USA | Britain | Palestine | Korea

Larry Siems: Inside the CIA’s black site torture room (Guardian)

There were twenty cells inside the prison, each a stand-alone concrete box. In sixteen, prisoners were shackled to a metal ring in the wall. In four, designed for sleep deprivation, they stood chained by the wrists to an overhead bar. Those in the regular cells had a plastic bucket; those in sleep deprivation wore diapers. When diapers weren’t available, guards crafted substitutes with duct tape, or prisoners were chained naked in their cells. The cellblock was unheated, pitch black day and night, with music blaring around the clock.
“The atmosphere was very good,” John “Bruce” Jessen told a CIA investigator in January 2003, two months after he interrogated a prisoner named Gul Rahman in the facility. “Nasty, but safe.”
Jessen, one of the two contract psychologists who designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” spent ten days in the secret prison near Kabul, Afghanistan in November 2002. Five days after he left, [Gul] Rahman, naked from the waist down and shackled to the cold concrete floor, was discovered dead in his cell from hypothermia.

John Pilger: The Rising of Britain’s ‘New Politics’ (CounterPunch)

Once the preserve of Tony Blair, [the Labour Party] is now led by Jeremy Corbyn, whose career has been very different and is rare in British establishment politics…
And yet, now Corbyn is closer to power than he might have ever imagined, his foreign policy remains a secret.
By secret, I mean there has been rhetoric and little else. “We must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy,” he said at the Labour conference. But what are these “values”?

Carolina Landsmann: In Israel’s Eyes, No Palestinian Struggle Is Legitimate (Haaretz via Google News)

Palestinians who oppose violent struggle champion diplomacy. But in Israel these days, that’s also considered terror…
When the Palestinian Authority “unilaterally” joined Interpol – that is, without the Israeli master’s consent – it was framed here as a “diplomatic defeat” on the [Israeli] right, and, shockingly, in the center and the left as well…
The minister for environmental protection, who is also minster of Jerusalem affairs, Zeev Elkin, said that “Israel cannot show restraint in the diplomatic war that the Palestinian Authority leadership is waging against us.” Begging your pardon, Elkin, but what does “diplomatic war” mean? The sick logic that has seeped through Israeli political discourse has enabled the appearance of oxymorons like “diplomatic war” and “diplomatic terror.”

Marilyn Garson: Imagine if Jews Were Locked Away Behind Concrete Walls for 11 Days (Haaretz via Google News)

Netanyahu seals the gates of the West Bank and Gaza, confining millions of Palestinians, to enjoy the Sukkot festival. If anywhere or anyone else demanded a Jew-free holiday, would we shrug that off?

Jimmy Carter: What I’ve Learned From North Korea’s Leaders (Washington Post)

Over more than 20 years, I have spent many hours in discussions with top North Korean officials and private citizens during visits to Pyongyang and to the countryside. I found Kim Il Sung (their “Great Leader”), Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and other leaders to be both completely rational and dedicated to the preservation of their regime.
What the officials have always demanded is direct talks with the United States, leading to a permanent peace treaty to replace the still-prevailing 1953 cease-fire that has failed to end the Korean conflict. They want an end to sanctions, a guarantee that there will be no military attack on a peaceful North Korea, and eventual normal relations between their country and the international community.

Catalonia

Sam Jones, Stephen Burgen: Catalan referendum: preliminary results show 90% in favour of independence (Guardian)

Catalan officials have claimed that preliminary results of its referendum have shown 90% in favour of independence in the vote vehemently opposed by Spain.
Jordi Turull, the Catalan regional government spokesman, told reporters early on Monday morning that 90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted Sunday chose yes. He said nearly 8% of voters rejected independence and the rest of the ballots were blank or void. He said 15,000 votes were still being counted.The region has 5.3 million registered voters.
Turull said the number of ballots did not include those confiscated by Spanish police during violent raids which resulted in hundreds of people being injured. At least 844 people and 33 police were reported to have been hurt, including at least two people who were thought to have been seriously injured.

Robert Mackey: Spanish Police Beat Catalan Voters, Deepening the Divide That Threatens Spain (Intercept)

Despite claims from Spain’s central government in Madrid that the referendum was illegal and the result would not be recognized, a spokesperson for the Catalan regional government announced early Monday morning that 2,262,424 valid votes had been cast and counted — 90 percent of them in favor of independence from Spain.
Immediately after the announcement, Spanish reporters pressed the spokesperson, Jordi Turull, to say what it meant for the referendum that the 2,262,424 voters comprised just 42 percent of Catalonia’s 5,343,358 eligible voters. Turull argued that ballot boxes seized by the Spanish police in an effort to block the referendum could have contained up to 700,000 more votes, meaning that more than 55 percent of the population might have attempted to take part in the referendum…
Although an international observer mission of former parliamentarians praised the referendum, the EU released a statement Monday morning making it clear that it would not intervene in what it considers an internal affair of a member state. The European Commission added that in the event of a subsequent referendum considered legal by Spain, Catalonia would find itself outside the EU…
In Madrid, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy seemed untroubled by the shocking images of police violence, which he made no mention of in a televised address. Rajoy instead insisted that the Catalan referendum, which he called “an attack” on the Spanish state, had been so severely hampered that it effectively had “not taken place.”

Statement on the events in Catalonia (European Commission)

Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal.
For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.
We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union.
Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation.
We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.

Simon Tisdall: As Catalonia crisis escalates, EU is nowhere to be seen (Guardian)
Natalie Nougayrède: The EU has tied its own hands. It cannot intervene in Catalonia (Guardian)

The EU has long been ill at ease with separatist issues within its member states. It has no mechanism to sort out a dispute of this kind. Article 4.2 of the 2009 Lisbon treaty states that the EU “shall respect” the “essential state functions” of its members, “including territorial integrity” and “maintaining law and order”. The EU has no power over how a member state decides to organise itself or its constituent regions.

Robert Mackey: Massive Protests in Catalonia as General Strike Is Observed (Intercept)

Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, tweeted that 300,000 people marched in a protest that took over two hours to pass in front of local headquarters of the national police force, where demonstrators slowed to whistle, jeer, and chant, but there were no reports of violence.

Sam Jones, Stephen Burgen: Catalonia: hundreds of thousands join anti-independence rally in Barcelona (Guardian)

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Catalan government’s decision to push for independence, as Spain’s prime minister warned that he was prepared to suspend the region’s autonomy to stop it splitting from the rest of the country…
Societat Civil Catalana said more than 1 million people had taken part, but Barcelona police put the turnout at 350,000.

Korea

Liu Zhen, Kristin Huang: All North Korean firms and joint ventures in China to be closed (South China Morning Post)

All existing joint ventures with North Korean firms in China, as well as entities solely owned by North Korean companies or individuals, are to be closed within 120 days from September 11, when the sanctions were adopted, a notice from the Ministry of Commerce said.
Joint ventures set up overseas by Chinese firms and North Korean entities or individuals should also be closed, it said.
But companies approved by the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee – including non-profit and non-commercial infrastructure projects – would be exempted, the notice said.

Charles Clover, Bryan Harris, Hudson Lockett: Chinese ministry gives businesses 120 days to shut as UN steps up sanctions (Financial Times)

The order could damage a vital artery of Pyongyang’s economy; China accounts for 80-90 per cent of North Korea’s trade.

Joe McDonald: China agrees to participate in UN sanctions against North Korea (Christian Science Monitor)

China will shutdown North Korean businesses within its borders by January 2018, but states that it won’t take any actions that could harm ordinary North Koreans…
The latest round of UN sanctions bans member countries from operating joint ventures with North Korea, most of which are in China.
They also ban sales of natural gas to North Korea and purchases of the North’s textile exports, another key revenue source. They order other nations to limit fuel supplies to the North.
China, which provides the bulk of North Korea’s energy supplies, announced Saturday it would cut off gas and limit shipments of refined petroleum products, effective Jan. 1. It made no mention of crude oil, which makes up the bulk of Chinese energy supplies to North Korea and is not covered by the UN sanctions.
China also has banned imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ore, and seafood since early September.

Kim Oi-hyun, Kim Ji-eun: North Korean restaurants in China likely to be forced out of business (Hankyoreh)

Figures released last year by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) indicate that North Korea’s investment in China is at a virtual standstill. Though its investment over the decade from 2006 to 2015 amounted to US$22 million, yearly investment fell from US$11.2 million in 2010 to US$290,000 in 2014 and then to US$70,000 in 2015. This is quite a difference from South Korea’s investment in China last year, which added up to US$3.3 billion.
Such investment as North Korea has made in China is largely focused in the restaurant industry, which is expected to take a direct hit. KITA figures show that North Koreans are running over a hundred restaurants in China – including 26 in Beijing and more than 10 in Shanghai – in a variety of formats, such as partnerships, joint ventures and foreign-invested companies…
During the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s regular press briefing on Sept. 29, Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said that the notice in question was designed to implement the UN Security Council resolution and cautioned against reading too much into it, adding that China is consistently opposed to unilateral sanctions that go beyond the UN Security Council’s framework. But there are indications that China is taking independent measures against North Korea, such as media reports that Chinese banks recently ended transactions with the North.

Philip Wen (Reuters): As sanctions bite, North Korean workers leave Chinese border hub (SwissInfo)

North Korean workers have begun to leave the Chinese border city of Dandong, following the latest round of sanctions seeking to restrict Pyongyang’s ability to earn foreign currency income, local businesses and traders say.
Almost 100,000 overseas workers, based predominantly in China and Russia, funnel some $500 million (£375 million) in wages a year to help finance the North Korean regime, the U.S. government says.

Martyn Williams: Russia Provides New Internet Connection to North Korea (38North)

A major Russian telecommunications company appears to have begun providing an Internet connection to North Korea. The new link supplements one from China and will provide back-up to Pyongyang at a time the US government is reportedly attacking its Internet infrastructure and pressuring China to end all business with North Korea.
The connection, from TransTeleCom, began appearing in Internet routing databases at 09:08 UTC on Sunday, or around 17:38 Pyongyang time on Sunday evening. Internet routing databases map the thousands of connections between telecom providers and enable computers to figure out the best route to a destination.
Until now, Internet users in North Korea and those outside accessing North Korean websites were all funneled along the same route connecting North Korean ISP Star JV and the global Internet: A China Unicom link that has been in operation since 2010…
The OEC also created an interactive visualization breaking down North Korean imports.
Refined petroleum led the pack, followed by synthetic filament yarn woven fabric.

Elena Holodny: Here’s what North Korea trades with the world (Business Insider)

Coal briquettes made up the largest percentage of North Korea’s exports in 2015. They were followed by clothing articles, including coats and suits. Other commodities like iron, copper, and seafoods like mollusks and crabs also make up sizeable chunks of the exports.

North Korean dissidents rescue Kim Jong-un’s nephew, niece from regime (Australian Business Review / Wall Street Journal)

Germany | Catalonia

Victor Grossman: Merkel Clobbered, German Far Right Rising (CounterPunch)

A key result of the German elections is not that Angela Merkel and her double party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavarian CSU (Christian Social Union), managed to stay in the lead with the most votes, but that they got clobbered, with the biggest loss since their founding.
A second key result is that the Social Democrats (SPD) got clobbered too, also with the worst results since the war. And since these three had been wedded in a coalition government for the past four years, their clobbering showed that many voters were not the happy, satisfied citizens often pictured by You-never-had-it-so-good-Merkel, but are worried, disturbed and angry. So angry that they rejected the leading parties of the Establishment, those representing and defending the status quo.
A third key story, the truly alarming one, is that one eighth of the voters, almost 13 percent, vented their anger in an extremely dangerous direction – for the young Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose leaders are loosely divided between far right racists and extreme right racists. With about 80 loud deputies in the new Bundestag – their first breakthrough nationally – the media must now give them far more space than before to spout their poisonous message (and most media have been more than generous with them up till now).
This danger is worst in Saxony, the strongest East German state, ruled since unification by a conservative CDU. The AfD has pushed into first place with 27 %, narrowly beating the CDU by a tenth of a percentage point, their first such victory in any state (the Left got 16.1, the SPD only 10.5 % in Saxony).

Carles Puigdemont: Spain’s attempt to block Catalonia’s referendum is a violation of our basic rights (Guardian)

Democracy has been under a lot of pressure in Catalonia for the past few weeks. European values, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of assembly are being violated by Spain’s central government, which has sent the police to search newspapers, printing companies and private mail services; ban political meetings; seize referendum material; and threaten to imprison democratically elected politicians.
On Wednesday, this moved up a gear, when threats became reality and Spanish paramilitary police took Catalonia to a de facto state of emergency. Fourteen high-ranking government officials were arrested as part of the anti-referendum operation, as police raided government buildings, offices and private homes. Catalan home rule has effectively been suspended due to this anti-democratic attitude from the Spanish government. It’s a situation that harks back to the dark past of this country, when democracy was not a part of the Spanish dictionary. What is happening here in Catalonia would not happen anywhere else in the European Union.

Sam Jones, Stephen Burgen: Spain’s attorney general refuses to rule out arrest of Catalan president (Guardian)

Spain’s attorney general has refused to rule out the possibility of arresting the Catalan president, as the region’s pro-sovereignty government prepares to defy Madrid by holding an independence referendum on Sunday.
José Manuel Maza said that Carles Puigdemont could face action for disobedience, breaching public duties and misuse of public funds for proceeding with the poll after Spain’s constitutional court suspended the hastily passed legislation underpinning the vote.
Maza said the regional president could be arrested for misuse of public funds as the crime carries a jail sentence. On Monday, he told Onda Cero radio that although such a move had not been judged “timely” as yet, adding: “It’s a decision that’s always available.”
Speaking days after Spanish police arrested 14 Catalan officials, seized almost 10m ballot papers and chartered ferries to accommodate the thousands of extra police officers who are being sent to Catalonia to stop the referendum, Maza rejected suggestions that the government was being heavy-handed.

Shimon Stein, Moshe Zimmerman: Why Israel Won’t Condemn the Shocking Success of Germany’s Far-right Extremists (Haaretz via Google News)

After its improper, evasive, even complicit responses to Charlottesville, to Trump and to Hungary’s anti-Semitic anti-Soros campaign, it’s no surprise that Israel’s response to neo-Nazis in the Bundestag is a deafening silence…
Not that Netanyahu or other fighters for the Jewish cause miss a chance to smell what seems to them to be an anti-Semitic rat: When the German foreign minister visited Israel and met representatives of the Breaking the Silence NGO, he and his Social Democratic party were accused of being anti-Semitic.
When the Mayor of Berlin (also a Social Democrat) was not quick enough in condemning the BDS movement he was even threatened by the Wiesenthal Center to be put on the list of top ten anti-Semites worldwide. 
In short, anti-Semitism is attributed primarily to those who do not support the Israeli government’s policy…
In a few weeks another right-wing populist party, the Austrian one, will be on the verge of entering the government. Is Israel going to disregard the racist character of this party too, and tolerate its entry into the government only because its leader declared his sympathy for Israel’s policies?

Korea | Myanmar | Catalonia

Jon Schwarz: North Korea keeps saying it might give up its nuclear weapons – but most news outlets won’t tell you that (Intercept)

North Korea has been saying over and over again that it might put its nuclear weapons and missiles on the negotiating table if the United States would end its own threatening posture…
This fact has been completely obscured by U.S. and other western media. For the most part, newspapers and television have simply ignored North Korea’s position. When they haven’t ignored it, they’ve usually mispresented it as its opposite – i.e., claiming that North Korea is saying that it will never surrender its nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

Robert Carlin: Door to Negotiations, or No? (38 North)
Jon Schwarz: North Korea says it might negotiate on nuclear weapons. But the Washington Post isn’t reporting that (Intercept)
Julian Borger, Justin McCurry: North Korea sanctions: US drops oil embargo and naval blockade proposals (Guardian)

The US has significantly diluted a package of new proposed sanctions against North Korea, dropping an oil embargo and enforceable naval blockade in the hope of avoiding a Chinese veto at the UN security council.

Julian Borger: Donald Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea in UN speech (Guardian)

“The US has great strength and patience,” Trump said. But he added: “If it is forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
As alarmed murmurs spread around the hall, Trump had another barb. Using his newly adopted epithet for Kim Jong-un, Trump said: “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Mike Whitney: Starve Them to Death: Wall Street Journal’s Solution to North Korea (CounterPunch)

Oliver Holmes, Katharine Murphy, Damien Gayle: Myanmar says 40% of Rohingya villages targeted by army are now empty (Guardian)

Scores of villages that were inhabited by Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority are now completely empty, a government spokesman has said.
Of 471 villages targeted in “clearance operations” by the Burmese army since late August, 176 were now empty and at least 34 others partially abandoned, Zaw Htay said.
The violent crackdown, launched in response to attacks by militants, has sent at least 370,000 Rohingya scrambling across the border to Bangladesh…

Oliver Holmes: Fact check: Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech on the Rohingya crisis (Guardian)

“Since 5 September, there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations.”
False: Setting villages ablaze – which can be seen from Bangladesh – continues, while armed clashes have been heard regularly in Rakhine since 5 September. Aung San Suu Kyi’s own office reported on its Facebook page that security personnel have conducted “clearance operations” since then.

Ramzy Baroud: The Genocide of the Rohingya: Big Oil, Failed Democracy and False Prophets (CounterPunch)

Stories of murder and mayhem remind one of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people during the Nakba of 1948. It should come as no surprise that Israel is one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to the Burmese military. Despite an extended arms embargo on Burma by many countries, Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, insists that his country has no intentions of halting its weapons shipments to the despicable regime in Rangoon, which is actively using these weapons against its own minorities, not only Muslims in the western Rakhine state but also Christians in the north…
Massive deposits of oil that have remained untapped due to decades of western boycott of the junta government are now available to the highest bidder. It is a big oil bonanza, and all are invited. Shell, ENI, Total, Chevron and many others are investing large sums to exploit the country’s natural resources, while the Chinese – who dominated Burma’s economy for many years – are being slowly pushed out.
Indeed, the rivalry over Burma’s unexploited wealth is at its peak in decades. It is this wealth – and the need to undermine China’s superpower status in Asia – that has brought the west back, installed Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader in a country that has never fundamentally changed, but only rebranded itself to pave the road for the return of ‘Big Oil’.
However, the Rohingya are paying the price.

Hereward Holland: Hunting for Myanmar’s hidden treasure (AlJazeera, 17 October 2014)

Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China’s interests.

Sam Jones: Catalonia to hold independence vote despite anger in Madrid (Guardian)

The Spanish government has accused the Catalan parliament of committing a “constitutional and democratic atrocity” by approving legislation to allow next month’s bitterly disputed independence referendum to go ahead…
The move was denounced by the Spanish government, which once again said it would do everything in its legal and political power to stop the vote from going ahead on 1 October.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, ordered government lawyers to file a complaint with the country’s constitutional court so that the vote could be annulled.
The public prosecutor’s office also said it was preparing a case against Catalan parliamentary officials – including the speaker, Carme Forcadell – for disobeying previous court orders forbidding legislative steps towards independence…
In March this year, the former Catalan president Artur Mas was banned from holding public office for two years after being found guilty of disobeying the Spanish constitutional court by holding a symbolic independence referendum in 2014. Also convicted and temporarily banned from office were the former Catalan vice-president Joana Ortega and former education minister Irene Rigau…
A majority of Catalans are in favour of a referendum to settle the question of independence, but polls suggest they are split on the issue of sovereignty.

Sam Jones, Daniel Boffey: ‘They’ve called me a traitor’: Catalans divided as independence vote nears (Guardian)

A Spanish government official describes the referendum as a circus and claims Madrid has a democratic duty to protect the “silent majority” of Catalans who oppose independence and to make sure the dispute doesn’t descend into violence.
“It’s very important for a government to create a situation where there is a peaceful relationship among people, and this is not the case in Catalonia now,” he says.
The official defends the confiscation of more than 1.5m referendum leaflets and posters, saying they were part of an illegal poll and adding: “We always react with a cool head, [and in a] measured way; a proportional way.” …
Last Wednesday, Spain’s top prosecutor began investigating the more than 700 Catalan mayors who have agreed to cooperate with the vote, and has ordered police to arrest any who fail to appear for questioning. Madrid has also moved to take control of the region’s finances to prevent the funds being used for the referendum.
Meanwhile, Spanish Guardia Civil officers have raided local newspaper offices and printing shops in Catalonia.

AFP: Spain’s Guardia Civil raids Catalan government HQ amid referendum row (Guardian)

Spanish police officers have raided three Catalan regional government departments and arrested 12 senior officials as Madrid steps up its battle to stop an independence referendum being held in less than two weeks’ time.
On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the regional government said Guardia Civil officers were searching the Barcelona offices of the presidency and the ministries of economic affairs and foreign relations.
He also confirmed that Josep Maria Jové, the secretary general of economic affairs and an aide to the Catalan vice-president, was among those detained – apparently in connection with the launch of web pages related to the referendum. Catalan ministers are due to hold an emergency meeting…
One pro-independence Catalan MP tweeted: “This is a coup d’état. Illegal detentions and searches. They want to steal our democracy. They won’t be able to. We vote Oct 1.”
The conservative government of the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has refused to rule anything out when it comes to preventing the vote from taking place on 1 October. Both the government and the Spanish constitutional court have said the unilateral referendum is illegal and should not go ahead.

Glenn Greenwald: Charlie Hebdo May Now Be Criticized Because It Mocked White Texans Rather Than Muslims (Intercept)

The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new and quite dangerous standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves — long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: It was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie)… A dangerous conflation was thus imposed between the right to express Idea X and one’s opinion of Idea X…
Indeed, most of the political leaders who led the “free speech parade” in Paris (pictured above) had long records of suppressing free speech, and few of these new free speech crusaders uttered a word as the free speech rights of Muslims have been assaulted and eroded throughout the West in the name of the war on terror. What was driving this love of Charlie Hebdo was approval of the content of its cartoons: specifically, glee that it was attacking, mocking, and angering Muslims, one of the most marginalized, vulnerable, and despised groups in the West.
The proof of this was delivered yesterday. Charlie Hebdo published a characteristically vile cartoon depicting drowning victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston as being neo-Nazis, with the banner that declared “God Exists”: because, needless to say, white people in Texas love Hitler, and it’s thus a form of divine justice if they drown.

Glenn Greenwald: In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints (Intercept)

France is probably the most extreme case of hate speech laws being abused in this manner. In 2015, France’s highest court upheld the criminal conviction of 12 pro-Palestinian activists for violating restrictions against hate speech. Their crime? Wearing T-shirts that advocated a boycott of Israel — “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel,” the shirts read — which, the court ruled, violated French law that “prescribes imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000 for parties that ‘provoke discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.’”

Myanmar | Syria | Israel/Palestine | China

Jacob Judah: Myanmar: Rohingya insurgents declare month-long ceasefire (Guardian)

Rohingya insurgents declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire last night, saying it would allow aid to reach north-western Myanmar.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) had launched attacks on police posts and an army base last month, prompting retaliation by Myanmar’s military. The violence led to more than 270,000 refugees from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community fleeing to Bangladesh over the last two weeks, according to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).

Matt Young: Myanmar: Whole villages destroyed as satellite spots devastation from above (Guardian)
K. sent this article:
The Rohingya Of Myanmar – Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists (Moon of Alabama)

While the ethnic conflict in Rankine state is very old, it has over the last years morphed into an Jihadist guerilla war financed and led from Saudi Arabia.

Mike Whitney: What the Media isn’t Telling You About North Korea’s Missile Tests (CounterPunch)

Last Monday, the DPRK fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island. The missile landed in the waters beyond the island harming neither people nor property.
The media immediately condemned the test as a “bold and provocative act” that showed the North’s defiance of UN resolutions and “contempt for its neighbors.” …
What the media failed to mention was that, for the last three weeks, Japan, South Korea and the US have been engaged in large-scale joint-military drills on Hokkaido Island and in South Korea. These needlessly provocative war games are designed to simulate an invasion of North Korea and a “decapitation” operation to remove (Re: Kill) the regime. North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un has asked the US repeatedly to end these military exercises, but the US has stubbornly refused. The US reserves the right to threaten anyone, anytime and anywhere even right on their doorstep…
Imagine if Russia engaged in a similar operation over the border in Mexico while the Russian fleet conducted “live fire” drills three miles outside of San Francisco Bay.

Reuters: Israel strikes Syria’s Hama from Lebanese airspace (Daily Star)

Syria’s army said Israel targeted one of its positions in Hama province from Lebanese airspace early Thursday, which a war monitor said was a branch of the government agency accused by the U.S. of producing chemical weapons.

Amos Yadlin: How to Understand Israel’s Strike on Syria (New York Times)

Revital Hovel: Justice Minister Slams Israel’s Top Court, Says It Disregards Zionism and Upholding Jewish Majority (Haaretz)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country’s Jewish majority…
“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know,” Shaked told her audience, which included Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.
Shaked’s speech was momentarily interrupted when some of the lawyers in the audience yelled that Israeli was an apartheid state.

The Justice Minister Versus Democracy (Haaretz)

Alarm bells ring when the minister appointed to defend Israel’s courts announces that Zionism will ‘no longer bow its head to a system of individual rights’

Gideon Levy: Israel’s Minister of Truth (Haaretz)

Israel Justice Minister Shaked said the truth loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps racist movement…
What are today’s Zionist challenges? To “Judaize” the Negev and Galilee, remove the “infiltrators,” cultivate Israel’s Jewish character and preserve its Jewish majority. The occupation, the settlements, the cult of security, the army — which is primarily an occupation army — that is Zionism circa 2017. All its components are contrary to justice. After we were told that Zionism and justice were identical twins, that no national movement is more just than Zionism, Shaked came to say: just the opposite. Zionism is not just, it contradicts justice, but we shall cleave to it and prefer it to justice, because it’s our identity, our history and our national mission. No activist for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement would say it more sharply.

Gideon Levy: The Zionist Tango (Haaretz via Google News)

Why the racist honesty of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is preferable to the fake views of the Israeli left

Rogel Alpher: Israeli Minister Shaked Takes After Mussolini (Haaretz via Google News)

Don’t call the justice minister a fascist metaphorically, as hyperbole or a provocation – call her that because it’s literally what she is.

Israeli Minister: Independent Kurdistan Would Benefit Israel and the West (Haaretz)

Ayelet Shaked’s comments come exactly two weeks before Kurdistan’s planned independence referendum, which the U.S. and Russia fear will lead to regional destabilization.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told an international counter-terrorism conference on Monday that Israel supports Kurdish independence, “at least in the Iraqi part.”

AFP: China to ban production of petrol and diesel cars ‘in the near future’ (Guardian)

China, the world’s biggest vehicle market, is considering a ban on the production and sale of fossil fuel cars in a major boost to the production of electric vehicles as Beijing seeks to ease pollution.
The move would follow similar plans announced by France and Britain to outlaw the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 in order to clamp down on harmful emissions.

Myanmar | China–Bhutan–India

Jacob Judah: Thousands of Rohingya flee Myanmar amid tales of ethnic cleansing (Observer/Guardian)

The refugees say their villages are being raided and burned. They tell stories of the indiscriminate killing of civilians at the hands of security forces and Buddhist nationalists. Since 25 August, more than 18,500 Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group, have fled into Bangladesh from Rakhine state. However, UN sources say they believe the true figure is closer to 28,000. And Bangladeshi aid workers claimed on Saturday that 70,000 – almost 10% of the Rohingya population – had crossed in less than 24 hours.

Michael Safi: Aung San Suu Kyi says ‘terrorists’ are misinforming world about Myanmar violence (Guardian)

The de-facto leader of Myanmar is under growing pressure to halt “clearance operations” by security forces in Rakhine state that the United Nations secretary-general has warned could verge on ethnic cleansing…
Satellite images show evidence of arson and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have claimed their villages are being burned en masse. UN agencies have been barred from providing humanitarian aid in the state and journalists are prevented from entering.

George Monbiot: Take away Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize. She no longer deserves it (Guardian)

By any standards, the treatment of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, is repugnant. By the standards Aung San Suu Kyi came to symbolise, it is grotesque. They have been described by the UN as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, a status that has not changed since she took office.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide describes five acts, any one of which, when “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, amounts to genocide. With the obvious and often explicit purpose of destroying this group, four of them have been practised more or less continuously by Myanmar’s armed forces since Aung San Suu Kyi became de facto political leader…
In response Aung San Suu Kyi has blamed these atrocities, in a chillingly remote interview, on insurgents, and expressed astonishment that anyone would wish to fight the army when the government has done so much for them…
It is true that some Rohingya people have taken up arms, and that the latest massacres were triggered by the killing of 12 members of the security forces last month, attributed to a group that calls itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. But the military response has been to attack entire populations, regardless of any possible involvement in the insurgency, and to spread such terror that 120,000 people have been forced to flee in the past fortnight…
She has not only denied the atrocities, attempting to shield the armed forces from criticism; she has also denied the very identity of the people being attacked, asking the US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya. This is in line with the government’s policy of disavowing their existence as an ethnic group, and classifying them – though they have lived in Myanmar for centuries – as interlopers. She has upheld the 1982 Citizenship Law, which denies these people their rights.
When a Rohingya woman provided detailed allegations about her gang rape and associated injuries by Myanmar soldiers, Aung San Suu Kyi’s office posted a banner on its Facebook page reading “Fake Rape”…
Not only has she snubbed and obstructed UN officials who have sought to investigate the treatment of the Rohingya, but her government has prevented aid agencies from distributing food, water and medicines to people displaced or isolated by the violence. Her office has accused aid workers of helping “terrorists”, putting them at risk of attack, further impeding their attempts to help people who face starvation.

Gerry Brown: Lessons From the China-India Border Standoff (CounterPunch)

The face-off between China and India at the Donglang/Doklam tri-junction ended after more than two months. Both sides claimed victory.
India pointed to the double or simultaneous withdrawal (euphemistically termed “disengagement”) by both parties from the area controlled by China (also claimed by Bhutan) and intruded into by the Indian troops. As for China, it confirmed that the remaining 50 or so Indian soldiers had left the area, without uttering a word about Chinese troops having pulled back as well…
In truth, the Chinese road works provided a cover, a fig leaf, to India’s incursion into the area to which it has no claim. The Chinese ambassador in New Delhi had told India of the road building in advance. India feigned ignorance and seized on the purported change of the status quo to encroach on Chinese territory, claiming that it came to Bhutan’s defence under a treaty between them. Thimphu sources laid bare New Delhi’s lie. Bhutan didn’t request India’s help. Their friendship treaty isn’t a defence treaty, and there’s no provision for mutual defence.
It has become abundantly clear to many Bhutanese that India’s military adventurism in Donglang/Doklam sought to spite Sino-Bhutan relations to prevent the pro-Beijing party from winning the election in Bhutan next year.

October Revolution | Neoliberalism

Eric Blank: October and its Relevance: A Discussion with China Miéville (Portside)

The first purpose of the book is to tell the story for readers who don’t necessarily know anything about the Russian Revolution, who want to know what happened when, the stakes, the rhythms, the events. This is not a history of the Russian Revolution for leftists, but for everyone; it is, though, a history of the Russian Revolution for everyone by a leftist.

Stephen Metcalf: Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world (Guardian)

The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.

Israel

Union Juive Française pour la Paix: An Intolerable Europeanization of ‘Antisemitism’ Blackmail (CounterPunch) / Une insoutenable européanisation du chantage à l’antisémitisme (UJFP)

On 1 June, the European Parliament voted, by a very large majority, for a new resolution on antisemitism. It goes without saying that we deplore, yet again, the singling out of antisemitism from other manifestations of racism. Not a word on the others, whereas, for example, Islamophobia is rampant and Romophobia is deadly. But it’s more serious. At closer inspection, it’s not so much a matter of reining in antisemitism as of restricting free speech and of criminalizing any criticism of Israel.

Canada | USA | Venezuela

1. Celebrated Canadian soldier William Grant Stairs helped King Leopold II of Belgium conquer the resource-rich Katanga region of the Congo. And yes, the cutting of hands, business…
(Great article except they don’t mention his (or the) “Canadian experience” in committing genocide against the (original) people in Canada…)
Yves Engler: The Canadian who helped conquer 150,000 sq. km for King Léopold II (Pambazuka / Black Agenda Report)

2. Keith Brooks: Would Slavery Have Ended Sooner if the British Had Defeated the Colonists’ Bid for Independence? (OpEdNews / Black Agenda Report)
(Again the issue not discussed is whether the issue of the English prohibiting expansion west of the Appalachians was due to raising land prices? much as abolition was due to raising slave prices or promoting a local slave breeding industry? The other interesting issue is the Irish…who fought on the side of the slave south? but later on that…)

4. This is the month targeted to try to divide the Venezuelan army…
Sergio Alejandro Gómez: The script for plans to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution was written in Washington (Granma / Black Agenda Report)

6. U.S. leftists in search of a leader and political model could do worse than Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party leader who is pulling the party back to its social democratic roots. “Corbyn has spoken out not only for a more egalitarian, communitarian Britain, but also for a world governed by international law, not by the U.S. with all its weapons and NATO allies.”
Ann Garrison: Ending the “Austerity” that Affords Endless War and Little Else (Black Agenda Report)

7. Asians and the US
Danny Haiphong: Their System, Our Lives: A Political Obituary in Service of Revolutionary Emancipation (Black Agenda Report)

3. “Color Revolution” Comes Home? Are Americans Also the Victims of “Regime Change”?
Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers: Color Revolution Comes Home? (Popular Resistance / Black Agenda Report)

5. W.E.B. Du Bois did not formally join the Communist Party until 1961, at age 93, but he had long proposed “meaningful socialist solutions to tackle contemporary, systemic problems of racial terror and economic disaster.” The author maintains that Du Bois, a founding Pan-Africanist, “did more to educate African-Americans and people of the African diaspora about Africa than any other person in U. S. history.” He met Mao Ze Dong, and he died in exile in Ghana. He is also the link person between Frederick Douglas, Paul Robeson…and George Jackson…
Phillip Luke Sinitiere: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Revolutions (Public Books / Portside / Black Agenda Report)

(Thanks, K.!)