USA | Russia | Israel/Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Must Stop the Torture (Haaretz via Google News)

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

Brazil | Austria | Greece | Myanmar | Poland | Israel

Glenn Greenwald: Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal Is Installed. (Intercept)

In 2002, Brazil’s left-of-center Workers’ Party (PT) ascended to the presidency when Lula da Silva won in a landslide over the candidate of the center-right PSDB party (throughout 2002, “markets” were indignant at the mere prospect of PT’s victory). The PT remained in power when Lula, in 2006, was re-elected in another landslide against a different PSDB candidate. PT’s enemies thought they had their chance to get rid of PT in 2010, when Lula was barred by term limits from running again, but their hopes were crushed when Lula’s handpicked successor, the previously unknown Dilma Rousseff, won by 12 points over the same PSDB candidate who lost to Lula in 2002. In 2014, PT’s enemies poured huge amounts of money and resources into defeating her, believing that she was vulnerable and they had finally found a star PSDB candidate, but they lost again, this time narrowly, as Dilma was re-elected with 54 million votes.
In sum, PT has won four straight national elections — the last one occurring just 18 months ago. Its opponents have vigorously tried — and failed — to defeat it at the ballot box, largely due to PT’s support among Brazil’s poor and working classes.

Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman, David Miranda: New Political Earthquake in Brazil: Is It Now Time for Media Outlets to Call This a “Coup”? (Intercept)

Brazil today awoke to stunning news of secret, genuinely shocking conversations involving a key minister in Brazil’s newly installed government, which shine a bright light on the actual motives and participants driving the impeachment of the country’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. The transcripts were published by the country’s largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, and reveal secret conversations that took place in March, just weeks before the impeachment vote in the lower house was held. They show explicit plotting between the new planning minister (then-senator), Romero Jucá, and former oil executive Sergio Machado — both of whom are formal targets of the “Car Wash” corruption investigation — as they agree that removing Dilma is the only means for ending the corruption investigation. The conversations also include discussions of the important role played in Dilma’s removal by the most powerful national institutions, including — most importantly — Brazil’s military leaders.

Jonathan Watts: Brazil minister ousted after secret tape reveals plot to topple President Rousseff (Guardian)

Planning minister Romero Jucá was recorded saying ‘We have to change the government’ as the only means to stop a sweeping corruption investigation

Rubens Valente: Em diálogos gravados, Jucá fala em pacto para deter avanço da Lava Jato (Folha de S. Paolo)
Temer é recebido no Senado com vaias e gritos de “golpista” (Vermelho)

Kate Connolly, Jon Henley: Far-right candidate narrowly defeated in Austrian presidential election (Guardian)

A leftwing independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state, squeaking home by a tiny margin as the country’s new president after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat.
Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old retired economics professor backed by the Austrian Green party, defeated his far-right opponent Norbert Hofer only after 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of the available votes – were taken into account.

Simon Tisdall: Far right surge in Austria signals end of centrist politics-as-usual (Guardian)

If ostracism is not on the cards then outright opposition or direct engagement seem to be the remaining alternatives

Sharmini Peries, Michael Hudson: The Financial Invasion of Greece (Real News Network)

IMF’s concern about Greek debt is bogus, this is full scale financial war, forcing Greece give up ports, pensions, properties and much more

Stavros Mavroudeas: Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece (CounterpUnch)

The new late night deal in the Eurogroup on the new bailout for Greece is another blatant hypocrisy by the dominant European Union powers, their partner-cum-competitor IMF (aka the US) and the Greek establishment (now represented by the SYRIZA government).
The new deal is an uneasy compromise subject to a continuing tug-of-war between the US (through its proxy, the IMF) and the EU.
Together, the EU and the US obliged the now crumbling (because of people’s anger) SYRIZA government to capitulate to the troika austerity policies as encapsulated in the now three Economic Adjustment Programs for Greece. These programs aggravated the depression of the Greek economy, caused a rampant immiserisation of the Greek people and expanded the control of Western capitals on the Greek economy.

Poppy McPherson: ‘No Muslims allowed’: how nationalism is rising in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar (Guardian)

Concerns grow that Buddhist extremism may flourish unless country’s new democratic leaders counter discrimination against minorities…
The few public comments Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has given on the issue have not been encouraging.
Suu Kyi reportedly instructed the new US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya…
The fact that nationalist rhetoric has gone unchallenged, and has in some cases been echoed, by the new government has left some wondering what place the country’s minorities have in its future.

Jon Emont: Does Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi Want To Push Her Country’s Muslims Into the Sea? (Tablet)

In the run-up to the vote, Suu Kyi’s NLD purged its candidate roster of all Muslim candidates, including non-Rohingya Muslim Burmese who were legally allowed to participate, in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to neutralize hardline Buddhist and nationalist critics of her party…
U Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya lawyer and prominent dissident who has spent years in and out of prison for defending Rohingya rights and currently lives in a humble house in Thet Key Pyin camp, said the situation facing the Rohingya “is a kind of ethnic cleansing.”…
There are about 1.1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar, which makes them roughly 2 percent of the country’s population. Myanmar is ethnically heterogeneous but overwhelmingly Buddhist, and the Muslim Rohingya, descendants of traders who have lived in Rakhine state, on the border with Bangladesh, for centuries, are labeled as Bengalis by the state, regardless of how many generations their families have resided in Myanmar. State discrimination against the Rohingya was enshrined in the Burmese citizenship law of 1982, which did not recognize Rohingya as an indigenous race to Myanmar, rendering the majority of Rohingya stateless…
The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that around 50,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since January 2014…
In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Suu Kyi categorically denied that ethnic cleansing was taking place in Rohingya and attempted to explain the fear that many Burmese Buddhists brought against Muslims. “There is a perception that Muslim power, that global Muslim power, is very great. And certainly that is the perception in many parts of the world and in our country too.”

So Aung San Suu Kyi’s position is nothing new:
Sara Perria: Why is Aung San Suu Kyi silent on the plight of the Rohingya people? (Guardian)

Burma’s opposition leader appears to be cowed by her need to dampen ethnic tensions and win votes from an electorate in the thrall of Islamophobia

NATO arrests Mateusz Piskorski, the Polish Leader of the Opposition | NATO zatrzymało lidera polskiej opozycji Mateusza Piskorskiego (Voltaire)
Witch Hunt On? Poland Gets Its 1st Political Prisoner (Sputnik)

Mateusz Piskorski, the leader of the Zmiana (Change) party was arrested by officers from Poland’s Interior Defense Agency (ABW) after they raided his Warsaw home, seizing computers and documents. The homes of several other party members were also searched.
Piskorski, known for his pro-Russian views, was charged with spying for “third countries” as pro-government media accused him of working for Russian and Chinese intelligence services…
Piskorski’s arrest followed his warning that the Polish government was “cleaning” the political space of the country of unwanted elements in the run-up to a NATO summit to be held in Warsaw on July 8 and 9.

Mateusz Piskorski: The war against historical memory is NATO’s long-term campaign (Voltaire)

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: The petroyuan is the big bet of Russia and China | Россия и Китай ставят на нефтеюань по-крупному (Voltaire)

After the economic sanctions that the United States and the European Union imposed against Russia, Moscow and Beijing put together an imposing energetic team that has radically transformed the world oil market. In addition to increasing their interchange of hydrocarbons exponentially, both oriental powers have decided to put an end to the domination of the dollar in fixing the prices of the black gold. The petroyuan is the instrument of payment of strategic character that promises to facilitate the transition to a multipolar monetary system, a system that takes various currencies into account and reflects the correlation of forces in the current world order.

Israelis Will Pay Dearly for Their Prime Minister’s Reckless Appointment (Haaretz)

It’s hard to imagine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a more reckless and irresponsible decision than appointing Avigdor Lieberman defense minister.
For the second time since the last election Netanyahu had to choose between the Zionist Union and the extreme right, and once again he chose to veer right and establish an ideological, racist coalition that aims to entrench the occupation, expand the settlements in the territories, oppress the Arab minority and undermine Israeli democracy.

Gideon Levy: With Lieberman as Defense Minister, Israelis Should Head for the Bomb Shelters (Haaretz; also via Google News)

The State of Israel in the hands of someone who could destroy it: a man who threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam and sees Israel’s Arab citizens as the enemy…
For the first time in Israeli history, fascism is a clear and possibly present danger. True, Menachem Begin’s election as prime minister evoked similar fears, as did the appointment of Ariel Sharon as defense minister. But those were other times, when Israeli society still had immune mechanisms, a system of checks and balances. They were eliminated long ago. Now the state is in the hands of someone who could destroy it.

Jonathan Lis: Outgoing Defense Minister Ya’alon: Extremists Have Taken Over Israel (Haaretz)
Israel Has Been Infected by the Seeds of Fascism, Says ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak (Haaretz)
A Death Penalty Only for Palestinians (Haaretz)

There are so many reasons to oppose capital punishment. But Avigdor Lieberman’s attempt to adopt it is particularly odious.

Glenn Greenwald: Interview With BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: Banned by Israel From Traveling, Threatened With Worse (Intercept)

Anyone who purports to believe in free speech rights should be appalled by Israeli behavior.