Archive | February 12th, 2015

I$raHell Threatens Int’l Criminal Court With Retribution If War Crime Investigations Continue

From forcing the resignation of the head of the U.N. inquiry into Operation Protective Edge to calling for cuts to funding, Israel is pulling out all the stops to prevent the International Criminal Court from investigating war crimes allegations stacking up against it.

Israel is pulling out all the stops to prevent an examination by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands into alleged war crimes committed during its offensive on Gaza last summer that left over 2,300 dead and over 500,000 people homeless.

In an interview with Israel Radio last month, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “We will demand of our friends in Canada, in Australia and in Germany simply to stop funding it [the court].”

Since Jan. 16, when Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine, Israel has forced the resignation of the head of the United Nations inquiry into Operation Protective Edge and called on members of the tribunal to cut funding to the court.

“So long as any institution for the prosecution of war crimes exists, the Israeli state knows that under any system of justice it’s their leaders and officials that are going to be facing prosecution for their ongoing and systematic war crimes against the Palestinian people,” said Charlotte Kates, the coordinator for the National Lawyers Guild International Committee.

“So, of course they want to see the ICC defunded,” she told MintPress.

Human Rights Watch investigated three attacks on schools in Gaza that occurred during Operation Protective Edge. The report concluded that two of the three “did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate,” while the third was “unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate.”

“Unlawful attacks carried out willfully – that is, deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes,” the HRW report asserted.

Likewise, an Amnesty International investigation into Israel’s destruction of buildings in Gaza determined that these attacks “are examples of what appears to have been deliberate destruction and targeting of civilian buildings and property on a large scale, carried out without military necessity.”

Kates told MintPress that even though the system by which the court prosecutes entities is flawed, the very fact that such a body exists that calls for the international prosecution of war crimes is always going to be something that the Israeli state looks at with “fear, anger, and hatred.”

Kates explained that both the United States and Israel want to remain outside the jurisdiction of the international legal body.

“Unfortunately, what that’s meant is that rather than being a court that actually been used to bring to justice the biggest war criminals and violators of human rights… it’s been used almost exclusively against African leaders,” Kates said. “So what we see is that even the International Criminal Court is used to perpetuate colonial injustice.”

Fighting the ICC

Over 2,300 people — mostly Gazans — were killed and nearly 500,000 people internally displaced by Israel’s Operation Protective Edge last summer.

With the war as a backdrop, the government of Palestine acceded to the ICC’s founding charter, the Rome Statute, on Jan. 2. This allows the court jurisdiction over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. It also allows Palestine to lodge a formal request for the court to investigate possible war crimes in its territory, which it did on Jan 1.

The court has since stated that it will open a preliminary examination over alleged crimes committed “in the occupied Palestinian territory… since June 13, 2014” with “full independence and impartiality.”

Israel has responded by calling on the 122 member states of the ICC to stop funding the court.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last month that the ICC “represents no one. It is a political body.”

Leading backers of the ICC, including Germany, Britain and France, recently told Reuters that they would ignore Israel’s call to defund the institution.

The International Criminal Court

As the ICC is not part of the U.N., it is responsible for its own funding. It accepts contributions from states that have ratified its charter, and these contributions are based on a state’s population size and wealth. It also receives money from the U.N., which refers cases to the court from the U.N. Security Council. Additionally, the ICC can receive voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, international organizations and governments. However, these contributions “are not intended to affect the independence of the Court.”

The ICC was created on an ad hoc basis in the early 1990s to address violence and injustices being committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Prior to those trials, however, the International Law Commission, a U.N. body, had already put the wheels in motion for the creation of a permanent court.

After 60 member states ratified the Rome Statute, it entered into force on July 1, 2002, thus officially establishing the ICC. Both the U.S. and Israel have signed the treaty but never ratified it.

Israel issued a statement on June 30, 2002 declaring that it would not ratify the statute due to concerns that “the court will be subjected to political pressures and its impartiality will be compromised.”

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically took issue with the fact that the court sees “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as a war crime.

It further stated that it believes this part of the statute came under “pressure of Arab states,” and “is clearly intended to try to use the court to force the issue of Israeli settlements without the need for negotiation as agreed between the sides.”

Following an Israeli assault on the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in the West Bank in April 2002, Hans Koechler, president of the International Progress Organisation in Austria, criticized Israel for not ratifying the Rome Statute.

“A real chance for the prosecution of war crimes by the ICC may only exist if and when the State of Palestine has been recognised as a subject of international law and as a member of the United Nations and after this state will have ratified the Rome Statute,” Koechler said.

Israel and the ICC

Yet it is ironic that Israel has not ratified the Rome Statute and does not plan to do so, as the idea for the court originated in the wake of World War II in light of Nazi Germany’s war crimes against Jews and other groups.

“Much of the human rights framework that we use comes from the post-Nuremberg era and the international revulsion of the crimes of the Nazis, and the international unity that existed between Western colonial powers and the Soviet Union around the crimes of the Nazis, as well as growing decolonization movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America,” Kates told MintPress.

Kates is also the coordinator of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, a network of organizers and activists, based in North America, working to build solidarity with Palestinian prisoners around the world in their struggle for freedom.

“These things are the basis of the system of human rights we have,” Kates added.

However, Kates stated that she does not believe it is ironic that Israel is not supporting the ICC, as the creators of the state of Israel were not the ideological inheritors of the struggle and legacy of the victims of the Nazis.

“The lessons of that era aren’t anything that belong to a racist exclusionary settler-colonial state in Palestine,” she said. “I think it’s time that we stop associating and stop going along with Israeli propaganda that wants to claim that the Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust, who perished at the hands of the Nazis, and use them to justify their racism and colonization against Palestinians.”

Attacking the chair of the ICC

Last month, a letter of complaint was written by Israel’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Eviatar Manor. The letter claimed that William A. Schabas, the head of the U.N.’s inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, faced a conflict of interest with regards to the investigation.

Manor provided information that Schabas had prepared a legal opinion for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and received $1,300 for his work. Israel has framed this to mean that Schabas is beholden to the PLO and so cannot conduct an examination into Palestine without bias.

Schabas resigned four days later, stating in his letter of resignation that he was resigning because of a procedure underway “to consider whether the Chair of the Commission [him] should be removed.” (Schabas has since been replaced by U.S. Judge Mary McGowan Davis.)

“Normally, a judicial or quasi-judicial body would resolve such a challenge before proceeding further. Yet the Commission cannot delay its work as it must produce its report in a matter of weeks,” he wrote. “Under the circumstances, and with great regret, I believe the important work of the Commission is best served if I resign with immediate effect.”

Referring to the PLO, Kates explained that Schabas, like most international law scholars, “has done work for organizations.”

“It’s really no surprise that somebody’s done work before on an issue related to Palestine,” she said. “However, it seems that the only time this leads to a charge of bias or someone winds up resigning is when the connection is to any kind of Palestinian organization because having a partnership with Israeli organization is seen simply as a part of politics.”

She told MintPress that one of the messages being sent with regards to Schabas is that associating oneself with Palestinians could be detrimental to one’s career.

“The reality is that regardless of this particular contract that William Schabas had, he’s a renowned scholar of international law,” she said, explaining that there is no doubt that he was going to study international law and analyze the situation as it existed.

“We can see what Israel did in Gaza. We can see the hundreds of thousands displaced. We can see the thousands killed. We know what happened, and that’s what this committee was tasked with investigating,” she said.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI1 Comment

Saudi Arabia: Between Iraq And A Hard Place

An inflexible, oil-rich state run by an elderly, out-of-touch elite in cahoots with kleptocratic, self-dealing vested interests, how long does Saudi Arabia have to wait for a true reformer? And what’s going to happen in the meantime?
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 2nd right first row, poses with Shura members at consultative Shura Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s new monarch isn’t wasting time. Since assuming the throne Jan. 23, King Salman has elevated some of his closest relatives and sidelined previous power-brokers, tightened decision-making and promised lavish payouts designed to win early goodwill.

The recent passing of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the ascension of his brother Salman to the throne of Saudi Arabia highlights that this most quiescent of countries is anything but. As this space reported in July, the late king had recently issued a royal decree establishing not only his own successor but that of the next king as well. In theory, King Salman could overturn this decision, but as things stand the next monarch after the present one to follow his brother into the great beyond will be Prince Muqrin, now 68.

Although much has been made of the late Saudi king’s reformist efforts, the reality is that, like his neighbors and predecessors, Abdullah was a cruel despot, who relied on a combination of routine and systematic brutality, welfare-state easy living and oil-fueled radical fundamentalism to keep his country under his family’s thumb. Under his watch, militant Salafism — much of which is supported by the Saudi elite and their clients among the Gulf Arab states, and actually taught in Saudi schools — burrowed itself into the heart the Arab world after first feasting upon the Kingdom’s oil wealth.

A Frankenstein movement turns on its creator

Unfortunately for the Saudi monarchy this reliance on religion seems to be backfiring. Instead of pacifying the country’s population and further legitimizing the royal family’s power, radical religion has empowered arevolutionary movement that increasingly sees the House of Saud as its real enemy. This philosophy was first articulated in 1979 when, in a mirror of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, religious radicals seized the Grand Mosquein a bid to start a popular uprising in Saudi Arabia. It failed, but liberal social reforms were thereafter permanently put on hold and the kingdom’s swing to the religious right has done little in the meantime to actually mollify discontent, religious or otherwise.

That’s because the monarchy and its parasitic royal family are understood by everyone in the region, especially in the country itself, to be corrupt to the core. Like the French aristocracy before the revolution or the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union or China today, they monopolize wealth and power at their countrymen’s expense and force everyone from commoner to corporate titan to pay homage to one scion of the family or another. Like The Party in the officially atheist states Saudi Arabia covertly fought in the 1980s, The Family ultimately serves no one but itself.

This basic discontent with the royal family could long be deflected in two ways. The first and most obvious was through welfare spending, while the second was the funneling of anger at the domestic state of affairs into righteous religious conflict abroad. This latter strategy saw Riyadh funneling both troublemakers and money into the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which ultimately bore bitter fruit in the form of al-Qaida in the 1990s and 2000s. Not satisfied with this disaster, however, Riyadh has done it one better by replicating the policy of using shadowy militant groups it really doesn’t control in its not-so-clandestine efforts to combat Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.

Yet this policy of using rebels to combat Iran’s battle-hardened clients in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere has taken a disastrous turn. Instead of pushing back Tehran, these Saudi-funded holy warriors have created a revolutionary army that has now taken over large portions of Sunni Syria and Iraq. They even threaten the kingdom itself, a point driven violently home when ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of two Saudi border guardsmen and their commanding general in an apparent suicide attack on Jan. 5. This must strike panic into the Saudi elite because although Saudi Arabia has seen terrorism before, it has never been so clearly linked to a seemingly viable alternative to the family’s rule so close to their own borders.

Saudi princes are now finding to their discomfort that it is one thing to fund a revolutionary movement a thousand miles away, but quite another to do so next door. Coupled with the recent loss of much of South Yemen to the pro-Iranian Houthis, Riyadh must by now be finding its maneuvering room growing narrower by the day.

The oil weapon is a double-edged sword

There is also the old standby for the royal family: the kingdom’s famous welfare state. Things here are taking a troubling turn as Saudi Arabia is finding that competitors — most notably the hydraulic frackers in the United States as well as conventional oil powers like Russia and Brazil — have eaten away at its market share. The kingdom’s response has been to open the spigots in order to flood global markets with cheap Saudi crude in the hopes of crushing the competition, but as a consequence oil prices have plummeted and threaten to take over $300 billion away from the Gulf’s economies, Saudi Arabia’s included. This is problematic because the kingdom’s welfare spending and newfound defense commitments require oil to be priced much higher, at around $90 per barrel, for the government’s budget to be balanced.

Thus, Saudi Arabia will eventually be forced to make spending cuts — an unpalatable choice given the need to confront Iran and to keep up the status quo at home — or take on debt in order to make up the difference. Debt will be the obvious short-term choice due to the political dangers involved in cutting spending, but this raises the possibility of the kingdom eventually getting caught up in a debt trap as low prices force it to borrow more and more. If low prices continue, the long-term possibility of an economic collapse will loom as Riyadh finds itself unable to fund welfare at home and conflict abroad with Iran, while also simultaneously fighting a price war with its competitors.

Uncle Sam’s shifting sands

The bright side of all this is that Iran is arguably in worse economic straits than Saudi Arabia, while Russia, Iran’s main ally and another major oil power, is also facing financial ruin. In theory, Iran should give out first, but several factors mitigate against Iran’s economic weakness. First, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states’ ISIS Frankenstein is now so reviled and hated that everyone, including even Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states themselves, are fighting against it. This means that Iran is not fighting Saudi proxies alone, but is getting the assistance of the U.S., the Kurds and others, too — in Iraq, at least. Although the same does not apply in Syria, the fact nonetheless remains that Western bombs falling on ISIS in Iraq implicitly aid Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war against similar forces in neighboring Syria.

This in turn puts Iran and the U.S. into the odd position of being allied together in common cause against Saudi-inspired — and often Saudi-funded — Sunni extremism. Although this is not yet likely to last long, it nonetheless puts Saudi Arabia in an uncomfortable position that it has never really been in before: It’s the odd man out in Uncle Sam’s complex relations with the countries of the Middle East. What’s more, this strange situation could possibly continue as two other factors converge to bring Iran and the U.S. closer together.

The first, ironically, is Tehran’s nuclear program. Although very few people in the Middle East, including in Iran itself, would like to see Iran go nuclear, the U.S. does not yet seem willing to go to war with Tehran to ensure that it does not do so. This gives Iran a crucial bargaining chip with Washington that Saudi Arabia does not have: the ability to give the U.S. a huge strategic win in the form of inspections and a public dismantling of its nuclear program. What Iran may get in return for its program is not yet clear, but it would surely involve a lessening of tensions with the West, sanctions relief and perhaps a certain amount of strategic indifference as Tehran continues to confront Riyadh in their ongoing Cold War.

The second factor, in turn, could in the long-run prove even more valuable a trump card for Iran to play: democracy. Although Iran’s democracy is weak and still trodden upon by conservative clerics and much of the revolutionary establishment, both of which have a vested interest in maintaining a conflict with the U.S., the existence of the pro-Democratic Green movement and their recent success in forcing the election of reformist, or at least non-hardline, Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president speaks to the degree that the consent of the governed must be at least somewhat adhered to Iran. Indeed, the very fact that Iran’s conservative elements felt the need to steal the country’s 2009 presidential election out from under liberal reformers reflects just how important a role elections, democracy and thus the public play in Iran’s politics.

Is Riyadh now the odd man out?

All this is missing from Saudi Arabia, which has increasingly played the role of counterrevolutionary, Czarist Russia in the Mideast’s recent rendition of 1848. Rather than backing democrats, Riyadh threw its support toward Egypt’s autocrats and Yemen’s strongman presidents in a futile bid to preserve both a broad, anti-Iranian Sunni alliance and authoritarian, non-democratic rule throughout the Middle East. It even sent in the tanks when anti-government protesters in Bahrain threatened that country’s quiet and compliant client Sunni king. Given U.S. preference for democracy in the Arab world, this, too, puts Washington and Riyadh at odds. This notion was recently pointed out by reporters who noted that the late Saudi king “could not stand” Obama due to the president’s support for democracy movements throughout the Arab heartland.

Looking forward, all this bodes ill for the aging despots running Saudi Arabia. A revolutionary army that appeals to a large number Saudis sits across their border. Their traditional enemy, Iran, has made huge strides and has effectively encircled the kingdom to the north, south and east. Worse, technological changes have brought new oil supplies to market in a way that threatens the monarchy’s ability to pay for the guns and butter it needs to keep up its Cold War with Iran and buy off loyalty at home. Finally, and most depressingly, Iran and the U.S. seem to be slowly moving toward a détente of sorts reminiscent of Washington’s opening to Beijing during the last century’s Soviet-American Cold.

The Brezhnev is dead! Long live the Brezhnev!

Pity the elderly men now calling the shots in the Arab World’s most powerful country. They face a host of problems — many of which they’ve brought about themselves; many of which seem unlikely to be solved easily or peacefully. Strong leadership at the top that looks to end both the country’s Cold War with Iran and its dependence on ultra-conservative Islam as a legitimizing ideology would go a long way toward solving those problems, but it is extremely doubtful that the wizened hands now calling the shots there will show the gumption needed to turn the Saudi ship of state from its current disastrous course.

Thus, Saudi Arabia today is what the Soviet Union was under Leonid Brezhnev: an inflexible, oil-rich state run by an elderly, out-of-touch elite in cahoots with kleptocratic, self-dealing vested interests that can neither swerve from their conflict with the outside world nor loosen their dependence on a suffocating ideology that deprives the country and its people of the breathing room they need to survive a changing world. In the USSR, Brezhnev was eventually replaced by Andropov and Chernenko, a short-lived pair followed by the tragic Gorbachev and the collapse his too-late reforms caused.

How soon, one wonders, before Saudi Arabia’s Gorbachev appears on scene? And will he be able to avoid the coming catastrophe that now seems all but certain?

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.

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North Carolina shooting victims remembered for their ‘amazing spirit’


Thousands gathered to pay tribute at vigil for three students who were gunned down on Tuesday, as crowd reminded that ‘Muslim lives matter’

Students at the University of North Carolina hold a candlelit vigil for the three Muslim students who were shot dead in Chapel Hill

 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Guardian

Thousands gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Wednesday night to pay tribute to three local students who were shot to death the night before.

Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her younger sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were killed on Tuesday evening in the couple’s apartment in a leafy suburb of Chapel Hill.

The assembled crowd, which included students from both UNC and North Carolina State University, as well as members of the surrounding community, numbered as many as 3,000 people, university officials confirmed.

Brian Swift, a friend of Barakat’s and the president of his class at the dentistry school, told the Guardian that the turnout was “unbelievable.”
“If Deah were to see me now, he would give me a smack and tell me to put a smile on my face,” he added.

Many held candles, while students from the school of dentistry – where Barakat was studying, and where his wife was set to enroll in the autumn – wore their white coats in an act of solidarity.

Craig Stephen Hicks, who turned himself in to the police, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths.

deah barakat
Deah Barakat with his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. All three were shot dead. Photograph: Supplied

The motive for the shooting is not yet known, but many, including Barakat’s family, have suggested that the murders may have been a hate crime.

After news of the attack broke, the hashtag “#MuslimLivesMatter” began trending on Twitter, and in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Barakat’s sister Suzanne described the attack as an “execution-style murder.”

Barakat’s comments echoed those of Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the two women killed, who said he believes the killings were a hate crime, perpetrated against his daughters and son-in-law because they were Muslim.

Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Guardian earlier on Wednesday that his organization was joining the Barakats in calling for authorities to treat the attack as a hate crime.

At the vigil, people stood in near-perfect silence in the clear, cold air, as friends and family lined up to pay tribute to the “amazing spirit” of the three victims, and to try and make sense of the horrific crime.
Yasmine Inaya, Razan’s best friend and classmate at North Carolina State University, referenced the hashtag that trended on Twitter after the attack. “Muslim lives matter. Black lives matter. All lives matter. Human lives matter,” she said.

Dr Omid Safi, the director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center, also addressed the crowd, ending his remarks with “love is more divine than hatred.” At that moment, the bell at the top of the university clock tower sonorously tolled the hour.

Barakat’s brother Farris made an appeal for calm. “Trust me, as a Muslim, I know: one act does not define a mass,” he said, adding “Do not fight fire with fire”.
After he spoke, a murmur of “Allahu Akhbar”– an Qur’anic phrase spoken by Muslims meaning ‘God is great’ – arose in solidarity and support from Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the crowd.

After the vigil, people left candles burning around the base of the two giant oak trees that dominate the quadrangle. A sign leaning against the trunk of one tree bore the names of the three victims, alongside the simple slogan “love prevails.”

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Ex-Rebels Form Pro-Assad Militia, Battle Islamists Around Damascus

Former rebel militiamen who have switched sides and joined Syria’s regime forces are engaged in a fierce battle against Islamist insurgents near Damascus.
By: Jason Ditz  

The Islamist rebel factions that still hold key districts on the outskirts of Damascus are facing a new enemy from an unlikely source: former rebels who have formed a pro-Assad militia.

Dubbed the Jaish al-Wafaa, or “Loyalists’ Army,” the group has been around for a few months, according to officials familiar with them, but has only gotten active very recently, with a weekend attack on the suburb of Douma amounting to some of their heaviest fighting yet.

The Islamist rebels in Douma have fought the military to a stalemate for over a year, but this new Loyalists’ Army includes a lot of their former allies, who have decided to change sides, and have considerable insight in these groups that the military lacks.

Many of the fighters are even from Douma originally, and switched sides with an eye on helping their families evacuate into safer, government-held portions of the capital.

It’s not entirely a cynical change, however, as many say that the Islamist leader of Jaish al-Islam, the Islamic Front wing in charge of Douma, has been extremely abusive to locals.

Ironically, the Islamic Front is seen as one of the more moderate Islamist factions, compared to the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra. Here in the capital, it seems, they’ve had their fill even of so-called moderates, and are deciding the rebellion, which is now almost exclusively led by Islamist factions, has gotten terrifyingly off-track.

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European Court Approves Class Action Privacy Lawsuit Against Facebook

A landmark class action lawsuit filed over alleged privacy violations involving 25,000 plaintiffs is moving forward thanks to a ruling handed down by a Austrian court Monday.

Image result for FACEBOOK LOGO

This lawsuit has been a long time in the making. End the Lie first reported on the activities of the group, known as “Europe v. Facebook” and headed up by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems, in June 2013.

The particular lawsuit at issue was first filed in August and involves 25,000 plaintiffs from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australia. A total of 75,000 users have applied to join the case.

Each of the plaintiffs is attempting to claim 500 euros from the social networking powerhouse.

Citing Facebook’s participation in the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, the suit claims that the tech giant illegally used their data and is guilty of a “large number” of violation of users’ rights, according to Austrian news outlet The Local.

The lawsuit is now heading for its first hearing on April 9 in a court in Vienna, which will be the first time Facebook will appear in court over the case, according to Techcrunch.

If the plaintiffs win, Facebook could stand to lose some $14 million. In addition to monetary damages, the plaintiffs are demanding a “suspension of data usage” by Facebook.

“Perhaps most importantly, if won — or even if simply prolonged in the public arena — the case could do a lot in PR damage,” Techcrunch notes. “And if Facebook actually loses the case, it could result in orders for Facebook to change its practices in the region.”

Indeed the potential public relations damage is quite widespread. Thus far, Facebook has refused to directly answer the charges, but they may be forced to in court.

“Facebook remains silent on these accusations,” the Europe v. Facebook press release states. “Instead, Facebook simply ‘refutes’ all claims across the board, without explaining why. Facebook simply claims that it cannot be sued by its users.”

Among the accusations made by the lawsuit are: “invalid privacy policies; illegal collection and forwarding of user data; surveillance of users via ‘like buttons’ or ‘apps’; [and] the participation in the NSA ‘PRISM’ program.”

Facebook has also claimed that the lawsuit is invalid in some of the countries where plaintiffs reside.

“Facebook is of the opinion that it cannot be sued: a lawsuit of a larger number of users would be illegal in Ireland (the international headquarters of Facebook), because such a lawsuit would – according to Facebook – violate the ‘public order’ of Ireland,” the group said, according to ZDNet. “At the same time Facebook claims that the lawsuit is also inadmissible in Austria (the location of the plaintiff). Facebook claims that it cannot be sued anywhere effectively.”

The lawyer who is representing the 25,000 users characterized Facebook’s arguments as “really bizarre.”

“We have reviewed all objections from Facebook in great detail and came to the conclusion that they lack any substance,” said Dr. Proksch, the lawyer representing the 25,000 users. “It seems that they try to delay the procedure with partly really bizarre arguments.”

In the past, Schrems’ arguments led to a privacy audit by the data protection commissioner in Ireland.

That audit resulted in Facebook being forced to simplify their privacy policies, explain to users how they are utilizing personal data, flag when they use facial recognition and also limit the retention of ad-click data to two years, ZDnet reports.

Facebook told Techcrunch and ZDNet that they have nothing to add at this time.

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Britain seeks to combat “anti-Semitism” using sex offender laws


The Sydney Morning Herald has apologised after publishing this cartoon by Glen Le Lievre alongside a column about the conflict in Gaza

Over in the United Kingdom, in an effort to combat “the rising tide of anti-Semitism,” the organized Jewish community and the Jew-loving political establishment are seeking to treat “those spreading racial hatred online” like sex offenders. Sex offenders are often served “anti-social behavior orders,” commonly known as “Asbos,” which restrict their access to the Internet. “Anti-Semites” and those spreading “racial hatred” online would presumably be banned from the Internet and social media outlets, according to The Algemeiner.

[…] The All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into antisemitism, which was initiated after shocking levels of antisemitism were recorded in the UK during and after Israel’s summer war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, said that social media platforms have “increasingly been used for the spread of antisemitism”.

According to the report, the words “Hitler” and “Holocaust” were among the top 35 key words used on Twitter during the summer, and the hashtag “Hitler was right” was trending in July.

The report said: “There is an allowance in the law for banning or blocking individuals from certain aspects of internet communication in relation to sexual offences.

“Informal feedback we have received from policy experts indicates that this is a potential area of exploration for prosecutors in relation to hate crime.

“If it can be proven in a detailed way that someone has made a considered and determined view to exploit various online networks to harm and perpetrate hate crimes against others then the accepted principles, rules and restrictions that are relevant to sex offences must surely apply.”

The report also recommended that the government establish a fund to pay for security at synagogues, and called for the creation of guidelines for teachers on how to address the Middle East conflict in classrooms. […]

Here we have yet another example of the organized Jewish community and the disgraceful British political establishment attempting to use the power of the state to enforce laws specifically protecting Jews from being criticized. “To learn who rules over you,” Voltaire is alleged to have stated, “simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” The people of the United Kingdom should be asking themselves this simple question.

Making basic, objective, and easily verifiable statements about Jews, the Jewish state of Israel, and Jewish power and influence in the West is considered “anti-Semitism,” so what we are dealing with here is the criminalization of telling the truth about and objecting to the Jews and their agenda. Additionally, anyone criticizing non-Whites – especially non-White violent crime that is regularly covered up not only in Britain, but the entire Western world – and the systematic, state-sponsored displacement of traditionally White Western European and European-derived nations by Third World foreigners will be subjected to this tyrannical legislation, assuming it will be adopted and implemented (which it likely will).

A more Orwellian situation I could not imagine. This is simply unacceptable. It is past time for the people of the West to stand up to the Jewish tyranny that has taken over our once proud and respectable nations.

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The Re-Colonization of Africa

Image result for Colonization of Africa CARTOON

As global agribusiness interests look to expand their profits with the financial backing of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), various “charitable” foundations and the political backing of the more “developed” countries of the world (the G-8), Africa is the obvious target to be saved and developed. Corporations profit, Western governments gain control. (Photo: NewsAfrican)

Most of the world’s food is grown by small scale farmers. While it is called “traditional” agriculture, it is never static and farmers constantly adapt. This traditional agriculture relies on a varied and changing mix of crops, a polyculture, which provides a balanced diet, is affordable for local farmers and can accommodate changing local conditions.

The Green Revolution relied on increasing acreages of monocultures, mostly cereal grains, which also increased the use of herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers as well as new varieties of high yielding crops. Inputs that small farmers, those who fed the people, were never meant to afford.

It was an unsustainable system that called for too many inputs, too much machinery and too much energy. Credit was an essential part of the Green Revolution—creating debts that could never be repaid. And it did nothing to empower women, who grow a considerable portion of the world’s food. It gave them no access to education, no power, and made it more difficult for them to maintain the rights to their land. Most importantly, the Green Revolution did not end hunger.

The Green Revolution never met expectations in Africa. This was for many reasons, including: civil wars, corrupt governments, governments that often could not work together, inaccessibility of water for irrigation, very diverse soil types, a lack of infrastructure and the sheer breadth of the continent. Perhaps Africa was lucky, while the Green Revolution was put forth as a solution to feed the hungry, it was also focused on permanently allowing Western governments to dominate politics and national economies—a new brand of colonialism.

Now, as global agribusiness interests look to expand their profits with the financial backing of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), various “charitable” foundations and the political backing of the more “developed” countries of the world (the G-8), Africa is the obvious target to be saved and developed. Corporations profit, Western governments gain control.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) seems to have all the answers. Started by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations and fronted by African dignitaries, their goals for Africa appear to be remarkably similar to those of the first Green Revolution, increasing agricultural production through increased inputs, monoculture farming, production of grain crops for the global market and little in the way of societal change to empower small scale farmers, women or the poor.

In a new twist to the old Green revolution, AGRA is focusing on private control rather than public—more profit, less oversight. A prime example, private seed companies will produce and sell their “improved” seed varieties to farmers, rather than giving farmers access to publicly developed seeds.

While most countries in Africa have no commercial plantings of Genetically Modified (GM or GMO) crops, many are conducting trials, aided by and politically pushed by Western governments. While AGRA claims their partners are not currently selling GM seeds in Africa, the push is clearly there.

The Gates Foundation would like their association with AGRA to appear as a strictly philanthropic venture, but, it appears that as Monsanto stands to profit so does the Gates Foundation‘s endowment.

AGRA states that “only about one quarter of Africa’s small-holder farmers have access to good seeds”—and good seeds, in the eyes of AGRA funders and partners, are GM seeds, seeds that must be purchased every year, not farmer-saved seeds. Traditional seed laws that allow saving and exchange between farmers are “outdated” according to AGRA and they continue to push for changes in seed laws that would protect patented seed.

In Ghana, the national parliament has given full support to the Plant Breeders Bill, which would restrict seed saving and swapping. According to the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen, “This system aims to compel farmers to purchase seeds for every planting season.” This bill, being pushed by AGRA, the G-8, USAID and corporate agribusiness, will make it difficult to find any seed other than GM seed. For bio-technology companies like Monsanto, Africa is the new frontier. Lots of land, lots of people, lots of foreign investment money, and governments willing to push their agenda. It all adds up to lots of profit.

AGRA may think they have all the answers, but the problem is, they never asked the questions, they never asked the people of Africa or the farmers what they wanted. This is colonialism, not democracy.

As Mariann Bassey Orovwuje of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) noted at a Town Hall Forum in Seattle last October, “if you are helping me, ask me the kind of help I need.”

Mercia Andrews, of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) in South Africa, sees AGRA and the Green Revolution as “another phase of colonialism.”

“What we need,” she stated, “is not more charity and more investment of the kind that’s being imposed on us, we need solidarity, we need learning together from you, from the peasant farmers, from the food movement, all these small markets that exist here, from the community to community movement. People to people solidarity, not corporate takeover.”

Mariam Mayet, director  of the African Centre for Biosafety (Acbio), felt that “peasant farming systems have become reviled by the like of Gates as backwards and responsible for poverty and starvation in Africa. It’s almost as if there is a concerted effort to make these systems obsolete, to do away with them, they are ugly, they are backward they have to go and they have to go now.” She noted that “I want you take home the message that there are African farmer organizations that are outraged, we are angry because these decisions have been made—imposed on us in a very patronizing, patriarchal, violent way, like we are children, that they have designed a solution for us as to how they can fix up what is broken.”

In his address to the Triennial Forum for Research in Africa General Assembly on July 18, 2013, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), stated that “Africa can feed Africa. Africa should feed Africa. And I believe that Africa will feed Africa.” And, interestingly enough, he didn’t once mention GMOs.

Just as AGRA would force its program on Africa, Nwanze felt that the decline of African agriculture, in large part, was due to structural adjustment programs forced on many of the continent’s nations by the World Bank. And cutting to the heart of the Green Revolution he noted that “if we set our sights only on improving productivity, there is a very real danger that we will grow more food in Africa without feeding more people.”

He stressed that “results must be measured NOT by higher yields alone, but by reduced poverty, improved nutrition, cohesive societies and healthy ecosystems. And, agricultural development must involve women who are too often… the most disadvantaged members of rural societies.”

While IFAD has not always been on the right side of agricultural change in Africa, Nwanze clearly articulated a vision much different than that of the original Green Revolution or of AGRA’s idea of progress in Africa. We can only hope he is sincere, it is important to acknowledge that Africans can exploit Africans, just as Western governments and corporations can. Democracy and food sovereignty should determine the future of Africa, not rich Africans or Western corporations.

AGRA believes progress is large scale farming, mono-cultures, “improved” GM seed, and a further industrialized agricultural system. However, none of these have ended hunger. This style of agriculture thas not and will not feed the world, though this is what we are constantly told to believe.

In his book, Farmageddon, Brewster Kneen notes that “In the name of progress, these new powers would like us to believe that there is no alternative to their biotechnological project. They are simply the agents of destiny. We should adjust to their rule with gratitude for their leadership and their efforts on our behalf, whether we asked for it or not.”

Colonialism is patronizing, patriarchal and violent, and to believe that AGRA’s vision for Africa, Africa’s people, its farmers, or the continent itself is anything other than a new colonialism designed to benefit corporate agribusiness and the partners of AGRA while it ultimately impoverishes the people and the culture of Africa is not just laughable, but unequivocally misguided and dangerous.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on The Re-Colonization of Africa

Is ISIL’s ‘Shock and Awe’ More Awe-ful Because One Victim?

Image result for KING OF JORDAN PHOTOS
Zionist King of Jordan

We should not forget that ‘shock and awe’ was what President George W. Bush was going for in 2003 when he began a bombing campaign that started the process of creating Daesh as a backlash to his own monumental ruthlessness.

The Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) burning of a captured Jordanian pilot alive produced justified revulsion globally, resulting in the terrorist organization being termed “barbarous” and similar epithets. Why did it behave this way? Because it wants to terrify its opponents into submission and underline that it is too crazy to be messed with. In short, it was a form of ‘shock and awe.’ It was all the more horrible for being inflicted on a single, known individual with a premeditated and inexorable viciousness, and for being carefully filmed and shared on the internet (successfully tempting Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News into rebroadcasting it).

“Shock and Awe” was the slogan pushed by the Bush administration for its massive bombing campaign against Iraq in March-April of 2003. It conducted 29,200 air strikes in the course of the initial invasion. Many of those missions were flown against what turned out to be empty Baath government facilities in hopes of killing high government officials (mostly that did not happen). But you can’t drop 500-pound bombs on a densely populated city without killing innocent bystanders. Likely the first two months of US bombing left at the very least 2,760 civilians dead.*

A study based on the conservative “Iraq Body Count” found that in Iraq, “46 per cent of the victims of US air strikes whose gender could be determined were female and 39 per cent were children.”

But the slaughter from the air was great not only among civilians but among military personnel, many of whom had no opportunity to surrender or run away (when US ground forces approaching the capital were surprised to come upon elements of a Republican Guard tank division they thought had been destroyed, the Iraqi tank personnel exited their vehicles and decamped en masse; those discovered by A-10 tank killers or Apache helicopters were not afforded that opportunity).

Speaking of burning people alive, one technique the US used was the BLU-82B, a 15,000 pound bomb detonated near the ground with a blast radius of about 5000 feet, but leaving no crater. It was intended to intimidate by burning up large numbers of infantrymen or armored personnel. (It is sometimes misidentified as a fuel-air bomb or ‘daisy cutter’ but is much more powerful than the latter). It was retired in 2008 in favor of something even more destructive.

In the 2003 invasion, The Guardian reported,

“The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force crossed the Tigris at the town of Kut, reporting only occasional fire from the Baghdad infantry division of the Republican Guard, which had suffered days of intense bombardment, including two massive 15,000lb “daisy-cutter” fuel-air bombs. Gen Brooks said the Baghdad division, which originally had up to 12,000 troops, had been “destroyed”.

I think a lot of the ‘destroyed’ troops were burned up alive.

The purpose of the bombing was to terrify Iraqis into submitting. That is, it was a form of state terrorism. Iraq had not attacked the US. There was no casus belli or legitimate legal grounds for war. The UN Security Council, despite wooing and arm-twisting by Bush officials, declined to authorize the use of force. It was an illegal act of unadulterated aggression with no obvious provocation that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the wounding of millions, and rendered four million of the 25 million Iraqis homeless over time (many of these remain displaced to this day; some have thrown in with Daesh as a result).

The US shock and awe campaign failed to shock or awe. The Iraqi military turned guerrilla and harried US troops for 8 1/2 years, then many of the ex-Baath officers and trained soldiers deserted secular nationalism, turned to al-Qaeda-type ideologies, formed Daesh and took over western and northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

The ex-Baath officers learned from seeing their colleagues and troops burned up by the Bush fireworks. According to that doctrine, you want to shock the enemy with your brutality and destructiveness, and awe him into submission by your crazed irrationality. But the Daesh commanders also took the lesson that dropping 15,000 pound bombs in the dead of the night away from cameras isn’t very effective, since the populace is insulated from the horror. Burning up even one captured enemy pilot alive on video, in contrast, would be broadcast by the internet and by Rupert Murdoch to the whole world, and a few thousand thugs could arrange for themselves to take on global importance and appear truly menacing to Jordan and even to the city of Rome (so they claim). All this publicity and fear accomplished not with billions in military spending but a smartphone camera, a single captive, and a few psychopaths with matches.

Now that is Shock and Awe. Shocking in its fierce savagery, awing in its wanton inhumanity. But we shouldn’t forget that that was also what Bush was going for in 2003 when he inadvertently started the process of creating Daesh as a backlash to his own monumental ruthlessness.

* Iraq Body Count gives 24,865 civilian casualties during the first two years of the Iraq War, attributing 37% of these to the US and estimating that 30% of civilian deaths occurred from the beginning of the war until May 1, 2003. Iraq Body Count statistics were gathered passively from Western newspaper reports and personally I think that they are underestimates.

Posted in Middle East, JordanComments Off on Is ISIL’s ‘Shock and Awe’ More Awe-ful Because One Victim?

US, Ukraine and Russia: What Went Wrong?


Reagarding a talk given by John Mearsheimer and Rick Rozoff in Evanston, Illinois on January 10, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) smiles with Ukraine’s President Petro Poreshenko (L) during a bilateral meeting in Kiev February 5, 2015. Kerry arrived in snowbound Kiev on Thursday amid calls for Washington to begin arming Ukraine to battle Russian-backed separatists advancing in the east. (Photo: Reuters/im Watson/Pool)

Two widely recognized authorities on big power politics and NATO recently gave a public talk on the current situation in the Ukraine at the Evanston (Illinois) Public Library. Organized by the Evanston Neighbors for Peace, John J. Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and Rick Rozoff, a long-time activist who maintains the “Stop NATO—Opposition to Global Militarism” web site , spent three hours recently trying to cut through the lies and obfuscation that the US public has been fed around the current developments in Ukraine.

Mearsheimer began the session, and was followed by Rozoff. Afterwards, they responded to each other’s presentation and then took questions and statements from the public, making this a very lively and informative session. This reporter was present throughout and took notes from the presentations; this reporter inserted sub-headings within to help readability.

Perspective of John Mearsheimer

Mearsheimer started off, noting the “significant deterioration in US-Russian foreign relations.” He argued this situation is “fundamentally wrong.”

He gave background to what’s going on. Basically, US-Russian relations were ok until February 22, 2014. Since then, things have gone “down the toilet bowl.” (On February 22, 2014, there was a coup in Kiev, Ukraine, where protestors—which the support of the US Government—overthrew the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych.)

Before February 22, there was no evidence of American or European policy makers being concerned with Ukraine. US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, stated there was “no reason to contain Russia,” and said that the US did not see [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as an “aggressor.” There was no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Since the coup, Russia has encouraged the citizens of Crimea—a Russian speaking area that had been given to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954—to reunite with Russia, which they did via a local referendum in March 2014. At the same time, there’s been a war “by virtually all accounts” in the Eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian government on one side, and Russia-supporting rebels on the other.

The US blames Putin for all of the turmoil. According to Mearsheimer, the US is acting “like kids who never understand what they’ve done wrong.” Some commentators have called Putin “a new Hitler,” which Mearsheimer says such arguments are “ludicrous in the extreme”: nothing that Putin has done has ever put him in the category of Hitler.

Mearsheimer says, “The Russians have made clear that Ukraine is a core strategic area.” In other words, they will defend it at all costs: their response to crisis in Ukraine is similar to what the US would do if a nuclear-armed “opponent” were to try to take over Canada or Mexico.

Mearsheimer said there were three things going on in Ukraine: NATO was trying to expand, the EU (European Union) was trying to expand, and that the US was trying to “promote democracy” in Ukraine and Georgia: basically, the idea was to put the Western powers directly on the borders of Russia. And they were trying to do this by incorporating Ukraine (as well as Georgia) into NATO and the EU.

Some Relevant Historical Background

When the Soviet Union allowed its Empire in Eastern Europe to collapse in 1989 without sending in tanks, US President George Herbert Walker Bush (the old man) told Mikhail Gorbachev that the US would not take advantage of the situation and would not expand NATO eastward. [Apparently, Gorbachev accepted Bush at his word, and this was never written down—KS.] NATO did not expand eastward until 1999, when it expanded under Bill Clinton. In 2004, under George W. Bush, it expanded to include the Baltic States. In April 2008, at a NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania, NATO offered membership to the former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia. In August 2008, there was the war between Russia and Georgia, where the Russians said unequivocally, NO WAY.

At the same time, the EU was expanding eastward, trying to incorporate as many countries in Eastern Europe into its monetary and trading zone. They were steadily trying to incorporate Ukraine as well.

At the same time, the West was also trying to “promote democracy,” and getting pro-Western leaders into positions of political leadership in these countries, including Ukraine. The so-called “Orange Revolution” in 2004 was intended to do this. The Russians were spooked by these three strategies, especially when combined, like they were.

Where things hit the crisis level was the result of Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovych’s flirting with accepting a EU economic package for this country during the Fall of 2013. Ultimately, Yanukovych decided to “deep six” the deal, and decided to accept an economic package from Russia. This lead to massive protests inside Ukraine—particularly in the European-leaning western part of the country—and these protests led to the February 22 coup, which forced Yanukovych out of office and out of the country.

Russia’s Response to the Coup

Mearsheimer labeled Russia’s response “highly understandable.” Russia made clear this situation was “categorically unacceptable.” He said that if we wanted a good analogy, we should look at the US response to the Soviet Union’s placement of missiles in Cuba in 1962 or even the Monroe Doctrine itself, which he described as telling other world powers to stay out of “our neighborhood,” the entire Western Hemisphere.

As Mearsheimer summed it up, “Great Powers are very sensitive to disruptions on their borders and in their neighborhoods.”

He stressed it again: Russia’s response is “completely understandable.” Putin and the Russians are not going to allow Ukraine to join NATO: they see this as an “existential threat.”

Accordingly, they “took Crimea,” although they had 25,000 troops stationed there under a long-term lease that allowed the Russian Black Sea Fleet to harbor at Sevastopol; obviously, they didn’t want to risk that lease being terminated, causing them to loose that naval base.

The Russians have also helped facilitate troubles in eastern Ukraine. According to Mearsheimer, however, they will not invade. He notes that Russia is in both serious economic and political trouble—the West’s sanctions have hurt Russia, but probably the bigger, immediate problem is the collapse of global oil prices—but he argues that the conventional forces of Russian cannot swallow Ukraine; they have limited military capabilities. He says an invasion by Russia is “not in the cards: there’s no evidence that they want to do it and they aren’t capable,” either.

What the Russians can do, however, is wreck the country as a functioning society.

In response, the West keeps telling the government in Ukraine to keep playing hardball with the Russians. Mearsheimer thinks this is misleading Ukraine. He said it’s stupid to tell Ukrainians to keep screwing themselves by poking the Russians. “Putin is certain to make sure Ukraine will not be part of the West.”

From Here?

Mearsheimer thinks there is a simple solution to the crisis: take NATO and EU expansion off the table. His idea is to make Ukraine a neutral border state.

He argues that Putin hasn’t wanted to pick a fight, and the evidence shows that there really wasn’t a problem in Ukraine until the Fall of 2013, after Yanukovych decided to take a Russian deal instead of one with the EU. He states simply, “Putin did not create the crisis.”

Mearsheimer thinks that the US is being “foolish in the extreme” to keep supporting the Ukrainians’ conflict with Russia. He argues this makes the chance of a war more dangerous.

Perspective of Rick Rozoff

Rozoff started off by thanking Mearsheimer for speaking truth to power in a recent article in Foreign Affairs,Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault (September-October 2014). He then pointed out this was Day 270 of the “anti-terrorist operation” by Ukraine, and the “Fifth Act” of NATO’s expansion.

Most Americans never even consider NATO, especially after the dissolution of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe, which was touted as “the end of the Cold War.” Rozoff pointed out that despite the supposed end, NATO has been very aggressively expanding eastward toward Russia, which was the heartland of the Soviet Union.

  • This began in 1990, when East Germany was absorbed into Germany. (GHW Bush Administration);
  • In 1999, at the 50th anniversary of the founding of NATO, in a NATO Summit in Washington, DC, NATO engaged in its first post-Cold War expansion, inviting Poland, Hungary and Poland to join it. (Clinton Administration).
  • In 2004, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (the “Baltic States”) joined, along with Slovenia and Slovakia (parts of former Yugoslavia), Bulgaria and Romania (GWB Administration).
  • In 2009, Croatia (part of former Yugoslavia) and Albania joined, although they had been invited in 2008, under the GW Bush Administration. By 2009, NATO had increased its membership by 75%, now having 28 full members and 49 “partner” countries, for a total of 77 country members. Over 70% of the total world spending on military weaponry is done by these nations.
  • In 2008, both Georgia and Ukraine were told they could eventually become members.

Rozoff pointed out that not only had NATO been expanding aggressively, it has now fought in a number of wars, most far away from Europe. It forces fought in the 1994-95 war in Yugoslavia, and then again in 1999, when it carried out a 78 day bombing campaign in support of Kosovo’s succession. After that, it sent forces to Afghanistan beginning in 2001, forces “for training” in Iraq in 2004, ships for anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden (off of Somalia), and then in 2011, it led the war on Libya.

But NATO engages in war-like activities (called “exercises”) designed to enhance its war-fighting capabilities. For example, Rozoff talked about a March 2014 NATO exercise above the Artic Circle. This “exercise” involved 16,000 troops from 16 nations and took place approximately 200 miles from Russia.

Rozoff pointed out that this aggressive behavior towards Russia, up to and including developments in Ukraine—and he said it could only be seen that way by the Russians, despite whatever rationales were mouthed by NATO—was very dangerous. He mentioned that Mikhail Gorbachev had even suggested recently that things in Ukraine could easily get out of hand, and that ultimately could lead to nuclear war.

Rozoff ended his talk with arguing the need to disband NATO, which he called “the biggest threat to world peace.”

Further Discussion

Mearsheimer states that the ruling elite of Ukraine wants to be part of the West, not Russia. However, he argues, “they do not have a right to do whatever they want.” He says their problem is what he called “bad geography.” The Russians consider Ukraine to be a core strategic region. He says that the West is leading Ukraine “down a primrose path” that can only end up hurting Ukraine.

An audience member asked about US activities in Ukraine being connected to economic interests?

Mearsheimer stated that the there’s no doubt that the US is economically interested in Ukraine, but he argues there is no need to try to pull Ukraine away from Russia. The sanctions that the Obama Administration and the EU have imposed on Russia have “severely damaged” Russia, but it’s leading to blowback (i.e., unintended consequences) on Western Europe. He believes that some of the current EU economic problems are being caused by the Ukraine crisis. He says German business elites clearly are opposed to economic sanctions against Russia.

Someone else asked if Russia could withstand economic sanctions along with the collapse of oil prices?

Mearsheimer says this is a great crisis for Russia, but he does not think Russia will collapse—and that they will not give up, as Ukraine is a core strategic area for them. He says that Russia has two things going for it: “they have arms, including nuclear weapons, and hydrocarbon.” He pointed out that the EU is the second largest consumer of hydrocarbon in the world.

Someone else asked what was the US role in the 2013 protests/2014 coup in Ukraine? Mearsheimer said he didn’t know. He said it was hard to get details.

This reporter—a scholar who has done research on the US “democracy promotion’ activities—then made a contribution to the discussion. He said that Americans were working closely with the protestors who came to power in the coup. He pointed out that Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and US Senator John McCain—the Chairman of the International Republican Institute, which is a core institute of the US government’s so-called National Endowment for Democracy—participated in protests in Kiev. However, he said he doesn’t know if the US had facilitated the coup, but that there has been a lot of “democracy promotion” money sent to Ukraine to develop political parties, and this went to opposition politicians who opposed the democratically elected government.

Another audience member pointed out that he understood there had been considerable monies sent to the Ukraine opposition by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (a right-wing foundation) of Germany, as well as USAID (US Agency for International Development). He also stated he had been in Ukraine recently, and specifically noted that there were people from fascist organizations involved in the opposition, and they now held important positions in the post-coup government.

With that last interaction, the session was closed. Thus ended a very informative program that helped clear up a lot of misinformation about currents in eastern Europe and specifically Ukraine. It’s importance became even more clear as President Obama, in his January 20th State of the Union speech, claimed that it was Putin who was the aggressor in Ukraine—more disinformation by the Commander in Chief.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on US, Ukraine and Russia: What Went Wrong?

‘Zero Tolerance’: A Worldwide Call to Eliminate the Brutal Practice of FGM


UN chief calls for a future ‘where every girl can grow up free of violence and discrimination, with full dignity, human rights and equality.’

Students and teachers of the Midwifery School in El Fasher, North Darfur. They all recently signed a pledge to stop the practice of female genital mutilation in Darfur.(Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID/flickr/cc)

Zero tolerance.

That’s what the United Nations, health professionals, and those who advocate for women and girls say is necessary to end female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that still plagues millions of women and girls around the world, reflecting deep-rooted inequality between sexes and extreme discrimination against women and children.

“In every country, whether legal or not, medical providers who perform FGM are violating the fundamental rights of girls and women.”
—Joint statement from UNFPA, UNICEF, International Confederation of Midwives, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics

Friday marks the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, following what the Guardian describes as “12 months of historic change and growing awareness of the practice.”

The focus of this year’s commemoration is on the troubling ‘medicalization’ of FGM, a trend in which healthcare providers engage in the practice, in turn lending their tacit approval. Around one in five girls have been cut by a trained health-care provider, they say, with that number going as high as three in four girls in some countries.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on health workers around the world to eliminate what he called a “deeply harmful” practice, which is concentrated in about 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The UN claims FGM is a violation of both children’s and women’s rights to health, security, freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

“If everyone mobilized—women, men and young people—it is possible, in this generation, to end a practice that currently affects some 130 million girls and women in 29 countries where we have data,” said the Secretary-General. “I call for all people to end FGM and create the future we want where every girl can grow up free of violence and discrimination, with full dignity, human rights and equality.”

According to the UN, the practice has no medical benefits, yet harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Immediate complications can include severe pain and bleeding, shock, infection, and injury to nearby genital tissue. Long-term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, and the need for later surgeries.

“Health workers… have a deep understanding of the harmful consequences of this practice,” read a joint statement from the UN Population Fund, UNICEF, the International Confederation of Midwives, and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, which came together on Friday to issue a call to action for health workers around the world to mobilize against FGM. “And, they also witness the emotional wounds FGM inflicts, trauma which often lasts a lifetime.”

“Female genital mutilation violates the human rights and undermines the health and well-being of some 3 million girls each year,” said the statement. “FGM is illegal in many countries, and medical providers who perform it in these places are breaking the law. But in every country, whether legal or not, medical providers who perform FGM are violating the fundamental rights of girls and women.”

Prevalence in the United States

The Guardian revealed separately on Thursday that 500,000 women in the U.S. are estimated to be at risk of or have been subjected to FGM—three times more than previously thought.

The findings were based on unpublished draft figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seen by the Guardian and supported by new statistics from the non-profit Population Reference Bureau released Friday.

The newspaper reported:

The extent of female genital mutilation in the US has been exposed following pressure from campaigners, including a global campaign against FGM led by Jaha Dukureh, a 25-year-old mother from Atlanta, who was cut as a baby in her home country of Gambia. With the backing of the Guardian, Dukureh launched a petition last May successfully calling for a new prevalence study into FGM and for a working group to be set up.

“This is a huge moment—once we have proper data we can really start taking first steps to end FGM in the US,” said Dukureh. “I haven’t seen the CDC study but these draft figures appear to prove what we already knew: FGM is an American problem; we can’t keep on ignoring it; we can’t afford to leave these girls at risk.”

In 2014, the U.K. hosted the first ‘Girl Summit’ in London to tackle FGM and early forced marriage, while the Obama administration announced it would carry out a study to establish how many women are living with the consequences of FGM and how many girls are at risk in the U.S.

Late last month, a doctor became the first person in Egypt to be convicted of FGM, seven years after the procedure was criminalized in the country where an estimated 90 percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure. The doctor was convicted of manslaughter in the case of a 13-year-old girl who died after undergoing FGM. The international human rights group Equality Now called the ruling a “monumental victory.”

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on ‘Zero Tolerance’: A Worldwide Call to Eliminate the Brutal Practice of FGM

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