Archive | April 26th, 2017

Pentagon chief in ‘Israel’ to discuss Iran, Syria

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Press TV 

US Defense Secretary General James Mattis has arrived in Israel for talks expected to focus on Iran and Syria as well the strategic relations between Tel Aviv and Washington.

Mattis arrived in Tel Aviv Thursday afternoon from Cairo on the third leg of a week-long tour of the US allies in the Middle East.

Marking the first time he has visited Israel as the Pentagon chief, Mattis was greeted by an official honor guard at army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday morning.

He then met the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, and is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

Mattis hopes to hear directly from Israeli leaders their concerns about regional issues, with Iran’s influence topping the list.

‘No doubt Syria has chemical weapons’

The conflict in Syria, where the US and Israel seek to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, is also on the agenda, according to the prime minister’s office.

Israel was one of the first US allies to salute President Donald Trump for a recent missile strike on a Syrian airbase, where they alleged a suspected chemical attack originated.

Speaking during a press conference with Lieberman on Friday, Mattis said there can be “no doubt” that Syria has retained some chemical weapons and warned President Assad not to use them.

“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. There is no longer any doubt,” he said.

The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing to overthrow the Syrian government through the use of proxy militant forces in the country.

Iran has been lending advisory support to Syria in its battle against the foreign-backed militants, but has avoided direct military involvement in the conflict.

Known as the “Mad Dog,” Mattis has famously said the three gravest threats to US national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”

While in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Pentagon chief reiterated the Trump administration’s position that Iran seeks to “destabilize” the region.

He told reporters after meeting with senior Saudi officials that “everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran.”

US-Israeli ties reached a low point over the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, including the United States.

Former President Barack Obama pushed for the agreement, to the dismay of Netanyahu who argued it would only strengthen Iran in the region.

Israeli leaders were emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, who has described the nuclear accord as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and threatened to “rip it up.”

In his latest criticism on Thursday, Trump blasted the deal as “a terrible agreement” that “shouldn’t have been signed,” and accused Iran of “not living up” to its spirit.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, SyriaComments Off on Pentagon chief in ‘Israel’ to discuss Iran, Syria

US Interventionism Prevailing Under Trump Administration

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Sputnik 

PARIS – The office of French far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is saddened that the United States appears to continue its interventionist policies under President Donald Trump and hopes that this will not stoke tensions around the world, the candidate’s campaign manager David Rachline told Sputnik.

“A hope for the end of the American interventionism after Trump’s victory seems to be weakened. It is deeply sad and damaging for peace and stability in the world, and we hope that what seems to be the considerations of the US domestic policy won’t be a factor of increased tensions in the world,” Rachline said commenting on the recent US strikes on an airfield in Syria.

On April 6, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the military airfield in Ash Sha’irat. Trump said that the attack was a response to the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday, which resulted in the death of over 80 people. Damascus denied the government’s involvement, with Syrian President Bashar Assad telling Sputnik that the attack in Idlib may have been “a false flag play” to justify the airstrike.

Le Pen herself condemned April 6 strike the next day after it was carried out and three days later urged Trump to be cautious in Syria, as military intervention in both Iraq and Libya ended up bringing danger rather than peace to civilians.

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Hackneyed specter of bogeyman Putin becomes election weapon for Tories

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RT 

Theresa May’s Conservative Party has launched its general election bid with a fresh scaremongering campaign, arguing that unless Tories prevail, Vladimir Putin will win.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already become a prominent figure in Britain’s upcoming general election, having been dragged into the pre-election debate by the Tories.

Facing widespread public criticism for not having a clear Brexit strategy and constantly implementing austerity measures, the Conservative Party has resorted to the now globally-tested method of using Vladimir Putin as a bogeyman to win more votes.

Earlier this week, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Russia’s president would welcome a Labour Party victory.

Speaking at an event to mark the deployment of 800 British troops in Estonia as part of a NATO mission in the region, Fallon claimed that a “feeble and gutless” Corbyn plays into the hands of Moscow.

“Russia will be watching Labour’s feebleness that Jeremy Corbyn has not supported this deployment. He has questioned it. He has questioned this deployment.

“Russia will be watching that, will have noted that feebleness and will be watching it throughout this campaign,” the Defence Secretary said.

This rhetoric echoes an accusation made by Tory Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning, who claimed that Corbyn was in some way collaborating with the Russian government.

“The Labour leader would rather collaborate with Russian aggression than mutually support Britain’s NATO allies,” Penning said, referring to Labour’s concerns that further NATO deployment on Russia’s borders could escalate tensions.

In addition to accusing the main opposition leader of being in bed with the Kremlin, the Tories also warn that Vladimir Putin could try to hack the British elections in order to prevent the Conservative Party from winning.

For instance, Fallon made the unsubstantiated suggestion that Russian intelligence services will try to influence the upcoming elections through hacking, while at the same time assuring that the British security agencies are fully prepared for any cyberattacks.

“We took steps before the 2015 election to protect our systems against Russian interference, including our democratic systems.

“Those protections remain in place and we will obviously be watching for any of the kind of interference we have seen in continental elections and is alleged to have taken place in the American election but we are well protected,” Fallon said.

GCHQ, Britain’s cyber-intelligence agency, which is subordinate to Tory Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, made a show of going on high alert less than 24 hours after Theresa May announced the upcoming general election to fend off Russian cyberattacks.

“It is understood that GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre will be working with the Cabinet Office to deliver a safe election so the same thing does not happen here as happened in America,” a Whitehall source told the Times, referring to allegations that Russia had hacked the 2016 US elections to aid Donald Trump.

However, the report by the US intelligence community said that, even if the alleged Russian involvement had taken place, it could not make judgment as to whether it had affected the outcome of the American presidential elections.

Western establishment parties have consistently accused Russia of rigging elections in favor of its opponents, but the Russian government has staunchly denied these claims as “baseless and amateurish.”

Unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed that Vladimir Putin has a personal “personal beef” against her, and thus ordered a cyber-attack on her election campaign.

Richard Ferrand, the campaign manager for Emmanuel Macron, a liberal candidate in France’s presidential election, has also argued that Putin is hacking his boss’s campaign.

“These attacks are coming from the Russian border,” Ferrand said.

“We want a strong Europe. That’s why we’re subject to attacks on our information system from the Russian state,” he said.

It’s already clear that the British general elections will not be exempt from the same anti-Russian scaremongering rhetoric, which critics say is an attempt to divert attention from the real issues.

Read more:

Michael Fallon & the theater of the absurd

Clinton blames FBI director & Russia for her defeat

Posted in RussiaComments Off on Hackneyed specter of bogeyman Putin becomes election weapon for Tories

OPCW’s block of on-site probe shows Western powers now aiming to oust Assad 

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RT 

The attempt by Western countries to derail Russia’s fact-finding initiative in Syria to examine the site of the chemical incident in Idlib province exposes their aim to topple the Syrian government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“I believe that it’s a very serious situation, because now it’s obvious that false information about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is being used to move away from implementing Resolution 2254, which stipulates a political settlement with the participation of all the Syrian parties, and aims to switch to the long-cherished idea of regime change,” Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Astana.

UNSC Resolution 2254 calls for an inclusive government in Syria and a peace process that would involve a new constitution and free and fair elections.

According to the minister, the decision displayed “complete incompetence” on the part of his Western colleagues, who, in fact, are “prohibiting the OPCW from sending their experts to the site of the incident, as well as to the airfield from where aircraft loaded with chemical weapons allegedly flew out.”

“Yesterday [April 20], our proposal that experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] visit the sites of the suspected chemical attack in Syria was blocked by Western delegations without any explanations,” Lavrov said.

In the meantime, the UK and France claim their experts have received samples from the site of the incident, Lavrov added.

“London, Paris, and the OPCW have given no answers to our questions as to where they took these samples, who took them, or when they were delivered,” Lavrov stated.

“I think we are very close to this organization [OPCW] being discredited,” Lavrov added.

On Thursday, the OPCW’s executive council overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from Russia and Iran for a new investigation into the Idlib chemical incident.

The proposal had been amended to agree to Western demands that the investigation into the alleged attack be carried out by the existing OPCW fact-finding mission, but was defeated nonetheless.

The draft proposal seen by AFP called on the OPCW “to establish whether chemical weapons were used in Khan Sheikhoun and how they were delivered to the site of the reported incident.”

Both OPCW fact-checking missions tasked with looking into the Idlib incident are being headed by UK citizens, which Lavrov called “a very strange coincidence” that “runs contrary to the principles of an international organization.”

Earlier in April, an incident in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun reportedly killed as many as 100 people and injured several hundred. The US has squarely laid the blame on Damascus, claiming that it hid chemical weapons stockpiles from the OPCW after pledging to hand them over in 2013.

Moscow, however, said a thorough investigation, including an on-site inspection in rebel-held territory, should be carried out before jumping to any conclusions. Russia has cautioned that the incident may have been a false flag operation meant to provoke a US attack against Syrian government forces.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on OPCW’s block of on-site probe shows Western powers now aiming to oust Assad 

PCHR Concerned over Life of Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Nazi camp

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The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is strongly concerned over the life of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, who have started a hunger strike for 10 days in the Nazi camp in protest against the deterioration of their living conditions and deprivation of their most basic human rights.  PCHR emphasizes that Israeli forces should be fully held responsible for the deterioration of prisoners’ conditions in light of the stubbornness of the Nazi Prison Service (IPS) to meet their humane demands, which the Service confront by escalating measures against the prisoners. Those arbitrary measures included prisoners’ transferals between prisons to break their will and pressurize them to end their strike.  PCHR calls upon the international community to pressurize the Nazi forces and intervene to end the suffering of thousands of prisoners in the Nazi camp and to bring into account those responsible for the crimes against prisoners.

 

Around 1500 Palestinian prisoners in the Nazi camp launched an open hunger strike on 17 April, which coincides with the Palestinian Prisoner Day, to demand their most basic human rights and return what has been confiscated by the IPS during the past years. Among these demands are: allowing first and second degree relatives to visit them; ending the policy of medical negligence and conducting periodic examinations; conducting urgent medical operations; entering specialised doctors from outside the prison; ending solitary confinement and administrative detention policies; allowing them to take the Twjihi (Secondary School) exams and join universities; and stopping arbitrary measures against female prisoners. It is expected that more prisoners will successively join the hunger strike.

 

In contrast, the IPS imposed collective punishments on hunger strikers to discourage them from practicing their right to strike as a tool for exerting pressure on the Nazi authorities to improve prisoners’ living conditions. The IPS launched a campaign of prisoner transferals on the second day of the strike in an attempt to undermine their efforts. Thus, the IPS isolated those leading the strike, including PLC Member Marwan Barghouthi, whose health status deteriorated, and Karim Younis. Furthermore, the IPS deprived the prisoners of family visits, beak and canteen in addition to preventing them from performing Friday prayers, and washing their clothes.  It should be noted that water and salt were also confiscated from the cells and prisons, so the prisoners were forced to use the tap water.

 

The figures and statistics available at PCHR indicate that around 6500 Palestinian prisoners are detained in 22 prisons and detention facilities, most of which are established in the Nazi regime, constituting a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly Article (76), which obliges the occupying power to detain prisoners from the occupied population in the occupied territories until the end of their sentences. Most of those prisoners are residents of the West Bank, including 57 women and 300 children. Moreover, the number of sick prisoners is about 1800 prisoners, including 180 prisoners who suffer from serious diseases in addition to 26 others who have cancer.

 

Being concerned over the life of the prisoners on hunger strike in the Nazi camp and to save their lives, PCHR;

 

  1. Calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to fulfill their moral and legal obligations and oblige Israel to put an end to the suffering of thousands of the prisoners in the Nazi camp, including dozens who served around a decade and others served around 30 years in the prisons in addition to hundreds of patients, who suffer from serious diseases;
  2. Calls upon the International community to practice pressure on the Nazi regime in order to respond for the humane and fair demands of the prisoners on hunger strike;
  3. Calls upon the International human rights organizations to follow up the cause of the Palestinian prisoners and mobilize International support in order to practice pressure on the Nazi regime to stop its arbitrary measures against the prisoners and work on releasing them; and
  4. Warns the Zionist doctors of attempting to forcibly feed the prisoners on hunger strike, emphasizing that PCHR will prosecute them as war criminals in case they did that.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on PCHR Concerned over Life of Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Nazi camp

Gaza: Detainee Died in Ambiguous Circumstances Requiring Serious Action to Reform Detention Facilities and Prisons

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On Tuesday morning, 25 April 2017, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza pronounced a detained person (M. B.) (43), from Khan Yunis, dead in Deir al-Balah detention facility. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) demands the Attorney General himself to follow up the investigation and publish its results. Preliminary indications show that the death circumstances were not normal. Moreover, PCHR calls upon the Ministry of Interior, Attorney General and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members to take a serious action to reform detention facilities in conformity with the relevant international standards.

 

Commenting on the incident in a statement posted on the Ministry’s website, Eyad al-Bozom, spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior, said, “… The detainee ]…[ was found in his room as a dead body when other inmates in the same room tried to wake him up. He was taken to the hospital and his body was examined at the forensic section that found out traces of a rope on his neck.  According to this, an investigation was open into the incident to identify the death circumstances.” Al-Bozom explained, “The deceased had been detained on grounds of a criminal charge since 15 February 2016….”

 

PCHR believes that the Ministry of Interior’s statement was brief and does not commensurate with the importance of the case. Besides, the statement is paradoxical in a manner, raising many questions. Finding traces of a rope on the neck of the deceased and finding him dead in the place where he used to sleep show the death was likely not normal and negates the possibility of committing suicide. It is further unreasonable that a crime whether suicide or something else had been committed in a detention cell and the inmates in the same room had no idea about it. This contradicts with the part of the story that his inmates found him dead when they tried to wake him up according to the Ministry of Interior’s narrative.

 

Based on PCHR’s follow-up and after pronouncing the detained person dead, dozens of his outraged family members went out into the streets in Khan Yunis yesterday, closed some shops in the city market and damaged some cars. After mediations between the family and Ministry of Interior, the family agreed to take and burry the body and to wait for the investigation results. Data available at PCHR indicates that the 6 inmates in the same cell have been interrogated about the incident.

 

The family refused yesterday to take the corpse. According to the statement given by the deceased’s uncle (65) to PCHR yesterday, the family received a phone call from the police, informing them their son had died. The uncle added that a group from the family headed to Dair al-Balah police station, where the police officer in charge told them there were traces of a rope on the deceased’s neck, so the corpse was taken to the forensic department in Gaza, waiting for the results. The uncle explained that his nephew was detained in a cell for hepatitis patients and they learnt about his death at 08:00 during the daily inmates count according to the prison director. He added that the family refused to take the corpse, which was in al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, until the death circumstances and forensic examination results are revealed.

 

PCHR believes that conflict between the statements of the prison director and the Ministry of Interior’ spokesperson regarding the death circumstances raises questions and requires an intervention by the higher competent authorities to unveil the truth. PCHR is concerned as this is not the first case of its kind. A number of detainees previously died in similar circumstances or due to heart attacks in detention facilities throughout the Gaza Strip in the past years.

 

PCHR highlights that life of a detained person falls within the responsibilities of the Ministry of Interior’s Prison Service according to the Law of Reform and Rehabilitation Centers 6/1998. Article 7 of the Law stipulates, “…Inmates in any prison remain under the legal guardianship of the prison director….” Thus, PCHR calls for taking in consideration negligence that probably led to the death or crime during investigation.

 

PCHR stresses the responsibility of the competent authorities like the PLC members, Attorney General and judges to supervise the lawfulness and circumstances of detention according to article 70 of the Judicial Authority Law 1/2002 that grants the Attorney General and judges the right to supervise and inspect the conditions, wellness and lawfulness of detention.

 

In view of the abovementioned and PCHR’s follow-up of violations in detention facilities and prisons relevant to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment documented in a number of PCHR’s periodic reports, due to which 18 detainees died in prisons in the past years, PCHR calls for forming an independent committee to investigate to what extent detention conditions at prisons of Criminal Investigation and Internal Security Services are appropriate and go in conformity with the international standards of arrest and detention, especially the 1979 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

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France Chose Positive Rebellion Over Populist Revolution … for Now

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Adelina Marini

Marine Le Pen was supposed to be the anti-systemic player who gathers the anti-establishment protest vote, just like Geert Wilders was supposed to be in The Netherlands. Both of them, however, have been in politics long enough to expose the lack of substance in their platforms and leave some large space for new outsiders. In France this turned out to be Emmanuel Macron, who managed a positive rebellion against the system, finishing first in the first leg of the April 23 presidential elections with 24.01% of the votes without being a part of the political status quo. Closely following him is Marine Le Pen with 21.30% of the votes. There are several conclusions to be drawn from the France presidential elections: the answer to voter’s problems is not necessarily a leader, party, or ideology, which destroys; it is difficult for euroscepticism to win in inherently pro-European states; traditional parties in some states have lost their raison d’être; populism is losing steam.

The French engine of the EU is about to wake up

Of all electoral challenges in the last year, the elections in France and Germany are the most important ones, because the European idea itself was created by these two countries, called the EU twin engine. The European referendum in the UK was shattering, but it did not pose a serious tectonic risk to the European Union. After all, the Union was born without the UK, so it is not unthinkable to continue living without it. There are even signs that Britain’s exit is having a healing and strengthening effect on the community. The EU can live without countries like Hungary, Bulgaria, even without Poland. It can swallow political cataclysms in countries such as The Netherlands or elsewhere, but a political revolution in France would disturb the balance in the Union, and therefore challenge its very existence.

During the government of Socialist François Hollande France lost a considerable amount of influence at the European scene. It became clear the very day he came to power, that there will no longer be the same symbiosis between Berlin and Paris like during the time of the Mercozy team, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nikolas Sarkozy (both of them belonging to the same European political family – the EPP) set the agenda of the Union, especially in the difficult period of finding a solution to the euro area crisis. The two of them even established a tradition of giving joint press conferences following EU summits. With Hollande in the Élysée Palace the natural successor, Merkollande, did not happen. Despite that, in difficult times for the EU Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande managed to get close enough to send an important message, which was the case of their joint appearance in the European Parliament, when the two of them spoke against the destructive power of euroscepticism and populism.

This did not help France one bit in standing side by side with the powerful Germany. Frustration against the indecisiveness of the French president to carry out long-postponed reforms was growing every single day throughout the EU, but mostly in Berlin, where the government was nervous about France’s excessively high public debt, poor growth, and the constant need to make concessions on the rules agreed on after many sleepless European nights, that were not done for other countries. France is in the macroeconomic imbalances procedure almost from the very beginning of the reform of economic governance in the EU. Moreover, for another year, it is in the group with the worst economic imbalances, where it is keeping company with Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus.

According to this year’s report of the European Commission on the macroeconomic imbalances procedure, France has a slow productivity growth, high public debt, and low competitiveness. Unemployment has started to decline compared to its peak of 10.4% in 2015, down to 10% in 2016, but long-term unemployment continues to grow, contrasting with the general tendencies in the EU. Unemployment among the young and low qualified continues to be high and has reached a share of 44.2% of total unemployment in the third quarter of 2016. According to the EC’s winter forecast, France’s economy is expected to grow by 1.4% this year and 1.7% next year.

The business environment in France is also not in an enviable position compared to major competitors. The regulatory burden continues to be very high, the tax burden is also among the highest in the EU. The implementation of the EC’s country-specific recommendations of last year is rather unsatisfactory. Significant progress has been made in the reform of labour law (owed to Emmanuel Macron). No progress has been made in reforming the unemployment benefit system. Minor progress is being made to improve the vocational education and training system. The barriers in the service sector and the improvement of administrative, accounting and fiscal rules for companies are somewhat removed.

Not much has been achieved regarding the reduction of taxes on production and corporate tax either. The EC expects France to increase the efficiency of public spending and taxes, reform the minimum wage and the unemployment benefits system, and improve the education system and the business environment. If the next president of France is Emmanuel Macron, he will have to deal with all these problems to bring France back to its place in the EU. If it is Marine Le Pen, France will not have to come back because there will be a debate about its exit.

What was being offered on the French political market on April 23?

Following the major crisis in the euro area, there have been serious shifts on the political scene in many EU countries. Traditional or rather moderate parties retained their power in those countries where a quick solution to economic hardships was found. Ireland, which went through a short bailout programme, never managed to create an environment for populist and Eurosceptic parties; the Baltic States also managed to protect themselves from the populist epidemic, thanks to rapid and successful reforms, even before the 2009 crisis; in Spain, although an extreme left-wing populist movement has emerged, the traditional People’s Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is again in power; in Germany, Angela Merkel continues to enjoy significant electoral support and the emergence of a new strong player on the left (but on the traditional political platform of the Social Democratic Party) represented by former European Parliament boss Martin Schulz, led to a shrinking electoral support for the populist and eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Some traditional parties have won in the moderately eurosceptic Netherlands, but others are virtually on the brink of extinction. In the states where there were no guts for reforms and the economy still has problems, populism managed to make its way to the very top. In Italy, the anti-systemic party of comedian Beppe Grillo is in the lead in the polls. At these French elections, there was a choice offering of all that could be found on the European market – from the extreme left-wing to the ultra-right-wing. The four major competitors, who finished with very close results, are representative of all political fractions in the EU at the moment. Marine Le Pen’s National Front is the equivalent of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), led until recently by MEP Nigel Farage, to whom destroying the EU turned into a life’s mission. Le Pen’s language is very close to the one of the American President Donald Trump. In addition, she no longer hides her close relationship and financial dependence on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The traditional political right’s candidate François Fillon ranked third on Sunday with 19.9% support. He is the equivalent of Viktor Orbán – conservative, with a favourable regard for Russia, eurosceptic to the same degree as the Hungarian prime minister. He almost dropped out from the race, for reasons of being entangled in corruption and other scandals. At this background, EPP’s support sounded rather awkward – again support for a leader with questionable reputation and a eurosceptic profile. Very close behind him – 19.6% – finished the fourth competitor in the race Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He is the mirror image of the Greek SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. A tone difference, which is more due to circumstances, rather than differences in views, is that Mr Mélenchon is also strongly eurosceptic like Marine Le Pen.

Macron the reformist

Against this background, Emmanuel Macron’s result is a real surprise. The 39-year-old liberal rose to the French political scene after being promoted by François Hollande, who will be remembered in French and certainly in European history with his incredibly low 4% rating. Macron was appointed minister of economy in Mr Hollande’s government, where he tried to launch some of the hardest and longest-postponed labour market reforms, which the EC has been pushing for years in its European semester reports. Once faced with a political wall, Macron decided to go on his own. He founded the En marche! movement a year ago and decided to stand alone in the presidential election.

Despite his short stay in government, he is in fact a new face, which does not appear with new ideas, however. Quite to the contrary. The Macron programme contains well-known pro-European and liberal views for open market, fiscal discipline, deepening of euro area integration, openness to migrants. Unlike Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron has bet on the positive campaign. For the second round, he will be supported by most of the other political forces for the sole purpose of Le Pen not winning.

Part of the explanation for Macron’s victory is that there is already a lot of information accumulated about populist and Eurosceptic movements after the series of elections in Europe and the United States. Nearly a year after the European referendum in the UK, it is already clear that the exit from the EU of a very poorly integrated member state is an extremely complex, labour-intensive and, above all, expensive task. The intelligent voter can imagine what the exit of one of the most integrated member states, who is co-author of the European project, would mean. Those struggling to leave have not yet presented the exit cost to voters, but looking at the other side of the English Channel, it can be predicted what France’s future outside the euro area and the EU would look like, with its current economic performance.

Despite him receiving considerable support, many Frenchmen did not identify Jean-Luc Mélenchon with salvation. The SYRIZA experience in Greece lends enough answers to the question of how realistic Communist ideologies of the 20-th century are in today’s globalised and digitalised world, especially when you depend on the solidarity of the rest of the members of the club you are a part of. Regarding François Fillon, his recipes are already being implemented in Hungary and Poland and this brings them nothing good at this stage.

There is, however, the second round

Polls before the first round as well as the ones now suggest a convincing victory for Emmanuel Macron. Currently his lead on Marine Le Pen is 20% (+/-). According to French election history connoisseurs, the Le Pen family always fails at the second decisive round. Now it is different, however, and the stakes are much higher. Elections in France, as well as elsewhere, were subject to outside interference. It is part of Russia’s foreign policy to fight for the destabilisation of the European Union from the inside, so it supports ideologically or financially parties, which are fighting for exit from the EU. Marine Le Pen even made a demonstration of meeting Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin a little prior to the elections. Besides, French-language Russian media, owned by the Kremlin, led a ferocious propaganda war against Emmanuel Macron.

Support for Marine Le Pen was also extended by American President Donald Trump, who even during the election day allowed himself to send support Tweets. It is yet to be seen if outside interference will increase and to what degree can its influence significantly change current attitudes. Another unknown is the effect of the Paris terrorist attack right at the end of the campaign, responsibility for which was claimed by the terrorist organisation Islamic State. It is possible that this will remain a current subject for the second round as well. In the meantime, the EU is about to approve on April 29 its negotiation positions regarding the UK exit, which will additionally sober-up those, who trusted Le Pen because of other considerations, not because of her calls for leaving the EU.

Should Emmanuel Macron win, it will just bring some short-lived joy, for there are parliamentary elections upcoming in June. It is not yet clear what sort of parliament will he have to work with. His success depends largely on this.

The populist wave has revealed how interconnected member states are in the EU when elections are held in a systemically important country like France. Throughout Europe and around the world, everyone had their eyes fixed on France to see the outcome. The elections in France have shown something even more important as well – for the first time in 60 years there is no candidate from traditional parties in the second round. In this sense, the big European political families have to run a very serious diagnostic check, because the European elections (2019) are approaching, and they are no longer what they used to be – a dumping site for political waste or exile for the politically uncomfortable.

There are more and more politicians with serious political intentions entering the European Parliament. It was namely there that the star of Nigel Farage arose, who, lacking any political influence whatsoever in his home country, managed to drive it to exiting the EU. The unknown until recently at the German political scene Martin Schulz also entered German politics on a ticket from the European Parliament and is now threatening Angela Merkel’s victory at the elections this coming autumn. In Croatia, government was ceased by some of the most influential Croatian MEPs. This means that the ballots for the European Parliament elections will be ordered very carefully and with long-term vision in mind.

European political families are increasingly accumulating serious negatives because of tolerating national parties with a bad reputation or a frankly anti-European programme. This cannot continue forever, as it is obvious that voters are looking for solutions to specific problems, while instead they are often offered to choose between radical solutions such as leaving the EU or staying in, but with the same players. Thus, European political parties have to support their own members, which are part of the citizens’ problem. The danger of populism will not go away until traditional parties are upgraded and adapt to the realities of the 21st century.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Artificial Intelligence: Socioeconomic, Political and Ethical Dimensions

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Introduction: Humanity’s Future in Al-Biosynthetic World

In a few centuries or perhaps a few decades, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biosynthetic engineering will be perfected to the degree that androids will closely resemble humans and biosynthetically engineered humans will resemble androids. Despite the nightmares of such a prospect for some scientists, humanist scholars and theologians, AI will be a dream becoming reality for those espousing Max More’s philosophy of “transuhumanism”; a movement whose goal is to enhance the human condition physically and intellectually through the application of scientific and technological means. (Carvalko, Joseph, The Techno-human Shell-A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap. Sunbury Press, 2012)

Whether one agrees with transhumanism or finds it abhorrent because it is merely another means of promoting eugenics, the race to transform science fiction dreams into a profitable reality is picking up speed by corporations and investors. Multinational corporations see the opportunity for billions in profits and that is all the motivation they need to move forward full speed, advertising AI research and development even now to prove that their company is decades ahead of the competition.

Besides corporations, the potential power and wealth in AI has universities, government-funded research institutions and privately-funded labs working to realize the dream without worrying about the potential risks involved for society at large. Like the nuclear bomb developed in the 1940s, the AI genie is out of the bottle and it has been since the 1940s when scientists from different fields contemplated building an artificial brain thus giving birth to the formalize scientific discipline of AI in 1956.

British code breaker Alan Turing is known as the Father of Computer Science, also a pioneer in the domain of artificial intelligence, was only at the theoretical stage in the middle of the 20th century when he was conducting research. Contemporaries of Turing, Ross Quillian and Edward Feigenbaum followed by Marvin Minsky who co-founded MIT’s AI lab were all pioneers along with corporate giant IBM. By 2016 when Minsky died, AI was the hottest field that corporations, governments, and research institutions intensely pursued, some trying to beat the competition marketing robots for various tasks in the next few years. (George Zarkadakis, In our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence, 2017).

GOOGLE’s Peter Norvik, in charge of research made the argument that there is no turning back on AI which he views as the ultimate tool in solving problems, not considering the new problems it would create.

“I don’t care so much whether what we are building is real intelligence. We know how to build real intelligence…—my wife and I did it twice, although she did a lot more of the work. We don’t need to duplicate humans. That’s why I focus on having tools to help us rather than duplicate what we already know how to do. We want humans and machines to partner and do something that they cannot do on their own.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2016/12/21/artificial-intelligence-pioneers-peter-norvig-google/#7dd2f52c38c6

Image result for google AI

In 2016, there were more than 650 business deals involving $5 billion in startups for AI research. With Google leading in patent applications, Microsoft, Amazon, INTEL, Facebook, and Apple became heavily involved in the domain of AI. The same companies involved in the web and cell phones are now competing for the lucrative AI market of the future with different venture capitalists backing research and development (R & D). With the advent of the web and cell phones, R & D in AI has moved rapidly since Turing’s era into the mainstream of government in a number of countries in the world, but especially US and China which are the main competitors in the field. According to some, AI is the global arms race of the future because of its potential in every sector including defense. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/02/china-artificial-intelligence/516615/; http://www.nbcnews.com/mach/features/next-global-arms-race-aims-perfect-artificial-intelligence-n685911

Because of immense institutional interest in AI, there has been a great deal written and debated about what it would all mean for society. There are tens of thousands of scholarly books and articles on the subject covering everything from scientific dimensions to social political and philosophical, some enthusiastic, others skeptical, and still others condemning AI as the new danger to humanity, even worse than motion pictures and science fiction novels depict. While most scholars are neither pessimistic nor as glowingly optimistic as Norvik about the miracle of AI awaiting the human race, there are those who cautiously point to both benefits and possible risks and skeptics cautious about the possible unforeseen consequences, some already evident with the cybergeneration of infophiles addicted to cell phones, computers, and video games.

In the early 21st century, the cybergeneration growing up in cyberspace with mechanical toys, videogames, cell phones and computers relate to machines as their reality. Accepting cyberspace as parallel to experiences with people they come into direct contact, the cybergeneration is conditioned to accept alienation from empirical reality as the norm, separating existential reality they may dread from cyber reality in which they live because they enjoy the illusion of greater control from a distance. A cybergeneration individual may have dozens or even hundreds of “cyber-friends” across the country and across the world but few if any friends in school, in the neighborhood, or at work. These cyubergeneration individuals deem detachment normal because the cyber-community has replaced the empirical one where they cannot hide behind numerous masks that cyberspace permits and promotes. The conditioning of the cybergeneration is very different than the socialization of any generation in the past that was socialized in the real community rather than in cyberspace. If this is the condition of the current cybergeneration, what would the future look like with AI robotics?

http://cyberikee.tripod.com/thinking_cyber_subjectivity_1.html

By the end of this century, the reality of children growing up with robots, holograms and bioengineered humans will be far different than it is for the generation of the early 21st century in every respect from individual to group identity. The wealthier families will have androids in their homes, most likely helping to raise and educate their children, conditioning them about the existential nature of robots as an integral part of the family like the loveable dog or cat. The less affluent middle class would be able to rent-a-robot for the ephemeral experience of it. The lower classes will feel even more marginalized because AI robotics will be out of reach for them; in fact they will be lesser beings than the robots whose intelligence and functions will be another privilege for the wealthy to enjoy. As we will see below, the sense of identity and community will be largely impacted by AI in ways difficult to conceive today for all classes.

AI, Population Explosion and the Job Market

Robotics and AI goes to the heart of how existing and new industries could widen the class gap between rich and poor, and between richer advanced countries and poorer nations. AI raises many public policy questions especially in the domain of economics and politics. This is largely because resource allocation will mean that the lower classes and less developed countries will be further marginalized in the world economy. Even in the advanced countries robots will be replacing humans in the workplace with grave social consequences in the absence of a strict regulatory regime and a social safety net for the working class.

In 2016, a White House report speculated that AI will result in higher productivity, but it will also leave millions without work while creating far greater wealth inequality than already exists. Just as the Silicon Valley has created a small wealthy class without absorbing the surplus labor force at a time that the rich-poor gap has been widening in the last three decades, similarly AI will exacerbate the trend. Apologists of the market economy reject all pessimistic scenarios, insisting that AI will deliver paradise on earth for all humanity.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4068986/Is-job-risk-White-House-report-warns-AI-soon-leave-millions-Americans-unemployed.html; https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/04/robots-future-society-drones

If world population reaches 9 billion by 2050 as it is expected (38% higher than in 2010), and assuming it climbs to 11.2 billion by the end of the century with 9 billion living in Africa and Asia, it is easy to envision the sorts of sociopolitical problems that AI will create in the name of solving others, mainly for the benefit of raising corporate profits. Considering that most people will live in the non-Western World, those in the West will use AI as the pretext to keep wages low and exert their political, economic, military and cultural hegemony. Xenophobic politicians and nativist groups will use AI as a pretext to keep out Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans. Heightened xenophobia with robots to the rescue of the Caucasian minority on the planet will be another dimension of those looking for a pretext to rally rightwing populists behind an authoritarian regime.

http://www.visualcapitalist.com/animation-world-population-2100-region/

Blade-RunnerIt is a given that AI will result in many benefits in every field from surgery to the auto industry, and to an estimated 700 fields according to an Oxford University study. Just as the internet has made possible the assistance of a physician in Cleveland providing live instructions and advice to a colleague carrying out surgery in the Philippines, similarly AI will result in such miracles. The issue however is the manner that corporations and government will use AI as leverage for labor policy. When the auto industry introduced robotics in the 1970s (MIT’s “Silver Arm”), auto workers reacted like Luddites in the early 19th century England because they realized that corporations used robotics as leverage to drive down wages and benefits, circumvent labor standards and policies impacting workers and their socioeconomic condition.

http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

In our era, fast food restaurants are among some industries that want to replace minimum wage workers with robots as soon as possible. Multinational corporations have been threatening government not to raise the minimum wage because robots are not far off replacing humans. Just as capitalists in early 19th century England were using the machine as leverage to determine labor policy, so do corporate CEOs in the early 21st century. Just as the British government sided with businesses against the Luddites in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, governments in the 21st century are also on the side of industry against workers.

From the perspective of the capitalist, an android can do a much better job in everything from serving food, to serving on the court bench as a judge without human prejudice which is the flaw that accounts human uniqueness. Although some argue that robots should not be used as health care providers or any area where human judgment of ethical considerations must be taken into account such as the judicial system, others insist that androids will serve humans better than people in every endeavor. As tools for human advancement and comfort, science and technology are a welcome development from a consumerist perspective, something that business and government use as an argument to fund R & D for AI.

AI could unlock immense potential for economic growth and development for the betterment of mankind, at least as far as its advocates are concerned. This assumes that the benefits of AI once fully implemented will be equally shared among all social classes across the entire world. Did all social classes and all nations advance equally because of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century and the first Industrial Revolution in England in the 18th century? The rich-poor (northern Hemisphere vs. Southern Hemisphere) divide between northwest Europe, North America and Japan that were the core of the world capitalists system became more pronounced by continued scientific, technological, and industrial development. Scientific, technological, and industrial development under the capitalist system was hardly the solution for the lack of social justice, for widespread misery owing to poverty and disease, and lack of health and education among the poor. On the contrary, the advanced capitalist countries used technology as tools of exploitation of the Southern Hemisphere and AI technology will be no different.

Greater egalitarianism and the promise of creating a techno-scientific paradise on earth is the bait that corporations and bourgeois politicians and their apologists have been throwing to the masses for the past three centuries and they continue to do it when it comes to the AI revolution. There are studies warning about the greater gap between rich and poor people and countries that robotics will cause.

Oxford University researchers have estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades. And if even half that number is closer to the mark, workers are in for a rude awakening. In the 1800s, 80 percent of the U.S. labor force worked on farms. Today it’s 2 percent. Obviously mechanization didn’t destroy the economy. “

https://www.wired.com/brandlab/2015/04/rise-machines-future-lots-robots-jobs-humans/

Image result for robot

In Robot Nation, Stan Neilson raises the question of how a large percentage of the population will survive when corporations replace humans with robots on such a scale that half of the active work force will not be employable. Is the future of the majority of the people to serve robots serving the rich who own the robots? Will such conditions create the atmosphere for social revolutions because AI will create greater polarization than we have seen in modern history? After all, the contradiction of the AI revolution is the promise to make life better for all when it is entirely possible that it will make it much worse for the majority. While businesses and politicians are constantly trying to convince people that the AI revolution is a panacea, people will see for themselves that the benefits will accrue to the elites. Will there be a rise of a Luddite movement against robots and will the elites use robots to suppress revolutionary uprisings?

Advocates of AI insist that hyperbolic issues depicted in science fiction motion pictures and books have nothing to do with the practical reality of AI. The proponents of this new revolution believe that many new opportunities will be created by the new industry and robots will complement humans rather than humans competing with robots for jobs. The challenge for large corporations is to have the engineers to keep pace with the job demand. American companies have complained that government must do something to meet the demand shortage that forces corporations to recruit from India, China, Iran, Russia and other countries. India and China graduates 10 to 20 times more engineers (depending on the source) than the US where the field is not popular with students. On November 30, 2016, the computer sciences dean Andrew Moore testified before the congressional Subcommittee on Space, Science and Transportation that the US must have one million High School students now geared for engineering to maintain global competitiveness in AI.

https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2016/november/moore-senate-testimony.html

The engineering glut in Asia, India, China and Japan also points to the race for AI that is seen as another tool giving the competitive advantage to whichever country crosses the finish line first with far reaching implications for the economy. Considering that about half of US engineering graduates  (54% Ph.D. and 42% MS) are foreign nationals, corporations have been asking government in the past ten years to provide more incentives, everything from scholarships to R & D grants to universities graduating engineers. Because of the enormous potential to the economy and defense sector, AI has become an important element in international competition, leaving no room to question the nuances of corporate welfare for the AI industry and about what it would mean to the active workforce of the future.

Transhumanism and Identity

Resting on the works of “transhumanist” intellectuals, the corporate, political and business advocates of AI believe the evolution of culture and identity is inevitable with the advent of robotics. Welcoming tranhumanism, the advocates believe that human beings have always evolved under very different conditions throughout human history, and they will continue to evolve physically and mentally thanks to the advancements in science and technology. While Max More’s definition of transhumanism cited below touches on some risks of AI, it stresses the benefits and it is the kind of justification that AI investors, government and industry is seeking.

  1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
  2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.
  3. http://whatistranshumanism.org/; Max More and Natasha Vita-More, The Transhumanist Reader, 2013)

Ever since British geneticist J. B. S. Haldane’s essay “Daedalus: Science and the Future” (1923), scientists advocating transhumanism have flirted with the idea of eugenics made possible by advances in science and technology. The idea of humans existing in a mechanical environment and approximating an android could be an anathema to a theologian or a humanist. For transhumanists, this is neither blasphemy nor perversion of the human condition; only its improvement.

http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/03/data-driven-eugenics-genetic.html

Cyberculture that has created virtual communities raises philosophical questions about identity, relationships, values, the withering of real community culture, and lifestyles that will largely be determined by the AI industry. Robot companions and infophiles are oblivious to the unknown risks that AI could pose on society, arguing that a generation or two ago skeptics of the internet had similar questions. There are those who maintain that cyberculture is egalitarian and within it there is a counterculture movement validating its democratic nature and endless possibilities for individual and cyber-identity.

Others warn that there is also a criminal and “hate group” culture operating in everything from promoting narcotics to human slavery, from neo-Nazi elements to nihilistic cults promoting suicide, all of which could potentially become much worse with AI technology.

Social engineering, which refers to the practice of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging information, is widely seen as the weakest link in the computer security chain. Cybercriminals already exploit the best qualities in humans — trust and willingness to help others — to steal and spy. The ability to create artificial intelligence avatars that can fool people online will only make the problem worse.” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/24/technology/artificial-intelligence-evolves-with-its-criminal-potential.html?_r=0

To apologists, cyberculture is not confined to the perimeters of the hegemonic culture of the elites simply because Silicon Valley is an integral part of corporate America. To skeptics, it has yet to be determined what role AI will play in shaping human and group identity if robotics is the domain of the business and political class. After all, large corporations and governments have a dominant role in cyberculture because they control cyberspace. Although we have no way of determining how AI will shape human identity, we do know something about the web’s influence in that regard.

In 2012, the British government commissioned a study directed by Professor Sir John Beddington on the manner the web was redefining human identity. Concluding that traditional identity based on community was becoming less relevant by web users, the study noted that there were both positive and negative influences resulting from the web community and users’ sense of identity. A segment of the population identifying with a particular sporting or cultural event could be mobilized through the web because individuals identified with that specific cause. At the same time, thousands of people could be called into political action as was the case not just with the Arab Spring uprisings, but also Occupy Wall Street and European protests.

“The internet can allow many people to realise their identities more fully. Some people who have been shy or lonely or feel less attractive discover they can socialise more successfully and express themselves more freely online”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-21084945

According to the British report on web identity, there was a sharp rise of internet users becoming members of social networks in the first two decades of the 21st century, along with the prevalence of social networks that accounted for changing identity of users. This is especially in the advanced capitalist countries, but the trend has spread rapidly to India, China and other parts of the world. Given the prevalence of social networks and the web, what will AI mean to human beings and their sense of identity and community once perfected to be almost indistinguishable from humans? If Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara used RADIO REBELDE effectively to undertake the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, will future generations use AI robots for social change, for personal satisfaction, for both and much more?

Image result for robotInfophiles are already becoming more like the machines they use, like surreal characters in a Franz Kafka novel or a science fiction motion picture. They crave virtual reality more than empirical reality; their relationship with their cell phones or computers outlasts any other they have with human beings. If we accept the assumption that environment shapes human nature to a large degree as empiricist philosophers ever since John Locke argued, then we must accept that a techno-science environment of AI robots used by bio-engineered humans will result in robo-humans and a world where transhumanism will be the norm.

Eager to have robots behave like the ideal human, scientists are trying to create the machine that can emulate human beings when in fact the infophile has evolved into a quasi-robotic existence. The robot can be programmed to mimic human behavior, but humans are already programmed by institutions to mimic robots. Obedience is what businesses want from employees and consumers, what government expects from its docile citizenry, what religious institutions expect of the faithful. Just as robots are subject to conformity lacking free will, similarly the masses have moved in that direction as well. It often seems as though society has moved closer to the science fiction world of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, but it is all in the name of ‘progress’. Given the mechanical evolution of where capitalism is leading humanity, why should it be surprising that rich people who could afford the robot would have a problem with it as a lover or companion; after all it would be in the name of ‘progress’ and who wants to be left behind?

Future generations growing up in the world of AI will be conditioned into virtual reality as “more real” than the blood running in their veins, rejecting the real community which they cannot switch off and on like cell phones. It could be argued that the generation conditioned in infophilia has an identity not much different than our ancestors in the Age of Faith (500-1500 A.D.) who lived with the dream of achieving eternal life in Paradise. Nevertheless, the infophilia generation would be condemned to increasing alienation from the real community. As long as AI human-like robots and techno devices keep people content, at least for those with the means to afford them, humans will be aiming at techno-perfection.

To be human entails a myriad of contradictions, rational and irrational tendencies; instinctive spontaneous reaction and carefully planned; expressing free will and yearning for spiritual and emotional ventures; striving for self-improvement in every aspect of one’s character, and above all the limitless boundaries of creativity rooted in the totality of life’s empirical experiences. The robot does not have these traits and is defined by programmed behavior, or operating within certain confines even when perfected at some point in the future to account for emotional reactions and creativity. Nor does the robot have the biological sense of empathy for humans even if programmed not to harm them. This makes a robot as much the perfect soldier and police officer as it does the perfect worker to obey. In short, through robotics, corporations are designing the perfect soldier and worker and one that would be a model for humans to emulate.

Erich Fromm’s theory of social necrophilia helps to explain human behavior increasingly emulating technical devices, not merely as a byproduct of science and technology, but of sociopolitical conditioning in a world where human values are measured by inanimate objects. There is a case to be made that identity with the machine and emulating it leads to a necroculture distorting human values where inanimate objects have greater worth than human beings – materialism in a capitalist society over humanism of an anthropocentric society is the norm. (Charles Thorpe, Necroculture, 2016)

While force, social and legal/criminal justice pressures, along with religious institutions kept people docile and compliant in centuries past across the globe, it could be argued that science and technology are substitutes to religion as the new conduits to keep human beings in a state of conformity. Existential alienation that Jean-Paul Sartre addressed in Being and Nothingness is vastly exacerbated by the cyber-world in which we live. We are wired to alienation by the dominant market-oriented culture, whereas the French peasant in the 12th century was presumably content in the illusion of connectedness to the divine and hope for eternal Paradise. Either our cyber-illusions could be as fulfilling as those of our ancestors 1000 years ago, or we are merely more delusional about a false sense of hope in our cyber-controlled lives.

Beyond threatening human identity, artificial intelligence and biogenetic engineering intentionally and inadvertently will reduce even the elites into robots, affording them the illusion that because they have the means to buy the latest science and technology has to offer so they could manipulate their identity that entails control instead of subjugation to the machine. Human beings especially the wealthier ones treasure uniqueness money can buy. But instead of turning inward to develop their creative potential and build positive character traits, they turn outward to science and technology to achieve what they believe will afford them satisfaction. If the ancient Greeks created a pantheon of anthropomorphic deities to reflect the superego as well as the realization of their limitations, why shouldn’t our generation create anthropomorphic robots even if many people feel threatened by them in this embryonic phase of androids walking down the street next to humans and difficult to distinguish? Gods and heroes are a timeless human illusion and the AI industry is willing to oblige for a price.

AI Alienation and Sex-bots

Addictive behavior – drugs, drinking, gambling, etc. may become worse with the AI technology becoming more prevalent because of greater alienation from the real community and retreat into a cyberculture. Although narcotics use in the US has been an integral part of society since the Nixon administration created the war on drugs to punish blacks and the anti-war left, in our cyberspace era there is some correlation between the necroculture of which cyberculture has become an integral part and widespread use of drugs in the secular West. The culture of materialism and hedonism are certainly considerations as is marginalization and alienation of a segment of the cyberspace community. Will AI make people able to cope with alienation without resorting to narcotics and/or prescription pain killers, or will they become even more addicted because of alienation? (Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. 2006)

The population of the US is 4.34% of the world’s, but consumes 80% of the world’s opioids. The US also has the top spot in the use of a number of other narcotics, including cocaine and marijuana with heroin addiction infecting all communities in the nation.  It hardly comes as a surprise to most people in the age of cyberspace that human beings in much of the world are increasingly more alienated despite of the means of communications available. Symptomatic of the Industrial Revolution and rise of urbanization, alienation is hardly the result of computers and cell phones. The sense of community once enjoyed in the village, small town neighborhood, small social environments where people enjoyed personal interactions as in the place of worship have been replaced by cyberspace and they are about to become even more remote with the advent of robotic and artificial intelligence.

Those in the business of developing AI argue that their goal is to build robots more human than humans for everything from doing menial jobs around the house to satisfying the human in the bedroom. This raises many questions about the perimeters of human identity and uniqueness. Is the human mind more like a computer or is that only one of its many aspects? Some believe that sex robots will become widely used in a decade and by the middle of this century women will use mostly robots. Clearly, AI social robots, including sex-bots or companion-partners will be confined to those who can afford them, with much cheaper and crude versions for the broader rental market.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2096530-why-grannys-only-robot-will-be-a-sex-robot/; http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/613337/Bionic-bonking-with-robots-will-become-more-common-than-normal-sex-claims-doctor

However, there are companies lining up to manufacture and market such robots, some which exist today even if in a crude form for the mass market. “Rent-a-robot” for a few hours, days or weeks when you go on that dreamy vacation to exotic islands and robo-love seems to be the acceptable trend. If need be, your hotel could make a sex robot available for you, or you can pick one up at the airport at the same location of the self-driving car rent-a-center. The sort of uninhibited sex without boundaries that science fiction films like Westworld depicted will become a reality and the lines between human and android could become as blurred as in the film Blade Runner. This eventuality will mean that teenagers could be experimenting with robots and viewing sex with the machine as normal thus encountering difficulty with humans that have emotions, thoughts, and free will that does not respond to commands.

A segment of the male population could be opting for a Stepford Wives type of relationship with a female, and for those who are into alternative sex lifestyles could be enjoying the freedom of relationships with a machine without any pressures or limitations that human impose. Everything from objectification of the sex partner to taboo sexual practices will be made much easier with robots that will change how humans view sex, emotional, and intimate relationships with other people. (Jason Lee, Sex Robots: The Future of Desire, 2017)

Therapists could be using androids to help individuals with psychological problems ranging from fear of intimacy to pedophilia and misogyny. At the same time, there is the potential that robots will be the facilitators for psychopaths to express their distorted desires that include everything from abuse to murder. The Pandora’s Box of sex robots has already been opened by many companies around the world. Nevertheless, it is still in its very early stage when very little is known about what emerges. Researchers are not in the position of determining what will emerge until it actually does by examining a large sample of cases.

At this stage, there is interest on the part of companies making crude versions of sex robots to capture the global market craving inanimate objects that are as close to human as AI permits for the relatively low price of a moderately priced car. It would hardly be surprising if Las Vegas style AI clubs appear throughout the world as part of the adult entertainment industry. Beyond the economics of the adult entertainment robot industry that promises disease-free, problem-free relationships, there is the issue of humans becoming intimate with machines, namely, robo-love/lust that reinforces proclivities toward necroculture.

https://www.bustle.com/p/is-this-the-future-of-sex-robots-49207

Civil Rights and Police-State-Militarism with AI Robots

There is nothing inevitable about the polarizing impact of AI as some have argued any more than there was anything inherently polarizing for society with the invention of the steam engine or electricity, except in so far as technology is a part of a class-based economy bound to disadvantage the lower classes in the race for capital accumulation. The issue is how the new science technology will operate under the capitalist system as an instrument of capital accumulation and how politicians, from the populist right wing that may oppose AI to the progressive left that may favor it under a certain regulatory regime intended to benefit the broader population. https://rationalaltruist.com/2014/05/14/machine-intelligence-and-capital-accumulation/

Idealists and propagandists argue that there is no reason for the new science and technology to be the servant of big capital rather than of humanity. Under the existing political economy, there is little doubt that socioeconomic problems, which many scholars fear about the implications of the AI industry, will come true. Even worse, given the current trend increasingly toward an authoritarian system parading under a thin cloak of consumerist democracy, it is highly unlikely that governments will use AI for the progress of all human beings in education, the handicapped who are unable to afford special care, etc.

Government already plays a major role not just in tax breaks and subsidies to AI research and development. In the future, government regulation and the ability of intelligence agencies to use AI for surveillance as they currently use the web and cell phones will be major issues. “Machine ethics” will include the domain of civil rights and surveillance for those coming into contact with AI robots. Some social scientists are concerned that AI robots could be subject to abuse for the more thorough exploitation of citizens and consumers. This is reflected in books and science fiction movies reflecting human concern for machine rather than fellow humans. Liability for malfunctioning robots whether as security guards at the airport, or as lovers in the bedroom will be another major policy and legal issue that is currently unknown.

https://www.21centurystate.com/articles/artificial-intelligence-to-play-bigger-role-in-policing/

In many respects, humans are already subordinated to machines in many facets of life. AI will only be an add-on. If the cell phone, computer, smart TV, even the headset are devices that permit government and corporations to monitor people, will civil liberties become non-existent in the future?  How would the AI technology enhance the existing surveillance society already here for Americans whose government and corporations have their citizens under watch? What would AI technology entail for the social contract when robots would have to be an integral part of that contract?

While some believe that robots will need protection under the law as pets or even humans, in the last analysis the robot is no different than the vacuum cleaner intended for a purpose, even if it is highly intelligent one and looks like a human fashion model. Given that the values of society are such that objects are held in higher regard than human beings, it would make sense that robots are accorded special legal treatment that not even minorities enjoys in the hands of the criminal justice system. Some advocates of AI contend that all people, but especially women, ethnic and religious minorities would be better protected by androids in the courts and criminal justice system because robots would not have human prejudices. The flip side of this is that human dignity would suffer across the board for all people subjected to AI robot surveillance and supervision. Humans could wind up becoming servants of robots in the distant future; a scenario some scientists fear. In my view, it will not be because of a robot revolution and takeover but rather the dependence of humans on robots.

The police-state militarism regime is already here concealing itself behind the very thin veil of bourgeois democracy that lacks accountability to anyone other than the capitalist class whose representatives formulate policy. The Pentagon estimates that in another 20 years the US armed forces will be composed of both humans and hi-tech machines that will be more lethal than anything we have seen in the past. Of course, the drone warfare that became popular with the Pentagon and CIA under President Barak Obama set the groundwork for machines fighting humans, destroying many innocent civilians in the process when hitting military targets in Muslim countries.

http://www.governing.com/columns/tech-talk/gov-artificial-intelligence-government-technology.html

The US government has contracted for autonomous robot soldiers with the ability to fight in the front lines and make spontaneous strategic decisions under changing battlefield conditions. Considering that drones have been largely responsible for indiscriminate killings of civilians, how would robo-soldier do in the battlefield against the amorphous “human enemy” of soldiers and civilians? Will AI create war crime conditions much worse than we have ever seen, or will it be discriminating killing and destroying?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4068986/Is-job-risk-White-House-report-warns-AI-soon-leave-millions-Americans-unemployed.html#ixzz4ePxj71FR

The same companies working on “robo-soldiers” are also working on “robo-cop” technology. Police departments already have serious problems with their militarization approach to law enforcement, pursuing minorities with greater vigor in overzealous pursuits. Robo-cops could be an improvement or they could make police departments even more militaristic than they are already. Joergen Pedersen, the CEO of RE2 robotics and the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association’s robotics division argued that:

“If these robots are used in manners for which they were unintended, we would expect that the officers who are there to keep citizens and themselves safe would use good judgment where the application of lethal force is a last resort.”

 http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/07/military-robotics-makers-see-future-armed-police-robots/129769/

Pedersen’s comment hardly inspires public confidence because it states that human officers will be making the decision on robo-cop conduct thus transferring human prejudices to the machine. Would the criminal justice system be any less racist than it is today in America because of robots if white racists are programming the robots? Considering that the robo-cops presence will make the officer feel invincible over citizens to a much greater degree than the real officers feel today, can the human power-hungry officer be trusted with a robo-cop by his side to keep order in a public demonstration against government policy about any number of issues? It is estimated that within the next two decades US police departments will be using robo-cops throughout major US cities. The combination of robo-cops and robo-soldiers could make society far more authoritarian than we have seen since the era of the Third Reich, prompting mass demonstrations against repression and polarizing society even more than it is in our time.

The universal presence of robot would mean the absence of self-determination and even the absence of humans collectively determining their own destiny.  If the robot will be more useful and smarter than any human with the ability to make countless calculations and decisions based on algorithms, then why not have robots and computers run society as they see fit so that people no longer blame social, business, religious, academic and political leaders? There is a very real danger that governments will program AI to manipulate public opinion even more than it is today where empirical truth is reduced to a relativist alternate reality amid a barrage of propaganda. Besides government manipulating public opinion to convince people that behind the thin veneer of democracy operates capitalist authoritarianism, why would corporations not be using AI to manipulate consumers and increase profits? The AI industry is itself a reflection of where capitalism is headed.

Scientific and Religious Opposition to AI

AI Skeptics claim that robots and computers cannot be programmed to account for relativism in domain of morality, ideology and culture, thus failing to best serve humanity because of the inability to account for nuances in human nature, human experiences and the unique conditions that may deviate from the pre-programmed mold. If indeed one of the great traits in human character is the capacity to doubt, to consider options, to change one’s mind, to dream and aspire, to feel torn because of dilemmas owing to moral and emotional considerations, the question becomes whether AI machines can be programmed accordingly and if so what would this mean for humans.

Two public opinion polls (2007 and 2016) indicate that the majority of Americans have no fear of AI robotics in the manner that motion pictures and science fiction books depict them. Understandably, respondents were more worried about their fellow humans that intentionally cause harm rather than programmed robots. Because living standards have been declining in the age of the internet whose proponents had been promising techno-paradise on earth for all people, many do not see how things could become worse with thinking machines. In a public opinion poll conducted in 2016, 53% of the respondents replied that it is important to proceed with AI research and development, while 15% agree with some scientists warning that AI is potentially dangerous. Another 20% see no need for AI, presumably because human beings are sufficient to carry out tasks of these robots.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-vanity-fair-poll-artificial-intelligence/

A public opinion poll conducted in 2007, asked:

“Do you, for some reason, fear the current and/or future increase of artificial intelligence?” RESULTS: 16.7% Yes, I find the idea of intelligent machines frightening (1002 votes); 27.1% No, I don’t find intelligent machines frightening (1632 votes); 56.3% I’m not afraid of intelligent machines, I’m afraid of how humans will use the technology (3366 votes).

http://www.thinkartificial.org/web/the-fear-of-intelligent-machines-survey-results/

To some degree, public opinion polls on AI actually reflect the concerns of scientists and scholars, including theologians and religious leaders. Most scientists are well aware of both the potential benefits and possible risks involved in the AI industry as it becomes a major segment of the economy. World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has argued that AI has the potential of becoming the most worthy contribution to humanity but also the instrument of its destruction. Thousands of scholars have expressed serious reservations about AI but for different reasons, some for political, others for ethical, others for man’s inability to control his own inventions from taking over and turning against humanity.

http://www.newsweek.com/ai-asilomar-principles-artificial-intelligence-elon-musk-550525

Some scientists estimate that by the end of this century AI robots will have superhuman intellectual capabilities. One key question is whether AI will make humans more intelligent or intellectually and creatively lazy because the machine will think and work for them. Some scholars believe that computer technology is actually making humans less intelligent, while others insist the computer will never be as smart as their human programmers and it is but a tool for human development. Advocates of AI argue that most likely humans will evolve along with robots, although it may take genetic modification for humans, those whose parents can afford it, to keep up with the robot.

http://nautil.us/issue/28/2050/dont-worry-smart-machines-will-take-us-with-them

There is evidence to indicate that the average middle class child in the Western World is more intelligent in 2017 than a child growing up in the 1950s. At the same time, however, the average child of the early 1950s used her/his brain to solve problems, whereas today’s child resorts to the computer for everything from problem-solving and analysis to information and memory. The machine facilitates and speeds up research and communication, but it also makes the user intellectually lazy. Even worse, the computer can make the user cynical often unable to distinguish between what is useful and edifying and that which is useless or potentially destructive.

Although the cell phone and computer make it much easier to communicate and gather information, the web cannot think or make judgment for the individual about what is true and what has scientific, scholarly and ethical validity. This is where the vast “garbage” of the web enters into the picture, overloaded with all sorts of completely useless, untruthful, unscientific, and often harmful material that many people embrace as empirical fact; a reflection of a value judgment on the part of the web user. The ability to determine what is truly for the edification of humankind and what is useless or even harmful remains a human endeavor and one that the computer or AI robot cannot carry out in the absence of a program.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr-personality/201305/is-technology-making-us-stupid-and-smarter

The debate about AI technology raises old questions about human nature. Viewed from the perspective of a neuroscientist, the debate about the mind goes to the heart of understanding consciousness (aware of one’s existence and surroundings) and whether that particular feature can be replicated in a robot. While some scientists and of course advocates of AI believe it is possible to create robots that are self-aware, others are skeptical. If one takes the view of the brain as another mechanical device and consciousness limited to the definition of memories, thought processes, then it is easier to see how AI proponents would conclude robots will be no different than humans.

If we accept the brain as a machine-like device, then we are not far apart from accepting AI in every aspect of human society, including as intimate partners. Politicians of the future could be consulting robots on how to make a policy decisions. Generals about to launch a military strike, or media editors deciding what news stories the public needs to see/hear and how to deliver such information could be carried out with the assistance of computers and robots. Because all of this in a primitive form takes place right now, we are already in the pre-AI phase of a robo-society where the hegemonic culture is conditioning robo-citizens into conformity.

Many theologians and philosophers believe that AI will simply make humans more like robots depriving them of their soul; a controversial position for those who doubt there is such a thing as a “soul”. One could argue that 17th century rationalist philosophers Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz had a much more mechanical view of humans than philosophers before the Scientific Revolution when religion dominated everyone’s worldview. If the living body is an “automaton” and God the computer programmer, then why is AI so vastly different with humans playing the role of God as the Grand Programmer?

Critics, especially theologians, argue that humans are more than merely mechanical devices like a robot because they have a conscious, a soul for those who believe in its existence as either separate from or an integral part of the brain. AI technology may pose a very serious threat to religion; more so than Charles Darwin’s work on evolution that remains unacceptable even today for many yielding to religious dogma. Despite religious reservations about the new technology, houses of worship are among the first to use it to reach the faithful through computers, advertise and project their services online. If “tele-worship” is already here and now, how far behind would the houses of worship be when it comes to using AI robots in all sorts of ways, insisting they are instruments of God serving mankind’s path to salvation! Just as opportunism drives corporations to pursue research and development and government to want “robo-soldiers” and “robo-cops”, all other domains in society, including religion will adapt to the new AI technology, setting aside their dogmatic opposition. After all, what could be greater than using a robot as a model of an obedient servant to God in the name of redemption which humans ought to emulate? Isn’t blind robotic obedience what religion always expects of its faithful?

Conclusions

Regardless of what many critics warn about the risks once AI becomes commercially viable, the potential for immense profits and power are the sole motivating factors. Naturally, there will be a high-end market, and medium to low-end for the mass consumer looking to emulate the experience of the elites by renting these machines. Biosynthetic engineering fits into a similar elitist mold, despite the promise of providing miracles in human health and wellness for the sake of a ‘wellness society’.

Of course, the issue of scientific and technological progress goes beyond rich people having a robot as servant or an intimate partner (SEX-BOT), or deciding that their offspring must have blue eyes, blonde hair, and an athletic built. Nor is the issue about how cheaply robots in fast food restaurants can serve French fries to customers; how fast they can go in a self-driving car; or how doctors could be providing the option to those who can afford it of freeing their children from crippling hereditary diseases. AI raises a public policy debate with many dimensions for the entire social structure impacted by new science and technology in a very uneven manner. Because moral reasoning programmed into an AI device will have the inherent limitations of its programmer (s), this raises questions about social justice as a goal for society where the elites will use AI as instruments of exploitation.

AI also raises the issue of human evolution of the elites that will set themselves apart from the rest of humanity existing outside the world of AI; elites that will be able to afford the dream of super-race status; of techno-flawlessness as a way of life emulating their robot partners that would have either replaced or supplemented their human partners. This is not an issue of defining human beings so narrowly that they only fit the mold of pre-civilization hunter-gatherers, or even pre-industrial era peasant existing in self-sufficiency and immersed in religion and superstition.

In a globalized economy and culture where the means of communication are instantly bringing people closer together than at any time in history AI will have profound ramifications working as much in favor as against the elites by groups using AI to change the status quo. Revolutionary movements, resistance, protest and dissidence will change because of AI. The dialectic will continue because AI cuts both ways, no matter what the corporate world and bourgeois politicians wish for their robots as their exclusive servants against society.

Creativity’s boundaries are as endless as the universe. While human creativity has resulted in the edification of mankind, creativity also extends to the domain of weapons of mass destruction for which there can be no possible defense for anyone with a modicum of social conscience; something that nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer discovered after realizing the atomic bomb’s destructive potential to humanity. AI can be a useful tool that enhances the human experience but with it will come the destructive aspects used for by governments for wars and police-state methods. Realistically, no matter what ethicists, politicians, theologians and scientists argue, the voice that matters mostly in the AI industry is that of capitalists.

Among others, American billionaire Mark Cuban speculates that the world’s first trillionaires will be those with the ability to master all aspects of artificial intelligence and derivative industries. No doubt, such an appetizing dream has many companies investing in artificial intelligence research and development. The recognition that the new industry of the future will be operating under existing rules of capitalism is a tacit acknowledgement that AI will not solve any of the outstanding social, economic and political problems.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2016/09/berg.htm

Just as advancements in science and technology operating under the capitalist system did not result in social justice, the AI industry is merely a continuation of scientific, technological, industrial development and hardly a panacea for society’s larger economic, social and political problems. Their hypocritical claims to the contrary aside, corporations will use AI to amass profits not to enhance the lives of human beings. This means exploiting everyone as a consumer, from small children to the elderly and the physically and mentally ill. Human beings will gravitate toward AI because they have a predisposition to acquire godlike qualities, a quest to experience even vicariously what it is like to remain forever young, immortal and as close to perfect as possible. AI will afford the opportunity to the wealthier class to enjoy the privilege of the godlike satisfaction.

Posted in USA, EuropeComments Off on Artificial Intelligence: Socioeconomic, Political and Ethical Dimensions

US Naval “Armada” Menaces North Korea

With tensions on the Korean Peninsula already on a knife-edge, the US has dispatched the nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Michigan to the region. The submarine, which is capable of launching up to 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles from more than 1,500 kilometres, is due in the South Korean port of Busan today.

The arrival of the USS Michigan coincides with intense media speculation that North Korea will conduct a nuclear or ballistic missile test to mark its Military Foundation Day. The Trump administration has repeatedly declared that the US will use “all options” to prevent Pyongyang developing a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the American mainland.

At the same time, the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, complete with its strike group of guided missile destroyers and cruiser, is headed toward waters off the Korean Peninsula. The Carl Vinson was last reported in the Philippine Sea where it rendezvoused with two Japanese destroyers and will meet up with South Korean warships as it heads north. The US and South Korean air forces are also currently involved in joint war games.

The USS Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group are based at the Japanese port of Yokosuka.

Earlier this month, President Trump warned North Korea that the US was “sending an armada” to North East Asia. “We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you,” he told Fox Business Network.

Trump reinforced the threat yesterday when he met with the ambassadors of members of the UN Security Council, declaring that the status quo in North Korea was “unacceptable.” In calling on the UN to impose additional and stronger sanctions, he branded Pyongyang’s rudimentary nuclear arsenal as “a real threat to the world,” “a big world problem” that “we have to finally solve.”

US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned that Washington would not ignore North Korea’s weapons’ testing saying: The United States is not looking for a fight so don’t give us a reason to have one.” She again called on China to put pressure on its ally North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In a tweet last weekend, Trump again insisted that Beijing take action against Pyongyang. “China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea. So while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will.”

In a phone call with Trump on Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged caution. While “adamantly opposing” any contravention of UN resolutions by North Korea, Xi, according to Chinese reports, “hoped that all sides exercise restraint and avoid doing things that exacerbate tensions on the peninsula.”

The Chinese government is deeply concerned that the US could trigger a war on its doorstep and has been pushing for the resumption of negotiations with concessions both by the US and North Korea. “Only if all sides live up to their responsibilities and come together from different directions can the nuclear issue on the peninsula be resolved as quickly as possible,” Xi reportedly said.

Trump also spoke by phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who told reporters yesterday: “We’ll maintain close contact with the US and high level of monitoring and surveillance as we respond firmly on North Korea.” He said that his government agreed with Trump to “strongly demand that North Korea” show restraint and denounced Pyongyang for being “repeatedly dangerous and provocative.”

The Abe government has ramped up anxieties in Japan by issuing civil defence advice on how to respond in the event of a ballistic missile attack: to take shelter underground or in the nearest strong building. It previously suggested that plans were being drawn up for the evacuation of thousands of Japanese citizens from South Korea in the event of a conflict.

Backed by a compliant media, the US along with its allies continue to demonise the Pyongyang regime, branding it as a threat to the region and the world. While pressuring China, the Trump administration has also repeatedly declared that it is prepared to “solve” North Korea by itself.

The incessant drum beat was continued last week with statements from the US defence and state departments. Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross condemned Pyongyang for “provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, saying: “North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs represent a clear, grave threat to US national security.”

The State Department denounced North Korea in similar terms before issuing a thinly veiled warning. “We do not seek military conflict, nor do we seek to threaten North Korea. However, we will respond to threats to us or our allies accordingly,” a spokesperson declared.

The North Korean regime has responded in kind with bloodcurdling threats to the US, which hand Washington a pretext for its military build-up. It branded the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson as “an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade the North” and declared that it was ready to turn the aircraft carrier into a “great heap of scrap metal” and to “bury it in the sea.”

The Trump administration has deliberately ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula, threatening pre-emptive military strikes if Pyongyang proceeds to conduct a sixth nuclear test or further ballistic missile launches. In such conditions, a miscalculation or mistake could trigger a conflict that would rapidly spiral out of control and draw in nuclear-armed powers such as China and Russia.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on US Naval “Armada” Menaces North Korea

Syria: U.S. Moves To Cut Off The East – But For What?

NOVANEWS
 

The situation in the north-west Syria is turning favor of the Syrian government, though much work needs to be done. The army is recovering new ground in Hama governate and an intense bombing campaign is waged over Idelb governate which is held by al-Qaeda. As an analyst generally in favor of the opposition concedes:

Continued support for the northwest insurgency amounts to effectively subsidizing a jihadist safe haven in the Levant.

The proxy war against the Syrian regime in the northwest, for the West, is lost.

The head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, agrees. He tells his forces in Syria stop holding land and to revert to guerilla war:

Ayman al-Zawahri told the jihadis, who control Syria’s northwestern Idlib province and other territory, to remain steadfast and change tactics in order to wage guerrilla war.

Al-Qaeda began fighting alongside Syria’s rebels early in the civil war and won allies among the opposition because of its military prowess. Al-Qaeda’s official branch, the Nusra Front, changed its name to the Fatah al-Sham Front and formally cut ties with al-Qaeda last year, but is still widely seen as being linked to the global terror network.

Map via ISW – see bigger picture 

In the south-west Israel is trying to steal another part of the Golan Heights by giving fire support for al-Qaeda groups which fight against the Syrian army in the area.

Attacks by “moderate rebels” in the south, supported by the U.S. and Jordan, have failed to take ground in the city of Deraa. They need to take the city to have some anchor for an “independent” southern “safe zone” from which the U.S. proxies could then threaten Damascus.

At the begin of April Kurdish forces under U.S. command had loudly announced that they would soon attack Raqqa and take it from the Islamic State. But no attacks on Raqqa have been seen. The operation seems to be at a halt. ISIS forces are allegedly moving from Raqqa further east to Deir Ezzor.

In south-east Syria U.S. supported “rebel” forces have moved from Jordan northward into the Syrian desert (not yet shown on the map above). They plan is to move further north towards Raqqa and to meet up with U.S. Kurdish proxy forces. This move would cut any land route from west-Syria to Deir Ezzor where a garrison of the Syrian army is protecting more than 100,000 civilians by holding out against ISIS forces. From Jordan the U.S. trained and supplied “rebels” are also moving east along the Iraqi-Syrian border. This will hinder Iraqi forces from moving into Syria and against ISIS in support the Syrian government forces in Deir Ezzor.

The whole Syrian east will thereby be cut off and under control of U.S. proxy forces. But what are the U.S. plans for this area? While the area has some oil and gas it is landlocked, lacks infrastructure and governance with mostly hostile forces surrounding it. The forces the U.S. supports are prone to infighting. It will be hard to defend the area against any serious attack. U.S. and Jordan forces will be needed to keep it under control. For how long?

I fail to see a larger strategic plan behind this that would make any sense. But the same architects that launched the failed war against Iraq are behind this move. The neocons are back and very happy about the new course of the Trump presidency. The architect of the war in Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, is now collaborating with the neocon officers in the Trump cabinet:

In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.

Mattis is currently traveling through the Gulf countries to collect money for future U.S. plans in Syria and elsewhere. The neocon senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham will tonight have a private dinner with Trump in the White House. No sensible strategy has ever come from these folks. But their lunatics plan always causes huge damage for little if any gain.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Syria: U.S. Moves To Cut Off The East – But For What?

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