Archive | December 11th, 2016

Cuban Film Festival To Open, Will Pay Tribute to Fidel

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  • People read the Festival newspaper outside the Payret movie theater in Havana, Cuba, Dec. 6, 2008.
    People read the Festival newspaper outside the Payret movie theater in Havana, Cuba, Dec. 6, 2008. | Photo: Cubadebate
The festival will present 427 Latin American films in 10 days.

Cuba will hold its 38th annual International Festival of New Latin American Cinema from Dec. 8-18 in Havana, the most important cinematographic event in the country.

RELATED: How Fidel and Gabriel Garcia Marquez Changed Cinema Forever

The organizers of the festival, in a statement on Nov. 28, mourned the death of their revolutionary leader Fidel Castro: “From the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana we join in the pain of the physical loss of one of our great founders and thinkers in Latin American cinema as a movement that still unites us today … (Fidel’s) idea of promoting culture, and especially the cinema as the major way of liberation for Latin America, has been present in each one of the editions of the festival. The special screening of the film ‘La Batalla de Jigüe’ … is a special occasion to recall the struggle that he led that turned Cuba into a beacon of freedom for all the peoples of the world.”

The films traditionally presented at this festival have come from several Latin American countries and have contributed to the region’s cultural identity, competing under a panel of international judges, including movie directors, screenwriters and actors.

WATCH: “Habanarte” transforms Havana into a Showcase of Cuban Art

The event will also celebrate 30 years of the International Film and Television School in San Antonio de los Baños, which was created by Fidel and Nobel Prize winner in Literature and Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

According to the head of the festival, Ivan Giroud, this year’s edition will also honor Cuban filmmaker Julio Garcia Espinosa. “Julio is an innate provocateur, always contemporary, modern,” said Giroud. “In that sense, his ideas are still valid today.”

There will be 18 fiction feature films, 22 short and medium length films, 26 documentaries, and 27 animated films, in addition to a German and a Spanish experimental film, as well as productions from other countries in America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

ANALYSIS: Fidel’s Favorite Book and Why You Should Read It

“The program we present is a luxury for anyone in the world, including film scholars. Seeing in a condensed place 18 Latin American quality films is a unique aspect of the festival, which makes it a world reference,” said Giroud.

Known filmmakers like Tristan Bauer from Argentina, Maria Paredes from Spain, Sonia Bragason from Brazil, and Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone from the U.S. will all be attending the festival. Stone will present his new film called “Snowden,” about the life of Edward Snowden, a former contractor who leaked information about the NSA to media in June 2013.

There will be a new section called “Restored Classics” where attendees will be able to see restored versions of classic Cuban movies such as Memories of Underdevelopment, A Cuban Struggle Against the Demons and The Survivors, by Tomas Gutierrez Alea, and Portrait of Teresa by Pastor Vega.

WATCH: Cuban documentary ‘Mascaras’ aims to present transvestism as an art

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Fidel’s Legacy to the World: Revolutionary Theory and Practice

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  • People rest on a sidewalk while waiting for the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba
    People rest on a sidewalk while waiting for the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro, Santiago de Cuba, Dec. 4, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
Fidel’s legacy lies in his capacity to link theory and practice, or practice and theory, through the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.

From his high school days into the 1950s, Fidel Castro familiarized himself with the writings and activities of Jose Marti, among other 19th-century Cuban fighters for social justice and independence from Spain.

OPINION: Cuba’s Ongoing Resistance to US Ideological War

Fidel read all of Marti’s 28 volumes. He also studied the works and practical activities of Marx, Engels and Lenin. He examined and held a deep respect for the Bolshevik Revolution. During this early period of his remarkable autodidactic evolution, he lived and was politically active not only in Cuba but secondarily in other Latin American countries, such as the Dominican Republic. The revolutionary traditions and thought of the entire region also entered into his mindset. It consumed his thinking as well as his very political spirit as a rapidly evolving revolutionary ready to give his life for the cause of the humble.

This thirst for familiarization with different strands of Cuban and international political thought and action carried on throughout his life.

Fidel’s legacy, among many other features, lies in his singular capacity to link theory and practice. He did so, taking into account the historically unprecedented longevity of his political journey, like no other revolutionary of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, an icon of Latin American thinking who personally knew Fidel very well, wrote in “A Personal Portrait of Fidel Castro” that the Cuban leader was the “the anti-dogmatist par excellence.” It is worthwhile to stop and reflect on this evaluation of the extent of Fidel’s anti-dogmatism.

Che Guevara lived and fought with Fidel Castro in the center of the Sierra Maestra and after the 1959 triumph. In Bolivia, on the July 26, 1967 anniversary of the attack on Moncada, Che wrote in his Bolivian diary about the “the significance of July 26, a rebellion against oligarchies and against revolutionary dogmas.”

OPINION: Fidel and Obama in Cuba: Now That Is Historic!

Yes, you read it right: “revolutionary dogmas.” Fidel and the movement he led were forced to go against the tide of the dominant left at the time in Cuba by opening up the path of armed struggle with the attack on two Batista barracks, including Moncada. Thus, this rebellion was also a revolt against this older left, which was not able to seize the historic moment. Moncada was not, from the point of view of the left, “politically correct.” Some of the left, both in Cuba and internationally, slandered Castro as a “petty bourgeois putschist” for his groundbreaking Moncada rebellion. It was supposedly not justified by the followers of Marxist “manuals,” seen by them as dogma fixed in time and space rather than as a guide to action. Fidel turned revolutionary thinking and practice on its head. The strategies and conditions of the Bolsheviks were not the same as those existing in Cuba in the 1950s that led to the Triumph of the Revolution in 1959. Nor is the situation in Cuba the same now as it was in 1959. Only a revolution purged of dogmatism, such as the Cuban one, can navigate through a world in flux.

In the 1950s he rallied the recalcitrant left trend in Cuba to the cause. He did so through his July 26 Movement’s actions, spirit of self-sacrifice and new political thought. The latter was manifested in his “History Will Absolve Me” speech that was his defense in the trial following his capture after the failure of Moncada. All of these factors combined shook Cuba to its very foundations, a result only a self-reliant thinker and his collaborators could produce.

The rest is history. Or is it? No. How many times did Fidel Castro go against the tide and lead Cuba out of a dead-end disaster? As just one illustration, he refused to go along with Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms and capitulation to the U.S. in 1991. In fact, he actually foresaw the crumbling of the U.S.S.R. two years before it took place. Where is this requisite life-and-death resistance and defiance explicitly expressed in any of the works of Marx or Lenin or Jose Marti? Yet these political figures all exude the principles, thinking and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause of the people that are applied to such unforeseen challenges.

Nevertheless, even with this heritage from the 19th and very early 20th century, in the threatening and stormy uncharted waters between the late 1980s and 1991, the Cuban revolutionaries had to figure out the way forward by themselves. The U.S. was waiting in the wings, licking its chops at the prospect that Cuba would fall into line. Where would Cuba be now had it not made the break at that time by again remaining faithful to its anti-dogmatic tradition, thus allowing new ideas and orientations to guide it?

Thus, Fidel’s legacy lies in his capacity to link theory and practice, or practice and theory, through the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. “Analysis” presupposes a theoretical outlook, true; however, this perspective applied to “concrete conditions” means paying attention to the real world and seizing the moment based on the needs and aspirations of the vast majority of Cuban people at any given time. The capacity to intrinsically and consistently marry the two, theory and practice, makes for a revolutionary such as Fidel.

Some may say that by dealing with this exemplary leadership of Fidel on theory and practice, one falls prey to individualizing Fidel and thus personalizing the Cuban Revolution to the detriment of the role played by the people and his closest collaborators. However, nothing is further from the truth. Where does the success of concrete analysis of concrete conditions find its source if not in the people? Concrete conditions correspond to the humble people and their ongoing movement. Both theory and practice are inseparable when it comes to Fidel.

In addition to this lesson of method, its actual concrete manifestations as found in his pronouncements on myriad domestic and international issues are part of his legacy. For example, in 2001, he said that “Revolution means to have a sense of history; it is changing everything that must be changed.” This provides Cubans with a daily political practical orientation. Likewise, he said in 2005 in the context of dealing with domestic problems that “This country can self-destruct; this Revolution can destroy itself, but they (foreign powers) can never destroy us; we can destroy ourselves, and it would be our fault.”

OPINION: Fidel Castro: More Than a Friend of Palestine, Much More

On the complex issue of Cuba–U.S. relations, since Dec. 17, 2014, Fidel expressed his opinions on several occasions. They are not only pertinent but necessary to guide Cuba’s policy today and in the future, as well as to provide the consciousness to progressive people all over the world regarding this contentious international preoccupation.

One cannot overestimate the role of the individual in history, but it is as misleading to underestimate it. For example, Charles Darwin was a naturalist who posited the theories of evolution and natural selection. He broke the mould by studying the existing works of other scientists with whom he consulted and, most importantly, by analyzing nature on his own. Similarly, Marx followed this path to make his discoveries in social and political thought. While I am not comparing Fidel to Darwin or Marx, as he would be the very last to condone such an unjustified comparison, the principle of the individual’s determining role in opening up hitherto unexplored paths by linking thinking and conditions applies to Fidel. He is an outstanding archetype of the 20th century and even well into the 21st century as his thinking and example will be applicable for at least several decades more in this century.

Fidel was a political figure who thought for himself. However, his approach was based first and foremost on revolutionary principles. He was an anti-dogmatist par excellence in whom theory and the practical movement of Cuba’s humble were intertwined with each other to the extent that each one was indistinguishable on its own. He succeeded on this path further than anyone else from the 1940s until Oct. 11, 2016, the last time his words were published.

Finally, though, Fidel had the last word on Nov. 25, 2016 when Cuba — a small, blockaded Third World country that had only 56 years earlier broke the shackles of 500 years of colonialism and imperialism — took centre stage in the world, leaving no one, friend and foe alike, indifferent to this giant of theory and practice. In the long life and work of Fidel Castro, there was never a breach between thinking and practice: they were one. This legacy, universally applicable, is now part of humanity’s path for progressives, left-leaning people and revolutionaries to follow.

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UK Smells Money in Right-Wing Brazil After Brexit

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  • The U.K. is looking forward to lop-sided trade agreements.
    The U.K. is looking forward to lop-sided trade agreements. | Photo: Reuters
Unchained from the E.U., the U.K. will expand its neoliberal, “free market” agenda in Temer’s resource-rich Brazil.

The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union is being portrayed by politicians as a unique chance to boost trade with countries outside of the EU, including Brazil, China, Mexico and South Korea. But what about the human and environmental costs?

The U.K. already has £5.1 billion of bilateral trade and investment deals with Brazil, making Brazil the U.K.’s biggest Latin American trading partner. One of the “(c)hallenges to doing business in Brazil” is “high taxes,” says the British government.

OPINION:
ALBA and the Moral Poverty of the West

Under the Workers Party government’s of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, taxes paid for education and healthcare. With Temer’s social cut, taxes on business may no longer be a problem. By 2014, British sports companies looked to secure £250 million of contracts in the run-up to the two major sporting events held Brazil.

Benefiting big business, British special forces trained the 1960s junta on how to apply effective mental torture to socialists. Prior to and during the World Cup 2014 and the Summer Olympics 2016, private British firms supplied the militarized Brazilian police with special training in hand-to-hand combat.

Annual weapons exports were in the tens of thousands of pounds sterling and included ammunition and guns. Amnesty International found that the closer it got to the games, the more civilians were killed, as the police and military engaged in slum clearances and social cleansing.

As Brazil shifts to the right under President Temer, the U.K.’s post-Brexit political and business establishment is looking to make more deals. The Financial Times reports that the left-leaning Lula and Rousseff governments “emphasised multilateral negotiations” over bilateral deals because individual countries facing Western giants have more negotiating power as a bloc. But now that the socialists are out of the way, Temer “is seeking to launch an aggressive new phase of trade negotiations” bilaterally with the U.S. and the U.K. This follows Temer’s decision to make major cuts to social security.

The international capitalists in the British cabinet had their eyes on Brazil’s resources — crops, energy, minerals and housing — long before Brexit. But Brexit has accelerated this trend. By backing out of the E.U., the U.K. will be able to form customs unions with non-E.U. states without the permission of Brussels. In 2014, George Osborne was the first British chancellor to visit Brazil in 25 years, having cut taxes on business flights to the country.

RELATEDInequality in UK Influenced Brexit: Report

Brazil’s housing sector has “seen a sizeable inflow of British investment,” said the Ritz Property Group, which is “capitalising on” the growth of the middle-class. Foreign land grabs have the potential to send housing costs through the roof when the economy grows again. The Rio Times reports, “By buying at a low in the country’s economic cycle investors hope to make a return on their purchases.” The newspaper notes how “the deterioration of the local market” has in part made Brazil “an attractive option for many investors.”

But for the poor, the options are restricted to shantytowns. A couple of years ago, the Associated Press reported a typical case: “When it rains, the dirt floor of the home where Taina Ferreira lives with her three small children turns to mud, and the contents of the open sewer that cuts in front of her front door sweep into the house.”

More recently, Kenneth Caplan of America’s Blackstone equity firm explained, “Brazil is particularly stressed because of low economic performance and political uncertainty. These situations tend to create good opportunities” for investors.

What about other sectors? Last month, it was announced that the U.K.’s Special Envoy for Trade and Investment, Mark Prisk, was in Brazil for the second timein six months to talk business. Financial services, infrastructure, mining and energy were on the table. “Trade is one of the U.K.’s top priorities,” said Prisk.

As climate change continues wreaking havoc across the world, particularly in poor countries, the governments of the U.K. and Brazil are expanding their fossil fuel economies. The U.K.’s GE Wellstream oil and gas supply company has made pipelines more efficient for carrying pollutants, following joint research projects between technicians in Newcastle (U.K.) and Niteroi (Brazil).

Last December, U.K. Export and Finance announced that JPMorgan and HSBChad facilitated a British tax-funded loan (or line of credit) to Brazil’s Petrobas “to finance the supply of oil and gas related equipment and services by U.K. exporters.” This will involve British companies helping to exploit resources in the southern Atlantic, particularly in the Campos, Santos and Espirito Basins. The report confirms that Indigenous peoples and cultural heritage concerns “do not apply as potential activity occurs in deep offshore waters,” regardless of potential inland effects.

RELATEDBrazil’s TemerPushes Unpopular Pension Cuts, Keeps Tax Breaks

Environmental consequences, including “emissions to the atmosphere” and “community safety” were acknowledged, but left with Petrobas to deal with. “(T)he Project was deemed to have potential to cause adverse environmental and social impacts,” says the U.K. government’s website. “However, a proposed suite of controls as part of (Petrobas) facilitates the management of these impacts.”

As Temer considered privatizing insurance companies, Prisk met with the head of the state-owned Private Insurance Regulator, Joaquim Mendanha, to set up a task force on (re)insurance “with the aim of bolstering mutual cooperation,” said Mercopress. Back in May, Reuters reported that foreign affairs minister Jose Serra was preparing a privatization “roadshow,” coming to London and New York.

As soon as the results of the Brexit referendum were in, Serra announced Brazil’s intention to work on a free trade deal with the U.K. If the recent past is anything to go by, “free trade,” or neoliberalism, will mean privatization, environmental damage and the financialization of Brazil’s economy.

T.J. Coles is the author of The Great Brexit Swindle and Britain’s Secret Wars.

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How Human Rights Sell War

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  • Amnesty International campaign poster issued during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
    Amnesty International campaign poster issued during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. | Photo: Links.
teleSUR spoke to author Jean Bricmont on how the industry and ideology of human rights has been used to justify imperialism and undermine the European and North American left.

teleSUR: Your book “Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War” was released in English back in 2006 following the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and the British, so for those not familiar with the book could you briefly outline the contents and the argument and tell us what exactly inspired you to write it?

RELATED: The Empire’s Human Rights Group

Jean Bricmont: It goes back to the Kosovo War when there was no opposition to the war in at least Belgium and France. In fact, there was widespread consensus on the left and the far left for that war because it was a war for “human rights” and we “had to stop genocide.” The opposition to the Iraq War was actually quite weak because people accepted sanctions and all sorts of things that led to the war, but there was at least a certain opposition to the war. But there was no opposition to the Libyan War to speak of and there’s been indirect support for interventions in Syria and Ukraine. I think the left has completely lost its senses because they have totally lost any idea of the relationship of forces between nations in the world. Of course, this goes along with the liberal ideology of the market: Everyone goes to the market, everyone competes on the market and all the nations are equal, and then there’s a superpower that’s supposed to be the cop that’s going to enforce human rights. And the human rights ideology, not the goal of human rights as such but the ideology that the West should always intervene and human rights organizations should always denounce, this ideology has totally wiped out the West including the left in the West and maybe more the left than the right. On the right there are still people who think of the national interest in terms of realpolitik, which I think nowadays is a lesser evil than waging war against everybody.

Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day which celebrates the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly. Could you briefly chart the history of human rights in the 20th and 21st centuries and tell us what, in your opinion, went wrong?

The Declaration of Human Rights is obviously full of good intentions. There is a right to education, there is a right to food and so on. But suppose I am hungry, how am I going to enforce those rights? Those rights cannot be enforced because rights can only be enforced within a state that has the power to enforce those rights. You need police, you need courts and so on and so forth. The problem mostly comes after the 1960s. Before that it’s true that respect for state power was far too extreme, so I understand why people thought that they needed to protest against state power, but the problem is that they’ve never incorporated a desire for peace. The Declaration of Human Rights was introduced at the same time of the Nuremberg trials and the principles and charters of the U .N. The charter of the U.N. is also an important document to maintain peace because it assumes we have to have equal respect for states large and small, strong and weak.

“The ideology of human rights … has been used in a systematic way in order to undermine the sovereignty of weak states and justify intervention.”

The ideology of human rights, however, has been used in a systematic way in order to undermine the sovereignty of weak states and justify intervention, which has always existed and was one of the causes of World War II. One of the reasons why the U.N. charter was created after the war was to prevent the repetition of such events, and now we have chaos in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, we have chaos everywhere. Then there are refugees and then there’s a xenophobic reaction to the refugees, but what do you expect? It’s totally unrealistic to expect people to welcome millions of refugees and not protest, just as it’s totally unrealistic to think human rights can be enforced through war. Eventually, war makes the worst in human beings come to the fore. We say we have a responsibility to protect without asking who’s responsible for the protection. The protection, of course, comes from the United States, but the United States is not a benevolent power as we’ve seen throughout history. It has its own agenda and it wages war against the countries it considers its enemies. It’s not going to protect the Palestinians, it’s not going to protect the Yemenis, it’s not going to intervene in Saudi Arabia. And so we give power to an absolute sovereign who uses it as it sees fit. This has been a total subversion of human rights, which I of course respect as an idea but not the way it has been put into practice. That includes Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who have all been incredibly biased in their denunciation of human rights abuses.

I was just going to ask you about the relationship between the left, the imperial governments such as the U.S., France and Britain, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as the U.N. itself? What’s the relationship between these different actors?

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Bloc, the left needed a holy ghost to rally around and instead of socialism it chose human rights. The problem with that is that human rights were always used during the Cold War as a rallying cry for the right against the Communists. You don’t need to be a Communist to be suspicious of this ideology of human rights. By embracing this ideology of human rights they thought they were subversive but they were not. The right was actually quite happy with the way it was used ideologically, they’ve always had those kinds of double standards. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, far from seeing the birth of a genuine left as people like Chomsky might have hoped for, what happened was a total capitulation and an embrace of the idea of the enemy. Now we have a sort of artificial division between the left and the right, for example in the area of gay rights which the right might not like, but when it comes to war, peace, the market and the economy there isn’t any consistent thought, even in thinking of alternatives to neoliberalism.

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Hundreds of UK Police Officers Accused of Sexual Abuse

A police officer stands outside London Supreme Court.
About 40 percent of the accusations of sexual abuse involved victims of domestic abuse.

More than 300 police officers in the United Kingdom have used their position of authority to sexually assault people, a new report has found.

RELATED: : Hundreds of Victims Report UK Soccer Child Sexual Abuse​

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said the issue had now become the “most serious” form of corruption in England and Wales.

The watchdog gathered figures over the course of two years.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council described the problem as a “disease” and acknowledged that more effort needed to be made to “root it out and inoculate policing for the future.”

“It is the most serious form of corruption and it can never be justified or condoned,” said Chief Constable Stephen Watson, the NPCC’s lead for counter-corruption.

The report found that 306 officers, 20 police community support officers, and eight police staff were involved in 436 reported cases. Less than half of these, 48 percent, had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

RELATED: UK Approves ‘Extreme Surveillance Laws’​

“Make no mistake about it, the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women is corruption,” Inspector Mike Cunningham, who led the review, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “It is using authority for personal gain, which is a definition of corruption.

“It is the most serious corruption problem in the sense that it is the ultimate betrayal of trust, where the guardian becomes the abuser,” he continued. “That is what we are seeing in these cases, and we’re seeing too many.”

In a forward to the report, Cunningham noted that such corruption “betrays the trust of the public — particularly of some of the most vulnerable people in society, such as victims of domestic abuse.”

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MARK IT IN THE HISTORY BOOKS! ALEPPO HAS BEEN LIBERATED!

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THE ZIONIST CONSPIRACY AGAINST SYRIA IS DEAD!
by Jonathan Azaziah

And there it is! Aleppo has been liberated! Let me say it again: Aleppo, Syria’s second city, soon-to-be-restored economic hub and one of the oldest most continuously inhabited cities on Earth, is free! The Syrian Arab Republic, its Resistance Axis allies and Vladimir Putin’s Russia pulled it off! Whose tears are sweeter and more copious right now? The happy tears of Aleppo’s people, whose city is reunified and free of terrorism for the first time in five years? Or the wailing, overwhelmed, defeated, suicidally depressed tears of Syria’s enemies in the usurping Zionist entity, the American ZOG, the British ZOG, the French ZOG, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Neo-Ottoman Turkey, who armed, financed and backed the Takfiri ‘Goy’ Golem to the teeth only to watch it get epically crushed?

It’s truly hard to tell and I must say, such a mystery is glorious! Told y’all that something miraculous was going down in Halab and the Syrian Arab Army alongside its steadfast comrades have made that miracle a tangible reality and a soaring, HISTORIC triumph!

Syria’s defenders began the day with a bang, blasting through Takfiri terrorist defense lines and freeing a whopping 8 districts. These recaptured regions included Jouret Awwad, Karm al-Qaterji, Turbat Lala, Al-Marjeh, Sheikh Lutfi, Karz Dada, Karm al-Maysar and the big one, Al-Shaar, which was the “moderate” head-choppers’ most fortified piece of territory and their most strategic position in all of eastern Aleppo other than the Old City. With Al-Shaar under Syrian government control, the SAA, Hizbullah, Iraq’s Kata’ib Hizbullah and Harakat al-Nujaba as well as Syrian-Palestinian paramilitary group Liwa Al-Quds carved out another pocket in eastern Aleppo, dividing the “rebels” even more and sending their dwindling ranks into a panic.

In sheer desperation, Jabhat al-Nusra and its Wahhabi mercenary cohorts launched massive but ill-planned counteroffensives in Karm al-Maysar, Karm al-Qaterji and Turbat Lala. Resistance forces repelled everything. Focus then shifted onto Aleppo’s Old City and specifically the Citadel of Halab, which the SAA was only a half kilometer away from as a result of its new progress.

Then the extraordinary happened. The Syrian Arab Army, side-by-side with Hizbullah and Iraqi Resistance fighters, heroically stormed into the previously-mentioned Old City–the “grand prize” of this struggle–and smashed the droves of Takfiri zombies they encountered with ease. Within a matter of just two hours, Al-Farafira, Karm al-Jabal, Bab al-Hadid and Aghyour were all retaken and Mouqawamah Axis soldiers were advancing still. As the Wahhabi terrorist goons’ morale plummeted, they watched their pitiful lives flash before their hateful eyes and in spite of their chest-pounding boasts a little over a day earlier that they would never surrender Halab, they realized the lack of options in front of them and they did just that.

Hundreds of Jabhat al-Nusra thugs began to withdraw from their posts, lay down their arms and kneel before Syria’s guardians.

The Syrian Arab Army then called in its famous green buses to take Zio-NATO’s humiliated proxies to Idleb. Resistance forces, led by Hizbullah, pushed deeper into the Old City and reached the center, prompting Russia to phone Turkey and hammer out an agreement for the small number of terrorists remaining to leave. Syria and its TRUE friends now control nearly 90% of eastern Aleppo, with the Old City completely liberated and the few terrorist-held areas in the southeast like Bustan al-Qasr set to be emptied of Wahhabi criminals in a little less than 48 hours. It’s over. It’s finally, FINALLY over. The most important battle of the entire war on Syria has come to a close in favor of the Resistance Axis and although we still await the official announcement, let it be known and let it be joyously screamed: The Zionist conspiracy against the Syrian Arab Republic is dead!

In this once-in-a-lifetime moment, it’s hard not to think about Mursi, Sarkozy, Hollande, Davutoglu, Zio-Killary Clinton, Saudi “King” Abdullah, “Prince” Bandar Ibn ‘Israel’, Qatari “Emir” Hamad al-Thani, Cameron, Obama, Biden, Kerry, Power, Harper and Jewish-Zionist New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, all of whom said “Assad Must Go!” And yet, they are all gone (or about to be gone) while Dr. Bashar al-Assad is still here, stronger and more popular than ever. The Syrian Arab Army is still here too. And Aleppo has been fully cleansed of the Wahahbi-Takfiri plague. That’s not poetic justice… That’s MOUQAWAMIST justice! In the face of a 4th Generation Warfare campaign consisting of barbaric terrorists from 100 countries, a colonialist alliance never before seen in history and a universal media onslaught, Syria, Hizbullah, the Iraqi Mouqawamah, the Islamic Republic of Iran (most especially its IRGC and the Afghan Fatemiyoun and Pakistani Zaynabyoun under its command) and the Russian Federation didn’t merely change the map of the whole region, they changed the fate of the whole world. Forever.

ALF MABROUK to these heroes whose sacrifices already register in history’s notebooks as legendary and Heaven-sent. And most importantly, ALF MABROUK to Aleppo’s people, who can now begin the process of healing after half a decade of chaos, ruin and horror. There will be Christmas in Aleppo this year and it’s gonna be a pretty damn Merry one! Next up are Idleb and Raqqa! Soon, every inch of Syria will know the beautiful jubilation Aleppo is feeling.

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Najib gives stern warning to Myanmar, Suu Kyi

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Prime Minister Najib Razak says he does not care if Malaysia’s protest and pressure on the Rohingya issue threatens relations with Myanmar.

najib-su-kyi-1

KUALA LUMPUR: Referring to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims as a humanitarian issue, Prime Minister Najib Razak said he does not care if Malaysia’s firm stand on the issue threatens relations with Myanmar.

“Myanmar says I am interfering in their personal business. I do not care.

“We want to show Myanmar and tell Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar’s de facto leader) that enough is enough,” he said during his speech at the solidarity rally for the Rohingya today where he was greeted by the cheers of the 10,000-strong crowd, many of whom were Rohingya.

Najib was referring to the Myanmar president’s office deputy director U Zaw Htay’s reminder to Malaysia on Friday not to interfere with the affairs of their country.

“I’m here today not as Najib Razak, but as a Malaysian and a Muslim. There is no assembly more honourable than that which is done for Islam,” he said.

The Asean Charter states that member countries cannot interfere with the affairs of other member countries but Najib said the charter also protects human rights.

“They’ve only chosen to read one portion and ignore the rest,” Najib said.

In affirming the role of Asean, Najib suggested that Indonesian President Joko Widodo also hold a large rally to protest the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar government.

Najib also criticized Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who he says is reluctant to meet Malaysian representatives to discuss the issue.

“I asked Foreign Minister Anifah Aman to meet his counterpart, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, but she responded, ‘I don’t want to meet with you if you’re going to talk about the Rohingya issue’.

“If that’s the case then what is the point of saying Asean is a community, what is the point of a Nobel Peace Prize?” Najib said.

Posted in South AsiaComments Off on Najib gives stern warning to Myanmar, Suu Kyi

Chocolinda in the Balkan World

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini, Zagreb

Right when the Croatian market is being shaken by findings of salmonella in the chicken and minced meat, as well as an obvious weak food control, society was scandalised by a chocolate problem. Chocolate had no other problems besides being… Serbian. On December 6th, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited Dubrovnik on the occasion of the Day of Dubrovnik War Veterans, who defended the town from the Yugoslav People’s Army in the beginning of the 1990’s. In the course of her visit the president gave gifts to war veterans’ children consisting of sweets and a photograph of herself with an autograph. Instead of the latter, the scandal was caused by the chocolate bars in the packs, which turned out to be manufactured in Serbia. The parent of one of the children in the kindergarten vented their outrage on Facebook from the fact that right on the day of Dubrovnik war veterans Kolinda (as she is called in Croatia) gave the kids Serbian chocolates.

The parent’s reaction is understandable and it is not the problem. The reaction of the president of an EU member state is what is causing perplexity. Mrs Grabar-Kitarović apologised for the gaffe, explaining that she was not aware of the chocolate’s origin and was even more outraged for it turned out that the chocolates were packaged by a Croatian company in … Vukovar. She promised that those, who do not want these, will receive Croatian-made chocolates, for her role was, besides all else, to promote Croatian produce.

There are several problems with this story

The first one is that Croatia has made a commitment, restated on multiple occasions by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović herself, to help Serbia along its way towards European membership. There are still a multitude of unresolved issues between the two states from the war for the separation of Croatia from the former Yugoslavia, which are extremely serious, and which require strong political will. It is due to some of those that Zagreb initiated the blocking the opening of negotiation chapters with Serbia. Current authorities in Belgrade have enough transgressions which need being pointed out and Croatia should get the support of its EU partners for it. Among those problems is the relativisation of crimes committed by the Milošević regime with crimes of the Ustaša regime during World War Two. Among those are also the attempts of Serbian authorities to play down the Milošević regime crimes and even allow calls for its exoneration.

Serbia still has much to do regarding cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, hate speech, unresolved property and cultural issues, border disputes, unsolved cases of Croatian nationals gone missing in action during the war, and the treatment of minorities. It is a long list and it is articulated generally in the European Commission’s annual reports on Serbia’s progress towards EU membership. And this is just regarding neighbourly relations. Serbia’s domestic political issues with the rule of law, democracy, and media freedom are a whole different story.

The second problem is that Zagreb is part of the EU common market and in this sense it is bewildering when a case of protectionism arises. Certainly, the particular cause is a different one, but the president’s reaction reveals an inclination towards protectionism. This comes in direct contradiction with Croatia’s European commitments towards the EU and countries of the enlargement process. Instead of attempting to promote Croatian-made products, the head of state should fight for raising the levels of productivity and competitiveness in Croatia, and also for having Croatian products break through on the European market. The latter, apropos, is a problem, pointed out in the economic reports on the European semester. In the end of the day, if Croatian products are more competitive they will also be demanded more not only on the domestic, but also on the European and regional markets.

Moreover, there is another perspective missing in the whole chocolate drama. If the chocolate bars were packaged by a company in Vukovar, it has probably opened X jobs, which are feeding families in one of the Croatian towns which gets abandoned the quickest. There was no mention of the share of this company’s business in the town’s economy and how could it be a problem that Serbian raw materials are being used in a town, where there are Serbs living as well. This company probably pays taxes and social security contributions.

Reaction from Serbia was one to be expected. Minister of Foreign and Domestic Trade and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajić said on the occasion of the chocolate affair that it is obvious that Serbian products are not welcome in Croatia. “The statement of Croatia’s president is undemocratic, un-European, and un-economic”, he said, quoted by Tanjug. One could often see in Serbian press the disappointment that while Serbs like Croatian products, Serbian ones are obviously problematic in Croatia. “What reconciliation could we be talking about”, was an often asked question. And a very legitimate one. If a bar of chocolate could be a problem in relations between two countries, attempting to resolve their post-war problems, as was a movie as well this year, then there is something very wrong.

Croatia served as an example for all other countries from the Western Balkans that transformation in this region is possible. Such jingoistic fussiness, however, seriously damages Croatia’s image of an intermediary between the EU and those countries, which still have a long way to go until they catch-up with the, alas ever eroding, standards of the European Union. Instead of showing that it has outgrown petty nationalism and is a truly mature European democracy and a free market, Croatia shows with such reactions that it has not stepped out of Balkan-ism. In her wish not to lose the votes of war veterans and nationalist-minded voters, the president is doing harm in the long term to the future of her country in the region and the EU in general.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić likes very much to say, although he is not being too convincing in proving this wish of his, that he wishes for relations in the region to be like those between France and Germany, which from warring countries turned into the engine behind EU development. To achieve this, however, it is necessary that both states – Serbia and Croatia – turn away from pettiness and everyday politics and look strategically towards each other and towards the region in general. This was done by France and Germany not only for their own good, but for the benefit of the entire continent. Croatia has shown many times how it is done, but has been failing to do so lately. Moreover, such actions only feed fuel to the engine of hate-propagators like Vojislav Šešelj, who took immediate advantage of the latest gaffe of the Croatian president, while from the beginning of autumn Croatia has been making an impression of returning politics back to the flow of normalcy. It is a pity if a chocolate bar can derail this process.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Europe, Croatia, SerbiaComments Off on Chocolinda in the Balkan World

Save our planet: Worldwide air pollution is making us ill

NOVANEWS
Industrial pollution

By Graham Peebles

The man-made environmental catastrophe is the severest issue facing humanity. It should be the number one priority for governments. However, despite repeated calls from scientists, environmental groups and concerned citizens for years, short-term policies and economic self-interest are consistently given priority over the integrity of the planet and the health of people.

Environmental inequality

Contaminated air is the world’s greatest preventable environmental health risk. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is responsible for the premature deaths of an estimated 6.5 million people annually (11.6 per cent of global deaths) – an average of six every minutEe. Unless there is a substantial reduction in the quantity of pollutants cast into the atmosphere, the death count is forecast to double by 2050. Indoor air pollution, mainly from wood or dung stoves in developing countries, accounts for a staggering three million annual deaths.

Breathing – even in one’s own home  – has become more dangerous than poor diet, lack of exercise or smoking tobacco.

The problem of toxic air is a worldwide pandemic. A recent WHO air quality model reveals that, “92 per cent of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits”. Moreover, while contaminated air affects virtually everyone, almost two out of three people killed simply by breathing live in south-east Asia and the western Pacific. This includes China, where air pollution is responsible for the deaths of around 4,000 people a day (1.6 million a year), due to emissions generated from burning coal for electricity and heating homes.

Humanity is overwhelmingly responsible for this global crisis. Yet, despite repeated warnings, little of substance has been done and it is getting worse. Since 2011 air pollution worldwide has risen 8 per cent and, given the current fossil fuel obsession, the increase looks set to continue, and with it human fatalities and a range of chronic health issues. Most deaths are caused by microscopic particles being inhaled: these spark heart attacks and strokes, which account for 75 per cent of annual deaths. Lung cancer and respiratory diseases take care of the rest.

Unsurprisingly, it is the poorest people in the world who suffer the most severe effects of air pollution.

As well as the injustice of social and economic inequality, we live in a world of environmental inequality. If you are a poor child living in a city in a developing country, you are up to 10 times more likely to suffer long-term health issues as a result of breathing the air in which you live, than a child in a rich industrialised nation.

Regional air inequality broadly follows the same North-South hemisphere fault lines as economic inequality, and as such reveals that, as well as being a global environmental issue of the utmost importance, air pollution is a geopolitical matter aggravated by the neo-liberal economic system. Some of the poorest, most vulnerable members of humanity – people living in countries where grinding poverty is widespread, education inadequate and health care provision poor – are suffering the worst effects of air pollution.

Poisonous air

Air pollution causes a wide range of health issues. In addition to heart disease and respiratory conditions including asthma – now the most common chronic disease in children – there is “substantial evidence concerning the adverse effects of air pollution on pregnancy outcomes and infant death”, according to research by the Medical University of Silesia in Warsaw, Poland. As if all this weren’t bad enough, in 2013 the WHO concluded that outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic, i.e. it causes cancer.

The main pollutants that trigger all these problems are broadly three types: fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a suffocating gas, and ground-level ozone.

PM2.5 come from road traffic exhaust fumes and burning fuels such as wood, heating oil or coal, as well as natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions. PM concentrations in the air vary depending on temperature and wind speed; they particularly like cold, still conditions, which allow them to aggregate.

NO2, according to Plume Labs, comes from combustion  (heating, electricity generation, vehicle and boat engines). Half of NO2 emissions are due to traffic.

Ground-level ozone is a major component of smog and is produced when “oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – from motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, power plants, petrol vapours and chemical solvents – interact with sunlight”.

The way in which these poisons are produced varies somewhat from country to country, but they abound in all densely populated, built-up areas, where there are large numbers of motor vehicles, as well as coal-fired power plants and refineries. Emissions from residential energy use, prevalent in India and China, Nature Magazine reports, “have the largest impact on premature mortality globally”. In eastern USA, Europe, Russia and east Asia, a remarkably high number of illnesses and fatalities result from air pollution caused by agricultural emissions, mainly nitrous oxide and methane.

Children worst hit

Over 50 per cent of the world’s population now live in cities; by 2030 this figure is expected to rise to 65 per cent. All cities suffer from traffic congestion and all are polluted, some more, some less. The Asian mega-cities are the most contaminated, and unsurprisingly the cities of India and Pakistan are the worst, filling the top seven positions of conurbations with the highest level of PM2.5 in the world. The Indian capital (population 25 million) comes in first; incidentally, it is also the noisiest place to live in on the planet.

In an unprecedented study of 11,000 schoolchildren from 36 schools in Delhi, it was found that over half the children had irreversible lung damage. In addition, “about 15 per cent complained of frequent eye irritation, 27.4 per cent of frequent headaches, 11.2 per cent of nausea, 7.2 per cent of palpitation and 12.9 per cent of fatigue”. Consistent with research in Poland, it was revealed that the children’s mental health was also impacted, with large numbers suffering attention deficit and stress.

All around the world people are suffering from the impact of toxic air. In Mumbai, simply breathing on the chaotic streets is equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day; deaths increase six-fold on heavily polluted hot days in Athens; and mega-Mexico City – one of the world’s most polluted cities – has recently been branded a ‘hardship post’ for diplomats due to unhealthy air. In the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, pollution levels are between five and 10 times the WHO’s recommended levels – worst in the slums, which are home to up to three million people.

London is one of the more polluted cities in Europe, cleaner than Paris and Milan, but dirtier than Berlin and Oslo. Almost 10,000 people die each year in the city from long-term exposure to air pollution, which is now considered Britain’s most lethal environmental risk, killing around 40,000 people throughout the country a year.

In America, according to a study by the American Lung Association, over 50 per cent of the population is exposed to air pollution toxic enough to cause health problems, with Los Angeles topping the list of places to avoid.

No matter where air pollution occurs, it is children who are the most vulnerable. This, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF relates, “is because they breathe more rapidly than adults and the cell layer in their lungs is more permeable to pollutant particles”. Research by the children’s agency found that 300 million children live in areas of south and east Asia where toxic fumes are more than six times the international guidelines; another 520 million children living in sub-Saharan Africa are exposed to air pollution levels above the WHO limit. These toxic fumes cause “enduring damage to health and the development of children’s brain”, and contributed to “600,000 child deaths a year” – more than are caused by malaria and HIV/Aids combined.

Air pollution not only results in long-term health issues, it impedes a child’s cognitive development, affecting concentration and academic progress. The Warsaw paper states that “children who live in neighbourhoods with serious air pollution problems… have lower IQ and score worse in memory tests than children from cleaner environments… The effects were roughly equivalent to those seen in children whose mothers smoked 10 cigarettes per day while pregnant.”

Air pollution and deforestation

Some air pollution is the result of natural phenomena: dust storms and wildfires, animal digestion and volcanic eruptions.

However, burning fossil fuels (emissions from power plants, refineries, factories and motor vehicles) are the primary culprits.

Deforestation is another cause. The great rainforests of the Earth are its lungs; they cover a mere 6 per cent of the land but produce around 40 per cent of the world’s oxygen, and they capture carbon. As the number of trees is reduced, so oxygen production and carbon sequestration is diminished. 

While it is true that deforestation has decreased somewhat over the last 15 years or so, in some countries it is still occurring at an alarming rate. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate that 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost each year (roughly equivalent to 20 football fields every minute), around 13 million acres (approximately the size of Greece) being tropical rainforest. Half the world’s rainforests have already been wiped out, and if the current level of destruction continues, the FAO predicts that in 100 years there will be none left. Brazil, Thailand, the Congo, parts of Eastern Europe and Indonesia are where forests are being cleared most intensely, particularly Indonesia.

The major reason forests are being destroyed is to make more land available for agriculture, which is an effect of overpopulation. Clearing land to make way for housing and urbanisation (another demand of population growth) is a factor, as is Illegal deforestation, with trees being cut down and used for fuel.

Paper production is another major reason, paper that is used overwhelmingly in developed countries. Up to half the world’s timber and 70 per cent of paper is consumed by Europe, Japan and the US. According to Rainforest Action Network, the US alone, with only 5 per cent of the world’s population, uses 30 per cent of all paper, a large amount of which (estimated 40lbs, or 19 kilograms, per adult per year) is junk mail, almost half of which is binned unopened.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

If we are to stop the deaths and damaging health effects resulting from breathing contaminated air, it is abundantly clear that we need to replace fossil fuels with cleaner, renewable energy sources and simplify the way we live.

In addition, there is a variety of things that can be done to reduce pollutants: we need to stop the destruction of forests worldwide, install filters in every chimneystack, replace petrol-and diesel-powered public transport and incentivise private ownership of electric and hydrogen vehicles, create more vehicle-sharing schemes, improve public transportation and greatly reduce fares, and encourage cycling.

Some steps need to be taken by governments, but a great deal can be achieved by individuals accepting greater social and environmental responsibility: a move towards simpler modes of living, in which our lives are not driven by the insatiable urge for material goods, is essential. Incorporating the three Rs into one’s life – reduce reuse, recycle – would contribute greatly.

As with many of our problems, sharing has a role to play in solving the problem of air pollution: sharing the resources and wealth of the world equitably to reduce poverty and inequality, as well as sharing skills, knowledge and technologies. Also information sharing: making information about air pollution publicly available would further raise awareness of an invisible issue. This is particularly needed in developing countries, where many of those affected have little or no information on the dire health risks. Government agencies everywhere collect data on air pollution, some publish it, many don’t, all should.

“The magnitude of the danger air pollution poses is enormous,” says Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director. “No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

It is a deadly issue that is causing untold suffering to millions of people. The responsibility for the wellbeing of the planet and for each other rests with all of us. Now is the time to act and save our planet.

Posted in EnvironmentComments Off on Save our planet: Worldwide air pollution is making us ill

Outrage as Police Wait 6 Days to Arrest NFL Star’s White Killer

NOVANEWS
  • Former New York Jets running back Joe McKnight was shot dead Thursday by a white man.
    Former New York Jets running back Joe McKnight was shot dead Thursday by a white man. | Photo: Reuters
People on social media compared the case to that in which a Black man was arrested immediately and handed a more serious charge over a similar shooting.

A man suspected of fatally shooting former NFL player Joe McKnight in a road rage incident near New Orleans was arrested Tuesday and charged with manslaughter six days after the murder and his confession Thursday, sparking outrage online as people charged the arrest was delayed because the suspect is white.

RELATED: ‘Do Not Resist’ Documentary Slams US Police Militarization

Ronald Gasser was charged with one count of manslaughter, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said at a news conference during which he criticized both men for “bad driving behavior and bad spoken words.” Ignoring the fact that only one man ended up dead.

The investigation was continuing, Normand said, leaving open the possibility of a charge such as murder or a lighter one depending on evidence presented.

Gasser was initially taken into custody after the shooting Thursday afternoon but released on Friday without being charged, angering members of the community, while the sheriff’s office continued its investigation.

McKnight, a Black man, was pronounced dead at a traffic intersection in Terrytown, after suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Leading up to the shooting, Gasser and McKnight shouted at each other and drove their vehicles erratically for several blocks before stopping at an intersection, Normand said.

McKnight then got out of his car and the two continued arguing until Gasser pulled a gun and shot McKnight three times, the sheriff said.

The investigation was delayed because witnesses were reluctant to come forward, Normand said, but people on social media argued that the fact that Gasser is white was a key factor in delaying the arrest.

RELATED: Black Lives Matter Mourns Fidel by Adopting His Vision

Some are comparing this case to another that took place in April 2016 under similar circumstances of a road rage shooting involving a former NFL player but a Black shooter.

Will Smith was shot dead in New Orleans where police within hours of the shooting arrested and charged Cardell Hayes, an African American, with second-degree murder. The shooting took place after a car crash and argument.

McKnight was a running back for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs from 2010 through 2014.

Posted in USAComments Off on Outrage as Police Wait 6 Days to Arrest NFL Star’s White Killer


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