Catalonia | China | USA

Thomas S. Harrington: Big Media on Last Thursday’s Vote in Catalonia: “Never Mind” (CounterPunch)

[T]he Spanish government repeatedly issued threats of violence against the Catalanists in the lead up to their Declaration of Independence on October 27th. And since their coup against that legally-elected government, effected during the first week of November, central government officials have crowed unabashedly about the positive effects of their campaign of violence and intimidation[.]
An example of the first case mentioned came on October 7th when Pablo Casado, an official spokesman for the ruling Popular Party, obliquely threatened Catalan president Puigdemont with death by evoking how the last Catalan president to declare independence from Spain, Lluis Companys, was shot by a Francoist firing squad.
An example of the second case came on December 16th when Soraya Saenz de Santamaría, the Vice President of the current Spanish government (and widely acknowledged to be the brain of the cabinet) bragged, complete with repugnant Clintonian body language, about having “decapitated” and “liquidated” Catalan nationalism through the forceful takedown of the Catalan government.
Not to be outdone, the putatively leftist former Spanish Socialist cabinet member and candidate for Prime Minister, José Borrell, spoke on the same day about the need to “disinfect” Catalonia and its media of their independentists…
1) If the majority of Catalans are … unionists, why was this faction unable to come anywhere close to a majority in the 2015 plebiscitary elections?
2) If the majority of Catalans are, as you repeatedly claim, unionists, what could you possibly have to fear with letting the October 1st referendum go ahead unimpeded? …
Despite all the central government’s attempts to rig them in favor of the unionist parties, the independentists in fact added to the number of seats they control in the Catalan parliament, thus holding on to the absolute majority they had before the central state’s armed coup against them.

Pepe Escobar: China plans to break petrodollar stranglehold (Asia Times)

Petrodollars have dominated the global energy markets for more than 40 years. But now, China is looking to change that by replacing the word dollars for yuan.
Nations, of course, have tried this before since the system was set up by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in tandem with the House of Saud back in 1974
Vast populations across the Middle East and Northern Africa quickly felt the consequences when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein decided to sell oil in euros. Then there was Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s pan-African gold dinar blueprint, which failed to create a splash in an oil barrel.
Fast forward 25 years and China is making a move to break the United States petrodollar stranglehold. The plan is to set up oil-futures trading in the yuan, which will be fully convertible into gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong foreign exchange markets.

Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner)

  • By most indicators, the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined.
  • US health care expenditures per capita are double the OECD average and much higher than in all other countries. But there are many fewer doctors and hospital beds per person than the OECD average.
  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the U.S. and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • U.S. inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • Neglected tropical diseases, including Zika, are increasingly common in the USA. It has been estimated that 12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection. A 2017 report documents the prevalence of hookworm in Lowndes County, Alabama.
  • The US has the highest prevalence of obesity in the developed world.
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, ahead of Turkmenistan, El Salvador, Cuba, Thailand and the Russian Federation. Its rate is nearly 5 times the OECD average.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.
  • The Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks the most well-off countries in terms of labor markets, poverty, safety net, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. The US comes in last of the top 10 most well-off countries, and 18th amongst the top 21.
  • In the OECD the US ranks 35th out of 37 in terms of poverty and inequality.
  • According to the World Income Inequality Database, the US has the highest Gini rate (measuring inequality) of all Western Countries
  • The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality characterizes the US as “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.” US child poverty rates are the highest amongst the six richest countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.
  • About 55.7% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In the OECD, the U.S. placed 28th in voter turnout, compared with an OECD average of 75%. Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2016), 96% in Sweden (2014), and nearly 99% in Japan (2014).

Ed Pilkington: A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America (Guardian)

The UN’s Philip Alston is an expert on deprivation – and he wants to know why 41m Americans are living in poverty…
Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance…
Black people are 13% of the US population, but 23% of those officially in poverty and 39% of the homeless.
[Puerto Rico] has twice the proportion of people in poverty (44%) than the lowliest US state, including Alabama (19%). And that was before the hurricane, which some estimates suggest has pushed the poverty rate up to 60%.

And yet the Democracts have other problems:

Nicholas Fandos: Senate Investigators Scrutinize Another Presidential Candidate: Jill Stein (New York Times)
Danielle Ryan: McCarthy-style targeting of Jill Stein proves Democrats have truly lost the plot (RT)
Socialist Equality Party: Democratic Party witch-hunters target Green Party candidate Jill Stein (WSWS)

Catalonia | Jerusalem | Myanmar | Zimbabwe

The post-fascist government in Madrid dissolved the Catalan parliament and jailed Catalan leaders, a speaker of the ruling conservative party suggested that the Catalan president Puigdemont could or should be executed, but once again, the people of Catalonia voted for independence. Maybe the regime will now ban the pro-independence parties and dissolve the parliament once more, jail some more people, ban the parties who got an absolute majority?

Sam Jones, Stephen Burgen: Catalan pro-independence parties keep their majority in snap poll (Guardian)

Catalan pro-independence parties have held their absolute majority in snap regional elections, dealing a severe blow to the Spanish government, which had called the polls in the hope of heading off the secessionist push.
The deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, described the result as a “a slap to the face” to the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.
The three separatist parties won a total of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament even though the centre-right, pro-unionist Citizens party was the single biggest winner, taking 37 seats.
Between them, the three parties will have enough seats to reassemble the parliamentary majority that put them into office after the 2015 elections if they can agree a new coalition…
Spain’s ruling People’s party … won three seats – eight fewer than in 2015…
Thursday’s snap election was called by the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, in October after he used article 155 of the constitution to take control of Catalonia and sack its government over its unilateral referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.
The vote, which pitted secessionists against unionists, attracted a record turnout of more than 80%, dispelling fears that holding the election on a weekday rather than the usual Sunday would hit turnout.
Puigdemont had been campaigning from Belgium after fleeing to Brussels on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial in Spain over possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
His former vice-president, Oriol Junqeras, leader of the ERC, is in prison along with two prominent pro-independence leaders.

Resultats 21-D (El punt avui)
Catalonia election: full results (Guardian)

On Thursday night pro-independence parties secured a renewed majority in the Catalan parliament. Although the pro-union centre-right Citizens were the largest party, the result is a blow to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s hopes of defusing the constitutional crisis in Catalonia.
In 2015, ERC ran as part of the Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition. This time they ran on their own ticket, led by Oriol Junqueras, the sacked deputy president who is currently in prison; the remainder of the coalition campaigned as Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), led by Carles Puigdemont, the sacked president who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

Peter Beaumont: US outnumbered 14 to 1 as it vetoes UN vote on status of Jerusalem (Guardian)

A UN security council resolution calling for the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been backed by every council member except the US, which used its veto.
The unanimity of the rest of the council was a stark rebuke to the Trump administration over its unilateral move earlier this month, which upended decades of international consensus…
The resolution was denounced in furious language by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who described it as “an insult” that would not be forgotten. “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” she said.

Peter Beaumont: US will ‘take names of those who vote to reject Jerusalem recognition’ (Guardian)

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned UN members she will be “taking names” of countries that vote to reject Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Haley told countries – including European delegations – that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally.

Peter Beaumont: UN votes resoundingly to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital (Guardian)

The United Nations general assembly has delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The vote came after a redoubling of threats by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said that Washington would remember which countries “disrespected” America by voting against it…
But only nine states – including the United States and Israel –voted against the resolution. The other countries which supported Washington were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.

Karen McVeigh: ‘A travesty’: Trump censured over UN Jerusalem vote comments (Guardian)

Donald Trump’s threat to withhold US aid from countries voting in favour of a UN general assembly resolution rejecting his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been described as a “travesty” by experts.
On Thursday, an emergency session of the UN general assembly voted 128-9 against Trump’s declaration, pronouncing it “null and void”. There were a total of 35 abstentions.

Patrick Wintour: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/21/trumps-bullying-and-bluster-on-jerusalem-

is-bad-news-for-the-un”>Trump’s bullying and bluster on Jerusalem is bad news for the UN (Guardian)
“Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures and different dreams not just coexist but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect,” Donald Trump said in his first speech to the UN general assembly, in September, drawing sighs of relief.
Three months later, those same diverse nations were warned by the US president’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, that she would take their names if they failed at the UN to support the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the city as the capital of Israel. The era of mutual respect was short-lived.

David Scott Mathieson: Suu Kyi takes a populist, paranoid turn (Asia Times)

Myanmar’s increasingly internationally maligned de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi signaled a neo-populist turn in her speech on Monday to the Asia Europe Foreign Ministers (ASEM) meeting held at Naypyitaw…
Without mentioning the exodus of over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since the August 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Front (ARSA) sparked a harsh security force response, Suu Kyi conflated illegal migration with terrorism, a core justification of the military’s abusive treatment of the minority.

Yash Tandon: Robert Mugabe: A political epitaph (Pambazuka)

He is an emblematic, historical figure. He is a giant, whose boot steps inaugurated a revolutionary era in the early years – boots that, sadly, became too heavy for him, and too painful for the ordinary people for whose liberation he had fought.

David Seddon: Zimbabwe: Popular protest, social movements and class struggle (Pambazuka)

The ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who have experienced decades of repression and hardship, are rejoicing and are optimistic following the dramatic removal of Robert Mugabe from power. But very soon there will be a renewed struggle for the future of Zimbabwe. And the outlook remains very uncertain.

Cameron Doudu: Oh Comrade Bob, did it have to come to this? (Pambazuka)

As Frantz Fanon had prophesied, President Mugabe was impelled by his associates to become chairman of the business entity known as Zimbabwe. There were super-shareholders in that enterprise. In-fighting between the various groups with bank notes hidden in their revolutionary berets led to disillusionment and even rebellion.

Theogene Rudasingwa: Mugabe fall an indictment of Africa’s ruling elite (Pambazuka)

Robert Mugabe belongs to the generation of Africans who fought for Africa’s self-determination only to finally succumb to the selfish pursuit of power that has left a country with tremendous opportunity on its knees.But he is not the only big man who has betrayed the aspirations of African peoples for authentic peace, prosperity, unity and healing.

Grant Newsham: Coup in Zimbabwe: A win-win for China – for now (Asia Times)

Did Beijing give the go-ahead to remove Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe? Nobody is saying. But it is suspicious that Zimbabwe’s army chief General Chiwenga visited China a few days before he moved against Mugabe. Presumably, nobody in Beijing told him ‘no.’
China has huge investments in Zimbabwe – including tobacco, diamonds, and power generation – and is by far the country’s largest benefactor.

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.

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.’”

Palestine | Libya | Catalonia | Bangladesh | Kameroon

Michael Astor, Peter J. Spielmann: UN vote recognizes state of Palestine; US objects (AP/Google)

In an extraordinary lineup of international support, more than two-thirds of the world body’s 193 member states approved the resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status from an observer to a nonmember observer state on Thursday. It passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions.

Ryan Craggs: Countries That Voted Against Palestine At UN Include United States, Israel And Canada (Huffington Post)

Just nine nations voted against the Palestinian Authority’s upgrade to nonvoting observer state status, which passed the General Assembly 138-9, with 41 abstentions.
Voting “no” Thursday were Israel, the United States and Canada, joined by the Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.

Robert Fisk, Uri Avnery: One of Israel’s great leftist warriors wants peace with Hamas and Gaza – but does the Knesset? (Independent)
Reuters: Palestine envoy says Beijing backs U.N. entry (Townhall.com)
Barak Ravid: ישראל מחרימה 460 מיליון שקלים מכספי הרשות הפלסטינית Israel confiscates NIS 460 million in Palestinian Authority tax funds (Haaretz, ‘via DuckDuckGo and Google)
Amira Hass: אם אין מים, תשתו בננות P[alestinian] farmers hung out to dry while Israelis flourish in Jordan Valley (Haaretz, via DuckDuckGo and Google)
Seumas Milne: It’s Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves (Guardian)
Sergio Yahni: Cairo truce: sole path to independence is resistance (Alternative Information Centre)
Tom Segev: אלף כיבושים לא יכניעו את עזה (Haaretz) / Gaza without Gazans: History of an Israeli fantasy (Haaretz, via DuckDuckGo and Google News)
AFP Gaza office hit by Israeli strike, 3 Palestinian reporters killed in other attacks (RT)

Israel struck media offices in Gaza twice on Tuesday and killed three Palestinian journalists. The IDF claimed the buildings, which included an AFP bureau, were being used by Hamas to direct military operations, and were legitimate targets.
Two Israeli strikes have left three Palestinian journalists dead, with media buildings targeted by the IDF two days in a row. The AFP building was hit in another attack later on, with no casualties reported.

Dennis Bernstein, John Pilger: Israel’s Gaza Rampage: It’s Not Just War (CounterPunch)
Chris McGreal: ‘Israelis talk about fear, we Palestinians talk about death’ (Guardian)
Patrick O. Strickland: Blasting the Palestinians Back in Time (CounterPunch)
Gili Cohen: IDF arrests Hamas MP in West Bank (Haaretz)
Marlène Schnieper, Ilan Pappe: «Der jüdische Staat kann sich jeden Bruch mit dem Recht leisten» (Basler Zeitung)

Daniel Kovalik: Libya & Creative Destruction (CounterPunch)

Sirte suffered a catastrophe according to . . . many eyewitness descriptions of endless rows of buildings on fire, corpses of the executed lying on hospital lawns, mass graves, homes looted and burned by insurgents, apartment blocks flattened by NATO bombs. This is what ‘protecting civilians’ actually looks like, and it looks like crimes against humanity. Far from the romantic image of all of Libya having risen up against the ‘evil tyrant,’ this was one side of Libya destroying the other with the aid (to say the least) of foreign forces. …
Forte makes a strong case that the U.S. — despite some warming of relations with Gaddafi before the February, 2011 uprising — had continued to be frustrated with Gaddafi’s blocking of infrastructure projects for such U.S. companies as Bechtel and Caterpillar, instead granting these projects to Russian, Chinese and German concerns.

Samir Amin: An Arab Springtime? (Monthly Review)

Martin Roberts: Catalan separatists ‘fall short of majority’ in elections (Guardian)
Ralf Streck: Katalonien wählt radikale Unabhängigkeitsbefürworter (Telepolis)

Jason Burke, Saad Hammadi: Bangladesh textile factory fire leaves more than 100 dead (Guardian)

Augusta Conchiglia: Ghosts of Kamerun (New Left Review)

Shozab Raza, Parmbir Gill, Cornel West: “He’s had four years and proved himself to be a Wall Street President!” (CounterPunch)

Assange Ill, May Seek Safe Passage to Hospital (Novinite)