Wikileaks | Israel | Syria

A travesty of justice in the 51st state of Amerikkka:
Owen Bowcott, Ewen MacAskill: Sweden tried to drop Assange extradition in 2013, CPS emails show (Guardian)

Swedish prosecutors attempted to drop extradition proceedings against Julian Assange as early as 2013, according to a confidential exchange of emails with the Crown Prosecution Service seen by the Guardian.
The sequence of messages also appears to challenge statements by the CPS that the case was not live at the time emails were deleted by prosecutors, according to supporters of the WikiLeaks founder…
The newly-released emails show that the Swedish authorities were eager to give up the case four years before they formally abandoned proceedings in 2017 and that the CPS dissuaded them from doing so…
The CPS lawyer handling the case, who has since retired, commented on an article which suggested that Sweden could drop the case in August 2012. He wrote: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”.

Jonathan Cook: The UK’s Hidden Hand in Julian Assange’s Detention (CounterPunch)

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.
Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case…
In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of western liberals and leftists…
Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement…
One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.

Nadia Khomami: Julian Assange asks UK court to drop arrest warrant (Guardian)

Though Swedish prosecutors have dropped the investigation against him, Assange will be arrested if he leaves the building in Knightsbridge for breaching his former bail conditions in the UK.

Nadia Khomami: Judge refuses to withdraw Julian Assange arrest warrant (Guardian)

Handing down her judgment at Westminster magistrates court, the senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded by the argument from Assange’s legal team that it was not in the public interest to pursue him for skipping bail.
She said: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years…
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said before Tuesday’s hearing that the US government had made clear its intention to bring a prosecution against WikiLeaks.
“The UK FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] refuses to confirm or deny whether there is an extradition request for Mr Assange,” she said. “In our recent FoI challenge against the CPS […] the CPS refused to disclose certain material because it would ‘tip off’ Mr Assange about a possible US extradition request. It is time to acknowledge what the real issue is and has always been in this case: the risk of extradition to the US.”

Haggai Matar: A downed F-16 and an Iranian drone: The other side always started it (+972)

According to the Israeli narrative, the timeline of violence that resulted in Syria shooting down an Israeli fighter jet began just a few hours earlier. But Israel has been bombing inside Syria for months.

Joshua Leifer: Not just Ahed: Israel holding 300 Palestinian minors in prison (+972)

While the case of Ahed Tamimi has garnered international media attention, the Israeli military prison system’s treatment of Ahed and her mother is not unique. Israel Prison Service (IPS) statistics published by Israeli anti-occupation organization B’Tselem earlier in January reveal that Israel is holding over 300 Palestinian minors in prison. Over 180 of those minors are being held in detention until the end of legal proceedings, without having been convicted, like Tamimi.
According to IPS data handed over to B’Tselem, as of the end of November 2017 there were 5,881 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, of whom 1,775 were being detained until the conclusion of legal proceedings. Over 400 were administrative detainees, including three women and two minors (aged 16 and 18). Administrative detention is a measure Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and some Jews) indefinitely without charge or trial. It is meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. In practice, however, Israel uses administrative detention as a first, not last, resort.
In total, 2,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails without having been convicted of any crime.

Ayelet Shaked: Israel must safeguard Jewish majority (AlJazeera)

Israel must safeguard a Jewish majority even at the expense of human rights, the country’s justice minister has said in a speech defending a bill that would legally define Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people” for the first time.
Ayelet Shaked said on Monday that Israel must maintain both a Jewish majority and democracy, but stressed that keeping the state’s Jewish character may come “at the price” of human rights violations…
The bill states that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”.
It also demotes Arabic from an official language to a language with “special status”, even though it is the mother tongue of approximately 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of the state.

Brazil | Wikileaks | Israel

A very good article with background on Brazil:
Perry Anderson: Crisis in Brazil (London Review of Books)

The BRIC countries are in trouble. China, … Russia: under siege, … India: holding up best, but unsettling statistical revisions. South Africa: in free fall… Nowhere, however, have economic and political crises fused so explosively as in Brazil, whose streets have in the past year seen more protesters than the rest of the world combined.

Even more background, in Portuguese and published in July 2015:
André Singer: Cutucando onças com varas curtas – O ensaio desenvolvimentista no primeiro mandato de Dilma Rousseff (Novos Estudios, July 2015)
Democracy Now had a long interview with Noam Chomsky. They also talked briefly about Brazil.
Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky: Climate Change & Nuclear Proliferation Pose the Worst Threat Ever Faced by Humans | Today’s GOP is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human History (Democracy Now)

What’s happening in Brazil now is extremely unfortunate in many ways. First of all, there has been a massive level of corruption. Regrettably, the Workers’ Party, Lula’s party, which had a real opportunity to achieve something extremely significant, and did make some considerable positive changes, nevertheless joined the rest—the traditional elite in just wholesale robbery. And that should—that should be punished. On the other hand, what’s happening now, … is … a kind of a soft coup. The elite detested the Workers’ Party and is using this opportunity to get rid of the party that won the elections. They’re not waiting for the elections, which they’d probably lose, but they want to get rid of it, exploiting an economic recession, which is serious, and the massive corruption that’s been exposed. But as even The New York Times pointed out, Dilma Rousseff is maybe the one politician who hasn’t—leading politician who hasn’t stolen in order to benefit herself. She’s being charged with manipulations in the budget, which are pretty standard in many countries, taking from one pocket and putting it into another. Maybe it’s a misdeed of some kind, but certainly doesn’t justify impeachment. In fact, … we have the one leading politician who hasn’t stolen to enrich herself, who’s being impeached by a gang of thieves, who have done so.

Patrick Wintour: Sweden asks to meet Julian Assange inside Ecuador embassy (Guardian)

Ecuador has received a formal request from the Swedish authorities to interview Julian Assange, inside its London embassy, in a potential breakthrough to the long-running saga…
Ecuador has been asking throughout Assange’s stay that he be interviewed inside the embassy, and said it welcomed the apparent Swedish “change of heart, and signs of a new political will”.
Ecuador’s foreign minister, Dr Guillaume Long, said on Monday, …: “Interviewing Mr Assange inside the embassy has been Ecuador’s request for four years. Over 4,400 days we have been asking the Swedes to come and interrogate him in our embassy. So it is welcome there has been change of heart and some sign of political will.
“But since November 2010 and March 2015 Sweden made 44 such requests to other countries to interview suspects in other cases. So it is very common and could be easily done, but we faced total refusal for years.”

Andy McSmith: Ecuador must stop protecting Julian Assange and ‘bring case to a close’, says UK (Independent)

Jacob Kornbluh: Trump Says U.S. Should Consider Racial Profiling, Cites Israel as a Role Model (Haaretz)

‘You look at Israel and you look at others and they do it and they do it successfully,’ presumptive Republican nominee says, though it wasn’t immediately clear how the tactic should be employed.

‘If You Don’t Think Walls Work, Just Ask Israel,’ Says Trump (Haaretz)
Dan Williams: Israeli Minister Justifies Security ‘Profiling’ Hailed by Trump (Haaretz)

‘Ultimately these (security) apparatuses… must build a profile of characteristics as to where the danger comes from and locate it,’ Yisrael Katz tells foreign reporters.

Chemi Shalev: On Walls and Racial Profiling, Trump Damns Israel With Loud Praise (Haaretz)

One can argue whether Israel is or isn’t a light unto the nations, but it has certainly served as role model for Donald Trump in recent weeks. On Monday, Trump cited Israel’s “success” as a reason for American to rethink its attitude towards racial profiling. In the past, he has praised the efficacy of Israeli barriers in keeping out terrorists and illegal immigrants as an inspiration for the controversial wall he wants to build along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Israeli Court Rules to Keep Palestinian Clown in Jail Without Trial (Haaretz)

Mohammed Abu Saha’s arrest sparked an international campaign by circus performers for his release. Though no charges have been filed against him, Shin Bet claims he’s a member of the PFLP terrorist group.

USA/Canada | Greece | Libya | Syria | Egypt | Iran | Palestine

Adam Gabbatt: Thousands attend protests in Oakland (Guardian)
Dennis Bernstein: What the Cops Really Did in Oakland (CounterPunch)
Steve Stallone: Scenes From Oakland’s General Strike (CounterPunch)
Nikolas Kozloff: From Radical Past to Radical Present: Oakland’s General Strike (CounterPunch)
Vijay Prashad: Reform, My Ass: Mind the Gap (CounterPunch)

Between the sentiment at the Occupy encampments and the liberal wing of the Democratic establishment lies a moat unbridgeable even by the tallest trees. Between Occupy and the Republicans lies a universe.
What seems reasonable to the Democratic leadership in Washington and to their far-flung minions in the districts is a tepid negotiation with finance capital. The corridors of the White House might as well be renamed Wall Street: apart from the Banks’ errand-boy Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, there is the Chief of Staff, Bill Daley (previously on J. P. Morgan Chase’s Executive Committee where he was in charge of Corporate Responsibility) and there is newly hired Senior Campaign Advisor Broderick Johnson (recently lobbyist for Bank of America, Fannie Mae, J. P. Morgan Chase, and Keystone XL). These are the scum of Wall Street and Washington, emblems of the pay-to-play system and of Financial Power. To them, the Occupy movement is an irritant, and a potential liability come election time. (…)
The debate around demands bewilders. As Ruth Jennison and Jordana Rosenberg put it at Lenin’s Tomb, “What, after all, is a demand? That we liberate New York, or Oakland, or Cleveland from the grips of financiers? That we must have returned what was stolen from us and given to the banks and to the 1%? That we deserve to live a life free of police repression and violence? That we want an end to imperialist projects and wars, and the restoration of social services and education? If any of our hesitation to demand comes from a fear of losing, let’s look around us and see how strong we are. For the first time in a lifetime.” After the remarkable General Strike in Oakland, that strength is now before us. It is true that struggles like these do not follow a text-book, and that it is in the fight that we learn how to fight, as Rosa Luxemburg put it a century ago. And it is also the true that in the heat of these struggles, slogans emerge that germinate programs and agendas. It is time for us to agglomerate these and throw them in the face of Order.

David Harvey: The Party of Wall Street Meets its Nemesis (Verso)

The Party of Wall Street has ruled unchallenged in the United States for far too long. It has totally (as opposed to partially) dominated the policies of Presidents over at least four decades (if not longer), no matter whether individual Presidents have been its willing agents or not. It has legally corrupted Congress via the craven dependency of politicians in both parties upon its raw money power and access to the mainstream media that it controls. Thanks to the appointments made and approved by Presidents and Congress, the Party of Wall Street dominates much of the state apparatus as well as the judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, whose partisan judgments increasingly favor venal money interests, in spheres as diverse as electoral, labor, environmental and contract law. (…)
Americans believe in equality. Polling data show they believe (no matter what their general political allegiances might be) that the top twenty percent of the population might be justified in claiming thirty percent of the total wealth. That the top twenty percent now control 85 percent of the wealth is unacceptable. That most of that is controlled by the top one percent is totally unacceptable. What the Occupy Wall Street movement proposes is that we, the people of the United States, commit to a reversal of that level of inequality, not only of wealth and income, but even more importantly of the political power that such a disparity confers. The people of the United States are rightly proud of the their democracy, but it has always been endangered by capital’s corruptive power. Now that it is dominated by that power, the time is surely nigh, as Jefferson long ago suggested would be necessary, to make another American revolution: one based on social justice, equality and a caring and thoughtful approach to the relation to nature.

Sean Antrim: The October Revolution (Mainlander / rabble.ca)
Paul Weinberg: The Face of Imperialism: An interview with Michael Parenti (rabble.ca)

Paul Craig Roberts: A Farce and a Sham: On Western Democracy (CounterPunch)

Aijaz Ahmad: Libya recolonised (Frontline)

No credible evidence has ever emerged to support Obama’s claim that a massacre (of up to 100,000) was imminent in Benghazi, and no massacres ensued in the rebellious cities and towns that Qaddafi’s troops did occupy in the earlier stages of the fighting. On the contrary, there is incontrovertible evidence of massacres at the hands of NATO’s mercenaries. Neighbouring countries, such as Niger, Mali and Chad, have reported the eviction of some three lakh* black African residents from Libya as NATO’s local allies and clients rolled on towards Tripoli under the devastating shield of NATO’s own 40,000-plus bombings over large parts of Libya. Together with these mass evictions of workers and refugees from neighbouring countries – whom the Qaddafi regime had welcomed to make up for labour shortages in an expanding economy – there are also credible reports of lynchings and massacres of black Libyans themselves. The scale of these depredations is yet undetermined but it is already clear that upwards of 50,000 have died as a result of the war unleashed by NATO with the collusion of the Security Council, and half a million or more have been rendered homeless, mostly at the hands of NATO-armed “rebels” who have now been appointed as the new government of the country. Neither the Security Council nor NATO commanders nor, indeed, President Obama – the first black President in the history of the U.S. and himself the son of a Kenyan father – has seen it fit to take up the “responsibility to protect” these hapless people, most of them black Africans, even though several heads of African states have protested, including the very pro-U.S. President of Nigeria.

* one lakh (lākh लाख) = 100,000
Vijay Prashad: Ruthless theatre (Frontline)

With the fall of Tripoli and the execution of Qaddafi at a small cost to the NATO states themselves, new armed adventures have commenced across Africa: more drone attacks in Somalia, U.S. special forces in Uganda, and a green light to the Kenyan armed forces to enter Somalia. The A.U. remains prone. It is likely that given a reasonable interval, the U.S. will ask the new Libyan authorities for access to land to build a base and bring the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to the continent (it is currently based in Stuttgart, Germany, since no African country has welcomed it). These developments are buoyed on the back of the Libyan model of intervention – minimal, but deadly NATO and U.S. armed attacks, with proxy forces given licence to act as they wish.

Franklin Lamb: Libya’s Liberation Front Organizing in the Sahel (CounterPunch)

John Cherian: Next, Syria (Frontline)

Jack Shenker: Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah accuses army of hijacking revolution (Guardian)
Call-Out for Solidarity with Egypt: Defend the Revolution (MRzine)
Eric Walberg: Topple Their Debts: Egypt and the IMF (CounterPunch)

Mark Weisbrot: Obama prepara guerra com Irã (Folha de São Paulo / CEPR) / Obama Administration Escalates Confrontation With Iran: Why? (Center for Economic and Policy Research)
Ewen MacAskill, Harriet Sherwood: Is the US heading for war with Iran? (Guardian)
Nick Hopkins: UK military steps up plans for Iran attack amid fresh nuclear fears (Guardian)

Robert Fantina: A Tale of Three Countries: The US, UNESCO and Palestine (CounterPunch)

It is telling that, despite the warning in advance of the vote that the U.S., which provides 22% of Unesco funding, would withdraw all funding, 107 member nations voted to accept Palestine (14 opposed and 52 abstained). Despite clear international consensus, the U.S. and 13 other nations, including, of course, Israel, attempt to buck the trend.

Medea Benjamin, Robert Naiman: Challenging the Blockade: Jailed for Sailing to Gaza (CounterPunch)

Binoy Kampmark: The Next Phase: Extraditing Assange (CounterPunch)