Archive | December 18th, 2019

I Never Saw a World So Fragmented!

By Andre Vltchek

It is amazing how easily, without resistance, the Western empire is managing to destroy “rebellious” countries that are standing in its way.

I work in all corners of the planet, wherever Kafkaesque “conflicts” get ignited by Washington, London or Paris.

What I see and describe are not only those horrors which are taking place all around me; horrors that are ruining human lives, destroying villages, cities and entire countries. What I try to grasp is that on the television screens and on the pages of newspapers and the internet, the monstrous crimes against humanity somehow get covered (described), but the information becomes twisted and manipulated to such an extent, that readers and viewers in all parts of the world end up knowing close to nothing about their own suffering, and/or of the suffering of the other.

For instance, in 2015 and in 2019, I tried to sit down and reason with the Hong Kong rioters. It was a truly revealing experience! They knew nothing, absolutely zero about the crimes the West has been committing in places such as Afghanistan, Syria or Libya. When I tried to explain to them, how many Latin American democracies Washington had overthrown, they thought I was a lunatic. How could the good, tender, ‘democratic’ West murder millions, and bathe entire continents in blood? That is not what they were taught at their universities. That is not what the BBC, CNN or even the China Morning Post said and wrote.

Look, I am serious. I showed them photos from Afghanistan and Syria; photos stored in my phone. They must have understood that this was original, first hand stuff. Still, they looked, but their brains were not capable of processing what they were being shown. Images and words; these people were conditioned not to comprehend certain types of information.

But this is not only happening in Hong Kong, a former British colony.

You will maybe find it hard to believe, but even in a Communist country like Vietnam; a proud country, a country which suffered enormously from both French colonialism and the U.S. mad and brutal imperialism, people that I associated with (and I lived in Hanoi for 2 years) knew close to nothing about the horrendous crimes committed against the poor and defenseless neighboring Laos, by the U.S. and its allies during the so-called “Secret War”; crimes that included the bombing of peasants and water buffalos, day and night, by strategic B-52 bombers. And in Laos, where I covered de-mining efforts, people knew nothing about the same monstrosities that the West had committed in Cambodia; murdering hundreds of thousands of people by carpet bombing, displacing millions of peasants from their homes, triggering famine and opening the doors to the Khmer Rouge takeover.

When I am talking about this shocking lack of knowledge in Vietnam, regarding the region and what it was forced to go through, I am not speaking just about the shop-keepers or garment workers. It applies to Vietnamese intellectuals, artists, teachers. It is total amnesia, and it came with the so-called ‘opening up’ to the world, meaning with the consumption of Western mass media and later by the infiltration of social media.

At least Vietnam shares borders as well as a turbulent history with both Laos and Cambodia.

But imagine two huge countries with only maritime borders, like the Philippines and Indonesia. Some Manila dwellers I met thought that Indonesia was in Europe.

Now guess, how many Indonesians know about the massacres that the United States committed in the Philippines a century ago, or how the people in the Philippines were indoctrinated by Western propaganda about the entire South East Asia? Or, how many Filipinos know about the U.S.-triggered 1965 military coup, which deposed the internationalist President Sukarno, killing between 2-3 million intellectuals, teachers, Communists and unionists in “neighboring” Indonesia?

Look at the foreign sections of the Indonesian or Filipino newspapers, and what will you see; the same news from Reuters, AP, AFP. In fact, you will also see the same reports in the news outlets of Kenya, India, Uganda, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Guatemala, and the list goes on and on. It is designed to produce one and only one result: absolute fragmentation!Syria or Southeast Asia: The West Lied, Lies, and Always Will.

The fragmentation of the world is amazing, and it is increasing with time. Those who hoped that the internet would improve the situation, grossly miscalculated.

With a lack of knowledge, solidarity has disappeared, too.

Right now, all over the world, there are riots and revolutions. I am covering the most significant ones; in the Middle East, in Latin America, and in Hong Kong.

Let me be frank: there is absolutely no understanding in Lebanon about what is going on in Hong Kong, or in Bolivia, Chile and Colombia.

Western propaganda throws everything into one sack.

In Hong Kong, rioters indoctrinated by the West are portrayed as “pro-democracy protesters”. They kill, burn, beat up people, but they are still the West’s favorites. Because they are antagonizing the People’s Republic of China, now the greatest enemy of Washington. And because they were created and sustained by the West.

In Bolivia, the anti-imperialist President was overthrown in a Washington orchestrated coup, but the mostly indigenous people who are demanding his return are portrayed as rioters.

In Lebanon, as well as Iraq, protesters are treated kindly by both Europe and the United States, mainly because the West hopes that pro-Iranian Hezbollah and other Shi’a groups and parties could be weakened by the protests.

The clearly anti-capitalist and anti-neo-liberal revolution in Chile, as well as the legitimate protests in Colombia, are reported as some sort of combination of explosion of genuine grievances, and hooliganism and looting. Mike Pompeo recently warned that the United States will support right-wing South American governments, in their attempt to maintain order.

All this coverage is nonsense. In fact, it has one and only one goal: to confuse viewers and readers. To make sure that they know nothing or very little. And that, at the end of the day, they collapse on their couches with deep sighs: “Oh, the world is in turmoil!”

It also leads to the tremendous fragmentation of countries on each continent, and of the entire global south.

Asian countries know very little about each other. The same goes for Africa and the Middle East. In Latin America, it is Russia, China and Iran who are literally saving the life of Venezuela. Fellow Latin American nations, with the one shiny exception of Cuba, do zero to help. All Latin American revolutions are fragmented. All U.S. produced coups basically go unopposed.

The same situation is occurring all over the Middle East and Asia. There are no internationalist brigades defending countries destroyed by the West. The big predator comes and attacks its prey. It is a horrible sight, as a country dies in front of the world, in terrible agony. No one interferes. Everybody just watches.

One after another, countries are falling.

This is not how states in the 21st Century should behave. This is the law of attraction the jungle. When I used to live in Africa, making documentary films in Kenya, Rwanda, Congo, driving through the wilderness; this is how animals were behaving, not people. Big cats finding their victim. A zebra, or a gazelle. And the hunt would begin: a terrible occurrence. Then the slow killing; eating the victim alive.

Quite similar to the so-called Monroe doctrine.

The Empire has to kill. Periodically. With predictable regularity.

And no one does anything. The world is watching. Pretending that nothing extraordinary is taking place.

One wonders: can legitimate revolution succeed under such conditions? Can any democratically elected socialist government survive? Or does everything decent, hopeful, and optimistic always ends up as the prey to a degenerate, brutal and vulgar empire?

If that is the case, what’s the point of playing by the rules? Obviously, the rules are rotten. They exist only in order to uphold the status quo. They protect the colonizers, and castigate the rebellions victims.

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss here, today.

My point is: the victims are divided. They know very little about each other. The struggles for true freedom, are fragmented. Those who fight, and bleed, but fight nevertheless, are often antagonized by their less daring fellow victims.

I have never seen the world so divided. Is the Empire succeeding, after all?

Yes and no.

Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela – they have already woken up. They stood up. They are learning about each other, from each other.

Without solidarity, there can be no victory. Without knowledge, there can be no solidarity.

Intellectual courage is now clearly coming from Asia, from the “East”. In order to change the world, Western mass media has to be marginalized, confronted. All Western concepts, including “democracy”, “peace”, and “human rights” have to be questioned, and redefined.

And definitely, knowledge.

We need a new world, not an improved one.

The world does not need London, New York and Paris to teach it about itself.

Fragmentation has to end. Nations have to learn about each other, directly. If they do, true revolutions would soon succeed, while subversions and fake color revolutions like those in Hong Kong, Bolivia and all over the Middle East, will be regionally confronted, and prevented from ruining millions of human lives.

Posted in Human Rights, Politics, WorldComments Off on I Never Saw a World So Fragmented!

Palestine: Nazi regime Immunity to International Law

Trump Has Given Israel Immunity to International Law

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

In Israel’s treatment of Occupied Palestine, Israel has been violating international law for decades. Under international law, an occupying power is not permitted to incorporate the occupied land into its own domain. However, Israel has persistently done so, evicting Palestinians from their homes, villages, and farm lands in order to build apartments for Jewish immigrants.

As people learned of the fate suffered by Palestinians at Israel’s hands, criticism of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians by human rights activists grew, and boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movements arose.

These developments are inconvenient for Israel. Israeli media have indicated that the Israeli government is ready to complete the annexation of Palestine by evicting the remaining Palestinians and incorporating the remaining Palestinian land into Israel. Prior to taking this step, Israel wants to silence critics and prevent BDS action.

In the US the Israel Lobby has attempted to have the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, and the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act passed. However these acts clearly violate Constitutionally-protected free speech and protest, and Congress, although happy to please the Israel Lobby, doesn’t want to pass acts that the Supreme Court will obviously overturn. The ACLU opposes these acts on First Amendment grounds.Trump Wants Criticism of Israel Equated with Anti-Semitism

So the Israel Lobby has turned to Donald Trump to achieve by executive order what they have not achieved by legislation.

As the Israel Lobby has succeeded in equating criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-semitism or hatred of Jews, Trump’s executive order against anti-semitism permits the US government to cut off money to universities and organizations in which criticism of Israel is expressed in lectures, colloquiums, or debates.

Trump’s executive order has initiated a debate whether Trump has in effect declared Jews to be a nationality. See this and this.

This is the wrong debate. The issue is why should Israel be the only country among the approximately 200 on earth whose policies cannot be criticized? Why should Israel be the only country that cannot be sanctioned and boycotted? Why should this special protection be given to Israel at the expense of the US Constitution.

Trump’s executive order silences the Palestinians and those sympathetic to their dispossession. Why in an allegedly free country has President Trump imposed censorship that protects Israel from accountability?

It would seem that this is a far more serious offense by Trump against the US Constitution than the allegations behind the impeachment inquiry.

Allegedly Trump represents the little people against the Establishment, but how are powerless people protected by overturning their First Amendment rights? They hardly have a voice as it is.

As Stephen Lendman reports, Israel being all powerful, is pushing also the British government to protect Israel from accountability to international law.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Palestine: Nazi regime Immunity to International Law

“Sweden’s Government Skips Answering Questions on Its Aid to the Allies of al-Qaeda in Syria”

By Patrik Paulov and Basma Qaddour

Global Research,

Why has Sweden been very tight-lipped about and shied away from publically talking about its aid to what it prefers to call Syrian ‘opposition’ during the 8-year terror war on Syria? And has Swedish tax money benefited terrorists?

This topic, i.e. Sweden’s aid to the Syrian opposition was tackled by Patrik Paulov, freelance journalist and Author of the book Syria’s silenced voices, in his opinion article which was published in Svenska Dagbladet newspaper on October, 9, 2019.

The journalist asked in his article about the reason behind the silence of Swedish media and politicians on how aid has benefited terrorist in Syria while several other European countries have broken the silence over this issue after the broadcast of some documentaries disclosing that money intended for the so-called the ‘Free Syrian Army” was handed to armed extremist terrorists.

He pointed out that Sweden has started to support the so-called ‘democratic opposition in Syria’ since August 2012 when then-Foreign Minister Carl Bildt invited Syrian ‘opposition’ figures to hold a meeting at Hässelby Castle in Stockholm.

“Sweden’s support for the opposition-led aid project Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF) is an example. Financiers of the SRTF are 10 Western countries plus e royal dictatorships- United Arab Emirates and Kuwait,” Paulov said, indicating that Sweden only contributed twice to SRTF, last time in 2015. The total amount was 56,5 million kronor.

Foreign Ministry’s evaluation of SRTF, signed on October 23, 2018, mentioned no words about the influence of terrorist groups in the “opposition areas” where the project was implemented.

The evaluation also said nothing about the collaboration between the Syrian ‘opposition’, which chairs the SRTF, and al-Nusra Front [ Jabhat al-Nusra] and other armed extremist groups.

In April 2015, the head of the so-called the ‘Syrian Opposition Coalition’, Khalid Khoja admitted that his organizations has a tactical alliance with al-Qaeda. The coalition’s formed head, Ahmad Jarba, was chairman of the assistance fund that received 40 million SEK. In April 2014, he visited the town of Kassab from which 2000 Syrian Christians were displaced by the foreign-backed ‘opposition’.Swedish Foreign Aid to Allies of Al Qaeda

“When Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven read the Declaration of Government on September 10, he stated that “it will be a criminal act to have contact with a terrorist organization”. The obvious consequence is: How then should we see the fact that Swedish aid has been given to Syrian opposition who have been in working together with terrorists?,” Paulov argued.

As a writer and journalist, he has sought to know the Swedish government’s view on this issue and other issues related to Sweden’s aid to Syria. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused his request for an interview. And when he sent written questions, the ministry chose to skip answering the questions.

Most politicians and journalists in Sweden do not know what has really happened in Syria

“My take is that the Foreign Ministry of Sweden does not want to highlight or discuss the role of Sweden in this regime shift-war. It is much easier to be quiet. And as most politicians and journalists in Sweden do not know what has really happened in Syria, the government gets away with being quiet,” Paulov  told Syria Times e-newspaper.

He asserted that no one from the his country’s government or any other politician bothered to answer his opinion article in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet in October where he wrote about how aid from European countries had fallen into the hands of terrorist groups.

The journalist made it clear that Netherlands stopped its aid for the Syrian ‘opposition’ groups shortly after the Dutch Foreign Ministry presented the report “Review of the monitoring system of three projects in Syria”, which unveiled that ‘opposition’ groups, such as the ‘Free Syrian Army’ and the White Helmets, are likely to have contacts with terrorists.

The report also pointed out that there was no independent documentation of how more than € 40 million given by the Netherlands 2015-2018 was spent. Aid may therefore have fallen into the wrong hands.

“There is a difference between Sweden and the above-mentioned country. For example, none of the major media has examined the opposition-related projects that Sweden has supported with hundreds of millions of kronor. Another difference is that the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to lack the critical approach that exists in the Netherlands. It is clear from the official documents on the Syrian assistance from the Swedish Foreign Ministry that I requested and read,” Paulov, added.

He believes that not everything Sweden does in Syria is wrong.

“Syria needs humanitarian assistance after almost nine years of destructive war and Sweden has contributed a lot. But what I want to highlight and discuss with my investigative articles and my book is that Sweden at the same time, is involved in the regime change project together with NATO countries and the Gulf states.”

“On the one hand, Sweden provides emergency relief, while on the other, Sweden is complicit in the disaster that created so much suffering and forced so many Syrians to flee their country. The Syrian opposition that Sweden supported with money is now fighting together with the Turkish army in the northeast of Syria and they are causing a lot of suffering. This is something the Swedish government or Swedish media do not want to discuss. Instead they talk about giving 100 million crones extra to the victims,” Paulov  affirmed.

He concluded by saying: “It is high time to seriously consider Sweden’s support for the Syrian ‘opposition’, and the consequences have been for the war and terror-stricken Syrian people.”

Paulov has been speaking about his book and Syria in many cities this autumn. He has been to Sthlm, Göteborg, Jönköping, Uppsala, Helsingborg, Växjö, Nybro and Linköping. In Göteborg he has been speaking at a public meeting with 100 people, at the Göteborg book fair and also at a sport event called the Peace race.

Posted in SwedenComments Off on “Sweden’s Government Skips Answering Questions on Its Aid to the Allies of al-Qaeda in Syria”

NATO’s Continuing Enlargement Aims at Further Weakening of Russian Influence in the Balkans

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research,

Of the 29 NATO member states, 22 have already ratified the accession protocol of North Macedonia into the anti-Russian alliance. The ratification process will likely be completed before the end of NATO’s summit taking place in London this week, which will make North Macedonia the newest country in military alliance.

This now appears even more likely since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave his endorsement, saying on Twitter:

“Pleased to announce the United States deposited its ratification of North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol. One step closer to welcoming North Macedonia as NATO’s 30th Ally!”

This will make North Macedonia the fourth country out of the six successor states of Yugoslavia to become a NATO member, following Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro. With Bosnia effectively a NATO satellite, this leaves Serbia as the bulwark of anti-NATO and pro-Russia sentiment in the region, especially as the other fellow Balkan countries, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, are also NATO members.

The confusing Macedonia question was a key priority for Russia’s Balkan policy – North Macedonia is an overwhelmingly Orthodox and Slavic country that had the potential to become another pro-Russia state in the Balkans, alongside neighboring Serbia. However, North Macedonia since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 pursued a pro-Western policy and joined the NATO program Partnership for Peace as early as 1995 and became a European Union candidate a decade later.

This had not discouraged Russian efforts to push North Macedonia out of the NATO sphere of influence. The governments in Athens and Skopje have competed over the name Macedonia since North Macedonia became independent from Yugoslavia, as Greece’s northern region is also confusingly called Macedonia. Effectively, as North Macedonia was continuously vetoed by Greece from joining NATO and the EU because of the name dispute, Russian efforts to radicalize Macedonian identity was encouraged. The strategy to radicalize Macedonian identity to be more anti-Western and pro-Russian was an effort to avoid a situation like the Prespa Agreement that brought a finalization to the Macedonian name dispute in 2018, opening the way for North Macedonia to join NATO and the EU, without a Greek veto.Is the ‘Greater Albania’ Project Aimed Against Russia in the Balkans?

The Prespa Agreement, named after a lake that traverses the borders of Greece, North Macedonia and Albania, defined exactly what was meant by “Macedonia” and “Macedonian.” For Greece, according to the agreement, these terms denote an area and people of Greece’s northern region, who continue the legacy of the Ancient Macedonian Hellenic civilization, history and culture, as well as the legacy of Alexander the Great. In reference to North Macedonia, these terms denote the modern territory of North Macedonia, Slavic language and Slavic people with their own history and culture unrelated to the Ancient Macedonians. The agreement also stipulates the removal of North Macedonian irredentist efforts against Greek territory and to align them with UNESCO and Council of Europe’s standards.

The radicalization of an independent Macedonian identity was in the hope that North Macedonians would reject the name change, despite the scholarly and historical consensus that the Ancient Macedonians were Greek. This hoped North Macedonian denunciation of the West was on the basis that resolving the name dispute goes against North Macedonian nationalist doctrine as any name change must support the historical reality that the Ancient Macedonians were Hellenes. This was a bad calculation that encouraged the North Macedonians to concentrate their efforts and resources on historical revisionism on not only Hellenic legacy, but also Bulgarian and Serbian, as  historical figures like King Samuel of Bulgaria, Ilyo Voyvoda, Aleksandar Turundzhev, Yane Sandanski, Hristo Batandzhiev and many others are claimed by both North Macedonia and Bulgaria, and the unrecognized and schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church separated in an ugly divorce from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967.

This historical revisionism meant ignoring serious ambitions for a Greater Albania that expands into the western territories of North Macedonia. Ignoring efforts for Albanian expansionism, something that has been partially achieved with the Albanian control of Kosovo, has undermined North Macedonian security and opened the gates for it to become a major puppet of NATO to preserve their territorial integrity. As argued in a previous article, because the overwhelming majority of Albanians want a Greater Albania, it is unlikely to be achieved with Washington’s backing in Greece, Montenegro and North Macedonia as they do not pose a threat to U.S. hegemony in the Balkans, but rather serve it, by resisting Russian influence in the region.

As long as Skopje remains loyal to globalist agendas, the U.S. will not back Albanian expansionism in the country. However, the U.S. can certainly use the Albanian minority as a destabilizing force, as seen with Kosovo’s illegal declaration of independence and the 2001 Albanian uprising in North Macedonia. In addition to Washington having the option to use the Albanians as a destabilizing factor, the Albanians themselves may formant instability without U.S. backing as 53% of the approximately 500,000 Albanians in North Macedonia believe in a Greater Albania.

With Russian influencers failing to invigorate anti-NATO sentiment in North Macedonia, there comes the reality that the Balkan country, confident after the finalization of the name dispute, can now march into the hands of its new NATO puppet masters. It is for this reason that a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said that:

“Russia’s position regarding the expansion of NATO is well known: it is a destructive process that undermines confidence and stability in Europe, leads to increased antagonism.”

According to the official, it is not a military threat that North Macedonia would pose to Russia but a set of risks to European security that “must be guaranteed by totally different methods, instead of involving this [Balkan] country in military planning of the Alliance and in an anti-Russian policy.”

Posted in USA, Europe, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, NATO, Russia, Serbia, YugoslaviaComments Off on NATO’s Continuing Enlargement Aims at Further Weakening of Russian Influence in the Balkans

‘This Isn’t How You End the Endless War’: Trump Weighs Plan to Send 14,000 More US Troops to Middle East

“Trump ran on ending these endless wars. But he’s sending more troops to the Middle East, making yet another war there more likely.”

by: Jake Johnson,

President Donald Trump speaks to U.S. troops during a surprise Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

The Pentagon is reportedly considering deploying as many as 14,000 additional U.S. troops to the Middle East in order to confront the alleged threat posed by Iran, a move critics said would further expose the hollowness of President Donald Trump’s vow to end America’s perpetual wars.

“Trump ran on ending these endless wars,” tweeted Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “But he’s sending more troops to the Middle East, making yet another war there more likely.”

“Congress has not authorized any ‘Countering Iran’ mission.”
—Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders

After the Pentagon on Wednesday officially denied a Wall Street Journal report that the Trump administration is weighing a plan to send thousands of additional troops to the Middle East, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that the Defense Department is in fact considering “changes to our force posture” in the Middle East.

“We’re concerned about the threat stream that we’re seeing,” Rood told lawmakers, referring to Iran. “It is possible that we would need to adjust our force posture, and I think that would be a prudent step based on what we observe.”

The Journal, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported late Wednesday that the Trump administration “is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware, and as many as 14,000 additional troops.”

“The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel who have been sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup in May,” the Journal noted. “President Trump is expected to make a decision on the new deployments as soon as this month.”

Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, noted that Congress has not authorized deployment of additional U.S. troops to “confront Iran:

Matt Duss@mattduss

Congress

has

not

authorized

any

“Countering Iran”

mission. https://twitter.com/AndrewRestuccia/status/1202337561055772674 …

Andrew Restuccia@AndrewRestuccia

Breaking from @glubold @nancyayoussef

The Trump administration is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East, including as many as 14,000 additional troops to counter Iran, U.S. officials said.https://on.wsj.com/369wRZT

A new deployment of troops to the Middle East would not be the first time Trump has reneged on his pledge to bring American soldiers home.

As Common Dreams reported in October, Trump ordered 1,800 troops and advanced weapons systems to Saudi Arabia less than 24 hours after tweeting that he is “trying to end the ENDLESS WARS.”

In response to the latest possible deployment, anti-war group CodePink tweeted, “This isn’t how you ‘end the endless war.'”

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on ‘This Isn’t How You End the Endless War’: Trump Weighs Plan to Send 14,000 More US Troops to Middle East

‘What Cruelty Looks Like’: Trump Finalizes Plan to Strip Food Aid From 750,000 Low-Income People by 2020

“When it came to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, Trump felt the nation’s finances were firm enough to give up more than $1,500,000,000,000. When it’s time to spend a fraction of that to help poor people eat, that’s when the well has supposedly run dry.”

by: Jake Johnson,

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order to streamline the approval process for GMO crops as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue claps at the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa on June 11, 2019. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it has finalized a plan to tighten punitive work requirements for food stamp recipients, a move that would strip nutrition assistance from an estimated 750,000 low-income people by mid-2020.

“Pay attention. This is what cruelty looks like,” tweeted the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in response to the completed rule, which would be the first of a series of proposed food stamp cuts to take effect.

The rule change, which was first unveiled earlier this year, would restrict states’ ability to exempt people without dependents from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s work requirements. The rule is set to take effect April 1, 2020.

“For able-bodied adults without dependents, U.S. law limits SNAP benefits to three months, unless recipients are working or in training for 20 hours a week,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. “States can waive those limits in areas where unemployment runs 20% above the national rate, which was 3.6% in October.”

The Trump administration’s proposal to curtail states’ ability to waive work requirements sparked a flood of outrage from aid groups, Democratic lawmakers, and ordinary people. During the rule’s 60-day public comment period, tens of thousands of people decried the measure as an immoral attack on the most vulnerable by an administration that has worked tirelessly to fatten the pockets of the rich.

“The comments make it clear that most Americans not only oppose but are utterly repulsed by this plan to punish the poorest among us by denying them help to feed themselves,” Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement in April.

According to an Urban Institute study (pdf) published last week, the Trump administration’s three proposed SNAP changes combined would strip federal food aid from 3.7 million people.

“The basics of the situation are clear,” Rolling Stone‘s Patrick Reis wrote Tuesday. “When it came to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, Trump and Republicans felt the nation’s finances were firm enough to give up more than $1,500,000,000,000. When it’s time to spend a fraction of that to help poor people eat, that’s when the well has supposedly run dry.”

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As U.S. Ignores Risks to Kids, E.U. Bans Brain-Damaging Pesticide

Organization Profile: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Contact: Alex Formuzis, (202) 667-6982,

 alex@ewg.org

EWG: Trump EPA Kowtows to Chemical Ag Industry

WASHINGTON – The European Union today confirmed it will ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops early next year, citing the risk of brain damage to children – evidence the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored in scuttling a proposed ban on the chemical.  

In August, the European Food Safety Authority, or EFSA, said there is “no safe level” of exposure to the insecticide, which drove today’s decision. The EFSA also cited possible damage to DNA. Chlorpyrifos will no longer be allowed for sale in the 28 member countries of the EU after the end of January.  

The EPA was poised to ban chlorpyrifos early in 2017. But after the 2016 election, Dow launched an aggressive campaign to block that decision.

Dow, the pesticide’s main manufacturer, donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration festivities, and its CEO met privately with then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Soon after, Pruitt ignored his agency’s own scientists and aborted the scheduled ban.

Pruitt resigned in disgrace in July 2018 after a scandal-ridden 18-month tenure, but Andrew Wheeler, who took over as administrator of the agency, fought in federal court to keep chlorpyrifos legal. California has banned the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops after February.

“American children and farmworkers would not be exposed to this dangerous pesticide today if the Trump EPA had not ignored the advice of its scientists and kowtowed to the chemical agricultural industry,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Why should kids in France, Germany and Italy be protected from a brain-damaging chemical while U.S. kids continue to be exposed?”

A robust body of scientific evidence shows that even small doses of chlorpyrifos can damage parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion. Multiple independent studies have found that exposure to chlorpyrifos impairs children’s IQs.

EPA scientists assessed those studies and concluded that the levels of the pesticide currently found on food and in drinking water are unsafe. The scientists estimate that typical exposures for babies are five times greater than the agency’s proposed “safe” intake, and 11 to 15 times higher for toddlers and older children. A typical exposure for a pregnant woman is five times higher than it ought to be to protect her developing fetus.

The most recent data from the U.S. Geological Survey show an estimated 5 million pounds of the weedkiller was sprayed on U.S. cropland in 2016.

Posted in USA, Europe, HealthComments Off on As U.S. Ignores Risks to Kids, E.U. Bans Brain-Damaging Pesticide

How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True

Twenty years ago, experts refused to see the truth about the dark side of globalization. Then Seattle happened.

by: Walden Bello

Riot police pepper spray nonviolent demonstrators at the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests. (Photo: Steve Kaiser / Flickr)

Riot police pepper spray nonviolent demonstrators at the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests. (Photo: Steve Kaiser / Flickr)

The Battle of Seattle in late November 1999 is, for me, memorable in many ways.

For one, I still remember being given a good beating by a policewoman when I tried to prevent her buddies from hauling off the irrepressible Medea Benjamin, then the director of Global Exchange, from a sit-in at the entrance to the Seattle Convention Center. I was lucky to escape serious injury.

But for me the main takeaway from Seattle was that it takes action to make the truth true.

In the decade prior to Seattle, there were a lot of studies, including United Nations reports, that questioned the claim that globalization and free market policies were leading to sustained growth and prosperity. Instead, the data showed that globalization and pro-market policies were promoting more inequality and more poverty and consolidating economic stagnation, especially in the Global South.

However, these figures remained “factoids” rather than “facts” in the eyes of academics, the press, and policymakers, who dutifully repeated the neoliberal mantra that economic liberalization promoted growth and prosperity. The orthodox view, repeated ad nauseam in the classroom, the media, and policy circles, was that the critics of globalization like me were Luddites—modern versions of the people who smashed machines at the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Then we had Seattle.

It was not just a World Trade Organization ministerial that collapsed, but also a creed that had been widely believed to be true. After Seattle, the press began to talk about the “dark side of globalization” — about the inequalities and poverty being created by globalization.

After that, we had the spectacular defections from the globalist camp, such as financier George Soros, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and “Dr. Shock Therapy” himself, the economist Jeffrey Sachs.

Then came the widely publicized findings of two independent studies—one by American University Professor Robin Broad in the Review of International Political Economy and the other by a panel of neoclassical economists headed by Princeton’s Angus Deaton and former IMF chief economist Ken Rogoff—showing that the World Bank Research Department, the source of most assertions that globalization and trade liberalization were leading to lower rates of poverty and inequality, had been deliberately distorting its data and making unwarranted claims.

Way before the financial crisis broke out in 2008, the credibility of neoliberalism and the promise of globalization had been severely eroded. What made the difference? Not so much research or debate, but action.

It took the militant mobilization of masses of people and the spectacular collapse of a WTO ministerial to translate factoids into facts—into truth. What proved decisive was the conjunction of the massive protests with the refusal of developing country delegates at the Sheraton Convention Center to accept any more forced liberalization of their economies.

Truth is not just ‘”there.” Truth is completed, made real, and ratified by action.

I hate having to bring up the name of Magellan, but allow me in this instance. Like Magellan’s circumnavigation of the earth in relation to the theory of the earth as a sphere, Seattle was a world-historic event that made the truth true—and consigned to the dustbin of history flat earthers like Thomas Friedman and a whole generation of neoliberal economists and policymakers.

Of course, neoliberalism continues to be the economic and elite policy preference of choice, but it’s because economists and technocrats know nothing else. Their careers are vested in it. To borrow from Yeats, they are without conviction—but they are dangerous. Neoliberalism is like the engineer who’s been shot dead by the outlaws but his dead hand remains on the throttle of the train, speeding it towards destruction.

Posted in USA, Politics, WorldComments Off on How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True

Trump Fails Again to Bring Our Troops Home From Mideast

Trump Fails Again to Bring Our Troops Home From Mideast: Mulling Escalation of 14,000 US Troops to the Middle East to Counter Iran

It’s not clear how another 14,000 US troops would effectively do anything to block Iran.

by: Juan Cole

A new contingent of 14,000 troops would double the extra total sent in 2019 alone and bring the over-all number to 74,000. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

A new contingent of 14,000 troops would double the extra total sent in 2019 alone and bring the over-all number to 74,000. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump’s Pentagon is allegedly mulling sending 14,000 US troops to the Middle East to counter Iran.

Although the Pentagon pushed back against the initial report, that had only said they were considering the troop escalation, and the Pentagon did not deny considering it.

Trump has sent 14,000 troops to the Mideast since last May. Apparently the bulk of them are on an aircraft carrier. Some 3,000 are being sent to Saudi Arabia to help man new Patriot anti-missile batteries provided to the Kingdom after the September Iran-backed drone and rocket strikes on the Abqaiq oil facility, which temporarily took 5% of the world’s oil off the market.

Trump made a big splash in October by claiming to bring home the 1,000 special operations personnel embedded with the Kurds in northern Syria. In fact, in the end he sent 500 of them to guard the Syrian oil fields in Deir al-Zor and repositioned the rest in Iraq.

So he didn’t actually bring any troops home, but has sent in 14,000 in the past half-year. There are some 60,000 US troops in the Greater Middle East, but their exact distribution is now hidden by the Pentagon.

A new contingent of 14,000 troops would double the extra total sent in 2019 alone and bring the over-all number to 74,000.

Aside from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, most US troops in the region are not war fighters. There are nearly 5,000 sailors at the HQ of the 5th Fleet at Manama, Bahrain. There are another 11,000 at al-Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar, from which many air missions against ISIL in Iraq and Afghanistan and against the Taliban in the latter country are flown.

In June of 2017 Trump put the al-Udeid base in jeopardy by publicly backing the Saudi Arabian blockade of Qatar, but he was counter-acted by the Secretary of Defense James Mattis and then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

It is not clear to me how another 14,000 US troops would effectively do anything to block Iran. The 3,000 planned for Saudi Arabia to man the Patriot batteries make sense on the surface, at least, but that was part of the last 14,000-troop escalation. It is being reported that one Pentagon concern is Iranian missiles in Iraq. But Iraq currently doesn’t actually have a government and it is difficult to understand how Baghdad practically speaking could authorize an increase in 5,000 or so US troops stationed there (they largely advise the Iraqi Army on clean-up missions against the remnants of the ISIL terrorist group).

Iran does not have a significant number of Iranian troops outside the country. There may be a small contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps advisers in Iraq at the invitation of Baghdad, though their welcome among the protesting masses they and their proteges among the Shiite Iraqi militias is growing thin. There are about 2500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps advisers in Syria. At the height of the civil war back in 2016 there were estimated to be another 7500 or so conscripted Afghan and other foot soldiers, but it isn’t clear how many of those are still in country. I doubt there are more than a handful of IRGC personnel in Lebanon, though Iran funds the Shiite party-militia, the Hizbullah.

Iran has mainly benefited from soft power in the region, which can’t be countered easily by 14,000 US troops.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Middle EastComments Off on Trump Fails Again to Bring Our Troops Home From Mideast

Africa Could Power a Green Revolution

With a thriving off-grid solar market and hundreds of millions of people waiting for electricity, the continent offers huge potential for renewables.

by: William Minter

From off-grid solar home systems to utility-scale solar and wind, the potential for major advances in the use of renewable energy is also growing rapidly on the African continent. (Photo: Shutterstock)

From off-grid solar home systems to utility-scale solar and wind, the potential for major advances in the use of renewable energy is also growing rapidly on the African continent. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Just before this year’s global climate summit opened in Madrid recently, researchers announced that emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels will hit a record high in 2019.

Although the 0.6 percent rate of growth is less than last year’s 2.1 percent, the total which must be cut to prevent the most catastrophic and irreversible scenarios is still increasing. Deeper and faster cuts are needed immediately and over the next 10 years. The primary responsibility to cut fossil-fuel emissions falls to developed countries that bear the greatest historical responsibilities, as well as to countries with large populations such as China and India that are also now among the top in global emissions.

However, from off-grid solar home systems to utility-scale solar and wind, the potential for major advances in the use of renewable energy is also growing rapidly on the African continent.

With stepped-up adoption of these technologies, African countries could contribute significantly to mitigating the global climate crisis. This would also reduce the ongoing damage to the health of their citizens, whether from kerosene lamps in rural areasgasoline generators to backup unreliable power grids, or massive coal pollution in South Africa.

Driven by technological innovation, steadily falling costs, and the visible effects of the climate crisis, this transition is still hampered by vested interests in fossil fuels and by foot-dragging on the part of government planning agencies. But there is more and more evidence that renewable options are not only better for the climate and for health, but also the least expensive path. There is much untapped potential for replacing kerosene lamps, backup power generators, and coal power plants with cost-effective renewable alternatives. Innovative energy companies and investors are taking note.

East African countries have pioneered off-grid solar, laying out a model that other African countries could follow. While rural areas are still the primary markets for solar home systems, power grids in most African countries are so prone to power outages that many homes and businesses on the grid must rely on gasoline or diesel generators for backup. Solar systems can already begin to replace smaller generators, and further technological progress could make even larger systems cost-effective.

South Africa is still overwhelmingly dependent on expensive and unreliable coal-fired power plants, which supply 77 percent of the country’s electricity. Recent studies show that for new energy installations, renewable energy is already the cheapest. But such a shift faces enormous obstacles, not least the multiple dysfunctions and effective bankruptcy of Eskom, the scandal-ridden state-owned electricity agency.

Off-Grid Solar

Rapid expansion in solar home systems has been well documented as feasible.

In September 2019, the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) reported on research in Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda with customers of seven off-grid solar companies. Researchers tracked 1,419 customers who bought solar home systems, with interviews at 3 months and 15 months after purchase. Ninety-five percent of respondents reported significant improvement in quality of life, with 95 percent saying they would recommend their product to a friend or relative.

According to Forbes, there are 600 million people without access to electricity in Africa, 71 million of them in Nigeria. “At this point, we are barely scraping the surface” of potential demand, said Alistair Gordon, chief executive of Lumos, the largest provider of off-grid solar in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire. The company currently has 100,000 customers and expects to provide solar power to 100 million people in the next 5-7 years.

There is also the potential to replace backup generators, notes the International Finance Corporation.

“With rapid improvement in efficiency, performance, and economies over recent years, distributed solar and storage technologies now offer a superior and effective alternative to the backup generators that are proliferating across much of the developing world.” In Nigeria alone, an estimated 22 million small gasoline generators (excluding larger diesel generators) are reported to have a collective capacity as much as 8 times the capacity of the electric grid. They are essential to many small businesses as well as to households.

According to the Access to Energy Institute, “An effective substitute for small gasoline generators, such as solar systems, can tap into a $12 billion-a-year market in Nigeria alone.” Upfront costs are still high, but savings come from eliminating the need to buy fuel. Further research on more efficient systems, they calculate, has the potential to reduce the break-even period to 5-7 years. And while gasoline generators last approximately 5 years, solar systems have a life span of approximately 20 years.

Trapped in Coal in South Africa

The release of South Africa´s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) in October 2019 was preceded by considerable optimism among renewable energy advocates. The government promised to “articulate the lowest-cost option for the future energy mix for South Africa, with increased contributions from renewable energy sources.” And President Ramaphosa spoke of an $11 billion green-energy initiative.

But when the IRP was announced, the plan called not only for decommissioning 10,500 MW of aging coal plants, but also for launching 1,500 MW of new coal plants. This was inconsistent with the least-cost path scenario detailed by the government Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in November 2018. And it was vigorously criticized by South African environmental justice organizations.

“There is no reasonable basis for building new coal plants when the technology and costs are clearly in favour of renewables and flexible generation,” says Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa. Coal plants built in the 2020s are likely to be abandoned long before they are paid off, the coalition of environmental groups noted.

The South African Parliament has approved a $4 billion bailout for Eskom’s debt, much of it due to cost overruns of $20 billion on the giant Medupi and Kusile coal plants.

And a devastating report by an outside corporate consulting firm concluded that Eskom has become ”an operationally dysfunctional, financially insolvent, unreliable, and corrupt entity,” arguing that urgent attention to fixing these basic problems must take priority over renewable energy. Renewable energy advocates agree that implementation of any plans, including integration of renewables into the grid, requires fundamental reform in Eskom’s management. But, they say, doubling down on coal will worsen rather than improve the situation.

Unless South Africa’s policies change, therefore, the potential for advance in renewable energy is likely to be realized more rapidly by hundreds of thousands of off-grid consumers around the continent than by entrenched power companies such as South Africa’s Eskom.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Africa Could Power a Green Revolution

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