Archive | October 25th, 2019

Death, Bloodshed, and Misery in Yemen

“Strike with creativity!” proclaims Raytheon.

by: Kathy Kelly

A Yemeni collects items amidst the rubble of a destroyed funeral hall building following reported airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition air-planes on the capital Sanaa on October 8, 2016. (Photo: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A Yemeni collects items amidst the rubble of a destroyed funeral hall building following reported airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition air-planes on the capital Sanaa on October 8, 2016. (Photo: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Writing about his visit to the world’s largest weapons bazaar, held in London in October, journalist Arron Merat describes reading the slogan emblazoned above Raytheon’s stall: “Strike With Creativity.” Raytheon manufactures Paveway laser-guided bombs—produced in factories in the United States and the United Kingdom—fragments of which have been found in the wreckage of schools, hospitals, and markets across Yemen. 

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Yemen Control Map & Report, October 2019.

How, I wonder, can a weapons manufacturer that causes such death, bloodshed, and misery lay claim to creativity?

Consider the Raytheon weapons now demolishing Yemen. Fragments of Raytheon and other U.S.-manufactured weapons dot blast sites where Yemeni survivors collect body parts and scattered bits of clothing, which are needed to compile lists of the dead.

Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Saudi-led coalition bombarding and blockading Yemen have killed tens of thousands of people, wrecking the country’s already enfeebled infrastructure and bringing Yemen to the brink of a famine that may kill millions.

In September, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hit a detention center in the Dhamar governorate, in the northern highlands of Yemen with seven airstrikes that killed at least 100 people and “pulverized” the area, according to Bethan McKernan, reporting for The Guardian. “It took five days to remove all the bodies impaled on metalwork ripped from the walls in the blasts,” she wrote.

After the attack, McKernan interviewed Mustafa al-Adel, a twenty-two-year-old security guard employed at the site. His brother, Ahmed, also a guard, was among those killed. Adel pointed to a blanket, visible on the second floor of a building where the guards had slept. “You can see Ahmed’s blue blanket up there,” said Adel. “There were 200 people here but now it’s just ghosts.”

Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Saudi-led coalition bombarding and blockading Yemen have killed tens of thousands of people, wrecking the country’s already enfeebled infrastructure and bringing Yemen to the brink of a famine that may kill millions. President Donald Trump signaled additional support for Saudi Arabia on October 11 when the U.S. military announced it would send thousands more troops to the kingdom, bringing the number of U.S. troops there to 14,000.

For people in the United States to understand why Yemenis would join together to resist the Saudis requires a deepening awareness of how financial institutions, in attempting to gain control of valuable resources, have pushed farmers and villagers across Yemen into debt and desperation. Isa Blumi writes about this sordid history in his 2018 book, Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia Tells Us about the World.

Blumi details how Yemen’s society, largely independent and agrarian, became a guinea pig for International Monetary Fund (IMF) “development projects” which, based on strikingly colonialist theories of modernization, crushed grassroots institutions, and amounted to “cost-effective ways of prying Yemen’s wealth out of its peoples’ hands.”

Local development associations, for example, were formed during the 1970s to help people cooperatively determine what crops they would grow and how they would use the profits. But U.S. Agency for International Development “experts” pressured these groups to instead produce “cash crops strictly meant for export.”

“After all,” Blumi writes, “with the right kind of cash crop and the use of American labor-saving technology, pesticides and fertilizers included, Yemen’s villagers were no longer needed in the fields. Alternatively, they could work in cities in sweatshops producing clothes for a global market . . . or the soon booming oil and gas projects.”

Blumi’s book documents the fiercely stubborn creativity with which, decade by decade, Yemenis kept surprising the West, exploring and pursuing countermeasures to resist its exploitative control, and risking the West’s destructive anger. 

Yemenis kept surprising the West, exploring and pursuing with fiercely stubborn creativity, countermeasures to resist its exploitative control.

When farmers desperate for cash went to work in Saudi Arabia, for instance, “they consistently sent remittances home to families that saved the cash and invested in local projects, using local bank transfers.” Imams and village leaders encouraged people to resist imperialist “modernization” projects, knowing that the West’s preferred “modern” role for them was as wage slaves with no hope of developing a better future.

The “Huthi” movement began when Husayn al-Huthi, an opponent of Yemen’s dictatorial (and Western-allied) Saleh regime, tried to defend the water and land rights of locals in the Sa’adah province in northwestern Yemen. Sharing what was then a porous and informal border with the KSA, they often found themselves in disputes with Saudi border patrols. They also resisted ‘structural adjustment’ demands by the International Monetary Fund to privatize some of Yemen’s best farming and grazing land. When the dictator Saleh made criminal concessions to the KSA, al-Huthi and his followers persisted with protests. Each new confrontation won over thousands of people, eventually spreading beyond Sa’adah.

Blumi cites numerous instances in which Yemen’s economic assets were pillaged, with Saleh’s approval, by “well-heeled global financial interests.”

In 2008, an extremely wealthy member of the bin Laden family aimed to build a bridge across the mouth of the Red Sea from Yemen to Djibouti. The project could generate hundreds of billions for investors, and quicken the process of exploitative modernization; but it would also require building railways and roads where there are only villages now. People living along the coastline of the Red Sea would be in the way. 

Since 2015, fighting has been concentrated in this area, called the Tihama. Control of the coastline would also allow financial takeover of potentially profitable Yemeni fisheries. Blumi says billions of dollars of annual income are at stake, noting with irony that a war causing starvation is being waged, in part, to gain control over food assets.

A recent United Nations report says that Yemen is now “on course to become the world’s poorest country,” with 79 percent of the population living beneath the poverty line and 65 percent deemed “extremely poor.” The Yemen Data Project estimated in March that 600 civilian structures on average are damaged or destroyed monthly in Yemen, mostly by airstrikes.

“Staple food items are now on average 150 percent higher than before the crisis escalated,” says a 2019 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Teachers, health workers and civil servants in the northern parts of the country haven’t been paid for years,” according to the same report.

Here in the United States, news commentators discussing the Trump impeachment story liken the breaking developments to “bombshell after bombshell.” In Yemen, real bombshells, made in the United States, kill and maim Yemeni civilians, including children, every day.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Death, Bloodshed, and Misery in Yemen

Can Anyone Stop Facebook from Poisoning Democracy?

While the social media giant wraps itself in the banner of free expression and political speech, it serves more as a scrim to hide its continued spread of political disinformation to tens of millions of voters in advance of the 2020 elections.

by: Timothy Karr

One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. - Advocacy group Avaaz is calling attention to what the groups says are hundreds of millions of fake accounts still spreading disinformation on Facebook. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. – Advocacy group Avaaz is calling attention to what the groups says are hundreds of millions of fake accounts still spreading disinformation on Facebook. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Freedom (to lie) isn’t free. For the campaign to re-elect Donald Trump it costs $1.5 million a week. And that’s just last week’s tab.

In exchange, Trump’s team gets to spread false and misleading political ads across Facebook’s social network. This includes a 30-second ad that makes the unsubstantiated claim that former Vice President Biden used his influence to block an investigation of a Ukrainian energy company with ties to his son. CNN rejected the ad, noting it contained inaccuracies. But it passed muster with Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube, where it’s been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

“Those naive enough to expect Facebook to do the right thing are ignoring the company’s long history of doing the exact opposite.”

The 2020 election cycle is shaping up to be very lucrative for all the leading tech platforms. Digital political-ad spending is expected to top $2.7 billion before Election Day, according to industry forecasts. Presidential candidates have already spent more than $70 million on Facebook and Google placements, according to data firm Acronym.

Facebook flip flop

All of this cash is great news for online platforms, which are going out of their way to accommodate the rush of campaign ads.

Last month, Facebook changed its policies against misleading ads to give politicians and their campaigns free rein to lie in ads posted on the massive social network. Why bother with fact-checking when there’s easy money in deceptive attack ads?

Under most circumstances, the FCC requires television and radio broadcasters to air political ads by federal candidates; they can’t make decisions based on the content of those candidate ads, whether they’re truthful or not.

Like TV and radio stations, online platforms have no obligation to truth-test political advertising. Yet Facebook once promised to do more than that, pledging that politicians must abide by the same standards as every other advertiser on its site, including the rule that “prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers.”

That’s changed, and Facebook is painting itself as a champion of First-Amendment freedoms to justify the switch.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s Katie Harbath explained to the Biden campaign after the company refused to take down the misleading Trump 2020 ad featuring Biden’s son.

But Facebook’s laissez-faire attitude toward political speech has more to do with politics and profits than principle. And it differs dramatically from an earlier commitment by founder Mark Zuckerberg, who told the Senate last year that Facebook wasn’t doing enough to prevent its technology “from being used for harm.”

“It’s not enough to just give people a voice,” he said. “We need to make sure that people aren’t using it to harm other people or to spread misinformation.”

To that end Facebook has deployed A.I. tools that Zuckerberg claims do a better job of identifying accounts that may be trying to interfere in elections. He also pledged to put people first: “My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together. Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that.”

Until they do, that is.

Facebook’s anti-democracy bias

Zuck’s words aren’t enough for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has some of her own: “Facebook has incredible power to affect elections and our national debate,” the presidential candidate tweeted last Monday, noting that the company is taking “deliberate steps to help one candidate intentionally mislead the American people.”

Facebook’s policy change followed a White House meeting between Zuckerberg and Trump in late September. “What did they talk about?” Warren asks. Zuckerberg’s press office won’t say; neither will the White House.

In the meantime, that new and improved A.I. is blocking legitimate news.

Investigative journalist Judd Legum, who first uncovered Facebook’s policy reversal on political ads, last Tuesday reported that Facebook had buried newsworthy posts from a public-radio station in Juneau, Alaska. Facebook claimed that the headline to a post titled “Confused about Juneau’s municipal ballot measures? You’re not alone,” was clickbait, which it forbids.

Last year, Facebook blocked news reports about a hack of its users’ data. Many users found that they couldn’t share stories from legitimate news outlets including the GuardianSacramento Bee, and Associated Press.

Despite the chorus from the right claiming anti-conservative bias at the social network, Facebook has a disturbing habit of content-moderation decisions that disproportionately go against social-justice advocates and vulnerable populations. Last year, it blocked an event page for organizers planning a counter-march against a white-supremacist rally that took place in Washington, D.C. The company also removed a post about racism from a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and journalist, though Facebook later apologized and rescinded the block.

The platform has also helped advertisers discriminate. A 2016 ProPublica investigation found that a Facebook ad-targeting tool allowed realtors to restrict who could see housing-related ads based on their “Ethnic Affinities.”

ProPublica later reported that advertisers could use Facebook’s tools to target ads based on people’s self-reported jobs, even if the job was “Jew hater.”

Facebook claims to have subsequently tweaked its tech to prevent advertisers from targeting groups or individuals in ways that could be considered discriminatory. Still, it has no problem with political-advertising content that targets vulnerable communities.

According to research by Media Matters, the company allowed the Trump campaign’s Facebook page to run more than 2,000 ads describing immigrants of color — particularly people from Central and South America — as an “invasion,” a term that white-supremacist groups in the United States frequently use in this context.

Poisoning the well

If all of this is leaving you angry and confused, you’re not alone.

Facebook’s promises to do better typically amount to little in practice. If things continue at this rate, one thing is certain: Facebook will play a significant role in poisoning the well of our democracy… again.

Sen. Warren has called for a new round of congressional hearings and an investigation so Facebook executives can explain what they’re doing to prevent a repeat of 2016 election interference and disinformation. But it’s difficult to see how this might result in new guidelines to curtail deceptive ads in time for it to matter. And existing legislative proposals, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s worthy Honest Ads Act, focus on disclosure of funders and preventing foreign meddling in U.S. elections. They would do little to stem the flood of misleading political ads coming from known, homegrown candidates themselves. 

To date, Congress has advanced no privacy legislation that protects voters from having their online data harvested without their consent for targeting by dishonest political campaigns.

Unless Warren or others plan to introduce new legislation, containing provisions that no one has articulated clearly to this point, there seems very little of legal substance for Congress to discuss at an upcoming hearing with Facebook — certainly nothing that that would effectively bar politicians from peddling lies online.

And while Facebook wraps itself in the banner of free expression and political speech, it serves more as a scrim to hide its continued spread of political disinformation to tens of millions of voters in advance of the 2020 elections.

Those naive enough to expect Facebook to do the right thing are ignoring the company’s long history of doing the exact opposite. Facebook now boasts nearly 2.5 billion active users; these users generate four new petabytes of data every day and click “like” 4 million times every minute. Facebook has become too massive to govern itself, and politicians seem too overwhelmed to step into the maelstrom.

But whether and how lawmakers even can step in without running afoul of other cherished principles and legal protections is debatable. 

Beyond fixing Facebook

The only real solution to Facebook is one that billions of people don’t seem ready to commit to: leaving the social platform altogether.

In the interim, we must consider ways to help create its alternative: content-sharing platforms that don’t hammer at the foundations of democracy.

“Silicon Valley is incapable of cleaning up its toxic mess. More democratic media must help improve political participation, deepen discourse and increase voter turnout.”Earlier this year, Craig Aaron and I proposed a tax on the targeted-advertising revenues that are the economic engine fueling the most dominant online platforms. Proceeds from this tax, estimated at $2 billion a year, would go to a “public-interest media endowment” to support local, independent and noncommercial journalism. Additional funds would help incubate new ideas for gathering and distributing news content, preferably those that don’t rely on the clickbait economy and political-advertising budgets to survive. 

All of us must think beyond fixing Facebook to a social-media solution of, by and for the people — not one that protects the powerful and spreads their lies. What we accomplish by the end of 2020 will help determine whether the future of our democracy brightens or dims, and whether our media system becomes an agent of civic engagement or alienation.

To do this requires a dramatic change in the way online platforms work today. Silicon Valley is incapable of cleaning up its toxic mess. More democratic media must help improve political participation, deepen discourse and increase voter turnout. Transparency about political ads is a key element of this shift, but so are efforts to return working journalists to civic-minded beats and limit the damaging effects of disinformation.

These changes must be an intrinsic part of the broader movement to restore democratic norms. A part of that is changing business as usual at platforms that profit from deception.

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The occupation proves the administrative detention of the prisoner Hiba Al-Labadi

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

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Illegally Nazi occupied West Bank: The Ofer Nazi Military Court has issued a decision confirming the five-month administrative detention of Palestinian-Jordanian prisoner Heba al-Labadi, who has been on an open hunger strike for 24 days, according to the Prisoners ‘and Editors’ Affairs Authority.

The Nazi tribunal’s decision came after a closed session held to consider the administrative detention of al-Labadi, after efforts by the legal department in the commission, which coincided with Jordanian interventions and pressures to release her, but all allegations made by the defense About her refused.

“The confirmation of the administrative detention right of the captive of Labadi at this difficult time it is going through, reveals the extent of the rudeness and criminality of the occupation.”

The Commission held the occupation government fully responsible for the life of the captive Labadi, stressing that the uniqueness and pressure on them, and placed in a healthy and complex life, may have serious repercussions on them.

Nazi Occupation arrests 6 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank

Gaza is preparing to participate in the Friday of 80 marches of return

Weather: Light rain today and heavy next two days

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Palestinian young man is arrested after being shot near al-Amari refugee camp

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

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Illegally occupied West Bank: A Palestinian man was shot and wounded by the Nazi occupation forces shortly before his arrest after his car collided with a vehicle of Nazi soldiers near al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah in the central West Bank.

According to the occupation media, that a Palestinian vehicle collided with a vehicle for the occupation before Amari, was shot at the driver before being arrested injured.

The Nazi police claimed in a statement that the young man from occupied Jerusalem, carried out an operation run over the place, while no one of the occupation forces was injured.

The channel “12” Hebrew that marred in the twenties of Jerusalem, tried to run over soldiers during an activity of the occupation near Ramallah was shot, according to her claim.

The Zionist newspaper Maariv claimed that a resident of Jerusalem tried to run over an undercover force while it was near the Amari camp in Ramallah.

3-stage exercise … “Kochavi” warns of war on the northern and southern fronts

Halting the importation of calves from the occupation is causing its farmers financial losses

For the sake of maximum .. Prisoners Asafra tell the details of the killing of a settler near Bethlehem

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