Food Security: a Hostage to Wall Street

NOVANEWS

by COLIN TODHUNTER

In October of last year, World Food Day celebrated ‘Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth’. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s website, the family farming theme was chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. The aim was to focus world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, especially in rural areas.

Family farming should indeed be celebrated because it really does feed the world. This claim is supported by a 2014 report by GRAIN, which revealed that small farms produce most of the world’s food.

Around 56% of Russia ‘s agricultural output comes from family farms which occupy less than 9% of arable land. These farms produce 90% of the country’s potatoes, 83% of its vegetables, 55% of its of milk, 39% of its meat and 22% of its cereals (Russian Federation Federal State Statistics Services figures for 2011).

In Brazil, 84% of farms are small and control 24% of the land, yet they produce: 87% of cassava, 69% of beans, 67% of goat milk, 59% of pork, 58% of cow milk, 50% of chickens, 46% of maize, 38% of coffee, 33.8% of rice and 30% of cattle.

In Cuba, with 27% of the land, small farmers produce: 98% of fruits, 95% of beans, 80% of maize, 75% of pork, 65% of vegetables, 55% of cow milk, 55% of cattle and 35% of rice (Braulio Machin et al, ANAP-Via Campesina, “Revolucion agroecologica, resumen ejectivo”).

In Ukraine, small farmers operate 16% of agricultural land, but provide 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk (State Statistics Service of Ukraine. “Main agricultural characteristics of households in rural areas in 2011″).

Similar impressive figures are available for Chile, Hungary, Belarus, Romania, Kenya, El Salvador and many other countries.

The evidence shows that small peasant/family farms are the bedrock of global food production. The bad news is that they are being squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland and such land is under threat. The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful speculators and corporations.

The report by GRAIN also revealed that small farmers are often much more productive than large corporate farms, despite the latter’s access to various expensive technologies. For example, if all of Kenya’s farms matched the output of its small farms, the nation’s agricultural productivity would double. In Central America, it would nearly triple. In Russia, it would be six fold.

Yet in many places, small farmers are being criminalised, taken to court and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. They are constantly exposed to systematic expulsion from their land by foreign corporations, some of which are fronted by fraudulent individuals who specialise in corrupt deals and practices to rake in enormous profits to the detriment of small farmers and food production.

Imagine what small farmers could achieve if they had access to more land and could work in a supportive policy environment, rather than under the siege conditions they too often face. For example, the vast majority of farms in Zimbabwe belong to smallholders and their average farm size has increased as a result of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. Small farmers in the country now produce over 90% of diverse agricultural food crops, while they only provided 60 to 70% of the national food before land redistribution.

Throughout much of the world, however, agricultural land is being taken over by large corporations. GRAIN concludes that, in the last 50 years, 140 million hectares – well more than all the farmland in China – have been taken over for soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane alone.

By definition, peasant agriculture prioritises food production for local and national markets as well as for farmers’ own families. Big agritech corporations take over scarce fertile land and prioritise commodities or export crops for profit and markets far away that cater for the needs of the affluent. This process impoverishes local communities and brings about food insecurity. The concentration of fertile agricultural land in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day and is undermining global food security.

The issue of land ownership was also picked up on by another report last year. A report by the Oakland Institute stated that the first years of the 21st century will be remembered for a global land rush of nearly unprecedented scale. An estimated 500 million acres, an area eight times the size of Britain, was reported bought or leased across the developing world between 2000 and 2011, often at the expense of local food security and land rights.

A new generation of institutional investors, including hedge funds, private equity, pension funds and university endowments, is eager to capitalise on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class. Financial returns, not food security, are what matter. In the US, for instance, with rising interest from investors and surging land prices, giant pension funds are committing billions to buy agricultural land.

The Oakland Institute argues that the US could experience an unprecedented crisis of retiring farmers over the next 20 years, leading to ample opportunities for these actors to expand their holdings as an estimated 400 million acres changes generational hands.

The corporate consolidation of agriculture is happening as much in Iowa and California as it is in the Philippines,Mozambique and not least in Ukraine.

Imperialism and the control of agriculture

Ukraine’s small farms are delivering impressive outputs, despite being squeezed onto just 16% of arable land. But the US-backed toppling of that country’s government may change all that. Indeed, part of the reason behind destabilizing Ukraine and installing a puppet regime was for US agritech concerns like Monsanto to gain access to its agriculture sector, which is what we are now witnessing.

Current ‘aid’ packages, contingent on the plundering of the economy under the guise of ‘austerity reforms’, will have a devastating impact on Ukrainians’ standard of living and increase poverty in the country.

Reforms mandated by the EU-backed loan include agricultural deregulation that is intended to benefit agribusiness corporations. Natural resource and land policy shifts are intended to facilitate the foreign corporate takeover of enormous tracts of land. The EU Association Agreement includes a clause requiring both parties to cooperate to extend the use of biotechnology. Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute states:

“Their (World Bank and IMF) intent is blatant: to open up foreign markets to Western corporations… The high stakes around control of Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, constitute an oft-overlooked critical factor. In recent years, foreign corporations have acquired more than 1.6 million hectares of Ukrainian land.”

Chemical-industrial agriculture and the original ‘green revolution’ has proved extremely lucrative for the oil and chemical industry and has served to maintain and promote US hegemony, not least via the uprooting of indigenous farming practices in favour of cash crop/export-oriented policies, dam building to cater for what became a highly water intensive industry, loans, indebtedness, dependency on the dollar and the corporate control of seeds, etc.

Whether through ‘free trade’ agreements, commodity market price manipulations, loan packages, the co-optation of political leaders or the hijack of strategic policy-making bodies, corporate profits are being secured and food sovereignty surrendered to the US, which has always used agriculture as a tool with which to control countries.

(The GMO issue has to be regarded within such a geopolitical framework too: it has less to do with ‘feeding the world’ and more about controlling it (see this and this)

While celebrating of the role of the family farm in feeding the world, rich speculators and powerful US agritech corporations continue to colonise agriculture and undermine the existence of small farms and global food security.

Choosing to ignore the research, however, much mainstream thinking rests on the fallacious assumption that uprooting small farms and displacing rural populations is a good thing. This assumption stems from an ethnocentric mindset that legitimises the plunder we are witnessing across the globe.

Environmentalist Vandana Shiva sums it up as follows:

“People are perceived as ‘poor’ if they eat food they have grown rather than commercially distributed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made from ecologically well-adapted materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cinder block or cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics.”

This is an ideology that fuels the myth that the ‘poor’ are poor due to their own fault and must be lifted up by the West and its corporations and billionaire ‘philanthropists’. It is the ideology that attempts to legitimise imperialism and economic colonialism, which causes economic devastation and ecological destruction in the first place. From Africa to India and beyond, the disease is being offered as the cure.

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How Lobbies, Intelligence Services and Advertisers Dictate Mainstream Media Content

NOVANEWS
Global Research
newspaper_chains

Recently, several journalists who worked in the mainstream media (MSM) exposed its corrupt nature, weighing in on the growing mistrust it inspires. We hope the following will inspire you to support independent media like Global Research!

Former chief political commentator of the Telegraph, Peter Oborne, resigned from the newspaper because it would not publish articles on HSBC for fear of losing advertising revenues. The bank is known for money-laundering for the Mexican drug cartels as well as its involvement in tax evasion schemes.

In an opinion piece called Why I resigned from the Telegraph he wrote:

The coverage of HSBC in Britain’s Telegraph is a fraud on its readers. If major newspapers allow corporations to influence their content for fear of losing advertising revenue, democracy itself is in peril…From the start of 2013 onwards stories critical of HSBC were discouraged. HSBC suspended its advertising with the Telegraph… HSBC, as one former Telegraph executive told me, is the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend (Peter Oborne, Why I have resigned from the Telegraph, Open Democracy, February 17, 2015)

When it comes to powerful lobbies’ influence on media content, the Zionist lobby is very well known for accusing journalists and editors of anti-Semitism and imposing its own propaganda. Even so-called progressive newspapers such as The Guardian are subject to Zionist propaganda. David Cronin writes:

I submitted an exposé of how the pro-Israel lobby operates in Brussels. While waiting to find out if the piece would be used, I phoned Matt Seaton, who had taken over as comment editor. We had a pleasant conversation but Seaton stressed that he regarded the subject as sensitive.

I, then, modified the piece to make its tone less polemical. Still, it was not published…

Cronin decided to write about his experience when he realized that The Guardian was much less reluctant to offer platforms to Israeli politicians and their Zionist propaganda:

Daniel Taub, Israels ambassador to the UK … uses a quote attributed to Golda Meir, Israels prime minister from 1969 to 1974, to hit back at aid agencies who accuse Israel of impeding Gazas reconstruction: We will only have peace when our enemies love their children more than they hate ours. The inference that Palestinians hate Israelis more than they love their children is a racist caricature… In February, the paper gave Yair Lapid, until recently Israels finance minister, a platform to describe calls for a cultural boycott of Israel as shallow and lacking in coherence. (David Cronin How The Guardian Told Me to Steer Clear of Palestine, Electronic Intifada, 11 March 2015)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‘s former editor Udo Ulfkotte recently published a book called Bought Journalists. How Politicians, Secret Services and High Finance Control the Mass Media (Gekaufte Journalisten), in which he explains how journalists manipulate the masses for powerful interests:

Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germanys largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war. (Ralph Lopez, Editor of Major German Newspaper Says He Planted Stories for the CIA, Reader Supported News, February 04, 2015)

Another book stirred some controversy lately, Au service de la République, (Serving the Republic) Roger Auque’s memoirs published posthumously. Auque, a well-known journalist who worked for major French magazines as well as the French Canadian public network Radio-Canada, admitted: I was paid by the Israeli secret services to lead operations in Syria, using reporting as a cover. Le Figaro, one of France’s leading magazines for which he worked, writes that he also offered his services to the DGSE, (the French CIA) before becoming an object of interest for the CIA.

Contrary to Ulfkotte, who’s filled with remorse, the French reporter was not at all ashamed of this revelation.

These few examples show once again the importance of independent media and how the corporate mainstream media is nothing but a mouthpiece for powerful interests who do not want you to be informed but rather want to manufacture consent and keep you in the dark about important issues.

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The Silence of the Law: The Charleston Church Gunman

NOVANEWS
Global Research
gun flag

Arguments about guns in the United States resemble forays into intense religious debate. They are doctrinal issues (the right to bear arms; the entitlement to protection) that chatter through the various lobbies. There are purely quibbling legal issues (what regulations are appropriate in terms of controlling access to guns). There are the broader ethical issues (should people even have guns as a principle to begin with?)

Those left behind in such debates tend to be the silent corpses, littered collateral damage in a rights culture that hyperventilates with each urban massacre. Fascinatingly, none of these mass killings ever qualifies as a terrorist onslaught, even if inflicted by a person with a dog-breakfast ideology.

A theme that has recently emerged about whether Dylann Roofs conduct prior to the deeds he is charged with is that of regulation. This is the procedural part of the debate, showing a range of attitudes to the law on guns. How did Roof obtain the weapon that led to the deaths of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, including its senior pastor?

As if picking up scraps in desperation, a stream of commentary has emerged: Roof, it transpires, had been arrested in late February at a Columbia shopping mall, and subsequently charged with possessing Suboxone. He was then indicted by a Lexington County grand jury. The case has yet to conclude.

Hence the battle of the laws, armed, metaphorically, for a clash. South Carolina law deems Roofs drug charge a misdemeanour. The designation is significant, as such misdemeanours do not disentitle one from obtaining a gun. Federal law, however, spoils the party, prohibiting the sale of a gun to anyone under indictment for a felony. It also has an additional proscription against sales to anyone deemed an unlawful user of controlled substances.

Officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, at least by their opinions, have given the green light in the case Roof obtained his gun lawfully.[1] More to the point, he was entitled.

Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review Online was positively chuckling with delight. The law had worked. Those political ghouls of the Left had swooped in after the horrific massacre wanting another gun-control fight. Instead, they hit a legal cul-de-sac, since the killer acquired his gun after passing precisely the sort of background check that the Left generally hawks after a high-profile crime, regardless of whether it is relevant to the crime.[2]

Always conspicuous is how such commentary places the law outside its cultural frame. Law is the holy word, scripted. It biblically animated, the New World remake. This is supposedly civilisation take two. Everything is done within it. Except, of course, when people get slaughtered. That is when the law suffers its terrible silence. All sides of the gun-control debate suffer before this phenomenon of silent laws.

Each massacre brings with it a discussion about sacred rights and sacred entitlements, citing inadequate laws and inadequate protections. Guns are always the delivery packages for those who believe in rights, just as they remain the target of those who also believe in their control. To that end, Roofs battles are writ large, on a broader racial and political canvass which presupposes the most extreme form of dispute resolution. This is the US at war with itself.

His supposed manifesto, should it even qualify as that, seeks to bring the revolution home, forging into the ghettoes with the apocalyptic enthusiasm of the four horse men.[3] The first website I came across was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders.

For the author, this is another form of legal silence, one which tolerates the ascendancy of other races even as whites fall into oblivion. All that fuss about the killing of Trayvon Martin was an alibi for a broader American problem. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

The manifesto does not swirl with brazen lunacy so much as a revenge undertaking about what the country has become. This is the old theme: America as an idea. That idea, according to Scott Timberg (Salon, Jun 24), is a kind of distorted, funhouse-mirror reflection of Tea-Party-era conservative white Americas core beliefs.[4] And to remake that idea, one needs weapons.

Gun control advocates tend to want to take away the syringes from the patient and lock up the substances in inaccessible places. The sickness of that patient is ignored. Gun ownership in other countries (Canada, Switzerland) is staggeringly high without the need for manifest urban warfare. The law, in short, is always deemed silent when perceived rights are ignored. But it is the mechanism of culture, its generation, its excuses, it lamentations, that encase the law with meaning. Weep, mourn, and expect the next massacre.

 

 

Notes

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/ storyline/charleston-church- shooting/charleston-church- gunman-dylann-roof-bought- pistol-locally-officials- n380341

[2] http://www.nationalreview.com/ article/420211/left-activist- peak-kevin-d-williamson

[3] http://lastrhodesian.com/data/ documents/rtf88.txt

[4]http://www.salon.com/2015/ 06/23/dylann_roofs_racist_ manifesto_a_funhouse_mirror_ reflection_of_right_wing_ american_politics/

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Challenge: what US federal legislator will dare to get arrested over the TPP?

NOVANEWS

 

By Jon Rappoport

TPP: US Congress’ stage play, con game, pretense, parade of cowards(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, Power Outside The Matrix, click here.) 

When puppets dance on the end of a string, they need to exhibit a pretense of freedom once in a while, to keep the customers interested. It’s part of the show. It’s part of the con.

The Congress has now granted Obama “fast-track authority.” What does this actually mean?

It means that, when the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Treaty comes up for consideration soon, this gargantuan Globalist takeover of 12 national governments cannot be amended. It cannot be filibustered. From the time the TPP is introduced, no more than 90 days can elapse before the House and Senate cast their yes or no votes.

Most people concede that the passage of fast-track ensures the passage of the TPP, but of course this isn’t so.

Nothing would prevent the Congress from voting the TPP down, especially and because the contents of the Treaty are secret. The public isn’t informed of the details.

Any US legislator with a trace of courage would do just that—vote it down.

The legislators themselves have been allowed to enter a sealed room and read some of the content. But there is no guarantee that what they’re reading is in the final draft of the Treaty.

The legislators may takes notes in the sealed room, but they can’t keep their notes. They can’t make copies. They can’t discuss what they’ve read with the press or the public.

Again, on that basis alone, any legislator with a shred of honor would vote no on the Treaty.

And no on secrecy.

If a member of Congress did break omertà and reveal to the public what he read in the sealed room, he would be violating Executive Branch regulations on classified data (“national security”), and he could be arrested.

Well, that is exactly what a Senator or Representative who, with courage and honor, opposes the TPP, should welcome. An arrest? He should celebrate it.

First of all, no sitting legislator is going to receive a stiff prison sentence for violating secrecy in this instance.

Second, by being arrested, he would become a popular hero overnight and force the issue of secrecy into the global spotlight.

Third, the whole idea of the Executive Branch forcing legislators to maintain secrecy on a trade treaty is egregiously illegal—and the arrest of an honorable legislator would set up a potential Constitutional crisis. Which is exactly what this country needs.

What crisis? Ever heard of the Separation of Powers? The Constitution was established to create three branches of government—Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The powers of each serve as a check and balance on the others, to prevent the federal government from becoming…exactly what it is today: a bloated, fungal, expanding force dominating the states and the people.

The Executive Branch telling the Legislative Branch it can’t disclose the contents of a trade treaty to the press and public is a draconian overstep of its power and a clear violation of separation of powers.

The fact that not one of these Senators or Representatives has revealed all he knows about the TPP, in order to correct this fundamental violation (and gotten arrested), is an absolute signal that they’re all faking it.

Faking it. In broad daylight.

A few legislators have alluded to what they’ve read in the sealed room—small pieces of it. But that’s it. That’s the extent of their “outrage.”

The rest is all bullshit of the highest order.

The debate over the TPP, the opposition, the objections—all bullshit.Those Senators and Representatives who will eventually vote no on the TPP know very well that the majority will vote yes. So their no votes won’t mean a thing, except for gaining a bit of publicity and perhaps currying a bit of favor with their constituency back home.

The Executive Branch, under Obama, is actually providing an ideal opportunity for any honorable legislator. By classifying the TPP as “secret,” a Senator or Representative can get himself arrested and “jump the fence.” He can cause a massive uproar.

He can also force his colleagues in the House and Senate to rally to his defense—or expose themselves as corrupt disloyal cowards.

It’s a perfect situation for any legislator with courage.

But there are no takers.

They’re all fakers. Including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Rand Paul.

These three know their opposition to the TPP doesn’t mean a thing. They know they could go further and spill all the secrets they know, at a press conference, and state in no uncertain terms that they dare the President to have them arrested.

But they won’t do it.

They’re part of what amounts to an unconstitutional “federal collective,” a club of little insiders, and they won’t break those chains.

Even when doing so would catapult themselves into the stratosphere as heroes.

Can you imagine it? Every day one of them spends in jail, his/her staff would be issuing statements to the press demanding the restoration of separation of powers.

And the headlines? And stories?

“Bernie keeps spilling secrets in jail!”

“It’s been revealed that Bernie Sanders, in his cell, is telling his guards everything he knows about the details of the TPP. He won’t shut up. We have a report that the guards have been given soundproof ear pads to wear. Bernie is scratching details of the TPP on the walls of his cell with his fingernails…”

Now THAT’S a stage play.

I’d pay to see that play.

That play would wake a lot of people up.

And for those who, even then, would refuse to fathom what’s going on…back to your snoozefest. Everything is wonderful. The State loves you. The State spies on you because it loves you. The State needs people just like you.

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Colombian Army Murdered Thousands of Civilians with the Help of US Tax Dollars

NOVANEWS
By Claire BernishA disturbing report published Wednesday by Human Rights Watch details how the Colombian military callously murdered thousands of innocent civilians and dressed their lifeless bodies in leftist rebels’ uniforms, just to artificially inflate the body count for a period of at least six years. The commander of the armed forces and other senior army brass knew about it the whole time.

Somewhat euphemistically termed “extrajudicial killings,” the practice has been recognized for some time, but HRW found evidence in previously unpublished prosecutorial records that the practice was far more extensive and systematic than previously realized.

Prosecutors are currently investigating 3,700 deaths caused by state agents. From 2002-2008, thereport, titled “On Their Watch: Evidence of Senior Army Officers’ Responsibility for False Positive Killings in Colombia,” revealed that more than 180 brigades and tactical units—and their commanders—were responsible for murders of civilians. These “false positives” bolstered records at a time when success in the ongoing war was measured in dead rebel bodies. According to the report:

“Under pressure from superiors to show ‘positive’ results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses—such as promises of work—killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action. Committed on a large scale for more than half a decade, these ‘false positive’ killings constitute one of the worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in recent decades […] This report provides the most detailed published account to date,” of what is “now substantial evidence that senior army officers were responsible for many of the killings [who] at least knew or should have known about the [the practice], and therefore may be criminally liable as a matter of command responsibility.”

Suspicious mitigating circumstances and irregularities surrounding death counts—dubbed “entirely obvious” in the report—led HRW to believe there could be no plausible denial of awareness by senior army officers that the murders were occurring.

In just one example, a former 16th Brigade lieutenant testified that “with the rank of a colonel and the experience you could have at this rank it is no secret that the troops . . . [were] killing innocent people who had nothing to do with the conflict and were reported with weapons that the guerrilla does not use to confront you with.” In another instance, two unnamed battalion officials described regular meetings with their commanders to plan how to lure victims to their deaths. Once those schemes had been carried out, the officials were often rewarded with vacation time.

But holding the appropriate parties accountable for the murders has been a complicated process. Prosecutors face the seeming complicity of military judges, defense attorneys, and army officials who create “bogus delay tactics” such as refusing to hand over necessary documents. Ongoing threats and attacks on key witnesses—including a likely retaliatory murder—have hindered progress significantly.

It is extremely important to note that the United States government began the “Plan Colombia” aid project in 2000 under President Clinton. The U.S. has since donated over $6.5 billion to the country, with the vast majority earmarked for military and police.

According to Amnesty International, which is calling for an end to aid because of these exact human rights abuses, “in 2006, U.S. assistance to Colombia amounted to an estimated $728 million, approximately 80% of which was military and police assistance.” This was, of course, during the height of the military’s practice of killing civilians.

Last year, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) issued an extensivereport that found a frightening link between U.S. assistance and human rights abuses. It states:

Based on data on 5,763 reported executions in Colombia and extensive documentation of U.S. assistance to the Colombian military, we found a positive correlation between the units and officers that received U.S. assistance and training, and the commission of extrajudicial killings.

Also revealed by the telling FOR report:

U.S. military training […] is practically a required step for the promotion of a Colombian Army officer.” And of those so trained, “12 of them48%had either been charged with a serious crime or had commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings […] Our findings call into question much of the assumed wisdom about military assistance programs […] The U.S. Congress and State Department must take action to ensure U.S. tax dollars no longer bankroll military units that bankroll executions in Colombia.” [emphasis added].

FOR concludes by recommending ten conditions for the continuance of any further U.S. assistance to Colombia, including close monitoring of units and personnel for human rights abuses as well as judging progress by actual conduct rather than promotions of personnel.

Though a “human rights certification” by the Secretary of State—which ostensibly tracks Colombia’s progress—once covered 100% of U.S. security assistance, it has since been lowered to apply to just 25% of monetary aid, rendering the stipulation ineffective at instituting any realistic change.

Human Rights Watch is calling for the U.S. to “enforce human rights conditions on military aid,” with suspension of all assistance should the country further breach policy. The group is also urging the International Criminal Court to hold Colombia under tighter scrutiny in ongoing prosecutions.

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The Final Frontier: US Building War Command Center to Take Foreign Policy to Space

NOVANEWS
 
By Carey WedlerAccording to Defense One, the Pentagon is rushing to build a space war center to sustain its global power. Within six months, the space apparatus will be fully functional, as announced by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work at the 2015 GEOINT conference. Work openly admitted the move is an attempt by the Pentagon to maintain global dominance and combat alleged attacks from China and Russia.

Most prominently, the war center is intended to “track spy and military satellites at the same time so US intelligence and military can work together to create the best defense–especially against attacks on its satellite systems,” Gizmodo explained.

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, alleged in January that Russia and China are “are conducting anti-satellite research and developing anti-satellite weapons, with the intent of denying the U.S. the use of space in the event of conflict.” Such threats are used to justify American expansion into space.

Due to the military’s general lust for power and proliferation, it is unsurprising that the Pentagon is seeking to further extend its tentacles into the universe. The project will operate as a backup to the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Joint Space Operations Center already “detects, tracks, and identifies all artificial objects in Earth orbit.” Its practices include “surveillance of space, protection of U.S. and friendly space systems, prevention of an adversary’s ability to use space systems and services for purposes hostile to U.S. national security interests, and direct support to battle management, command, control, communications, and intelligence.”

The new war center enhances these abilities but also seeks to increase surveillance on Earth. Speaking at the GEOINT conference, Work expressed excitement that the new system would allow the military an even more omniscient presence throughout the planet. By aggregating satellite images from all government departments, the war center will be able to track behavior more easily.
“We want to be able to establish patterns of life from space. We want to know what the unusual looks like,” Work said.

If, all of a sudden, a lot of cars show up in a parking lot of an adversary’s missile plant, we want to know about it and we want to know about it quickly. If, suddenly, small boats are swarming in the Gulf or pirates are starting to congregate off Aden, we want to know.

Evidently, in spite of having the most powerful, well-funded, and heavily armed military on Earth, the Pentagon has schizophrenically decided it needs more reach, authority, and access. This does not mean that there are no threats. It simply means the United States’ first avenue—whether initiatory or retaliatory—is almost always dominance and force.

Naturally, familiar battle cries justified the new program. Work insisted that the drive to surpass Russian and Chinese technologies is vital and that Russia poses a “clear and present danger to the United States.”

Work claimed that while space was once a “virtual sanctuary,” it must now “be considered a contested operational domain in ways that we haven’t had to think about in the past.”

Though Work attempted to paint the military’s further colonization of space as a recent and necessary development, the move mirrors American and Russian Cold War-era tactics. As both countries raced to make advancements in space, they revealed a paranoid—and ultimately militaristic—approach to exploration beyond the planet’s atmosphere, dragging relatively petty earthly conflicts into a solar system previously untainted by human vice. This is characteristic not only of America, but of any corrupt, global power seeking to establish dominance on Earth by conquering territory beyond it.

“We must be prepared now to prevail in conflicts that extend into space,” Work argued.

“The ugly reality that we must now all face is that if an adversary were able to take space away from us, our ability to project decisive power across transoceanic distances and overmatch adversaries in theaters once we get there … would be critically weakened,” Work stated at the conference, unashamed of the military’s blatant power play.

Rather than working diplomatically to solve problems between nations, the United States has once again defaulted on an aggressive, battle-oriented mentality—an all too common trait that reveals why America is the world’s biggest hegemony. By insisting on the necessity of even more tools to surveil and wage war, the military does nothing but expose its well-documented and transparent obsession with conflict, aggression, and its characteristic megalomania.

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National Movement to Lower Flag of Racial Hatred, 150 Years Overdue

NOVANEWS

“The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans,” writes columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Confederate flag flies at the Capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo: eyeliam/flickr/cc)

The Confederate flag flies at the Capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo: eyeliam/flickr/cc)

One hundred and fifteen years after the end of the American Civil War and despite decades of calls for its retirement, the Confederate Flag—the emblem of the Old South and its racist legacy—may finally be coming down.

In the days following the horrific massacre of nine black people at a church bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, images were shared widely of the 21-year-old killer Dylann Roof posing with the flag.

The shock of the brutal and racially motivated killings coupled with a growing Civil Rights movement has seemingly catalyzed a wave of condemnation which has swept the U.S., with politicians and others—who for years have defended the flag as a symbol of Southern pride and heritage—all joining in the national call for a boycott.

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In South Carolina on Tuesday, lawmakers voted to take up legislation to remove the flag from statehouse grounds, one day after Republican Governor Nikki Haley made similar remarks.

Also Tuesday, both Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina announced they would no longer be issuing state license plates featuring the Confederate flag.

Retailers Walmart, Amazon, Sears and Ebay announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise. At the same time, Etsy, the online marketplace, has prohibited the sale of Confederate flag items.

One of the nation’s largest flag manufacturers, Valley Forge Flag, on Tuesday also said they would no longer produce or sell Confederate flags.

In Mississippi, House leader Philip Gunn (R) called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state flag.

Others are simply burning the Confederate flag in a statement the Washington Post dubbedthe “latest viral stunt.”

Meanwhile, monuments honoring the Confederacy and Confederate soldiers have also come under fire.

Across the country, people have started “tagging,” or spray-painting, Confederate memorials with words like “racist” or “Black Lives Matter.”

Tennessee lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling for the removal of statue of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest from the statehouse.

And in Kentucky, the Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, is urging the removal of a statue honoring Jefferson Davis from the Capitol.

Though many consider the flag boycott a victory, rights advocates caution that people should not be distracted or pacified in the fight for equality. Nor should they applaud those who, until the recent killings, supported the use of the Confederate flag.

“When that flag comes down, we as a society will have taken a significant step towards confronting our history, our past that never passed, and finding the courage to end the state and individual violence that flows from white supremacy,” said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. However, Warren notes that there are “no guarantees” that the boycott “will stop individuals from doing terrible things like this.”

“In fact,” he adds, “we will likely see greater resistance to this step from people who continue to benefit from the demonization and repression of Black and Brown communities. But we owe it to a new generation of Americans to be honest about where we came from, brave enough to go to the roots of the power structures that perpetuate violence and racism, and smart enough to be radically intentional about where we need to go if we are not to see acts like this as the essence of the America we know too well.”

And author and Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote on Monday: “The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans. The embarrassment is not limited to the flag, itself. The fact that it still flies, that one must debate its meaning in 2015, reflects an incredible ignorance.”

Coates adds, “A century and a half after Lincoln was killed, after 750,000 of our ancestors died, Americans still aren’t quite sure why.”

Posted in USA0 Comments

After 13 Years of Hell, Human Held Without Charges Has One Question for US

NOVANEWS

‘If the war in Afghanistan is over,’ asks prisoner languishing at offshore prison, ‘why am I still here?’

In a strikingly personal piece, Moath al-Alwi expresses his grief, anger, and frustrations after nearly 13 years of being held with no charges by the U.S. government. “I wonder now,” he writes, “if the US follows any rule of law at all: the Geneva Conventions or even its own Constitution. Where is the freedom and justice for all that it so proudly boasts to the world?” (Photo: AP/file)

Moath al-Alwi, who has been a prisoner of the U.S. government and detained at the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002 without ever being charged with a crime or afforded a trial, has a simple yet urgent question for the American people and the U.S. government: Why am I still here?

“The world may turn a blind eye and find this number small. But for each of us here, the cost of our indefinite and unfair imprisonment is beyond immeasurable. Our families have lost fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons to this hell on earth. Many of us have unnecessarily lost over a decade of our already short time in this world, yearning to be free again.”
—Moath al-Alwi

If the war in Afghanistan is now over, as he has heard President Obama and other lawmakers say many times, the Yemeni national wonders what possible reason could the U.S. have in keeping a man like himself—guilty of no crime—locked away on an island prison for nearly thirteen years.

Despite the protests of dedicated human rights and legal activists in the U.S. and around the world, the fact that the U.S. government continues to justify the “indefinite detention” of human beings for a war that has become detached from geographical boundaries and has no end date, remains one of the most glaring, yet ignored, realities of post-9/11 America.

In a strikingly personal piece that has now appeared in both Al-Jazeera English and The Nation, al-Alwi expresses his grief, anger, and frustrations. “I wonder now,” he writes, “if the U.S. follows any rule of law at all: the Geneva Conventions or even its own Constitution. Where is the freedom and justice for all that it so proudly boasts to the world?”

Moath al-Alwi, one of the first people to arrive at the offshore prison at Guantanamo, has never been charged with a single crime.

Un-edited and in full, his missive to those who hold him captive follows:

I hear the war in Afghanistan is over. 

This war was supposedly the reason I remained trapped, rotting in this endless horror at Guantanamo Bay. I write this letter today to ask, if this war has ended, why am I still here? Why has nothing changed?

Amid falling bombs and mass hysteria, I fled Afghanistan for safety when the US launched its military operations in 2001. I was abducted despite never fighting against the United States, was sold into US military custody, and then imprisoned, tortured, and abused at Guantanamo since 2002 without ever being charged with a single crime.

I protest this injustice by hunger striking, refusing food and sometimes water.One of Guantanamo’s long-term hunger strikers, I am a frail man now, weighing only 96 pounds (44kg) at 5’5″ (1.68m).

Recently, my latest strike surpassed its second year. My health is deteriorating rapidly, but my intention to continue my strike is steadfast. I do not want to kill myself. My religion prohibits suicide. But despite daily bouts of violent vomiting and sharp pain, I will not eat or drink to peacefully protest against the injustice of this place. My protest is the one form of control I have of my own life and I vow to continue it until I am free.

I remain on lockdown alone in my cell 22 hours a day. Despite my condition, prison authorities unleash an entire riot squad of six giant guards to forcibly extract me from my cell, restrain me onto a chair and brutally force-feed me daily. They push a thick tube down my nose until I bleed, after which I vomit.

This gruesome procedure may not be written about so much any more, but it remains my everyday reality. It is painful. And it is bewildering. How can I possibly resist anyone, let alone these men? Hunger striking is a form of peaceful and civil disobedience. It is not a crime. So why am I being punished? Why not humanely tube-feed me instead?

My time here has been ridden with unanswered questions. Two years ago, as I attempted to pray, a sudden raid was ordered and a guard deliberately shot me without warning or provocation. Once again, I was not resisting. So why did he shoot? My clothes, torn, were soaked in my own blood. I want the government to ask the guard who shot me to account for his actions.

I began to wonder if shooting without any provocation is legal in the US. But now I realise that US police officers get away with ruthlessly killing black people all the time.

I wonder now if the US follows any rule of law at all: the Geneva Conventions or even its own Constitution. Where is the freedom and justice for all that it so proudly boasts to the world?

For us at Guantanamo, this place is not fit for any living, breathing, human being. The US seems to want to smother us, to kill us slowly as we are left in a vacuum of uncertainty wondering if we will ever be free.

I have lived the past 13 years in this despair, at the cost of my dignity, paying the price for the US government’s political theatre. Meanwhile, little has changed for the 122 men remaining at Guantanamo.

The world may turn a blind eye and find this number small. But for each of us here, the cost of our indefinite and unfair imprisonment is beyond immeasurable. Our families have lost fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons to this hell on earth. Many of us have unnecessarily lost over a decade of our already short time in this world, yearning to be free again.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

Man Told He Must Pay For ‘Permission’ To Sue Cop Who Killed His Dog

NOVANEWS
Utah law requires anyone who wishes to sue a police officer to pay their court expenses up front.

justice-for-geist

A Utah resident has just been told that he must pay up if he wants to sue the police officer who gunned down his down.

Sean Kendall’s dog, Geist, was shot and killed by a Salt Lake City cop who was searching for a missing child last year.

Neither Kendall, nor Geist had anything to do with that missing child. But that didn’t protect the dog from the trigger-happy officer.

Salt Lake city officials eventually offered Kendall a $10,000 settlement, after public outrage began to mount about the canine killing.

Kendall rejected the offer, saying: “It would be like, ‘For $10,000 you can break into my backyard and kill my dog.’ That’s not right.”

He said he wants to sue the officer who actually pulled the trigger, not just receive hush money from the city. But now his attorneys have been informed that if he wants to sue the police officer, he will need a lot more than $10,000.

That’s because Utah law requires anyone who wishes to sue a police officer to pay their court expenses up front. The citizen is only reimbursed for those court costs if they win the case. This makes it virtually impossible to sue a police officer in the State of Utah, no matter what they have done.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is Kendall’s attorney. He says that this bizarre requirement “severely undermines the rule of law, while letting abusive law-enforcement officers off the hook for their violations of the state constitution and other state legal protections.”

He is now awaiting a court ruling as to whether these legal fees are in fact to be deemed unconstitutional.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Court Rules First Amendment Protects Profanity Against Police

NOVANEWS
Justices said the First Amendment protects citizens against prosecution when they exercise their constitutional right to speak and to criticize certain governmental activities.

In this Aug. 20, 2014 file photo police arrest a man as they disperse a protest against the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

SEATTLE — The Washington Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a citizen has the First Amendment right to call police abusive names and yell profanity while they’re investigating a crime.

The court threw out the conviction of a juvenile, identified only by the initials E.J.J., who yelled at officers while they tried to take his intoxicated sister into custody.

“While E.J.J.’s words may have been disrespectful, discourteous and annoying, they are nonetheless constitutionally protected,” Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson wrote for the six-justice majority. When citizens exercise their right to criticize “how the police are handling a situation, they cannot be concerned about risking a criminal conviction for obstruction.”

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen concurred with that ruling, but said the conviction should be dismissed on different grounds. She said obstruction charges are “used disproportionately to arrest people of color,” so the court should add a common law requirement that says if the officer’s conduct substantially contributes to the escalation of the situation, the obstruction charge should be dismissed.

Police responded to a report of an out-of-control juvenile woman. As they took her from the house, E.J.J. thought he saw one officer pull out a nightstick. He stood in the doorway and yelled at the officers not to use it on his sister. Officers ordered him to go into the house and close the door, but he kept yelling. After he yelled profanity, police arrested him on a charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer.

The justices said the First Amendment protects citizens against prosecution when they exercise their constitutional right to speak and to criticize certain governmental activities

Read more:

Posted in USA0 Comments

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