustrating the US plan.

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that consistency of stances which reject Trump’s plan is required to frustrate it, adding that the US will is not an inevitable destiny and citing previous cases of Washington’s failure when opposed by resistance.

No one approved the US plan except Trump and Netanyahu, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who underscored the Palestinian, Arab and international rejection of the scheme.

The Hezbollah leader hailed the consensus of the Lebanese political parties which have rejected Trump’s plan, attributing this attitude to the recognition of the dangers of the scheme to Lebanon and the entire region.

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that Trump’s plan affects Lebanon because it grants the occupied Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shuba hills and the Lebanese part of Al-Ghajar town to the Zionist entity, stipulates naturalizing the Palestinian refugees and impacts the border demarcation.

“The spirit of Trump’s plan will be decisive in the issue of demarcating the land and sea borders with occupied Palestine and will affect Lebanon’s oil wealth.”

Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that what reassures the Lebanese about the rejection of the naturalization of the Palestinian refugees is the consensual attitude of all the parties in this regard, calling for respecting certain groups’ fears related to this issue.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mistrial declared in case of anti-coup activists arrested in DC police raid on Venezuelan Embassy

RT | February 15, 2020

Jurors who heard the case of the four activists who were invited by Caracas to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in the US capital – only to be nabbed in a police raid on the compound – failed to reach a verdict due to a hung jury.

Four members of the ‘Embassy Protection Collective’ – Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers and David Paul – are each facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if found guilty of interfering with the US State Department’s attempt to seize the compound and hand it over to the “ambassador” of Venezuela, “appointed” by opposition leader Juan Guaido.

However, the jurors selected to hear the case apparently were not convinced by the regime-change narrative on Venezuela championed by the Trump administration and adopted by the prosecution team, and as the time came to deliver a verdict on Friday, they failed to do so.

Journalist Max Blumenthal, who reported from the courtroom, said that the prosecution put forward a series of dubious arguments – such as that the Guaido-appointed “ambassador” was seeking a “return” of the embassy, despite the fact it had never been controlled by the US-backed opposition in the first place.

According to Blumenthal, Judge Beryl Howell, who presided over the case, argued that since Trump was president, it was his right to recognize or un-recognize foreign heads of state at will. Ironically telling the courtroom that “elections matter,” she appeared to ignore the fact that incumbent Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro was reelected for a second six-year term in May 2018, while Guaido – who declared himself ‘interim president’ one year ago – was ousted as the head of the opposition-led National Assembly last month in a vote by fellow MPs.

With the jury unable to come to a consensus, a new trial date will be decided on February 28. It’s so far unclear whether the case will proceed at all, however.

The activists themselves, meanwhile, welcomed the news: “Needless to say, we are quite pleased with this outcome. #HandsOffVenezuela,” Adrienne Pine tweeted.

The development drew praise from 2020 Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins, who commended jurors for standing up to the Trump administration push for the regime change in the Latin American country.

“It shows that the overreach in foreign policy of the Trump Administration is not popular among the American public,” Hawkins said.

Two of the activists, Zeese and Flowers, are prominent Green Party members.

The showdown at the embassy last May saw DC police armed with battering rams break into the compound with the last four activists holed up inside. In the run up to the SWAT-style raid, US authorities cut water and electricity in the building in a bid to make the anti-coup activists surrender after spending over a month in the embassy. The activists insist they were there at the invitation of Venezuela’s legitimate government and have denounced the US takeover as a breach of the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Breaking with Washington: Arabs and Muslims Must Take a Stance for Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | February 12, 2020

A negotiated solution to the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’, at least the way envisaged by successive US administrations, has failed. Now, Palestinians and their allies would have to explore a whole new path of liberation that does not go through Washington.

It is easy to place all the blame on the current US administration, setting apart dodgy characters such as the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the man who has single-handedly diminished any real chances for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.

The truth, however, greatly differs from conveniently molded assumptions. The US-championed ‘peace process’ has been in a hiatus since the last negotiations in 2014. For years prior to the announcement of Donald Trump’s ‘Middle East Plan’ on January 28, Israel did everything in its power to ensure Palestinians can never have a state of their own. Not only did Israeli officials openly speak of their desire to illegally annex much of the occupied territories, but the Israeli government has taken numerous steps to ensure the constant expansion of illegal Jewish settlements.

One would have to be politically naive and morally blind to assume that the Israeli government, at any point in the past, had an iota of interest in a just peace that would guarantee the Palestinian people a minimum amount of dignity, freedom and justice.

Yet, everyone has played along: Israel complained that it has no peace partner while simultaneously entrenching its military occupation and expanding its colonial regime; the Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas ceaselessly waved empty threats, which ultimately amounted to nothing; the Americans urged both parties to return to ‘unconditional negotiations’, all the while funding, to the amount of $3.8 billion [annually], the Israeli military and economy; the United Nations and the European Union followed a predictable political script that was seen as more ‘moderate’ than that of Washington, yet failed to take a single meaningful action to discourage Israel from further violations of international law.

Meanwhile, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), who are arguably Palestine’s more solid and consistent allies, remained marginal and, by far, the least relevant of all parties. Their occasional statements in support of Palestinians and condemnation of the Israeli occupation became so predictable and ineffectual. Aside from Abbas and his Authority, ordinary Palestinians saw no value in verbal support that hardly ever translated into tangible action.

Somehow, this skewed paradigm sustained itself for many years, partly because it suited everyone except the Palestinian people, of course, whose subjugation and humiliation by Israel carried on unhindered.

Presently, there are two different currents fighting to define the situation in Palestine in the post-‘Deal of the Century’ era.

First, Israel and the United States, who are keen to translate the ‘Middle East plan’ into rapid and irreversible action. They are eager to annex the illegal settlements of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley (approximately 30% of the total size of the West Bank). Moreover, Washington would like to see its diligent, clandestine efforts aimed at normalization between Arabs and Israel translate into actual agreements and, eventually, full diplomatic ties.

Second, the Palestinian Authority, the EU, the UN, the Arab League and the OIC, want the ‘Deal of the Century’ defeated, but they have no alternative path to follow. They insist on respect for international law and remain die-hard supporters of the unfeasible two-state paradigm, but they have no actual strategy, let alone an enforcement mechanism to make that happen.

The pro-PA camp reeks with contradictions, that are no less obvious than that of Abbas’ Authority, which speaks of ‘popular resistance’ while, jointly with Israel, is suppressing any attempt aimed at challenging the Israeli occupation.

A perfect example of the contradictions in this camp is that only two days after the Arab League issued its statement rejecting the ‘Deal of the Century’, the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Uganda. Burhan is hoping to swap normalization with Israel for Washington’s favors.

Another example is reflected in the behavior of Abbas himself, who, on February 1, declared that he would sever all contacts with Israel, including the so-called security coordination, a main pillar in the Oslo agreement, which practically employs PA security forces in the service of the Israeli occupation.

This is not the first time that Abbas has resorted to this lifeline, but he has never gone through with his promises. We have no reason to believe that this time is any different.

There is little hope that the pro-PA camp, as exemplified in the current political structure, can truly defeat the ‘Deal of the Century’.

The final statements resulting from the Arab League summit in Cairo and the OIC summit in Jeddah on February 1 and 3 respectively, is a repeat of numerous past conferences, where promises were made and condemnations were leveled, with no follow-up nor any action.

If Arabs and Muslims are, indeed, sincere in their desire to confront US-Israeli plotting, they ought to go beyond this stifling pattern of impractical politics. It is not enough to reject Washington’s stratagem and to denounce Israeli action. They ought to muster enough courage to turn their statements into an actual, unified strategy, and their strategy into action, using all means at their disposal.

Arab countries enjoy massive economic and political leverage in Washington and throughout the world. What’s the value of all of this leverage if not used in defense of Palestine and her people?

Washington and Tel Aviv are counting on the fact that anger at the ‘Deal of the Century’ among Arabs and Muslims will eventually peter out, exactly as happened after Trump recognized all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving his country’s embassy there in May 2018.

If Arabs and Muslims fail Palestine again, then, once more, the Palestinian people will find themselves alone in this desperate fight, which they have no other alternative but to undergo. And when Palestinians rise, as they surely will, their uprising will challenge not just Israel but the entire regional and international apparatus that allowed the Israeli occupation to go unchallenged for so many years.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU).

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment