‘I Am Muslim Too’: Solidarity Rallies Back Immigrants Across US

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  • People take part in an "I am Muslim Too" rally in Times Square Manhattan, New York, U.S.
    People take part in an “I am Muslim Too” rally in Times Square Manhattan, New York, U.S. | Photo: Reuters
People stood in solidarity with Muslims and against Trump’s immigration policies.

In the continuing wave of protests against U.S. President Donald Trump, “I am Muslim too” rallies cropped up in cities throughout the weekend in solidarity with Muslims and against Trump’s immigration policies.

RELATED:  Trump Makes up Terror Attack in Sweden to Defend ‘Muslim Ban’

More than 1,000 people congregated in New York on Sunday in Times Square, and attendees heard from rabbis, imams, Sikh clergymember, a Buddhist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian reverends, a Mennonite, a Seventh Day Adventist minister, a Hindu, a Baptist pastor, local politicians and civil rights advocates.

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the rally, saying “we have to dispel the stereotypes” and that the United States is “a country founded to protect all faiths and all beliefs.”

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons headlined the event and told the crowd that even while Muslims are being scapegoated, “diversity will prevail.”

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian Muslim activist and one of the organizers of the Women’s March, also spoke at the rally in New York.

RELATED: ‘Day Without Immigrants’ Protests Shake Major US Cities

“I am unapologetically Muslim, all day, every day,” she told the crowd, as reported by CNN. “I am not afraid because fear is a choice; it is not a fact. So today I ask you, in the true grit and spirit of a New Yorker, that you choose courage in the face of fear.”

Across the country, in Oregon, people demonstrated in front of the Oregon State Capitol to voice their support for immigration rights, with people carrying placards that read “we the people are greater than fear”.

In Dallas, a day earlier on Saturday, police estimated that more than 1,700 people rallied downtown in support of immigrants and refugees.

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Democratic Ex-Dove Proposes War on Iran

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Exclusive: The Democrats’ rush to rebrand themselves as super-hawks is perhaps best illustrated by the once-dovish Rep. Alcee Hastings proposing stand-by authorization for the President to attack Iran, reports Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

Rep. Alcee Hastings has sponsored a bill to authorize President Trump to attack Iran. Hastings reintroduced H J Res 10, the “Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution” on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress after President Trump’s election.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida

Hastings’s bill has come as a shock to constituents and people who have followed his career as a 13-term Democratic Member of Congress from South Florida. Miami Beach resident Michael Gruener called Hastings’s bill, “extraordinarily dangerous,” and asked, “Does Hastings even consider to whom he is giving this authorization?”

Fritzie Gaccione, the editor of the South Florida Progressive Bulletin noted that Iran is complying with the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and expressed amazement that Hastings has reintroduced this bill at a moment when the stakes are so high and Trump’s intentions so unclear.

“How can Hastings hand this opportunity to Trump?” she asked. “Trump shouldn’t be trusted with toy soldiers, let alone the American military.”

Speculation by people in South Florida as to why Alcee Hastings has sponsored such a dangerous bill reflect two general themes. One is that he is paying undue attention to the pro-Israel groups who raised 10 percent of his coded campaign contributions for the 2016 election. The other is that, at the age of 80, he seems to be carrying water for the pay-to-play Clinton wing of the Democratic Party as part of some kind of retirement plan.

Alcee Hastings is better known to the public as a federal judge who was impeached for bribery and for a series of ethical lapses as a Congressman than for his legislative record. The 2012 Family Affairs report by the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that Hastings paid his partner, Patricia Williams, $622,000 to serve as his deputy district director from 2007 to 2010, the largest amount paid to a family member by any Member of Congress in the report.

But Hastings sits in one of the 25 safest Democratic seats in the House and does not seem to have ever faced a serious challenge from a Democratic primary opponent or a Republican.

Alcee Hastings’s voting record on war and peace issues has been about average for a Democrat. He voted against the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) on Iraq, and his 79 percent lifetime Peace Action score is the highest among current House members from Florida, although Alan Grayson’s was higher.

Hastings voted against the bill to approve the JCPOA or nuclear agreement with Iran and first introduced his AUMF bill in 2015. With the approval of the JCPOA and Obama’s solid commitment to it, Hastings’s bill seemed like a symbolic act that posed little danger – until now.

In the new Republican-led Congress, with the bombastic and unpredictable Donald Trump in the White House, Hastings’s bill could actually serve as a blank check for war on Iran, and it is carefully worded to be exactly that. It authorizes the open-ended use of force against Iran with no limits on the scale or duration of the war. The only sense in which the bill meets the requirements of the War Powers Act is that it stipulates that it does so. Otherwise it entirely surrenders Congress’s constitutional authority for any decision over war with Iran to the President, requiring only that he report to Congress on the war once every 60 days.

Dangerous Myths    

The wording of Hastings’s bill perpetuates dangerous myths about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program that have been thoroughly investigated and debunked after decades of intense scrutiny by experts, from the U.S. intelligence community to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)

As former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei explained in his book, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, the IAEA has never found any real evidence of nuclear weapons research or development in Iran, any more than in Iraq in 2003, the last time such myths were abused to launch our country into a devastating and disastrous war.

In Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, investigative journalist Gareth Porter meticulously examined the suspected evidence of nuclear weapons activity in Iran. He explored the reality behind every claim and explained how the deep-seated mistrust in U.S.-Iran relations gave rise to misinterpretations of Iran’s scientific research and led Iran to shroud legitimate civilian research in secrecy. This climate of hostility and dangerous worst-case assumptions even led to the assassination of four innocent Iranian scientists by alleged Israeli agents.

The discredited myth of an Iranian “nuclear weapons program” was perpetuated throughout the 2016 election campaign by candidates of both parties, but Hillary Clinton was particularly strident in claiming credit for neutralizing Iran’s imaginary nuclear weapons program.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry also reinforced a false narrative that the “dual-track” approach of Obama’s first term, escalating sanctions and threats of war at the same time as holding diplomatic negotiations, “brought Iran to the table.” This was utterly false. Threats and sanctions served only to undermine diplomacy, strengthen hard-liners on both sides and push Iran into building 20,000 centrifuges to supply its civilian nuclear program with enriched uranium, as documented in Trita Parsi’s book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran.

A former hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran who rose to be a senior officer on the Iran desk at the State Department told Parsi that the main obstacle to diplomacy with Iran during Obama’s first term was the U.S. refusal to “take ‘Yes’ for an answer.”

When Brazil and Turkey persuaded Iran to accept the terms of an agreement proposed by the U.S. a few months earlier, the U.S. responded by rejecting its own proposal. By then the main U.S. goal was to ratchet up sanctions at the U.N., which this diplomatic success would have undermined.

Trita Parsi explained that this was only one of many ways in which the two tracks of Obama’s “dual-track” approach were hopelessly at odds with each other. Only once Clinton was replaced by John Kerry at the State Department did serious diplomacy displace brinksmanship and ever-rising tensions.

Next Target for U.S. Aggression?

Statements by President Trump have raised hopes for a new detente with Russia. But there is no firm evidence of a genuine rethink of U.S. war policy, an end to serial U.S. aggression or a new U.S. commitment to peace or the rule of international law.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. March 19, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

Trump and his advisers may hope that some kind of “deal” with Russia could give them the strategic space to continue America’s war policy on other fronts without Russian interference. But this would only grant Russia a temporary reprieve from U.S. aggression as long as U.S. leaders still view “regime change” or mass destruction as the only acceptable outcomes for countries that challenge U.S. dominance.

Students of history, not least 150 million Russians, will remember that another serial aggressor offered Russia a “deal” like that in 1939, and that Russia’s complicity with Germany over Poland only set the stage for the total devastation of Poland, Russia and Germany.

One former U.S. official who has consistently warned of the danger of U.S. aggression against Iran is retired General Wesley Clark. In his 2007 memoir, A Time To Lead, General Clark explained that his fears were rooted in ideas embraced by hawks in Washington since the end of the Cold War. Clark recalls Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz’s response in May 1991 when he congratulated him on his role in the Gulf War.

“We screwed up and left Saddam Hussein in power. The president believes he’ll be overthrown by his own people, but I rather doubt it,” Wolfowitz complained. “But we did learn one thing that’s very important. With the end of the Cold War, we can now use our military with impunity. The Soviets won’t come in to block us. And we’ve got five, maybe 10, years to clean up these old Soviet surrogate regimes like Iraq and Syria before the next superpower emerges to challenge us … We could have a little more time, but no one really knows.”

The view that the end of the Cold War opened the door for a series of U.S.-led wars in the Middle East was widely held among hawkish officials and advisers in the Bush I administration and military-industrial think tanks. During the propaganda push for war on Iraq in 1990, Michael Mandelbaum, the director of East-West studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, crowed to the New York Times, “for the first time in 40 years, we can conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about triggering World War III.”

Self-Inflicted Nightmare

As we begin the fifth U.S. administration since 1990, U.S. foreign policy remains trapped in the self-inflicted nightmare that those dangerous assumptions produced. Today, war-wise Americans can quite easily fill in the unasked questions that Wolfowitz’s backward-looking and simplistic analysis failed to ask, let alone answer, in 1991.

Former Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. (DoD photo by Scott Davis, U.S. Army. Wikipedia)

 

What did he mean by “clean up”? What if we couldn’t “clean them all up” in the short historical window he described? What if failed efforts to “clean up these old Soviet surrogate regimes” left only chaos, instability and greater dangers in their place? Which leads to the still largely unasked and unanswered question: how can we actually clean up the violence and chaos that we ourselves have now unleashed on the world?

In 2012, Norwegian General Robert Mood was forced to withdraw a U.N. peacekeeping team from Syria after Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and their Turkish and Arab monarchist allies undermined U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

In 2013, as they unveiled their “Plan B,” for Western military intervention in Syria, General Mood told the BBC, “It is fairly easy to use the military tool, because, when you launch the military tool in classical interventions, something will happen and there will be results. The problem is that the results are almost all the time different than the political results you were aiming for when you decided to launch it. So the other position, arguing that it is not the role of the international community, neither coalitions of the willing nor the U.N. Security Council for that matter, to change governments inside a country, is also a position that should be respected.”

General Wesley Clark played his own deadly role as the supreme commander of NATO’s illegal assault on what was left of the “old Soviet surrogate regime” of Yugoslavia in 1999. Then, ten days after the horrific crimes of September 11, 2001, newly retired General Clark dropped in at the Pentagon to find that the scheme Wolfowitz described to him in 1991 had become the Bush administration’s grand strategy to exploit the war psychosis into which it was plunging the country and the world.

Undersecretary Stephen Cambone’s notes from a meeting amid the ruins of the Pentagon on September 11th include orders from Secretary Rumsfeld to, “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

A former colleague at the Pentagon showed Clark a list of seven countries besides Afghanistan where the U.S. planned to unleash “regime change” wars in the next five years: Iraq; Syria; Lebanon; Libya; Somalia; Sudan; and Iran. The five- to ten-year window of opportunity Wolfowitz described to Clark in 1991 had already passed. But instead of reevaluating a strategy that was illegal, untested and predictably dangerous to begin with, and now well past its sell-by date, the neocons were hell-bent on launching an ill-conceived blitzkrieg across the Middle East and neighboring regions, with no objective analysis of the geopolitical consequences and no concern for the human cost.

Misery and Chaos

Fifteen years later, despite the catastrophic failure of illegal wars that have killed 2 million people and left only misery and chaos in their wake, the leaders of both major U.S. political parties seem determined to pursue this military madness to the bitter end – whatever that end may be and however long the wars may last.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

By framing their wars in terms of vague “threats” to America and by demonizing foreign leaders, our own morally and legally bankrupt leaders and the subservient U.S. corporate media are still trying to obscure the obvious fact that we are the aggressor that has been threatening and attacking country after country in violation of the U.N. Charter and international law since 1999.

So U.S. strategy has inexorably escalated from an unrealistic but limited goal of overthrowing eight relatively defenseless governments in and around the Middle East to risking nuclear war with Russia and/or China. U.S. post-Cold War triumphalism and hopelessly unrealistic military ambitions have revived the danger of World War III that even Paul Wolfowitz celebrated the passing of in 1991.

The U.S. has followed the well-worn path that has stymied aggressors throughout history, as the exceptionalist logic used to justify aggression in the first place demands that we keep doubling down on wars that we have less and less hope of winning, squandering our national resources to spread violence and chaos far and wide across the world.

Russia has demonstrated that it once again has both the military means and the political will to “block” U.S. ambitions, as Wolfowitz put it in 1991. Hence Trump’s vain hopes of a “deal” to buy Russia off. U.S. operations around islands in the South China Sea suggest a gradual escalation of threats and displays of force against China rather than an assault on the Chinese mainland in the near future, although this could quickly spin out of control.

So, more or less by default, Iran has moved back to the top of the U.S.’s “regime change” target list, even though this requires basing a political case for an illegal war on the imaginary danger of non-existent weapons for the second time in 15 years. War against Iran would involve, from the outset, a massive bombing campaign against its military defenses, civilian infrastructure and nuclear facilities, killing tens of thousands of people and likely escalating into an even more catastrophic war than those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Gareth Porter believes that Trump will avoid war on Iran for the same reasons as Bush and Obama, because it would be unwinnable and because Iran has robust defenses that could inflict significant losses on U.S. warships and bases in the Persian Gulf.

On the other hand, Patrick Cockburn, one of the most experienced Western reporters in the Middle East, believes that we will attack Iran in one to two years because, after Trump fails to resolve any of the crises elsewhere in the region, the pressure of his failures will combine with the logic of escalating demonization and threats already under way in Washington to make war on Iran inevitable.

In this light, Rep. Hastings’s bill is a critical brick in a wall that bipartisan hawks in Washington are building to close off any exit from the path to war with Iran. They believe that Obama let Iran slip out of their trap, and they are determined not to let that happen again.

Another brick in this wall is the recycled myth of Iran as the greatest state sponsor of terrorism. This is a glaring contradiction with the U.S. focus on ISIS as the world’s main terrorist threat. The states that have sponsored and fueled the rise of ISIS have been, not Iran, but Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the other Arab monarchies and Turkey, with critical training, weapons and logistical and diplomatic support for what has become ISIS from the U.S., U.K. and France.

Iran can only be a greater state sponsor of terrorism than the U.S. and its allies if Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, the Middle Eastern resistance movements to whom it provides various levels of support, pose more of a terrorist danger to the rest of the world than ISIS. No U.S. official has even tried to make that case, and it is hard to imagine the tortured reasoning it would involve.

Brinksmanship and Military Madness

The U.N. Charter wisely prohibits the threat as well as the use of force in international relations, because the threat of force so predictably leads to its use. And yet, post-Cold War U.S. doctrine quickly embraced the dangerous idea that U.S. “diplomacy” must be backed up by the threat of force.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Hillary Clinton has been a strong proponent of this idea since the 1990s and has been undeterred by either its illegality or its catastrophic results. As I wrote in an article on Clinton during the election campaign, this is illegal brinksmanship, not legitimate diplomacy.

It takes a lot of sophisticated propaganda to convince even Americans that a war machine that keeps threatening and attacking other countries represents a “commitment to global security,” as President Obama claimed in his Nobel speech. Convincing the rest of the world is another matter again, and people in other countries are not so easily brainwashed.

Obama’s hugely symbolic election victory and global charm offensive provided cover for continued U.S. aggression for eight more years, but Trump risks giving the game away by discarding the velvet glove and exposing the naked iron fist of U.S. militarism. A U.S. war on Iran could be the final straw.

Cassia Laham is the co-founder of POWIR (People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism) and part of a coalition organizing demonstrations in South Florida against many of President Trump’s policies. Cassia calls Alcee Hastings’s AUMF bill, “a dangerous and desperate attempt to challenge the shift in power in the Middle East and the world.”  She noted that, “Iran has risen up as a pivotal power player countering U.S. and Saudi influence in the region,” and concluded, “if the past is any indicator of the future, the end result of a war with Iran will be a large-scale war, high death tolls and the further weakening of U.S. power.”

Whatever misconceptions, interests or ambitions have prompted Alcee Hastings to threaten 80 million people in Iran with a blank check for unlimited war, they cannot possibly outweigh the massive loss of life and unimaginable misery for which he will be responsible if Congress should pass H J Res 10 and President Trump should act on it. The bill still has no co-sponsors, so let us hope that it can be quarantined as an isolated case of extreme military madness, before it becomes an epidemic and unleashes yet another catastrophic war.

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CIA Freezes Aid To Free Syrian Army

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Fighters from the Free Syrian Army disembark from an armoured vehicle near the town of Bizaah northeast of the city of Al-Bab, some 30 kilometres from the Syrian city of Aleppo, on February 4, 2017

As Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s hold on western parts of Syria solidifies, the CIA is lessening its support of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

No military assistance will be delivered to the FSA by the CIA “until matters are organized,” a source on the ground in Syria told Reuters. Specifically, FSA commanders said that the agency could be worried that, with growing jihadist assaults across the region, including the mass execution of up to 200 last week, the CIA is wary of putting cash and weapons into the hands of combatants that could then be given to regional terrorists.

Officials familiar with the CIA-led program said the decision to freeze aid has nothing to do with US President Donald Trump replacing President Barack Obama, even though Trump has indicated skepticism about the nature of US support of rebels in the region, saying that the US should focus efforts on Daesh, not Assad.

The FSA will continue to receive aid, however, from nations that receive weapons from the US and who oppose the Assad administration. While US aid to the FSA has been severed, at least temporarily, Zio-Wahhabi Qatar, Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime and NATO-member Turkey continue to pour weapons and money into groups aligned with the FSA. In 2015, Zio-Wahhabi regime of Qatar, a nation of two million, spent more money on US weapons than any other country, while Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family ranked third, behind Egypt, according to the US Congressional Research Service.

Turkish officials have remained quiet on the development, citing an unwillingness to divulge “operational details.” One FSA commander said that the group does not expect its supporters to abandon the FSA altogether, but that donors expect to send aid to a single fighting force, which has proved difficult to achieve in Syria. But the growing Sunni jihadist presence, as well as Iran’s increasing role in Syria, could mean that the FSA is the best opportunity to block the Sunni expansion, the source said. There are currently some 15,00 fighters loyal to the FSA, according to estimates.

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FARC Finish Demobilization as UN Confirms Paramilitary Activity

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  • FARC rebels marching towards a designated "safe zone" in the Cauca mountains, Colombia.
    FARC rebels marching towards a designated “safe zone” in the Cauca mountains, Colombia. | Photo: EFE
The last of almost 7,000 FARC rebels entered designated “safe zones” on Saturday, completing a key first step in the peace agreement.

As FARC rebels completed their final demobilization on Saturday and entered the last of the 26 designated safe zones, U.N. monitors reported that right-wing paramilitary groups are moving into former rebel-controlled areas displacing almost a hundred families.

RELATED: Paramilitary Groups Fight To Take Over Lands Left by FARC

Both FARC leader Timoleon Jiménez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated the completion of “three weeks of day and night movement” which brought almost 7,000 FARC troops to U.N. supervised “green zones” — a key step in the peace agreement which ended the countries 52-year civil war — where the former left-wing guerillas will disarm.

en este día el último guerrillero y la última guerrillera se suman a la ZVTN. y eso no nos falta.

Today the last guerrillas arrived in the Green Zones. Peace is Compromise, and we have not let it down.

Es histórico que las Farc estén próximas a su desarme y reinserción. Gratitud y reconocimiento a quienes demostraron que . https://twitter.com/comisionadopaz/status/832727776633368576 

It’s historic that the FARC are close to disarming and transitioning. Gratitude and recognition to those who have demonstrated that The Peace Advances

The U.N. mission in Colombia also praised the development, noting that the Colombian government had not fully lived up to its promises to prepare the safe zones for the almost 7,000 FARC soldiers who will now disarm and begin their transition to civilian life.

“The FARC-EP leadership’s decision to group its forces in these Zones—despite the lack of preparation of the camps in the vast majority of these areas— was positive,” the mission said in a statement released earlier this week.

However, the U.N. mission expressed deep concern over the arrival of right-wing paramilitaries in Northern rural areas vacated by the FARC, which has led to the displacement of 96 families, according to the BBC.

RELATED: Indigenous Bari Campesinos Face Colombia Paramilitary Violence

“During the visit to La Gabarra, the Mission noted similar concerns to those heard in other departments about the insecurity of communities in places that have historically been affected by violence, in particular of new threats linked to the entry of illegal armed groups,” said a spokesperson for the U.N. mission which is supervising the implementation of the peace accord signed last November.

The BBC reported that unnamed U.N. officials say the paramilitary groups are trying to take over mining and cocaine cultivation operations which had previously been taxed and regulated by the FARC.

The Colombian government denied the U.N. report, with Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin telling local press there was “no certainty of any such displacement.”

Last week Campesino organizations in the area attempted to prevent FARC troops from leaving the area over concerns that they would be left vulnerable to violence from the paramilitary groups.

During the 52-year civil war in Colombia more than six million people have been displaced, the second-highest number in the world after Syria.

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US Civil Rights Group Creates 1st Anti-Asian Hate Crime Tracker

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  • People rally against hate crimes.
    People rally against hate crimes. | Photo: Reuters
Stories of hate against Asians often don’t show up in national data, indicating that the hate tracker will prove to be very useful.

The number of hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States has escalated dramatically in recent years, prompting civil rights group, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, to launch the first-ever hate-crimes tracker against this group of people.

RELATED:  Hate Crimes Soar in Wake of Quebec City Terror Attack on Mosque

The new website, standagainsthatred.org, tracks hate incidents submitted from around the country, which are posted anonymously.

“We’ve always recognized that hate incidents have been an issue,” said AAJC Executive Director John Yang, as reported by NPR. “We realized that we really needed a better tracking tool.”

Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, or AAPI, are targeted, according to Yang, because they are perceived as the “perpetual foreigner.” That anti-foreign sentiment has only increased under the new administration of President Donald Trump, he said.

One of the earliest recorded incidents of hate crimes against this group took place in the 1800s when the white supremacist group Arsonists of the Order of Caucasians murdered four Chinese men who they blamed for taking jobs from white workers. The victims were set on fire.

More recently, in 2006, in a headline-grabbing case, two men in New York were charged with a hate crime for attacking four Asian men, including one left with a possible fractured skull in a predominantly white neighborhood.

Yang explained that as disturbing as these stories are, they often don’t show up in national data, with AAPI often underreporting incidents for fear of being intimidated by law enforcement.

“We need to raise public awareness that hate incidents against AAPI are not one-off incidents. They happen in much greater numbers than we’d like to admit,” said Yang.

AAJC plans to share data with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes throughout the country.

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North Dakota Senators Approve Bills Targeting DAPL Protests

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  • A modified "No Trespassing" sign is seen in the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball.
    A modified “No Trespassing” sign is seen in the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball. | Photo: Reuters
The proposed laws seek to criminalize and increase penalties for common protest practices used by the water protectors against the Dakota Access pipeline.

At least three bills have been approved by North Dakota’s Senate in response to actions carried out by the Dakota Access pipeline protesters last year which saw violent confrontations between water protectors and law enforcement officials.

OPINION: How Will Native Tribes Fight Dakota Access Pipeline in Court?

The new bills, which sailed through the Republican-controlled Senate Thursday, seek to increase penalties for those accused of inciting riots or participate in ones that include more than 100 people. Inciting riot carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, while participating in one could land protesters in jail for a year.

Another bill makes it a crime to trespass or protests on “public safety zones” that can be declared as such by the state’s governor. Demonstrators who “pose a threat” to the public and protest in those zones would also face jail time.

The Republican senators behind the bills made it clear that the proposed laws are a response to the Dakota Access protesters who used common protest practices in their action against the pipeline.

Water protectors chained themselves to construction equipment and blocked roads used by construction trucks for Energy Transfer Partners, the firm behind the pipeline.

“I have no doubt that the vast majority of the people at the DAPL protest are peaceful,” said Senator Kelly Armstrong, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging support for the bills.

“But there is a strong minority and contingent that has not always acted peacefully and our laws have proven to be inadequate down there in regards to felony prosecution.”

IN PICTURES: Protesters Vow to Resist Trump’s Keystone XL, DAPL Advance

Another bill also seeks to ban adults from wearing masks in most cases. Supporters of the bill argue that protesters at Standing Rock wore masks in order not to be identified by police officers.

“We all have a right to free speech … but we do not have a right to evade prosecution of a crime,” Republican Senator Janne Myrdal told reporters. Many protesters did wear masks to protect them from the heavy tear gas police unleashed against them during confrontations.

Some might have used face cover to avoid identification and later arrest by the local police force, which has been accused of brutal practices against the Native American protesters.

The Dakota Access pipeline was stopped by the administration of Barack Obama in December following months of protests by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe water protectors and their allies, who argued that the pipeline was being built on sacred lands and could damage their water sources.

The action against the US$3.8 billion pipeline has attracted more than 300 Native American tribes from across the United States in a show of unity that is being called historic. However, the contentious project was revived by President Donald Trump just a week after he took office in what the tribe said was a payback for his supporters in the oil industry.

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Mujica and Correa Make Plans for the Bank of the South

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  • Former Uruguayan President Jose "Pepe" Mujica (L) meets with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jan. 18, 2017
    Former Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica (L) meets with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jan. 18, 2017 | Photo: El Telegrafo
The two met to map out the details of the bank which will offer an alternative to the neoliberalism of the World Bank and IMF.

While many spent Saturday reflecting on the past 10 years of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution in anticipation of Sunday’s election, Correa himself met with former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica to plan the future of the Bank of the South, Latin America’s alternative to the World Bank and the IMF.

RELATED: Latin America’s Left Funds ‘Bank of the South’ to Rival the IMF

The two met in the coastal city of Guayaquil with Pedro Buonomo, the interim director of the Bank of the South, to discuss the political and economic character of the Bank, as well as its institutional structure and headquarters.

The Bank of the South is an initiative of UNASUR, the regional alliance of progressive Latin American governments, which will provide an alternative to the neo-liberal austerity practices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which have impoverished so many countries in the global south and created a form of neo-colonialism through indebtedness.

According to El Telegrafo, during the meeting Buonomo, the former finance minister of Uruguay, proposed that both Correa and Mujica, known to many as “the world’s poorest president,” take on a formal role as “promotional ambassadors” for the Bank, to both help consolidate the fledgling institution as well as encourage a change in central bank policies throughout the region.

During his 10 years as President of Ecuador, Correa oversaw a decade of what the Overseas Development Institute called “the world’s most inclusive growth,” which included a doubling of social spending — funded by an increase in corporate taxes and drastically reducing tax avoidance among the wealthy — which cut poverty in half while preventing inflation and boosting overall economic growth in the country.

In September of last year the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela committed US$4.5 million to cover the costs of operation and administration during the formative period of the Bank of the South.

Mujica is also in Ecuador as part of a UNASUR delegation to observe Sunday’s presidential election.

Posted in South America0 Comments

Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war

NOVANEWS
[Editor’s note: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a nutjob, someone who should be kept far, far away from the corridors of power; however, under Trump, he has been allowed to become the centre of power. This essay by C. B. Anthony examines Bannon’s recent past and provides an insight into the man’s disturbing politics and worldview. Ian]

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Middle East Eye
Steve Bannon is preparing Trump for a holy war

by Charles B. Anthony

Sometimes a seemingly innocuous speech can potentially set the direction of the US presidency long before the Oval Office incumbent even declares they are running for office. Thus it is with the current White House administration – and Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist.

In July 2014, Bannon gave a 49-minute speech and Q&A to a conference hosted by the Human Dignity Institute as part of its coverage of the rise of Europe’s religious right.

Beamed live from Los Angeles – via Skype – into a small conference room tucked away inside the Vatican, Bannon declared that “the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis… We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.”

The HDI proved a receptive audience. A lobby group for a “Christian voice” in European politics, its founder is former politician Benjamin Harnwell, who describes his stint as a European MP “as being in a direct spiritual warfare against the devil” and who believes that there is nothing really far-right about Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Deutschland.

“We’ve come partly off-track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union,” continued Bannon. “In the 21st century, we are facing “a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, [and] a crisis of capitalism.”

Bannon advocates “enlightened capitalism of the Judeo-Christian West”, based on the “underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity”.

But it’s under attack, he told the HDI, from “crony capitalism” – or what Bannon calls “state-controlled capitalism” – and “libertarian capitalism” – two disturbing brands that fail to morally manage wealth creation and distribution in an ethical way.

And who is to blame for this? Bannon identified the increasing secularisation of the West, a creeping secularism that has “sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals.”

But Trump’s chief strategist also sees two other threats to the Judeo-Christian West on the horizon. And his response to each is shaped by religion.

Bannon’s problem with Islam

The first is Islam. Bannon believes that the West is “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism” and that the West should respond by taking “a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam”.

In July 2016, Bannon was interviewed by John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent who is now an anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist, on record as having said that American Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” During that conversation, Bannon asked:

“Have we held back the dogs of war? Are we actually confronting and combating radical fundamental Islam in the United States of America and in places like our allies in France and the United Kingdom?”

Bannon, let’s not forget, is the author of a film script called The Islamic States of America, which argued that Islamists were taking over the US with help from mainstream media outlets, American Jews, FBI and the White House. He went on:

“Do you believe we have to prosecute this as a war, and we have to take care of this fifth column – there’s clearly a fifth column here in the United States – that needs to be dealt with immediately?”

Then, in 2010, Bannon told Avi Davis – a senior fellow at the American Freedom Alliance, an organisation concerned with “advancing the values and ideals of Western Civilization” – that “Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission.”

It has the makings of an Islamophobic perfect storm, which will have disastrous consequences for the American Muslim community

Islam is a religion that Bannon believes needs to be suppressed. He told that audience in the Vatican:

“If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West’s struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world.”

Bannon’s words should be seen in the light of every executive order currently signed, or before, Trump. The Muslim ban. The proposed ban on the Muslim Brotherhood. The removal of white nationalists from the counter-extremism programme, to instead focus solely on Islam. And that’s just in the first few weeks of office, all making for an Islamophobic perfect storm which will have disastrous consequences for the American Muslim community.

Who else does Bannon have in his sights?

But Bannon is not content with taking on the Muslim world. He also has his sights set on China.

In a February 2016 interview that Bannon hosted with theologian Thomas D Williams (who runs Breitbart’s operation in Rome), Bannon said:

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

Bannon then adds that the one thing the Chinese fear more than America and capitalism is Christianity.

China, he says, is “one of the most vibrant Christian churches in the world… devout evangelicals, devout mainstream Protestants, and devout Catholics that are below the surface in China… it is a vibrant, vibrant, vibrant, Christian environment” which is “going to play into all this geopolitics.”

A month later Bannon would declared with certainty, in an interview with conservative movement historian Lee Edwards, that “we’re [America] going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years… there’s no doubt about it.”

The signs that Trump’s on board

If you chose to take on Islam and China, then you need a big army. At that 2014 HDI conference, Bannon called for a Christian militia, saying that they were at “the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.”

He urged the church to become “militant” and “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”

Fast forward to February 2017. With Trump in office, Bannon has now manoeuvred himself onto the National Security Council, influencing the administration’s national security and foreign policy.

Meanwhile Trump is speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he tells the audience that he will “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 60-year-old tax code law that helps separate religion and politics in the United States.

Trump’s speech was a vision of religious nationalism, dominated by the two key themes of religion and militarism and intended to tee up a forthcoming “religious freedom” executive order.

Trump describes terrorism as a “fundamental threat to religious freedom” adding: “Freedom is not a gift from government… Freedom is a gift from God. Faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and to lock arms at home.”

This heady brew of nationalism and religion, combined with the intended destruction of the Johnson Amendment, carries all the hallmarks of Bannon: politicise and radicalise religion – then gain support for a global confrontation with its enemies.

Bannon – and the Republican worldview – is also shaped by the legacy of Ronald Reagan, of whom he is a huge admirer, keeping a photo of the 40th president of the United States above his desk.

In July 1980, Reagan was the first politician to say “God bless America” during a nomination acceptance speech, winning over evangelical Christians. In 2004, politicised by the 9/11 attacks, Bannon wrote and directed In the Face of Evil, a documentary that lionised Reagan and his inner circle for taking on the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union.

Bannon’s vision for Trump is not too dissimilar to the description given of Reagan in the film’s trailer: “In mankind’s most bloodiest and barbaric century, came a man who with a vision, an outsider, a radical, with extreme views, of how to confront evil.”

Who going to help Bannon in this fight?

Bannon told that audience at the Vatican: “If we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries then this conflict is only going to metastasize.”

Where will these allies come from? Although critical of Russian state-capitalism, Bannon sees potential in a future alliance with Putin: “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he’s [Putin] talking about as far as traditionalism goes – particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism – and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing.”

Would Moscow team up with Washington in Bannon’s war? MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance seems to think so, arguing that Bannon is attempting to “align the United States and Russia together in a Christian war against Islam.” Putin might face a dilemma if Tehran, which is on the receiving end of war talk from the White House, is goaded into crossing a red line that is then used to justify military action.

But Israel, which wants sanctions against Iran, could make a good bedfellow. Although accusations of anti-Semitism have plagued Bannon, he has always been a staunch supporter of Israel due to its strong militarised religious nationalism and opposition to what he would refer to as radical Islam.

Other allies could include France’s Marine Le Pen, whose National Front party shares Bannon’s hatred for “financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation”. She is currently in the lead, according to polls, for the first round of presidential voting in April.

Then there is Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic Dutch MP and regular Breitbart contributor, whose Freedom Party (PVV) party looks set to take the majority of seats in the Dutch Parliament later this year.

Bannon believes conflict began in 2008

Bannon’s obsession with conflict is reflected too in his obsession with a chilling social theory.

TIME Magazine reported that during the early 2000s, Bannon became fascinated with The Fourth Turning, a book by generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. The authors predict that American institutions are reborn every 80 years: from the American Revolution (1775 – 1783) to the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) to the Second World War (1939 – 1945).

Each of these events consists of a four-part cycle, repeated over and over by successive generations:

  1. Fall into crisis
  2. Embrace institutions
  3. Rebel against institutions
  4. Forget the lessons and start the next crisis, which in turn destroys and rebuilds institutions

In 2010, Bannon was inspired to produce the documentary Generation Zero, in which he depicted the 2008 financial crisis as a warning that the next Turning was near. According to TIME, Bannon “seemed to relish the opportunity to clean out the old order and build a new one in its place.”

Indeed, in a speech to the Liberty Restoration Foundation in 2011, Bannon said: “We had the revolution. We had the civil war. We had the Great Depression and World War Two. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”

So when Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration, says that if left “unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing Trump and Bannon could… bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust” – he isn’t being hysterical.

If Bannon was a Muslim then he wouldn’t be let anywhere near the White House, never mind left with the keys. Instead the world would unite in calling him an extremist and hate preacher. There would be a global urgency to stopping him from further radicalising people for his ultimate goal of global jihad.

But instead the focus is on the Trump circus, as Twitter theatrics take the sting out of what really is a dark, twisted nihilistic force pulling the levers of power in the Oval Office.

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” said Roger “Verbal” Kint, aka Keyser Soze, at the end of The Usual Suspects.

In the coming months, the checks and balances of American democracy are going to be tested like never before – and will need to react quickly in the current climate.

As Bannon told the New York Times about the first few weeks of the Trump administration: “We are moving big and we are moving fast… we didn’t come here to do small things.”

Bannon is driving America, and potentially the rest of the world, off a cliff. It’s going to be terrifying to watch.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Massive Escalation: US Launches 4 Sub Based ICBMs Off China Coast

NOVANEWS

And the world has to worry about Iran?

A Trident II missile breaks water after firing from a submarine. (US Navy photo)
A Trident II missile breaks water after firing from a submarine. (US Navy photo)

The US Navy has test-fired four nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean amid simmering tensions with Russia, China and North Korea.

Four Trident ll D missiles were launched successfully from an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific Test Range over a three-day period since Thursday, the US Navy said in a statement.

“An Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine assigned to Submarine Group 9 completed a Follow-on Commander’s Evaluation Test (FCET) Feb[ruary] 16, resulting in four successful test flights of Trident II D5 missiles,” the statement added.

The test launch of the nuclear capable missile system was part of regular tests that “are conducted on a frequent, recurring basis to ensure the continued reliability of the system,” said John Daniels, a spokesman for the Strategic Systems Program, which oversees the Ohio-class Trident submarine program.

The “test flights were not conducted in response to any ongoing world events or as a demonstration of power,” Daniels said.

Trident ll D is a submarine-launched ballistic missile that can carry multiple thermonuclear warheads. They are deployed with the American and British navies.

Read More: ‘Trump not to resume nuclear treaty with Russia’

The US Navy has test-fired four nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean amid simmering tensions with Russia, China and North Korea.

Four Trident ll D missiles have been launched successfully from an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific Test Range over a three-day period since Thursday, the US Navy announced.

The test launch of the nuclear capable missile system was part of regular tests that “are conducted on a frequent, recurring basis to ensure the continued reliability of the system,” said John Daniels, a spokesman for the Strategic Systems Program, which oversees the Ohio-class Trident submarine program.

The “test flights were not conducted in response to any ongoing world events or as a demonstration of power,” Daniels said.

Trident ll D is a submarine-launched ballistic missile that can carry multiple thermonuclear warheads. They are deployed with the American and British navies.

The tests come days after North Korea announced the successful test of its long-range ballistic missile in the Sea of Japan and after Russia reportedly deployed cruise missiles in violation of a 1987 treaty between Washington and Moscow.

US President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Last month, US President Donald Trump told Russian leader Vladimir Putin he does not want to renew a 2010 nuclear arms reduction treaty between Washington and Moscow because the deal was bad for the United States.

During his first call as president with Putin on January 28, Trump said the New START treaty favored Russia, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing current and former US officials with knowledge of the call.

New START gives both countries until February 2018 to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, the lowest level in decades. However, it does not limit the number of operationally inactive nuclear warheads that remain in the high thousands in both the US and Russian stockpiles.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Global arms trade at highest level since Cold War

NOVANEWS

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Daily Sabah
US, Russia account for more than half of global arms trade, which hit highest level since Cold War

Worldwide arms trade has risen to its highest level since the Cold War in the last five years, driven by a demand from the Middle East and Asia, a study said Monday.

Between 2012-2016, arms imports in terms of volume by countries in Asia and Oceania accounted for 43 percent of global imports, a 7.7 rise compared to the previous 2007-2011 period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“Transfer of major weapons in 2012-16 reached their highest volume for any five-year period since the end of” the Cold War, the independent institute said in a statement.

The share of Asia and Oceania in international imports was slightly higher (44 percent) between 2007 and 2011.

The share of countries in the Middle East and the Gulf monarchies jumped from 17 percent to 29 percent, far ahead of Europe (11 percent, down seven points), the Americas (8.6 percent, down 2.4 percentage points) and Africa (8.1 percent, down 1.3 points).

“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the USA and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities”, said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

“Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions,” he added.

SIPRI said worldwide arms imports and exports over the last five years have reached a record level since 1950.

Saudi Arabia was the second largest importer of weapons in the world (up 212 percent), behind India, which unlike China, does not have a production at national level yet. India accounted for 13 percent of global arms imports between 2012 and 2016, while second-placed Saudi Arabia stood at 8 percent.

The think tank estimated that India acquired 68 per cent of its arms from Russia, five times more than what the Asian heavyweight bought from the US. India was tipped to remain a major importer due to its failure to develop an indigenous arms industry, SIPRI said.

Saudi Arabia’s main suppliers were the US – which accounted for half of the Gulf monarchy’s imports – Britain and Spain.

China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Algeria were the other biggest importers.

The United States remains the top weapons exporter with a 33 percent market share (up 3 point), ahead of Russia (23 percent, down 1 point), China (6.2 percent, up 2.4 points) and France (6.0 percent, down 0.9 points) passing Germany (5.6 percent, down 3.8 points).

These five countries account for almost 75 percent of global exports of heavy weapons.

The US sold arms to at least 100 countries, far more than any other major exporter. Combat aircraft and missile defense systems were among its most lucrative products.

Russia sold arms to 50 states, although over two thirds of its exports went to India, Vietnam, China and Algeria.

France’s boost in the export ranking is a result of important contracts signed with Egypt, which acquired Mistral-style warships and Rafale combat aircraft.

Aude Fleurant, head of the armaments program at SIPRI, told AFP that “competition is fierce among European producers” with France, Germany and Britain in the lead.

Europe accounted for 11 per cent of global imports, down by over a third compared to the 2007-2011 period in the wake of defense cuts.

The region of Asia and Oceania accounted for 43 per cent of all imports in the period with Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines increasing their demand for naval vessels, submarines and combat aircraft.

The Middle East’s combined share stood at 29 per cent – almost double compared to the 2007-2011 period.

“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the US and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities,” Wezeman said.

Imports declined in Latin America, notably by Venezuela and Colombia, while Mexico bucked the trend.

Africa also saw imports dip, with Algeria accounting for almost half of the region’s imports.

The arms transfers database does not include small arms and is based on public sources ranging from national and regional newspapers to specialized international journals, as well as government and industry reports.

SIPRI uses a five-year cycle to even out fluctuations caused by a big order during any specific year.

Posted in USA, Europe0 Comments

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