USA | Refugees | Iraq | Syria | Japan | Israel

T. J. Coles: “Confronting China”: John Pilger Talks about His New Film, America’s ‘Pivot to Asia’, and the Role of Japan and Australia (Plymouth Institute for Peace Research)

The Coming War on China is my 60th film and perhaps one of the most urgent. It continues the theme of illuminating the imposition of great power behind a facade of propaganda as news. In 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’ of US forces: almost two-thirds of American naval power would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific by 2020.
The undeclared rationale for this was the ‘threat’ from China, by some measure now the greatest economic power. The Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, says US policy is to confront those ‘who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us’…
China is encircled by a ‘noose’ of some 400 US bases, yet the news has ignored this while concentrating on the ‘threat’ of China building airstrips on disputed islets in the South China Sea, clearly as a defence to a US Navy blockade.

Alan Travis: Calais’s refugee children are sleeping rough because of Tory policy (Guardian)

As 100 children spend the night outside following the camp clearance, observers count the cost of Theresa May’s tough stance

Amelia Gentleman: More than 1,000 children left in Calais camp, say charities (Guardian)

Charities in Calais have said that more than 1,000 children remain in shipping containers in the demolished camp, with inadequate food and water supplies and no information provided about their future.

Dakota Acces Pipeline (Democracy Now)

Democracy Now! coverage of resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. If completed, the $3.8 billion pipeline would carry about 500,000 barrels of crude per day from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield to Illinois. The project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of nearly 100 more tribes from across the U.S. and Canada.

Sam Levin: Over 120 arrested at North Dakota pipeline protests, including journalists (Guardian)

North Dakota police arrested more than 120 people over the weekend at Native American oil pipeline protests, including film-makers and journalists, prompting accusations that law enforcement officials are stifling free speech and using excessive force against peaceful protesters.
There were increasingly tense clashes between police and demonstrators against the Dakota access pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is a threat to its water supply and cultural heritage.

Sam Levin: North Dakota arrest warrant for Amy Goodman raises fears for press freedom (Guardian)
Sam Levin: Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest (Guardian)

Authorities had issued a warrant for her arrest after Democracy Now! host filmed guards for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters

Larry Buhl: Destruction of Sacred Burial Grounds Prompts Federal Judge to Protect Some Tribal Sites from Dakota Access Pipeline (Desmog)
Sam Levin: Guards for North Dakota pipeline could be charged for using dogs on activists (Guardian)
Steve Horn: Security Firm Running Dakota Access Pipeline Intelligence Has Ties to U.S. Military (CounterPunch)
David Marchese: Amy Goodman on Why the North Dakota Pipeline Standoff Is Only Getting Worse (New York)

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Luciana Bohne: Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam (CounterPunch)

In classical mythology, the Acheron [Ἀχέρων / Ἀχερούσιος] is one of the rivers of the Underworld. It marks the boundary between the living and the dead. The ferryman Charon ferries the dead across the Acheron to a place where they lose memory. Nothing of what made them human remains—happiness, suffering, love, hatred, guilt, regret, redemption, betrayal, forgiveness…
“In May 2012, President Barack Obama and the Pentagon announced a Commemoration of the Vietnam War to continue through 2025, the fiftieth anniversary of the conflict’s end. Among the Commemoration’s objectives, three stand out: ‘to thank and honor’ veterans and their families . . . ‘to highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during’ the war; and to ‘recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies’.”

John Pilger: Inside the Invisible Government: War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump (CounterPunch)

Imagine two cities.
Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people.
But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory. There is scant mention of civilian casualties.
In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.
The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media centre that is funded by Britain and America.
Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the bad guys, condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city.
Confusing? Not really. Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia. One is good; the other is bad.
What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003.

Martin Fackler: Sinking a bold foray into watchdog journalism in Japan (Columbia Journalism Review)

“In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,” said Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. “We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”
Abe and his supporters on the nationalistic right seized on missteps by the Asahi in its coverage of Fukushima and sensitive issues of World War II-era history to launch a withering barrage of criticism that the paper seemed unable to withstand. The taming of the Asahi set off a domino-like series of moves by major newspapers and television networks to remove outspoken commentators and newscasters.
Political interference in the media was one reason cited by Reporters Without Borders in lowering Japan from 11th in 2010 to 72nd out of 180 nations in this year’s annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

John Pilger: Provoking Nuclear War by Media (CounterPunch)

The exoneration of a man accused of the worst of crimes, genocide, made no headlines. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it. The Guardian allowed a brief commentary. Such a rare official admission was buried or suppressed, understandably. It would explain too much about how the rulers of the world rule.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has quietly cleared the late Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, of war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica.

Jonathan Lis: Coalition Chairman Threatens to Strip Citizenship of Israeli Activist Who Criticized Occupation at UN (Haaretz)

In a further escalation of the backlash against the anti-occupation nonprofit B’Tselem after it addressed the UN Security Council, the chairman of the coalition said Friday that he will seek to have the citizenship of the group’s CEO revoked.
Likud lawmaker David Bitan told Channel 2 that B’Tselem head Hagai El-Ad’s remarks were an “explicit breach of trust by an Israeli citizen against the state, and as such he should find himself another citizenship.”

Thailand | Brexit | Ethiopia | Israel/Palestine

Giles Ji Ungpakorn (ใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์ [tɕaj ʔɯ́ŋpʰaːkɔːn]): King Pumipon (Bhumibol) of Thailand (Uglytruth Thailand)

King Pumipon (p̣hūmiphala ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช [pʰuːmípʰon]) of Thailand was a weak and characterless monarch who spent his useless and privileged life in a bubble, surrounded by fawning, grovelling, toadies who claimed that he was a “god”… His life’s work was in self-enrichment, support for military regimes and the defence of inequality. He played a significant role in preventing democratic rights, the development of social justice and the fair and unbiased use of the law. He did this by legitimising all the worst government policies and atrocities committed by Thai rulers. In recent years he remained silent while more and more dissidents were jailed, under the draconian lèse majesté law, for merely speaking out against the destruction of democracy.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn: Wachiralongkorn should not be the future king. Thailand should be a republic (Uglytruth Thailand)
Thailand’s heir apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn raises fears – and eyebrows (Guardian)

Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (มหาวชิราลงกรณ [máhǎː wáʨʰíraːloŋkɔːn]), a three-times divorced playboy who made his pet poodle an air chief marshal in the Thai military, poses perhaps the biggest challenge for both the country’s monarchists and its ruling junta in coming weeks, following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

AFP: Who is Thailand’s 96-year-old regent? (Asia Times)

Former general and prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda (เปรม ติณสูลานนท์ [preːm tinnásǔːlaːnon]) … stormed up the army ranks during the Cold War and was promoted above his seniors to army chief in 1978.
Two years later, he assumed power in what was widely viewed as a silent coup endorsed by the king and queen…
Prem later led the Privy Council of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej — who died last Thursday after a 70-year reign — making him the monarch’s closest adviser and gatekeeper…
Both as prime minister in the 1980s and later as head of the Privy Council, Prem cemented the military’s self-designated role as protector of the monarchy through his remarkable relationship with Bhumibol.
“He was able to make the military into a mechanism for the monarchy but keep the military as a powerful institution in Thai politics,” Paul Chambers, an expert on Thailand’s military, told AFP…
Since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has seen 12 successful military coups.
Prem has instigated or had a hand in five of them, said Chambers.
The most recent came in 2014, toppling the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of telecoms billionaire and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was himself ousted in a 2006 coup.

Alison Smale, Thomas Fuller: Thailand Looks to Likely Future King With Apprehension (New York Times)
Reuters: Thai royal defamation cases jump since king’s death (Asia Times)

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has moved quickly to quash any uncertainty around the royal succession, saying Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would ascend the throne after a period of mourning that he had requested.
Insulting the monarch, the regent or the heir, known by the French-language term “lèse-majesté”, is a crime in Thailand that carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years for each case.
Police spokesman Kitsana Pattanacharoen said there had been 12 lèse-majesté cases since last Thursday, with arrest warrants issued for eight suspects and four already in police custody.
“Their crime was posting messages or pictures which insulted the monarchy on social media,” he told Reuters.
There were 70 cases in the two-and-a-half years from a May 2014 coup up to last Thursday, said Weerawat Somnuek, a researcher at Thai legal monitoring group iLaw.

Colombia referendum: Voters reject Farc peace deal (BBC)

Voters in Colombia have rejected a landmark peace deal with Farc rebels in a shock referendum result, with 50.2% voting against it.
The deal was signed last week by President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez after nearly four years of negotiations.

Mona Mahmood and Emma Graham-Harrison: Mosul civilians brace for assault as Iraq forces bid to retake Isis stronghold (Guardian)

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are bracing themselves for the start of an Iraqi army campaign to retake Mosul from Isis, which they fear will bring “the whole world” to fight over their city.
Militants have banned civilians from leaving the city, and have set up checkpoints on roads out and blown up the homes of those who do flee as punishment and to deter others.

Patrick Cockburn: This Battle for Mosul Will Not Be the Last (CounterPunch)

The Iraqi government and its allies may eventually capture Mosul from Isis, but this could be just a new chapter in the war.
It will only win because of the devastating firepower of the US-led air forces and sheer weight of numbers. But the fight for the city is militarily and politically complex. The Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia Hashd al-Shaabi and Sunni fighters from Mosul and Nineveh province, which make up the anti-Isis forces, suspect and fear each other almost as much as they hate Isis.

Tallha Abdulrazaq: Mosul will fall again, but at great cost (AlJazeera)

The battle for Mosul will be long and the city’s remaining 1.5 million civilians will bear the brunt.

Robert Fisk: After Mosul Falls, ISIS will Flee to Syria. Then What? (CounterPunch)

Syria’s army and Hezbollah and Iranian allies are preparing for a massive invasion by thousands of Isis fighters who will be driven out of Iraq when Mosul falls. The real purpose behind the much-trumpeted US-planned “liberation” of the Iraqi city, the Syrian military suspect, is to swamp Syria with the hordes of Isis fighters who will flee their Iraqi capital in favour of their “mini-capital” of Raqqa inside Syria itself.

Gary Leupp: An Urgently Necessary Briefing on Syria (CounterPunch)

Thomas Mountain: Revolutionary Islam and Regime Change in Ethiopia (CounterPunch)

With ethnic uprisings spreading across an Ethiopia now ruled by martial law there is only one nationally based organization in place to lead the eventual regime change in the country and that is the revolutionary Islamic movement.
Presently all the liberation resistance movements in Ethiopia are ethnically based with their senior leadership in exile, mainly in neighboring Eritrea. The only organization with a national presence is the revolutionary Islamic religious community, whose recently freed leaders have sworn to liberate Ethiopia from the western backed Tigrayan ethnic minority regime presently ruling the country.

Samir Amin: Brexit and the EU Implosion: National Sovereignty—For What Purpose? (Monthly Review)

The defense of national sovereignty, like its critique, leads to serious misunderstandings once one detaches it from the social class content of the strategy in which it is embedded. The leading social bloc in capitalist societies always conceives sovereignty as a necessary instrument for the promotion of its own interests based on both capitalist exploitation of labor and the consolidation of its international positions.

Chris Welzenbach: The Dreadful Chronology of Gaddafi’s Murder (CounterPunch)

Gideon Levy: Peace Is Justice, and Justice Doesn’t Need a Partner (Haaretz, behind pay wall; also via Google News) / אין פרטנר (Haaretz; also via Google News)

Israel is not in a position to demand a partner in order to end the occupation. It must end the occupation. It has no right to make demands before doing so.

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.

India | Syria | Gabon | Black Lives | Germany | Yemen

Millions of Indian workers strike for better wages (AlJazeera)

Thousands of state-run banks, government offices and factories shut as workers rally against Modi’s economic policies…
Union officials said about 180 million workers, including state bank employees, school teachers, postal workers, miners and construction workers, were participating, but the figure could not be independently verified.

Kareem Shaheen: Turkey sends tanks into Syria in operation aimed at Isis and Kurds (Guardian)

Turkey has launched a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border in a coordinated campaign with Syrian opposition fighters, who seized an Islamic State-held village in the area in the first hours of fighting.
The operation, called Euphrates Shield, has a dual purpose: to dislodge Isis from Jarablus, its last major redoubt on the 500-mile border, and to contain the expansion of Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Ismail Akwei: Gabon’s parliament set on fire as riots break out amid calls to publish results (africanews)

Gabon’s parliament has been set on fire on Wednesday after rioters stormed the capital Libreville and other cities in protest against election results.
The riots started immediately after Gabon’s Minister of Interior announced last Saturday’s election results declaring incumbent president Ali Bongo the winner.

A vision for Black lives: Policy demands for Black power, freedom & justice (Movement for Black Lives)

Black humanity and dignity requires black political will and power. In response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally, a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country have come together with renewed energy and purpose to articulate a common vision and agenda. We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.

Robin D. G. Kelley: What Does Black Lives Matter Want? (CounterPunch)

On August 1 the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of over sixty organizations, rolled out “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” an ambitious document described by the press as the first signs of what young black activists “really want.” It lays out six demands aimed at ending all forms of violence and injustice endured by black people; redirecting resources from prisons and the military to education, health, and safety; creating a just, democratically controlled economy; and securing black political power within a genuinely inclusive democracy. Backing the demands are forty separate proposals and thirty-four policy briefs, replete with data, context, and legislative recommendations…
“A Vision for Black Lives” was not a response to the U.S. presidential election, nor to unfounded criticisms of the movement as “rudderless” or merely a hashtag. It was the product of a year of collective discussion, research, collaboration, and intense debate, beginning with the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland last July, which initially brought together thirty different organizations. It was the product of some of the country’s greatest minds representing organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG)…
The result is actually more than a platform. It is a remarkable blueprint for social transformation that ought to be read and discussed by everyone. The demands are not intended as Band-Aids to patch up the existing system but achievable goals that will produce deep structural changes and improve the lives of all Americans and much of the world.

Philip Oltermann: Angela Merkel’s party beaten by rightwing populists in German elections (Guardian)

Angela Merkel has suffered a sobering defeat in regional elections in her constituency of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, with her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) coming third behind the Social Democrats (SPD) and the rightwing populists Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
Projections late on Sunday night saw the centre-left SPD on 30.5%, the anti-immigration AfD on 20.9%, and the chancellor’s centre-right CDU suffering its all-time lowest result in the eastern state, on 19%. Earlier this year, the CDU had looked like the party most likely to be tasked with forming the next government in the state.

Johannes Stern: German Luftwaffe begin NATO patrols over the Baltic / Deutsche Luftwaffe patrouilliert wieder über dem Baltikum (World Socialist Website)

The return of German troops to Eastern Europe is part of the preparations for war against Russia adopted in early July at the NATO summit in Warsaw. These include the deployment of four additional battalions, each with at least 1,000 troops, to the Baltic States and Poland (Germany will take over command of the battalion in Lithuania), the establishment of a NATO missile defence system in Eastern Europe and a further shifting of the most powerful military alliance in the world in the direction of the Russian border.
All these measures increase the risk of direct conflict with nuclear-armed power Russia…
If one of the Baltic states ruled by far-right, anti-Russian parties, provokes a conflict with Russia, Germany is pledged to wage war against Russia.

Patrick Martin: The most unpopular candidates in American history (World Socialist Website)

The contest between the militaristic Clinton and the fascistic Trump has alienated tens of millions from the corporate-controlled two-party system.

Bill Van Auken: New York Times launches McCarthyite witch-hunt against Julian Assange (World Socialist Website)

The New York Times Thursday published an article entitled “How Russia Often Benefits When Julian Assange Reveals the West’s Secrets.” The 5,000-word piece, covering three columns of the top half of its front page, boasts three bylines. Presented as a major investigative news article, it is a piece of pro-government propaganda, whose style and outright character assassination against the WikiLeaks founder seems to have been cribbed from the vilest McCarthyite smear jobs of the 1950s.

Peter Symonds: RAND Corporation lays out scenarios for US war with China / „Das Undenkbare denken“: USA entwerfen Szenarien für Krieg gegen China (World Socialist Website)

A new study by the RAND Corporation titled “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable” is just the latest think tank paper devoted to assessing a US war against China. The study, commissioned by the US Army, provides further evidence that a war with China is being planned and prepared in the upper echelons of the American military-intelligence apparatus.

America Is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen (New York Times)

A hospital associated with Doctors Without Borders. A school. A potato chip factory. Under international law, those facilities in Yemen are not legitimate military targets. Yet all were bombed in recent days by warplanes belonging to a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, killing more than 40 civilians.
The United States is complicit in this carnage. It has enabled the coalition in many ways, including selling arms to the Saudis to mollify them after the nuclear deal with Iran. Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace.

Alex Emmons: The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High the Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals (Intercept)

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, after Houthi rebels took control of the capital and forced Yemen’s Saudi-backed leader, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, into exile. The United Nations has since attributed the majority of the war’s 6,500 deaths to the Saudi coalition, which the U.S. and U.K. have resupplied with tens of billions of dollars of weapons.

Thailand | South Africa | Venezuela | Israel | USA

Giles Ji Ungpakorn [ใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์ tɕāj ʔɯ́ŋ.pʰāː.kɔ̄ːn]: Junta’s referendum on authoritarian constitution neither free nor fair (Ugly Truth Tailand)

The Thai junta’s so-called “referendum” on its authoritarian constitution is not a genuine democratic referendum. It is being conducted in a climate of fear, bullying and harassment. Those wishing to oppose the constitution and campaign for a “No Vote” have been constantly arrested and thrown in jail and their literature confiscated. Even neutral meetings to discuss the constitution have been banned. Independent media have been raided by soldiers. The military controlled media is giving a one-sided, pro-junta view of this appalling constitution and soldiers are being sent into communities to “explain” the “benefits” of the constitution to the public…
This retched draft constitution should be rejected because it is drawn up by people who have contempt for democracy and contempt for most citizens. This is reflected in the ridiculous “prologue” which also justifies and white-washes all the actions of the military junta. There are a number of measures which increase the powers of military appointed bodies over elected governments and parliament. It allows for a non-member of parliament to become Prime Minister in certain circumstances and there is a special additional question in the referendum which asks if people would like the parliament and senate to vote together to appoint someone from the junta to be the Prime Minister after the first elections. Of course the senate is to be fully appointed by the junta. In addition, the formula for determining the number of members of parliament favours the Democratic Party.
The constitution is the most neo-liberal constitution ever drafted in Thailand. At a stroke it turns the clock back and virtually abolishes the universal health care scheme and the right to free secondary education. It also entrenches Theravada Buddhism at the expense of other beliefs.

Reuters: Thailand referendum gets under way as military seeks to cement power (Guardian)

Yes vote on new constitution backed by junta would hand control of senate to commanders, granting them a veto on decisions by elected lawmakers

Emma Graham-Harrison: Voters deliver stinging rebuke to ANC in South African election (Guardian)

South Africans have delivered a stinging rebuke to the ANC, handing the party its first major election setback since it swept to power after the end of apartheid over two decades ago.
Frustrated with a stagnant economy, a 25% unemployment rate and corruption allegations against Jacob Zuma, the president, voters in local elections turned away from the ruling party in their millions and it has been defeated in two of the three cities where it faced the strongest challenge.
The ANC is likely to claim a slim overall majority when final results are announced, but it has lost control of Port Elizabeth, an industrial city on the south coast, and Pretoria, the capital.

Eva María: Why “Twenty-First-Century Socialism” Failed (Jacobin)

The Bolivarian Revolution improved millions of lives, but it was never able to fundamentally challenge the logic of capital.

Chip Gibbons: The Repression Lists (Jacobin)

For decades, the state has used lists like the no-fly list to expand its power and harass political dissidents.

Andy Wilcoxson: The Exoneration of Milosevic: the ICTY’s Surprise Ruling (CounterPunch)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milošević was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
In a stunning ruling, the trial chamber that convicted former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadžić of war crimes and sentenced him to 40 years in prison, unanimously concluded that Slobodan Milošević was not part of a “joint criminal enterprise” to victimize Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war…
The Karadžić trial chamber found that “the relationship between Milošević and the Accused had deteriorated beginning in 1992; by 1994, they no longer agreed on a course of action to be taken. Furthermore, beginning as early as March 1992, there was apparent discord between the Accused and Milošević in meetings with international representatives, during which Milošević and other Serbian leaders openly criticised Bosnian Serb leaders of committing ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the war for their own purposes.”

Eugen Hardt: Rojava: „Taktisches Bündnis“ mit US-Imperialismus führt zur Niederlage (Linke Zeitung)

Syria | Refugees | Portugal | Srebrenica

Mark Galeotti: Why did it take Turkey just 17 seconds to shoot down Russian jet? (Guardian)

Even if Turkey is right that a Russian fighter jet strayed into its airspace, the plane was within Ankara’s borders for just 17 seconds before being attacked – and was making no hostile moves against the Turks.
Airspace incursions, granted usually in less politically tense contexts, happen all the time, and generally you’d expect warning shots to be fired and then attempts to force the intruder to leave or to land…
In 2012, the Syrians shot down a Turkish jet which had entered its airspace, and Erdoğan’s furious response at the time was that “a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.
(At the time, the then Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms”. There hasn’t been a similar critique of Ankara.)

Mike Whitney: Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border (CounterPunch)

Sahra Wagenknecht: Refugee Crisis: The Result of Western Wars and Destabilization (Monthly Review)

Everyone is talking about refugees, but why isn’t anyone talking about the reason why they have to leave their homes? What is happening in the Middle East is no natural disaster. The refugee crisis is a direct result of a policy of destabilization and war.

Conn Hallinan: Portugal: the Left Takes Charge (CounterPunch)

Portugal’s elections saw three left parties—the Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, and the Communist/Green Alliance take 62 percent of the vote and end the rightwing Forward Portugal Party’s majority in the 230-seat parliament. Forward Portugal is made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party.
Even though Forward Portugal lost the election—it emerged the largest party, but garnered only 38 percent of the votes—Silva allowed its leader, former Prime Minister Passos Coelho, to form a government. That maneuver lasted just 11 days. When Coelho introduced a budget loaded with austerity measures and privatization schemes, the left alliance voted it down, forcing the government to resign.

Edward S. Herman, David Peterson: Vulliamy and Hartmann on Srebrenica: A Study in Propaganda (Monthly Review)

After having stoked the civil wars and violent dismantling of Yugoslavia of 1991-1995, the United States—with the help of the ICTY—stoked a crisis in Kosovo which it used to force a war against Serbia, a war which enabled the U.S.-led NATO bloc to occupy Kosovo and later separate it from Serbia, and left Serbia a crushed and subservient state. The construction and use of the ICTY to demonize Serbs was part of the war-making plan, as the ICTY called for refusing to negotiate a settlement with, and pursuing as criminals, Serb targets.

Greece | Inequality | Israel/Syria | France | Australia | Torture | Nicaragua | Ukraine

Tariq Ali: Greece’s Fight Against European Austerity (CounterPunch) / Ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ να αντιμετωπίσει τους Έλληνες ολιγάρχες, την μαφία των εφοπλιστών και την Εκκλησία (Νόστιμον ήμαρ)

If SYRIZA wins it will mark the beginnings of a fightback against austerity and neo-liberalism in Europe. Two concurrent processes will be in motion from the beginning of the victory. There will be a strong attempt by the EU elite led by Germany to try and tame SYRIZA via a combination of threats and concessions. The aim of this operation is simple. To try and split SYRIZA at a very early stage.

Welcome, Sýriza! / Willkommen Syriza (Anti-Imperialist Camp)

Sýriza will very soon be faced with a choice: either they turn into a prized reseller of some prettified austerity and transmogrify with lightning speed into a new Pasók – that would be the choice of the European social-democrats. Or they leave the Greeks in no doubt and prepare the people for a violent clash with the EU oligarchy, a clash with an undecided outcome.

Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis: Greece: Phase One (Jacobin)

Syriza was set up by several different organizations in 2004, as an electoral alliance. Its biggest component was Alexis Tsipras’s party Synaspismos — initially the Coalition of the Left and Progress, and eventually renamed the Coalition of the Left and of the Movements — which had existed as a distinct party since 1991. It emerged from a series of splits in the Communist movement.
On the other hand, Syriza also comprises much smaller formations. Some of these came out of the old Greek far left. In particular, the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), one the country’s main Maoist groups. This organization had three members of parliament (MPs) elected in May 2012. That’s also true of the Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA), which is from a Trotskyist tradition, as well as other groups mostly of a Communist background. For example, the Renewing Communist Ecological Left (AKOA), which came out of the old Communist Party (Interior).

Paul Krugman: Ending Greece’s Nightmare (New York Times)

To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission — extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions…
If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.
… Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.

Larry Elliott, Ed Pilkington: New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1% (Guardian)

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%…
Oxfam said the wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009 and 2014, and that there was an increasing tendency for wealth to be inherited and to be used as a lobbying tool by the rich to further their own interests. It noted that more than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches, while 20% have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11% in the 12 months to March 2014.
These sectors spent $550m lobbying policymakers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571m in campaign contributions.

Hayden Cooper: Israeli airstrike kills six Hezbollah fighters in Syria’s Golan Heights, including son of former commander (ABC)

An Israeli airstrike inside Syria has killed six members of the Hezbollah military force, including the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh.
The deaths were announced after an Israeli helicopter conducted a strike near Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Israel Joins Forces With ISIS? Tel Aviv Bombs Syria for Sixth Time in 18 months (21st Century Wire)

Under direct pressure from the US, UN Security Council members do not appear to be willing to suggest sanctions, or hold Israel responsible in any way for any its repeated attacks against its neighbors, for fear of what misfortunes and diplomatic difficulties might befall them. As a result, Israel has been acting with impunity in the region. Since 2006, Israel has conducted several air strikes on Syria. Below is a description of those attacks:
Al Quneitra (18 January 2015) – Missile attack near the Golan Heights, killing 6 Hezbollah and Iranian anti-ISIS soldiers, including one al Quds commander.
Damascus and Dimas attack (7 December 2014) – Alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria against a warehouse of advanced S-300 missiles, which were en route to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Missile Strike at Golan Heights (23 September 2014) – IDF Patriot Missile battery shot down a Syrian MIG21, allegedly because it violated Israeli airspace.
Beqaa Valley airstrike (24 February 2014) – Two airstrikes against an alleged Hezbollah missile base in Lebanon near the border with Syria.
2nd Latakia attack (26 January 2014) – Alleged Israeli airstrike against a Syrian warehouse of S-300 missiles.
Snawbar airstrike (30 October 2013) – Alleged Israeli airstrike at an air defense site in Snawbar.
Latakia explosion (5 July 2013) – Alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian depot containing Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles.
Airstrikes on Syria (3-5 May 2013) – Airstrikes on Syria against alleged long-ranged weapons sent from Iran to Hezbollah.
Jamraya airstrike (30 January 2013) – Alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian convoy allegedly transporting weapons to Hezbollah. Other sources stated the targeted site was a military research center in Jamraya responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons.
Operation Orchard (6 September 2007) Israeli airstrike on a ‘suspected’ nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. The Israeli and U.S. governments imposed virtually total news blackouts immediately after the raid that held for seven months.
Ain es Saheb airstrike (5 October 2003) – Israeli Air Force operation against an alleged Palestinian militant training camp in Ain es Saheb, Syria.

Israel’s pre-election aerial bombing (Haaretz)

The examples are many, and they cut across party lines: the escalation in retaliatory actions prior to the 1955 Knesset election; the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981; Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon in 1996; Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008; Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in 2012; and on Sunday the helicopter attack in Syria “attributed to Israel” was added to the list. All of these operations require advanced preparations. There will always be the explanation that the enemy was the one to start it and that Israel was only responding to a provocation or heading off a greater danger. In any event, however, it is difficult not to get the impression that politicians tend to take risks and approve military action with greater ease when some of the polls paint a gloomy picture over their standing with the voters.

Tal Niv: The Israeli general who spoke the truth about the Syria strike’s timing (Haaretz)

Thank you very much, Yoav Galant, for one thing: that you spoke the truth. Thanks for saying that it’s possible that the timing of Sunday’s assassination of six Hezbollah militants, including Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the slain Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh, could be connected with the current Israeli election campaign (or as you put it, “not unconnected”).

Nathan Thrall: Rage in Jerusalem (London Review of Books)

What the government of Israel calls its eternal, undivided capital is among the most precarious, divided cities in the world. When it conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem and the West Bank – both administered by Jordan – in 1967, Israel expanded the city’s municipal boundaries threefold. As a result, approximately 37 per cent of Jerusalem’s current residents are Palestinian. They have separate buses, schools, health facilities, commercial centres, and speak a different language…
All Jerusalemites pay taxes, but the proportion of the municipal budget allocated to the roughly 300,000 Palestinian residents of a city with a population of 815,000 doesn’t exceed 10 per cent… More than three-quarters of the city’s Palestinians live below the poverty line…
Restrictive zoning prevents Palestinians from building legally. Israel has designated 52 per cent of land in East Jerusalem as unavailable for development and 35 per cent for Jewish settlements, leaving the Palestinian population with only 13 per cent, most of which is already built on. Those with growing families are forced to choose between building illegally and leaving the city. Roughly a third of them decide to build, meaning that 93,000 residents are under constant threat of their homes being demolished.

Ben Doherty: Manus Island detention centre at risk of another riot as 500 join hunger strike (Guardian)

Manus Island detention centre is on the verge of another riot, with more than 500 men now joining a mass hunger strike and at least two men having stitched their lips together.
Water pumps at the centre have broken, meaning there is no access to running water for showers.
The 1,000 men in detention and staff have been given bottles of water to shower with, and staff have been told they cannot shower, flush toilets, or wash their clothes. It could be weeks until water is restored.

Glenn Greenwald: France arrests a comedian for his Facebook comments, showing the sham of the west’s “free speech” celebration (Intercept)

Forty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, and then this morning, arrested him for that post on charges of “defending terrorism.” …
The arrest, so soon after the epic Paris free speech march, underscores the selectivity and fraud of this week’s “free speech” parade. It also shows why those who want to criminalize the ideas they like are at least as dangerous and tyrannical as the ideas they targeted.

Zack Whittaker: Europe’s answer to France terror ‘attack on free speech’ is greater Internet censorship (ZDnet)
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic: France arrests 54 for anti-Semitism and backing terror (Irish Times)

In a message sent to all prosecutors and judges, the justice ministry laid out the legal basis for arresting those who defend the attacks that killed 17 people in three incidents in Paris last week. The circular also covers those responsible for racist or anti-Semitic words or acts…
The ministry said it was issuing the order to protect freedom of expression from comments that could incite violence or hatred. It said no one should be allowed to use their religion to justify hate speech…
[T]he government [is planning] its response to the attacks, which is expected to include broader laws on phone tapping and other intelligence gathering…

Stéphane Kovacs: Attentats : 54 interpellations pour apologie du terrorisme (Le Figaro)

Les premières condamnations, lundi, ne les ont pas dissuadées. La garde à vue de Dieudonné, ce mercredi, non plus. Depuis l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo il y a une semaine, pas moins de 54 personnes sont visées par une procédure pour apologie du terrorisme ou menaces verbales d’actions terroristes. Trente-sept procédures, précise le ministère de la Justice, concernent l’apologie du terrorisme et 17 des menaces.

Ann Telnaes: France’s free speech double standard (Washington Post)

The French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala was arrested for posting a Facebook comment appearing to condone terrorism. He wrote “I’m feeling Charlie Coulibaly”, in a reference to gunman Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages in a Kosher supermarket in Paris on January 9th.

Kim Sengupta: Locking up Muslims for extreme views turns prisons into recruitment pools (Independent)

Muslims make up 70 per cent of France’s prison inmates despite being only eight per cent of the population.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi: Guantánamo Diary (Guardian)
Oh Canada …
Murtaza Hussain: Prison Dispatches from the War on Terror: Former Child Gitmo Detainee Going Blind (Intercept)

Nearly 13 years after he was first captured as a child soldier in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr remains behind bars in a Canadian prison where he is losing his remaining eyesight, according to his lawyer.

Jonathan Watts: Land of opportunity – and fear – along route of Nicaragua’s giant new canal (Guardian)

In an era of breathtaking engineering feats, there is unease about what this mega project will mean for people and their homes, wildlife and ecosystems. Will it bring wealth and growth or confusion and destruction?

Reuters: North Korean defector changes story after seeing father in video (Guardian)
AFP: UN dismisses North Korea’s claim that damning human rights report is invalid (Guardian)

Shaun Walker: Kiev ‘punishes’ civilians in Donetsk with travel permits and drugs blockade (Guardian)

Turkey | Russia | Venezuela | Israel

Patrick Cockburn: Whose side is Turkey on? (London Review of Books)

In September, Isis turned its attention to the two and a half million Syrian Kurds who had gained de facto autonomy in three cantons just south of the Turkish border. One of these cantons, centred on the town of Kobani, became the target of a determined assault. By 6 October, Isis fighters had fought their way into the centre of the town. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan predicted that its fall was imminent; John Kerry spoke of the ‘tragedy’ of Kobani, but claimed – implausibly – that its capture wouldn’t be of great significance…
But the inevitable Isis victory at Kobani didn’t happen. On 19 October, in a reversal of previous policy, US aircraft dropped arms, ammunition and medicine to the town’s defenders. Under American pressure, Turkey announced on the same day that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga safe passage from northern Iraq to Kobani; Kurdish fighters have now recaptured part of the town.

Elke Dangeleit: Kurden erklären Gleichberechtigung der Frauen (Telepolis)

Die kurdischen Kämpferinnen der YPJ und PKK spielen eine Vorreiterrolle in der Frauenemanzipation im Nahen Osten.

Vasily Koltashov, Boris Kagarlitsky: Will Putin abandon eastern Ukraine’s rebels? (Links) / Кто понесет голову Путина (cassad.net)

It seems that Russian authorities have found a way towards accommodation with the West. Liberals have become more powerful and are leading the talks. They are ready to make concessions and see no problem in the sacrifice of Novorossiya, and, if necessary, even Russia’s own interests. There’s just one remaining question: who will remove the Russian president’s head and present it on a platter to the USA? …
In the autumn world oil prices sank unexpectedly sharply. In mid-October the price of a barrel of “black gold” fell to US$85. Russia’s economic situation worsened swiftly, but no one in the government intends changing course. Although, in effect, precisely that course — long before the economic sanctions pushed Russia to its own economic sanctions — is the fundamental reason for the current difficulties…
Sanctions imposed by the USA, EU and other governments have proven to be effective. But it was not this that undermined the economy, but because they scared the elites. They showed Russia’s governing class its financial vulnerability…
However much we are told of “Russian imperialism”, contemporary Russia is above all a dependent, peripheral country, whose ruling class does not wish to carry out a transformation that would permit genuine independence and influence in the world — because these transformations would inevitably hurt the interests of the contemporary elite. At least, the interests of an important part of it.
The Russian authorities have already made clear to the USA and the EU that they reject any possibility of the uprising being victorious throughout the whole of Ukraine. They have blockaded it on the territories occupied by the militias…
Sacrificing Novorossiya, relying on European ruling circles and appeasing the USA—such is the current plan of the domestic elites in order to end the conflict.

Василий Колташов: Кому в России жить хорошо? (Russia.ru)
Ulrich Heyden: Ist Putin wirklich so stark wie immer behauptet? (Telepolis)

Edgardo Lander: Venezuela: terminal crisis of the rentier petro-state? (Transnational Institute)

Venezuela’s failure to develop an effective strategy to reduce its economy’s dependence on gas and oil threatens the social successes and future viability of the Bolivarian project.

Leandros Fischer: The German Left’s Palestine Problem (Jacobin)

Die Linke’s position on Palestine has isolated it from the global solidarity movement and strengthened the party’s worst elements…
That a German party, even a left-wing one, should be somewhat cautious in criticizing Israel, in a country where the definitions of Judaism, Israel, and Zionism have been consciously conflated for half a century, should not come as a surprise. But that parts of its top brass should actively work with the media to smear two internationally known Jewish anti-Zionists as “antisemites” is truly alarming and casts serious doubts on the party’s ability to relate to the global Palestine solidarity movement.

Open Letter to German Left Party (ZNet) / Widerspruch gegen linkes Lavieren (Neues Deutschland)

Barak Ravid: Israel denies Colombian foreign minister entry to Ramallah (Haaretz)

Israel this week denied a request by Colombian Foreign Minister The Maria Angela Holguin to visit Ramallah.
According to a statement by the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Israel would only permit Holguin to visit Ramallah if she agreed to visit Jerusalem on the same visit to the region. A senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the matter, stating that the directive was ordered by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
It is highly unusual for the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to give such a directive, and it appears that the move was made in an effort to harden its policy with regards to visits by foreign ministers to the Palestinian Authority, which are normally carried out without any difficulty.

John Bellamy Foster and Michael D. Yates: Piketty and the Crisis of Neoclassical Economics (Monthly Review)

Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has it been so apparent that the core capitalist economies are experiencing secular stagnation, characterized by slow growth, rising unemployment and underemployment, and idle productive capacity. Consequently, mainstream economics is finally beginning to recognize the economic stagnation tendency that has long been a focus in these pages, although it has yet to develop a coherent analysis of the phenomenon. Accompanying the long-term decline in the growth trend has been an extraordinary increase in economic inequality, which one of us labeled “The Great Inequality,” and which has recently been dramatized by the publication of French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Taken together, these two realities of deepening stagnation and growing inequality have created a severe crisis for orthodox (or neoclassical) economics.

Ed Vulliamy, Helena Smith: Athens 1944: Britain’s dirty secret (Guardian)

Islamic State | New Cold War | War Propaganda | Palestine | Cuba | Bahrain

Patrick Cockburn: Isis consolidates (London Review of Books)

As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, Isis fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated three hundred soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but Isis still controls most of Syria’s oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war.

Tariq Ali, Patrick Cockburn: The Rise of ISIS and the Origins of the New Middle East War (CounterPunch)

The unity between the Sunni and Shia resistance to the Americans was always tentative, although taken very seriously by the Americans. I mean, the memoirs of American generals at the time said they were really worried that these two groups would unite in resisting the occupation. And it’s perhaps one of the many disasters to have happened to Iraq that they didn’t unite, that they remained sectarian, in fact remained more sectarian, on the Sunni side.

Peter Harling: IS back in business (Monde diplomatique)

The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy.

Robert Fisk: Bingo! Here’s another force of evil to be ‘vanquished’ (Independent)

Resurrection, reinvention and linguistics. Barack Obama did the lot. And now he’s taking America to war in Syria as well as Iraq. Oh yes, and he’s going to defeat Isis, its “barbarism”, “genocide”, its “warped ideology” – until the bad guys are “vanquished from the earth”. What happened to George W Bush?

Robert Fisk: Assad lures President Obama into his web (Independent)
Robert Fisk: Isis isn’t the first group to use the butcher’s knife as an instrument of policy. Nor will it be the last (Independent)

Serge Halimi: The new cold war / Nouvelle guerre froide (Monde diplmatique)

In 1980 Ronald Reagan expressed his idea of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union in one short sentence: “We win, they lose.” Twelve years later, his immediate successor at the White House, George H W Bush, was satisfied that the task had been accomplished: “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognises one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.” The cold war was officially at an end.
That period too is now over. Its death knell sounded on the day Russia had had enough of “losing” and realised that its ritual humiliation would never come to an end, with one neighbouring country after another being persuaded — or bribed — into joining an economic and military alliance against it.

Tom Parfitt, Gleb Pavlovsky: Putin’s World Outlook (New Left Review)

[This] interview…, conducted in January 2012 by Tom Parfitt, then working for the Guardian in Moscow, has never before been published. It is a remarkable document—arguably the most revealing single account of Putin’s vision of rule, and its roots, to have emerged so far. From late 1999 to 2011, Pavlovsky was a key adviser to Putin in the management of Russian opinion—one of the regime’s two leading ‘political technologists’, along with Vladislav Surkov.

Lee Fang: Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits? (Nation)

If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as IS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle IS. Or as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for “offensive” air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.
But what you won’t learn from media coverage of IS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.

Nermeen Shaikh, Amy Goodman, Lee Fang: Conflicts of Interest Exposed for TV Guests Backing Military Action (Democracy Now)
AP: Anti-Islamic ads to appear on NYC transit (Haaretz)

Anti-Islamic ads will begin appearing on 100 New York City buses and two subway entrances next week, but transit officials have rejected an ad from the same group that includes the phrase “Killing Jews.” …
The agency says it rejected an ad with the quote “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” because it could incite violence.

Robert Fisk: Israel’s ‘land for lives’ is theft. Pure and simple (Independent)

So a bit more of Palestine has slidden down the plughole. A thousand more acres of Palestinian land stolen by the Israeli government – for “appropriation” is theft, is it not? – and the world has made the usual excuses. The Americans found it “counter-productive” to peace, which is probably a bit less forceful than its reaction would be if Mexico were to bite off a 1,000-acre chunk of Texas and decided to build homes there for its illegal immigrants in the US. But this is “Palestine” (inverted commas more necessary than ever) and Israel has been getting away with theft, albeit not on quite this scale – it is the biggest land heist in 30 years – ever since it signed up to the Oslo agreement in 1993.

Gideon Levy: War? What war? Gaza gets forgotten in a hurry (Haaretz)

Even if we put aside the moral blindness in Israel, which wasn’t shocked by a single event during the fighting, it’s impossible to comprehend the complacency afterwards…
Gaza hasn’t forgotten. There’s a whole list of people who can never forget: the 1,500 orphaned children; the 3,000 wounded children; the 1,000 crippled children; the 110,000 residents still crowded in UNRWA shelters in inhumane conditions; the tenants of the 18,000 buildings destroyed or badly damaged, leaving 2.5 million tons of debris nobody knows what to do with; the 450,000 people without water and the 360,000 who, according to the World Health Organization, are suffering from PTSD after our bombardments. None of these people can be expected to forgive, and this isn’t the first time this has happened.

Michel Réal: The forgotten alliance (Monde diplomatique)

The USSR was central to the adoption of the UN plan to partition Palestine on 29 November 1947. Besides its own vote, it also delivered those of its satellites, with the (still unexplained) exception of Yugoslavia. It also provided Israel with the resources it needed most — people and arms…
Moscow also supported Israel in another aspect of its demographic battle: the homogenisation of its population, which led to the departure — mainly through expulsion — of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs. The USSR absolved Israel of responsibility and blamed the British. In 1948 the Soviet Union voted against UN resolution 194 on the possible return of Palestinian refugees…
In this first phase, from 1941 to 1951, Israel received support from the USSR that went beyond its expectations — without having to sacrifice the backing of western nations, especially the US.
However, subsequent episodes caused discord and led to Russo-Israeli diplomatic relations being severed in February 1953…
Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953 ended the tensions between the countries and halted the campaign against Soviet Jews. Diplomatic relations were restored in July, but there was no return to the golden age of 1947-49, and the war of June 1967, in which Russia supported Egypt and its Arab allies, led to a second break in diplomatic relations. They were only restored in 1991, just a few months before the demise of the USSR.

Igor Delanoë: Unexpected allies (Monde diplomatique)

About 15% of Israel’s population have direct Russian roots, and the pragmatic alliance between the countries in trade and diplomacy is changing the balance of power in the region.

Zeev Sternhell: It’s the colonialism they hate, not Jews (Haaretz)

Most Europeans do not doubt the Jews’ right to an independent state, but they vehemently object to a reality in which we are keeping masses of people under occupation and consciously trampling their basic rights.

Emily Morris: Unexpected Cuba (New Left Review)

What is the verdict on Cuba’s economy, nearly a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet bloc? The story generally told is a simple one, with a clear message. It describes a cyclical alternation of government policy between moments of pragmatic capitulation to market forces, which account for any progress, and periods of ideological rigidity and re-assertion of state control, which account for all economic difficulties.

Robert Fisk: Briton at the heart of Bahrain’s brutality rule (Independent)

IAN Stewart MacWalter Henderson has torturers on his staff. In the embattled state of Bahrain, he is the most feared of all secret policemen, the General Director of Security and head of the State Investigation Department, a 67-year-old ex-British police superintendent whose officers routinely beat prisoners, both in the basements of the SIS offices and in the al- Qalaa jail. Leaders of the Bahraini opposition believe he is the power behind the throne of Sheikh Issa bin Salman al-Khalifa, and they may well be right.

Rob Crawford: The CIA, the President, and the Senate’s Torture Report (CounterPunch)

India | Inequality | Syria

Arundhati Roy, Amy Goodman, Nermeen Shaikh: Is India on a Totalitarian Path? (Democracy Now)

Voting has begun in India in the largest election the world has ever seen. About 815 million Indians are eligible to vote over the next five weeks. The number of voters in India is more than two-and-a-half times the entire population of the United States. The election will take place in nine phases at over 900,000 polling stations across India. Results will be known on May 16th.
Pre-election polls indicate Narendra Modi will likely become India’s next prime minister. Modi is the leader of the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party. He … served as the chief minister of Gujarat, where one of India’s worst anti-Muslim riots occurred in 2002 that left at least a thousand people dead.

Valentin Mândrăşescu: Russia prepares to attack the petrodollar (Voice of Russia)

The US dollar’s position as the base currency for global energy trading gives the US a number of unfair advantages. It seems that Moscow is ready to take those advantages away.

Peter Koenig: Russia’s Petro-Ruble Challenges US Dollar Hegemony. China Seeks Development of Eurasian Trade (Global Research)

Russia has just dropped another bombshell, announcing not only the de-coupling of its trade from the dollar, but also that its hydrocarbon trade will in the future be carried out in rubles and local currencies of its trading partners – no longer in dollars.

Seymour M. Hersh: The Red Line and the Rat Line: Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels (London Review of Books)

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​ Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya?
Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal.

(cf. this article by Hersh from December 2013: Whose sarin? [London Review of Books])
Seymour Hersh, Amy Goodman: Sy Hersh Reveals Potential Turkish Role in Syria Chemical Strike That Almost Sparked U.S. Bombing (Democracy Now)

Charles Andrews: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Its Uses and Limits (Monthly Review)

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty has caused a stir, which it deserves. Capital 21, as we will abbreviate the title, grapples with a prominent current issue: outrageously unequal incomes and wealth.

Paul Krugman: Why We’re in a New Gilded Age (New Yorker)
John Cassidy: Forces of divergence: Is surging inequality endemic to capitalism? (New Yorker)

[I]n the United States in 2010 …, the richest ten per cent of households owned seventy per cent of all the country’s wealth (a good surrogate for “capital”), and the top one per cent of households owned thirty-five per cent of the wealth. By contrast, the bottom half of households owned just five per cent. When income generated by capital grows rapidly, the richest families benefit disproportionately…
Piketty takes some well-aimed shots at economists who seek to obfuscate this reality. “In studying the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it is possible to think that the evolution of prices and wages, or incomes and wealth, obeys an autonomous economic logic having little or nothing to do with the logic of politics or culture,” he writes. “When one studies the twentieth century, however, such an illusion falls apart immediately. A quick glance at the curves describing income and wealth inequality or the capital/income ratio is enough to show that politics is ubiquitous and that economic and political changes are inextricably intertwined and must be studied together.”

Andrew Hussey: Occupy was right: capitalism has failed the world (Guardian)

One of the slogans of the 2011 Occupy protests was ‘capitalism isn’t working’. Now, in an epic, groundbreaking new book, French economist Thomas Piketty explains why they’re right.

Will Hutton: Capitalism simply isn’t working and here are the reasons why (Guardian)

Jason Leopold: Revealed: Senate report contains new details on CIA black sites (AlJazeera)

A Senate Intelligence Committee report provides the first official confirmation that the CIA secretly operated a black site prison out of Guantánamo Bay, two U.S. officials who have read portions of the report have told Al Jazeera.
The officials — who spoke on condition of anonymity because the 6,600-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program remains classified — said top-secret agency documents reveal that at least 10 high-value targets were secretly held and interrogated at Guantánamo’s Camp Echo at various times from late 2003 to 2004. They were then flown to Rabat, Morocco, before being officially sent to the U.S. military’s detention facility at Guantánamo in September 2006.