Archive | July 11th, 2018

Trump’s Supreme Court Nomination: A Hard-Right Transformational Choice


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Long gone from the High Court are towering figures like William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, the Court’s finest hours during their tenure – champions of justice for all.

Law Professor Stephen Gillers once said Brennan deserves “much of the credit for fashioning the legal theories that could support the progressive decisions (during his tenure on the High Court), and for then persuading a majority of his colleagues to accept them.”

Thurgood Marshall was a pillar in the battle for racial justice. One admirer called him the “great dismantler of Jim Crow, a colossus of US history.”

The likes of him, Brennan, and likeminded Supremes are long gone from the High Court, equal justice for all in the nation’s courts gone with them most often.

Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court is likely. All 49 undemocratic Dems against him aren’t enough – getting two Republican senators to join their opposition possible but unlikely.

ACLU legal director David Cole issued the following statement in response to his nomination, saying:

“Brett Kavanaugh may bring the requisite experience, but given Donald Trump’s promise to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that recognized the right to an abortion, and efforts to reverse progress on civil rights and civil liberties, that’s not enough.”

“It’s incumbent on Congress to determine whether Kavanaugh’s legal views are compatible with the powerful role he will play for generations.”

“If confirmed, Kavanaugh could very well be the decisive vote Trump needs in the Supreme Court to give his concerted campaign to undermine civil liberties and civil rights long-term impact.”

“And in light of President Trump’s promise to appoint justices who would overturn Roe, this nomination could jeopardize the right to an abortion millions of women and families have relied on for more than four decades.”

“Justice Kennedy kept the court in the mainstream by having an open mind and a commitment to an evolving Constitution.”

“Senators should ask Kavanaugh whether he agrees that constitutional law evolves with the times, as it did in recognizing that segregation is unconstitutional, that sex discrimination violates the Equal Protection Clause, and that marriage equality is constitutionally guaranteed.”

ACLU reproductive freedom project director Talcott Camp said the following:

Trump’s vow “to only nominate justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, (raises) serious concern about women’s continued ability to access abortion if Kavanaugh is confirmed.”

Since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade High Court ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) permitted states to impose their own restrictions to abortion access – at least 400 instances so far.

They include shutting down clinics providing abortions on the phony pretext of protecting women’s health.

Lower court rulings at times successfully challenged state-imposed restrictions. So did the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016).

In a 5 – 3 ruling, the Court struck down two Texas laws restricting abortion, Justice Kennedy siding with the majority.

Kavanaugh replacing him, if confirmed, would shift the High Court’s balance against retaining Roe as the law of the land.

Numerous states have legislation prepared to enact, abolishing a woman’s right to choose if the Supremes overturn Roe.

A GOP-controlled Congress could ban abortions legislatively, following a High Court ruling against it.

Kavanaugh’s judicial history shows he’s on the wrong side of numerous issues just societies cherish.

Net Neutrality is a key one, what digital democracy is all about, the last frontier protecting it, what Trump wants eliminated.

His FCC voted to kill it, enabling cable and telecom giants to establish toll roads or premium lanes, charge extra for speed and free and easy access, control content, as well as stifle dissent and independent thought – transforming the Internet into another corporate-controlled swamp of disinformation and fake news if the ruling isn’t challenged and overturned.

If the issue reaches the High Court, Kavanaugh’s opinion could be decisive. He opposes Net Neutrality.

In a May 2017 DC Court of Appeals dissent, he said the

“net neutrality rule is one of the most consequential regulations ever issued,” calling it “unlawful and must be vacated.”

He argued that restricting ISP actions intruded on their “editorial discretion,” claiming it violated their First Amendment protections – while ignoring this protection for all US citizens as constitutionally mandated.

In November 2015, he argued that government metadata collection (mass surveillance) “is entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment,” claiming that it doesn’t constitute “unreasonable” searches – siding with Big Brother intrusiveness, ignoring the right of privacy.

Following his nomination, Kavanaugh fooled no one, saying he’d “keep an open mind in every case…and…will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law” – as he interprets it, he failed to explain.

Will undemocratic Dems go all-out to block Kavanaugh’s appointment, or will they pretend outrage, then cave in the end?

Will Dems fail to have two GOP senators side with them against Trump’s SCOTUS nominee?

Will the nation’s High Court be transformed into a hard-right body for the next generation if Kavanaugh is confirmed, serving privileged interests exclusively over equal justice for all?

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Even More US-Made Anti-Tank Weapons Are Turning Up in ISIS Hands

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Featured image: Raw footage posted to YouTube by Iraqi television station Al-Mawsleya appears to show an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile and launcher among a cache of weapons recovered just outside Tal Afar, Iraq. (Source: Al-Mawsleya TV/YouTube)

With the heart of ISIS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Mosul in ruins and Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Baghdad to assess the U.S.-led campaign against the terror group, Iraqi security forces are working overtime to expunge more than 2,000 militants from the strategically crucial city of Tal Afar. The offensive could signal “the end of ISIS’s military presence” in the country’s northern region, according to a spokesman for the U.S. coalition, but the ISF and their Western military partners have run into a familiar obstacle: American-made anti-tank weapons.

Raw footage posted to YouTube by Iraqi television station Al-Mawsleya appears to show an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile and launcher among a cache of weapons recovered just outside Tal Afar. The Javelin has a range of up to 2.7 miles with an 18-pound tandem warhead (two shaped charges, one to pierce reactive armor the other to wreak havoc) and designed to penetrate even the toughest armor — including the skin of the Pentagon’s beloved M1 Abrams tank.

The discovery of the Javelin is disturbing. Despite ISIS’s reliance on unconventional weaponry like their beloved vehicle-borne IEDs, this isn’t the first time militants have wielded heavier American-made weapons against the very troops meant to carry them. An ISIS propaganda video released in June 2015, after the capture of the Syrian city of Palmyra, revealed militants targeting Syrian government forces with U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. One year later, the same missiles, allegedly fired by U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, were used to down a Russian Mi-25 assault helicopter.

It’s likely ISIS fighters came upon the Javelin in the same way it acquires most of its other conventional weapons: by looting Syrian and Iraqi military weapons caches. A 2003 Government Accountability Office report published after the invasion of Iraq found that at least 36 Javelin missile command launch-units had gone missing in the country as a result of lax chain-of-custody standards at U.S. weapons depots. If more are in enemy hands, those launchers would be added to the tons of armored vehicles, Humvees, artillery, surface-to-air missiles, and Turkish variants of the U.S.-made M72 LAW anti-tank weapons and Russian RPGs that are confirmed to be in ISIS’s arsenal. Most of those arms were simply abandoned by the Iraqi Army and left for militants to pick up.

But the anti-tank weapons like the Javelin and TOW didn’t just turn up in Iraq and Syria amid the chaos of the 2003 invasion: they were sent there more recently by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. Under Timber Sycamore, the covert CIA program established during the Obama administration to arm Syrian rebels locked in a protracted civil war against the Bashar al-Assad regime, at least 500 TOW missiles were reportedly transferred through Saudi Arabia to the Free Syrian Army in late 2015. And in February 2016 Washington Post reporter and Marine veteran Thomas Gibbons-Neff identified a Javelin in the hands of Kurdish YPG forces at work in northern Syria. (The Pentagon and State Department bothdenied sending any anti-tank weapons to regional forces fighting ISIS in Syria.)

In July, President Donald Trump moved to end Timber Sycamore, telling the Wall Street Journal,

”It turns out it’s — a lot of al-Qaeda we’re giving these weapons to.”

He’s not totally wrong: the complex mosaic of rebel forces operating in a theater defined by complicated and shifting allegiances makes weapons transfers an even riskier proposition than arming the Afghan security forces in Kabul. Indeed, the Pentagon announced on July 27 that it would for the first time end of military support for a Syrian rebel group for pursuing objectives outside of OIR’s strict anti-ISIS mandate, namely going AWOL from the At Tanf garrison that saw escalating clashes and tensions between OIR and pro-regime forces this summer.

But despite all that, the Trump administration has continued to pursue weapons transfers to the Syrian Democratic Forces, as if the new program is without the problems that made Timber Sycamore a goldmine for American “allies” in Syria. As we’ve noted before, the Pentagon is shit at monitoring weapons transfers: A 2016 analysis revealed that DoD could barely account for half of the 1.5 million weapons provided to Afghan and Iraqi security forces since the start of the invasions there, while, while a previous 2014 report found 43% of the weapons the ANSF received simply vanished. All of these weapons flow freely between ISIS forces across the Middle East.

Perhaps the appearance of the Javelin in an ISIS cache will induce the administration to reconsider its arms transfers to the SDF. If a Taliban fighter can wave around a fully accessorized SOCOM 7.62mm assault rifle, what makes the DoD think he can’t get his hand on a U.S. anti-tank missile? In July, Gibbons-Neff received a flaccid answer to that question from OIR spokesman Col. Ryan S. Dillon:

“Whenever we sign up for something, you know, we go through every serial number.”

Fat fucking chance.

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‘They Bombed Trapped Civilians’: Amnesty’s Damning Report on UK, US, France Destruction in Raqqa


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UK, US, and French bombs inflicted mass loss of civilian life in ISIS-held Raqqa, according Amnesty International. A new report has also accused coalition forces of bombing areas where they knew civilians were trapped.

During the four-month operation to eradicate the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the US-led coalition – which includes British forces – killed hundreds of civilians and injured many more, says Amnesty International.

According to its damning report into the coalition forces, residents were trapped as fighting raged in the streets between IS militants and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who were supported by coalition airstrikes. Escape routes for civilians were riddled with IEDs, put there by Islamic State, which also positioned snipers to shoot those trying to flee.

The Hashish family lost 18 members, mostly women and children, over a two-week period in August. A coalition airstrike killed nine, while seven died as they tried to flee via a road that was laid with IS mines, and two others were killed by a mortar launched by the SDF.

“Those who stayed, died; and those who tried to run away, died,” said Munira Hashish.“We couldn’t afford to pay the smugglers; we were trapped.” Hashish said that she and her children eventually managed to escape through a minefield “by walking over the blood of those who were blown up as they tried to flee ahead of us.”

Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International Donatella Rovera is calling on the coalition forces to launch an investigation into the bombing campaign that left Raqqa devastated.

“When so many civilians are killed in attack after attack, something is clearly wrong, and to make this tragedy worse, so many months later the incidents have not been investigated,” she said. “The victims deserve justice.

“The coalition’s claims that its precision air campaign allowed it to bomb IS out of Raqqa while causing very few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny. On the ground in Raqqa, we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of wars,” she continued.

“IS’s brutal four-year rule in Raqqa was rife with war crimes. But the violations of IS, including the use of civilians as human shields, do not relieve the coalition of their obligations to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.

“What levelled the city and killed and injured so many civilians was the US-led coalition’s repeated use of explosive weapons in populated areas where they knew civilians were trapped. Even precision weapons are only as precise as their choice of targets.”

Rovera added that the level of devastation and destruction in Raqqa is worse than anything they have seen in decades, quoting a senior US military officer as saying that “more artillery shells were launched into Raqqa than anywhere since the end of the Vietnam war.”

The Amnesty International report, based on 112 interviews and visits to 42 strike locations, has already been slammed by a coalition spokesman – even before it was published.

US forces fired 100 percent of the artillery rounds used against Raqqa and over 90 percent of airstrikes. British and French aircraft were also involved, with the UK’s Ministry of Defense admitting that Britain carried out 275 airstrikes. The UK claims that no civilians were killed as a result of their bombs.

The human rights group claim that there is strong evidence that coalition air and artillery strikes killed and injured thousands of civilians, including in disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks that violated international humanitarian law. Despite pledges that civilian loss of life would be thoroughly investigated by coalition forces, Amnesty says there is no sign of this happening.

Middle East Researcher at Amnesty International Benjamin Walsby has questioned why the coalition felt the need to bomb the city in ruins if “the coalition and their SDF allies were ultimately going to grant IS fighters safe passage and impunity.” He added:

“What possible military advantage was there in destroying practically an entire city and killing so many civilians?

“Raqqa’s civilians are returning home to ruins, pulling loved ones out of rubble, and facing death or injury from mines, IEDs and unexploded ordnance,” Walsby said. “The coalition’s refusal to acknowledge its role in creating this catastrophic situation adds insult to injury.”

An MoD spokesman said:

“Keeping Britain safe from the threat of terrorism is the objective of this campaign and throughout we have been open and transparent, detailing each of our nearly 1,700 strikes, facilitating operational briefings and confirming when a civilian casualty had taken place.

“We do everything we can to minimize the risk to civilian life through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of the RAF crews but, given the ruthless and inhuman behavior of Daesh, and the congested, complex urban environment in which we operate, we must accept that the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties is ever present.”

US Army Colonel Sean Ryan has denied accusations made by Amnesty International of disproportionate bombing and unlawful killing.

“I think we served the people of Raqqa to the best of our ability and against an enemy that has used tactics that no one even suspected they would use,” Ryan said. “We’re the ones who liberated Raqqa and did it come at a price? Sure – but it’s a time of war, and that’s what happens sometimes. We go to extreme levels to avoid innocent civilians.”

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The Scars of War: Mosul’s Children Haunted a Year After Islamic State Was Routed

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Featured image: Nine-year-old Rima was deeply affected after the death of her mother [Sam Tarling/Save the Children]

“I wake up and I witness war every day… I don’t want to go through another war.” These are the words of 10-year-old Rahaf, a child from Iraq who has known nothing but death and destruction.
Rahaf lost both her parents and younger sister, along with ten other family members, when an airstrike hit their home in West Mosul in 2017. She was rescued from the rubble, but is haunted by the memories, with everyday noises reminding her of bombs falling.

“The most important thing to me is that the war doesn’t happen again. I don’t want it to happen again. I don’t want others to be orphans like me. I became an orphan. I hope nobody in Iraq gets orphaned,” Rahaf says.

A year on, she still has shrapnel wounds in her leg. The experience of the airstrike, being trapped under the rubble and then learning of her family’s death, left Rahaf unable to speak for weeks. She became withdrawn and isolated, afraid to go back to school and unwilling to make friends.

Rahaf is among scores of children in this city continuing to suffer a year after the Islamic State group’s brutal rule was ended. The organisation seized Mosul in a lightning offensive across much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland, proclaiming a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Last December, the Iraqi government claimed victory over IS in Iraq, just months after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory against the group in Mosul.

“The experience of the airstrike and learning she had become an orphan, left Rahaf unable to speak for weeks. She became withdrawn and isolated, afraid to go back to school and unwilling to make friends”

The July 2017 defeat in Mosul came eight months after an alliance of Iraqi armed forces, Shia militias and Kurdish fighters launched an offensive to retake the city.

It was considered one of the biggest defeats for the Islamic State group, but the cost of this “liberation” has been immense.

Monitoring group Airwars estimated that between February and June last year, as many as 5,805 Iraqi civilians were killed in Iraqi and coalition attacks. But many believe the actual number is likely much higher, with rights group Amnesty International saying at the time that the “true death toll of the battle may never be known”.

In addition to the deaths, nearly a million people fled their homes during the military operations and the fighting destroyed entire districts of the city, with the scale of destruction unprecedented in Iraq’s most recent conflict. The UN estimated that the cost of repairing basic infrastructure is set to top more than $1 billion, with rebuilding likely to take several years.

However, one of the most catastrophic impacts of this battle has been the affect it has had on the mental wellbeing of civilians, especially children.

Haunted by fear

Image on the right: Rahaf lost both her parents and younger sister in an airstrike last year [Sam Tarling/Save the Children]

A year since the extremist group was expelled from Mosul, the city’s children have been living in near constant fear for their lives, often reliving memories of devastation, displacement, bombing and extreme violence, a new report by Save the Children has found.

Children have spoken of serious emotional problems, depression and extreme anxiety, with many bearing the scars of war.

Hundreds of thousands of children are still living amid the rubble, and many, including teenagers, say they are too scared to walk alone, be without their parents or go to school.

They have been pushed to breaking point, Save the Children found in their report entitled, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding the lives of Mosul’s children after years of conflict and violence.

“These are children who have spent their formative years under IS. They have seen their schools transformed into battlegrounds and their friends killed in classrooms,” said Ana Locsin, Save the Children’s Iraq director.

“School is no longer seen as a protective environment for children and it’s hard for them to feel safe in the classroom, and therefore, to learn and thrive.”

“These are children who have spent their formative years under IS. They have seen their schools transformed into battlegrounds and their friends killed in classrooms.”

Twelve-year-old Fahad from West Mosul now attends a school with damaged walls and no doors.

“I don’t feel good in the class,” he says. “In this area, the sniper targeted the children so that when the mothers and fathers came to rescue them, he would shoot the whole family. The school got badly hit and the area became a front line. The whole street became a front line.”

Another child, Dina adds:

“At school, instead of teaching us maths, they used to teach us about missiles, bullets and slaughtering.”

The 12-year-old orphan lives with her disabled aunt in West Mosul. She spoke of how IS fighters stopped and taunted her on the streets for not wearing a hijab. When she stood up to them, one of the militants cut her hair off as punishment. This scared her, she says.

Dina also saw her friend killed by Islamic State militants. They murdered her for “standing up to them”, Dina says.

“They shot her with a gun and she died.”

She subsequently became withdrawn, depressed and isolated.

Risks of long-lasting mental health issues

Image below: Dina lives with her disabled aunt in West Mosul [Sam Tarling/Save the Children]

When aid workers first met Dina, her mental health was poor.

“She was isolated, had been out of school for three years and was exhausted from looking after her disabled aunt,” reported Save the Children, which has been working in Iraq since 1991.

A case worker provided Dina with psychosocial support, re-registered her in school and provided her with books, bags, stationery and a uniform.

Over time Dina’s condition improved – she is now comfortable in the presence of strangers and is making friends again at school.

But poor mental health has become a recurrent theme among children here.

Almost half of children surveyed felt grief all or a lot of the time, with fewer than one in ten children being able to think of something happy in their lives.

Save the Children also asked caregivers about social issues affecting the city’s youth that might be on the rise in the community – 39 percent reported they knew of adolescents self-harming, while 29 percent said they had heard about adolescent suicide attempts increasing.

Parents also need support

To make matters worse, the report found the mental health of parents had been so badly affected by the conflict that children had been left with little family support, severely limiting their ability to break out of the devastating cycle of ongoing stress.

Instead of turning to overburdened parents and guardians, children are choosing not to speak about their problems, withdrawing from other people, and trying to self-soothe or accept their situation – and none of these are helping ease their emotional distress.

“Internalising issues could put children at further risk of poor self-esteem, isolation and suicidal behaviour, and exacerbate their symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Ana said.

“Internalising issues could put children at further risk of poor self-esteem, isolation and suicidal behaviour, and exacerbate their symptoms of depression and anxiety”

Such is the case of Yasser, the father of three young girls. He lost his wife in February last year when an airstrike hit a grain store near his home in West Mosul. The burning debris flew through the roof of their home.

“With the last hit, all the blocks fell on us… My wife and I were sleeping,” Yasser says.

“I told her, ‘don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, nothing has happened’. But she stayed that way, staring at me. She wouldn’t respond, she kept staring at me, and she never got up,” he recalls.

“At that moment, I didn’t know what to do. I lost it.”

Watch this video.

The death of their mother affected his daughters deeply, and Yasser struggles as a single parent. Nine-year-old Rima, seven-year-old Aya and two-year-old Dalia now live with their maternal uncle and his family, as their father is unable to take care of them full time due to work.

Rima became depressed and angry after the loss of her mother, and breaks down if anyone mentions her. The violence of the airstrike and the death of her mother affected Rima’s ability to cope with intense feelings of sadness and emotional pain.

“Aya looks for her mum… she just wants her mum, she keeps saying ‘mama’,” says Yasser.

A Save the Children case worker has been visiting the girls since their mother’s death, providing psychosocial support and helping them to cope with their loss and regain their confidence.

“Unless children’s sense of safety is re-established, and parents are given support to help themselves and their families, children will remain distressed, leaving them at serious risk of further and long-lasting mental health issues,” Ana said.

Save the Children is calling on the international community to put the wellbeing of children at the heart of planning for post-conflict Iraq by stepping up funding for mental health and psychosocial programming and ensuring it is a key aspect of emergency responses.

“It is imperative that urgent action is taken to ensure children have access to essential services, can feel safe to walk around, play outside and go to school,” Ana added.

“The future of Iraq depends on the development of its children into healthy, secure adults.”

(Names in this article have been changed)

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Correcting the Record: What Is Really Happening in Nicaragua?


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Featured image: A massive peace march was held on July 8, 2018, in Managua showing support for the Nicaraguan government. (Source: UK Morning Sun)

There is a great deal of false and inaccurate information about Nicaragua in the media. Even on the left some have simply repeated the dubious claims of CNN and Nicaragua’s oligarchic media to support removal of President Ortega.

This article seeks to correct the record, describe what is happening in Nicaragua and why. As we write this, the coup seems to be failing, people have rallied for peace (as this massive march for peace held Saturday July 7 showed) and the truth is coming out. It is important to understand what is occurring because Nicaragua is an example of the types of violent coups the US and wealthy use to put in place business dominated, neoliberal governments. If people understand these tactics, they will become less effective.

Mixing up the Class Interests

In part, US pundits are getting their information from media outlets, such as Jaime Chamorro-Cardinal’s La Prensa, and the same oligarchical family’s Confidencial, that are the most active elements of the coup media. Repeating and amplifying their narrative delegitimizes the Sandinista government and presents unconditional surrender by Daniel Ortega as the only acceptable option. These pundits provide cover for nefarious internal and external interests who have set their sights on controlling Central America’s poorest and yet resource-rich country.

The coup attempt brought the class divisions in Nicaragua into the open. Piero Coen, the richest man in Nicaragua, owner of all national Western Union operations and an agrochemical company, personally arrived on the first day of protests at the Polytechnic University in Managua, to encourage students to keep protesting, promising his continued support. 

The traditional landed oligarchy of Nicaragua, politically led by the Chamorro family, publishes constant ultimatums to the government through its media outlets and finances the roadblocks that have paralyzed the country for the last eight weeks. 

The Catholic Church, long allied with the oligarchs, has put its full weight behind creating and sustaining anti-government actions, including  its universities, high schools, churches, bank accounts, vehicles, tweets, Sunday sermons, and a one-sided effort to mediate the National Dialogue. Bishops have made death threats against the President and his family, and a priest has been filmed supervising the torture of Sandinistas. Pope Francis has called for peace dialogue, and even called Cardinal Leonaldo Brenes and Bishop Rolando Alvarez to a private meeting in the Vatican, setting off rumors that the Nicaraguan monseñores were being scolded for their obvious involvement in the conflict they are officially mediating.  The church remains one of the few pillars keeping the coup alive.

A common claim is Ortega has cozied up to the traditional oligarchy, but the opposite is true. This is the first government since Nicaraguan independence that does not include the oligarchy. Since the 1830s through the 1990s, all Nicaraguan governments– even during the Sandinista Revolution– included people from the elite “last names,” of Chamorro, Cardenal, Belli, Pellas, Lacayo, Montealegre, Gurdián. The government since 2007 does not, which is why these families are supporting the coup.

Ortega detractors claim his three-part dialogue including labor unions, capitalists and the State is an alliance with big business. In fact, that process has yielded the highest growth rate in Central Americaand annual minimum wage increases 5-7% above inflation, improving workers’ living conditions and lifting people out of poverty. The anti-poverty Borgen project reports poverty fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2014. 

The Ortega economy is the opposite of neoliberalism, it is based on public investment and strengthening the safety net for the poor. The government invests in infrastructure, transit, maintains water and electricity within the public sector, and moved privatized services. e.g., health care and primary education into the public sector. This has ensured a stable economic structure that favors the real economy over the speculative economy. 

What liberal and even leftists commentators overlook is that unlike the Lula government in Brazil, which reduced poverty through cash payouts to poor families, Nicaragua has redistributed productive capital in order to develop a self-sufficient popular economy. The FSLN model is better understood as an emphasis on the popular economy over the State or capitalist spheres.

While the private sector employs about 15% of Nicaraguan workers, the informal sector employs over 60%. The informal sector has benefitted from $400 million in public investments, much of it coming from the ALBA alliance funds to finance micro loans for small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises. Policies to facilitate credit, equipment, training, animals, seeds and subsidized fuel further support these enterprises. The small and medium producers of Nicaragua have led the country to produce 80-90% of its food and end its dependence on IMF loans. 

As such, workers and peasants– many of whom are self-employed and who accessed productive capital through the Sandinista Revolution and ensuing struggles– represent an important political subject of the stable, postwar social development of the last decade, including the hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers who have received land title and the nearly one-quarter of the national territory that has been given collective title as territory of indigenous nations. The social movements of workers, peasants, and indigenous groups were the base of popular support that brought the FSLN back into power. 

Land titling, and assistance to small businesses have also emphasized equality for women, resulting in Nicaragua having the lowest level of gender inequality in Latin America and ranked 12 out of 145 countries in the world, just behind Germany. 

Over time, the FSLN government has incorporated this massive self-employed sector, as well as maquiladora workers (i.e. textile workers in foreign-owned plants located in free trade zones created by previous neoliberal governments), into the health care and pension system, causing the financial commitments to grow which required a new formula to ensure fiscal stability. The proposed reforms to Social Security were the trigger for the private sector and student protests on April 18th. The business lobby called for the protests when Ortega proposed increasing employer contributions by 3.5% to pension and health funds, while only slightly increasing worker contributions by 0.75% and shifting 5% of pensioners’ cash transfer into their health care fund. The reform also ended a loophole which allowed high-income individuals to claim a low income in order to access health benefits. 

This was a counter-proposal to the IMF proposal to raise the retirement age and more than double the number of weeks that workers would need to pay into the pension fund in order to access benefits. The fact the government felt strong enough to deny the IMF and business lobby’s austerity demands was a sign that the bargaining strength of private capital has declined, as Nicaragua’s impressive economic growth, a 38% increase in GDP from 2006-2017, has been led by small-scale producers and public spending. However, the opposition used manipulative Facebook ads presenting the reform as an austerity measure, plus fake news of a student death on April 18th, to generate protests across the country on April 19th. Immediately, the regime change machine lurched into motion.

The National Dialogue shows the class interests in conflict. The opposition’s Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy has as its key figures: José Adan Aguirre, leader of the private business lobby; Maria Nelly Tellez, director of Cargill in Nicaragua and head of the US-Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce; the private university students of the April 19th Movement; Michael Healy, manager of a Colombian sugar corporation and head of the agribusiness lobby; Juan Sebastian Chamorro, who represents the oligarchy dressed as civil society; Carlos Tunnermann, 85-year-old ex-Sandinista minister and ex-chancellor of the National University; Azalea Solis, head of a US government-funded feminist organization; and Medardo Mairena, a “peasant leader” funded by the US government, who lived 17 years in Costa Rica before being deported in 2017 for human trafficking. Tunnermann, Solis and the April 19th students are all associated with the Movement for Renovation of Sandinismo (MRS), a tiny Sandinista offshoot party that nonetheless merits special attention.

In the 1980s, many of the Sandinista Front’s top level cadre were in fact the children of some of the famous oligarchic families, such as the Cardenal brothers and part of the Chamorro family, in charge of the revolutionary government’s ministries of Culture and Education and its media, respectively. After FSLN’s election loss in 1990, the children of the oligarchy staged an exodus from the party. Along with them, some of the most notable intellectual, military and intelligence cadre left and formed, over time, the MRS. The new party renounced socialism, blamed all of the mistakes of the Revolution on Daniel Ortega and over time took over the sphere of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nicaragua, including feminist, environmentalist, youth, media and human rights organizations. 

Since 2007, the MRS has become increasingly close with the extreme right-wing of the US Republican Party. Since the outbreak of violence in April, many if not most of the sources cited by Western media (including, disturbingly, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!), come from this party, which has the support of less than 2% of the Nicaraguan electorate. This allows the oligarchs to couch their violent attempt to reinstall neoliberalism in leftist-sounding discourse of former Sandinistas critical of the Ortega government.

It is a farce to claim that workers and peasants are behind the unrest. La Vía Campesina, the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers, the Association of Rural Workers, the National Workers’ Front, the indigenous Mayangna Nation and other movements and organizations have been unequivocal in their demands for an end to the violence and their support for the Ortega government. This unrest is a full-scale regime change operation carried out by media oligarchs, a network of NGOs funded by the US government, armed elements of elite landholding families and the Catholic Church, and has opened the window for drug cartels and organized crime to gain a foothold in Nicaragua. 

Nicargua meeting of the National Dialogue for Peace by Óscar Sánchez.

The Elephant in the Room

Which brings us to US government involvement in the violent coup.

As Tom Ricker reported early in this political crisis, several years ago the US government decided that rather than finance opposition political parties, which have lost enormous legitimacy in Nicaragua, it would finance the NGO civil society sector. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) gave more than $700,000 to build the opposition to the government in 2017, and has granted more than $4.4 million since 2014. The overarching purpose of this funding was to “provide a coordinated strategy and media voice for opposition groups in Nicaragua.” Ricker continues:

“The result of this consistent building and funding of opposition resources has been to create an echo chamber that is amplified by commentators in the international media – most of whom have no presence in Nicaragua and rely on these secondary sources.” 

NED founding father, Allen Weinstein, described NED as the overt CIA saying,

“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

In Nicaragua, rather than the traditional right-wing, NED funds the MRS-affiliated organizations which pose left-sounding critiques of the Sandinista government. The regime change activists use Sandinista slogans, songs and symbols even as they burn historic monuments, paint over the red-and-black markers of fallen martyrs, and physically attack members of the Sandinista party.

Of the opposition groups in the National Dialogue, the feminist organization of Azalea Solis and the peasant organization of Medardo Mairena are financed through NED grants, while the April 19th students stay in hotels and make trips paid for by Freedom House, another regime change organ funded by NED and USAID. NED also finances Confidencial, the Chamorro media organization. Grants from NED finance the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP), whose Executive Director, Felix Maradiaga, is another MRS cadre very close to the US Embassy. In June, Maradiaga was accused of leading a criminal network called Viper which, from the occupied UPOLI campus, organized carjackings, arsons and murders in order to create chaos and panic during the months of April and May.

Maradiaga grew up in the United States and became a fellow of the Aspen Leadership Institute, before studying public policy at Harvard. He was a secretary in the Ministry of Defense for the last liberal president, Enrique Bolaños. He is a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and in 2015, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs gave him the Gus Hart Fellowship, past recipients of which include Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez and Henrique Capriles Radonski, the Venezuelan opposition leader who attacked the Cuban embassy during the coup attempt of 2002. 

Remarkably, Maradiaga is not the only leader of the coup attempt who is part of the Aspen World Leadership NetworkMaria Nelly Rivasdirector in Nicaragua of US corporate giant Cargill, is one of the main spokespersons for the opposition Civic Alliance. Rivas, who currently also heads the US-Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce, is being groomed as a possible presidential candidate in the next elections. Beneath these US-groomed leaders, there is a network of over 2,000 young people who have received trainings with NED funds on topics such as social media skills for democracy defense. This battalion of social media warriors was able to immediately shape and control public opinion in Facebook in the five days from April 18th to 22nd, leading to spontaneous violent protests across the country. 

Protesters yell from behind the roadblock they erected as they face off with security forces near the University Politecnica de Nicaragua in Managua, Nicaragua, April 21, 2018. Source: Voice of America

On the Violence

One of the ways in which reporting on Nicaragua has ventured farthest from the truth is calling the opposition “nonviolent.” The violence script, modeled on the 2014 and 2017 guarimba protests in Venezuela, is to organize armed attacks on government buildings, entice the police to send in anti-riot squads, engage in filmed confrontations and publish edited footage online claiming that the government is being violent against nonviolent protesters. 

Over 60 government buildings have been burned down, schools, hospitals, health centers attacked, 55 ambulances damaged, at least $112 million in infrastructure damage, small businesses have been closed, and 200,000 jobs lost causing devastating economic impact during the protests. Violence has included, in addition to thousands of injuries, 15 students and 16 police officers killed, as well as over 200 Sandinistas kidnapped, many of them publicly tortured. Violent opposition atrocities were misreported as government repression. While it is important to defend the right of the public to protest, regardless of its political opinions, it is disingenuous to ignore that the opposition’s strategy requires and feeds upon violence and deaths.

National and international news claim deaths and injuries due to “repression” without explaining the context. The Molotov cocktails, mortar-launchers, pistols, and assault rifles used by opposition groups are ignored by the media, and when Sandinista sympathizers, police or passers-by are killed, they are falsely counted as victims of state repression. Explosive opposition claims like massacres of childrenand murders of women have been shown to be false, and the cases of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions by police forces have not been corroborated by evidence or due process. 

While there is evidence to support the opposition claim of sniper fire killing protesters, there is no logical explanation for the State using snipers to add to the death toll, and counter-protesters have also been victims of sniper fire, suggesting a “third party” provocateur role in the destabilizing violence. When an entire Sandinista family was burned to death in Managua, the opposition media all cited a witness who claimed that the police had set fire to the home, despite the house being in a neighborhood barricaded off from police access.

The National Police of Nicaragua has been long-recognized for its model of community policing (in contrast to militarized police in most Central American countries), its relative lack of corruption, and its mostly female top brass. The coup strategy has sought to destroy public trust in the police through egregious use of fake news, such as the many false claims of assassinations, beatings, torture, and disappearances in the week from April 17th to 23rd. Several young people whose photos were carried in opposition rallies as victims of police violence have turned out to be alive and well. 

The police have been wholly inadequate and underprepared for armed confrontations. Attacks on several public buildings on the same night and the first major arson attacks led government workers to hold vigils with barrels of water and, often, sticks and stones, to fend off attackers. The opposition, frustrated at not achieving more police conflicts, began to build roadblocks across the country and burning the homes of Sandinistas, even shooting and burning Sandinista families in atrocious hate crimes. In contrast to La Prensa’s version of events, Nicaraguans have felt the distinct lack of police presence, and the loss of safely in their neighborhoods, while many were targeted by violence.

Since May, the strategy of the opposition has been to build armed roadblocks across the country, closing off transport and trapping people. The roadblocks, usually built with large paving stones, are manned by between 5 and 100 armed men with bandannas or masks. While the media reports on idealistic young people running roadblocks, the vast majority of roadblocks are maintained by paid menwho come from a background of petty crime. Where large areas of cities and towns are blocked off from government and police forces, drug-related activities intensify, and drug gangs now control many of the roadblocks and pay the salaries.

These roadblocks have been the centers of violence, workers who need to pass through roadblocks are often robbed, punched, insulted, and, if suspected of being Sandinistas, tied up, stripped naked, tortured, painted in blue-and-white, and sometimes killed. There are three cases of people dying in ambulances unable to pass roadblocks, and one case of a 10-year-old girl being kidnapped and raped at the roadblock in Las Maderas. When organized neighbors or the police clear roadblocks, the armed groups run away and regroup to burn buildings, kidnap or injure people in revenge. All of the victims that this violence produces are counted by the mainstream media as victims of repression, a total falsehood.

The Nicaraguan government has confronted this situation by largely keeping police off the streets, to prevent encounters and accusations of repression. At the same time, rather than simply arrest violent protestors, which certainly would have given the opposition the battle deaths it craves, the government called for a National Dialogue, mediated by the Catholic Church, in which the opposition can bring forward any proposal for human rights and political reform. The government created a parliamentary Truth and Peace Commission and launched an independent Public Ministry query.

As a result, a process of organizing self-defense developed. Families who have been displaced, young people who have been beaten, robbed or tortured, and veterans of the 1979 insurrection and/or the Contra War, hold vigil round the Sandinista Front headquarters in each town. In many places they built barricades against opposition attacks and have been falsely labeled paramilitary forces in the media. In the towns that do not have such community-organized barricades, the human toll from opposition violence is much greater. The National Union of Nicaraguan Students has been particularly targeted by opposition violence. A student delegate of the National Dialogue, Leonel Morales, was kidnapped, shot in the abdomen and thrown into a ditch to die in June, to sabotage the dialogue and punish him for challenging the April 19th students’ right to speak on behalf of all Nicaraguan students.

There have been four major opposition rallies since April, directed toward mobilizing the upper-middle class Nicaraguans who live in the suburbs between Managua and Masaya. These rallies featured a who’s-who of high society, including beauty queens, business owners and oligarchs, as well as university students of the April 19th Movement, the moral high-ground for the opposition. 

Three months into the conflict, none of the mortal victims have been bourgeois. All have come from the popular classes of Nicaragua. Despite claims of total repression, the bourgeois feels perfectly safe to participate in public protests by day — although the last daytime rally ended in a chaotic attack by protesters against squatters on a property of, curiously enough, Piero Coen, Nicaragua’s richest man. The nighttime armed attacks have generally been carried out by people who come from poor neighborhoods, many of whom are paid two to four times the minimum daily wage for each night of destruction.

Unfortunately, most Nicaraguan human rights organizations are funded by NED and controlled by the Movement for Sandinista Renovation. These organizations have accused the Nicaraguan government of dictatorship and genocide throughout Ortega’s presidency. International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International have been criticized for their one-sided reports, which include none of the information provided by the government or individuals who identify as Sandinistas. 

The government invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS, a Washington-based entity notoriously unfriendly to leftist governments, to investigate the violent events of April and determine whether repression had occurred. The night of a controversial skirmish in the highway outside the Agrarian University in Managua ended a negotiated 48-hour truce, IACHR Director Paulo Abrao visited the site to declare his support for the opposition. The IACHR ignored the opposition’s widespread violence and only reported on the defensive violence of the government. Not only was it categorically rejected by Nicaraguan chancellor Denis Moncada as an “insult to the dignity of the Nicaraguan people,” a resolution approving the IACHR report was supported by only ten out of 34 countries.

Meanwhile, the April 19th Movement, made up of current or former university students in favor of regime change, sent a delegation to Washington and managed to alienate much of Nicaraguan society by grinning into the camera with far-right interventionist members of the US Congress, including Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz. M19 leaders also cheered Vice-President Mike Pence’s bellicose warnings that Nicaragua is on the short list of countries that will soon know the Trump Administration’s meaning of freedom, and met with the ARENA party of El Salvador, known for its links to the death squads that murdered liberation theologist Archbishop Oscar Romero. Within Nicaragua, the critical mass of students stopped demonstrating weeks ago, the large civic protests of April and May have dwindled, and the same-old familiar faces of Nicaraguan right wing politics are left holding the bill for massive material damage and loss of life.

Nicaraguan students meet with right-wing Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen  in Washington, DC. Source Twitter Truthdig.

Why Nicaragua?

Ortega won his third term in 2016 with 72.4 percent of the vote with 66 percent turnout, very high compared to US elections. Not only has Nicaragua put in place an economy that treats the poor as producers, with remarkable results raising their standard of living in 10 years, but it also has a government that consistently rejects US imperialism, allying with Cuba, Venezuela, and Palestine, and voices support for Puerto Rican independence and a peaceful solution to Korean crisis. Nicaragua is a member of member of Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a Latin American alternative to the OAS, neither include the US or Canada. It has also allied with China for a proposed canal project and Russia for security cooperation. For all of these reasons the US wants to install a US-friendly Nicaraguan government. 

More important is the example Nicaragua has set for a successful social and economic model outside the US sphere of domination. Generating over 75% of its energy from renewable sources, Nicaragua was the only country with the moral authority to oppose the Paris Climate Agreement as being too weak  (it later joined the treaty one day after Trump pulled the US out, stating “we opposed the Paris agreement out of responsibility, the US opposes it out of irresponsibility”). The FMLN government of El Salvador, while less politically dominant than the Sandinista Front, has taken the example of good governance from Nicaragua, recently prohibiting mining and the privatization of water. Even Honduras, the eternal bastion of US power in Central America, showed signs of a leftward shift until the US-supported military coup in 2009. Since then, there has been massive repression of social activists, a clearly stolen 2017 election, and Honduras has permitted the expansion of US military bases near the Nicaraguan border. 

In 2017, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act), which if passed by the Senate will force the US government to veto loans from international institutions to the Nicaraguan government. This US imperialism will cripple Nicaragua’s ability to build roads, update hospitals, construct renewable energy plants, and transition from extensive livestock raising to integrated animal-forestry systems, among other consequences. It may also signify the end of many popular social programs, such as subsidized electricity, stable bus fares, and free medical treatment of chronic diseases. 

The US Executive Branch has used the Global Magnitsky Act to target the finances of leaders of the Electoral Supreme Court, the National Police, the city government of Managua and the ALBA corporation in Nicaragua. Police officers and public health bureaucrats have been told their US visas have been revoked. The point, of course, is not whether these officials have or have not committed acts that merit their reprimand in Nicaragua, but whether the US government should have the jurisdiction to intimidate and corner public officials of Nicaragua.

While the sadistic violence continues, the strategy of the coup-mongers to force out the government has failed. The resolution of the political crisis will come through elections, and the FSLN is likely to win those elections, barring a dramatic and unlikely new offensive by the right-wing opposition.

Latin American Presidents Zelaya (Honduras), Correa (Ecuador), Chavez (Venezuela), Ortega (Nicaragua), and Morales (Bolivia) celebrate Correa’s inauguration for a second term, in Quito, Ecuador. (Prensa Presidencial)

An Upside Down Class War

It is important to understand the nature of US and oligarch coups in this era and the role of media and NGO deception because it is repeated in multiple Latin American and other countries. We can expect a similar attack on recently elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, if he seeks the changes he has promised. 

The US has sought to dominate Nicaragua since the mid-1800s. The wealthy in Nicaragua have sought return of US-allied governance since the Sandinistas rose to power. This failing coup does not mean the end of their efforts or the end of corporate media misinformation. Knowing what is really occurring and sharing that information is the antidote to defeating them in Nicaragua and around the world.

Nicaragua is a class war turned upside down. The government has raised the living standards of the impoverished majority through wealth redistribution. Oligarchs and the United States, unable to install neoliberalism through elections, created a political crisis, highlighted by false media coverage to force Ortega to resign. The coup is failing, the truth is coming out, and should not be forgotten.

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Hassan Diab: Nothing Less Than a Public Inquiry Will Do. Canada’s Complicity

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He has been compared to Alfred Dreyfus, the iconic 19th-century French victim of false accusation and racism. The entire spectrum of the Canadian press has covered his unfolding story since its inception in 2007. His return to Canada from France in January 2018 was breaking news. An Ottawa sociology professor, Dr. Diab is the Canadian citizen who, at the behest of France, was sought for extradition. Subject to allegations of involvement in the bombing of a Paris synagogue in 1980, he was pursued and harassed by the RCMP in 2008. Arrested on November 13th of that year, denied bail, and jailed in the disreputable Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, he was then released in April 2009, only to be placed under the most draconian house arrest conditions. In 2014, after prolonged and suspect hearings, his extradition to France was sealed.

A decisive moment came on July 28, 2009 when Dr. Diab’s summer teaching appointment at Carleton University became public. The news provoked a most vilifying statement from the B’nai B’rith, which the latter sent post haste to Carleton University:

“The safety and security of the community as a whole … are of great concern to us. … The last place in the world where this man belongs is in a university classroom, in front of impressionable students.”

Carleton University yielded to this external pressure and unceremoniously terminated Dr. Diab’s summer contract.

Warm welcome for Hassan at Ottawa airport, January 15, 2018. (Source: The Bullet)

Extradited to France

Between 2010 and 2011, Dr. Diab endured a highly prolonged, dubious, and exasperating process of extradition hearings, grounded in secret, unsourced intelligence that confounded even the extradition judge. Barely convinced by the convoluted logic of the case, the judge nonetheless ordered the extradition. Dr. Diab’s lawyer, Don Bayne, produced an eminently powerful appeal that was denied at every court level. His eloquent plea to the Minister of Justice (Rob Nicholson) was cavalierly dismissed.In 2014, Dr. Diab was extradited to France.

Compelled to leave in haste, he departed with but four items of clothing and no chance to say goodbye. His wife and toddler were left hanging in utter desperation. Thus began the next phase of Dr. Diab’s ordeal – three years and two months in a maximum-security French prison (Fleury-Mérogis) for a crime he never committed and for which he was never even charged.

Rania Tfaily, his wife, describes his coerced departure as a nightmare. As if sucked down the vortex of a black hole, he remained incommunicado for an entire month. She received no direct word of his whereabouts or of his welfare. A Carleton University professor, she was seven months pregnant with her second child at the time, left to agonize in solitude with no relief from her nightmare. The heart-wrenching questions from her bewildered toddler daughter came regularly: “Where’s daddy?”

The case of Dr. Diab represents a shocking miscarriage of justice, committed by sundry Canadian and French authorities that presumed him guilty, and were driven to see that such a perception would stick in the public’s mind. Their actions upended Dr. Diab’s life, subjected him, along with his wife, to years of torment and humiliation, all on a contrived allegation – involvement in a terrorist bombing at a Paris synagogue in 1980 – a groundless accusation issued by a foreign state and inflamed by rumour and racism.

Dr. Diab’s ordeal can be attributed in part to France. CBC recently learned that when French authorities made a formal extradition request to Canada, they “were aware of – and failed to disclose – fingerprint evidence that ultimately helped to clear Hassan Diab of committing a terrorist attack … [C]ourt documents show French prosecutors denied the evidence even existed.” Having already analyzed Dr. Diab’s fingerprints in 2008, and having ascertained a mismatch months before making the extradition request, they knowingly pursued the wrong man.

Canada Implicated

But Canada is equally implicated in this affair. Our deeply defective extradition law, which overrides the individual’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allowed blatantly false evidence from France to justify sending Dr. Diab to indefinite “purgatory,” to languish in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison for more than three years. But it was not only the law that facilitated this unjust extradition; it was also agents of the law who “pro-actively” sought it.

Three key elements stand out in this embroiled narrative and they are now the object of intense public concern: 1) France framed Dr. Diab by denying that it knew (already in 2008) that his fingerprints did not match those of the suspected bomber; 2) Canada’s flawed extradition law deprives the sought individual of the right to invoke evidence in his own defense beyond the record of the case (e.g., Hassan Diab was not in France during the 1980 bombing attack, but was not allowed to bring forth this alibi); and 3) Canadian officials in the Department of Justice, at the direction of a senior lawyer, Claude Lefrançois, actively propped up the French extradition case, delaying court procedures and withholding vital information.

In November 2009, Lefrançois requested a comparative analysis of fingerprints. In early 2010, the RCMP produced the analysis. The fingerprints did not match. Lefrançois would have known this throughout the extradition hearings, yet he never shared the information with the defence or showed it to the Canadian judge who made the extradition order. In fact, Lefrançois “…regularly exchanged memos with his French counterparts pushing for and obtaining court delays until the French authorities could find a “smoking gun” – handwriting analysis that would guarantee Dr. Diab’s extradition. And while “that hunt for case-saving evidence continued, court transcripts show Lefrançois repeatedly told the court he had no direct knowledge of what France was doing – despite having directed France to find the evidence.”

For a decade, then, France concealed possession of fingerprint evidence that would have refuted allegations against Hassan Diab. But for eight years, Canadian government officials also knew that Dr. Diab’s fingerprints did not match those of the suspected bomber. They concealed this fact from the court, acting underhandedly to abet a French extradition request that was tainted from the outset.

These alarming disclosures beg fundamental questions: how and why did our former government facilitate the extradition of one of its citizens by withholding critical information that would otherwise have saved him years of torment? Given this egregious irregularity in judicial and government proceedings, and given that Canada’s extradition law offers few, if any, safeguards to protect the requested individual from extradition, it behooves all Canadians to ponder seriously the extent of their civil liberties.

One Man’s Ordeal

The case of Hassan Diab recalls the canary in the mine. From the depths of one man’s ordeal, it illuminates a warning sign that we must all heed. Any one of us, however innocent, could fall into the same dark hole of hell that swallowed Dr. Diab for ten years.

Now fully informed of Dr. Diab’s story, Canadians are petitioning the Government to set up an independent and public inquiry: 1) to study the actions of Canadian officials involved in abetting the cause of a foreign state by actively promoting the extradition of Dr. Diab; and 2) to launch a substantive revision of Canada’s extradition law that trumps Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government must act expeditiously on this matter, on behalf of every one of us, but most importantly, on behalf of Dr. Diab and his family. Only then will justice be served.

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The View of Russia in the West


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The upcoming Trump/Putin summit is hampered by the crazed portrait of Russia painted by presstitutes. Jonathan ChaitAmy Knight, Max Bergmann, Yaroslav Trofimov, Roger Cohen, and the rest of the conscious or de facto CIA assets that comprise the Western presstitute media have turned Putin into a superhuman who controls election outcomes throughout the West, murders people without rhyme or reason, and has President Trump under his thumb doing Putin’s bidding. Who could imagine a more extreme conspiracy theory?

Jonathan Chait in New York magazine writes that

“the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run deep,” so deep that “it would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.”

So here is Chait, who brands truth-tellers “conspiracy theorists” coming up with the greatest conspiracy theory of our time that President Trump has been a Kremlim asset since 1987. Chait provides a ”crazy quilt of connections” to illustrate his absurd conspiracy theory that “it’s not necessary to believe that Putin always knew he might install Trump in the Oval Office to find the following situation highly plausible: Sometime in 2015, the Russian president recognized that he had, in one of his unknown number of intelligence files, an inroad into American presidential politics.”

Chait believes that Russia is also behind the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“Driving Britain out of the European Union advanced the decades-long Russian goal of splitting Western nations apart, and Russia found willing allies on the British far right.”

Chait gets even more conspiratorial. He admits that Paul Manafort’s indictments for alleged white collar crimes are not related to Trump’s election, having occurred years previously in Ukraine. Nevertheless, Chait is certain that Manafort is shielding Trump even though according to Chait Manafort is facing many years in prison. Why would Manafort shield Trump? Chait’s answer:

“One way to make sense of his behavior is the possibility that Manafort is keeping his mouth shut because he’s afraid of being killed. That speculation might sound hyperbolic, but there is plenty of evidence to support it. In February, a video appeared on YouTube showing Manafort’s patron Deripaska on his yacht with a Belarusian escort named Anastasia Vashukevich.”

Chait’s article is long and heavily weighted with innuendo. Chait, or whoever wrote the article, possibly the person who wrote the Steele Dossier, collects every disparaging fact and fantasy about Trump and assembles them in a way to paint a portrait of a person who must also, without much doubt, be a Russian agent. If the public can be convinced of this, the military/security complex can assassinate Trump and blame Putin for getting rid of an asset who was exposed by the Russiagate investigation, no longer useful, and perhaps prepared to spill the beans.

Another conspiracy theorist, Amy Knight, writes that

“The real question is where does the Russian criminal state end and the criminal underworld begin, and how do they work together in what amounts to a new murder incorporated?”

Yaroslav Trofimov tells us in the Wall Street Journal (July 7) that “Putin maps out his own empire” to replace the lost Soviet one.

In the Washington Post Max Bergmann tells us that Trump is going to sell out NATO in Helsinki. This line leads to the supposition that Putin is using Trump to unleash the Russian military on Europe. Many conspiracy theorists have come together on the view that first the Baltic States will be invaded and then Putin will move on to Germany and the rest of Europe. The New York Times’ Roger Cohen even pulls Marine Le Pen into the plot which widens to include ethnically cleansing the West of the refugees from Washington’s wars.

This is the level of absurdity that the American media delivers to the public’s understanding of foreign affairs.

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Trump-Putin Summit: Is the Media Ready?


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As the US-Russia Summit approaches, the media grows positively shrill in its warnings of disaster. Fears that a conversation with no witnesses (not even a translator!) could be fatal to America’s leadership of the world, that our ‘naive’ president, who hates to read, will give away the store, overrule any sense of reality.

Since President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un, our media stalwarts have been reminding us that the North Koreans never keep their word, discounting their justified resentment at being told by our Secretary of State what steps to follow in their commitment to denuclearization. This is added to ‘Russia’s disregard for national borders’, in blatant denial of the fact that WE created the mess in Ukraine. (Even the Atlantic Council has finally acknowledged this, however it manages to make it look as though that’s a detail.)

Americans concerned about our steady build-up to war should recognize the playbook by now: According to the 1995 Wolfowitz Doctrine which declares that no country should even dream of challenging our world hegemony, we must prevent that from happening by taking down those with the possibility of succeeding, i.e., Russia and China. Starting with Russia, since we already have NATO in place in Europe, right up to that country’s borders, we foment color revolutions in its near abroad, baiting President Putin to intervene in defense of Russian populations being aggressed by our puppets, then accuse him of failing to respect post-World War II internationally agreed borders. We tried it in Georgia in 2008, then did a ‘better job’ in Ukraine in 2014.  

I have not heard a single mainstream journalist signal either that Crimea had been Russian since the reign of Catherine the Great until Khruschev gifted it to Ukraine in 1953, or that its Russian-speaking inhabitants voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia in a May 2014 referendum similar to the one NATO sponsored in Kosovo in the nineteen-nineties, the soldiers guarding the streets while it was underway being seconded from the naval base conceded to Russia under a 1997 Agreement, whose details can be read as supporting either side claim to legality.

However one chooses to read that agreement, Russia’s sponsorship of a referendum can hardly be compared to the fomenting of the so-called ‘Maidan’ (independence, sic) coup that set off the latest Russia-Ukraine crisis in a centuries long history of moving borders along Europe’s eastern march. And yet, upon this dubious claim to legality, the United States prepares for war, claiming its European allies are fearful of a Trump-Putin entente that would, in fact, result in them no longer being its inescapable battlefield.


Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Her blog is

Featured image is from Sky News.

Russia's Americans by [Stryker, Deena]More than ten thousand Americans are currenty living independently in Russia. What are some of the reasons for their choice and how has it affected their view of the wider world. Illustrated with many color photographs from the author’s on site experience.

Title: Russia’s Americans

Author: Deena Stryker

Publication Date: March 22, 2018


Click here to order.


Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Trump-Putin Summit: Is the Media Ready?

Giant Killing, Heroes and Teams at the 2018 World Cup


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They have been falling like ninepins at one of the most unpredictable World Cups in generations.  Even before the kick-off in the tournament, Italy’s absence was conspicuous.  By the time the first phase of matches had been concluded, Germany, whose teams have made it to the elimination phase for eighty years, found itself in exit mode, a victim of exhaustion, desperation and South Korean determination.  Die Welt deemed the performance an embarrassment of perfection, the team’s performance “harmless, unimaginative, listless”.  

Spain, who won the 2010 World Cup, found its adventure prematurely aborted in the round-of-sixteen, falling to the inspired Russian team on penalties.  Portugal, in their defeat before the hard set Uruguayans, went the same way in that round.  (Christian Ronaldo was distinctly off the boil.)  Not enough credit, however, was given in shocked observations to the other side of the show, the performances of those giant killing teams which have added to the fogginess of any crystal ball.

One colossus did seem dangerously predictable in advancing.  Brazil threatened at points to overcome a furiously talented Belgian team, but failed to transform possession into goals.  The Belgians made their chances count and duly dispatched another giant from the competition.

Image on the right: Brazil team’s Neymar

Image result for neymar fifa 2018 roll

A sense prevailed that Brazil were their own worst enemy.  This was not the team of jogo bonito, jaunty, ruthless representatives of the beautiful game.  Neymar was both talismanic and deficient, an asset rolled into a liability.  His drama strewn efforts, which involved diving and rolling as much as it involved natural ability, did not provide the ballast his team required.  Such attitude, it has been surmised, might have been born from past serious injuries, be it the broken back he sustained in 2014, and a broken foot in February this year.

“I can say,” wrote Neymar in an Instagram post, “that this is the saddest moment of my career, it is incredibly painful because we knew we could get there, we knew we had conditions to go further, to make history.”

It proved “hard to find the strength to play soccer again, but I’m sure God will give me strength enough to face anything”.

The shocks have been marked and frequent, with the ground left for exhilarating performances.  Giants Argentina did not vanquish Iceland, the match concluding with a goal a piece. In an absorbing match, it was that other footballer of genius Lionel Messi, who took the penalty after a collision between Sergio Agüro and Hördur Björgvin Magnússon.  He botched it, and Hannes Thór Halldórsson made the save.  Another team of minnows had done their country exhilaratingly proud.

Croatia, with its own smattering of talented players, subsequently rumbled Messi’s side with three answered goals, despite both sides going into the second half without having scored.  France, in a thrilling bout involving seven goals and the incessant efforts of the 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé, issued the coup de grace.

The host team Russia was a thrill with Croatia, also going down to penalties.  England, albeit with a soft line of the draw, found themselves in their first semi-final in major international competition since 1996.  An exorcism of sorts has been taking place with this team, with manager Gareth Southgatewaistcoat and all, becoming very much a figure of veneration in a nation bruised and battered by the trauma of Brexit negotiations.  Both dedicated Leavers and grieving Remainers have at last found something they can agree about.

As the BBC noted with a smattering of affection, this “affable man” had done what a host of experienced highly credentialed predecessors hadn’t.  Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello, Steve McClaren and Roy Hodgson had failed “despite more than 80 [matches] between them.”  While the football nation has historical pedigree, and not short of its stellar complement, team efforts have tended to founder when it mattered most, notably during the psychological wear-and-tear of the penalty shootout. Southgate’s skill has been to temper expectations and the hysterical overconfidence that has accompanied previous World Cups.

The tournament has also thrown up a dilemma for managers: How best to incorporate the hero of the side, the glorious figure who shines in a team of lesser mortals who await for the powder to be lit, the flames to be stoked?  Teams studded with Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo may be Olympian on the field, but team value and effect is something else, material drawn from the machinery of collective spirit and mutual encouragement.

Truism as it is, teams, well functioning, telepathically linked and good of understanding, win matches.  Caesars deft of foot and brimming with talent are less significant, even if they are capable of landing killer blows.

“When you have somebody who can turn the game in a flash,” asks Kris Voakes, “do you select them at all costs regardless of their fitness in the hope that they supply that moment of genius?”

France, the sole giant and finalist in this competition, has no such dilemma, a team bristling with talent but compact in purpose.

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Freedom Flotilla: A Humanitarian Journey to Gaza



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Below is a statement from Dr. Swee Ang in response to the invitation to join the last leg of Freedom Flotilla from Europe to Gaza.


When invited to come on board Al-Awda, the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, I know I must join them. This summer marks the thirty-sixth year of my journey with the Palestinians. It began in 1982 when as an ignorant Pro-Israel Christian doctor I first stepped foot as a volunteer surgeon in Gaza Hospital in Beirut’s Sabra Shatilla Palestinian refugee camp.

There I fell in love passionately with a generous, kind, honest and gentle people – the Palestinians. They were forced out of Palestine in 1948, and found themselves refugees. Despite the dispossession, persecution and injustice they remained human. About 3 weeks after my arrival, more than three thousand of them were cruelly massacred. My heart was broken and trampled on, and would have remained dead and buried in the rubble of their bulldozed homes. But the survivors even while burying their own loved ones nurtured me back to life with their tears and love. The children filled with courage, hope and dignity inspired me and gave me strength to walk on with them.

“We are not afraid Doctora come with us”.

It is now 70 years since the Palestinian Nakba and Diaspora in 1948. When will their journey home begin?

Today, six million Palestinians dispersed in various refugee camps are denied the right of return to their ancestral Palestine; the other six million lived under occupation in Gaza and West Bank.  For twelve years, two million Palestinians have been imprisoned under a brutal land and sea military blockade in Gaza. During this time there were three major military assaults where Gaza was relentlessly bombed for weeks. Recently, since 30 March 2018, unarmed Gaza demonstrators calling for the Right of Return are shot at with high grade military assault rifles leaving more than 124 dead and 13,000 severely wounded with hundreds of amputees and potential amputees.

The Flotilla brings hope to the besieged Palestinians. They are praying for us in their mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip. They know we are making this journey for them. Even if we are to be abducted, imprisoned and deported, may we remain faithful in solidarity and love for the people of Palestine and Gaza.

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