Archive | September 3rd, 2019

Boris Johnson Threatens to Suspend Parliament, Reminiscent of Dissolution of the Reichstag in Nazi Germany?

Last night’s BBC2 TV gave us a salutary lesson on the danger to democratic government from the far-Right

By Hans Stehling

Global Research

In 1933 Germany, democracy was threatened and finally destroyed by the Nazi Party who eliminated those who opposed their Fascist ideology of mass murder and genocide.  Hitler and his cohort of Storm Troopers persuaded the German Head of State, General Paul Von HindenburgPresident of the Reich (Reichspräsident), to dissolve the Reichstag and to rule directly by Presidential decree.  Soon after, he was persuaded to appoint Hitler as his Chancellor. The die for the Second World War had been cast.

The National Socialists used every political machination, including extreme violence where necessary, to achieve their objectives in demolishing the Weimar Republic. They succeeded, and the infamous Third Reich was born.  Just five years later, on November 1938, the Holocaust was instituted with the Kristallnacht pogrom and the destruction of synagogues throughout Germany.  It would take another seven years and more than 50 million lives, including those of six million Jews, before Nazism would finally be defeated, worldwide.

That program of civil unrest eerily reflected certain facets of the current Right-wing, extremist, political scene in various European capitals today – which is a sobering thought, indeed.

Now, seventy years later, we have once again a dangerous political instability in both Britain and parts of Europe where the far Right is growing increasingly in power and influence and the threat of violence against minorities, with all that that entails. Furthermore, the flames are being fanned by a Right-wing,  rabble-rousing, American president who is an integral factor in Europe’s future of political violence and dissent.  That is the second sobering thought.

We are now living in very dangerous times in which the stakes are extremely high and democracy as we know it is at the greatest risk to its survival since the end of World War Two. The bolts that hold the wheels of democratic government are loosening, and loosening fast, throughout much of Europe.

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Ottawa Goes to Havana to Talk Venezuela. Returns Empty-handed

By Nino Pagliccia

Global Research

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland has just concluded a working visit to Cuba on August 28 intended to discuss the “crisis in Venezuela” with her Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez. A reading of the news release from the Ministry indicates that there were no tangible results aside from a statement that the two foreign ministers had “different perspectives on the crisis in Venezuela”, having agreed to disagree, and that “senior officials would stay in contact and continue to exchange views”.

If Ottawa’s intention was to break the close Cuba-Venezuela relationship, that is as close to a diplomatic statement of failure as it gets. Cuba on the other hand has been much more explicit about the “different perspectives” in its official Cuban Foreign Ministry website stating,

the Cuban minister reiterated the firm and unchanging solidarity of Cuba with the Constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the civic-military union of its people.” It also added, “he proposed to Canada to contribute to [the] elimination” of U.S. unilateral coercive measures that hurt the Venezuelan people.

This impasse raises more questions than it answers.

This has been the third visit to Havana by Chrystia Freeland this year. This last visit was preceded by a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Ottawa last August 22. Freeland received Pompeo with lots of praises for him and the wars that Canada has fought alongside the U.S. She also announced the agenda for the meeting, which included the “crisis in Venezuela”.

Few days later Ottawa officially announced that Freeland would travel to Havana to meet with her counterpart, and they would “continue their ongoing discussions on the crisis in Venezuela and the potential for Cuba to play a positive role toward a peaceful resolution.Trudeau Government Squeezes Cuba

Was there any formal request for Cuba’s role? What would that role be? Maybe the role required a predetermined outcome? One that Cuba could not accept?

There is no doubt that Cuba is considered an important actor vis-à-vis Venezuela. The U.S. administration perceives Cuba as key to sustaining the Government of Nicolas Maduro. It is not clear how – maybe politically – given that both countries are under severe U.S. economic and financial blockades.

One additional item has been on the agenda: “the United States’ decision to end the suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.” The U.S. implemented Title III last May 2. Canada immediately responded that Canadians doing business in Cuba are protected under Canadian law against any extraterritorial U.S. legislation. Therefore, this seems to be an issue that does not concern Canada.

What was the point, then, of “discussing” a U.S. law affecting Cuba?

Is it possible that Freeland was bringing the metaphorical carrot (or stick) on behalf of Pompeo to persuade Cuba to break ranks with Venezuela?

We do not know, but we do know that Ottawa is determined to produce a regime change in Venezuela along side Washington in favor of self-appointed “interim” president Juan Guaido. We also know that Freeland is not one that gives up easily.

Do Ottawa or Washington really believe that Havana will break with Caracas in order to benefit from a relief on the U.S. blockade? Unlikely. Cuba has a 60-year-old track record of unbroken resistance.

Given the long-standing diplomatic relationship between Canada and Cuba, Ottawa may have limited capability to put any pressure on Havana without jeopardizing the relationship. But it is still possible to send signals of disapproval. A series of events could be construed as such.

Last January the Canadian government cut back half of its Havana embassy staff claiming health concerns resulting from unproven “sonic attacks”. Later on May 8, following the first visit to Cuba by Freeland in March, Ottawa announced major reduction of consular services in Havana that severely affected Cubans applying for those services. On May 16 Freeland traveled to Cuba again. Then in June, Cuban Bruno Rodriguez visited Ottawa and in late July some consular services are re-established in Havana.

Are the links between these events coincidental, or do they reflect some message in a diplomatic language?

The intensity of the exchanges between Canada and Cuba this year has been quite high. This intensity is only consistent with a high degree of negotiations on important issues, Venezuela being the obvious one. But given the balance of forces between Canada and Cuba we can only assume that Cuba is being pressured to make some significant concession. There is no expectation that Chrystia Freeland will grasp the parallel that Cuba-Venezuela relationship is just as important to the two countries as her professed Canada-U.S. relationship.

At first reading, Chrystia Freeland trip to Havana to “talk” Venezuela accomplished nothing of relevance if the intention was to pull Cuba away from Venezuela. How will the Canadian government react to this diplomatic failure?

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Did Trump Tacitly Threaten to Use Biological Weapons to Exterminate 10 Million?

By Terje Maloy

Global Research

“We could win that war so fast if I wanted to kill 10 million people … which I don’t. I’m not looking to kill a big portion of that country [Afghanistan],”

“I have plans on Afghanistan that, if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone,” 

“It would be over in — literally, in 10 days. And I don’t want to do — I don’t want to go that route.” (ABC July 24.2019) (emphasis added)

“As I’ve said, and I’ll say it any number of times – and this is not using nuclear – we could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it, but I’m not looking to kill 10 million people,” (quoted by Press TV, Aug 21.2019) (emphasis added)

***

Should these cynical statements be taken seriously?

Since president Trump now has come out and openly admitted that plans for a genocide are contemplated, it is  reasonable to look at what practical means the US military machine has for implementing this criminal undertaking, which is tantamount to genocide.

Ten million is a lot of people to kill without using nuclear weapons. Even a decade of war in Indochina, with massive aerial bombing, only managed to kill an estimated 4 million people, so an air campaign in Afghanistan would be insufficient to achieve something on this scale. Other governments who tried similar projects, found out that it takes time and effort; using death squads, murder on such a scale would take several years; use of chemical means would require an impractical concentration of the targeted populations. Starvation is a tried and tested method, but would obviously require more than 10 days.

Basically, it could not be done quickly with conventional means, and since Trump claimed there are no nuclear weapons involved, it leaves the US military with few options. Disregarding futuristic weapons programs, the only known things that can achieve something similar are – biological weapons.

In 2010 the US Air Force published a counterproliferation paper,”Biotechnology: Genetically Engineered Pathogens“, where it discussed several biological weapons threats, carefully framing the problem as a defense against these. The traditional way of dispersal, perfected since the early trials in the Korean war, is mentioned: “using a single bomber and with the right weather conditions on an unprotected population, a 10 ton biological agent dispersed in the environment could affect an area equal to 100,000 km2″, (p6) (the size of Indiana)Collecting Russian DNA? Confronting the Threat of Ethnic-Specific Bioweapons

But there is obviously a flaw to releasing a ‘normal’ super-virus able to kill 10 million people in a short period of time – namely how would they stop it from spreading to the rest of the world?

Even if they could hermetically seal Afghanistan, there are international aid workers, mercenaries, local collaborators and others there that the US would not want harmed. The Air Force paper tells us:

In 1997, a study was conducted to identify future threats and uses of advanced biological warfare agents. The JASON group, composed of academic scientists, served as technical advisers to the U. S. government. Their study generated six broad classes of genetically engineered pathogens that could pose serious threats to society. These include but are not limited to binary biological weapons, designer genes, gene therapy as a weapon, stealth viruses, host-swapping diseases, and designer diseases.

So we get possibilities like:

Stealth Viruses: The basic concept of this potential bioweapon is to “produce a tightly regulated, cryptic viral infection that can enter and spread in human cells using vectors” (similar to the gene therapy) and then stay dormant for a period of time until triggered by an internal or external signal. The signal then could stimulate the virus to cause severe damage to the system. Stealth viruses could also be tailored to secretly infect a targeted population for an extended period using the threat of activation to blackmail the target [p15] (emphasis added)

The Air Force paper discusses the possibility of a «disease that could wipe out the whole population or a certain ethnic group.» The paper states that unlike nuclear weapons, “a biological warfare program has no unambiguous signatures to differentiate its legitimacy for conducting biotechnology research vis-à-vis research for offensive military biological weapons.”

Given that the United States is going for bust in its quest for Full Spectrum Dominance, there is a high likelihood that if such weapons can be produced, the US will have them – and if we interpret president Trump this way, they already have been deployed.

And would someone ever stoop so low as to use humanitarian programs as a cover for warfare activities? It is worth recalling sham hepatitis B vaccine program used by the CIA to collect DNA in the neighborhood where bin Laden was hiding, creating massive mistrust in the local population against all vaccine programs.

One thing I found particularly shocking when researching this article, was the substantial support Trump’s genocidal words found in the reader comments in corporate Western media. Perhaps one can’t expect anything else when Afghans consistently have been depicted in popular culture as murderous, frothing fanatics, from a “shithole country”, all deserving to die for rather tenuous links to a crime (the events Sept 11. 2001) that happened before most Afghans were born

Being so demonized, the Afghan population would be especially easy testing ground for biological warfare. Foreign armies and intelligence services have had free hand to prepare anything they might want for 18 years now.

That biological research targeting specific ethnic groups is an area of research that is ongoing and not limited to only some parts of the world, was highlighted again in 2017, when the US Air Force got exposed seeking to obtain genetic and tissue samples that are “collected from Russia and must be Caucasian” and would “not consider tissue samples from Ukraine.”

The head of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, warned in 2015 of “the production of military oriented biological weapons and the very large funding allocated to this,“ where he especiallymentioned biolabs in former Soviet republics. “This is tens of billions of dollars. Additionally, the number of laboratories under US jurisdiction or control has increased 20 times.” (emphasis added)

Trump’s threats, possibly meant as a blunt bargaining tool in peace talks with the Taliban, may have revealed more than he intended. If the international community ever should be strong enough to impose a Nuremberg-like trial, this is prime evidence.

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‘Israel’ Threatens to Use Nuclear Weapons to ‘Wipe Out’ Its Enemies

By Middle East Monitor

Standing next to a secretive Israeli atomic reactor earlier in the week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to “wipe out” his enemies. In a speech that many will see as the Jewish state breaking its long silence over the possession of nuclear weapons, the Likud leader warned that it has the means to destroy its enemies.

“Those who threaten to wipe us out put themselves in a similar danger, and in any event will not achieve their goal,” he said on Wednesday during a ceremony to rename the complex, near the desert town of Dimona.

The site has long been suspected to be the location where Israel has been developing nuclear weapons.

Iran hit back by describing Netanyahu as a “warmonger”.  The threat “atomic annihilation” against the Islamic Republic was denounced as “beyond shameless in the gall”.

“Iran, a country without nuclear weapons, is threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his official Twitter account.

Javad Zarif@JZarif

Iran, a country without nuclear weapons, is threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory. Beyond shameless in the gall.

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Zarif also commented on Israel’s nuclear programme saying:

“As the world marks Int’l Day against Nuclear Tests, let’s remember that only nuclear bombs in our region belong to Israel and the US; the former a habitual aggressor & the latter the sole user of nukes. Let’s also remember that Iran has called for Nuclear Weapon Free Zone since 1974.”

Israel has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons, instead maintaining a policy of “strategic ambiguity”. Foreign reports have put the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in the dozens to hundreds of weapons.

Earlier this month a science journal published by Princeton University’s Science and Global Security journal claimed that Israel conducted illegal nuclear test in contravention of international law.

Netanyahu’s remarks came as Israel lobbies world powers to follow the US in exiting a 2015 international deal with Iran that capped the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities.

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The Real Victims of France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Revolution

By Robert Chalmers

Global Research

Classified ‘sublethal’, the rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades used by French police have nevertheless maimed, blinded and killed almost as many in the last six months as in the 20 years before the ‘yellow jacket’ protests began taking to the streets of La République.

To investigate how and why our cousins across the water have stood firm in the face of authorised force that would shock and outrage anywhere else in Europe, GQ’s Robert Chalmers joined les gilets jaunes

***

“Most of us who’ve lost an eye were hit near the cheekbone or temple,” says Jérôme Rodrigues, “at which point, that section of your skull shatters. Your cranium is then reconstructed using screws and titanium plates. I was fortunate in that I had no skeletal injury. The officer responsible aimed directly at my eyeball, which burst.” He pauses. “Coffee?”

We’re talking in the kitchen of his studio flat in a quiet village 25 miles north of Paris. Rodrigues, 40, the most engaging and articulate of the prominent gilets jaunes – he doesn’t appreciate being called a “leader” – hands me a grey object roughly as large as a roll-on deodorant: a 40mm calibre projectile from a weapon known as an LBD 40, popularly referred to as a Flash-Ball. Its rigid outer casing, weight (60g) and speed of trajectory (360kph) makes it absurdly euphemistic to refer to it as a “rubber bullet”.

Rodrigues was filming on his mobile phone when he was blinded by an LBD in the Place de la Bastille on 26 January, during the eleventh “Acte”, as the gilets jaunes call their Saturday demonstrations. Acte I took place on 17 November 2018. The first thing you hear on Rodrigues’ recording is the launching of a stun grenade – the widely feared GLI-F4, which is packed with TNT and has blown off the limbs of several protestors. A second later comes the sound of the LBD discharging, a noise similar to the popping of a Champagne cork. After several weeks of accompanying the gilets jaunes both sounds are familiar to me. It’s come to the point these days that when I hear the word “Paris”, the sensual associations the French capital is supposed to evoke – the scent of Guerlain, Gitanes and the sound of the street accordion – have long since been supplanted by the astringent taste of teargas, fumes from burning car tyres and the scream of police sirens.

“As you can hear,” says Rodrigues, replaying the footage, “just before I am hit I’m telling my friends to keep moving, so they’re not sitting ducks.”

When Rodrigues falls to the ground, his mobile hits the pavement but continues to record. People call for the street medics – the volunteers, mainly off-duty nurses, who tend to the wounded gilets jaunes. A woman screams.

“They’ve taken his eye out,” somebody shouts. “His eyeball has gone.”

Some who are unfamiliar with the robust methods of the Compagnies Républicaines De Securité (CRS), the French riot police, might accuse Rodrigues of paranoia when he talks about being cynically targeted.

“They shot directly at my eye,” says Rodrigues, who, before he was mutilé (a word formerly associated with soldiers “mutilated” on the battlefield, it’s one you hear a lot when conversation turns to the gilets jaunes) had been working as a plumber. Even before he was shot, he had been interviewed regularly on television and with his then full beard, now trimmed, was already a unmistakable figure.

“One shot,” he says, “one victim. At first the authorities denied they had even fired an LBD. Every discharge has to be logged within an hour.”

To read the complete article on GQ click here

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IMF to ‘stand with Argentina’ during economic crisis

Argentine President Mauricio Macri expects inflation to slightly exceed 3 percent in August. (File Photo: Reuters)Reem Abdellatif, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 29 August 2019Text size AAA

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday it will support Argentina during its economic crisis after the recession-hit country asked for help with restructuring its debt.

“Staff will remain in close contact with the authorities in the period ahead and the Fund will continue to stand with Argentina during these challenging times,” IMF Chief Spokesperson Gerry Rice said in a statement.

An IMF staff team returned to Washington on Wednesday after talks with Argentina’s Minister of the Treasury Hernan Lacunza and Central Bank President Guido Sandleris and their teams in the capital Buenos Aires.

The Fund also met with leftist presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez, who beat President Mauricio Macri three weeks ago in party primaries. The country’s economy has since witnessed increased instablity.

Macri has pledged to improve conditions for businesses and investors. His administration in recent weeks has faced protests, including from union leaders, over worsening economic conditions.

Gerry Rice@IMFSpokesperson

My statement on Argentina

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Latin America’s third-largest economy asked the IMF on Wednesday to help restructure its debt payments on a $56 billion bail-out loan agreed in 2018 as it aims to calm market volatility, Lacunza said on Wednesday. Debt repayments are scheduled to start in 2021.

“Fund staff is in the process of analyzing them and assessing their impact,” Rice said, referring to the debt operation announced by Lacunza.

“Staff understands that the authorities have taken these important steps to address liquidity needs and safeguard reserves,” he added.

With annual inflation running at 54.4 percent in July 2019, Argentina is currently among the top 10 countries with highest inflation rates in the world.

Consumer prices, which rose 2.2 percent in July, are expected to rise to slightly over 3 percent, Macri was quoted as saying by Reuters earlier this week.

“We were going to be at about 1.8 percent inflation. It’s now going to be 3-something in August,” Macri said.

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A Pro-Democracy Movement Against Boris Johnson Has Been Born—Are You With Us?

Throughout the land people are sharing stories of why democracy is important to them. Together we can bring down Johnson and end this farce.

by: Eloise Todd

Boris Johnson thinks he can trample over the little people in the country like he’s falling out of an Oxford Union bar trussed up in full Bullingdon gear, giddy with the power he has always expected to wield. (Photo: BackBoris2012/cc/flickr)

There are moments in politics when the national mood fundamentally shifts. One of those moments was yesterday – and it’s just the beginning.

On the morning of 28 August Boris Johnson sent Jacob Rees-Mogg to Balmoral to tell the Queen to shut down parliament.

And the people made their feelings clear – they took to the streets, all around the country. The Defend Democracy protests were organised hours later by a broad group of campaigners that work with Another Europe is Possible.

The movement is growing, with a crowdfunder urging activists to give what they can to help fund action in the coming weeks. The campaign aims to reverse the prorogation of parliament, to stopping Johnson driving our country off a cliff economically and politically, and to making sure the country has the time and space to deliberate and consider its political options.

Everyone wants an end to this national crisis no matter how they voted in 2016, but the current leadership of the country cannot be trusted to put the people first, nor respect the sovereignty of parliament or the standards of British democracy.

Everyone wants an end to this national crisis no matter how they voted in 2016, but the current leadership of the country cannot be trusted to put the people first, nor respect the sovereignty of parliament or the standards of British democracy. This new emergency demands a different approach.

There were three reasons last night was different. First, the majority of speakers who said they were “just” citizens, and the quality of their spontaneous speeches were among the best I have ever heard at rallies. The MC Laura Parker set the tone for the night by putting the main focus on getting people in the crowd to speak out, and putting the spotlight on ordinary citizens whose stories were anything but.

There was Lana from Chechnya, a woman whose family died in the Holocaust, a guy on his way home from work who had “never been to anything like this” before, and a Leave voter queueing up for his say.

Another speaker, Jacob, opened with: “You don’t know that my middle name is William. I never met my Great Uncle Bill. His Lancaster bomber was taken down and they never found his body. There is a gap in our family tree. And I am sure in many of yours. I am here to defend the democracy he gave his life for.”

Stories were told in less than two minutes that conveyed more heart and soul than the thousands of prepared speeches from Boris Johnson and his cronies.

Second, it was about all political parties and none at the same time, and went way beyond Brexit. People from across the political spectrum are united in their outrage at the blatant contempt Johnson has shown for the mother of parliaments and the British history he claims to be so inspired by. Johnson is using his power to stifle debate, and leave parliament with the same kind of non-choice Theresa May put before MPs three times.

Johnson is banking on MPs either being bullied into accepting whatever deal he fancies in order to avoid no deal, or Europe caving in because of the lack of parliamentary protest, thanks to his convenient shut-down.

He is also counting on the people flocking to him in an election, after they are fooled by his lies on the NHS, the money he will elicit from his magic tree and the impossible trade deals he will concoct. Our citizens are not daft, and he is unwise to underestimate them so deeply.

Thirdly, this matters on a whole new level. There are many who denounce marches and demos as pointless expressions of virtue signalling. But when demos are organised with four hours’ notice, attract thousands, including many who come as first-timers to public protest, we know the stakes have risen even higher.

There is an energy to be harnessed and a movement to be built. Whatever our views on Brexit, no one voted to provide cover for crushing British democracy. But now we see that’s exactly what Johnson, Rees-Mogg and friends have planned: an Eton mess on a national scale with deadly consequences and a terrifying political agenda.

Parliament was not consulted. Most members of the prime minister’s cabinet were not consulted. Boris Johnson thinks he can trample over the little people in the country like he’s falling out of an Oxford Union bar trussed up in full Bullingdon gear, giddy with the power he has always expected to wield.

With the help of endless cash from corporate and vested interests, Boris Johnson has put together a team of extremists to hold British democracy to ransom and seize power for their own benefit. But we have something money can’t buy—people power.

It’s time to show him that he has underestimated the citizens of the UK and that our democracy, our values and our standards are not for sale. We will not be bullied and threatened into submission, we will not see our rights snatched away by louts in pinstripes. We will stand up and we will fight. Take a stand, sign up, give what you can. The stakes have never been higher.

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The Puerto Rico Crisis: A Reflection of a Flawed US Democracy

The recent resignation of Governor Rosselló should be understood within the larger framework of a flawed US democratic state that continues its economic stranglehold over Puerto Rico.

by: Carlos Figueroa

San Juan, Puerto Rico/USA in July 2019 (Photo: © Osvaldo Olmos / Shutterstock)

On August 2, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló of the New Progressive Party (NPP) — nominally affiliated with the Democrats, although once linked to the Republicans under Governor Luis Ferré Aguayo — finally resigned. The decision came after weeks of mass protests over the island’s fiscal instability, alleged political corruption and most recent scandalous chats on the Telegram messaging app.

His resignation will go down as one of the most important in Puerto Rico’s political history because it signified a victory for the island’s varied and creative activist community. Even some Puerto Rican celebrities, including singer-songwriter Ricky Martin and actor Benicio Del Toro, joined the mass protests against Rosselló and his administration.

Yet Puerto Rico’s problems are closely aligned to its colonial relationship with a supposed US democratic state. In 1950-52, the US established the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico/Free Associated State of Puerto Rico. Since this political-constitutional arrangement, many US citizens in Puerto Rico expected to fare much better than its Caribbean neighbors that would later experience their own postcolonial and political-economic transitions. These expectations for a thriving social, political and economic life were based on Puerto Rico’s relative autonomy under an expansive US federalconstitutional system or what others may call American imperialism that dates back to 1898.

Puerto Rico was supposed to thrive under the protection of the US Constitution and its underlying liberal democratic ethos. However, the reality has been that Puerto Rico’s autonomy is more than ever before inextricably captured by the colonial tentacles of a US democratic system recently deemed dysfunctional or flawed.

In other words, Puerto Rico’s social and political problems are rooted in the territorial government’s dependency on the economic policies of the US federal government. These economic ties between the US and Puerto Rico are reflected in the more recent corrupt politics on the island and the befallen Governor Rosselló, as well as the subsequent politics of succession to power that followed his resignation.

Dependent Puerto Rico Under a Flawed US Democracy

Most people forget, or perhaps do not know, that Puerto Rico is not an independent country but rather an unincorporated territory under the plenary power of the US Congress. This fact alone should place doubts on the minds of those who maintain the position that the US is a democratic state. Nevertheless, all the major news outlets, some online sites, and even elected officials and well-intentioned political and social activists often treat Puerto Rico as a sovereign entity that is solely to blame for its social, political and economic problems.

There may be some truth to this claim, considering the recent revelations made public by the leaked Telegram chats surrounding Rosselló’s regime.  Still, as an unincorporated territory, and although considered “autonomous,” Puerto Rico is under the absolute sovereign control of the US federal government for its financial and economic viability, which directly affects its political and social life.

Most recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in its annual review of countries adhering to democratic values around the world, found US democracy to be flawed even without considering its vast overseas territorial possessions. The review shows that most Americans — this author would include those US citizens in Puerto Rico — have lost “confidence in the functioning of public institutions.” Mistrust in US political institutions extends to not only Congress and President Donald Trump, but also to the federal agencies responsible for post-hurricane recovery efforts.

For example, between mid-September and early October 2017, the category 4 Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, which at that time was recovering from Hurricane Irma. As this author previously argued, the policy response of the Trump administration after Maria hit was wrongheaded, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts were ineffective at the time. Yet these two major storms revealed much about the disorganized and corrupt nature of Puerto Rican politics, alongside the flawed US federal system as both inappropriately dealt with these national disasters.

Post-Hurricane Maria and the Politics of Blame

Post-Hurricane Maria brought out the best and the worst in the US and Puerto Rico. The politics of blame took center stage, especially on Twitter. US President Donald Trump stated that Governor Rosselló’s administration was solely to blame for the lack of leadership in mismanaging, quite ineptly, the so-called humanitarian aid provided by both FEMA and, later, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), among others after both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. More recently, Trump tweeted that “Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again … much of their leadership is corrupt, & robbing the U.S. Government blind!” 

Rosselló, in turn, claimed the federal government under Trump failed to uphold its constitutional and ethical responsibilities to US citizens in Puerto Rico. The governor expected the US government to allocate comparable resources similar to what it had already provided Texas and Florida after their own hurricane disasters, and not allow for questionable contracts to be handed out to inexperienced construction companies.

Both Trump and Rosselló were, nevertheless, complicit for allowing thousands of fellow US citizens in Puerto Rico to perish — as this author has previously stated — amid social scandals, political corruption and overall incompetence. This public blaming between two equally ineffective political administrations shows the deep-rooted colonial ties between Puerto Rico and the supposed US democratic government.

The US Jones Act of 1920

Another example of a flawed U.S. democracy is the enduring Jones Act (or Merchant Marine Act) of 1920. This is a federal law regulating maritime commerce in the US, including its non-contiguous and unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico. This measure says that any goods shipped between US ports are supposed to be transported by US-built, owned and operated ships. Although President Trump temporarily waived these requirements several weeks after Hurricane Maria for supposed short-term relief, retaining and reapplying this law to the island’s ports places long-term burdens on Puerto Rico’s economy.

Even the conservative Cato Institute recognizes the antiquated and undemocratic nature of the Jones Act and its negative impact upon Puerto Rico’s economy:

“Puerto Rico’s recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has reinvigorated debate about a relatively unknown law that has hampered its recovery efforts and bogged down its economy. Since 1920, maritime commerce between Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States has been governed by the Jones Act, a law that mandates that vessels transporting goods domestically be U.S.-crewed, U.S.-flagged, U.S.-owned, and U.S.-built. While defenders of the law have argued that the Jones Act provides reliable shipping services from the mainland to Puerto Rico, critics have pointed out that such restrictions significantly raise the cost of domestic imports, placing an added burden on the already economically struggling island.” 

This law fundamentally serves as a stranglehold over Puerto Rico’s economy in the long- and short-runs, leading to other undemocratic alternative approaches for dealing with present and future financial instabilities on the island. As Nelson A. Denis recently reported, two “University of Puerto Rico economists found that the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy from 1990 through 2010. Other studies have estimated the Jones Act’s damage to Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska to be $2.8 billion to $9.8 billion per year.”

Congress Controls Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis

In 2016, then-US President Barack Obama signed into law the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a measure responsible for “restructuring [the island’s] debt, and [expediting] procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects” in Puerto Rico. Ironically, or perhaps euphemistically, the word promesa in Spanish means promise. In this case, the US federal government expected Puerto Rico to keep its promise of paying “back” its loans on time and with interest. Unfortunately, Rosselló’s government defaulted on about $2 million, exacerbating further the spiraling fiscal instability of the island.

Prior to these climate change-induced hurricane disasters, Puerto Rico had been in the midst of a long-time financial crisis (see the “Krueger Report” that pre-dates Rosselló’s regime). This led the much-maligned Governor Rosselló to announce the privatizationof the Commonwealth-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which is one of the largest public power suppliers in the US.

However, the federal Fiscal Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico established by PROMESA devised its own fiscal plan to deal with the crisis. The board’s plan was vehemently opposed by the governor because it recommended “steep cuts in government spending and pensions.” This has been a long-running dispute between the US territorial government and the US-controlled Fiscal Board.  For instance, Rosselló, in May 2017, filed for what amounts to federal bankruptcy protection in order to “restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations,” despite opposition within and outside his own party.

In April 2018, the Professors Self-Assembled in Solidarity Resistance (PAReS) group put out a clear statement against these types of top-down plans to dealing with the fiscal crisis impacting the island’s political and social life. The statement read: “[The] Financial Oversight and Management Board, an unelected body pushing for the privatization of electricity and schools, increased costs of basic services, massive cuts in public education, pensions, vacation time, and other rights — all in order to pay bondholders a $73 billion debt that was patently unpayable, illegal and illegitimate. The net result was to leave the majority of people in Puerto Rico without a hopeful future, and that was all before Hurricane Maria hit our shores.”

There were other related protests after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as well as debt crisis management struggles that have been ignored by the US mainstream media. For instance, the Puerto Rico Teachers Union had been fighting against the closure of hundreds of public schools and the privatization of education for years.

Governor Rosselló’s Telegram Chats

What turned the tide, where the beleaguered governor was forced to step down, was the leaked offensive Telegram chats that were made public by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) in Puerto Rico, an organization that should be recognized more often for its superb, independent, investigative reporting. CPI revealed almost 900 pages of vulgar email exchanges between high-ranking NPP members, including Rosselló himself showing misogynistic, homophobic and immoral statements about political opponents, the Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ community, and victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The mostly, if not exclusively, male-dominated Telegram chats also reveal how out of touch Rosselló’s administration and the larger NPP have been with the various social and political movements, such as the anti-harassment #MeToo collective. Rosselló’s actions are similar to the kinds of insalubrious and hateful mocking President Trumphas engaged in for years over social media.

As Rosselló stepped down in defeat, he appointed Pedro Pierliusi as secretary of state and thus next in line for the governorship. Pierliusi previously served as Puerto Rico’s non-voting resident commissioner in the US Congress, among other positions for the NPP. His eventual swearing-in as the new governor also came under fire because of his potential conflicts of interest. He is currently employed with the law firm O’Neill & Borges (San Juan), which represents the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board.

Pierliusi’s appointment was immediately challenged by the Puerto Rico Senate. At the forefront was Rosselló’s rival, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz — acting president of the NPP and long-time party operative dating back to Governor Pedro Rosselló Gonzalez, Ricardo’s father — although the House had approved the governor’s decision. Rivera Schatz, who in the past expressed interest in the governorship, asked the Puerto Rico Supreme Court to intercede in this constitutional crisis, which it did, overturning the appointment on August 7 with a unanimous 9-0 vote. The Supreme Court declared the swearing-in of Pierluisi unconstitutional since he had not been confirmed by both chambers of the Puerto Rico legislature, as required by the island’s constitution.

Subsequently, Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez — also of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party — was sworn in on August 7 as a replacement for both Rosselló and Pierluisi. She has become only the second woman to serve as governor in the island’s history.

Yet Vázquez is sitting under a cloud of suspicion as well because of her clashes with various feminist groups over women’s rights, her own history of alleged corrupt activities, numerous fund mismanagements post-Hurricane Maria and her long-term strained relationship with Rivera Schatz. These rapid transitions are a consequence of the century-long colonial relationship between a supposed US democratic state and its pseudo-autonomous territory where the US Congress maintains economic sovereignty, leading to a never-ending cycle of corruption and political instability in Puerto Rico.

To be clear: This author is not suggesting that Rosselló and his ilk are not corrupt and incompetent, something they have repeatedly demonstrated over several years. Rather, that the larger and structural problems (especially the political and social ones) in Puerto Rico stem from the problematic constitutional arrangement and deep-rooted economic dependency the island has with the US despite its increased autonomy since 1952.

The Stranglehold Over Puerto Rico Must End

There are at least two reasons Puerto Rico’s political problems persist. First, the so-called PROMESA Act of 2016, the anti-democratic austerity measure signed by Democratic President Barack Obama to oversee Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, basically dictates what the US territorial government can and cannot do. Second, the 2017 post-Hurricane Maria devastation and lack-luster recovery efforts under Republican President Donald Trump and the equally complicit Governor Rosselló eventually resulted in at least 2,950 casualties, as per a George Washington University study, or more according to other reports.

Thus, the recent resignation of Governor Rosselló based on his corrupt and degenerate behavior — as exposed by the leaked Telegram chats — should be understood within the larger framework of a flawed US democratic state that continues its economic stranglehold over Puerto Rico. This dual dependency must end for the sake of ever achieving any kind of real democratic future in either Puerto Rico or the US.

Posted in USA, Puerto RicoComments Off on The Puerto Rico Crisis: A Reflection of a Flawed US Democracy

‘Your Life Will End’: As GOP’s Islamophobic Attacks Continue, Rep. Ilhan Omar

‘Your Life Will End’: As GOP’s Islamophobic Attacks Continue, Rep. Ilhan Omar Shares Terrifying Reality of Death Threats

“I hate that we live in a world where you have to be protected from fellow humans. I hated it as a child living through war and I hate it now.”

by: Julia Conley

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks during a rally to express solidarity with immigrants and refugees hosted by MoveOn, United We Dream, Families Belong Together and Popular Democracy near Union Station on May 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar on Wednesday offered her perspective on the threats and threatening political rhetoric targeting her and her family due to her position as one of the first Muslim women in Congress.

After a reporter tweeted an image of Omar speaking at an event in Minnesota with a bodyguard standing behind her, the congresswoman tweeted that recent xenophobic language and threats, coming from anonymous senders as well as from the White House and the halls of Congress, have forced her “to accept the reality of having security.”

Ilhan Omar@IlhanMN

I hate that we live in a world where you have to be protected from fellow humans. I hated it as a child living through war and I hate it now.

But until deranged people like this stop threatening my life and the lives of others, I have to accept the reality of having security. https://twitter.com/lollardfish/status/1166508960612048896 …

But until deranged people like this stop threatening my life and the lives of others, I have to accept the reality of having security. https://twitter.com/lollardfish/status/1166508960612048896 …

View image on Twitter

David M. Perry@Lollardfish · Aug 28I’m not at a good angle. But here’s a visual of the congresswoman and her securityShow this thread9:05 PM · Aug 28, 2019·Twitter for iPhone

In her tweet, Omar shared one recent example of an anonymous death threat she received in which the sender wrote that she would be killed during Congress’s August recess.

“You will not be going back to Washington, your life will end before your ‘vacation’ ends,” wrote the sender. “Quite likely it will be at the Minnesota State Fair.”

Democratic leadership began reviewing Omar’s security needs in April after President Donald Trump tweeted a video showing images of the 9/11 attacks intercut with Omar’s comments about the treatment of Muslims in the U.S. after the attacks.

Since then, Trump and other high-level Republicans have drawn outrage as they’ve continued to stoke Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment against Omar.

Trump said in July that Omar and three other progressive women of color in Congress should “go back” to the countries they and their families had come from. Of the four congresswomen, only Omar was actually born outside the United States—emigrating from Somalia as a refugee when she was a child.

Omar shared the anonymous death threat hours after Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore echoed Trump’s words, saying the congresswoman “should go back to Somalia from whence she came.”

On social media, supporters of Omar decried Republicans’ tacit encouragement of the threats against her and applauded her for speaking out about the danger the president and others in the GOP have helped to place her in.

Brian Harrison, Ph.D.@brianfharrison

Congresswoman @IlhanMN should not have to deal with the kind of hate, anger, bigotry, and just vile evil coming her way. Regardless of ideology or partisanship, threats against members of Congress are disgusting and terrifying for us all. https://thehill.com/homenews/house/459243-omar-shares-anonymous-death-threat-speaks-out-against-hate-and-need-for?fbclid=IwAR1l_Ge-nVUzXT59Y7zk40Iujgy51og0iAihUqfGHvnp7HH2-xS5fMY_dH0 …Omar shares anonymous death threat, speaks out against ‘hate’ andRep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) is opening up about her need for security, sharing an anonymous death threat she said she received saying the Democratic lawmaker would likely be killed at the Minnesota Statethehill.com

The Jewish-led group If Not Now, which condemns the Israeli occupation of Palestine, also called on government officials to denounce anti-Muslim and racist comments against Omar by public figures with the same vigor they do anti-Semitic comments.

Jeffrey St. Clair@JSCCounterPunch

So much courage wrapped in a such a small package…https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/rep-ilhan-omar-decries-hate-after-death-threat-in-which-writer-vowed-to-shoot-her-at-minnesota-state-fair/2019/08/28/cf10239a-c9d5-11e9-a1fe-ca46e8d573c0_story.html …Rep. Ilhan Omar decries hate after death threat in which writer vowed to shoot her at Minnesota…“Until deranged people like this stop threatening my life and the lives of others, I have to accept the reality of having security,” the Minnesota Democrat said, sharing a photo of the threat.washingtonpost.com

Omar was condemned by leaders of her own party and eventually the subject of an anti-hate speech resolution passed by the U.S. House after she remarked about the indisputable financial ties the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC has with U.S. lawmakers.

As Mehdi Hasan wrote at The Intercept on Wednesday, no such response has been evident from either party or the media since Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said in a radio interview that Omar is partially responsible for a growing lack of “respect” for the Jewish faith.

“I think it’s based on the growing influence of the Islamic religion in the Democratic Party ranks,” Brooks told Huntsville, Alabama station WVNN last week. “Keep in mind: Muslims more so than most people have great animosity toward Israel and the Jewish faith.”

“Wow,” wrote Hasan. “I have been reporting on Islamophobia in U.S. politics for more than a decade, and I honestly cannot remember coming across a more brazenly Islamophobic statement from an elected member of Congress. ‘Growing influence of the Islamic religion’ among Democrats? …In an age of rising white nationalism, in which Muslims have been gunned down in mosques by domestic terrorists who believe such conspiracy theories about Islam, these remarks aren’t just offensive, they’re downright dangerous.”

And yet Brooks’ remarks received “virtually no coverage” in the mainstream press, Hasan wrote.

“The net result? Omar is hung out to dry while Brooks gets a pass,” he added. “Omar is now a household name, and the subject of multiple death threats, while Brooks gets to carry on making offensive and conspiratorial claims about Islam, Muslims, and the Democratic Party without any sanction or censure.”

Posted in USAComments Off on ‘Your Life Will End’: As GOP’s Islamophobic Attacks Continue, Rep. Ilhan Omar

Leaked UN Draft Report Warns Rising, Warming Oceans ‘Poised to Unleash Misery’ Worldwide

The assessment details anticipated declines in fish stocks as well as increases in damage by superstorms and displacement due to rising seas

by: Jessica Corbett

A dock sits damaged near the Statue of Liberty

A dock sits damaged near the Statue of Liberty, which remained closed to the public six weeks after Hurricane Sandy on December 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

A draft United Nations report warns “the same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilizing Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel,” according to Agence France-Presse, which exclusively reported on the 900-page scientific assessment Thursday.

The forthcoming report from a U.N. body that assesses science related to the human-caused planetary emergency is due to be released to the public Sep. 25, after diplomats and experts meet in Monaco to approve the final Summary for Policymakers.

AFP, which obtained a draft of the U.N. assessment, reported:

Destructive changes already set in motion could see a steady decline in fish stocks, a hundred-fold or more increase in the damages caused by superstorms, and hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising seas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “special report” on oceans and Earth’s frozen zones, known as the cryosphere.

As the 21st century unfolds, melting glaciers will first give too much and then too little to billions who depend on them for fresh water, it finds.

Without deep cuts to manmade emissions, at least 30 percent of the northern hemisphere’s surface permafrost could melt by century’s end, unleashing billions of tonnes of carbon and accelerating global warming even more.

The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate will follow the IPCC’s recent reports about what the world would look like with 1.5°C of warmingabove pre-industrial levels—the lower target of the global Paris climate agreement—and the need for transformative changes to land use to address both planetary heating and hunger.

In a statement earlier this year, Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II—which focuses on the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to the climate crisis—noted that the U.N. body’s October report showed the broad benefits to people and natural ecosystems of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

“The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate takes this story one step further by evaluating how human and natural communities with be affected by the impacts of climate change on two earth systems that touch all of our lives directly or indirectly, the ocean and the frozen areas of the world,” Roberts said. “It also assesses how we can set the course for a more sustainable and equitable future by reducing or better managing this impact.”

While those working on the IPCC’s ocean report aim to provide the international community with yet another tool to help avert the most catastrophic potential consequences of rising temperatures, AFP pointed out that the crucial advice for policymakers will be released “too late to be considered by world leaders gathering two days earlier for a summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to extract stronger national commitments in confronting the climate crisis.”

When it comes to the September summit, which is focused on the key goals of the Paris accord, AFP reported that “Guterres may be disappointed by what the world’s major greenhouse gas emitters put on the table, according to experts tracking climate politics in China, the United States, the European Union, and India.”

“The Big Four—accounting for nearly 60 percent of global fossil fuel-based emissions—all face devastating ocean- and ice-related impacts, but none seem prepared just announce more ambitious goals for purging carbon from their economies,” AFPcontinued, detailing some of those impacts based on the IPCC draft.

By 2050, many low-lying megacities and small island nations will experience “extreme sea level events” every year, even under the most optimistic emissions reduction scenarios, the report concludes.

By 2100, “annual flood damages are expected to increase by two to three orders of magnitude,” or 100 to 1,000 fold, the draft summary for policymakers says.

Even if the world manages to cap global warming at 2°C, the global ocean waterline will rise enough to displace more than a quarter of a billion people.

Experts are divided on the anticipated timeline for such mass displacement due to sea level rise. However, Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of the U.S.-based research group Climate Central, told AFP that “even if the number is 100 or 50 million by 2100, that’s still a major disruption and a lot of human misery.”

Strauss, whose research informs some of the IPCC report’s conclusions, added that “if we warm the planet by 2°C by 2100 we will only be at the beginning of a runaway train ride of sea level rise.”

In an op-ed published Thursday by Reuters, Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan declared that “tackling the climate emergency and protecting our oceans go hand-in-hand,” noting that “the oceans naturally take in huge amounts of carbon dioxide and are a key defense against the worsening impacts of climate change.

Morgan called on world leaders attending the U.N. summit in September to “commit to adopting a strong Global Ocean Treaty in 2020.” She wrote:

The scope of this new global agreement could be huge: almost half of the planet. The High Seas, oceans beyond borders, cover more space on our planet than all continents combined. Sadly, today these international waters are being ruthlessly exploited. In addition to climate change, pressures from overfishing, deep sea mining exploration, oil drilling, and plastic pollution are pushing our oceans to the verge of collapse. Only around 1 percent of the global seas are properly protected. There is no effective legal instrument that allows the creation of ocean sanctuaries—areas off-limits to harmful human activities—on international waters.

“Scientists are clear that we need to protect at least 30 percent of our global oceans by 2030 if we are to safeguard wildlife and to help mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Morgan added. “But that will only happen if an ambitious ocean treaty is adopted fast and opens the door to creating effective ocean sanctuaries in international waters.”

Posted in Environment, UNComments Off on Leaked UN Draft Report Warns Rising, Warming Oceans ‘Poised to Unleash Misery’ Worldwide


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