Archive | February 20th, 2015

Spreading Terror around the Globe by Selling Drones to “US Allies”

Global Research

Here we go again. The US Empire does what it does best, exporting more death, destruction and terror around the world. On Tuesday the Obama administration disclosed that it plans to export killer drones to its allies from Turkey to Italy to Saudi Arabia. And we already know how that song goes. In recent years the Islamic extremists have managed to invariably get their hands on countless weapons and arms shipments intended for our so called allies. Be it in Iraq or Syria, arms that were supposed to go to the Iraqi army or allied Kurds or moderate rebels in Syria somehow always get delivered to the Islamic State extremists, the latest US-Israeli-Saudi created terrorist monster-on- steroids.

As an example last October an airdrop of weapons that was purported to go to the Kurds in the besieged town of Kobani in Syria to fight the Islamic State forces ended up in the wrong hands. As recently as last month it was discovered and reported that the US was regularly air dropping arms and supplies to the waiting Islamic State on the ground below in Iraq. Obama’s huff and puff rhetoric about hunting down the Islamic State in Syria in reality is merely another effectively deceptive ploy to commit air strikes on Assad’s Syria that he couldn’t get away with the year before right after the false flag chemical weapons attack committed by US backed rebels (that were later renamed ISIS). So now both Israeli and US military air strikes are taking out infrastructure inside Syria that hurts the Syrian people, destroying oil refineries and food storage silos.

Any true military strategist would know that if the United States actually wanted to destroy the so called big bad enemy terrorists, the most modern and lethal killing machine on the planet has the means to accomplish this mission within a month. But the truth is the Islamic State serves the megalomaniacal purpose of the Empire and for that reason alone, they must survive and be allowed to continue killing Western journalists and causing deaths of humanitarian aid workers as well as engaging in ongoing Christian cleansing throughout the Middle East and beyond. Terror strikes deep into the psyche when dumbed down masses are manipulated into a frenzied, frothy hate of Islam worldwide that only serves the Zionist-Empire-NATO unholy alliance all too well.

In between making and placing their beheading videos online, the same enemy found the time to undergo training inside our close ally Turkey’s border. With this latest announcement selling drones to US allies, the world is supposed to feel safer now that our “trusted” friends in Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be receiving Obama’s personal favorite form of state-sponsored terrorism from the sky. Using the same preferred modern warfare method that our president has envisioned killing Americans on US soil, he now plans to let others also use it to kill yet more innocent humans.

A recent study from November 2014 revealed that less than 4% of those killed by drones in Yemen and Pakistan were actually the targeted bad guys while over 96% of the 1,147 dead people killed in this latest sample were innocent civilians. The January 28, 2015 tally by the Journal of Investigative Journalism brings the total number of drone deaths in Pakistan alone to be estimated near 4,000 victims. If the sloppy aim of the most experienced and trained drone pilots on the planet from the CIA and US military can’t efficiently kill the enemy, what makes anyone believe that these other nations with fewer trained pilots will produce any better results? It’s another disaster waiting to happen.

All we are doing by spreading terror from the skies in yet more hands around the world is increasing more innocent victims whose family members will justifiably hate the US (and its allies) even more. But then the Empire’s forever war on terror will be just that, with a permanent supply of fresh new jihadist recruits signing up to kill Americans to avenge the loss of their loved ones. And of course because history by design is locked into a forever do-loop pattern repeating itself, our enemies will get a hold of these made in-the-USA drones and be using them in no time on us made-in-the-USA Americans, that is when Obama’s not already using them on us. One can easily see the false flag scenario of a drone attack one day killing Americans in America and then blaming it on the Moslem terrorists who “accidentally on purpose” managed to acquire one of our own “misdirected” killer drones. And the suicidal madness increases exponentially.

A number of America’s so called allies have rather dubious track records when it comes to aiding and abetting our enemy. On the one hand, Obama in his most fluent doublespeak is quick to regard Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan as our allies in the Empire’s war on terror, yet on the other hand reality has repeatedly proven that these same “friends” regularly supply and support terrorism. For that matter, so does the United States. The bottom line is the US Empire created and has been regularly using our so called enemies al Qaeda/ISIS as our mercenary proxy-war boots on the ground in 1980’s Afghanistan against the Soviets, 1990’s Balkans against the Serbs, 9/11/2001 against our own American peoplein 2011-12 Libya against Gaddafi and illegally smuggle arms from Benghazi, 2010 to the present in Syria against Assad and last year against puppet fallen-out-of-favor al-Maliki in Iraq. While Obama has continued claiming al Qaeda and ISIS as the US enemy, at the same time he is treasonously using our taxpayer dollars to train, arm and deploy them on the ground wherever he sees fit. The American people are finally realizing Obama cannot have it both ways any more.

Perhaps that’s why a year ago after the CIA-induced overthrow of the democratically elected government in Ukraine, the US decided it was time to declare a new enemy in cold war, part II. Once Putin reclaimed its Crimean naval base after the Crimean people voted overwhelmingly to become part of Russia again, it’s been a propaganda war ever since. Obama and the West have been demonizing Russia once again as the enemy through nonstop lies and false flags. But it’s not working. With far more at stake in making Putin the enemy, Europe is currently attempting to arrive at peace in Eastern Ukraine through diplomacy, much to Obama’s chagrin.

The truth is the United States manufactures allies and enemies according to its fickle, self-serving, propagandizing purpose and has absolutely no moral high ground to stand on in a single aspect of its foreign policy. Whatever suits global hegemony for gaining more power and control while reaping more profit for transnational corporations and the central banking cabal is the common thread behind everything the US government does anywhere and everywhere on earth. That’s why America’s insane, convoluted, chaotic chessboard policy makes allies into enemies and enemies into allies at its fleeting, imperialistic will, amounting to pure schizoid madness. And aside from making more money for the ruling elite, by design its intended purpose is to create conflict and war to destabilize, destroy and impoverish every nation it touches, a la the King Midas-in-reverse effect. And what does this demonic foreign policy have to show for itself? Failed states in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan along with a faltering, choking, bankrupt US economy on the verge of total collapse. Stay tuned for the fall of the American Empire.

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Will the GOP Capitulate Again?


“Free trade results in giving our money, our manufactures, and our markets to other nations,” warned the Republican Senator from Ohio and future President William McKinley in 1892.
“Thank God I am not a free-trader,” echoed the rising Empire State Republican and future President Theodore Roosevelt.

Those were the voices of a Republican Party that believed in prospering America first.

For a quarter century, however, the party of the Bushes has been a globalist, New World Order party, and fanatically free trade.

It signed on to NAFTA, GATT, the World Trade Organization, most-favored-nation status for China, CAFTA, and KORUS, the U.S.-Korean trade treaty negotiated by Barack Obama.

So supportive have Republicans been of anything sold as free trade they have agreed to “fast track,” the voluntary surrender by Congress of its constitutional power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”

With fast track, Congress gives up its right to amend trade treaties, and agrees to restrict itself to a yea or nay vote.

And who is leading the fight to have Congress again surrender its power over trade? The GOP vice presidential nominee, and current chairman of ways and means, Paul Ryan.

Yet when one looks back on the devastation wrought by free trade, how can a party that purports to put America first sign on to fast track yet again?

In the first decade of this century, the United States lost 5 to 6 million manufacturing jobs. We lost 55,000 factories, a devastation of industry not unlike what we inflicted on Germany and Japan in 1944-45.

The trade figures are in for 2014. What do they show?

The United States ran a trade deficit of $505 billion. But as the Economic Policy Institute’s Robert Scott points out, in manufactured goods, the U.S. trade deficit rose to $524 billion, a surge of $77 billion over 2013.

The U.S. trade deficit with China soared to $342 billion. Our exports to China amounted to $125 billion. But our imports from China were almost four times as great, $467 billion.

Since Jan. 1, 2000, U.S. trade deficits with China have totaled an astronomical $3.3 trillion.

How do Clinton, Bush II and Obama defend these trade deficits that have done to our country exactly what McKinley warned they would do in 1892 — given away “our money, our manufactures, and our markets” to Communist China?

Have the Chinese reciprocated for this historic transfer of America’s productive capacity and wealth by becoming a better friend and partner?

While the United States ran a $505 billion trade deficit overall, in goods we ran a trade deficit of $737 billion, or 4 percent of GDP.

And while our trade deficit in goods with China was $343 billion, with the European Union it was $141 billion, with Japan $67 billion, with Mexico $54 billion, with Canada $34 billion, with South Korea $25 billion.

Our Mexican neighbors send us illegal migrants to compete for U.S. jobs. And our multinationals send to Mexico the factories and jobs of Middle America, to exploit the low-wage labor there. One can, after all, assemble Fords more cheaply in Hermosillo than Ohio.

Of particular interest is Korea, with which the United States signed a free-trade agreement in 2011. Since then, U.S. exports to Korea have fallen, U.S. imports have risen 80 percent, and we ran a $25 billion trade deficit in 2014.

With the KORUS deal the template for the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, how can Republicans vote to throw away their right to alter or amend any TPP that Obama brings home?

Was the national vote to give Republicans majorities in Congress unseen since 1946 a vote to have the GOP turn over all power to write trade treaties to Obama and his negotiators who produced the greatest trade deficits in American history?

Do these record deficits justify such blind confidence in Obama? Do they justify Congress’ renunciation of rights over commerce that the Founding Fathers explicitly set aside for the legislative branch in Article I of the Constitution?

“If we don’t like the way the global economy works,” says Paul Ryan, “then we have to get out there and change it.”

No, we don’t. The great and justified complaint against China and Japan, who have run the largest trade surpluses at our expense, is that they are “currency manipulators.”

Correct. But the way to deal with currency manipulators is to rob them of the benefits of their undervalued currencies by slapping tariffs on goods they send to the United States.

And if the WTO says you can’t do that, give the WTO the answer Theodore Roosevelt would have given them.

Instead of wringing our hands over income inequality and wage stagnation, why don’t we turn these trade deficits into trade surpluses, as did the generations of Lincoln and McKinley, and T. R. and Cal Coolidge?

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Ukraine Finance Minister’s American ‘Values’


Special Report: Among the arguments for why Americans should risk nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine is that the regime that took power in a coup last year “shares our values.” But one of those “values” – personified by Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko – may be the skill of using insider connections, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Ukraine’s new Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who has become the face of reform for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev and will be a key figure handling billions of dollars in Western financial aid, was at the center of insider deals and other questionable activities when she ran a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund.

Prior to taking Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister last December, Jaresko was a former U.S. diplomat who served as chief executive officer of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by Congress in the 1990s and overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.

Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.

But Jaresko, who was limited to making $150,000 a year at WNISEF under the U.S. AID grant agreement, managed to earn more than that amount, reporting in 2004 that she was paid $383,259 along with $67,415 in expenses, according to WNISEF’s public filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Later, Jaresko’s compensation was removed from public disclosure altogether after she co-founded two entities in 2006: Horizon Capital Associates (HCA) to manage WNISEF’s investments (and collect around $1 million a year in fees) and Emerging Europe Growth Fund (EEGF) to collaborate with WNISEF on investment deals.

Jaresko formed HCA and EEGF with two other WNISEF officers, Mark Iwashko and Lenna Koszarny. They also started a third firm, Horizon Capital Advisors, which “serves as a sub-advisor to the Investment Manager, HCA,” according to WNISEF’s IRS filing for 2006.

U.S. AID apparently found nothing suspicious about these tangled business relationships – and even allowed WNISEF to spend millions of dollars helping EEGF become a follow-on private investment firm – despite the potential conflicts of interest involving Jaresko, the other WNISEF officers and their affiliated companies.

For instance, WNISEF’s 2012 annual report devoted two pages to “related party transactions,” including the management fees to Jaresko’s Horizon Capital ($1,037,603 in 2011 and $1,023,689 in 2012) and WNISEF’s co-investments in projects with the EEGF, where Jaresko was founding partner and chief executive officer. Jaresko’s Horizon Capital managed the investments of both WNISEF and EEGF.

From 2007 to 2011, WNISEF co-invested $4.25 million with EEGF in Kerameya LLC, a Ukrainian brick manufacturer, and WNISEF sold EEGF 15.63 percent of Moldova’s Fincombank for $5 million, the report said. It also listed extensive exchanges of personnel and equipment between WNISEF and Horizon Capital. But it’s difficult for an outsider to ascertain the relative merits of these insider deals and the transactions apparently raised no red flags for U.S. AID officials.

Bonuses for Officers

Regarding compensation, WNISEF’s 2013 filing with the IRS noted that the fund’s officers collected millions of dollars in bonuses for closing out some investments at a profit even as the overall fund was losing money. According to the filing, WNISEF’s $150 million nest egg had shrunk by more than one-third to $94.5 million and likely has declined much more during the economic chaos that followed the U.S.-back coup in February 2014.

But prior to the coup and the resulting civil war, Jaresko’s WNISEF was generously spreading money around. For instance, the 2013 IRS filing reported that the taxpayer-financed fund paid out as “expenses” $7.7 million under a bonus program, including $4.6 million to “current officers,” without identifying who received the money.

The filing made the point that the “long-term equity incentive plan” was “not compensation from Government Grant funds but a separately USAID-approved incentive plan funded from investment sales proceeds” – although those proceeds presumably would have gone into the depleted WNISEF pool if they had not been paid out as bonuses.

The filing also said the bonuses were paid regardless of whether the overall fund was making money, noting that this “compensation was not contingent on revenues or net earnings, but rather on a profitable exit of a portfolio company that exceeds the baseline value set by the board of directors and approved by USAID” – with Jaresko also serving as a director on the board responsible for setting those baseline values.

Another WNISEF director was Jeffrey C. Neal, former chairman of Merrill Lynch’s global investment banking and a co-founder of Horizon Capital, further suggesting how potentially incestuous these relationships may have become.

Though compensation for Jaresko and other officers was shifted outside public view after 2006 – as their pay was moved to the affiliated entities – the 2006 IRS filing says: “It should be noted that as long as HCA earns a management fee from WNISEF, HCA and HCAD [the two Horizon Capital entities] must ensure that a salary cap of $150,000 is adhered to for the proportion of salary attributable to WNISEF funds managed relative to aggregate funds under management.”

But that language would seem to permit compensation well above $150,000 if it could be tied to other managed funds, including EEGF, or come from the incentive program. Such compensation for Jaresko and the other top officers was not reported on later IRS forms despite a line for earnings from “related organizations.” Apparently, Horizon Capital and EEGF were regarded as “unrelated organizations” for the purposes of reporting compensation.

Neither AID officials nor Jaresko responded to specific questions about WNISEF’s possible conflicts of interest, how much money Jaresko made from her involvement with WNISEF and its connected companies, and whether she had fully complied with IRS reporting requirements.

Shared Values?

Despite such ethical questions, Jaresko was cited by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman as an exemplar of the new Ukrainian leaders who “share our values” and deserve unqualified American support. Friedman uncritically quoted Jaresko’s speech to international financial leaders at Davos, Switzerland, in which she castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“Putin fears a Ukraine that demands to live and wants to live and insists on living on European values — with a robust civil society and freedom of speech and religion [and] with a system of values the Ukrainian people have chosen and laid down their lives for.”

However, Jaresko has shown little regard for transparency or other democratic values, such as the right of free speech when it comes to someone questioning her financial dealings. For instance, she has gone to great lengths to block her ex-husband Ihor Figlus from exposing what he regards as her questionable business ethics.

In 2012, when Figlus tried to blow the whistle on what he saw as improper loans that Jaresko had taken from Horizon Capital Associates to buy and expand her stake in EEGF, the privately held follow-on fund to WNISEF, Jaresko sent her lawyers to court to silence him and, according to his lawyer, bankrupt him.

The filings in Delaware’s Chancery Court are remarkable not only because Jaresko succeeded in getting the Court to gag her ex-husband through enforcement of a non-disclosure agreement but the Court agreed to redact nearly all the business details, even the confidentiality language at the center of the case.

Since Figlus had given some of his information to a Ukrainian journalist, the court complaint also had the look of a leak investigation, tracking down Figlus’s contacts with the journalist and then using that evidence to secure the restraining order, which Figlus said not only prevented him from discussing business secrets but even talking about his more general concerns about Jaresko’s insider dealings.

The heavy redactions make it hard to fully understand Figlus’s concerns or to assess the size of Jaresko’s borrowing as she expanded her holdings in EEGF, but Figlus did assert that he saw his role as whistle-blowing about improper actions by Jaresko.

In a Oct. 31, 2012, filing, Figlus’s attorney wrote that “At all relevant times, Defendant [Figlus] acted in good faith and with justification, on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein where such inequitable conduct adversely affects … at least one other limited partner which is REDACTED, and specifically the inequitable conduct included, in addition to the other conduct cited herein, REDACTED.”

The filing added: “The Plaintiffs’ [Jaresko’s and her EEGF partners’] claims are barred, in whole or in part, by public policy, and particularly that a court in equity should not enjoin ‘whistle-blowing’ activities on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein.” But the details of that conduct were all redacted.

Free Speech

In a defense brief dated Dec. 17, 2012 [see Part One and Part Two], Figlus expanded on his argument that Jaresko’s attempts to have the court gag him amounted to a violation of his constitutional right of free speech:

“The obvious problem with the scope of their Motion is that Plaintiffs are asking the Court to enter an Order that prohibits Defendant Figlus from exercising his freedom of speech without even attempting to provide the Court with any Constitutional support or underpinning for such impairment of Figlus’ rights.

“Plaintiffs cannot do so, because such silencing of speech is Constitutionally impermissible, and would constitute a denial of basic principles of the Bill of Rights in both the United States and Delaware Constitutions. There can be no question that Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary injunction, which constitutes a prior restraint on speech. …

“The Court cannot, consistent with the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of free speech, enjoin speech except in the most exceptional circumstances, and certainly not when Plaintiffs are seeking to prevent speech that is not even covered by the very contractual provision upon which they are relying.

“Moreover, the Court cannot prevent speech where the matter has at least some public interest REDACTED, except as limited to the very specific and exact language of the speaker’s contractual obligation.”

Figlus also provided a narrative of events as he saw them as a limited partner in EEGF, saying he initially “believed everything she [Jaresko] was doing, you know, was proper.” Later, however, Figlus “learned that Jaresko began borrowing money from HCA REDACTED, but again relied on his spouse, and did not pay attention to the actual financial transactions…

“In early 2010, after Jaresko separated from Figlus, she presented Figlus with, and requested that he execute, a ‘Security Agreement,’ pledging the couple’s partnership interest to the repayment of the loans from HCA. This was Figlus first realization of the amount of loans that Jaresko had taken, and that the partnership interest was being funded through this means. …By late 2011, Jaresko had borrowed approximately REDACTED from HCA to both fund the partnership interest REDACTED. The loans were collateralized only by the EEFG partnership interest. …

“Figlus became increasingly concerned about the partnership and the loans that had been and continued to be given to the insiders to pay for their partnership interests, while excluding other limited partners. Although Figlus was not sophisticated in these matters, he considered that it was inappropriate that HCA was giving loans to insiders to fund their partnership interests, but to no other partners. …

“He talked to an individual at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington D.C., because the agency was effectively involved as a limited partner because of the agency’s funding and supervision over WNISEF, but the agency employee did not appear interested in pursuing the question.”

A Spousal Dispute

Meanwhile, Jaresko’s lawyers mocked Figlus’s claims that he was acting as a whistle-blower, claiming that he was actually motivated by a desire “to harm his ex-wife” and had violated the terms of his non-disclosure agreement, which the lawyers convinced the court to exclude from the public record.

The plaintiffs’ brief [see Part One and Part Two] traces Figlus’s contacts with the Ukrainian reporter whose name is also redacted:

“Figlus, having previously received an audit from the General Partner, provided it to REDACTED [the Ukrainian reporter] with full knowledge that the audit was non-public. Also on or about October 2, 2012, REDACTED [the reporter] contacted multiple Limited Partners, informed them that he possessed ‘documented proof’ of alleged impropriety by the General Partner and requested interviews concerning that alleged impropriety.”

The filing noted that on Oct. 3, 2012, the reporter told Figlus that Jaresko “called two REDACTED [his newspaper’s] editors last night crying, not me, for some reason.” (The Ukrainian story was never published.)

After the competing filings, Jaresko’s lawyers successfully secured a restraining order against Figlus from the Delaware Chancery Court and are continuing to pursue the case against him though his lawyer has asserted that his client will make no further effort to expose these financial dealings and is essentially broke.

On May 14, 2014, Figlus filed a complaint with the court claiming that he was being denied distributions from his joint interest in EEGF and saying he was told that it was because the holding was pledged as security against the loans taken out by Jaresko.

But, on the same day, Jaresko’s lawyer, Richard P. Rollo, contradicted that assertion, saying information about Figlus’s distributions was being withheld because EEGF and Horizon Capital “faced significant business interruptions and difficulties given the political crisis in Ukraine.”

The filing suggested that the interlocking investments between EEGF and the U.S.-taxpayer-funded WNISEF were experiencing further trouble from the political instability and civil war sweeping across Ukraine. By last December, Jaresko had resigned from her WNISEF-related positions, taken Ukrainian citizenship and started her new job as Ukraine’s Finance Minister.

In an article about Jaresko’s appointment, John Helmer, a longtime foreign correspondent in Russia, disclosed the outlines of the court dispute with Figlus and identified the Ukrainian reporter as Mark Rachkevych of the Kyiv Post.

“It hasn’t been rare for American spouses to go into the asset management business in the former Soviet Union, and make profits underwritten by the US Government with information supplied from their US Government positions or contacts,” Helmer wrote. “It is exceptional for them to fall out over the loot.”

Earlier this month, when I contacted George Pazuniak, Figlus’s lawyer, about Jaresko’s aggressive enforcement of the non-disclosure agreement, he told me that “at this point, it’s very difficult for me to say very much without having a detrimental effect on my client.” Pazuniak did say, however, that all the redactions were demanded by Jaresko’s lawyers.

Unresponsive Response

I also sent detailed questions to U.S. AID and to Jaresko via several of her associates. Those questions included how much of the $150 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money remained, why Jaresko reported no compensation from “related organizations,” whether she received any of the $4.6 million to WNISEF’s officers in bonuses in 2013, how much money she made in total from her association with WNISEF, what AID officials did in response Figlus’s complaint about possible wrongdoing, and whether Jaresko’s legal campaign to silence her ex-husband was appropriate given her current position and Ukraine’s history of secretive financial dealings.

U.S. AID press officer Annette Y. Aulton got back to me with a response that was unresponsive to my specific questions. Rather than answering about the performance of WNISEF and Jaresko’s compensation, the response commented on the relative success of 10 “Enterprise Funds” that AID has sponsored in Eastern Europe and added:

“There is a twenty year history of oversight of WNISEF operations. Enterprise funds must undergo an annual independent financial audit, submit annual reports to USAID and the IRS, and USAID staff conduct field visits and semi-annual reviews. At the time Horizon Capital assumed management of WNISEF, USAID received disclosures from Natalie Jaresko regarding the change in management structure and at the time USAID found no impropriety during its review.”

One Jaresko associate, Tanya Bega, Horizon Capital’s investor relations manager, said she forwarded my questions to Jaresko last week, but Jaresko did not respond.

Janika Merilo, an Estonian brought into the Ukrainian government to oversee foreign investments. (From her Facebook page via Zero Hedge)

Jaanika Merilo, an Estonian brought into the Ukrainian government to oversee foreign investments. (A photo released by Merilo onto the Internet via Dances with Bears)

Further showing how much Jaresko’s network is penetrating the new Ukrainian government, another associate, Estonian Jaanika Merilo, has been brought on to handle Ukraine’s foreign investments. Merilo’s Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (UVCA), which is committed to “representing interests of private equity investors to policymakers and improving the investment and business climate in Ukraine,” included Jaresko’s Horizon Capital as a founder.

In a way, given Jaresko’s background of parlaying U.S. taxpayer’s money into various insider investment deals, perhaps she does have the experience to handle the incoming $17.5 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund.

But the question remains whether Jaresko’s is the right kind of experience – and whether the money will go to help the impoverished people of Ukraine or simply wind up lining the pockets of the well-heeled and the well-connected.

–With research by Chelsea Gilmour

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Cuban Doctors Save 260 Lives in Sierra Leone

A Cuban Medical Brigade

A Cuban Medical Brigade | Photo: Cuba Debate

Since October, Cuban doctors have cured many people with Ebola.

Cuban authorities reported on national television Wednesday that their operation to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone was having success.

“We have managed to save the lives of 260 people who were in a very very bad state, and through our treatment, they were cured and have gotten on with their lives,” said Jorge Delgado, head of the brigade of doctors and nurses to EFE.

Cuban doctors arrived in Sierra Leone, still facing one of the worst Ebola epidemics in history, in October last year, committing over 400 doctors to the West African region. Twenty-four Cuban doctors were already in the country as part of Cuba’s ongoing medical assistance to countries which need it.

​Delgado is participating in a conference in Geneva on Foreign Medical Teams that are fighting the Ebola epidemic. Eighty-six organizations from 11 countries are attending the conference, including three Cuban brigade heads.

The average age of Cuban doctors and nurses in Sierra Leone is 47, meaning that many have 20 to 25 years of experience.

In their time there so far, the doctors and nurses have treated over 1,000 people, but not all of them had Ebola; many others had other illnesses with similar symptoms, such as malaria.

Delgado said he felt optimistic. While his team was previously treating 20 cases per day,  now they treat just 3 to 4 patients.

He also pointed to secret burials as a key cause of infection. Ebola is more contagious at the time of death or after a person has died. He said that despite many awareness raising campaigns to help prevent the spread of Ebola, many people continued to perform burials in unsafe ways.

​See also: The Other Side of Ebola

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Venezuelan Opposition Protesters Attack Reporters, Army Officer

Opposition protesters attacked an official of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB).

Opposition protesters attacked an official of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB). | Photo: Contrapunto
Right-wing protesters turned violent at a street barricade.

Right-wing opposition protesters attacked a member of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) and two journalists Wednesday in the affluent Caracas borough of Chacao.

A small group set up a guarimba, a violent street barricade, at around 2 p.m. local time, after a demonstration marking one year since right-wing leader Leopoldo Lopez’s was arrested for inciting violence that killed 43 people.

The military official was attacked by a group of the protesters, who surrounded the unarmed official and repeatedly punched him in the head. A store employee where the military official was attacked tried to close the store to protect the man.

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Protesters attack an FANB soldier that was witness to the events in Chacao

Outside the store, the National Guard formed a line at the corner and many of the protesters fled the scene.

At nearly 4 p.m., the protesters returned to the barricade. The Bolivarian National Police dispersed the crowd, many of whom threw stones at the authorities.

Guarimberos opositores sin respeto por la vida intentan asesinar a funcionarios…  @difundelaverdad

The violent opposition protesters do not respect life and try to kill officials…

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan Public Ministry is investigating the attacks against journalist Jean Carlos Corrales Mendoza and cameraman Leonardo de Leon Gonzalez from Zurda Konducta, a youth-oriented television show on state television, as they were filming today’s right-wing protests.

According to preliminary reports, the crew was covering the demonstration when a group of people began to chase and throw bottles, sticks and stones toward them.

The police immediately came to the aid of the television crew who were injured with blunt objects.

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One year after the arrest of Leopoldo Lopez, they try to lynch an official in Chacao

Last year’s wave of opposition violence left 43 dead, injured hundreds, and caused millions of dollars in damages to public property. Victims and their families continue to demand justice for what happened.

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Afghan Civilian Deaths Rise to Record High

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, a U.N. report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, a U.N. report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Children have been the worst affected by soaring rates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

Over 10,000 civilians died in Afghanistan’s ongoing civil war in 2014, according to a grim United Nations report released Wednesday.

Despite claims from Washington that the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan has left behind a stable country, the U.N. report states the country’s decade-old conflict is only intensifying.

“In 2014, (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNMA) documented the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries in a single year since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009,” the report stated.

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, the report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014. The report attributed the steady rise in civilian killings to “increased ground engagements” and the mushrooming use of heavy explosives such as mortars in civilian populated areas.

Among the victims, children accounted for 714 killed and 1,760 wounded – a 40 percent increase over the previous year.

At 72 percent, the vast majority of civilian deaths were blamed on “anti-government elements,” which includes the Taliban and other militant groups. Around 12 percent of casualties were caused by Afghan government security forces, while “international military forces” were responsible for 2 percent.

According to U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Nicholas Haysom, “Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attests to a failure to fulfil commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm.”

“Parties to the conflict should understand the impact of their actions and take responsibility for them, uphold the values they claim to defend, and make protecting civilians their first priority,” Haysom stated.

More Afghanistan news:

27 Taliban Militants Killed by Afghan Military

Record Number of Landmine Clearer Deaths in Afghanistan in 2014

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Afghan Civilian Deaths Rise to Record High

Qatar Recalls Ambassador from Egypt


Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah presides over the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia, Feb. 14, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
Egypt accused Qatar of supporting terrorrism because it expressed concerns about Cairo’s airstrikes on Libya.

Qatar pulled its ambassador out of Egypt Thursday in response to Cairo’s decision to unilaterally launch airstrikes against Libya, while the Egyptian government responded by accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism.

Egypt bombed Islamic State group positions Monday in Libya after the extremists released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.

Qatar expressed concerns about Egypt’s decision to conduct military operations in a fellow Arab League country.

“According to our reading in Egypt to this Qatari reservation, it became clear that Qatar has revealed its position that supports terrorism,” said Egypt’s permanent representative to the Arab League, Tareq Adel, in response to Qatar expressing reservations,

Qatar Foreign Ministry offical Saad bin Ali al-Muhannadi replied to Adel’s accusation, saying that it was “against righteousness, wisdom and principles of joint Arab action.”

Al-Muhannadi added that Qatar “is supportive and will always remain supportive of the will and stability of the Egyptian people.” However, he also said that Qatar was within its right to point out that Egypt should have conferred with members of the Arab League before “launching a unilateral military action in another member state, a matter which might lead to harming civilians.”

The Arab League Wednesday, following a meeting in Cairo, released a statement saying that it had “complete understanding” about Egypt launching airstrikes in Libya, and that it supported Egypt’s call for reversing the U.N.’s arms embargo, which does not allow supplying weapons to the Libyan military.

The Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Dairi asked the U.N. Security Council Wednesday to lift the embargo.

“Libya needs a decisive stance from the international community to help us build our national army’s capacity and this would come through a lifting of the embargo on weapons, so that our army can receive material and weapons, so as to deal with this rampant terrorism,” said al-Dairi.

Relations between Egypt and Qatar have been strained in recent years. Qatar supported the former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, who the current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew in the summer of 2013.

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Russia Slams Ukraine Call for UN Troops, Says Violates Deal


Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko (L) walks past Russian President Vladimir Putin during an international D-Day commemoration ceremony on the beach of Ouistreham, Normandy, June 6, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

The Russian ambassador to the United Nations says that the proposal by the Ukranian president violates the Minsk peace accords.

Russia rejected a proposal by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko  Thursday for the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to help uphold a recent peace agreement in eastern Ukraine.

“I think it is a bit worrying because the Minsk accords were only signed on February 12 and these (agreements) contemplate a role for the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OCSE), not for the U.N. or the EU,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France announced an agreement for a cease-fire last week. Under the terms of the agreement, the facilitation of reconciliation efforts process must be carried out by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council’s secretary Oleksandr Turchynov had stated that Ukraine would discuss with the U.N. and the EU on the deployment of peacekeepers in the country.

The U.N. Security Council approved a measure Tuesday supporting the most recent Minsk agreements, calling on all parties for full implementation, including a comprehensive cease-fire in Ukraine.

The stipulations of the peace accord call for a withdrawal of heavy weapons within two weeks and the creation of a 50-70 kilometer-wide demilitarized zone in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France re-affirmed their support for the work of the OSCE mission in Ukraine, according to a Kremlin statement.

“The four leaders stressed the need to ensure the sustainability of the cease-fire, the implementation of practical steps to withdraw heavy weapons by the opposing sides as well as the speedy release of prisoners,” the Kremlin said.

Meanwhile, intensive fighting continues with the Ukraine government saying Thursday that 13 of its troops were killed during Wednesday’s withdrawal from Debaltseve in the eastern part of the country, with 82 others missing and 93 taken prisoner by pro-Russia separatist rebels seeking greater autonomy.

Since the fighting began in mid-April 2014, 5,665 people have been killed and 13,961 wounded as a result of the conflict.

Posted in Russia, UkraineComments Off on Russia Slams Ukraine Call for UN Troops, Says Violates Deal

Naziyahu Says UN Gaza Probe Must be “Shelved” After Inquiry Head Quits


Palestinians flee their destroyed neighborhood on a horse and cart in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanun, on August 18, 2014. AFP/Thomas Coex

Al Akhbar

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that a probe by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) into last year’s Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip should be shelved in light of the recent resignation of inquiry commission head William Schabas.

“After the resignation of the committee chairman, who was biased against Israel, the report that was written at the behest of the UNHRC… needs to be shelved,” Netanyahu said in a statement, slamming the rights council as “an anti-Israel body” with decisions that “has nothing to do with human rights.”

Schabas was appointed last August by the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council to lead a three-member group looking into Israeli war crimes during the 51-day assault on the coastal enclave.

In a letter to the commission, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, Schabas said he would step down immediately to prevent the issue from overshadowing the preparation of the report and its findings, which are due to be published in March.

Schabas’ departure highlights the sensitivity of the UN investigation just weeks after prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague said they had started a preliminary inquiry into atrocities in the Palestinian territories.

“This is the same council that in 2014 made more decisions against Israel than against Iran, Syria and North Korea combined,” Netanyahu asserted.

“It is Hamas, the other terrorist organizations and the terrorist regimes around us that need to be investigated, not Israel,” he added.

The Israeli government has already said it would not cooperate with the UNHRC committee formed to investigate violations committed during Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip in July and August.

More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, were killed and 10,626 injured during unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged strip this summer.

According to the UN, the Israeli military killed at least 495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it at 519. All three figures exceed the total number of Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.

The besieged enclave has also seen widespread destruction of its infrastructure, reaching levels of devastation that UN chief Ban Ki-moon called “beyond description” in a visit to the Strip on October 14.

According to the UN, at least 96,000 Palestinians homes were damaged or destroyed during the days of hostilities, a higher figure than was previously thought, and over 106,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced to UN shelters and host families.

The majority of Gaza’s 110,000 homeless people are children.

The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal.

Hamas, meanwhile, blamed Israel for Schabas’ resignation.

Schabas’ resignation is “the inevitable result of Israeli… pressure on the commission,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

“Israeli pressure aims at preventing any legal action that would reveal the truth about Israeli crimes [during the Gaza onslaught],” he added.

Barhoum urged the UN to go ahead with the probe and not to bow to “any pressure or blackmail against its investigative committees.”

For his part, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman hailed Schabas’ resignation, saying it was a “victory” for the Zionist state.

“It is an Israeli diplomatic victory. However, it will not change the probe’s conclusions,” he said.

He added that the appointment of Schabas to investigate last year’s war against Gaza was like “appointing Cain to investigate who killed Abel.”

Israel had long criticized Schabas’ appointment, citing consultancy work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organization as well as his record as a strong critic of the Zionist state and its current political leadership.

In the letter, Schabas said a legal opinion he wrote for the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2012, for which he was paid $1,300, was not different from advice he had given to many other governments and organizations.

“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” he wrote. “This work in defense of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.”

Schabas said his work for the PLO had prompted the Human Rights Council’s executive on Monday to seek legal advice about his position from UN headquarters.

“I believe that it is difficult for the work to continue while a procedure is underway to consider whether the chair of the commission should be removed,” he wrote.

The commission had largely finished gathering evidence and had begun writing the report, he added.

The commission is looking into the behavior of both the Israelis and of Hamas, the resistance movement that controls Gaza.

The appointment of Schabas, who lives in Britain and teaches international law at Middlesex University, was welcomed at the time by Hamas but was harshly criticized by Zionist groups in the United States.

Schabas had said at the time he was determined to put aside any views about “things that have gone on in the past.”

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


Mint Press News

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

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