Archive | November 16th, 2016

Fear of a Major Shift in Geopolitics Reigns in the Balkans Following Trump’s Win

Adelina Marini

Media in the countries of the former Yugoslavia continue to analyse the results of the presidential elections in the USA with opinions continuing to vary. In Croatia, the accent is on the expectations for a change in the political map of Europe, while in Serbia predominate analyses that are trying to calm down the hopes that Serbs have with the coming of Donald Trump to power. Within all this are entwined the presidential elections in Bulgaria. Today’s press also brings back the fear of a new migrant wave along the Western Balkans route.

“As if Trump was not enough” is the headline of a material in the Croatian Jutarnji list, which believes that the political map of Europe is changing not just because of the election of Trump, but also because of the results of elections in Bulgaria and Moldova. “Last week the Kremlin met with great joy Donald Trump’s victory in the American elections. […] This, however, is not the only cause for the smile on Vladimir Putin’s face this week. On Sunday, there were elections held in Moldova – the poorest state in Europe – and Bulgaria – the poorest EU member. Citizens of both countries elected their presidents and in both cases they elected candidates, who are closer to the Kremlin, than to Brussels”, reports the newspaper.

Jutarnji also reminds that last week there was a vote of non-confidence against the government of Estonian PM Taavi Rõivas. The next day power was assumed by a party, which is presumed to be politically closer to the Kremlin. The new government did state, however, that nothing will change in the foreign and defence policy of Estonia. “Bulgaria once again turns to Mother Russia” is the headline of a lengthy material spread on two pages in today’s edition of the other most-circulated newspaper in Croatia, Vecernji list. “The poorest state in the Union, because of corruption, has turned its back to its pro-European oriented government. The new president wants to put an end to sanctions against Russia”, reads the opening of the material.

“Bulgaria, which entered the EU in 2007 together with Romania, so that the two countries could be extracted from the Russian shield and turn to the West, has recently turned back towards Russia, judging by the results of the presidential elections, which were won by Rumen Radev, a general and a former commander of Bulgarian Air Forces”, writes Silvana Perica. “The top of the Bulgarian government is being left by a colourful prime minister – former bodyguard to the Bulgarian tsar Simeon, athlete, but at the same time Bulgarian and American newspapers have printed abundant allegations of his connections to organised crime, and  also there were recordings leaked of his conversations with the boss of customs control, in which the PM makes him stop an investigation”. Vecernji reminds that Boyko Borissov was removed from power three years ago because of the rise in electricity prices, but came back 20 months later. It also reminds that over the last 23 years the country was left by 3 million Bulgarians.

The most-circulated daily newspaper in Montenegro – Vijesti – publishes a commentary by the Deutsche Welle Bulgarian journalist Aleksandar Andreev. “Bulgaria is heading towards instability” is the headline of the material, which is placed in the most-read section with commentaries and analyses of the newspaper. “New instability at the border between Turkey and Europe, which is shaking in crises – this will be the result of the election victory of former general Rumen Radev at the presidential elections in Bulgaria. And not because Radev is pro-Russia oriented, but because over the next months the country will practically be left with no government. The far larger problem is the fact that Radev is inexperienced and nationalist oriented, as well as the fact that so far he has been totally politically helpless and colourless”, reports Andreev.

He believes that the general’s statements about who does Crimea belong to and the need for removing sanctions against Russia are politically naive and could be fully explained with his lack of political experience. “People who know him believe that the general, who has studied in the USA and has worked for NATO, who speaks English, German, and Russian fluently, has no intention of re-orienting Bulgaria’s foreign policy course and move it farther from the EU and NATO”, assures the analyst. Keeping in mind the geopolitical clashes in Montenegro, caused by Russia’s resistance to the accession of the small Balkan republic to NATO and the EU, it is easy to explain the interest in Montenegro towards any geopolitical change in its closest neighbourhood.

In Serbia, focus is entirely on Donald Trump and more specifically a return is noticed towards reason and realism. In a commentary for the Danas, Ivan Radak explains “Why not Trump”. “The people of Serbia are once again on the wrong side and proud of it”, writes the author. “While the rational world (how else to name those, who stand against totally unmeasured words and the behaviour of the future president of the USA) called out against him, a large portion of people here were actually against Hillary Clinton and her husband’s contribution to the bombing of Serbia”. Ivan Radak is more concerned about what Donald Trump did not say. “I get worried when someone wins an election with fast and big decisions (100 billion euro in investments over 10 years, better life in two, maximum three years). In this sense, Donald Trump was not that different from the ones we have here”, he writes and reminds that deregulation is what brought about the crisis.

In Politika, Doctor Zoran Milivojević also warns to be careful with hope. His focus, however, is on Kosovo and the hopes of Serbs that Trump coming to power will bring the return of Kosovo. There is no way this could happen, explains the retired diplomat. “The recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the USA and their main Western allies is a part of a wider geostrategic concept, which is part of the geopolitical interests of the Western alliance, headed by the USA, which would be difficult to alter without serious harm to this alliance. So such expectations by the Serbs are not real”, writes the analyst.

In Croatia, fears are coming back from a renewal of the migrant wave. Vecernji list reports in an editorial that the full feebleness of the EU can be seen mirrored in the swamp at Tovarnik. The newspaper reports on yesterday’s incident, where a group of migrants (mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan) attempted to break through the Serbian blockade and enter Croatia. The attempt was unsuccessful, but the newspaper comments that the unpleasant sight of exhausted and freezing people, running away from war, carrying children in hands, bring back the memory of last year. At the moment, we are not even talking about a new migrant wave, but this is just so far. It is not clear when will Ankara implement its threats to end its agreement with the EU.

When this does happen, it will cause a new humanitarian catastrophe of unseen proportions. “Brussels, however, has not recovered from the Brexit yet, neither has it recovered from the coming to power of Donald Trump. Member states have no common strategy and are once more left to their own devices. The full feebleness of the EU is now seen mirrored at the Croatian-Serbian border”, reports the newspaper.

The largest changes in the battle against corruption in the last 15 years are expected in Serbia. Blic reports that a bundle of judiciary acts are expected to be presented to the Skupština today. Expectations are that the new changes will form a new body for battle against corruption within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There will be special divisions opened in the high prosecution offices and courts, which are to handle corruption cases. The prosecution will have four such centres, which will deal with corruption. They will be based in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, and Kragujevac. Courts will also have four centres. These will be the most serious changes in the last 15 years, comments Blic.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in USA, EuropeComments Off on Fear of a Major Shift in Geopolitics Reigns in the Balkans Following Trump’s Win

Trump Forebodes the End of Normalcy

Adelina Marini

The outcome of the US presidential elections continue to be the main topic in media of the countries from the former Yugoslavia. Following the many analyses, Croatian media designate special space to the presidential elections in Bulgaria as well, which are being totally ignored in other countries of the region. “We have joined the EU long time ago, why continue to be normal?” is the headline of an analysis by Jurica Pavičić for Jutarnji list, which starts with Trump and finishes with the hottest current problem in the Balkans – the policy shift regarding war crimes, committed during the war in former Yugoslavia. The author writes that the concept of normalisation has happened in Croatia under outside pressure. Despite that, however, this concept has brought Croatia more good than bad.

“If it wasn’t for the process of normalisation, if it wasn’t for colonial, utopian political fantasies of Euro-Atlantic integration, Norac would have never been tried for a war crime, Bosnia-Hercegovinian war lords would have never been sent to The Hague, the Prosecution would never have opened up the corruption ball from the Sanader years, minorities in Croatia would never have had such institutionalised rights, and in the cultural sense Croatia would have remained at the late 1990-s level”, writes Jurica Pavičić and continues that if it wasn’t for the Euro-Atlantic mantra, Serbs would have never found out that Srebrenica had happened at all. The US elections, however, put an end to a long process of de-normalisation

“All of the civilisation degradation, in which Croatia, Serbia, and BiH walk in, holding hands like brethren, unfortunately demonstrates that the magic concept of normalisation was never a process of actual internal moral maturing and expansion of horizons. It is obvious that the normalisation of the 2000’s was just some temporary effort, pushed through using blackmail by an outside authority, a reflex left from the colonial subverted state”, believes the author. Symptomatic for this are the latest bouts of tension, due to the arrest of Croatian veterans in BiH, who have been charged with war crimes, and the reactions of the political elite in Zagreb, headed by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

Vecernji list reports that there are expectations that a decision will be made at the gathering of the European People’s Party today and tomorrow in Brussels, that the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić is accepted in the ranks of Europe’s largest political family. Opposition to the acceptance of SNS was stated by the former foreign minister of Croatia and currently international secretary of the ruling HDZ party Miro Kovać. “My personal opinion is that, due to a number of reasons, at this exact moment no such decision should be supported”, said Mr Kovać for the newspaper, which underlines that for such a decision to be adopted there is no need for consensus.

Both largest daily newspapers – Jutarnji and Vecernji report on the just finished presidential elections in Bulgaria. Jutarnji spends time on the commitment of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to resign due to losing the elections, but at the same time comments that the victory of the 53-year old general Radev could pull Bulgaria closer to Russia and thus cause discontent in the EU and NATO. The newspaper quotes the general’s words that he does not intend to pull the country away from NATO and the EU. Vecernji list also wonders how the EU would react. Under the headline of “Rumen Radev wins the presidential elections, Bulgaria moves closer to Russia?”, the newspaper prints a brief resume on the election result.

The big piece of news in Serbia this morning is the agreement reached between Belgrade and Priština on telecommunications. In an interview for RTS, the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Đurić explains that the agreement allows for a three-digit area code for the geographic area of Kosovo and Metohija and that it will have positive impact on relations with Priština and the EU. This news is at the front page of Vecernje novosti, which on the other hand runs an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlović, who finds reactions to the US elections unacceptable. “When I see some headline like ‘Trump, You Serb’, ‘Trump returns Kosovo to us’, ‘Karić connects Trump and Putin’, when I listen to some politicians explaining Trump’s victory, and when I see how Vojislav Šešelj, which I do feel good about, becoming the greatest pro-American politician in Serbia, and I go into shock, as did recently explain Prime Minister Vučić. I read, I watch, and I feel ashamed of so much superficiality and ignorance”, says Mrs Mihajlović.

At the reminding that Šešelj was the only one in Serbia to openly support Trump she replies: “True, as is the fact that following those elections Mr Trump became the president-elect of the USA, while Vojislav Šešelj remained a provincial politician from Batajnica”Blic reports today that Serbia has some serious lag on Kosovo regarding lobbyism in the USA. Lana Gedošević comments that the Serbian “lobbyist train” is running seriously late in comparison to the Kosovo one with Serbia having not even chartered a lobbying company yet, which is to stand for Serbian interest in Washington.      .

As opposed to Serbia, Kosovo has been involved in lobbying for a long time now and quite seriously at that. According to Borko Stefanović, leader of the Party of Serbian Left, who has been involved in lobbying in the USA, Serbia has missed the opportunity to turn things to its benefit. “We did not miss that opportunity just now, but all the way back in the 1980’s. The first talk of independent Kosovo was heard back in 1986-1987, when Congressmen Bob Dole and Tom Lantos came to Serbia, but the president at the time, Slobodan Milošević, denied them audience. He would not give them a convoy so they can visit Kosovo and at the end they went there by themselves”,  Stefanović tells Blic, reminding that it was through lobbying that Albanians and Croats managed to present themselves as victims.

Bosnian Klix reports on the signed memorandum between the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Saudi Arabia. The agreement is for cooperation in the field of education and science and was signed by Minister of Civil Affairs of BiH Adil Osmanović during his visit to the kingdom. This is the first agreement between the two states in the sphere of education and science, which provides for the exchange of information on the educational systems and programmes of the two states.

6YKA reports that the representatives of the Alliance for Change will decide today on what measures to take in reply to the threats by the President of Republika Srpska and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik, that the entity’s Presidency will not aid the municipalities in which the party did not win, as well as that members of the government are not to have any contacts with the leaderships of such municipalities. Dodik has also threatened that the SNSD will start a black book to keep record of all those, who have ever harmed the party in any way.

The headline of Macedonian Dnevnik today is another in the line of commentaries by Mirka Velinovska against Sorosoids. “The state which, despite being uninvited, participated actively in all elections worldwide; the state which elected and appointed regimes to all peoples worldwide, is now afraid that someone, or the entire world will interfere in its internal affairs. It is shocked and unpleasantly surprised that there could be other uninvited ones, who could have their own opinion on elections over there, on the quality of candidates”, writes Velinovska. “Well this is karma for you, or God’s justice! Despite not having an American Embassy in America, a Colourful revolution did happen. Why? Because George Soros does exist and Sorosoids do exist. This army of hypnotised and lobotomised progressives are now hysterically demanding that the just finished elections be annulled, because they do not agree with the results. They want an election purge!?”, continues the author’s commentary.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev 

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Trump may kill Naziyahu with kindness

Trump may kill Netanyahu with kindness
Trump and Netanyahu

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

While the United States presidential election bitterly divided the American public, most Israelis were sanguine about the race. Both candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – were keen to end eight years of icy mistrust between Barack Obama, the outgoing president, and Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister should – at least on paper – be happier with Trump.

Netanyahu, elected four times, has always faced off with Democratic incumbents. Now he has not only a right-wing Republican in the White House but a Republican-dominated Congress too.

Standing guard over the relationship will be Sheldon Adelson, a US casino magnate who is Netanyahu’s s most vocal supporter. It will not be lost on Trump that the billionaire is one of the Republican Party’s main financiers.

Netanyahu was among the first to congratulate Trump by phone. The US president-elect reciprocated by inviting him for talks “at the first opportunity”. And yet Netanyahu is reported to be anxious about a Trump White House. Why?

A Trump policy statement issued just before the election could have been written by Netanyahu himself

It is certainly not because of Trump’s stated policies on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

He has backed moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a move that, if implemented, would make the US the first Western state to recognise the city as Israel’s capital. It would effectively rubber-stamp Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the expected capital of a Palestinian state.

Previous Republican candidates have made the same promise, but Trump looks like the first who might carry it through. A nervous Palestinian leadership warned at the weekend they would “make life miserable” for him if he did.

A Trump policy statement issued just before the election could have been written by Netanyahu himself.

It dismissed a two-state solution as “impossible”, blaming the Palestinian leadership for rewarding terrorism and educating children in “hatred of Israel and Jews”. It suggested that Israel would have a free hand to expand the settlements.

There were hints too that US military aid might be increased above the record USD 38 billion over 10 years recently agreed by Obama. And the statement proposed a crackdown on all boycott activities, even those targeting settlements. “The false notion that Israel is an occupier should be rejected,” it concluded.

So why the nerves in Tel Aviv?

However hawkish Netanyahu appears to outsiders, he is relatively moderate compared to the rest of his Likud party and his government coalition partners.

The prime minister has won favour at home by presenting himself as an embattled leader, but one best placed to look out for Israel’s interests against a hostile White House. Now with the battlefield gone, Netanyahu’s armour risks making him look both clumsy and surplus to requirements.

There is another danger. Trump’s advisers on the Israel-Palestine conflict are closer to settler leader Naftali Bennett, the education minister, than Netanyahu. After Trump’s victory, Bennett crowed: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

The Israeli prime minister could find himself outflanked by Bennett if the Trump administration approves settler demands to annex most or all of the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s realisation of his Greater Israel dream may prove pyrrhic.

Israel’s complete takeover of the West Bank could trigger an irreversible crisis with Europe; the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, forcing the military and financial burden of the occupation back on to Israel; and a full-blown Intifadafrom Palestinians, battering Netanyahu’s security credentials.

His [Trump’s] oft-stated isolationist impulses and his apparent desire to mend fences with Russia’s Vladimir Putin could have unpredictable implications for the Middle East and Israel.

The creation of a Greater Israel could also damage Israel by reframing the Palestinian struggle as a fight for equal rights in a single state. Comparisons with earlier struggles, against South African apartheid and Jim Crow in the US deep south, would be hard to counter.

But Netanyahu has an additional reason to fear an imminent Trump presidency.

There were few US politicians Netanyahu had a better measure of than Hillary Clinton. He knew her Middle East policy positions inside out and had spent years dealing with her closest advisers.

Trump, by contrast, is not only an unknown quantity on foreign policy but notoriously mercurial. His oft-stated isolationist impulses and his apparent desire to mend fences with Russia’s Vladimir Putin could have unpredictable implications for the Middle East and Israel.

He might tear up last year’s nuclear accord with Iran, as Netanyahu hopes, but he might just as equally disengage from the region, giving more leeway to Iran and Russia. The effect on the international inspections regime in Iran or the proxy wars raging in Israel’s backyard, in Syria and elsewhere, would be hard to predict.

In short, Trump could kill Netanyahu with kindness, turn Israel into a pariah state in Western capitals and leave it exposed strategically.

In addition, becoming the poster child of a controversial and possibly short-lived Trump presidency could rapidly transform Israel into a deeply divisive issue in US politics.

The adage – be careful what you wish for – may yet come to haunt Mr Netanyahu.

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US Feigns Human Rights Concerns in Philippines. Extrajudicial Executions and Duterte’s “War on Drugs”


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is heading a controversial campaign against crime, embodied in his “war on drugs” which has led to violence spanning the nation’s troubled urban centers. President Duterte’s comments have ranged from reasonable, to utterly indifferent regarding fears of extrajudicial executions, vigilantism, and very real human rights abuses – opening a door of opportunity for his political opponents both at home and abroad.

President Duterte’s inability to clearly condemn extrajudicial executions and vigilante violence, along with his inflammatory, provocative, even dangerously demagogic statements both invites further abuses, as well as both legitimate and opportunistic criticism of him, his administration, and his policies.

While legitimate criticism is both necessary and justified, it is undermined by disingenuous political opportunism, wielded by hypocrites who only stand to compound the Philippines’ current crisis, not solve it.

America the Humane? 

Among President Duterte’s more opportunistic political opponents is the United States.

While the United States would otherwise be justified and morally grounded in its criticism of President Duterte’s administration, there are some current and past complications that reveal such criticism as stark hypocrisy, crass opportunism, and even the cynical political exploitation of abuse, rather than any genuine attempt to constructively address or stop it. The most recent manifestation of America’s feigned concern regarding the Philippines’ ongoing campaign against accused illicit narcotic dealers was the blocking of a shipment of US-made rifles destined for Philippine police units. Some 26,000 rifles were on order before being blocked by the US Senate based on “concerns about human rights violations.”

These concerns, however, have not prevented the US from selling billions of dollars worth of weapons, including warplanes, munitions, tanks, and helicopters to Saudi Arabia, who is using this vast US-made arsenal to oppress its own people and execute a war of aggression against neighboring Yemen. Saudi Arabia is also admittedly involved in arming and funding terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, including with US-made weapons – particularly anti-tank TOW missiles. This hypocrisy exposes US “concerns” as merely politically motivated, designed to put pressure on Manila in an effort to reassert US influence over the Southeast Asian state. Not only has the US previously enjoyed greater influence over the Philippines since the end of World War II, but before the war, and for half a century, the United States literally controlled the Philippines as a US territory. It seized the Philippines in a bloody 1899-1902 war that claimed the lives of over a quarter of a million people (some sources estimate over half a million), and initiated an occupation marked by brutality, oppression, and torture, including the introduction of water boarding (then called “water curing”) conducted by the US as a means of attitude adjustment for local Philippine leaders.

It is ironic and telling that both water boarding and attempts by the US to maintain influence over the Philippines both persist to this day. Attempts by the US to predicate its desire to control Manila on “concerns about human rights violations” not only is bitterly ironic, it undermines those genuinely attempting to expose and stop real abuses taking place amid the Philippines’ current crisis. President Duterte has been able to insulate himself from criticism precisely because of US hypocrisy and meddling. Had independent, local activists and media platforms – networked with regional and international organizations – attempted to expose and rein in President Duterte’s anti-crime campaign, it would have been immeasurably more difficult to dismiss the facts and continue with impunity. The US has in essence discredited genuine human rights concerns by hijacking them for self-serving political objectives.

Extrajudicial executions, vigilante violence, and President Duterte’s indifference, even defense of both, needs to be opposed – but by the people of the Philippines – not disingenuous, exploitative, and self-serving foreign interests who are not only notorious human rights abusers today – worldwide – but who have carried out campaigns of extermination, torture, and human rights abuses in the Philippines itself, as a foreign conqueror and occupier.

For President Duterte, it is more than possible for him to lead a more dignified and just campaign against criminals operating across the Philippines. Nations like Singapore have used stern, popular, but legitimate judicial measures to rein in the drug trade and organized crime, so can the Philippines. Doing so would close this door of opportunity President Duterte himself opened to the Americans, and leaves open with his current policies.

Posted in USA, Far EastComments Off on US Feigns Human Rights Concerns in Philippines. Extrajudicial Executions and Duterte’s “War on Drugs”

Land Grab Update: Mozambique, Africa Still in the Crosshairs


By Timothy A Wise, Food Tank 

Image result for mozambique flag

On October 12, the government of Mozambique quietly announced that it would close its Agriculture Promotion Centre (CEPAGRI), the agency created in 2006 to promote large-scale foreign investment in the country’s agricultural sector. In a terse statement, government spokesman Mouzinho Saide gave no reason for the closure, saying only that its functions would be subsumed under a different agency in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Longtime Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon was not so shy, reporting in his October 18 Mozambique News Report that CEPAGRI was finished because those large-scale projects it was supposed to broker: “none of them have succeeded.”

Hyperbole aside, Mozambique’s grand visions of foreign capital modernizing its agricultural sector have indeed proven grandiose. Nowhere is this clearer than in the rich Nacala Corridor in northern Mozambique, where the ProSavana project promoted by Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique was going to transform 35 million hectares — nearly 100 million acres — into soybean plantations modeled on Brazil’s cerrado region.

Brazilian agribusinessmen walked away, seeing land that was hardly “unoccupied,” resistance from the communities occupying that land, and poor infrastructure to get any product to its intended markets in China and Japan. ProSavana lives on in name at least — and as an ongoing threat to farmers in the region — but so far, the project’s largest product is hubris. (See my previous articles here and here.)

But is land-grabbing over, in Mozambique and across Africa and the rest of the developing world? Now that crop and food prices have returned to their usual punishingly low levels, is the pressure off from foreign buyers looking to acquire large tracts of agricultural lands?

Not according to new data from the Land Matrix Initiative, which has been tracking such deals since the land rush took off in 2007. A large number of formerly announced deals have failed to materialize, as with ProSavana, but many that remain are now under contract and coming into production.

Land-Grabbing: Myth and Reality

More than 1,000 large-scale foreign land deals are now under contract for agriculture covering more than 26 million hectares of land, according to the new report, “Land Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture.”That area represents a remarkable two percent of arable land in the world. Nearly three-quarters of the projects have now begun production on some of the land.

Africa remains the largest target for land grabs, accounting for 42 percent of global deals with 10 million hectares under contract. Mozambique now ranks 18th among all target countries in area under contract, with 500,000 hectares in 60 concluded deals. That puts the country, which in the 2012 report was a top target in Africa, well behind Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Sudan, which have the most on the continent.

The United States and United Kingdom remain among the leading investors in the amount of land under contract for agriculture. The Land Matrix notes the rise of developing country investors in recent years and, to the surprise of many, that does not mean China. Malaysia, with heavy investments in palm oil plantations in Indonesia and other Asian countries, now is the leading source of investors, followed by the US and the UK China ranks ninth overall, with about one million hectares under contract, barely one-third the land acquired by US investors. China remains a minor agricultural player in Africa.

The new report also dispels the myth that the land grabs are mainly by “resource poor” governments to secure food access for their domestic populations. At least 70 percent of the concluded deals are by private investors, with only 6 percent directly by governments.

And food crops account for a minority of the land under cultivation. Cereal crops account for only an estimated 20 percent of the area under cultivation, while 44 percent is estimated to be in oilseeds such as palm oil and another 10 percent is in sugar. The latter two are considered prime “flex-crops” because they can be used to produce biofuels, raw materials for processed foods, or edible oils and sugar.

The new data also shows that the acquired land was not “unused,” despite investor claims to the contrary. Fully 58 percent was reported to be cropland in recent use. Only 10 percent of acquired land was considered “marginal,” and Land Matrix points out that this by no means indicates that it was not in use. “Land considered to be ‘marginal’ often serves as a grazing area and is important to rural communities and indigenous peoples,” notes the report.

Land Matrix also confirmed that successful projects failed to generate many jobs, as capital-intensive farming displaced labor-intensive small-scale production. One researcher estimated a net loss in livelihoods between 28 percent (Tanzania) and 75 percent (Kenya) from large-scale foreign projects.

Mozambique: Still Under Threat

Mozambique’s rural communities remain on high alert, even as they successfully repel many of the largest land grabs. The Mozambican government may have closed its agricultural promotion center, but it remains committed to giving away good land to foreigners. As I reported earlier, a 200,000-hectare project along the Lurio River in northern Mozambique is still very much in the pipeline, even if it doesn’t appear yet in the Land Matrix database. (GRAIN, the other international organization collecting land grab data, shows it as an announced project that could displace 100,000 people.)

But the failures are stunning, and a testament to communities’ resistance to the foreign invaders, as well as their insistence that the government respect the country’s progressive Land Law. In the Land Matrix’s first report in 2012, Mozambique was the second most important target in the world, with nearly 8 million hectares in reported agricultural deals.

Now, the Land Matrix lists only 500,000 hectares in 65 concluded agricultural deals. Of the current projects, nine, on nearly 100,000 hectares, are listed as “abandoned,” mostly biofuel projects. Data is scarcer on the area actually under production, but Land Matrix could confirm only 21,000 hectares in production. No doubt, the area is larger than that. Interestingly, the largest operational project, a Chinese rice investment in Xai Xai, has been significantly scaled back from its listed 8,800-hectare plantation because of community resistance.

Large-scale projects have been more successful in forestry and tourism, with nearly two million hectares in concluded deals. And mining concessions continue to displace or threaten thousands of Mozambicans as the mineral boom continues.

But the initial alarming ProSAVANA promise was 35 million hectares. ProSAVANA appears in the Land Matrix database now as a 700,000-hectare project “intended (under negotiation),” but with no land under contract or production seven years after the plan was announced. The project is now limping through yet another consultation process with little pretense of attracting investors.

Brazil does not appear as the home source of investment for a single Mozambican farming project, though there certainly are a few. Interestingly, Brazil ranks fifth in the world as a land-grab target, with two million hectares under contract to foreigners.

Resistance Key

The slowed pace of land grabbing in Mozambique is mirrored in global data from Land Matrix. The group’s first report, in 2012, had far less precise information because the land rush had just begun in earnest, triggered by the food price spikes in 2007–2008.

The 2012 report showed 83 million hectares in “intended” agricultural deals, with some 56 million in Africa. Many of those intentions have gone the way of ProSAVANA. According to the new report, only 26 million hectares in deals have been concluded globally — less than one-third the threatened amount — with about 10 million in Africa, less than one-fifth the area reported in 2012.

Resistance is a big part of the reason, and it will continue to determine where investors can impose their will. The difference between a land grab and a large-scale project is consultation and consent. The Land Matrix reports research on a subset of cases that shows that in 84 percent of the studied cases there was little or no consultation.

An international campaign for Land Rights Now is focusing particular attention on women, indigenous communities, and others who do not have secure title to the land and are particularly vulnerable. Fundamentally, the responsibility lies with national governments to recognize communal and individual land rights and stop giving away land to foreign investors.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Land Grab Update: Mozambique, Africa Still in the Crosshairs

US Military Plans to Dump 20,000 Tons of Heavy Metals and Explosives Into the Oceans


By Dahr Jamail, Truthout 

US Navy forces engage in maneuver training in the Philippine Sea, November 28, 2013. The massive amount of heavy metals and highly toxic compounds the Navy introduces into the environment will not be cleaned up by the Navy, nor will the Navy contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer.

US Navy forces engage in maneuver training in the Philippine Sea, November 28, 2013. The massive amount of heavy metals and highly toxic compounds the Navy introduces into the environment will not be cleaned up by the Navy, nor will the Navy contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman / US Navy)

The US Navy has been conducting war-game exercises in US waters for decades, and in the process, it has left behind tons of bombs, heavy metals, missiles, sonar buoys, high explosives and depleted uranium munitions that are extremely harmful to both humans and marine life.

Truthout recently reported that the Navy has admitted to releasing chemicals into the oceans that are known to injure infants’ brains, as well as having left large amounts of depleted uranium in US coastal waters. Now, the Navy’s own documents reveal that it also plans to use 20,000 tons of heavy metals, plastics and other highly toxic compounds over the next two decades in the oceans where it conducts its war games.

According to the Navy’s 2015 Northwest Training and Testing environmental impact statement (EIS), in the thousands of warfare “testing and training events” it conducts each year, 200,000 “stressors” from the use of missiles, torpedoes, guns and other explosive firings in US waters happen biennially. These “stressors,” along with drones, vessels, aircraft, shells, batteries, electronic components and anti-corrosion compounds that coat external metal surfaces are the vehicles by which the Navy will be introducing heavy metals and highly toxic compounds into the environment.

Just some of the dangerous compounds the Navy will be injecting into the environment during their exercises are: ammonium perchlorate, picric acid, nitrobenzene, lithium from sonobuoy batteries, lead, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, nickel, tungsten, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, trinitrotoluene (TNT), RDX [Royal Demolition eXplosive] and HMX  [High Melting eXplosive], among many others.

“None of these belong in the ocean’s food web, upon which we all depend,” Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist who cofounded West Coast Action Alliance, which acts as a watchdog of Naval activities in the Pacific Northwest, told Truthout. “Nor will the Navy be willing to clean it up, or even contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer.”

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

A worrying example of that fact: In August of this year, a lawmaker in Pennsylvania urged 70,000 residents across three counties whose drinking water was contaminated by the Navy to sue them, just to get funding to pay for blood tests to see how sick they had become.

Other examples of US citizens being treated as collateral damage abound. Just this October, the BBC reported on an Air Force Base leaking toxic chemicals into the sewer system, and the port of San Diego filed a federal lawsuit against the Navy for injecting an underground plume of toxic chemicals that threatens to contaminate the entire bay.

But stories like these are only the tip of an impending iceberg.

Experts Truthout spoke with warn that if the Navy gets its way, the next 20 years will see them causing far more environmental degradation and destruction up and down US coastal areas by way of widespread chemical and toxic contamination.

Insidious Contamination

The Navy is, like all the other branches of the US military, ridiculously well-funded. Recent history shows that US military spending dwarfs the rest of the planet’s military spending.

“For the last half-century, US military spending has purchased the annihilation of millions throughout Southeast Asia, the Arab world, and Central Asia,” Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist and winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for her work on depleted uranium (DU) and heavy metal contamination, told Truthout. “Accompanying that human annihilation has been environmental devastation and birth defects, from Vietnam to Iraq.”

Her strong words are backed by clear, cold facts that come from even mainstream media sources in the US, like Newsweek magazine, which in a 2014 article titled “The US Department of Defense Is One of the World’s Biggest Polluters” stated:

The US Department of Defence [sic] is one of the world’s worst polluters. Its footprint dwarfs that of any corporation: 4,127 installations spread across 19 million acres of American soil. Maureen Sullivan, who heads the Pentagon’s environmental programs, says her office contends with 39,000 contaminated sites.

Even as far back as 1990, the US Department of Defense had already admitted to creating more than 14,000 suspected contamination sites across the planet.

The US Safe Drinking Water Act defines “contaminant” as: ” … any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or matter in water. Drinking water may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. Some contaminants may be harmful if consumed at certain levels in drinking water. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.”

Thus, contamination being a matter of scale, the government creates a “not-to-exceed” level based on what it knows about each contaminant, in order to minimize human exposure to each item on its massive list of contaminants.

However, the contamination guidelines don’t account for the kind of pollution perpetrated by the US Navy.

“What do you do when it’s massive quantities of contaminants in the ocean, and not your drinking water?” asked Sullivan, who worked at the US Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 15 years and is an expert in the bureaucratic procedures the Navy is supposed to be following.

She pointed out how “contamination,” or water pollution, is defined as “environmental degradation that occurs when pollutants are directly or indirectly discharged into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds.”

On that point she said, “None of the dangerous compounds being dumped into our waters by the Navy have ever been treated or removed, which leads to hearing this false choice: The cost of cleanup or removal would be exorbitant. Therefore, we should continue dumping as always, in perpetuity.”

Navy spokesperson Sheila Murray told Truthout that depleted uranium on the seafloor was no more harmful than any other metal, a statement that flies in the face of numerous scientific studies that have proven otherwise. Sullivan believes that, by making that statement, the Navy “has disavowed responsibility for all of this toxic ocean pollution.”

Savabieasfahani said that while the Navy may be content to add depleted uranium to the environment that already has high levels of man-made pollutants, we should not share its complacency.

“A cluster of worsening environmental phenomena go hand-in-hand with that accumulation of pollutants,” she told Truthout. “Global warming, mass extinctions, ecosystem collapse, food-web modification, physical and biological changes in organisms, endocrine disruption, and a pandemic of neurodevelopmental disorders in children accompany those rising background pollution levels. Peer-reviewed research is already showing steep declines in the biodiversity of ecosystems.”

How Much Contamination?

According to Sullivan, who studied the EIS, the Navy plans to introduce 20,000 tons of contaminants into the environment, which is the equivalent of dumping a load of toxins the size of a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier scattered throughout the seas and sounds of coastal Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

As staggering as that amount is, it does not even include contaminants that have been released over the last six decades of Naval exercises in oceans around the globe (the plans mentioned in these documents are limited to Pacific Northwest waters).

The aforementioned list of toxic compounds the Navy has, is and is planning to release into the environment via its exercises are documented in EPA Superfund site lists as known hazards and all of them are highly toxic at both acute and chronic levels.

For example, perchlorates are highly soluble in water and according to the EPA, “generally have high mobility in soils.” They have been found in breast milk, target the thyroid gland and affect children and fetuses more than they affect adults.

Lithium causes behavioral changes that, in large animals and humans, can be fatal. Ingestion of merely one to two grams of picric acid would cause severe poisoning. TNT remains active underwater, can bioaccumulate in fish, including salmon, and can cause developmental and physiological problems, according to scientific studies. HMX and RDX explosives are both well documented to be extremely toxic and dangerous.

Sullivan says all of this raises questions about why there are no regulations preventing the creation of Superfund sites (polluted locations that require intensive clean-up) in the ocean. “We depend on salmon, yet the Navy is creating massive ecosystem-wide pollution right under our noses,” Sullivan said. “How can they not see that it will be generations from now who reap the bitter harvest?”

Savabieasfahani agreed and took it a step further, issuing a dire warning.

“Toxic metals, such as lead and uranium, are biomagnified,” she explained.”‘Biomagnification’ means that toxins get more concentrated in an organism which ingests plants or animals containing that toxin. For example, contaminated fish can pass on large doses of toxin to their human consumers.”

The 20,000 tons of contaminants the Navy plans to release into the ocean in the coming years do not include the additional 4.7 to 14 tons of “metals with potential toxicity” that will be “released” annually in the inland waters of both Puget Sound and Hood Canal, according to Naval documents. Given that those numbers are for one year only, in 20 years, between 94 and 280 tons of heavy metals will be released inland (in addition to what will be released in the open ocean).

It is also worth noting that two actual Superfund sites along Washington’s inland shorelines are both on Naval property.

“In addition to the toxic contaminants deliberately dumped, what happens to their land-based toxic brews when torrential rains like we had in October overwhelm storm water runoff systems?” Sullivan asked, then provided the answer. “They end up in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.”

Devils in the Details

Naval documentation also reveals that over the next 20 years, the weights of the various contaminants include 6,739 tons of unrecoverable sonobuoys (including their animal-entangling parachutes and batteries which leach lithium for 55 years), and 396 tons of small-caliber rounds, the latter comprising only 2 percent of the total weight of “expended materials.”

The Navy’s flares, which weigh between 12 and 30 pounds apiece, are used 824 times annually, adding up to 16,480 flares weighing between 200,000 and 500,000 pounds over 20 years. The Navy admits that the flares leave toxic residues whenever they are used, saying, “Solid flare and pyrotechnic residues may contain, depending on their purpose and color, an average weight of up to 0.85 pounds of aluminum, magnesium, zinc, strontium, barium, cadmium, nickel, and perchlorates.”

Meaning, at a minimum, seven tons of toxic pyrotechnic residues are to be introduced into Pacific Northwest waters in the next 20 years.

Looking at explosives for training alone, the Navy plans to use 29,024 pounds annually, amounting to 290 tons over the next two decades.

Another issue is unexploded ordnance, or, as it’s commonly known, “duds.”

At current Navy rates for duds only, we would see an additional nine tons of dangerous residual explosive material fired into Pacific Northwest waters every 20 years, sitting on the ocean floor, leaching dangerous toxics.

Moreover, not all contaminants immediately sink and bind to or get encapsulated by sediments. Some materials can be transported by ocean currents. Because the Navy’s EIS uses ocean dispersal and chemical degradation as its rationale for claiming no adverse impacts on species or habitats — anywhere, ever — it should be noted that the expended material from local warfare exercises may not tell the whole story. In other words, perhaps all of the contaminants in question should be added together to get an idea of the full impact.

For example, every other year, according to the Navy, they are authorized to dump up to 352,000 pounds of expended military materials, by way of them being shot, dropped and exploded, into the Gulf of Alaska. This includes up to 10,500 pounds of hazardous materials, such as cyanide, chromium, lead, tungsten, nickel, cadmium, barium chromate, chlorides, phosphorus, titanium compounds, lead oxide, potassium perchlorate, lead chromate, ammonium perchlorate, fulminate of mercury and lead azide. The Navy is dumping much of it into Essential Fish Habitat in the Gulf of Alaska at peak times of fishery and marine mammal presence, impacting and harming a multitude of species. They are also carrying out a similar dumping process in Pacific Northwest waters.

Naval Obfuscation

In the Navy’s 2015 Northwest Training and Testing EIS, it quotes several studies, saying, “contamination of the marine environment by munitions constituents is not well documented.” This is often the Navy’s claim, used to show its actions are not deleterious to the environment, when “not well documented” actually means that it has not looked for or measured its impacts on the environment. Regardless, the need for more data does not mean it is scientifically sound to assume there has been no damage.

In the section of the 2015 EIS on Cumulative Impacts, the Navy says, “Long-term exposure to pollutants poses potential risks to the health of marine mammals, although for the most part, the impacts are just starting to be understood.” The impacts include ” … organ anomalies and impaired reproduction and immune function.” There are multiple other examples of such doublespeak within the Navy’s own documents.

Another example is in the EIS section on Sediments and Water Quality, where the Navy claims that “slow but significant removal” of two types of explosive material (RDX and HMX) happens through a chemical reaction whose speed is dictated by the pH [acidity] of seawater. Adequate proof is not provided by the Navy, yet risks to human health from these toxins has been extremely well documented.

It could be argued that the Navy’s gross negligence of its environmental impacts amounts to a federal agency passing off wishful thinking as science. The toxic legacy of this negligence will be passed down to generations far beyond our own.

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on US Military Plans to Dump 20,000 Tons of Heavy Metals and Explosives Into the Oceans

Trump and Putin begin work on US-Russia reset


Image result for Trump and Putin CARTOON

By M K Bhadrakumar 

The Russian President Vladimir Putin made the long-expected phone call to the US president-elect Donald Trump on Monday.

It stands to reason that the presidential spokesman in the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, one of Putin’s closest aides, travelled to New York last week ostensibly to attend a world chess event, but principally to prepare the ground for the phone conversation on Monday.

The agenda of such Russian-American conversations is usually agreed upon beforehand. The Kremlin readout (and the brief statement by Trump’s transition team in New York) gave a positive account of the phone conversation.

From available details, it was a substantive conversation, which focused on reviving the Russian-American relationship, and, most important, also took up the Syrian conflict in some detail, including “issues related to solving the crisis”.

So, what emerges is that Putin and Trump have begun discussing Syria in their very first conversation as statesmen, hardly 6 days after the latter got elected, even before his key cabinet posts have been filled, and with 8 weeks still to go to before the new presidency commences.

Clearly, Syria is right on top of Trump’s mind – and the need to engage with Russia. Again, Trump had touched on Syria during his weekend interview with Wall Street Journal (when he made it clear that the US should dump Syrian rebels.)

Quite obviously, Monday’s phone conversation underscored that Trump was not at all fanciful or a maverick when he repeatedly stuck out his neck on the campaign trail and took much flak, including wild allegations of him being a Russian poodle, when he kept insisting on the imperative need of constructively dealing with Putin, as a collaborator rather than as adversary.

As could have been expected, Putin said to Trump that Moscow is ready “to develop a dialogue of partnership” with the US based on the “principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs” – in short, a principled relationship that could be the core of a US-Russia reset .

From the Kremlin point of view, what Putin articulated is a minimalist agenda. Putin has not spoken of any balancing of interests or the desirability of the two countries showing sensitivity to each other’s interests – although they discussed the fight against the “common enemy” – international terrorism and extremism.

Trump’s transition headquarters quoted the president-elect as saying to Putin that “he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia.”

With Monday’s conversation, one controversial part of Trump’s foreign-policy plank is gaining transparency.  Both Trump and Putin “expressed support for active joint efforts to normalise relations and pursue constructive cooperation on the broadest possible range of issues.

They emphasised the importance of establishing a reliable foundation for bilateral ties by developing the trade and economic component,” which in turn “would help “stimulate a return to pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation.”

The twitter from New York said Trump and Putin discussed “strategic economic issues.” Energy issues? Western sanctions against Russia? We should know in a near future. Something seems to be brewing here.

At any rate, it is a terrific forward- looking signal. For, how can the “trade and economic component” be developed so long as the sanctions continue, or when New Cold War clouds are hanging so low?

Yet, the Kremlin readout omitted any reference to Ukraine. However, both Putin and Trump noted that at the leadership level, they “should encourage a return to pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation in the interests of both countries, as well as global stability and security.”

By the way, on Monday, Trump also spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Xinhua news agency reported that Trump paid fulsome compliments to China as “a great and important country with eye-catching development prospects”.  Trump added that Sino-American relations “will witness even greater development” during his presidency. Trump and Xi agreed to meet “at an early date”.

Interestingly, Putin and Trump also agreed to not only keep in touch by telephone but also begin planning for an in-person meeting. Would such a meeting take place before or after Trump’s inauguration in January?

Conceivably, these could be the first signs of a new type of big-power relationship. Trump may seek a US-Russia-China entente cordiale to carry forward the US’ global leadership while America attends to the repair and reconstruction of its economy and society. Such an approach dovetails with Trump’s agenda of ‘America First’.

No doubt, Trump has started running no sooner than he hit the ground. This seems to confirm the general impression of him as a man in a hurry. And Putin seemed to expect it.

The Kremlin aide Peskov’s prognosis has been that Putin and Trump are two men “very much alike… in their basic approach towards international relations”, and there’s good reason “to believe that they will manage to establish good relations.”

However, this sort of extraordinary ‘pro-active’ diplomacy by the president-elect, as he has shown on Monday, may not go down well with the American foreign policy and security establishment.

Some of the irritation may even have welled up to the surface when the Obama administration chose Monday itself  to announce even more sanctions against Russia – against six Russian parliamentarians representing Crimea and Sevastopol in the Duma.

At any rate, Moscow too bid farewell on Monday to the Obama administration. Reacting to the reported advice by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to Trump not to cooperate with Russia over Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in Moscow on Monday that Moscow is no more interested than the United States (read Obama administration) in such cooperation and will proceed on that basis.

Ryabkov said derisively that in any case, Moscow does not intend to “persuade the Pentagon leadership to change something in this regard.” To be sure, things have touched a nadir in Russian-American relations, and from this point things can only get better.

Having said that, a genuine Russian-American reset depends on the balancing of mutual interests on a number of fronts where progress will be slow and needs to be hard-won. It is the Eurasian theatre that poses formidable challenges.

Issues such a NATO expansion, Crimea, US missile defence, forward deployments of NATO along Russia’s borders, ‘colour revolutions’ — these are difficult topics. Maybe, the experience in working together on Syria — and an easing of western sanctions against Russia, which is entirely conceivable sometime through 2017 — would have a positive effect on the overall climate of trust and mutual confidence.

What Monday’s phone conversation testifies is that Russia definitely sees a window of opportunity in the incoming Trump presidency; a reset in the troubled relationship is possible; and, that Putin and Trump could strike personal chemistry of a kind that was never found possible for the Russian leader with Obama.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Trump and Putin begin work on US-Russia reset

Evolution or revolution: what do the anti-Trump protesters really want?

Image result for Trump CARTOON
By Alexander Mercouris 

The anti-Trump protesters must be honest with themselves about the true intentions of their protest. And here’s why.

The protests against Donald Trump that happened directly after his election victory appear to be petering out. They were never very large, and were always going to end given the indisputable fact – which the protests can’t change – that Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States.

The protests have, however, attracted a great deal of attention and in view of that, and because I know of some people who have taken part in them, I feel that I should offer my views of them.

Firstly, people have a right to protest provided they do so in a lawful and peaceful way.

Secondly, whilst they have a right to protest against Donald Trump, they need to be clear what they are protesting against.  If by protesting they are trying to stop Donald Trump from becoming President of the United States, then since Trump has been elected legally and constitutionally, they are taking a revolutionary position.

That is true even if, as some of them have said, the purpose of the protests is to persuade some of the electors on the Electoral College to switch support to Hillary Clinton from Donald Trump, defying the voters of their states.

If the purpose of the protests is indeed revolutionary – intended to overthrow or set aside the result of an election carried out in accordance with the established legal and constitutional processes of the United States – then the protesters need to be honest with themselves about it, and cannot in that case avoid scrutiny of some of the organisations which appear to be involved in organising the protests, or to hearing questions about them.

Alternatively, if the protests are against Trump’s policies or what the protesters think Trump’s policies will be, then they are a legitimate form of political activity carried out within the established norms of US politics, provided they are carried out in a lawful and peaceful way. Though, since coming in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election victory, they inevitably provoke comments about the protesters being sore losers.

I make these points because in the second case I would offer the view that, over time, protests may lead to be a positive development in US politics.

No one looking at the US political situation objectively before Trump’s election victory could be satisfied with the state of the US political system.  Virtually everyone agrees that it has become calcified, corrupt and increasingly detached from the people of America.

Hillary Clinton’s victory would simply have perpetuated for a further four years this failing and discredited system.  It is a system where democratic politics has ceased to function in any meaningful way, so that countries like Libya, Iraq and Syria can be destroyed, and democratically elected governments can be overthrown in Honduras and Ukraine, without anyone protesting or even properly knowing about it. 

As I have discussed previously, the situation has now become so bad that just a month ago the US found itself in a dangerous military stand-off with the Russians in Syria, and with the American people left in complete ignorance of it.

And this is not even touching on the way in which US domestic politics has been captured by powerful organised lobbies so that social inequalities have been allowed to grow with more and more people left behind. 

In 1936 Franklin Roosevelt spoke of how “government by organised money was as dangerous as government by organised mob”. Who can deny that that is the situation the US has had up to now?  How else could someone like Hillary Clinton have been nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President?

Donald Trump’s election offers an opportunity to break with this system.  If the protests that followed his election were the beginning of some sort of return to real politics – as opposed to the virtual reality post-modern politics we have had up to now – that could turn out over time to be a good thing.

However, the protesters must in that case ask themselves what it is exactly that they are protesting for, not just what they are protesting against. Are they protesting for Hillary Clinton and for a return to the unloved and unsatisfactory pre-Trump status quo? If so then the protests will be no more than a spasm of a discredited dying system, rather than the promise of something positive and new.

Posted in USAComments Off on Evolution or revolution: what do the anti-Trump protesters really want?

Anti-democracy protests spread to Moldova

Image result for Moldova FLAG
Press TV 

Thousands of Moldovans have protested in the capital Chisinau after a West-leaning politician claimed that a presidential runoff which propelled her pro-Russian rival to victory was “neither free nor fair.”

The protesters gathered in front of Moldova’s Great National Assembly before marching to the Central Electoral Commission where a high number of riot police were deployed.

Final results on Monday showed socialist-backed opposition candidate Igor Dodon won 52.2 percent of the vote against Maia Sandu who had 47.8 percent.

Sandu cried foul, accusing her rival of using “manipulation, lies, dirty money” in his bid to win.

Up to 3,000 mostly young Moldovans then marched to the offices of the Central Election Committee in Chisinau shouting “Down with the Mafia!”

International election observers, however, said “fundamental freedoms were respected,” even though “polarized media coverage, harsh rhetoric detracted from the process.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described its overall assessment of the election as positive but said reports that some voters were unable to vote due to the lack of ballots were “regrettable.”

The 41-year-old Dodon tapped into popular anger over the approximately $1 billion that went missing from Moldovan banks before the 2014 parliamentary elections.

Many Moldovans hope Dodon’s election will rekindle ties with Moscow, which took a hit after the country signed an association agreement with the European Union in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Dodon to visit Moscow and said he looked forward to developing bilateral relations.

The eastern European state of 3.5 million is located on the fault line separating Russia from Europe. Dodon has pledged to pursue closer ties with Russia rather than the European Union.

He argues that the recent gravitation towards the European Union has cost the country its ties with neighboring Russia. Dodon’s policy is backed by many Moldovans who suffered financially from the goods embargo imposed by Russia and a broader economic downturn.

Moldova has been in turmoil since the mysterious disappearance of money from three banks, which sparked huge street protests and the arrest of the former prime minister Vlad Filat.

Posted in EuropeComments Off on Anti-democracy protests spread to Moldova

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