USA | Britain | Palestine | Korea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.’”

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.