Sudan | Syria | USA | Korea | Britain

Nick Turse: Ghost Nation (Harper’s)

South Sudan was an American nation-building experiment, the recipient of $11 billion in assistance since 2005—perhaps the largest investment the United States has made in sub-Saharan Africa. Washington and other international partners trained soldiers and mentored government officials, but they ignored the country’s stunted economic, military, and political development, which left South Sudan mired in corruption, ethnoracism, and violence. Six years after independence, most people still lack electricity, phone networks are spotty, and paved roads are nonexistent outside the capital, Juba.
In July 2013, South Sudan began to unravel. Riek Machar, the vice president—a member of the second-largest tribe, the Nuer—was fired by Kiir, then announced that he would challenge him in upcoming elections, which were never held. That December, government forces killed large numbers of Nuer soldiers and civilians on the streets of Juba. Rebel forces loyal to Machar responded, massacring Dinkas in villages and towns in the north.
In 2014, as the conflict raged between the ­S.P.L.A. and Machar’s rebels, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army—In Opposition (I.O.), Kiir visited the White House. A former guerrilla, he is often photographed in one of the cowboy hats given to him by President George W. Bush or Secretary of State John Kerry. Unwilling to pressure Kiir and the leaders they had fostered, the Obama Administration failed to impose a unilateral arms embargo. An eleventh-hour push for an international arms ban at the U.N. Security Council collapsed, in part because the outgoing administration lacked sufficient political capital. As a result, Kiir has been able to purchase $1 billion worth of arms, including tanks and helicopter gunships.
During the early stages of the current conflict, the south of the country had been largely spared. But South Sudan is riven by all manner of differences and enmities. In the north, the Dinka are cattle keepers. The south is made up of the Equatorias—Central, Western, and Eastern. The region is the breadbasket of the country, with fields of cassava, sorghum, peanuts, and maize and orchards of fruit trees. For years, Dinkas had moved huge herds into Equatorian farmland, and in 2015, these land grabs escalated into skirmishes between the ­S.P.L.A. and homegrown militias…
After South Sudan erupted in civil war in 2013, tens of thousands of civilians ran to United Nations bases, seeking protection from rampaging soldiers. Many have been stranded there ever since. Today, more than 200,000 South Sudanese live behind berms and razor wire in these sanctuaries-cum-prisons, 3.6 million have fled their homes, and more than 7.5 million need aid and protection…
Last November, the United Nations also began warning about the potential for genocide in South Sudan.

Seymour M. Hersh: Trump’ Red Line (Welt, free) Vergeltungsschlag in Syrien. Trumps rote Linie (Welt, behind paywall)

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

Am 6. April 2017 gab US-Präsident Donald Trump den Befehl, mehrere Dutzend Tomahawk-Marschflugkörper abzuschießen. Ziel war der syrische Stützpunkt Al-Schairat. Die Raketen schlugen in den frühen Morgenstunden ein. Es sollte ein Vergeltungsschlag sein – für den Angriff des Assad-Regimes auf die Rebellen-Hochburg Chan Scheichun. Bei dieser Operation, so erklärte Trump, sei tödliches Nervengift eingesetzt worden. Dabei hatten die US-amerikanischen Nachrichtendienste den Präsidenten gewarnt: Es sei keinesfalls bewiesen, dass Assads Luftwaffe tatsächlich Chemiewaffen eingesetzt hatte.

Seymour M. Hersh: „We got a fuckin‘ problem“ (Welt)
Aaron Maté, Seymour M. Hersh:
Jonathan Cook:
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View (CounterPunch)

Paradoxically, over the past decade, as social media has created a more democratic platform for information dissemination, the corporate media has grown ever more fearful of a truly independent figure like Hersh. The potential reach of his stories could now be enormously magnified by social media. As a result, he has been increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated. By denying him the credibility of a “respectable” mainstream platform, he can be dismissed for the first time in his career as a crank and charlatan. A purveyor of fake news…
Hersh’s new investigation was paid for by the London Review of Books, which declined to publish it. This is almost disturbing as the events in question.
What is emerging is a media blackout so strong that even the London Review of Books is running scared. Instead, Hersh’s story appeared yesterday in a German publication, Welt am Sonntag.

Reuters: US threatens Syria, says Assad is planning chemical weapons attack’ (Daily Star)

Sarah Dougherty, Scott A. Allen: Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program (Physicians for Human Rights)

PHR researchers show that CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen created a research program in which health professionals designed and applied torture techniques and collected data on torture’s effects. This constitutes one of the gravest breaches of medical ethics by U.S. health personnel since the Nuremberg Code was developed in the wake of Nazi medical atrocities committed during World War Two.

Roy Eidelson: Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook (CounterPunch)

Just in time for the Trump Administration’s official embrace of brutality, we have another book defending torture: Enhanced Interrogation by psychologist James Mitchell. For those unfamiliar with the author, he’s a central figure in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s scathing 2014 report summary on CIA abuse. And he’s a co-defendant — for having “designed, implemented, and personally administered an experimental torture program” — in the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of three war-on-terror detainees (Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of the deceased Gul Rahman).

Sheri Fink, James Risen: Psychologists Open a Window on Brutal C.I.A. Interrogations (New York Times)

A lawsuit filed on behalf of former prisoners reveals new details about a program that used techniques widely viewed as torture.

Heo Jae-hyun: North Korean defector desperately wants to go home, but is facing possible arrest (Hankyoreh)

A North Korean defector who has demanded repatriation, claiming she was tricked by a defection broker and came to South Korea by mistake, is once again in danger of arrest.
Police are closing in with their investigation of Kim Ryon-hui, 48, and considering requesting an arrest warrant for her on charges of National Security Law violations. In response, Kim and civic groups supporting her held a press conference on June 14 to demand her repatriation.

Will Ripley: Defector wants to return to North Korea (CNN)

Of the tens of thousands of North Koreans who have fled to South Korea since the Great Famine of the late 1990’s, only a rare few have ever asked to return.
Kim Ryon Hui is one of them. The Pyongyang dressmaker — turned North Korean defector — says she is trapped in South Korea and desperate to return to her family.

Mark Steel: Crazy Marxists want to give homes to Grenfell survivors – but thankfully we live in a fair capitalist society (Independent)

It’s the same with those communists who went down with blankets and food. They should have set up a pop-up bedding and hot chocolate store to tap into extensive market opportunities.

Korea | Palestine | Syria

Justin McCurry: South Korea set to change policy on North as liberal wins election (Guardian)

Moon Jae-in, a left-leaning liberal who favours engagement with North Korea, has won South Korea’s presidential election, raising hopes of a potential rapprochement with Pyongyang.
The former human rights lawyer won 41.4% of the vote, according to an exit poll cited by the Yonhap news agency, placing him comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals, the centrist software entrepreneur Ahn Cheol-soo and the conservative hardliner Hong Joon-pyo, both of whom have conceded defeat…
Moon, a former student activist who was imprisoned in the 1970s for protesting against Park’s father, the former dictator Park Chung-hee, declared a decade of hardline policy towards Pyongyang a failure…
Moon’s other foreign policy priority will be to repair relations with China, which opposes the deployment in South Korea of a US missile defence system – known as Thaad – and says Seoul should stop joint military drills with the US to encourage Pyongyang to halt its nuclear programme.

Tim Shorrock: The United States Should Listen to South Korea—or It Will Reap the Whirlwind (Nation)

Recent US actions underscore a deep-seated problem: refusal to see South Korea as an independent nation with interests of its own.

Leo Chang: US Hegemony on Korean Peninsula Challenged (CounterPunch)

The North does not want war. Neither do South Korea and China. There will be a war only if US wants it…
The North’s goals are: 1) recognition of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a legitimate political entity and a nuclear state; 2) stopping the US conspiracy of regime change, biannual “decapitation” exercises along with South Korean military; 3) lifting sanctions; and 4) replacing the armistice of 1953 with a permanent peace treaty…
The red line for North Korea is: sovereignty and self-determination. And if it takes nuclear weapons to deter the great powers, so be it.

Christine Ahn: The High Costs of US Warmongering Against North Korea (Truthout)
Mehdi Hasan: Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War. (Intercept)
US right wing is foaming at the mouth over the election of Mun Chae-in in south Korea:
Ethan Epstein: Bad Moon Rising (Weekly Standard)

Moon has said he’s eager to travel to Pyongyang to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un —suggesting, at one point, he’d like to visit North Korea before the United States—and even re-open the Kaesong joint industrial complex, a ridiculous facility where South Korean companies employ North Korean laborers to build products. Kaesong was a financial boon to the North Korean regime, and was shuttered by President Park. But Moon wants to re-open the spigot, flooding Pyongyang with cash to fund its missile and nuclear programs, and keep the gulag humming.
All of this sets up something of a conflict between South Korea and its stalwart ally, the United States. The Trump administration is pressuring other countries to crack down on North Korea, just as South Korea has elected a president who wants to do just the opposite. And President Trump has not made many friends in Korea since his inauguration, particularly by suggesting that Seoul should foot the bill for THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system that was recently installed there. (Moon, for his part, has said he’d like to reevaluate THAAD’s deployment, perhaps a rare agreement he can find with Trump.)

Peace is war. More froth:
Todd Royal: The election of Moon Jae-in could mean war in Asia (Asia Times)
Bradley K. Martin: Moon’s right-hand man former friend to the North (Asia Times)

A Document of General Principles and Policies (Hamas)

Palestine is a land that was seized by a racist, anti-human and colonial Zionist project that was founded on a false promise (the Balfour Declaration), on recognition of a usurping entity and on imposing a fait accompli by force.

Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders (AlJazeera)

Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one…
While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the takeover of all of mandate Palestine, including present-day Israel, the new document says it will accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their homes…
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, after winning elections and forcefully pushing its Fatah rivals out. Since then, Gaza has suffered three major Israeli assaults, whick killed more than 3,500 Palestinians, and a crippling 10-year-long siege…
Israeli officials rejected the document before it was made official, calling it an attempt by Hamas to trick the world into believing it was becoming a more moderate group.

Rawan Damen: The Price of Oslo (AlJazeera)
Nathan Thrall: Israel-Palestine: the real reason there’s still no peace (Guardian)

The possibility of a lasting deal seems as far away as ever – and the history of failed negotiations suggests it’s largely because Israel prefers the status quo.

Evan Dyer: Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate escapes from Canada’s terror list (CBC)

The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.
That complicates the task of prosecuting Canadians who travel to join the group, send it money or propagandize on its behalf.
It also illustrates the pitfalls of Canada following the lead of the U.S. in designating terror groups…
The United States put the group on its terrorist list in 2012, as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and Canada followed suit…
Al-Jawlani’s group remained loyal to the mother organization founded by bin Laden, and Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS have been at each other’s throats ever since. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition focused its bombing on Islamic State, not al-Nusra…
[I]n January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It altered its name, changing the word “Jabhat” (Front) to “Hay’at” (Organization), and “Fateh” (Conquest) to “Tahrir” (Liberation).
And yet HTS has not been designated in the U.S. Canada, which usually follows the U.S. listing closely, has also not listed the group.
The change is significant, and the U.S. State Department confirmed to CBC News that HTS members are no longer considered terrorists…
The reasons for the reluctance to list the new al-Qaeda formation may have to do with one of its new members, the Nour ed-Dine Zenki Brigade, a jihadi group from the Aleppo governorate.
The Zenki Brigade was an early and prominent recipient of U.S. aid, weapons and training…
For the U.S. to designate HTS now would mean acknowledging that it supplied sophisticated weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles to “terrorists,” and draw attention to the fact that the U.S. continues to arm Islamist militias in Syria.

Korea

Mike Whitney: The Problem is Washington, Not North Korea (CounterPunch)

Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country. Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation, prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.
Negotiations aren’t possible because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior. Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible. The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.
But the North has never succumbed to US intimidation and there’s no sign that it will. Instead, they have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves in the event that the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war.
There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea…
And let’s be honest, the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because (a)– The North does not sit on an ocean of oil, and (b)– The North has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields.

Bruce Cumings: This Is What’s Really Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Provocations (Nation)

It’s easy to dismiss Kim Jong-un as a madman. But there’s a long history of US aggression against the North, which we forget at our peril…
North Korea is the only country in the world to have been systematically blackmailed by US nuclear weapons going back to the 1950s, when hundreds of nukes were installed in South Korea… Why on earth would Pyongyang not seek a nuclear deterrent? But this crucial background doesn’t enter mainstream American discourse. History doesn’t matter, until it does—when it rears up and smacks you in the face.

This article briefly recapitulates the history of Korea since 1945:
Paul Atwood: Why Does North Korea Want Nukes? (CounterPunch)

Why has this tiny nation of 24 million people invested so much of its limited resources in acquiring nuclear weapons? North Korea is universally condemned as a bizarre and failed state, its nuclear posture denounced as irrational.
Yet North Korea’s stance cannot be separated out from its turbulent history during the 20th Century, especially its four decade long occupation by Japan, the forced division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, and, of course, the subsequent utterly devastating war with the United States from 1950-1953 that ended in an armistice in which a technical state of war still exists.

Amy Goodman, Juan González, Bruce Cumings, Christine Hong: Advocates Urge Trump to De-escalate with North Korea, Not Ratchet Up Threats & Military Aggression (Democracy Now)

Christine Hong: You know, I think what we’re witness to is a kind of revisionism, both with Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Tillerson. They’ve made comments that Obama’s policy of strategic patience is a thing of the past. And I think that that fundamentally misconstrues what the nature of strategic patience was. You know, as you mentioned in your opening description, Obama waged a campaign of cyberwarfare against North Korea. And so, you know, far from being a kind of kinder, gentler or even softer policy toward North Korea, Obama’s policy toward North Korea was, in point of fact, one of warfare…
Bruce Cumings: … It’s not only that, but each crisis is treated as if it has really no background. The fact is that American nuclear intimidation of North Korea goes back to the Korean War. After the Korean War, in 1958, we installed hundreds of nuclear weapons in the south, the first country to bring nuclear weapons onto the peninsula. And North Korea has, essentially, since the late 1950s, had to find a way to deter the U.S. from using those weapons. For decades, they built underground. They have something like 15,000 underground facilities of a national security nature. But it was inevitable that when threatened with nuclear weapons—and Chris is right: President Obama threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons many times by sending B-2 bombers over the south, dropping dummy bombs on islands and so on. It was just inevitable that North Korea would seek a deterrent.

David E. Sanger, William J. Broad: A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’ in North Korea / 朝鲜半岛上,一场慢镜头播放的古巴导弹危机 / En Corea del Norte se vive una crisis de los misiles como la de Cuba, pero en ‘cámara lenta’ (New York Times)

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.

Syria | Yemen | Brazil | Korea | Venezuela | USA | Palestine

Vijay Prashad, Juan González, Amy Goodman: Turkey’s Offensive Against ISIS & Press Crackdown is Really Just War on Kurds (Democracy Now)

As the United States backs a Turkish military incursion into Syria targeting ISIS-held areas along the border, Turkey says it’s also concerned about Syrian Kurdish militias at the border who are backed by the United States.

Vijay Prashad, Juan González, Amy Goodman: Yemen & Palestine: the Two “Ruthless” Bombing Campaigns (Democracy Now)

Yemen, since March of 2015, has been ruthlessly bombed. The poorest Arab country is being destroyed by the richest Arab country. And nobody has been able to properly criticize the Saudis, because they have been essentially backed by the United States, rearmed by them, etc.

Glenn Greenwald, Juan González, Amy Goodman: Complete Reversal of Democracy: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment (Democracy Now)

Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is slated to testify today at her impeachment trial—a trial that many are calling a coup by her right-wing political rivals. Rousseff has denounced the proceedings and called for early elections to unite the country. Rousseff’s impeachment stems from accusations she tampered with government accounts to hide a budget deficit. She was suspended earlier this year and has maintained her innocence, accusing her political opponents of spearheading the proceedings to shield themselves from prosecution and undo years of progressive policies. The Brazilian group Transparency Brazil says 60 percent of Brazilian lawmakers are currently under criminal investigation or have already been convicted of crimes ranging from corruption to election fraud. Rousseff’s opponents now need 54 votes, or two-thirds of the 81-seat Senate, to convict her of violating budget laws. Her impeachment would end 13 years of left-wing Workers’ Party rule in Brazil and bring to power interim President Michel Temer for the remaining two years of Rousseff’s term. Temer is also deeply unpopular and currently under investigation himself, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the state oil company Petrobras.

Glenn Greenwald, Juan González, Amy Goodman: As Bernie Sanders Condemns “Coup” in Brazil, Why Have Obama & Clinton Been So Silent? (Democracy Now)

Gregory Elich: THAAD Comes to Korea, But at What Cost? (CounterPunch)

The recent announcement that South Korea had agreed to deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on its territory marks an important advance in the Obama Administration’s militarized Asia pivot. The THAAD battery threatens to destabilize the military balance of power and draw South Korea into an anti-China alliance with the United States and Japan.
The decision came as the culmination of a long and determined campaign by U.S. political and military leaders to pressure the Park Geun-hye government into sacrificing its national interests and antagonize China, in order to serve U.S. geopolitical goals.

Glenn Greenwald: Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation? (Democracy Now)

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.”

Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman: Journalists Should Not Stop Scrutinizing Clinton Just Because Trump is Unfit for Office (Democracy Now)
Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman: Obama Has Bombed 7 Nations, But Clinton Claims He Has Not Been Militaristic Enough (Democracy Now)
Ben Norton: Arrest warrant issued for journalist Amy Goodman after reporting on Dakota Access oil pipeline protests (Salon)

North Dakota authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the prominent radio and TV journalist Amy Goodman, in response to her coverage of protests at the construction site for a massive oil pipeline…
Democracy Now exposed private security forces’ use of attack dogs and pepper spray. Footage captured by the news outlet show several guards intimidating and repressing protesters.
An activist told Goodman that one of the attack dogs bit another protester in the face. Democracy Now captured video of the dog with blood in its mouth and nose.

Sam Levin: North Dakota arrest warrant for Amy Goodman raises fears for press freedom (Guardian)

North Dakota police have issued an arrest warrant for the Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, who has been reporting on the Native American protests against an oil pipeline, accusing her of entering “private property” to conduct interviews.
The charges have raised concerns about possible free speech violations and press intimidation, since the Morton county sheriff’s office accused the award-winning broadcast journalist after Democracy Now! filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters.

Edgardo Lander: The implosion of Venezuela’s rentier state (PDF; Transnational Institute)

The main trigger of the crisis Venezuela is undergoing today – though obviously not its only cause – was the collapse in oil prices over the last three years. From US$100 per barrel in 2013, the average price of Venezuelan crude went down to US$88.42 in 2014 and US$44.65 in 2015, falling to its lowest level in February 2016, when it was worth just US$24.25. Far from accepting that an alternative to capitalism necessarily had to be a departure from the destructive development model of unlimited growth, and far from questioning the rentier petro-state model, the government of President Chávez intensified it to extremes unknown in the country’s previous history. Over the 17 years of the Bolivarian project, the economy became steadily more dependent on oil income. Without that income, it would not have been possible to import the goods required to meet people’s basic needs, including a wide range of items that used to be produced in Venezuela. During that time, welfare policy was seen as more of a priority than changing the economic model. Income poverty was reduced, but without altering the structural conditions that perpetuate exclusion.

DPA: Hamas Should Be Taken Off Terror List, EU Legal Adviser Says (Haaretz)

Decision to blacklist the Gaza group was improperly based on media reports, not a thorough investigation, Eleanor Sharpston claims ahead of European Court of Justice ruling on Hamas’ appeal.

Barak Ravid: EU Court Orders Hamas Removed From Terror List (Haaretz)

The General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg accepted the petition by Hamas in which it sought to have itself removed from the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.
The court postponed implementing the ruling for three months to allow for the EU commission or one of the EU’s 28 member states to petition the decision, which drew praise from Hamas and condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gideon Levy, Alex Levac: Before Firing at a Palestinian, the Israeli Sniper Asked: Where Do You Want to Be Shot? (Haaretz; also via Google News)

Four rounds of sniper fire hit Mohammed Amassi, a young Palestinian baker standing on the roof of his home in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp. As he tries now to recover from his wounds, he still remembers the mocking words of the soldier who shot him.

What Arab witnesses have said for decades is now confirmed by Israelis:
Aluf Benn: Israeli Soldiers Killed Dozens of POWs in Past War, Affair Was Hushed Up (Haaretz; also via Google News)

According to testimony obtained by Haaretz, captives were ordered to line up and turn around, before they were shot in the back. The officer who gave the order was released after serving seven months in prison, while his commander was promoted to a high-ranking post.

TTIP | Philippines | USA | Britain | Korea | Israel/Palestine | Austria

Greenpeace Netherlands releases TTIP documents (Greenpeace)

Today Greenpeace Netherlands releases secret documents of the EU-US TTIP negotiations. On www.ttip-leaks.org the documents will be made available for everyone to read, because democracy needs transparency.

Andrew Griffin: TTIP leak could spell the end of controversial trade deal, say campaigners (Independent)

Hundreds of leaked pages from the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) show that the deal could be about to collapse, according to campaigners.
The huge leak – which gives the first full insight into the negotiations – shows that the relationship between Europe and the US are stronger than had been thought and that major divisions remain on some of the agreement’s most central provisions.
The talks have been held almost entirely in secret, and most information that is known in public has come out from unofficial leaks. But the new pages, leaked by Greenpeace, represent the first major look at how the highly confidential talks are progressing…
They indicate that the US is looking strongly to change regulation in Europe to lessen the protections on the environment, consumer rights and other positions that the EU affords to its citizens.

Arthur Neslen: Leaked TTIP documents cast doubt on EU-US trade deal (Guardian)

Jorgo Riss, the director of Greenpeace EU, said: “These leaked documents give us an unparalleled look at the scope of US demands to lower or circumvent EU protections for environment and public health as part of TTIP. The EU position is very bad, and the US position is terrible. The prospect of a TTIP compromising within that range is an awful one. The way is being cleared for a race to the bottom in environmental, consumer protection and public health standards.”
US proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform its industries of any planned regulations in advance, and to allow them the same input into EU regulatory processes as European firms.
American firms could influence the content of EU laws at several points along the regulatory line, including through a plethora of proposed technical working groups and committees.
“Before the EU could even pass a regulation, it would have to go through a gruelling impact assessment process in which the bloc would have to show interested US parties that no voluntary measures, or less exacting regulatory ones, were possible,” Riss said.

Leak Confirms Fears: TTIP Is Huge US Threat to EU’s Sovereignty (teleSUR)

The TTIP is possibly the greatest U.S. threat to EU’s sovereignty warned a U.K.-based NGO as leaked documents obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory and the British newspaper the Independent confirmed that United States corporate power could have big sway over laws in the European Union if the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership goes through.

TTIP: UK Parliament ‘would not be able to stop NHS sell-off if treaty is passed (Belfast Telegraph)

The UK Parliament may not have the power to stop or reverse the privatisation of the NHS if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership passed at EU level, Unite has warned…
Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said that it was “a scandal” that MPs may not have the democratic power to stop TTIP, which she said “threatens the irreversible sell-off of our NHS”.
“The House of Commons will have the power to delay the trade deal but it would only be a matter of time before TTIP eventually slips through,” Ms Cartmail said.

TTIP: The terrible truth (Morning Star)

Every Time we get a look at the details of EU-US trade deal TTIP and its implications we come away disgusted.
Unelected, unaccountable EU bureaucrats are desperate to keep the inner workings of the treaty under wraps for the simple reason that it will be bad for everyone except big business.
That the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has only commissioned a single risk assessment of TTIP — and only one part of it, three years ago — suggests that officials don’t want to leave a record spelling out the truths that they deny so vigorously in public.

Larry Brown: The TPP: A Corporate Bill of Rights (teleSUR)

What we aren’t told by our governments is that these so-called trade deals are really not very much about trade at all. They are international corporate constitutions, aimed at limiting the ability of our governments to control transnational corporate behavior: an international Corporate Bill of Rights.

Pepe Escobar: NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed (RT)

Everything civil society across Europe – for at least three years – has been debating, and fearing, is confirmed; this is a sophisticated, toxic US-led corporate racket, a concerted assault across the spectrum, from the environment and animal welfare to labor rights and internet privacy. In a nutshell; it’s all about the US corporate galaxy pushing the EU to lower – or abase – a range of consumer protections…
Predictably, the lobbyist-infested European Commission (EC) fiercely defends TTIP, stressing it could benefit the EU’s economy by $150 billion a year, and raise car exports by 149 percent. Obviously don’t expect the EC to connect these “car exports” to a US-led GMO invasion of Europe.

Lorenz Niel Santos: As Filipinos vote for change, will they heed Aquino’s warning? (Asia times)

On Monday, Filipinos will choose their new leader. The question is will they listen to President Benigno Aquino III’s warning that a vote for frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would mean a vote for the possible return of dictatorship.
Aquino has been campaigning against Duterte saying he is showing signs of being a dictator. His mother, the late President Corazon Aquino led the people power revolution in the 80s and toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Josh Hoxie: American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware (CounterPunch)

Notably, few American names have been listed [in revelations from the Panama Papers] to date. That could change in revelations to come, but it also might not. States like Delaware offer very similar hands-off approaches to regulation that individuals and companies can exploit to hide their business dealings without going overseas.
One single address in Wilmington, for example — 1209 North Orange Street — is listed as the headquarters for 285,000 separate businesses exploiting Delaware’s lax laws. Indeed, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have firms registered in that two-story office building.
In fact, the Tax Justice Network ranks the United States third in the world for financial secrecy, behind only Switzerland and Hong Kong. Panama is No.13.

Margaret Kimberley: Dishonoring Harriet Tubman (CounterPunch)

The history of American presidents is one long tale of criminality and Andrew Jackson was one of the worst of the lot. Jackson grew rich on his Tennessee plantation made profitable by the unpaid labor of 200 enslaved people…
Jackson was perhaps more responsible than any other person for driving indigenous people out of the southern states. The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears were his handiwork…
With great fanfare the Treasury Department announced that new faces will appear on the $5, $10 and $20 notes. Currently George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin appear on the almighty dollar in the most commonly used denominations. With the exception of Abraham Lincoln it is a list of slave holders. Some, like Washington and Jackson, owned hundreds of people, Franklin and Grant a few, but they were all participants in one of the worst evils of human history. Alexander Hamilton gets false credit from popular culture as an abolitionist although he held slaves too. At first the public were told that Tubman would replace Jackson as the new face of the $20 bill. Instead she and Jackson will appear together and make an even greater mockery of her legacy.

David Wagner: When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh (CounterPunch)

Seymour Hersh’s The Killing of Osama bin Laden a pocket-size collection of stories written for the London Review and printed during the second Obama administration arrives at an awkward moment for the expatriate journalist who not so long ago was esteemed as the finest investigative reporter in the United States. Hersh now publishes abroad because his talent, though undiminished, no longer fits into the publication plans of the nation’s newspaper and magazine publishers. He has, it appears, failed to adapt to the times. His revelations about deceit and brute force in the conduct of foreign affairs that delighted his editors when he raised a torch over Dick Cheney lost its shine when he reported on President’s Obama’s not-so-different Cold War liberalism.

Anshel Pfeffer: Sadiq Khan’s Victory in London Is Also a Victory for a Different Style of Politics (Haaretz; also via Google News)

While Labour was mostly punished by Jewish voters outside of London, Khan’s proactive engagement with city’s Jewish community while also distancing from Corbyn earned him – more than his party – a landslide victory.
The first election of a Muslim politician to a prominent political position in Britain, actually in the entire western world, is in itself of course a historical event. As fears of the rise of populist and racist politicians and parties, from the left and the right, abound in both the United States and Europe, Sadiq Khan’s victory in London gives grounds for some optimism.

Aeyal Gross: Decision to Outlaw Islamic Movement Criminalizes Thousands (Haaretz; also via Google News)

There is no evidence that the northern branch was involved in terrorist activities; banning the organization will serve to radicalize Israeli Arabs [i.e. Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship].
The defense minister’s decision to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel is based on the Defense (Emergency) Regulations from 1945, a draconian Mandatory law and relic of the colonial era that gives state authorities far-reaching powers.

Mel Gurtov: Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea (Japan Focus)

North Korea has now been sanctioned five times by the United Nations Security Council for its nuclear and missile tests: resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and 2270 (2016). UNSC Resolution 2270 is the strongest one yet, spelling out in great detail the proscribed goods and requiring that all parties neither import them from nor export them to North Korea. Each resolution obliges the members to carry out the terms of the sanctions and (as the April 15 press statement of the UNSC says) “facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.” This is a case of mission impossible for two fundamental reasons: the sanctions will not work, and the fact of them impedes any chance for a “peaceful and comprehensive solution.”

Reuters: Migration crisis: Italians protest over Austria border fence plan (Guardian)

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Korea | Austria

Stephen Haggard: Tensions Update III: Talks (Peterson Institute for International Economics)
Stephen Haggard: Winners and losers – what the North Korean deal really means (Guardian)

Another whirl in the now familiar dance between the two Koreas has ended with Pyongyang expressing regrets over the wounding of South Korean soldiers, Seoul agreeing to halt anti-North propaganda broadcasts, and heavy sighs of relief around the world as war talk dies down.

71 refugees were found dead, suffocated in an abandoned refrigerated lorry in Austria.

Luke Harding: Police fear as many as 50 migrants dead inside lorry left by Austrian motorway (Guardian)

The badly decomposed remains were discovered on Thursday morning on Austria’s A4 motorway between Neusiedl and Parndorf. The truck had been abandoned on the hard shoulder of the road near Parndorf. It had apparently been there since Wednesday. The refugees, who appeared to have suffocated, died before they entered Austria, police said.

A Refugee Tragedy in Austria (New York Times)

The grim geography is this: As the route to Italy via Libya and the Mediterranean has become more difficult and costly, refugees have increasingly headed to Greece, trying then to reach Western Europe via the Balkans. So far this year, 181,000 have gained a first European foothold in Greece after crossing a narrow stretch of sea from Turkey. From there, they make their way across Macedonia and Serbia, rushing to cross the Hungarian border before it becomes impassable, and hope to proceed from there to Germany and other points in Western Europe…
Greece and Italy are overwhelmed. Serbia and Macedonia, which aspire to European Union membership, are struggling to cope.

In the Traiskirchen refugee camp near Vienna, the government has conciously created a humanitarian desaster as a pretext for further measures against refugees. At the camp, people are sleeping in buses and outside, they don’t get enough food, and sanitary conditions are appalling.

Austria refugee camp branded ‘shameful’ by Amnesty International (BBC)

The head of the Austrian branch of Amnesty International, Heinz Pazelt, told the BBC the conditions in Traiskirchen were “shameful”, particularly in a rich country like Austria.
He said hundreds of unaccompanied minors were being severely neglected.
“They are just left alone and have to survive there. They are the last ones who get to eat, and this is a really heavy human rights violation of the convention for children,” he said.
The Amnesty report (in German) says many of the problems could be easily dealt with if there was better cooperation between the federal government and the provincial authorities in Austria.

Hazel Southam: 80,000 will seek asylum in Austria in 2015 – and for many, this former barracks in Traiskirchen is the end of the road (Independent)

The centre is an old Army barracks that was intended to house around 1,000 people…Today 4,800 people are housed in this imposing cream-painted building in conditions that Amnesty International declared “inhumane” and “shameful” last week.
The camp at Traiskirchen is run by ORS, a Swiss firm, reputed to have earned some €21m (£15m) from the camp in the last four years.

Burundi | Korea | Israel/Palestine | Myanmar | Britain

Odomaro Mubangizi: Burundi: From ethnicized militarism to militant civilians (Pambazuka)

Burundi would not be much known had it not been for its recurrent ethnicized political conflicts since independence. It is a small country of about 27,834 square kilometres, with a high population density of about 300 people per square kilometre. Political violence seems to have set the tone for Burundi’s political landscape right from the early struggles for independence. In 1961, a year before independence, UPRONA party won legislative elections with Prince Louis Rwagasore, son of King Mwambutsya, appointed as Prime Minister. Unfortunately, Louis Rwagasora was assassinated a month later. Ethnic tensions flared. Burundi’s independence in 1962 was followed by political unrest leading to a coup attempt from 1965-1966. As a result of this failed coup the military took over the ruling party and the government effectively militarizing Burundi politics.

AP: South Korea test-fires missiles capable of striking all of North Korea (Guardian)

South Korea has successfully test-fired two domestically built ballistic missiles that can hit all of North Korea, officials said, amid continuing animosity between the countries over the North’s push to bolster its nuclear and missile capabilities.
The missiles, which have a reported range of more than 300 miles, were fired from a southern launch pad, said an official at Seoul’s defence ministry. President Park Geun-hye watched the launches, according to her office.
There was no immediate response from North Korea, which is heavily sanctioned for its past long-range rocket and nuclear tests and considers US and South Korean military drills and tests preparation for an attack.

Foday Darboe: Stopping the Violence in Burundi (Common Dreams)

With the recent mass political unrest and failed military coup against Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza–after he announced his run for an extraconstitutional third term–the African Union along with the United Nations appealed for ethnic harmony there. This addressed fears that weeks of political unrest could prompt another round of fight between Hutus and Tutsis in the center of Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Gideon Levy: Israeli propaganda isn’t fooling anyone – except Israelis (Haaretz; also via Google News)

‘Hasbara’ [“explaining”] is the Israeli euphemism for propaganda, and there are some things, said the late ambassador Yohanan Meroz, that are not ‘hasbarable.’ One of them is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
And propaganda shall cover for everything. We’ll say terrorism, we’ll shout anti-Semitism, we’ll scream delegitimation, we’ll cite the Holocaust; we’ll say Jewish state, gay-friendly, drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, aid to Nepal, Nobel Prizes for Jews, look what’s happening in Syria, the only democracy, the greatest army. We’ll say the Palestinians are making unilateral moves, we’ll propose negotiations on the “settlement bloc borders,” we’ll demand recognition of a Jewish state and we’ll complain that “there’s no one to talk to.”…
The policy of denial and disconnection from reality is rising to a dangerous level, and the illness is getting worse. When the world starts to show encouraging signs of stirring to action, Israel further entrenches itself in its imaginary reality and erects more and more separation barriers for itself.

Gideon Levy: The false arrest of Khalida Jarrar: Israeli ‘justice’ put to shame (Haaretz)

The charge sheet against the Palestinian legislator – in jail now for two months – ought to be studied in every law school: This is how you slap together false accusations and fabricate an indictment.
Here’s a case after which nobody will seriously be able to make any of the following five claims anymore: one, that Israel is a state of law; two, that the regime in its occupied territories isn’t a military dictatorship; three, that Israel has no political prisoners; four, that the military court system in the territories has any kind of connection, however weak, to law and justice; and five, in light of all of the above – that Israel is a democracy.
Does that sound overblown? Sometimes, one case suffices to prove a point.

A Kafkaesque perversion of military law: Khalida Jarar must be released now (Haaretz)

What’s the point of a military justice system if a court decision to release an accused is met with a threat by the prosecution to hold her without trial?
The continued incarceration of Palestinian parliament member Khalida Jarrar becomes increasingly outrageous. Here is a synopsis of this Kafkaesque occupation farce: The Israel Defense Forces tried to exile Jarrar to Jericho for six months because of her political activities in the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine…
After essentially canceling the order, the IDF decided to take revenge on Jarrar and ordered her held in administrative detention for six months without charges or trial. When the arbitrary arrest of the Palestinian elected official attracted protest from overseas, the Military Advocate General’s office decided to press charges against her.
The 12 counts in the indictment, as published by Gideon Levy in Haaretz, are nearly all hollow and ridiculous…
Jarrar, who has been behind bars for two months, is a legitimate parliamentarian chosen in a democratic election. She has a clean security record and her trial looks like an attempt to punish her for her political activity. What’s the point of a military justice system if a court decision to release an accused is met with a threat by the prosecution to hold her without trial? The whole indictment against Jarrar should be thrown out, but in any case she should be released from custody immediately.

Chaim Levinson: Torture of Palestinian detainees by Shin Bet investigators rises sharply (Haaretz; also via dlvr.it)

In the second half of last year, there were 51 instances of torture reported, compared to eight in the first half of 2014…
The Shin Bet is required to report to the court that torture were [sic] used, so that the judges will know what weight to give evidence gathered under such means. Defense attorneys are not allowed to make copies of the reports, but only to read them. The documents themselves are kept in a safe.
Until 1999, thousands of Palestinian prisoners were tortured every year. The Public Committee against Torture in Israel estimates that most Palestinians questioned experienced at least one kind of torture.
In September 1999, following a petition to the High Court of Justice, the court prohibited the systematic use of torture, but left a small opening to interrogators: An interrogator who used violence could claim after the fact that there was an “urgent need” to violate the law. Then-High Court President Aharon Barak left it to the discretion of the attorney general whether to press charges.
“Urgent need” is something that is decided in retrospect, if a complaint is filed, but in extreme cases permits to torture are still issued. The attorney general has set rules as to when “urgent need” is present, but these rules are not made public.

Peter Beaumont: Israel brands Palestinian-led boycott movement a ‘strategic threat’ (Guardian)

Israel and key international supporters have sharply ratcheted up their campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with senior Israeli officials declaring it a strategic threat.
Using language the Israeli government usually reserves for the likes of Hamas or Iran’s nuclear programme, senior figures – including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and a key backer in the US, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – have turned on the movement, which is prominent on university campuses and among international trade unions…
The non-violent grassroots movement, founded with the support of dozens of Palestinian organisations, is modelled on South African anti-apartheid campaigns and calls for an end to the occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and a resolution for Palestinian refugees of 1948.

Chemi Shalev: Netanyahu’s declaration of war on BDS is its first major victory (Haaretz)

The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement has just scored a tremendous victory.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a manifest in Jerusalem against the delegitimization of Israel and calls for a “wide front” to combat boycott, and then, within 24 hours, Sheldon Adelson convenes an emergency summit in Las Vegas to fight BDS on university campuses – as Nathan Guttman revealed in the Forward on Monday – BDSers can smugly tell themselves that they’ve finally made it. From a nuisance, perhaps even a danger, they have been elevated the status of existential threat, on a par, almost, with Iran and Hezbollah…
Regardless of background and cause, it’s hard to claim with a straight face that the cessation of the peace process, the death and destruction in Gaza, the campaign against African migrant workers, the Tel Aviv riots of Ethiopians, Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, and, perhaps, most injurious of all, his miserable appeal against Israeli Arabs on Election Day – that all these haven’t provided highly combustible gasoline to BDS propaganda in the past year alone.
And this, before we have mentioned the occupation, which will soon mark its 50th anniversary.

Ravid Hecht: Israel’s problem isn’t BDS – it’s the occupation (Haaretz; also via Google News)

One can object to boycotts. But sanctimonious wailing and the automatic posing as victims coated with the memory of the Holocaust won’t hide the fact that Israel is ruling over an entire other nation…
[M]ost Israelis — even if they fear territorial concessions for security reasons and don’t believe that a peace deal with the Arabs is sustainable — know that Israel is committing an injustice against civilians and denying them their freedom. They know that in the frequent rounds of violence, Israel kills thousands of innocent people as well as terrorists. They know that in a certain place under Israeli rule there is one legal regime for one nation (Israeli law for settlers) and a different one for another nation (military law for Palestinians)…
The hope that the Palestinians will quietly resign themselves to the settlements, happily content with the conditions imposed by the occupation, is unrealistic. What can we do if they impudently insist on resisting and striving for freedom, their natural right?

Amira Hass: Palestinian FIFA move hit an Israeli nerve (Haretz; also via Google News)

The bid pushed Israel into a state of constant tension and hinted at how much BDS efforts could hurt the Israeli public; but it also displays the Palestinian Authority’s logic of stagnation.

Gideon Levy: For the sins of occupation, boycotts are a light punishment (Haaretz; also via Google News)
Aeyal Gross: Apartheid in Israel is about more than just segregated buses (Haaretz, also via Google News)

What in a different situation would be considered apartheid is tolerated by many because it is ostensibly temporary. But the occupation has long stopped being temporary.

Sara Perria: Burma’s birth control law exposes Buddhist fear of Muslim minority (Guardian)

Nationalist monks are behind new powers enabling authorities to ‘organise’ family planning among groups with high birth rates such as Rohingyas.

Tariq Ali: Farewell to the United Kingdom (CounterPunch)

The British General election was dramatic. On the superficial level because three party leaders— Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal-Democrat) and Nigel Farage (UKIP—a racist, right-wing populist outfit)…resigned on the day following the Conservative victory. On a more fundamental level because the Scottish National Party took virtually all the Scottish seats (56 of 59) wiping out Labour as a political force in the region where it had dominated politics for over a century. Scotland was where the Labour Party was founded. Scotland it was that gave Labour its first leaders and Prime Minster (as well as the last one). Scottish working class culture was in most cases much more radical than its English equivalent.

Bill Quigley: Ten Shocking Facts About Baltimore (CounterPunch)

Were you shocked at the disruption in Baltimore? What is more shocking is daily life in Baltimore, a city of 622,000 which is 63 percent African American.

Greece | Korea | Ukraine | Thailand | Israel

Yanis Varoufakis: No Time for Games in Europe (New York Times, also via Google News)

The great difference between this government and previous Greek governments is twofold: We are determined to clash with mighty vested interests in order to reboot Greece and gain our partners’ trust. We are also determined not to be treated as a debt colony that should suffer what it must. The principle of the greatest austerity for the most depressed economy would be quaint if it did not cause so much unnecessary suffering.
I am often asked: What if the only way you can secure funding is to cross your red lines and accept measures that you consider to be part of the problem, rather than of its solution? Faithful to the principle that I have no right to bluff, my answer is: The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed. Otherwise, they would not be truly red, but merely a bluff…
We shall desist, whatever the consequences, from deals that are wrong for Greece and wrong for Europe. The “extend and pretend” game that began after Greece’s public debt became unserviceable in 2010 will end. No more loans — not until we have a credible plan for growing the economy in order to repay those loans, help the middle class get back on its feet and address the hideous humanitarian crisis. No more “reform” programs that target poor pensioners and family-owned pharmacies while leaving large-scale corruption untouched.

Helena Smith: Tsipras favours Greek jobless over creditors in defiant policy speech (Guardian)

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has announced his anti-austerity government programme in a defiant address that prioritised the jobless and destitute over international creditors who have lent the country more than $300bn (£200bn).

Paul Mason: Germany v Greece is a fight to the death, a cultural and economic clash of wills (Guardian)

Germany’s unwillingness to lead Europe is the old problem. The new problem is Germany’s demonstrable willingness to break up Europe. Pleas for the continent’s largest economy to expand state spending are met with the schwarze null policy: 0% budget deficits, imposed by law. Brazen acts of proxy warfare by the Kremlin are met with diplomatic dithering. The sight, on top of that, of large anti-Muslim demonstrations in this, the richest and most politically stable country in Europe, is now reviving hostility towards Germany way beyond Greece.

Jennifer Rankin, Larry Elliott: Greece bailout talks break down after Athens rejects ‘unacceptable’ eurozone demands (Guardian)

Talks between Greece and its eurozone creditors collapsed in disarray on Monday night, heightening concerns that the country is edging closer to a disruptive exit from the single currency…
Effectively presenting Greece with an ultimatum, the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers said Athens had until Friday to agree to maintain the current bailout under the auspices of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – something that Greece has said is unacceptable.

Would Park be President, had the election not been rigged? (Hankyoreh)

An appeals court’s ruling about election interference by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) provides judicial confirmation that there is a major problem with Park Geun-hye legitimacy as president of South Korea. This makes it clear that the 2012 presidential election was a rigged game and that Park was the greatest beneficiary…
Any politician – not to mention the leader of a country – must take responsibility for his or her words. Park should begin by apologizing for remarks she has made, such as when she belittled the case as a plot by the political opposition and denied that she had received any help from the NIS.
But Park’s remarks are not the only mistake that she made. The current administration pulled out all the stops to cover up the NIS’s assault on the constitution and to block all attempts to investigate that assault.

Kim Seon-sik: Former NIS director sentenced to prison for 2012 political interference (Hankyoreh)

Former National Intelligence Service director Won Sei-hoon, 64, was taken into court custody after an appeals ruling found him guilty of violating the Public Official Election Act by ordering agents from the psychological warfare division to carry out organized interference in the 2012 presidential election.
The court’s decision, which acknowledges Won’s enlistment of the NIS to influence the election results, is expected to have major political repercussions.

Michael Hudson: Ukraine Denouement (CounterPunch)

The fate of Ukraine is now shifting from the military battlefield back to the arena that counts most: that of international finance. Kiev is broke, having depleted its foreign reserves on waging war that has destroyed its industrial export and coal mining capacity in the Donbass (especially vis-à-vis Russia, which normally has bought 38 percent of Ukraine’s exports). Deeply in debt (with €3 billion falling due on December 20 to Russia), Ukraine faces insolvency if the IMF and Europe do not release new loans next month to pay for new imports as well as Russian and foreign bondholders.
Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko announced on Friday that she hopes to see the money begin to flow in by early March. But Ukraine must meet conditions that seem almost impossible: It must implement an honest budget and start reforming its corrupt oligarchs (who dominate in the Rada and control the bureaucracy), implement more austerity, abolish its environmental protection, and make its industry “attractive” to foreign investors to buy Ukraine’s land, natural resources, monopolies and other assets, presumably at distress prices in view of the country’s recent devastation.

Matthew Weaver, Alec Luhn: Ukraine ceasefire deal agreed at Minsk talks (Guardian)

Russian president Vladimir Putin was the first to announce the deal, saying: “We have agreed on a ceasefire from midnight 15 February.”
Putin added: “There is also the political settlement. The first thing is constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass. There are also border issues. Finally there are a whole range of economic and humanitarian issues.”

Simon Tisdall: Ukraine peace deal looks fragile in the extreme (Guardian)

Poroshenko insisted the accord did not grant autonomy to the rebel-held areas. The vexed questions of the extent of a demilitarised zone around the current and September frontlines, and the withdrawal of foreign (ie Russian) forces, were also apparently still up in the air. Nor did the Ukraine leader confirm Putin’s claim that Kiev had agreed to end its economic blockade of the Donbas region…
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Minsk announcements coincided with news that the IMF has agreed to help bail out almost bankrupt Ukraine to the tune of $17.5bn, part of an even bigger $40bn, four-year rescue package. Christine Lagarde, IMF chief, said the idea was to try and stabilise Kiev’s finances after nearly a year of war.

Freudian slip? CNN says Obama considers arming pro-US troops…in Ukraine (RT)

Social media is abuzz after CNN labeled Ukrainian forces involved in Kiev’s deadly military operation in the country’s southeast as “pro-US troops.” Online comments are calling it a Freudian slip, claiming it unmasks the true agenda behind the conflict.

Reuters: Thailand’s students defy military junta and call for return to democracy (Guardian)

Thai student protesters billing themselves as the “last group standing” in seeking to end military rule say they will openly defy what one leader called a tyrannical regime nine months after the army seized power.
Members of the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD), who come from different political and socio-economic backgrounds, present a quandary for the junta, which has branded public protests illegal but wants to maintain its core support, including from Bangkok’s middle class and business elite.
Some of the students support the “red shirt” grassroots movement of ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but others sympathise with the establishment that makes up the bulk of the junta’s support.

Student group condemns junta for trying student activist in military court (Prachatai)
AP: Thailand’s military junta forces cancellation of press freedom conference (Guardian)

The Zionist Union is the poor man’s Likud (Haaretz)

Anyone wishing to replace this government must first of all take a strong stand against the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state.
The election campaign waged by the Zionist Union belies the declarations of its leaders, Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who state their wish to replace the current government. The slogan “It’s us or him” was recently changed to “Only a sucker would vote for Netanyahu,” but the essential message remains unchanged: the problem with the Likud government lies in Benjamin Netanyahu’s personality, not in his destructive policies.
Livni and Herzog are marketing themselves as people who will do a better job than Netanyahu in carrying out the foreign and defense policies of the Likud, covered in a patina of empty promises such as “we’ll return money to the public” or “free land for an apartment of your own.”

Israel’s ban of Arab lawmaker from election is unjust / ההבדל בין זועבי למרזל (Haaretz, Hebrew version also via Google News)

Zoabi’s disqualification lacks all foundation. An Arab MK has fallen victim to a clause permitting the banning of a candidate or party expressing support for an enemy state or a terror group’s armed struggle. Actually, the clause was inserted to persecute Arab elected officials who express support for the Palestinian struggle against the occupation.
It’s no coincidence that the clause does not permit the disqualification of someone who has expressed support for other types of violence; for example, terror against Arabs. Regarding Zoabi’s infuriating remarks, even in the interview in which she refused to call the kidnappers of three Jewish teens terrorists, Zoabi noted that she did not support their actions. And she has expanded on her position many times since.

Gideon Levy: The most heinous crime in Israel is anti-Zionism / פשע ושמו אנטי־ציונות (Haaretz; Hebrew version also via Google News)

In today’s Israel, in which “leftist” is among the worst things to call someone, “non-Zionist” is entirely beyond the pale. Not that anyone knows what Zionism is today, but to say non-Zionist is to say treason. A land-stealing, field-burning settler is a Zionist, no question; one of the best. Even if he commits one of the most serious sins and calls for draft-dodging, he is still a Zionist.
Knesset member Haneen Zoabi (Balad) is a traitor, because she does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (The rightists who don’t recognize Israel as a democratic state are, of course, Zionist and therefore legitimate.) Israelis who are not willing to be part of that Zionism and are courageous enough to call themselves anti-Zionists are considered heretics, with everything that implies. They have horns. It as if saying no to that Zionism – to think that it constitutes ultranationalism and even racism; that it plunders, conquers and is hurtling toward apartheid – is an immoral, intolerable position to take.
The brainwashing has reached the point that anyone with the disease is thought not only to oppose the very existence of the state, but even to be calling for its destruction.

Blake Alcott: Why Jonathan Freedland Isn’t Fit to be the New Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian (CounterPunch)

Greece | Spain | France | Korea | Israel | Palestine

Catarina Príncipe: First Days, First Decisions (Jacobin)

Syriza has only been in power for a week, but debates are already raging inside and outside the party.

Serge Halimi: A modest and crazy dream (Monde diplomatique)

Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain offer a chance at change in Europe’s politics, possibly the only escape from a despair which is inflaming the nihilism and extremism that led to the events in Paris.

Renaud Lambert: Now can Podemos win in Spain? (Monde diplomatique)

Syriza in Greece has a natural ally in Spain’s Podemos, the leftwing party that grew out of the demonstrations of 2011 and challenges the political status quo.

Panagiotis Sotiris: A Strategy of Ruptures: Ten Theses on the Greek Future (Viewpoint)
Mehreen Khan: The biggest debt write-offs in the history of the world (Telegraph)

A small southern eastern European country has announced a widescale programme of debt cancellation. No, it’s not Greece, but Croatia.
The Croatian government will be wiping off the liabilities of around 60,000 of its poorest citizens in a move to provide a “fresh start” for its indebted low-earners and get the economy moving again.
Although much of the current debate among Europe’s policymakers seems to regard debt relief as the ultimate taboo, the move for a government to cancel their citizens’ liabilities, or for a sovereign to be forgiven by its creditors, is not nearly as unprecedented as we might think…
Following the end of WWII, the London Debt Agreement of 1953 saw the abolition of all of Germany’s external debt. The total forgiveness amounted to around 280pc of GDP from 1947-53, according to historian Albrecht Ritschl…
In the words of historian Ursula Rombeck-Jaschinski, Germany’s “economic miracle would have been impossible without the debt agreement.”…
Greece’s new government is pushing for a debt conference on the lines of that which saved Germany from its post-war abyss. At more than €300bn, the Syriza-led coalition wants a nearly half of its debt pile to be permanently wiped off. So far, the country’s Troika of creditors are not playing ball.

„Deutschland ist der größte Schuldensünder des 20. Jahrhunderts“ (Spiegel)

Deutschland hat im 20. Jahrhundert zwei Weltkriege begonnen, den zweiten davon als Vernichtungs- und Ausrottungskrieg geführt – und anschließend haben die Feinde die Reparationszahlungen ganz oder in beträchtlichem Umfang erlassen. Dass die Bundesrepublik ihre wirtschaftliche Blüte der Gnade anderer Völker verdankt, hat auch in Griechenland niemand vergessen.

Russia might bailout Greece – finance minister (RT)

Jan Erik Wetzel: Space shrinking for freedom of expression in South Korea (Open Democracy)

The right to freedom of expression in South Korea is under renewed attack. On 19 December, the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), finding it had violated the country’s “basic democratic order”. The court also ordered that all UPP lawmakers in the National Assembly should lose their seats.
The court found that the UPP had the “hidden objective of realising North Korean style socialism”, based on party activities which purportedly included “assemblies to discuss insurrection”. The court’s decision referred, among other things, to “acts of refusing the national anthem and not raising the national flag” as indicative that the UPP “advocates the positions of North Korea”…
The UPP judgment has to be seen in conjunction with the widened and arbitrary application of South Korea’s infamous National Security Law (NSL) over recent years, which has diminished the space for freedom of expression…
The latest clampdown involves two women who organised and talked about North Korea during a speaking tour in South Korea in November. The US national Shin Eun-mi was deported earlier this month for speaking positively about North Korea, while the South Korean citizen Hwang Seon was arrested on 14 January and has been charged under the NSL for causing “social confusion” by holding the talks, and praising the North Korean regime on YouTube and in blog posts.

Hyun Lee: A Korean American Housewife Confronts South Korea’s National Security Law (Japan Focus)

On January 10, after detaining her for questioning on charges of violating the National Security Law (NSL), South Korea deported U.S. citizen Shin Eun-mi and barred her from returning to the country for the next five years. For the past two months, the Korean American housewife made daily headlines in South Korea after her speaking tour on her travels to North Korea sparked controversy and became the target of right-wing attacks. At one of the events, the detonation of a homemade bomb forced the evacuation of 200 people. South Korean authorities interrogated Shin for more than 50 hours before deporting her and arresting activist Hwang Sun who emceed the speaking tour.
“The gap caused by national division runs very deep in South Korean society,” says Shin. Indeed, in a year, 2015, that marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula, the Park Geun-hye government seems intent on silencing all those who advocate peaceful unification. The deportation of Shin and the arrest of Hwang follow on the heels of South Korea’s dissolution of the opposition Unified Progressive Party and growing concerns about intensifying government crackdown on free speech. The South Korean Ministry of Justice recently announced that it will push to strengthen the controversial NSL to allow the Supreme Court to disband organizations it deems “anti-government.”

Houria Bouteldja, Malik Tahar Chaouch: The Unity Trap (Jacobin)

After the armed attack on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the political and media exploiters of the emotional reaction to these events made a catchphrase of the words “national unity.” In so doing, they masked the attack’s social and geopolitical causes, and began a witch hunt against anyone who refused to submit to their agenda.
The “war on terror” — a weapon of theirs based on the supposed defense of “freedom” against “obscurantism” and “barbarism” — thus serves to consolidate the social and political order that contributed to this violence in the first place. Indeed, it suppresses any struggles that challenge these structures — including the fight against Islamophobia.

Richard Seymour: Sandbox Security (Jacobin)

In France, police bravely defend liberal democracy from an eight-year-old boy.
That “free speech” again. French press brings us news of a little boy named Ahmed who “glorified terrorism,” and was duly shipped to the police by the teacher and head of school.
Apparently, when asked in class on January 8 if he was “Charlie,” he replied that he was not. He didn’t like Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons, and that his feelings were with the terrorists. “I am the terrorists, because I am against the cartoonists of the Prophet.”
The head of the school later apprehended Ahmed while he played in a sandbox, saying “stop digging in the sand, you will not find a machine gun there to kill us all with.” Subsequently, the boy’s father accompanied him to school on a couple of occasions, Ahmed being rather distressed and out of sorts by the treatment he was subjected to.
Then on January 21, the head of the school decided to press charges against the little boy and his father. The boy was reported to police for “glorification of terrorism,” and the father for “trespassing” when he accompanied the boy to the school. Both father and son were forced to report to the police station in Nice to answer these charges.

Shlomo Sand: A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe (CounterPunch)

[T]here exists a fundamental difference between challenging a religion or a dominant belief in a society, and that of attacking or inciting against the religion of a dominated minority. If, in the breast of ‘Judeo-Muslim’ [no less ridiculous than the Judeo-Christian label] society – in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf Emirates – there is a groundswell of protests and warnings against the dominant religion that oppresses workers in their thousands, and millions of women, we have the responsibility to support the persecuted protestors. Now, as one well knows, Western leaders, far from encouraging the would-be disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Middle East, maintain their total support to the religious regimes the most repressive.

Walden Bello: How the Left Failed France’s Muslims (CounterPunch)

The real breeding ground for extremism stems from the treatment of immigrant groups within Europe. Racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination have driven a generation of young migrants to radical movements as a solution to an absence of job prospects, poor education, deteriorated neighborhoods, lack of respect, and repeated bouts in jail. Ironically, the crackdown on these communities in the aftermath of the attacks could potentially escalate the problem.

Gideon Levy: A Labor win will only entrench the occupation / רק לא הרצוג (Haaretz)

On the most fateful issue, another term for Netanyahu would be a disaster, but a victory for Zionist Camp could be a worse disaster…
The Labor Party is the founding mother of the settlement enterprise; it never considered stopping it.
Its historical responsibility for the occupation is greater than Likud’s. The Labor troika of Golda Meir, Yisrael Galili and Moshe Dayan founded it, Shimon Peres continued it, and Herzog will go down the same path.

Gideon Levy: Zionist Camp reveals its true, racist face / המחנה הביזיוני (Haaretz)

The party that some hoped would defend Israeli democracy from attacks by the right wing has now joined the assault…
In the case of Zionist Camp it’s the decision to support the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) from running for the Knesset. With a left like this, we don’t need Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman anymore…
If Zionist Camp disqualifies Zoabi, a brave, authentic and legitimate candidate who hasn’t hurt a fly and who reflects the views of her voters, the Arabs of Israel and lovers of democracy will know: On this issue too, there is no difference between the right wing and this left wing…
But in its decision, Zionist Camp proved something much deeper and more significant: In Israel of 2015, Zionism and democracy cannot go hand in hand; there is an inner contradiction, inherent and unavoidable, between contemporary Zionism and the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, and there is of course also a deep contradiction between “Jewish” and “democratic.”
From that point of view, Zionist Camp has made a great contribution to the truth: There is no such thing as “Jewish” and “democratic.” In its decision, Zionist Camp has chosen “Jewish” at the expense of “democratic”: Zionist Camp knows that behind the decision to disqualify Zoabi is the transparent desire to remove all the “Zoabis” from the Knesset. There is no such thing as a democracy, where elected officials are prohibited from criticizing, as Zoabi is accused of doing, a member of their own people for serving in a police force that kills other members of their people.

Zeev Sternhell: Why the election in Israel will change nothing (Haaretz)

A radical change will not happen here as long as the present regime does not bring about a major national crisis. A failure such as Operation Protective Edge is not enough, since the heavy price of that conflict was paid primarily by the Palestinians.
Therefore, the realistic alternative lies in external intervention that will be massive enough to shake Israelis out of the placidity of their comfortable lives.
Only when everyone among us can feel the price of the occupation in their flesh, will the end to blue-and-white colonialism and apartheid come. Only when the economy is hit in a way that affects the overall standard of living, or when security is undermined as a result of a serious threat to American interests in the region, will the real treatment for eliminating the occupation and guaranteeing our future begin.

Mike Whitney: 40 Years of Economic Policy in One Chart (CounterPunch)

Growth of Real Hourly Compensation for Production/Nonsupervisory Workers and Productivity, 1948–2011
Is America in the throes of a class war?
Look at the chart and decide for yourself. It’s all there in black and white, and you don’t need to be an economist to figure it out.