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)

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.

Qatar | Syria | EU

Dan Glazebrook: The Qatar blockade, petro-yuan & coming war on Iran (RT)

Qatar hasn’t been playing ball with the US-approved, Saudi-led ‘isolate Iran’ program. Partly because Doha has made independence from Riyadh a hallmark of its foreign policy, but mostly because Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest natural gas field.

Pepe Escobar: Blood on the Tracks of the New Silk Roads (CounterPunch)

China’s cardinal foreign policy imperative is to refrain from interfering abroad while advancing the proverbial good relations with key political actors – even when they may be at each other’s throats.
Still, it’s nothing but gut-wrenching for Beijing to watch the current, unpredictable, Saudi-Qatari standoff. There’s no endgame in sight, as plausible scenarios include even regime change and a seismic geopolitical shift in Southwest Asia – what a Western-centric view calls the Middle East…
Russia – the Beltway’s favorite evil entity – is getting closer and closer to Qatar, ever since the game-changing acquisition in early December by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) of 19.5% of the crown energy giant Rosneft.
That translates into an economic/political alliance of the world’s top two gas exporters; and that explains why Doha – still holding a permanent office at NATO’s HQ – has abruptly thrown its “moderate rebels” in Syria under the (economic) bus.

Settlement, Soft Coup, Realignment or Regional War: 4 Scenarios for Qatar Crisis (Sputnik)

Jonathan Cook: After Hersh Investigation, Media Connive in Propaganda War on Syria (CounterPunch)

If you wish to understand the degree to which a supposedly free western media are constructing a world of half-truths and deceptions to manipulate their audiences, keeping us uninformed and pliant, then there could hardly be a better case study than their treatment of Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
All of these highly competitive, for-profit, scoop-seeking media outlets separately took identical decisions: first to reject Hersh’s latest investigative report, and then to studiously ignore it once it was published in Germany last Sunday. They have continued to maintain an absolute radio silence on his revelations, even as over the past few days they have given a great deal of attention to two stories on the very issue Hersh’s investigation addresses.

Aidan O’Brien: Where Did Britain’s Racists Go? (CounterPunch)

[P]rogressives can’t see the all encompassing class-hatred that forms the essential core of the EU and which actually spawns – among other hellish things – racism. The irony is that those who love the EU because of it’s “anti-racist” (“anti-nazi” or “anti-nationalist”) credentials have ended up supporting a fanatically austere regime that promotes the social divisions (as well as the international divisions) that are the foundation stone of racism. And war.
The votes for Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn were both positively anti-systemic. Progressives got the meaning of the second vote but misunderstood the first. In general that misunderstanding was a case of the people or the working classes being way ahead of the political class. No sign of this has been greater than the gap between the people and the mainstream media. After ridiculing Brexit and Corbyn the media – in the light of the results of the last year – now barely have any ground to stand on. That’s because the media represent the “politically correct neoliberal class” and nothing more. The battle lines are clear and solid for the people however. And they’re on the terrain of class rather than race.
Britain’s racists do exist nonetheless.
And at this moment they’re propping up Theresa May’s minority government. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from the north east of Ireland are “Ireland’s Israelis”. And now they’re Britain’s kingmakers.

Nivedita Majumdar: Silencing the Subaltern. Resistance & Gender in Postcolonial Theory (Catalyst)

One of the central claims of postcolonial theory is that it upholds the social agency of dominated groups. This paper focuses on some of the foundational texts in the field by Ranajit Guha, Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhabha to examine how they analyze the place of resistance in gender relations. It shows that there is a considerable gap between what the theorists claim to show and what they actually argue in these texts. Instead of upholding women’s resistance to patriarchy, they redefine agency so that acquiescence to patriarchy is presented as a struggle against it. This calls into question the contribution that postcolonial theory can make to subaltern politics.

Korea | Palestine | USA

Mel Gurtov: Diplomatic Remedies for THAAD Madness: The US, China and the Two Koreas (Japan Focus)

The US decision, supported by the South Korean government, to deploy an antimissile system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) may be one of the most thoughtless strategic moves in a generation. The official US justification is that close-in defense against North Korean missiles is necessary to protect South Korea. But the deployment is having more than a few negative repercussions: an argument in China for increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile; an incentive in North Korea for continuing to develop its long-range missile capability; a deep fissure in China-South Korea relations; a roiling of South Korean politics at a time when its corrupt president has been impeached; and a new source of tension in already fraught Sino-US relations.

U.S. Deploys Missile System Amid Rising Tensions with N. Korea (Democracy Now)

Tensions are rising between the United States, North Korea and China, threatening to create the first significant national security crisis of the Trump presidency. This week, the United States began deploying a missile defense system to South Korea, sparking warnings from Chinese officials who say the U.S. is escalating a regional arms race. The U.S. says the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, known as THAAD, seeks to protect South Korea amid a series of recent missile tests launched by North Korea…
The deployment of the U.S. missile system is widely opposed by both South Koreans, who have been protesting against U.S. militarization, and by Chinese officials, who say the missile system actually aims to counter China’s military power in the region, not to contain North Korea.
Chinese officials are calling for both an end to North Korea’s nuclear program and an end to joint U.S. and South Korean military drills.

Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: North Korea Timed Recent Missile Test to Take Place During Trump-Abe Dinner (Democracy Now)

North Korea tested a ballistic missile last month, sparking widespread international condemnation. The test was a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. North Korea claimed the test was a successful launch of an intermediate-range missile. The test came while Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Christine Ahn, Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: China Warns U.S. & North Korea Are Set for “Head-On” Collision Amid Rising Tensions & Provocations (Democracy Now)

The political upheaval in South Korea comes shortly after North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles. In response, the Trump administration announced it would deploy a missile defense system to South Korea. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, backed by warships and warplanes, are currently engaging in a massive military exercise. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the U.S. and North Korea are like two “accelerating trains coming toward each other.” He called on both sides to de-escalate tensions.

David E. Sanger, William J Broad: Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles (New York Times) / 트럼프가 물려받은 유산: 북한 미사일에 대응하는 비밀 사이버戰 / 特朗普接手的秘密计划:网络攻击破坏朝鲜导弹?

Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds…
An examination of the Pentagon’s disruption effort, based on interviews with officials of the Obama and Trump administrations as well as a review of extensive but obscure public records, found that the United States still does not have the ability to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs…
In two meetings of Mr. Trump’s national security deputies in the Situation Room, the most recent on Tuesday, all those options were discussed, along with the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to South Korea as a dramatic warning…
The White House is also looking at pre-emptive military strike options, a senior Trump administration official said, …

Vijay Prashad: Crimes of apartheid (Hindu)

Apartheid is a powerful word, and the United Nations does not use it loosely. But now, in a report released on March 15 in Beirut, Lebanon, the UN has proclaimed that Israel ‘is guilty of the crime of apartheid’. This is a very significant judgment, one with important ramifications for the UN, for the International Court of Justice and for the international community…
Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, face restrictive zoning laws, and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents, who have to constantly prove that they live in the city and that they do not have any political ambitions. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report.

John Reynolds: Israel and the A-Word (CounterPunch)

The word resonated loud and clear from South Africa. Hendrik Verwoerd, widely described as a key architect of apartheid, was the far-right National Party’s propagandist, political strategist and, ultimately, party leader. In 1961, as South African Prime Minister, he noted that Israel was built on land taken ‘from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years.’ The point was to express his approval and to highlight Zionism’s common cause with the Afrikaner pioneers: ‘In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.’
Verwoerd was able to make this diagnosis without needing to live to see the brutality of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. Israel’s apartheid foundations were laid in its dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948. They were reinforced by the immediate erection of colonial constitutional structures that cemented the exclusion of the colonised.
Since then, Israeli law and policy has only deepened the state apparatus of separation and segregation, discrimination and domination.

Oren Ziv: Israel releases 12-year-old Palestinian girl, highlighting dual legal systems (+792)

A Jewish child arrested for an identical crime in the same location would not have been sent to prison. Israeli authorities released the girl after the case got attention and a request from her parents.
Twelve-year-old Dima al-Wawi, the youngest Palestinian in Israeli prison, was released after two-and-a-half months on Sunday. Israeli authorities delivered her to the Jabara checkpoint in the West Bank in the early afternoon hours, where she was met by her parents and waiting journalists.

Eli Clifton: AIPAC gave $60K to architect of Trump’s Muslim ban (+972)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been noticeably quiet about the Trump administration’s slowness to denounce the spike in anti-Semitic attacks and bomb threats, its nomination of an ambassador to Israel who described J Street as “worse than kapos,” and its ties to ethno-nationalists like White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller. But AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.

Tom Clifford: Playing with Fire in the South China Sea: the Voyage of the Izumi (CounterPunch)

An aircraft carrier that dare not be named one and a show of military force by a country in contravention of its own constitution herald the consequences of a decision taken some years ago signaling that post-war certainty is no longer such a sure thing.
The Izumo, a 250-meter-long “flat-topped destroyer’’, is being dispatched to the South China Sea by Japan in May in a show of force not seen since 1945.
Named after a cruiser that was sunk by the US in 1945, the warship is in reality an aircraft carrier by any other name. However, aircraft carriers imply a force projection well beyond Japan’s shores, therefore it must be called a destroyer or a helicopter carrier.
After stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the Izumo will then take part in the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

USA | Russia | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border (Intercept)

The leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarization of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the U.K. has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including in states that border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.
In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War.”

Trump’s pick for CIA says he’s open to waterboarding (CNN)

President Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, has told Congress that he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.

Ankit Panda: Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee, Has a Dangerous Idea for the South China Sea (Diplomat)

Rex Tillerson, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, presented a proposal for what the United States should do in the South China Sea disputes on Wednesday that you don’t hear often — even among China hawks in the United States.
Speaking at a confirmation hearing the before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday evening, Tillerson remarked that China’s actions in the South China Sea — where it has most recently drawn attention for building seven militarized artificial islands in the Spratly Islands — were “akin to Russia’s taking [of] Crimea” from Ukraine…
Tillerson went further, and here he entered relatively uncharted territory: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

Tom Phillips: China hits back at US over South China Sea ‘takeover’ claims (Guardian)

China has warned the US to “speak and act cautiously” after the White House said it would act to foil Chinese attempts to “take over” the South China Sea, amid growing hints that Donald Trump’s administration intends to challenge Beijing over the strategic waterway.
At a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, urged Washington to tread carefully “to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea”.
Hua was responding to comments made by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, the previous day.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Spicer vowed the US would “make sure that we protect our interests” in the resource-rich trade route, through which $4.5tn (£3.4tn) in trade passes each year.

Reuters: US ‘at very beginning’ of talks to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem (Guardian)

Washington’s embassy is in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state. Both sides cite religious, historical and political claims.

Peter Beaumont: Israel announces 2,500 more West Bank settlement homes (Guardian)

Israel has approved a massive new building programme of Jewish settlement homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, following hard on the heels of the swearing-in of the US president, Donald Trump…
About 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war…
“We are building and we will continue to build,” Netanyahu wrote, in a brief Facebook post.

‘Not like Gitmo’: Israeli interrogators explain torture techniques to media (RT)

Israeli interrogators with experience in using ‘special means’ of interrogation, which involve inflicting physical pain on detainees, have described details of their methods to an Israeli newspaper…
[I]nterrogation using what Israel calls “special means” remains widespread. The UN Committee Against Torture last year cited continued complaints of torture by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) as well as Israel’s refusal to implement the convention on occupied Palestinian territories and reluctance to criminalize torture among its concerns.

Chaim Levinson: Torture, Israeli-style – as Described by the Interrogators Themselves (Haaretz via Google News)

For years, the Israeli establishment has tried to conceal what happens in interrogation rooms. When interrogators use torture – or “special means,” to use the establishment’s term – the concealment efforts are redoubled. Even when testimony of torture reaches the public, the system does everything it can to leave the interrogators’ role in darkness, including signing lenient plea bargains with suspects who were tortured to ensure that the conspiracy of silence remains unbroken.
People who have undergone interrogation have described various methods, from interrogators screaming in their ear, to blows, to being forced into painful positions for long periods. To date, however, all these descriptions have come from the complainants.
But recently, a conversation among interrogators in the presence of several witnesses provided a chance to hear from the interrogators themselves about the kinds of torture used in major cases, who approved it and what information it produced…
In 1999, the High Court of Justice outlawed torture, which had been permitted until then. But subsequent regulations issued by then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said interrogators who nevertheless used torture wouldn’t stand trial if they could demonstrate that it was “immediately necessary to save his own or another person’s life, freedom, person or property from a concrete danger of serious harm,” and that “there was no other way to do so.”…
After the High Court issued its ruling, the torture techniques in use were changed, and they were also used less often. But in recent years, that trend has started to reverse.

Israel Must Stop the Torture (Haaretz via Google News)

The admissions by Shin Bet investigators published in Haaretz Tuesday confirm the claims that have been heard for years about torture during interrogations.

Myanmar | USA | Israel/Palestine

Saturn devours his young: President Trump (Salvage)

How could it possibly be?
Donald Trump, who exchanged the racist dog-whistle for a howling at the moon. Donald Trump, who waxed ‘braggadocious’ about sexual assault. Donald Trump, who exhorted his supporters to violence, wished it on his rivals, and openly threatened war crimes.
The maven of alt-right trolls, the doyen of racist mediocrities, the gold-plated capitalist mountebank, the artist of the deal whose relationship to the truth is summed up in his catchphrase, ‘give them the old Trump bullshit,’ will be the 45th President of the United States…
In her own strategising, in short, if Hillary Clinton mastered anything in this election, it was the old Third Way technique of demoralising her voters. Beginning in the primary contest, she managed expectations down to close to zero, scolding Sanders supporters that universal healthcare was ‘never going to happen’. She barely even had the grace to be red-faced about her convivial relationship with Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. Far from embarrassed, she was proud of her plaudits from Henry Kissinger, Laura Bush and Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, her team noised it abroad that she would be looking to privatise social security, and to re-arm liberal imperialism after Obama’s ‘Realist’ detour…
For the collapsing of the order of the centre – the very order that birthed Trump, the system of which he is not pathology but symptom, essence and excrescence combined – we shed no tears. But it is our worst enemies who are building in its rubble, faster and more effectively than are we. In 2017, we can expect major fascist advances. We can expect a Le Pen presidency of France. This is an epochal shift, and threat.

Paul Street: Beyond Anti-Trump (CounterPunch)

[D]reary corporate-Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Obama are no small part of the explanation for the ever more right-wing Republican presidencies of the long neoliberal era. Their serial populism-manipulating betrayals of the working-class majority in service to the wealthy Few open the door for Republicans to sweep in and take over for a term or two (2001-2009) or three (1981-1993)…
We must not let Trump become a great red cape in the hands of the ruling class matadors. We charge screaming “Down with Trump” while the owners plunge their weapons into our passing hides…
One of the drawbacks of having Democrats Obama in the White House is the way they put so many folks to sleep on terrible policies and actions people would resist if only they were being carried out by Republican presidents. It’s amazing how many liberals and progressives find things like drone war and Wall Street bailouts and mass deportations strangely acceptable when conducted by supposedly liberal and sophisticated Democrats like Barack Obama.

Vijay Prashad: The Trump Team (Frontline)

Money and the military define the Cabinet of Donald Trump’s presidency. For a man who ran to help the “forgotten Americans”, there are few “forgotten” people in his team. Most of the Cabinet appointees have experiences far from the crises that wrack (sic) rural and industrial America…
in his farewell speech, Eisenhower bemoaned the increased power of the military and of military industry over the U.S. government. He called this the “military-industrial complex”, which was the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry”. “The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the federal government,” the old military hero said plaintively. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Matters are graver now. The military-industrial complex is larger and more firmly rooted in the economy, politics and the culture of the country…
In this context, Trump has chosen three generals to be in his Cabinet, giving all the major departments in charge of security to men of the armed forces… It appears as if Trump is not assembling a Cabinet so much as a junta…
Trump’s campaign rhetoric was plainly oppositional. It sparked a sense that this billionaire had heard the pain of the “forgotten American”. Trump suggested that he would use his business savvy to bring back work for Americans and to turn around a sagging U.S. economy. To help him, Trump has turned to the business class. Amongst his major picks are some of the richest people in the U.S. The total net worth of the first half of Trump’s Cabinet is over $14.5 billion—30 times more than the net worth of the men and women in George W. Bush’s Cabinet. In other words, half of Trump’s Cabinet is worth 30 times the entirety of Bush’s Cabinet. Plutocracy, not democracy, is the order of the day.

Norman Solomon: The Democratic Party Line That Could Torch Civil Liberties… and Maybe Help Blow Up the World (CounterPunch)

Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

Gareth Porter: Behind the real US strategic blunder in Syria (Middle East Eye)

President Barack Obama has long been under fire from the US national security elite and the media for failing to intervene aggressively against the Assad regime.
But the real strategic blunder was not that Barack Obama didn’t launch yet another war in Syria, but that he decided to go along with the ambitions of America’s Sunni allies to create and arm a Syrian opposition army to overthrow the regime in the first place.

Alan Nasser: The New (Cold?) War With China (CounterPunch)

Washington has recently initiated major war games in the neighborhoods and on the borders of Russia and China, the most intense martial exercises since the end of the Second World War. The old Cold War ante has been upped, and the danger of military confrontation between Washington and Russia and/or China looms large.

Poppy McPherson: ‘It will blow up’: fears Myanmar’s deadly crackdown on Muslims will spiral out of control (Guardian)

The authorities consider Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many trace their heritage in Myanmar for generations. State media says they fabricated the rape allegations and burned down their own homes…
A recent report by Physicians for Human Rights documented how restrictions on movement, land confiscation, pervasive surveillance and extortion in northern Rakhine since the 2012 clashes had left some 120,000 displaced.

Oliver Holmes: Nobel laureates warn Aung San Suu Kyi over ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya (Guardian)

More than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates have criticised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, for a bloody military crackdown on minority Rohingya people, warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

Ramzy Baroud: Palestine 2017: Time to Bid Farewell to Washington and Embrace the Globe (CounterPunch)

There is no doubt that the UN Security Council condemnation of Israel on Friday, December 23, was an important and noteworthy event.
True, the United Nations’ main chambers (the Security Council and the General Assembly) and its various institutions, ranging from the International Court of Justice to the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, have repeatedly condemned the Israeli occupation, illegal Jewish settlements and mistreatment of Palestinians.
In fact, unlike the December 23 resolution 2334, the past UN condemnations were far stronger – for some resolutions did not just demand an immediate halt of illegal Jewish settlement construction, but the removal of existing settlements as well…
[W]hat makes this particular resolution important?
First, the US neither vetoed the resolution nor threatened to use its veto power; nor did it even seriously lobby, as it often does to soften the wording in advance.
Second, it is the first decisive and clear condemnation of Israel by the UN Security Council in nearly eight years – almost the entirety of President Barack Obama’s terms in office.
Third, the vote took place despite extraordinary Israeli pressure on the current US administration, on the forthcoming administration of Donald Trump and successful pressure on Egyptian President, Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. Indeed, Egypt delayed the vote, which was scheduled a day earlier, before New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela stepped up and put the resolution to a vote, a day later…
The outcome of the vote was quite telling: 14 Security Council members voted ‘yes’, while the US abstained. The vote was followed by a rare sight at such meetings, a sustained applause, where countries that hardly agree on much, agreed full-heartedly on the justness of Palestinian aspirations and the rejection of Israeli practices…

EU imports 15 times more from illegal Israeli settlements than from Palestinians (Defend Democracy Press)

The European Union imports fifteen times more from Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory than from Palestinians themselves, a new report from a coalition of 22 non-governmental organisations including Caabu, Christian Aid UK and Ireland, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Diakonia revealed today.

Europe | USA | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Growing Far-Right Nationalistic Movements Are Dangerously Anti-Muslim — and Pro-Israel (Intercept)

The specter of a growing far-right nationalism anywhere, but particularly in Central Europe, immediately — and for good and obvious reasons — raises fears of an anti-Semitism revival. But at least thus far, the leaders of most of these nationalistic parties — increasingly inspired and fueled by one another’s success — have showcased dangerous animosity toward Muslims, accompanied by strong policy support for Israel and a rhetorical repudiation of anti-Semitism…
Austria is the latest example of a far-right xenophobic party on the verge of obtaining what was, until quite recently, unthinkable power… Hofer demagogues animosity toward Muslims in all the standard ways: equating migrants with “jihadists,” warning of the “Islamification” of Europe, and pronouncing that “Islam is not a part of Austria.”
But not only does Hofer repudiate all anti-Semitism and insist it has no place in his party — he made news earlier this year by calling for the demolition of Hitler’s childhood home and his party sponsored “a New Anti-Semitism Conference” starring the Israeli spy who captured Adolf Eichmann — but the Freedom Party has, in the words of an expert cited by the NYT, “made it part of their strategy to draw closer to Israel.”…
Israeli officials have noticed the pro-Israel bent of Hofer’s posture and some have returned the sentiments of support. “They are one of the most pro-Israel parties in Europe,” proclaimed former Knesset member Michael Kleiner …
When Donald Trump named Steve Bannon as his White House chief strategist, some American Jewish groups (such as the Anti-Defamation League) objected by pointing to his flirtation with if not outright endorsement of anti-Semitic themes, but the most important U.S. group — AIPAC — has to this day not uttered a public word about Bannon.

Pamela Duncan: Europeans greatly overestimate Muslim population, poll shows (Guardian)

The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people…
British respondents put the current Muslim population at 15%, three times the 2010 figure… In the US the average estimate was Muslims accounted for one in six people, whereas Pew put the actual figure at one in 100.

Micah Lee, Margot Williams: Drowning in information: NSA revelations from 262 spy documents (Intercept)

A national intelligence officer gave a top-secret “issue seminar” to NSA staff on the question of “where political action fades into terrorism,” according to a seminar announcement published in June 2004. The announcement suggested that the line between “legitimate political activity” and “activity that is the precursor to, or supportive of, terrorism” is fuzzy. The course used the Vienna-based organization Anti-Imperialist Camp as a case study, describing it as “ostensibly a political organization” but noting that “its many ties to terrorist organizations — and its attempts to collaborate with Muslim extremists — raise questions about where political action fades into terrorism.” No further details were given to substantiate the alleged ties; the group’s website remains online. A spokesperson for the group, Wilhelm Langthaler, told The Intercept that the group was targeted for such accusations for political reasons, including its opposition to the war in Iraq and “our public support for the resistance against occupation which we have compared with the antifascist resistance against German occupation.”

Julian Borger: Chinese warship seizes US underwater drone in international waters (Guardian)

The Chinese navy has seized an underwater drone in plain sight of the American sailors who had deployed it in international waters, in a seemingly brazen message to the incoming Trump administration.
According to a US defence official, the unmanned glider had come to the surface of the water in the South China Sea and was about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic and surveillance ship, when a Chinese naval vessel that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat in the water…
As China develops a strategic submarine fleet, with the potential to carry nuclear missiles out into the Pacific Ocean, the US has built up a monitoring network designed to spot Chinese submarines as they leave their bases. Drones are key to the network, and there is a race under way between major naval powers to develop drones that can work together in swarms and “see” long distances through the water. Underwater gliders are drones that can stay underwater on the lookout for submarines for long periods of time.

AP: China and US in talks over seized drone, officials say (Guardian)

The device was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research, according to the Pentagon.

AP: Philippines to ‘set aside’ South China Sea tribunal ruling to avoid imposing on Beijing (Guardian)

The Philippine president has said he would “set aside” a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea, because he doesn’t want to impose on China.
“In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China,” Rodrigo Duterte said at a news conference on Saturday.

Tom Phillips: Images show ‘significant’ Chinese weapons systems in South China Sea (Guardian)

China appears to have positioned “significant” weapons systems, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite vowing it had no intention of militarising the archipelago, a US thinktank has claimed.

Xinhua: China says deployment of defensive facilities on South China Sea islands legitimate (Global Times)
Tom Phillips: ‘Friends forever’? China wary of Rex Tillerson wooing away Russia (Guardian)

Rex Tillerson’s controversial nomination as secretary of state has delighted Moscow where the Texan oilman has deep and long-standing ties. Donald Trump’s choice of the ExxonMobil chief was “100% good news” for Vladimir Putin, one opposition politician claimed.
But in Beijing, already reeling from Trump’s early forays into foreign policy, the move has inspired no such celebration, instead fuelling fears that the president-elect’s courtship of the Kremlin could be part of a bold strategic bid to isolate China.

John Pilger: The Coming War on China (movie; RT)

A nuclear war between the United States and China is not only imaginable but a current ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. This film by acclaimed filmmaker John Pilger’s is both a warning and an inspiring story of resistance.
The Coming War on China, filmed over two years across five potential flashpoints in Asia and the Pacific, reveals the build-up to war on more than 400 US military bases that encircle China in a ‘perfect noose’.
Using rare archive and remarkable interviews with witnesses, Pilger’s film discloses America’s secret history in the region – the destruction wrought by the equivalent of one Hiroshima every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made guinea pigs of the population of the Marshall Islands.

Matthew Rosenberg: Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel (New York Times)

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Peter Beaumont, Julian Borger: Donald Trump’s Israel ambassador is hardline pro-settler lawyer (Guardian)

Donald Trump has named as his ambassador to Israel a pro-settler lawyer who has described some US Jews as worse than concentration camp prisoner-guards.
David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards…
An indication of how Friedman views Israel came in a 16-point action plan he issued with another Trump adviser in November.

Chemi Shalev: David Friedman, Trump’s Radical-right Ambassador, Makes Netanyahu Look Like a J Street Lefty (Haaretz ~ Google News)

By Israeli standards, Donald Trump’s designated Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an extreme right-winger. He might find a place in the settler movement or with Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi Party, but only on its right-wing fringes. He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist. From where Friedman stands, most Israelis, never mind most American Jews, are more or less traitors.

David Schraub: The Grotesque anti-Semitic Turn of David Friedman, Trump’s Pick for Israel Ambassador (Haaretz)

You don’t even have to be a J Street fan to consider calling them ‘Kapos,’ as David Friedman has done, as disqualifying for such a symbolic post for the U.S. Jewish community…
Friedman has called Barack Obama an “anti-Semite” and contended that J Streeters are “far worse than Kapos.” He also asserted, in the course of advocating “allegiance” standards for Israel’s Muslim citizens, that “In the United States, advocating to overthrow the government by force or violence can get you life in prison” (No, it can’t). And of course, he’s an opponent of the two-state solution.

France orders clear labeling of goods from Israeli settlements (RT)

The French guidelines state that in accordance with Commission rules adopted in November 2015, importers must mark the precise place from which the goods originate and not mark them as products of Israel.
Regulations apply to products that originate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are considered occupied territories under international law.
French authorities said that clearly marking the packaging is necessary to not mislead consumers. Goods originating from Palestinian territories must be marked for instance as originating from “the West Bank”, and then, in parenthesis, the package must also be labeled that it comes from “an Israeli settlement.”

Peter Walker: UK adopts antisemitism definition to combat hate crime against Jews (Guardian)
Letter (Guardian)

The new definition has nothing to do with opposing antisemitism, it is merely designed to silence public debate on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Antisemitic incidents comprise about 2% of all hate crime. Why then the concentration on antisemitism and not on Islamophobia, which is far more widespread? The suspicion must be that the real concern is not with antisemitism but with Britain’s support for Israel…
We agree that it is antisemitic to associate Jews with the actions of the Israeli state. Unfortunately this is precisely what the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition will achieve through perpetuating the stereotype that all Jews support the Israeli state. The IHRA will strengthen not weaken antisemitism. There is a very simple definition of antisemitism from Oxford University’s Brian Klug. Antisemitism is “a form of hostility towards Jews as ‘Jews’.” The IHRA definition smuggles in anti-Zionism, in the guise of antisemitism, as a means of protecting the Israeli state and thus western foreign policy.

Israelis, Palestinians Among Most Enthusiastic Supporters of Torture, Red Cross Survey Says (Haaretz)

Only in Israel, Nigeria and the United States do more people advocate torture of an enemy combatant than oppose such behavior, according to a new survey by the International Red Cross.

Syria | USA | Britain | Media

An interesting article on the balance of forces between the Syrian government, the Islamic State, Kurdish forces, Turkey and the US:
Timur Göksel: Will Trump see eye to eye with Erdogan’s plans in Iraq, Syria? (Al-Monitor)

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joe Dunford visited Ankara Nov. 6 and held a 4½-hour meeting with his Turkish counterparts.
This sudden, unplanned visit led some to wonder if there was a rupture between Ankara’s strategic thinking on Iraq and Syria and the United States’ goals in the region.
Ankara is hoping to find harmony with the incoming US administration on its fight against the Islamic State…
In the Nov. 6 operation, about 25,000 YPG fighters who had been controlling the Kurdish cantons of Kobani and Jazeera turned their backs to Turkey and launched an assault toward Raqqa in the south. The Kurds practically vacated their two cantons and left them wide open to a possible offensive by Turkey…
Ankara has two main goals in Iraq: to increase Turkey’s effectiveness north of Mosul and thus become part of the Mosul operation, and to eliminate the PKK’s domination of the Sinjar area that forms a bridge between Iraq and Syria…
Many key names in Ankara believe that the Trump transition team will understand the dynamics of Iraq and Syria and support Ankara in its struggle against the PKK and PYD in northern Syria and against growing Shiite influence in Iraq.

Joseph Briefel: Should Baathists have role in post-IS Iraq? (AL-Monitor)

As the inevitable defeat of IS approaches, analysts and politicians are busy discussing life in Iraq after the group. Sectarian reconciliation, political autonomy and the role of external actors such as Turkey continue to dominate the media discourse.
One group that remains absent from post-liberation narratives is the former Baathists, who have played a complex role in Mosul’s recent history and have had a dysfunctional relationship with post-2003 governments in Baghdad. If the role of former Baathists is forgotten in post-IS Iraq, then many of the key issues that arose when IS entered Mosul in 2014 will likely return in the future.
The powerful role played by former Baathists in IS’s leadership structure is well known. Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s Intelligence Service, and Abu Ali al-Anbari, a former major general under Saddam, were IS’s former deputy commanders in Iraq and Syria.

Police Attack Water Protectors at Standing Rock—AGAIN (TeleSur)

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at protesters against the Dakota Access pipeline after a standoff at a river nearby.

Police Unleash Military-Style Assault on Standing Rock Protesters (TeleSur)

Police were spraying protesters with water in sub-freezing temperatures and firing rubber bullets, reportedly injuring 167.

Tom Phillips: Climate change a Chinese hoax? Beijing gives Donald Trump a lesson in history (Guardian)

China has rejected Donald Trump’s claims that climate change is a Chinese hoax, urging the US president-elect to take a “smart decision” over his country’s commitment to the fight against global warming.

Yoav Haifawi: The Economist in China’s Wonderland (Free Haifa)

On November 12th 2016 The Economist published a short report from Shenzhen about what seems as a totally boring subject: Chinese courier firms. It comes, as usual, under a patronizing title “China’s express-delivery sector needs consolidation and modernization”. But it contains such a glaring and laughable combination of contradictions that I found it worth bringing here to you.

Ewen MacAskill: ‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper (Guardian)

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.
The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.