Archive | March 13th, 2015

Venezuela Accuses US of Plotting ‘Economic Blockade’

  • Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the latest round of U.S. sanctions pose a major threat to “all Venezuelans.” 

Venezuela’s foreign minister says the United States is planning more sanctions, aimed at toppling the government in Caracas.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez accused the United States Wednesday of laying the groundwork of a Cuba-style blockade, while slamming the U.S. State Department’s second in command for being “rude.”

“They are considering a financial and commercial blockade, an economic blockade, and the entire country (of Venezuela) should know this,” said Rodriguez during an interview with broadcaster Venevision.

Rodriguez said the latest round of U.S. sanctions pose a major threat to “all Venezuelans,” dismissing claims from Washington that the sanctions will only affect a small group of government officials.

“What has happened is of monumental gravity, like nothing ever seen in the history of our country,” Rodriguez said. However, she said she believed the latest sanctions are the first in a series of planned economic measures aimed at tightening the screws on Venezuela.

The latest U.S. sanctions target a list of seven high ranking Venezuelan officials with travel bans and financial freezes. Under an executive order, U.S. President Barack Obama also declared Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

State Department Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson took to Twitter to defend the move, arguing, “The goal of these sanctions is to persuade the government of Venezuela to change its ways, not to remove that government.”

Rodriguez hit back by stating, “In a rude and petulant manner, Mrs. Jacobson tells us what to do.”

“You need manners to deal with people and with countries,” she added.

Earlier in the day State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also came under fire during a press conference when she made similar claims that the U.S. isn’t seeking to topple the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by nonconstitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful and legal,” she told reporters.

One reporter responded by asking Psaki, “How long-standing is that? I would—in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a long-standing practice.”

The United States government endorsed a coup government that briefly ousted Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez in 2002.

Another journalist at the press conference also hit out at Psaki’s comments, stating, “Recently in Kiev, whatever we say about Ukraine, whatever, the change of government in the beginning of last year was unconstitutional, and yet you supported it.”

Psaki responded by labeling the latter comment “ludicrous.”


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A third of NHS contracts awarded to private firms

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

By Michelle RobertsHealth editor, BBC News online

Hospital ward

A third of NHS contracts in England have been awarded to private sector providers since the service was reorganised in 2013, figures suggest.

The information comes from a Freedom of Information request made by the British Medical Journal.

Of 3,494 contracts awarded by 182 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England between April 2013 and August 2014, 33% went to the private sector.

The government says the data is misleading.

It’s unclear how much the contracts were worth because the CCGS would not disclose this information citing commercial sensitivities.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Official NHS accounts show that use of the private sector amounts to only six pence in every pound the NHS spends, slowing the rate of increase to just one penny since May 2010.

“Charities, social enterprises and other providers of healthcare play an important role in the NHS, as they have done for many years.”

Slow creep

The investigation looked at different types of contract to provide NHS clinical services, including those awarded to a single provider without an open tender, those awarded via a competitive tendering process, and those awarded to multiple providers under Any Qualified Provider – a government policy that opened up a wide range of community-based NHS services to different providers from outside the NHS.

Private sector providers were most successful at winning contracts awarded via competitive tender – 80 compared with 59 won by NHS providers.

The total value of all the contracts investigated was £10bn. Around £8.5bn worth of contracts went to NHS providers, £690m to voluntary and social enterprise providers and £490m to the private sector – 5% of the total.

NHS budget spent on commissioning private providers

2006/07 2.8 %
2007/08 3.4 %
2008/09 3.9 %
2009/10 4.4 %
2010/11 4.9 %
2011/12 5.3 %
2012/13 5.5 %
2013/14 6.1 %

Private firms were also more likely to win smaller contracts on an Any Qualified Provider basis, for services such as diagnostics, audiology, and podiatry in the community.

Critics say the results are evidence of privatisation of the NHS.

The government denies this.

The vast majority of care continues to be provided by NHS providers, it says.

And although controversial, private sector involvement within the NHS is not new.

Dr Jacky Davis of Keep our NHS Public said doctors were being forced to tender out all work, and big corporations were best placed to win these contracts.

Dr Mark Porter of the British Medical Association said: “These figures show the extent of creeping privatisation in the NHS since the Health and Social Care Act was introduced. The government flatly denied the Act would lead to more privatisation, but it has done exactly that.

“Enforcing competition in the NHS has not only led to services being fragmented, making the delivery of high-quality, joined-up care more difficult, but it has also diverted vital funding away from frontline services to costly, complicated tendering processes.”

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “These figures blow apart Jeremy Hunt’s claim that ‘NHS privatisation isn’t happening’. It is happening and it is happening on his watch.

“The NHS of the future demands more integration. The problem with this Government’s policy is that it’s taking it in the opposite direction, towards more fragmentation.

“These figures show what is at stake at the coming election. David Cameron’s Government is stealthily hiving off NHS services without the permission of the public.”

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Nuland’s Mastery of Ukraine Propaganda


Exclusive: In House testimony, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland blamed Russia and ethnic-Russian rebels for last summer’s shoot-down of MH-17 over Ukraine, but the U.S. government has not substantiated that charge. So, did Nuland mislead Congress or just play a propaganda game, asks Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

An early skill learned by Official Washington’s neoconservatives, when they were cutting their teeth inside the U.S. government in the 1980s, was how to frame their arguments in the most propagandistic way, so anyone who dared to disagree with any aspect of the presentation seemed unpatriotic or crazy.

During my years at The Associated Press and Newsweek, I dealt with a number of now prominent neocons who were just starting out and mastering these techniques at the knee of top CIA psychological warfare specialist Walter Raymond Jr., who had been transferred to President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff where Raymond oversaw inter-agency task forces that pushed Reagan’s hard-line agenda in Central America and elsewhere. [See’s “The Victory of ‘Perception Management.’”]

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders.

One of those quick learners was Robert Kagan, who was then a protégé of Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams. Kagan got his first big chance when he became director of the State Department’s public diplomacy office for Latin America, a key outlet for Raymond’s propaganda schemes.

Though always personable in his dealings with me, Kagan grew frustrated when I wouldn’t swallow the propaganda that I was being fed. At one point, Kagan warned me that I might have to be “controversialized,” i.e. targeted for public attack by Reagan’s right-wing media allies and anti-journalism attack groups, like Accuracy in Media, a process that did indeed occur.

Years later, Kagan emerged as one of America’s top neocons, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, which opened in 1998 to advocate for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, ultimately gaining the backing of a large swath of the U.S. national security establishment in support of that bloody endeavor.

Despite the Iraq disaster, Kagan continued to rise in influence, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist at the Washington Post, and someone whose published criticism so alarmed President Barack Obama last year that he invited Kagan to a White House lunch. [See’s Obama’s True Foreign Policy Weakness.”]

Kagan’s Wife’s Coup

But Kagan is perhaps best known these days as the husband of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, one of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former advisers and a key architect of last year’s coup in Ukraine, a “regime change” that toppled an elected president and touched off a civil war, which now has become a proxy fight involving nuclear-armed United States and Russia.

In an interview last year with the New York Times, Nuland indicated that she shared her husband’s criticism of President Obama for his hesitancy to use American power more assertively. Referring to Kagan’s public attacks on Obama’s more restrained “realist” foreign policy, Nuland said, “suffice to say … that nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”

But Nuland also seems to have mastered her husband’s skill with propaganda, presenting an extreme version of the situation in Ukraine, such that no one would dare quibble with the details. In prepared testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Nuland even slipped in an accusation blaming Russia for the July 17 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 though the U.S. government has not presented any proof.

Nuland testified, “In eastern Ukraine, Russia and its separatist puppets unleashed unspeakable violence and pillage; MH-17 was shot down.”

Now, it’s true that if one parses Nuland’s testimony, she’s not exactly saying the Russians or the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down the plane. There is a semi-colon between the “unspeakable violence and pillage” and the passive verb structure “MH-17 was shot down.” But anyone seeing her testimony would have understood that the Russians and their “puppets” shot down the plane, killing all 298 people onboard.

When I submitted a formal query to the State Department asking if Nuland’s testimony meant that the U.S. government had developed new evidence that the rebels shot down the plane and that the Russians shared complicity, I received no answer.

Perhaps significantly or perhaps not, Nuland presented similarly phrased testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday but made no reference to MH-17. So, I submitted a new inquiry asking whether the omission reflected second thoughts by Nuland about making the claim before the House. Again, I have not received a reply.

However, both of Nuland’s appearances place all the blame for the chaos in Ukraine on Russia, including the 6,000 or more deaths. Nuland offered not a single word of self-criticism about how she contributed to these violent events by encouraging last year’s coup, nor did she express the slightest concern about the actions of the coup regime in Kiev, including its dispatch of neo-Nazi militias to carry out “anti-terrorist” and “death squad” operations against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. [See’s Nuclear War and Clashing Ukraine Narratives.]

Russia’s Fault

Everything was Russia’s fault – or as Nuland phrased it: “This manufactured conflict — controlled by the Kremlin; fueled by Russian tanks and heavy weapons; financed at Russian taxpayers’ expense — has cost the lives of more than 6,000 Ukrainians, but also of hundreds of young Russians sent to fight and die there by the Kremlin, in a war their government denies.”

Nuland was doing her husband proud. As every good propagandist knows, you don’t present events with any gray areas; your side is always perfect and the other side is the epitome of evil. And, today, Nuland faces almost no risk that some mainstream journalist will dare contradict this black-and-white storyline; they simply parrot it.

Besides heaping all the blame on the Russians, Nuland cited – in her Senate testimony – some of the new “reforms” that the Kiev authorities have just implemented as they build a “free-market state.” She said, “They made tough choices to reduce and cap pension benefits, increase work requirements and phase in a higher retirement age; … they passed laws cutting wasteful gas subsidies.”

In other words, many of the “free-market reforms” are aimed at making the hard lives of average Ukrainians even harder – by cutting pensions, removing work protections, forcing people to work into their old age and making them pay more for heat during the winter.

Nuland also hailed some of the regime’s stated commitments to fighting corruption. But Kiev seems to have simply installed a new cast of bureaucrats looking to enrich themselves. For instance, Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko is an expatriate American who – before becoming an instant Ukrainian citizen last December – ran a U.S. taxpayer-financed investment fund for Ukraine that was drained of money as she engaged in lucrative insider deals, which she has fought to keep secret. [See’s “Ukraine’s Finance Minister’s American ‘Values.’”]

Yet, none of these concerns were mentioned in Nuland’s propagandistic testimony to the House and Senate – not that any of the committee members or the mainstream press corps seemed to care that they were being spun and even misled. The hearings were mostly opportunities for members of Congress to engage in chest-beating as they demanded that President Obama send U.S. arms to Ukraine for a hot war with Russia.

Regarding the MH-17 disaster, one reason that I was inquisitive about Nuland’s insinuation in her House testimony that the Russians and the ethnic Russian rebels were responsible was that some U.S. intelligence analysts have reached a contrary conclusion, according to a source briefed on their findings. According to that information, the analysts found no proof that the Russians had delivered a BUK anti-aircraft system to the rebels and concluded that the attack was apparently carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian military.

After I published that account last summer, the Obama administration went silent about the MH-17 shoot-down, letting stand some initial speculation that had blamed the Russians and the rebels. In the nearly eight months since the tragedy, the U.S. government has failed to make public any intelligence information on the crash. [See’sThe Danger of an MH-17 ‘Cold Case.’”]

So, Nuland may have been a bit duplicitous when she phrased her testimony so that anyone hearing it would jump to the conclusion that the Russians and the rebels were to blame. It’s true she didn’t exactly say so but she surely knew what impression she was leaving.

In that, Nuland appears to have taken a page from the playbook of her husband’s old mentor, Elliott Abrams, who provided misleading testimony to Congress on the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s – and even though he was convicted of that offense, Abrams was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush and thus was able to return to government last decade to oversee the selling of the Iraq War.

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England’s biggest hospitals veto NHS budget over patient safety fears

Hospitals that provide 75% of all NHS services refuse to sign deal, saying £1.7bn cuts involved will put patient care at risk
A health worker and patient on a ward in Addenbrooke, one of the hospitals which refused to sign off the NHS budget deal.
 A health worker and patient on a ward in Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, one of the hospitals which has refused to sign off the NHS budget deal. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

.The  Guardian

England’s biggest hospitals are refusing to sign off their annual budget deal with the NHS, claiming that the £1.7bn of cuts involved will mean they can no longer guarantee the safe care of patients.

In an unprecedented move, hospitals that provide 75% of all NHS hospital care have vetoed plans drawn up by Monitor, the NHS’s financial regulator, to reduce their income to help the service balance its books. “We have now reached the point where patient care is at risk,” the hospitals said.

NHS Providers, which represents 94% of hospitals, said its members could no longer “achieve the impossible” by absorbing a fifth successive year of cuts to the payments they receive for treating patients under the tariff system.

“After five years of unprecedented price cuts, with NHS providers realising more than £20bn of savings over this parliament, objecting to the tariff for many represents a last resort to have their concerns heard, as they can no longer guarantee safe and effective care unless they are properly and fully paid for the patients they treat,” said Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers.

Some patients could end up not being treated at all as a result of the public row over where the NHS’s money went, he warned.

If hospitals were not paid the full amount for the care they provided, he said, they might only provide as much care as they could, based on their budget.

An estimated 80% of England’s 160 acute hospital trusts are either already in the red or at risk of ending the 2014-15 financial year in late March with a deficit.

Hospitals are already facing the loss of another £1.9bn of their £40bn annual income to help fund the Better Care Fund, which starts in April and is meant to keep patients healthier at home to relieve the growing pressure on hospitals.

NHS England, which distributes the service’s £97bn budget, said giving in to the hospitals’ demands would mean less money for GP services, accident and emergency units, mental health care and ambulance services.

“Since the overall NHS funding totals for 2015-16 are now agreed, any fundamental changes to benefit one set of providers would in practice mean robbing Peter to pay Paul,” a spokeswoman said.

The row leaves the NHS in uncharted waters because there is now no agreement over how much hospitals should be paid for work done from 1 April.

It could force the chancellor, George Osborne, to give the NHS more money for 2015-16 in his budget on 18 March, over and above the extra £2bn a year he promised to provide from April in his autumn statement.

The Monitor deal would reduce hospitals’ income by £1.2bn by applying a 1.9% cut to tariff payments, forcing them to save 3.8% of their entire budget by being more efficient – a target hospitals say is completely unrealistic.

They also object to the regulator’s plans to cut £220m from the amount they receive for providing specialised medical services to patients with rare conditions and to an attempt to save another £290m by giving hospitals only half the real cost of treating some A&E patients.

NHS England said the extra £31bn hospitals had received over the past two years for specialised services should mean they could accommodate the £220m cut.

Although the identity of the hospitals rejecting Monitor’s plans was not disclosed, they are understood to include large teaching hospitals which provide many of the NHS’s most vital services, such as the Kings College Hospital and University College London trusts in the capital, University Hospitals Birmingham and Cambridge University Hospitals, which runs Addenbrooke’s hospital.

Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund health charity, said of the hospitals’ move: “It signals that the policy of implementing year-on-year reductions in the prices paid to hospitals for their services has reached the end of the line.

Murray, a former senior official with the Department of Health and NHS England, added: “It is not clear what the outcome will be but, with just three months to go before the start of the financial year, it will throw financial planning in the NHS into disarray.”

With growing evidence that holding down NHS staff pay is not sustainable, the row shows that the two main ways the NHS has tried to save money since 2010 “have now been largely exhausted”, Murray said.

Under the rules governing how tariffs are set, Monitor can be forced to rethink its proposals if objections are raised by more than 51% of trusts, measured either by number or their share of all NHS activity.

Trusts which undertake 75% of hospital work, and 13% of the 211 GP-led clinical commissioning groups, objected.

Monitor will now have to revise its plans, call in an independent arbitrator or ask the Competition and Markets Authority to settle the dispute. In total, 37% of trusts signalled their opposition.

A Monitor spokesman said the regulator and NHS England were “now considering the feedback received from the consultation and possible next steps, in the context of what the legislation permits in the event that an objection threshold is breached”.

One of its options included “engaging with the sector then reconsulting on revised proposals”.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the spat showed that the NHS was deteriorating rapidly under the coalition.

“Once again, [the health secretary] Jeremy Hunt is failing to provide the leadership the NHS desperately needs,” Burnham said.

“The NHS is becoming mired in a sense of crisis and confusion because of his mismanagement.”

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NOVANEWS38 Degrees Logo

Dear All,

A huge NHS privatisation deal has just been announced. [1] £780million more of taxpayers’ money will now go to private companies for services which used to be delivered by the NHS.

Piece by piece, the NHS is being sold off to the highest bidder. But our NHS is precious and belongs to us all. We can – we must – protect it.

In 55 days, we vote on a new crop of MPs. They could kick out privatisation and fund our health service properly. But we need to make sure this is at the top of their agenda. Together, we can make sure that each MP candidate in Birmingham, Hall Green hears the same thing from hundreds of us: if you want my vote, then commit to reversing the damage done to our NHS.

Click here to send an email to MP candidates running in Birmingham, Hall Green with a message they can’t miss: I want an MP who will act for public good, not private companies.


In the last three years, a third of NHS contracts have gone to private companies. [2]Doctors are saying money is now so tight that patient care is at risk. [3] And if the US-EU trade deal TTIP passes, it’ll be open season for US-style privatisation. [4]

There’s no better time to try and change the political landscape than when politicians are after our votes. Most candidates are full of warm words about the NHS because they know it’s popular. But our test is the crucial one: will they commit to kicking out privatisation, funding it properly and keeping it safe from TTIP? If they won’t, we’ll know their niceties are just hot air.

Please take a moment to email the MP candidates competing for your vote. There are a few notes to help you craft an email quickly:


38 Degrees members are getting the NHS up the election agenda. Hundreds of thousands of us have already signed a petition to each of our local candidates, and many of us have been out on the streets gathering more signatures. [5] So now, let’s make sure election candidates see our message in their inboxes as well. Politicians who want to harm our NHS should have nowhere to hide.

Thanks for being involved,

Susannah, Nat, Rachel, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team


[1] The Guardian: NHS agrees largest-ever privatisation deal to tackle backlog:

[2] BBC: A third of NHS contracts awarded to private firms – report:

[3] Guardian: England’s biggest hospitals veto NHS budget over patient safety fears:

[4] Full Fact: Does TTIP mean the privatisation of the NHS?

[5] 38 Degrees blog: Save our NHS: What a brilliant day!:

38 Degrees blog: Save our NHS day:

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My interview with Promosaik

 Image result for ISRAELI ARMY PHOTO
Interview in Promosaik

1.- What do you think is the main reason why Israel is able to maintain the ideology of militarism?

Well, here are some suggestions:1. Israelis are brought up to believe that military strength is the only option to destruction. אין ברירה) “There is no alternative” is a phrase inculcated into every Israeli from birth)2. This ties in very well with ancient Jewish notions of innocence and victimhood. It’s part of being Jewish to believe that you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong and the whole world is against you.3. Worth a separate mention is the notion that current Israeli militarism chimes in well with deep-seated Jewish feelings of triumphalism. There is nothing quite so thrilling as suddenly standing up and bashing the bigger child who has been bullying you. Ordinary Jews feel this all the time and never more so than in June 1967 when (we were told) little Israel (we were told) stood up and miraculously (we were told) defeated ou much more powerful (we were told) enemies. The fact that most of this was utter nonsense as indeed is much of the whole Jewish story of victimhood has little bearing on the Jewish and Israeli psyche.But it should also be said that, irony of ironies, the Israelis aren’t all that wrong because a lot of these delusions are self-fulfilling. Israelis are living on stolen land and have behaved disgracefully, not only to the Palestinians and entire Arab and Muslim world but also to the whole world. Deep down, they must know this and they’d have to be pretty dumb not to realise that nobody much likes them. They’d also have to be pretty stupid not to realise that, at the end of the day, there aren’t that many Israelis or Jews and if the world really got together it would make pretty short work of the famed IDF. No wonder they’re paranoid.

2.- Judaism is a religion of peace. How can we explain this to Israelis who still support Zionist militarism?

Whatever gave you the idea that Judaism is a religion of peace? Christianity and Islam are indeed religions of peace – in their official ideology that is, though by no means always in practice – but Judaism doesn’t even make such a claim. You only have to look at our religious texts to know that.

Judaism seems to me to be about surviving (and winning) in the real world and the relative absence of hypocrisy (amongst ourselves that is) in this matter is something that gives Jews a great deal of comfort. We look at the non-Jewish world babbling on about love and peace while, all the time waging hate and war, and we say to ourselves: Well, at least we don’t pretend.

But to address your question: you certainly can’t change Israel’s view by babbling on about so-called peace. The Israelis are like everyone else, they will change their behaviour only when they have to. Hamas, last summer and Hezbollah in 2006 have shown us the way in this regard.

3.- Do you think that films like those of Yotam Feldman can help to open people’s eyes?
I wasn’t familiar with the film and all I’ve been able to do is to watch a couple of clips. A film like that can certainly inform people and may incrementally open people’s eyes but, at the end of the day, Israeli aggression will end when the options close down.

Because I’m a Jew and also because I have loving family in Israel and also because I dislike suffering (even of the guilty), I would prefer that these military defeats will be of a homeopathic nature i.e. they will be small enough so as not to cause unnecessary suffering on ordinary Israelis but certainly large enough to cause them to change their ways.

4.- How can we weaken Israeli weapon lobbies from outside?
First of all, we have to stop pussy-footing around. Wishful thinking about the nature of Judaism does no favours to anyone, including Jews. The Israeli weapon lobbies are just part of the wider Israeli/ Zionist lobby which itself is just part of Jewish power which goes way beyond Zionism and Israel. It is Jewish power which needs to be confronted – again, as carefully and compassionately as possible – and the first step is to name it for what it is – i.e. Jewish.

5.- How can associations in Israel (for example promote a climate of peace and respect which opposes militarist ideology?

I’d never heard of this lot so I googled them. I’m sure they’re well-intentioned but they seem to be just tinkering around, part of the I-wish-Israel-wouldn’t-behave-quite-so-badly-and-stop-embarrassing-me-in-front-of-my-friends brigade. I wish them well but my guess is they will achieve nothing.

As I said, I was not familiar with ACRI and my first reaction was not to even bother to look them up and this itself is a measure of the way these organisations are seen. In fact the entire Zionist left and indeed all the ‘good’ Jews currently in the solidarity movement are, at best impotent and at worst, either gatekeepers or part of a controlled opposition. The fact that their actions are, in the main, well-intentioned and their motivations so hard to understand is a great part of what makes them so effective in creating confusion – and this Jewish ability to confuse everyone (including themselves) is, itself, an important component of Jewish power.

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US, IMF New Aid to Ukraine, US New Sanctions on Russia


A separatist tank. Separatist leaders have been targeted by the latest round of U.S. sanctions

  • A separatist tank. Separatist leaders have been targeted by the latest round of U.S. sanctions

The United States has sanctioned eight top Ukrainian separatists and the Russian National Commercial Bank, while beefing up military aid to Kiev.

The United States will increase military aid to the Ukrainian government, an unnamed U.S. government official said Wednesday.

According to Reuters, the anonymous official said as many as 30 armored humvee vehicles and drones could be sent to Kiev within

Just hours later, Bloomberg reported it had obtained a statement that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had approved a new aid package worth US$17.5 billion to the government in Kiev.

The report came a day after the United States imposed new sanctions on Ukrainian separatists and a Russian bank.

The Russian National Commercial Bank was sanctioned for doing business in Crimea.

Eight prominent separatist leaders, including the chair of a rebel electoral commission Roman Lyagin, have been barred from doing business with U.S. financial institutions. The separatist officials have been accused of undermining Ukraine’s cease-fire, though both the Ukrainian military and separatist fighters have been accused of cease-fire violations.

The cease-fire was struck last month in Minsk, Belarus. The Minsk peace deal not only required the cessation of violence, but also required the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the front lines of fighting in eastern Ukraine and for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the conflict area.

Violence has lessened in the weeks following the Minsk agreement, however there has still been some incidences. Every day since the cease-fire was scheduled to go into effect, both sides have accused the other side of violating the agreement.

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So…Zionism is NOT Judaism ”VIDEO”



By: Paul Eisen

Having spent the last ten or so years telling anybody I could get to listen that Judaism is indeed Zionism, it comes as quite a shock to me to see these good Jews of Iran.

Why, if I didn’t know better I might even allow myself a little bit of hope



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Do Corporations Really Need More Rights? Why Fast-Track for the TPP Is a Bad Idea


We can have democracy and a prosperous, just, and sustainable human future. Or we can have corporate rule. We cannot have both.

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman negotiates with Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi. (Photo by U.S. State Department / William Ng.)

President Obama is currently pressing members of Congress to pass Fast Track authority for a trade and investment agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). If Fast Track passes, it means that Congress must approve or deny the TPP with minimal debate and no amendments. Astonishingly, our lawmakers have not seen the agreement they are being asked to expedite.

The rulings of these tribunals pre-empt national laws and the decisions of national courts.

The TPP is presented as an agreement to increase U.S. exports and jobs. But what is really at stake is democracy—in the United States as well as in the 11 other Pacific Rim countries that are parties to the TPP.

Given past agreements on which the TPP is modeled, including the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), TPP provisions will likely have significant implications for nearly every aspect of American life—including intellectual property rights, labor and environmental protections, consumer safety and product labeling, government procurement, and national resource management. Given the way these agreements are crafted, we can be quite certain that the implications will favor corporate profits over human well-being. And once the agreement is approved, its provisions will trump national and local laws, including the U.S. Constitution, and will not be subject to review or revision by any national legislative or judicial body—including the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is expected that the TPP will include an Investor State Dispute Settlement provision that gives foreign corporations the right to sue governments for lost profits due to laws—such as environmental standards and safeguards for workers—they claim deprive them of revenue they might otherwise have received. Such claims are settled in tribunals comprised of trade lawyers whose identities are secret. The rulings of these tribunals pre-empt national laws and the decisions of national courts and are not subject to review by any national judicial or legislative body.

Also in the mold of NAFTA and similar previous pacts, the TPP is being drafted in secret. The main players at the negotiating table are trade officials from the party countries and representatives from the world’s largest global corporations.

Since negotiations began in 2005, the public, press, and members of Congress and their staff have been denied access to the TPP meetings and to drafts of the agreement. In stark contrast, according to a 2014 report by The Washington Post566 advisory group members can view and comment on proposals. Of these members, 480 represent industry groups or trade associations and dominate the most important committees.

The secret gatherings of unelected government officials and corporate representatives in which agreements like the TPP are negotiated have become de facto transnational legislative bodies, drafting international laws the democratically elected legislative bodies of signatory countries then rubber stamp.

President Obama’s assurance that this time will be different carries little credibility.

Because such sweeping provisions supersede the U.S. Constitution, one might expect that their approval by the U.S. Congress would require the same high bar as a constitutional amendment. At a bare minimum, approval should be subject to the same review, debate, and approval process considered essential for any normal piece of legislation. Yet our elected representatives have time after time voted to approve such agreements under expedited rules that trade away the rights of people in favor of the rights of global corporations.

President Obama recently appeared on Seattle’s KOMO TV news making the claim that the TPP will expand U.S. exports, thus creating jobs and opportunities for small businesses.President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and President George W. Bush all made the same promises on similar previous agreements.

But expanded trade not only means more exports; it also means more imports. Previous similar agreements have produced greater growth in U.S. imports than growth in U.S. exports. The result is a net loss of jobs, especially industrial jobs with good pay and benefits, and the closure of many small businesses. President Obama’s assurance that this time will be different carries little credibility, based on this historical experience.

These agreements are written by global corporations such as Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, HSBC, and JPMorgan. These companies are not in the business of creating jobs and benefiting small businesses. They are in the business of maximizing their own profits. In regard to small businesses, the agenda is to capture their markets, buy them out, or squeeze them to the bone as captive suppliers and contractors.

Because these trade and investment agreements are not in the public interest, their corporate and governmental sponsors go to great lengths to keep the negotiations secret. If the TPP provisions were truly beneficial, there presumably would be no need to press the members of Congress to expedite approval under Fast Track rules before the public and members of Congress have seen the text.

Members of Congress will surely receive copies of the TPP documents before their final vote on the actual agreement. But these agreements are typically more than a thousand pages of detailed legalese meaningful only to experienced trade lawyers. If past experience is any guide, our lawmakers will have little time to read the agreement, let alone do a meaningful assessment of its implications or discuss it with constituents before it is called to a vote.

The time has come to end the use of international agreements to strengthen corporate rule. In the case of the TPP, passing no agreement is better than passing one that undermines democracy, economic justice, the environment, human health, and small business. We have no need of stronger protections for corporate rights. Rejecting Fast Track will create the opportunity for a long-overdue public conversation on a new framework for international trade and investment agreements that strengthen democracy, hold global corporations accountable to the public interest, secure worker rights, raise working conditions, and strengthen environmental protections in every signatory country.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has just released a report called “Principles for Trade: A Model for Global Progress.” The principles it outlines provide an excellent starting point for such a conversation:

  • Protect the authority of national legislative bodies to set trade policy
  • Restore balanced trade
  • Put workers first
  • Stop currency manipulation
  • Secure each nation’s right to give preference to national procurement
  • Protect the environment for future generations
  • Prioritize consumers above profits
  • Assure the right of national judicial systems to settle legal disputes with investors.
  • Secure affordable access to essential medicines and services
  • Respect human rights
  • Provide a safety net for vulnerable workers

As the vote on Fast Track approaches, this is a good time for citizens to call for a national and global public conversation about economic policies that put the interests of living people, living communities, and living Earth ahead of corporate profits.

It is also the right time for each of us to let our members of Congress know where we stand on Fast Track and the TPP and that we are paying close attention to how they vote.

We can have democracy and a prosperous, just, and sustainable human future. Or we can have corporate rule. We cannot have both.

Posted in USAComments Off on Do Corporations Really Need More Rights? Why Fast-Track for the TPP Is a Bad Idea

The NSA Has Taken Over the Internet Backbone. We’re Suing to Get it Back


The National Security Agency headquarters located in Ft. Meade, Maryland. (Credit: NSA)

Every time you email someone overseas, the NSA copies and searches your message. It makes no difference if you or the person you’re communicating with has done anything wrong. If the NSA believes your message could contain information relating to the foreign affairs of the United States – because of whom you’re talking to, or whom you’re talking about – it may hold on to it for as long as three years and sometimes much longer.

new ACLU lawsuit filed today challenges this dragnet spying, called “upstream” surveillance, on behalf of Wikimedia and a broad coalition of educational, human rights, legal, and media organizations whose work depends on the privacy of their communications. The plaintiffs include Amnesty International USA, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and The Nation magazine, and many other organizations whose work is critical to the functioning of our democracy.

But the effect of the surveillance we’re challenging goes far beyond these organizations. The surveillance affects virtually every American who uses the Internet to connect with people overseas – and many who do little more than email their friends or family or browse the web. And it should be disturbing to all of us, because free expression and intellectual inquiry will wither away if the NSA is looking over our shoulders while we’re online.

The world first learned of the existence of upstream surveillance from whistleblower Edward Snowden’s spying revelations in June 2013. Since then, official disclosures and media reports have shown that the NSA is routinely seizing and copying the communications of millions of ordinary Americans while they are traveling over the Internet. The NSA conducts this surveillance by tapping directly into the Internet backbone inside the United States – the network of high-capacity cables and switches that carry vast numbers of Americans’ communications with each other and with the rest of the world. Once the NSA copies the communications, it searches the contents of almost all international text-based communications – and many domestic ones as well – for search terms relating to its “targets.”

In short, the NSA has cast a massive dragnet over Americans’ international communications.

Inside the United States, upstream surveillance is conducted under a controversial spying law called the FISA Amendments Act, which allows the NSA to target the communications of foreigners abroad and to intercept Americans’ communications with those foreign targets. The main problem with the law is that it doesn’t limit which foreigners can be targeted. The NSA’s targets may include journalists, academics, government officials, tech workers, scientists, and other innocent people who are not connected even remotely with terrorism or suspected of any wrongdoing. The agency sweeps up Americans’ communications with all of those targets.

And, as our lawsuit explains, the NSA is exceeding even the authority granted by the FISA Amendments Act. Rather than limit itself to monitoring Americans’ communications with the foreign targets, the NSA is spying on everyone, trying to find out who might be talking or reading about those targets.

As a result, countless innocent people will be caught up in the NSA’s massive net. For instance, a high school student in the U.S. working on a term paper might visit a foreign website to read a news story or download research materials. If those documents happen to contain an email address targeted by the NSA – like this news report does – chances are the communications will be intercepted and stored for further scrutiny. The same would be true if an overseas friend, colleague, or contact sent the student a copy of that news story in an email message.

As former NSA Director Michael Hayden recently put it, “[L]et me be really clear. NSA doesn’t just listen to bad people. NSA listens to interesting people. People who are communicating information.”

That doesn’t sound like much of a limitation on the NSA’s spying – and it’s not. Like many Americans, the plaintiffs in our lawsuit communicate with scores of people overseas who the NSA likely finds “interesting.” For instance, researchers at Human Rights Watch depend on foreign journalists, lawyers, political dissidents, and witnesses to human rights abuses for information crucial to their advocacy and reporting back home. Wikimedia communicates with millions of people abroad, many of whom read or contribute to Wikipedia, one of the largest repositories of human knowledge on earth. We know, thanks to Edward Snowden, that the NSA is interested in what some of those users are reading.

The fact that upstream surveillance is supposedly focused on international communications is hardly a saving grace. Americans spend more and more of their lives communicating over the Internet – and more and more of those communications are global in nature, whether we realize it or not. An email from a woman in Philadelphia to her mother in Phoenix might be routed through Canada without either one knowing it. Similarly, companies like Microsoft and Google often store backup copies of their U.S. customers’ emails on servers overseas, again with hardly anyone the wiser. The NSA is peeking inside virtually all of these.

Our plaintiffs have had to go out of their way to take measures, sometimes at a high cost, to protect their communications from their own government. Despite these precautions, the chilling effect is palpable. NSA surveillance makes it harder for the plaintiffs to gather information from sources who believe that by sharing information over the Internet, they are also sharing it with the U.S. government and the intelligence agencies it partners with. The work of human rights and free-knowledge organizations is profoundly undermined by this unconstitutional surveillance, and we’re all worse off.

Upstream surveillance flips the Constitution on its head. It allows the government to search everything first and ask questions later, making us all less free in the process. Our suit aims to stop this kind of surveillance. Please join our effort to reform the NSA.

Posted in USAComments Off on The NSA Has Taken Over the Internet Backbone. We’re Suing to Get it Back

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