Archive | October 9th, 2018

Brazil’s Haddad and Bolsonaro to Go Head to Head in Second Round

NOVANEWS

Brazil’s presidential election will go to a run-off between far-right Jair Bolsonaro and Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad on October 28.

Mr Bolsonaro came first in the first round yesterday, with 46 per cent of the vote — just four points short of the majority he needed to impose his draconian vision on Brazil.

An open supporter of the cold war-era dictatorship that arrested and tortured then guerrilla Dilma Rousseff — the Workers Party former president ousted in a constitutional coup in 2016 — Mr Bolsonaro has vowed to accelerate the unelected Michel Temer regime’s programme of spending cuts and privatisation.

He says he would “check” the growth of social movements campaigning for stronger rights for women, gay people and indigenous peoples, privatise state-run companies and give the police greater powers to kill suspected criminals — though they already kill thousands every year.

Source: Bloomberg

In 2016, the last year for which complete figures are available, 4,224 Brazilians were killed by police officers.

And he has pledged a closer alignment of Brazilian foreign policy with that of the United States and suggested creating camps on Brazilian soil to harbour Venezuelans keen on overthrowing the socialist government there.

Mr Haddad, who became the Workers Party candidate after frontrunner former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was barred from standing because of a trumped-up sleaze conviction, came second on 29 per cent and will face a tough fight to beat Mr Bolsonaro in the next round. Polls suggest the candidates will be neck and neck now that the others have been eliminated from the contest.

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Trump Admin Follows Corporate Media Playbook for War with Iran

NOVANEWS

Three years ago, as Americans debated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran—popularly known as “the Iran deal”—I highlighted a troubling media trend on FAIR.org (8/20/15): “For nearly all commentators, regardless of their position, war is the only alternative to that position.”

In the months since US President Donald Trump tore up the JCPOA agreement, his administration has been trying to make good on corporate media’s collective prediction. Last week, John Bolton (BBC,9/26/18), Trump’s national security advisor and chief warmonger, told Iran’s leaders and the world that there would be “hell to pay” if they dare to “cross us.”

That Bolton’s bellicose statements do not send shockwaves of pure horror across a debt-strapped and war-weary United States is thanks in large part to incessant priming for war, facilitated by corporate media across the entire political spectrum, with a particular focus on Iran.

Back in 2015, while current “resistance” stalwarts like the Washington Post(4/2/15) and Politico(8/11/15) warned us that war with Iran was the most likely alternative to the JCPOA, conservative standard-bearers such as Fox News (7/14/15) and the Washington Times (8/10/15) foretold that war with Iran was the agreement’s most likely outcome. Three years hence, this dynamic has not changed.

Image on the right: Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte (New York Times,5/10/18) presents Trump and Bolton’s “deal” for Iran.

To experience the full menu of US media’s single-mindedness about Iran, one need only buy a subscription to the New York Times. After Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, the Times’ editorial board (5/8/18) wrote that his move would “lay conditions for a possible wider war in the Middle East.” Susan Rice (New York Times5/8/18), President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, agreed: “We could face the choice of going to war or acquiescing to a nuclear-armed Iran,” she warned. Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte (New York Times5/10/18) was characteristically more direct, penning an image of Trump alongside Bolton, holding a fictitious new agreement featuring the singular, ultimate word: “WAR.”

On the other hand, calling Trump’s turn against JCPOA a “courageous decision,” Times columnist Bret Stephens (5/8/18) explained that the move was meant to force the Iranian government to make a choice: Either accede to US demands or “pursue their nuclear ambitions at the cost of economic ruin and possible war.” (Hardly courageous, when we all know there is no chance that Trump or Stephens would enlist should war materialize.)

Trump’s latest antics at the United Nations have spurred a wave of similar reaction across corporate media. Describing his threat to “totally destroy North Korea” at the UN General Assembly last year as “pointed and sharp,” Fox Newsanchor Eric Shawn (9/23/18) asked Bill Richardson, an Obama ally and President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the UN, whether Trump would take the same approach toward Iran. “That aggressive policy we have with Iran is going to continue,” Richardson reassured the audience, “and I don’t think Iran is helping themselves.” In other words, if the United States starts a war with Iran, it’s totally Iran’s fault.

Politico (9/23/18), meanwhile, reported that Trump “is risking a potential war with Iran unless he engages the Islamist-led country using diplomacy.” In other words, if the United States starts a war with Iran, it’s totally Trump’s fault. Rice (New York Times9/26/18) reiterated her view that Trump’s rhetoric “presages the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf.” Whoever would be the responsible party is up for debate, but that war is in our future is apparently all but certain.

Politico’s article cited a statement signed by such esteemed US experts on war-making as Madeleine Albright, who presided over Clinton’s inhuman sanctionsagainst Iraq in the ’90s, and Ryan Crocker, former ambassador for presidents George W. Bush and Obama to some of America’s favorite killing fields: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.  James Clapper, Obama’s National Intelligence Director, who also signed the letter, played an important role in trumping up WMD evidence against Saddam Hussein before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. When it comes to US aggression, they’re the experts.

Vanity Fair (9/26/18) interviewed John Glaser of the Cato Institute, who called Trump’s strategy “pathetic,” and also warned that it forebodes war. In an effort to “one-up Obama,” Glaser explained, Trump’s plan is “to apply extreme economic pressure and explicit threats of war in order to get Iran to capitulate.” Sound familiar? As Glaser implies, this was exactly Obama’s strategy, only then it wasn’t seen as “pathetic,” but rather reasonable, and the sole means for preventing the war that every US pundit and politician saw around the corner (The Hill8/9/15).

When everyone decides that war is the only other possibility, it starts to look like an inevitability. But even when they aren’t overtly stoking war fever against Iran, corporate media prime the militaristic pump in more subtle yet equally disturbing ways.

First among these is the near-complete erasure of Iranian voices from US airwaves (FAIR.org7/24/15). Rather than ask Iranians directly, national outlets like CNN (9/29/18) prefer to invite the prime minister of Israel, serial Iran alarmist and regional pariah Benjamin Netanyahu, to speak for them. During a jovial discussion this weekend over whether regime change and/or economic collapse is Iran’s most likely fate, Netanyahu explained to the audience that, either way, “The ones who will be happiest if that happens are the people of Iran.” No people of Iran were on hand to confirm or deny this assessment.

Bloomberg (9/30/18) similarly wanted to know, “What’s not to like about Trump’s Iran oil sanctions?” Julian Lee gleefully reported that “they are crippling exports from the Islamic Republic, at minimal cost to the US.” One might think the toll sanctions take on innocent Iranians would be something not to like, but Bloomberg merely worried that, notwithstanding the windfall for US refineries, “oil at $100 a barrel would be bad news for drivers everywhere—including those in the US.”

Another prized tactic is to whitewash Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief geopolitical rival, whose genocidal destruction of Yemen is made possible by the United States, about which corporate media remain overwhelmingly silent (FAIR.org, 7/23/18). Iran’s involvement in Yemen, which both Trump and the New York Times(9/12/18) describe as “malign behavior,” is a principal justification for US support of Saudi Arabia, including the US-supplied bombs that recently ended the brief lives of over 40 Yemeni schoolchildren. Lockheed Martin’s stock is up 34 percentfrom Trump’s inauguration day.

Corporate media go beyond a simple coverup of Saudi crimes to evangelize their leadership as the liberal antidote to Iran’s “theocracy.” Who can forget Thomas Friedman’s revolting puff piece for the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman? Extensively quoting Salman (New York Times11/23/17), who refers to Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “the new Hitler of the Middle East,” Friedman nevertheless remains pessimistic about whether “MBS and his team” can see their stand against Iran through, as “dysfunction and rivalries within the Sunni Arab world generally have prevented forming a unified front.” Oh well, every team needs cheerleaders, and Friedman isn’t just a fair-weather fan.

While Friedman (New York Times5/15/18) believes that Trump has drawn “some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior,” for him pivotal questions remain unanswered, such as “who is going to take over in Tehran if the current Islamic regime collapses?” One immediate fix he proposed was to censure Iran’s metaphorical “occupation” of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Isn’t this ironic coming from an unapologetic propagandist for Washington’s decades-long, non-metaphorical occupation of the two countries to the east and west of Iran (FAIR.org12/9/15)?

In a surprising break from corporate media convention, USA Today (9/26/18) published a column on US/Iran relations written by an actual Iranian. Reflecting on the CIA-orchestrated coup against Iran’s elected government in 1953, Azadeh Shahshahani, who was born four days after the 1979 revolution there, wrote:

I often wonder what would have happened if that coup had not worked, if [Prime Minister] Mosaddeq had been allowed to govern, if democracy had been allowed to flourish.

“It is time for the US government to stop intervening in Iran and let the Iranian people determine their own destiny,” she beseeched readers.

Image below: Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin confronts the head of Trump’s “Iran Action Group” (Real News9/21/18).

Medea Benjamin confronts

Shahshahani’s call is supported by some who have rejected corporate media’s war propaganda and have gone to extreme lengths to have their perspectives heard. Anti-war activist and Code Pink  founder Medea Benjamin was recently forcibly removed after she upstaged Brian Hook, leader of Trump’s Iran Action Group, on live TV, calling his press conference “the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen” (Real News9/21/18). Benjamin implored the audience: “Let’s talk about Saudi Arabia. Is that who our allies are?”

“How dare you bring up the issue of Yemen,” admonished Benjamin as she was dragged from the room. “It’s the Saudi bombing that is killing most people in Yemen. So let’s get real. No more war! Peace with Iran!” Code Pink is currently petitioning the New York Times and Washington Post to stop propagandizing war.

Sadly, no matter whom you ask in corporate media, be they spokespeople for “Trump’s America” or “the resistance,” peace remains an elusive choice in the US political imagination. And while the public was focused last week on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s perjurious testimony, the Senate finalized a$674 billion “defense” budget. Every single Democrat in the chamber voted in favor of the bill, explicitly naming Iran as persona non grata in the United States’world-leading arms supply network, which has seen a 25 percent increase in exports since Obama took office in 2009.

The US government’s imperial ambitions are perhaps its only truly bipartisan project—what the New York Times euphemistically refers to as “globalism.” Nowhere was this on fuller display than at the funeral for Republican Sen. John McCain (FAIR.org, 9/11/18), where politicians of all stripes were tripping over themselves to produce the best accolades for a man who infamously sang“bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of a Beach Boys song.

McCain’s bloodlust was nothing new. Nearly a hundred years ago, after the West’s imperial competition culminated in the most destructive war the world had ever seen, the brilliant American sociologist and anti-colonial author WEB Du Bois wrote, “This is not Europe gone mad; this is not aberration nor insanity; this is Europe.”

Iranian leaders have repeatedly said they do not want war with the US (AP9/27/18), but US corporate media, despite frequently characterizing Trump as a “mad king” (FAIR.org6/13/18), continue to play an instrumental role in rationalizing a future war with Iran. Should such an intentional catastrophe come to pass, we can hardly say that this would be America gone mad; war is not aberration, it is always presented as the next sane choice. This is America.

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Naziyahu Is No Friend to America

NOVANEWS
Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Friend to America

Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to the American spotlight. A career Israeli politician who attended school in the United States, he specializes in the kind of rhetoric that his American counterparts revel in—a kind of narcissism that’s more used car salesman than educator.

Netanyahu specializes in selling danger to the American people. This is an art he has practiced on numerous occasions, whether it be at the gatherings of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), his many appearances before the U.S. Congress, at televised events or during the general debate in the United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of global leaders and diplomats where each nation’s representative is provided the opportunity to address counterparts and the world on issues he or she deems to be of particular import.

Bibi (as he is known, affectionately or otherwise) delivered his latest address to the General Assembly on Sept. 27. Like others he had delivered previously, this one was a tour de force of angst, fear and anger with a nearly singular focus on the issue that has seized Netanyahu for more than two decades—Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program.

In his 1995 campaign autobiography, “Fighting Terrorism,” Netanyahu, preparing to run for the office of prime minister of Israel, asserted that Iran was “three to five years” away from having a nuclear bomb. Bibi repeated this claim several times over the next 20-plus years, apparently unconcerned by the fact that his self-appointed timetable kept coming and going without the Iranian nuclear threat manifesting itself.

In September 2002, when he briefly found himself a private citizen, Netanyahu shifted his aim to Iraq, which he confidently asserted had a nuclear weapons program as he touted the benefits of removing Saddam Hussein from power—this during so-called “expert” testimony before the U.S. Congress. He was wrong on both counts, a fact that seems to slip the minds of those who continue to assign him a semblance of credibility given his proximity to Israel’s vaunted intelligence service.

As someone who spent four years (from 1994 to 1998) working closely with Israel’s intelligence service to uncover the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, I can attest that Israeli intelligence is better than most at what it does, but far from perfect. For every good lead the Israelis delivered to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), for which I was working at the time, they provided a dozen or more that did not pan out. Their detailed analysis about the alleged organization and structure of Iraq’s covert nuclear program proved to be far removed from the truth. They got names wrong, affiliations wrong, locations wrong—in short, the Israelis made the exact same mistakes as any other intelligence service.

Iraq was a denied area, made less so by the presence of UNSCOM weapons inspectors like me who had unprecedented access to the most sensitive national security sites in the country. And still the Israelis got it wrong. They did so not because of “bad intelligence,” but because they, like the CIA and other intelligence agencies around the world, were privy to the vast amount of information and data collected by UNSCOM inspectors about the true state of Iraq’s proscribed weapons and related programs. They suffered from the same lack of imagination as did the others that postulated a nuclear-armed Iraq circa 2002, unwilling to consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein might be telling the truth about not having retained any weapons and related capabilities prohibited by the Security Council resolution. This same lack of imagination appears to fuel Netanyahu’s increasingly wild claims about Iran.

It is no secret that Netanyahu has opposed the Iran nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA—since the possibility of a negotiated solution to the stand-off between Iran and the rest of the world was put on the table by the Obama administration in 2012. He lobbied hard against the agreement, interjecting himself in American domestic politics in an unprecedented fashion to undermine the negotiations.

When Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Netanyahu found a kindred spirit whose intellectual curiosity would not permit any effective challenge to the narrative constructed by the Israeli prime minister. And when Trump faced resistance from his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, he simply replaced them with more compliant persons, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton respectively.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA was facilitated not by any supporting brief from the U.S. intelligence community, which held fast to the assessment that Iran was fully compliant with its obligations under the JCPOA, but rather by intel provided by Israel that featured wild claims of an operation in the heart of Tehran; hundreds of thousands of documents purported to outline a nuclear program that Iran insisted did not exist. In April 2018, Bibi unveiled the existence of what he termed Iran’s “Atomic Archive” as he detailed some of its contents, allegedly recovered during an Israeli operation.

While Netanyahu’s dramatic presentation proved to be enough to help push Trump into withdrawing from the JCPOA the following month, it failed to convince the rest of the world that Iran was operating in bad faith when it came to declaring the totality of its nuclear program. One of the main reasons for this is that the tale put forward by Bibi simply didn’t add up. Documents he presented as being derived from the newly captured archive were recognized by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—which, along with supporting governments, is responsible for implementing the JCPOA—as matching those presented to the agency more than a decade ago. That cache of documents was allegedly recovered from a laptop computer sourced to an Iranian opposition group by Israeli intelligence.

At best, there is nothing new in these materials, and all the underlying issues alleged to have been “exposed” had already been discussed and rectified by the IAEA and Iran prior to the rectification of the JCPOA. At worst, Netanyahu was lying about the Israeli intelligence operation, and simply recycling old material—which may have been manufactured by Israel to begin with back in 2004—simply to provide political cover for Donald Trump.

Netanyahu spent much of his Sept. 27 address before the General Assembly detailing an alleged “Atomic Warehouse,” supposedly uncovered by Israeli intelligence in the heart of Tehran. As was the case with the “Atomic Archive” facility, Netanyahu made grand claims about Iranian malfeasance: The site contained “15 ship containers full of nuclear-related equipment and material,” along with “15 kilograms of radioactive material” that Iran allegedly evacuated from the site to evade detection. (Netanyahu seems to have overlooked the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy, prior to the JCPOA and in anticipation of such a scenario, “evacuated” nuclear material from one of its facilities during an exercise, only to have evidence of its existence uncovered by inspectors wielding the same detection capabilities as the IAEA.)

Netanyahu alleged that Iran was maintaining both an “Atomic Archive” and an “Atomic Warehouse” so that it could reconstitute its nuclear weapons program when the “time is right,” ostensibly when the sunset clauses of the JCPOA, which limit the number of centrifuges Iran can operate, expire. As with the “Atomic Archive” story, however, outside of Trump and his inner circle of anti-Iranian acolytes, informed American officials aren’t buying the Israeli leader’s tale, noting that Netanyahu has exaggerated the scope and scale of the warehouse in question. (These officials claim that the “material” being stored there is documentary in nature, a far cry from the “equipment” claimed by Netanyahu.)

Netanyahu bemoaned the fact that the world was promised “anywhere, anytime” inspections in Iran, and yet the IAEA has failed to take any steps to investigate the revelations provided by Israel. The reality is that the JCPOA promised no such thing. “Anywhere, anytime” was an artificial construct cobbled together by opponents of the deal by denigrating the investigatory capabilities of the IAEA. Moreover, the IAEA is intimately familiar with the quality of the intelligence information provided by Israel in the past, having spent months with Iran carefully deconstructing the claims contained within. The agency is hesitant to fall victim to Israeli exaggerations and falsifications again, and rightfully so.

More importantly, the JCPOA has a detailed mechanism in place to investigate claims such as those put forth by Israel. But by precipitously withdrawing from the JCPOA, the Trump administration has removed itself from that process. This means that Israel would need to turn to the Europeans, Russians or Chinese to plead its case. And the fact that neither France nor Germany nor the United Kingdom has picked up the mantle of Israel’s claims points to the inherent weakness of its intelligence. Netanyahu may be able to play siren to Trump’s Ulysses in order to crash America’s ship onto Iranian shoals, but the rest of the world is not following suit.

The American people should not tolerate this continued intrusion into their affairs by an outsider whose previous lies, prevarications and provocations helped get the United States entangled in one war, all the while advocating for our involvement in another. Bibi Netanyahu has a problem with telling the truth, and we give power to his words and deeds by not calling him out for what he truly is—a habitual liar with the blood of thousands of our fellow citizens on his hands. Netanyahu claims he is a friend of the American people. He is, in fact, the furthest thing from it.

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Wolf at the Door: Prospects of US Military Intervention in Venezuela

NOVANEWS

Following Trump’s scandalous remarks at the UN, Venezuelan journalist Aram Aharonian assesses the likelihood of US military involvement in Venezuela.

The persistent insistence of US President Donald Trump at the General Assembly of the United Nations when he stated that “all options are on the table” to solve the crisis in Venezuela has aroused alarm in political circles in Washington and throughout Latin America regarding potential US military action or, more probably, [action carried out] using Colombian or Brazilian troops.

Alarms were turned on after [Colombian] Senator Iván Cepeda Castrowarned of the rising military tension between Colombia and Venezuela.

“The danger of war with Venezuela grows: the budget for anti-aircraft weapons, first-degree military cantonment, arrogant statements by US officials about ‘defending Colombia’ were meekly accepted by our government. We will have to mobilize against the war lunatics,” he said.

Meanwhile, very well equipped Brazilian troops are parked in Roraima, the border state with Venezuela, waiting for an order to attack. [Brazilian] presidential elections and military involvement in them delay any decision on the matter, analyst Joaquim Fernandes says. US bases in Colombia, Central America and the Caribbean, are still on a state of alert.

A question continues to gnaw analysts: what would happen the day after a hypothetical invasion? Who will rule the country? What will be the political cost that the US and its accomplices must pay? The opposition has failed, in 20 years, to present itself as an option for power, nor has it had a project which amounts to more than removing Nicolas Maduro’s government, as before they tried to do with Hugo Chavez.

Despite the permanent and terrorist media bombardment, the international front which was forged against Venezuela seems to have stalled, perhaps because its fundamental purpose ─ the overthrow of Maduro ─ has failed. Destabilization and terrorism have not weakened either military or electoral support [for Maduro]. The only option remaining for the warmongering alliance seems to be an armed intervention, which would generate a widespread repudiation across the region. Does Washington have a card up its sleeve?

The offensive against Venezuela is the number one topic. Through diplomatic channels [the US and its allies] achieved a majority in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, and five countries (Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile) joined Canada in demanding that the International Criminal Court (ICC) “investigate the possible commission of crimes against humanity in Venezuela.” [The ICC] always fails to take a look at what is happening in Mexico and Colombia, for example.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the UN named a lady who does not believe in human rights and has no knowledge of the area, as High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN. Former ChileanPresident Michelle Bachelet, who after violating human rights in her country with repression of any protest and in particular of the Mapuche people, involved in military and financial scandals and widespread corruption, began her work to add to the attack on Venezuela.

Trump’s comments emerged after the reports of meetings of senior US officials and military with Venezuelan army officers who had joined plans to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, as well as after suggestions by some regional presidents and diplomats that an invasion is being considered as an alternative.

Trump still threatens [Venezuela] with a military intervention because, unlike his other enemies such as North Korea, Cuba, Iran, or Syria, Venezuela looks weakened and vulnerable by erratic and inconsistent handling of the country. Venezuela’s former UN ambassador, Rafael Ramirez, who is now a critic of the government, says,

“The irresponsibility and inability of the government may stimulate an aggression.”

Nicolas Maduro Moros

The words of Nicolas Maduro at the UN were not as widely reported nor did they attract the same attention [as Trump’s], but he did tell how Venezuela has been harassed, assaulted, and blocked by the US government and how,

“Today the aggression is directed towards the political, economic, media and diplomatic areas.”

Many were surprised when he asked the FBI to come to Venezuela to investigate the [August terrorist drone] attack against him, forgetting the issue of sovereignty.

Dialogue and oil

As the popular saying goes, hope is the last thing you lose, and dialogue appears as a last hope, despite the fact that sectors of the opposition suggest that it is a sleazy maneuver to prevent the fall of the government. Former Vice President José Vicente Rangel says that every rejection [of dialogue] by the opposition has created a defeat for them, from the 2002 coup, the oil strike, the successive subversive near-misses, guarimbas, and economic war…

The wear and tear, as well as the discrediting of the opposition, are linked to their refusal to dialogue, since this attitude led, inevitably, to a dead-end of arrogant radicalization without regard for legality, Rangel adds. Polls confirm that internally the government has breathing space, while at the same time confirming the weakness of the opposition and the depletion of their leadership and the lack of a political and economic project.

Other analysts mention Maduro’s omission [at the UN] of the illegal operations of the transnational ExxonMobil in the territorial waters of the [disputed] Essequibo region of Guyana, and of the economic and financial embargo applied not only by the US but also by the Union European. The UN Assembly seemed to be the ideal setting for it.

Yet, Maduro has denounced the aggression, the aggressor and their reasons, one of which is because Venezuela is the country with largest certified oil reserves in the world, and “it is certifying the largest reserve of gold in the world and the fourth reserve of gas on the planet,” he says. For critics of the President, Maduro is trying to distract away from the handing over of natural resources (gold, oil and gas), and the privatization and sale by parts of the state oil company PDVSA, leaving the primary activities, which are constitutionally reserved to the state, in the hands of friendly companies.

Warmongering frustration

There is frustration in the face of the postponement of a rapid military action among warmongering US leaders, who say that it would put an end to the Bolivarian Revolution, which they have been unsuccessfully trying to do for nearly two decades.

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), continues to recitethat one must not rule out any option “to reduce the suffering of Venezuela.” Numerous officials of the new Colombian government of ultra-conservative Iván Duque coincide with this view. This time, though, in light of the interventionist spiral launched from Washington, 12 countries rapidly issued a statement rejecting the use of force.

For some analysts, the exploration of non-peaceful means better reflects the frustration felt about the prospects of a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela, faced with the reality of a dismembered political opposition which has shown itself to be incapable, ineffective and without ideas despite the enormous funding received from Washington, Bogota and Madrid.

US State Department officials have come to the conclusion that more sanctions or further diplomatic isolation for Venezuela will not mean a political transition, due to the absence of real domestic pressure on the government. The protests over the shortages of food, medicines, water and electricity have been limited to daily outbreaks, small-scale, and scattered regionally, which the opposition has failed to exploit.

In any case, the USA, Canada, the European Union, and South American countries aligned to Washington in the Lima Group have intensified diplomatic, media and economic pressure (limited credit, preventing financial transactions) on Maduro and Venezuela, but many of them are still waiting for the rebirth of gunship or military coup diplomacy backed by the United States.

The USA, Canada and European countries even froze the assets of dozens of senior military and civilian Venezuelans, while some Latin American governments have denounced the government for its “authoritarian practices” and the “humanitarian crisis,” asking that Venezuela be suspended from the OAS.

In recent days, Canada and five Latin American countries urged the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Venezuelan authorities, and the interventionist U.S. Senators Bob Menéndez and Marco Rubio presented a draft law to encourage US and regional pressure on the Venezuelan government, which failed to even create fissures within the government [in Caracas].

The oil embargo [which was rumored leading up to the UN General Assembly] didn’t make it beyond the inkwell on Trump’s desk. Oil represents 90% of the few exports from Venezuela, which is dramatically reducing its production.

So the question does not lose validity: what would happen the day after an invasion? Who will rule the country? Perhaps Luis Almagro will put himself forward as viceroy?

The internal and the military option

A Hinterlaces poll revealed that more than 64% of Venezuelans have an unfavorable opinion about the actions of rightwing leaders: 83% looked unfavorably upon Julio Borges, leader of the First Justice (PJ). Henry Ramos Allup, secretary general of Democratic Action (AD) rounded up 77% negative opinions, while Henrique Capriles Radonski is perceived negatively by 76% of those polled.

For his part, Henri Falcon, former presidential candidate and founder of the unitary platform, the Coordination Network for Change, has 73% negative opinions, Leopoldo López has 75% negative perception, and Maria Corina Machado, founder of the party Vente Venezuela, has 64% collective repudiation.

There is another fact that stands out in the poll: 62% of Venezuelans prefer President Maduro to solve the economic problems of the country, while 34% prefer an opposition government. 61% blame economic problems on agents external to the government such as the economic war, the fall of the price of oil, price speculation, and U.S. financial sanctions, while 37% attribute them to the economic policies implemented by the government.

The possible conspirators within the armed forces, meanwhile, have been detected and imprisoned, while the foreign media speak of other disgruntled soldiers who have deserted.

Foreign mainstream media outlets insist on imposing the military options on public opinion (even posting bizarre surveys), but opposition political leaders consider that this debate could feed expectations for an external saviour, which would go against reorganising efforts made by some [opposition] politicians.

Faced with this concern, Trump officials told the leaders of the [Venezuelan] opposition that, despite the comments of the president, the US has no plans to invade Venezuela.

Or does it? Of course some may push for intervention and try to make it a reality. It is not enough to have the backing of its “hawks” and their Latin American lackeys, but they may do it. We must not let our guard down.

So, entering the stage of speculation. Would Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Panama, including Colombia with their enduring internal problems and the strength of the opposition sectors and the weaknesses of their governments, remain united behind the aggression, or would they fear that the stability of their own governments would be threatened?

I do not think that the new government of Mexico would support a [military] intervention, nor the OAS despite the hysterical desperation of Almagro.

However, it is clear that the US hawks may push for intervention: we must not let our guard down.

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Clashes Between Militant Groups Ongoing in Western Aleppo ‘Video’

NOVANEWS

Idlib militants who refuse to lay down arms and continue attacks on government forces have to be arrested or eliminated, Russia’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov told the country’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti on October 6.

He stated that Russia and its partners, including the internationally recognized government in Damascus, have repeatedly declared this position. The diplomat added that Russia continues contacts with Turkey on the situation in Idlib in the framework of the agreement reached by the sides in September.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) appeared to be in the center of intra-militant tensions in western Aleppo during the last two weeks.

Initially, tensions between the sides erupted on September 26 when Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attacked the NLF in the town of Darat Izza. Following a series of clashes the sides reached the ceasefire. Nonetheless, on October 5, armed clashes erupted between the sides in Kafr Halab. On October 6, clashes were also reported in the towns Mizanaz and Kafr Nouran. According to various sources, up to 7 militants and about a dozen of civilians were killed or injured in these incidents.

Currently, the sides have once again reached a ceasefire. However, it appears that the tensions between the sides will grow further as the day of the demilitarized zone establishment, October 20, comes closer. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as well as other al-Qaeda linked groups will be the key loosing side if the agreement is employed.

On October 6, reports already appeared that the Free Idlib Army and Faylaq al-Sham, which are a part of the NFL, have already started withdrawing its heavy weapons and equipment from the agreed demilitarized zone.

On October 7, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin have agreed to meet soon to discuss the situation in Syria and further cooperation between the two states.

“We agreed to meet soon to continue the important security coordination between our armed forces,” Netanyahu stated at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

During the same meeting, the Israeli prime minister once again repeated that Israel will continue to act against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

The Israeli leadership likely hopes that the upcoming meeting between Netanyahu and Putin will likely ease the tension between the states, which erupted after the IL-20 incident on September 17. Thus, Tel Aviv will be able to avoid further consequences of its recently demonstrated “hostile” approach towards Russia.

241 ISIS members and commanders have been killed in clashes with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) since the start of the SDF operation in the area of Hajin in the province of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says. According to the SDF itself, the number of the killed ISIS members are even higher. Nonetheless, the situation in the area still remains complicated and SDF units have not been able to break the ISIS defense in Hajin so far.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Clashes Between Militant Groups Ongoing in Western Aleppo ‘Video’

Orson Welles, Broadcasts and Fake News

NOVANEWS

Orson Welles’ spectral return to the screen, ingeniously in posthumous mode, should have come as a comfort to the magicians skilled in the arts of trickery.  Beyond the grave, he seems to be exerting a continuing influence, with his film, The Other Side of the Wind making its debut after 48 torrid years at the Telluride Film Festival.  His delight for illusion and the magical manipulations of the camera would not have been out of place in the anxiety filled age mistakenly called the “post-truth” era. 

Starting momentously grand and at summit greatness in Citizen Kane, and heading low into financial difficulty and stuttering projects, his genius was as prodigious as his luck was absent.  His aptitude in mastering the brutish nature of the directing set was unquestioned – except in Hollywood.  Throughout he was plagued by the curse that money has over the genius of expression.  Power and control do not necessarily entail backing and profits – for Welles, it was the sheer sense of doing something, the need to run multiple projects that might never have seen the light of day.  His mind, and application, proved inscrutably errant. 

What Welles did master, to an extent, was the degree of fakery, creating a world of illusion that refuses to date.  The word “fake” has a certain pejorative quality, having been further stained by its users in the age of Donald J. Trump, often in connection with that other unreliable companion, “news”.  But Welles managed to give it a boost of respectable guile, a teasing sense of about how other realities might be seen. Now, to challenge such ways of seeing by claiming them to be fake would either make you a mental patient or a US president.  For Welles, it was a cinematic experiment or a broadcasting contrivance, an effort to alter the senses and entertain. 

Welles could hardly have been despondent about this age, he being the finest exponent of the values of fakery.  He would have gotten down to work, tyrannically engaged with his staff in producing a fine work on the odiously named “post-truth world” (since when was there a fully truthful world in any case, one pulsating with verity?). 

His most delightful ribbings would have now been subsumed under such tags as misinformation, crowned by the meaningless nature of fake news.  Could he have gotten away with the radio announcement made on October 30, 1938 that extra-terrestrials had, in fact, landed on earth and attacked it with single minded fury?  Any empanelled jury would have to ponder. 

The occasion is worth retelling. Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, and the Mercury Theatre group, featured, along with an updated version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  National radio supplied the thrilling medium and the delivery.  “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the air in the ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”  A mild mannered, sensible start. 

Then came the Welles’ introduction, followed by a weather report.  The announcer duly took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Cue the music, then a report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, Ill” had noted “explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.”  Re-cue the music, then an interruption that a meteor had found its way into a farmer’s field in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. 

The Martians had purportedly arrived.  Observers were on hand.  Emerging from a metallic cylinder was a creature “wriggling out of the shadow like a grey snake. Now here’s another one and another one and another one.”  There were unsettling notes of “wet leather”; the faces were “indescribable”. “The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent.”  Then the shooting commenced: “heat-ray” weapons trained on the humans at the site.  Some 7,000 National Guardsmen were vaporised. The US military were deployed.  Poisonous gas followed in retaliation. 

The hoax had seemingly had its dastardly effect, though the extent of it remains disputed.  Tim Crook, in his discussion on the psychological potency of radio, suggested that the newspapers had embellished the account, largely on account of the threat posed to their estate by the emergence of radio.  “It does not appear that anyone died as a result, but listeners were treated for shock, hysteria and heart attacks.” Welles came to a similar conclusion: paper headlines reporting lawsuits running into $12 million were a consequence of envy occasioned by threat posed by radio advertising.   

One myth speaks of thousands of New Yorkers speeding from their homes in deluded panic, their minds impregnated by the prospective deeds of extra-terrestrial terror.  Ben Gross of the New York Daily News recalled in his memoir a scene of New York’s streets: there was a state of near total desertion that October in 1938.   

The Federal Communications Commission, trapped between the remit of enforcing regulations ensuring proper use of the airways for such things as “promoting safety of life and property” yet also fostering “artistic, informational and cultural needs” conducted an investigation into the affair. It found the laws of the United States unbroken, regulations intact. This was a fine thing, given the famous assertion by US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Schenck v United States (1919) that, “The most stringent protection of free speech should not protect a man in falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theatre and causing panic.” 

The wily Welles, ever the tease, escaped ruination and duly went on to make Citizen Kane.  “We can only suppose,” he reflectedon being informed that the FCC would investigate the episode, “that the special nature of radio, which is often heard in fragments, or in parts disconnected from the whole, had led to this misunderstanding.”  And in this, we have the precursor to mass information and disconnection; between selected parts and the baffling whole; the Internet and social media dissemination; Trump tweeting at midnight and digital trolls roaming around the clock; the misinformation merchants and the mercenaries of trickery. 

At the release of The Other Side of the Wind, Peter Bogdanovich struck a melancholic note on the Palm Theatre stage. “It’s sad because Orson’s not here to see it.”  But then came a rueful qualifier.  “Or maybe he is.”

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Iran’s World Court Win Exposes U.S. as Rogue State ‘Video’

NOVANEWS
Passive Revolution

After the International Court of Justice ruled in Iran’s favor on U.S. sanctions, the Trump administration pulled out of a 1955 treaty and announced a review of its relationship to the court.

Trita Parsi, author and founder of the National Iranian American Council, says that when it comes to Iran, the U.S. is acting like a rogue state.

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Featured image is from Anadolu Agency/Fatemeh Bahrami.

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The Coming Military Vision of State Censorship

NOVANEWS
 

At TruePublica, we have continually warned that in Britain the government is becoming ever more authoritarian with its underhand attack on civil liberty and human rights. We have warned about the illegality of mass surveillance and state intrusion into the privacy of every citizen. We have warned about sweeping new police powers, the use of secret courts and new laws designed to protect the state and corporations from the scrutiny and criticisms of the people and we have warned that democracy in Britain is being eroded in favour of a political elite whose power they want entrenched. This is demonstrated no better than recent events in a meeting held in Austalia of new state censorship rules.

A key meeting of cabinet members from the US-led Five Eyes (UK,US, Aus, Can, NZ) global spying network was held in Australia in late August, which went totally unreported by the mainstream media, mainly because Britain’s representative used the cloak of Brexit to disguise it, ironically via social media.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton hosted the summit. Leading the other delegations were US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, along with Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little.

On the agenda, these ‘Five-Eyes’ officials castigated the major tech transnationals for not meeting with them.  An accompanying “Joint Statement on Countering the Illicit Use of Online Spaces” demanded that these internet corporations toe the line and clamp down on social media and algorithms producing results, not in the state interest.

Threats were issued in their absence. Unless the tech companies cooperate, the five governments will now work together to force companies to allow law enforcement agencies to access private user data. “We may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions.”

We already know that these governments are collaborating with social media and search engine companies to implement massive restrictions on internet access. But this is where the state and these particular corporations start to clash.

An attack on encryption by the state is coming. In Britain, open threats have already been issued by the government. At the meeting, a statement on combatting “ubiquitous encryption” declared the necessity to crack open “end-to-end encryption” tools allegedly used for “terrorist and criminal activities.” The state has become so paranoid it no longer has the appetite to argue for the importance of encryption for businesses, banking, online retail activities, cyber-security and the like.

The intended move of the Five-Eyes is to give intelligence and police forces new sweeping powers to compel any company, via a “Technical Capability Notice” to provide the information required by state agencies. In other words – they want backdoor capabilities irrespective of the consequences. In doing so, the reality is that encryption then becomes useless.

These powers will be far-reaching, potentially affecting any online activity and goes further than encryption. According to government ministers, they will apply to encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram – as well as “any entity operating a website.” Draconian measures of state censorship only ever really amount to one thing – authoritarian rule. This trajectory should alarm us all. It is certainly alarming privacy and human rights advocates.

Also unreported by the MSM was a meeting with UK Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, who delivered this speech to the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington DC outlining the strength of the UK and US relationship. In part, he stated that:

As we seek to adapt and harness change and work together to seize the opportunities which change brings, we need that type of dynamic, creative thinking. Because I know many people in this city are nervous about the rapidly changing politics, the rise of new powers and the moving tectonic plates of global politics. My job, as Defence Secretary, is to make sure that we can develop, and if necessary deploy hard power which underpins the soft power of our global influence. But we also agree with the United States’ National Defense Strategy that: “By working together with allies and partners we amass the greatest possible strength for the long-term advancement of our interests.”

Below is another article that outlines the coming state architecture of censorship. Make no mistake, the British contingent attended.

Andre Damon wsws.org: In March, the United States Special Operations Command, the section of the Defense Department supervising the US Special Forces, held a conference on the theme of “Sovereignty in the Information Age.” The conference brought together Special Forces officers with domestic police forces, including officials from the New York Police Department, and representatives from technology companies such as Microsoft.

This meeting of top military, police and corporate representatives went unreported and unpublicized at the time. However, the Atlantic Council recently published a 21-page document summarizing the orientation of the proceedings. It is authored by John T. Watts, a former Australian Army officer and consultant to the US Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.

The Atlantic Council, a think tank with close ties to the highest levels of the state, has been a key partner in the social media companies’ censorship of left-wing views. Most notably, Facebook acted on a tip from the Atlantic Council when it shut down the official event page for an anti-fascist demonstration in Washington on the anniversary of last year’s neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville.

Confident that none of the thousands of journalists in Washington will question, or even report, what he writes, Watts lays out, from the standpoint of the repressive apparatus of the state and the financial oligarchy it defends, why censorship is necessary.

The central theme of the report is “sovereignty,” or the state’s ability to impose its will upon the population. This “sovereignty,” Watts writes, faces “greater challenges now than it ever has in the past,” due to the confluence between growing political opposition to the state and the internet’s ability to quickly spread political dissent.

Watts cites the precedent of the invention of the printing press, which helped overthrow the feudal world order. In the Atlantic Council’s estimation, however, this was an overwhelmingly negative development, ushering in “decades, and arguably centuries, of conflict and disruption” and undermining the “sovereignty” of absolutist states. The “invention of the internet is similarly creating conflict and disruption,” Watts writes.

“Trust in Western society,” he warns, “is experiencing a crisis. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer has tracked this erosion, showing a 30 percent drop in trust in government over the last year in the United States.”

Watts notes that this collapse in support for the government cannot be explained merely by the rise of social media. This process began in the early 2000s, “at the dawn of the social media age but before it had become mainstream.” Left out are the major reasons for the collapse of popular support for government institutions: the stolen election of 2000, the Bush administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction, unending war and the impact of the 2008 financial crisis.

However, while it is “hard to argue that the current loss of trust results solely from the emergence of social media,” Watts writes, there “can be little doubt that it acted as a critical amplifier of broader trends.”

He continues: “Technology has democratized the ability for sub-state groups and individuals to broadcast a narrative with limited resources and virtually unlimited scope.” By contrast, “In the past, the general public had limited sources of information, which were managed by professional gatekeepers.”

In other words, the rise of uncensored social media allowed small groups with ideas that correspond to those of the broader population to challenge the political narrative of vested interests on an equal footing, without the “professional gatekeepers” of the mainstream print and broadcast media, which publicizes only a pro-government narrative.

When “radical and extremist views” and “incorrect ideas” are “broadcast over social media, they can even influence the views of people who would not otherwise be sympathetic to that perspective,” Watts warns. “When forwarded by a close friend or relation, false information carries additional legitimacy; once accepted by an individual, this false information can be difficult to correct.”

People must be isolated, in other words, from the “incorrect” ideas of their friends and family, because such ideas are “difficult to correct” by the state once disseminated.

But how is this to be done? The growth of oppositional sentiment cannot be combatted with “facts” or the “truth,” because “facts themselves are not sufficient to combat disinformation.” The “truth” is “too complex, less interesting, and less meaningful to individuals.”

Nor can the growth of political opposition, for the time being, simply be solved by “eliminating” (i.e., killing or jailing) political dissidents, because this only lends legitimacy to the ideas of the victims. “Eliminating those individuals and organizations will not be sufficient to combat the narrative and may in fact help amplify it.” He adds, “This is also the case for censorship as those behind the narrative can use the attempt to repress the message as proof of its truth, importance, or authenticity.”

Enter the social media companies. The best mechanism for suppressing oppositional viewpoints and promoting pro-government narratives is the private sector, in particular, “technology giants, including Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter,” which can “determine what people see and do not see.”

Watts adds, “Fortunately, shifts in the policies of social media platforms such as Facebook have had a significant impact on the type and quality of the content that is broadcast.”

The private sector, therefore, must do the dirty work of the government, because government propaganda is viewed with suspicion by the population.

“Business and the private sector may not naturally understand the role they play in combating disinformation, but theirs is one of the most important…. In the West at least, they have been thrust into a central role due to the general public’s increased trust in them as institutions.”

But this is only the beginning. Online newspapers should “consider disabling commentary systems—the function of allowing the general public to leave comments beneath a particular media item,” while social media companies should “use a grading system akin to that used to rate the cleanliness of restaurants” to rate their users’ political statements.

Strong-arm tactics still have a role, of course. Citing the example of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, Watts declares that “governments need to create consequences” for spreading “disinformation” similar to those meted out for “state espionage” – which can carry the death penalty.

What Watts outlines in his document is a vision of a totalitarian social order, where the government, the media, and technology companies are united in suppressing oppositional viewpoints.

The most striking element of the document, however, is that it is not describing the future, but contemporary reality. Everything is in the present tense. The machinery of mass censorship has already been built.

The Atlantic Council report, based on high-level discussions within the military and state, is a confirmation of everything the World Socialist Web Site has said about the purpose of changes in the algorithms of internet and social media companies over the past year-and-a-half.

On August 25, 2017, the WSWS published an open letter to Google alleging that the company is “manipulating its Internet searches to restrict public awareness of and access to socialist, anti-war and left-wing websites.” It added, “Censorship on this scale is political blacklisting.”

Over the subsequent year, key details of the open letter have been indisputably confirmed. At congressional hearings and in other public statements, leading US technology companies have explained that they reduced the propagation of political views and statements targeted by US intelligence agencies, and did so in secret because they feared a public outcry.

At the same time, they have explained the technical means by which they promoted pro-government, pro-war news outlets, such as the New York Timesand Washington Post.

But the Atlantic Council document presents the most clear, direct and unvarnished explanation of the regime of state censorship.

The struggle against censorship is the spearhead of the defense of all democratic rights.

 

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2018 Brazil Elections: Coup against Democracy

NOVANEWS

MST Open Letter on Brazil Election

By MST – Landless Workers Movement of Brazil

This election is very special because it can mean the victory or defeat of the coup against democracy started in 2014, which continued with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, extended into the illegitimate government of Michel Temer. For us, the coup is not just the moment of impeachment.

Brazil

Brazil: Neoliberalism with a “Human Face”

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Whatever the outcome of the October presidential elections, Neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus will in all likelihood prevail.  In this regard, it is important to reflect on how Brazil’s PT government was coopted from the very outset in 2003.

Brazil’s Non-Elections: A Crisis of Trust, a Failure of Democracy

By Asad Ismi

Brazil has been embroiled in socioeconomic crisis since the collapse of commodity prices in 2014 pushed the country into a deep recession. The dismissal of the last government in 2016 added political and judicial scandal to the mix when the PT administration of Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégé, was impeached in a parliamentary coup on trumped-up charges of financial illegality (not corruption).

Authoritarian Brazil Redux?

By Massimiliano Mollona

On Sunday 7th of October, the Brazilian people will go to the polls to elect their next president. There has never been such a dramatic election since January 15th 1985 when Brazil returned, the vote to the polls after twenty years of dictatorship (1964-1985) – although voting took place still within the electoral college system put in place during the dictatorship.

The CIA Finger in Brasil’s Elections?

By Marcelo Zero

The growth of Bolsonarian fascism in the final stretch of the election campaign, turbo charged by an avalanche of fake news disseminated on the internet, is not surprising. It is an old tactic developed by American and British intelligence agencies, with the goal of manipulating public opinion and influencing political processes and elections. It was used in the Ukraine, in the Arab Spring and in Brazil during 2013.

Rigged Brazilian Tribunal Bans Lula’s Legitimate Right to Run for President

By Stephen Lendman

In August, it ruled for former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s right to run for reelection in October – even though he’s imprisoned on trumped up corruption charges he and his legal team strongly deny.

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