Venezuela | Lebanon | USA

Lucas Koerner: Chavistas Take 17 of 23 States in Venezuelan Regional Elections as Opposition Cries Fraud (Venezuelanalysis)

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela won 54 percent of the total vote, marking a significant recovery since the ruling party’s landslide defeat in 2015 parliamentary elections when it garnered only 43.7 percent of the vote.

After Socialists Win 17 of 23 States, US Claims Venezuela Elections Not ‘Free and Fair’ (teleSUR)

David Hearst: Things that go bump in the night in Riyadh (Middle East Eye)

Saturday night was a busy one for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom’s 32-year old heir to the throne excelled himself. He surpassed the high levels of chaos and human misery he had already achieved as the defence minister who launched the air campaign on Yemen.
First up was the sudden resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after just one year in office. Hariri made his announcement from Riyadh, which is a curious place to resign the premiership of Lebanon. His speech was hardline anti-Hezbollah and anti-Iran, setting a tone not heard from him in years.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that when he left Lebanon, Hariri had no intention of resigning, that he himself did not know that he would resign and that this resignation had been forced on him by the Saudis.

Adam Garrie: In Stunning Reversal, Saudi Arabia Orders Arrest Of Syrian Opposition Leaders (MPN News)

As part of the wide-scale political purges conducted by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Riyadh has ordered the arrest of Ahmed al-Jarba and Riad Hijab, two formerly Saudi backed proxies, vying to take control of Syria and establish a Takfiri state.
While Ahmed al-Jarba and Riad Hijab never had meaningful support in Syria, Saudi had consistently backed them and their colleagues in an effort to destabilize the secular Ba’athist Arab Republic.

Ajamu Baraka: Race, Repression and Russiagate: Defending Radical Black Self-Determination (CounterPunch)

It is absurd and an insult to argue that Russian propaganda efforts “deepen political and racial tensions in the United States,” as proposed by Julia Ioffe in a recent article in the Atlantic.
But the linking of the legitimate struggle of African/Black people in the United States against systemic oppression with “foreign” influences has been a recurrent feature of the ideological and military containment strategy of the U.S. state ever since the Soviet Union emerged as an international competitor to the four hundred-year-old colonial/capitalist Pan-European project.

Wilfred Burchett: Who Filled the Graves Of Huế? (CounterPunch)

Both Ken Burns and Anthony Bourdain have recently recycled the myth of National Liberation Front massacres in Huế during the Vietnam War. The real story, however, was quite different, as revealed at the time by one of the great correspondents of the era Wilfred Burchett…
The recent attempt to equate the Sơn Mỹ (Mỹ Lai) massacre and scores of other similar atrocities with the so-called “Vietcong massacre at Huế” is a vain attempt to cover up what have been genocidal methods by the United States in South Vietnam since the war started.

Gary Rivlin, Michael Hudson: Government by Goldman (Intercept)

Goldman Sachs had been a favorite cudgel for candidate Trump — the symbol of a government that favors Wall Street over its citizenry. Trump proclaimed that Hillary Clinton was in the firm’s pockets, as was Ted Cruz. It was Goldman Sachs that Trump singled out when he railed against a system rigged in favor of the global elite — one that “robbed our working class, stripped our country of wealth, and put money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” …
With [Gary] Cohn’s appointment [as director of the president’s National Economic Council], Trump now had three Goldman Sachs alums in top positions inside his administration: Steve Bannon, who was a vice president at Goldman when he left the firm in 1990, as chief strategist, and Steve Mnuchin, who had spent 17 years at Goldman, as Treasury secretary. And there were more to come. A few weeks later, another Goldman partner, Dina Powell, joined the White House as a senior counselor for economic initiatives. Goldman was a longtime client of Jay Clayton, Trump’s choice to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission; Clayton had represented Goldman after the 2008 financial crisis, and his wife Gretchen worked there as a wealth management adviser. And there was the brief, colorful tenure of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director: Scaramucci had been a vice president at Goldman Sachs before leaving to co-found his own investment company…
Prior administrations often had one or two people from Goldman serving in top positions. George W. Bush at one point had three. At its peak, the Trump administration effectively had six. [Clinton had Robert Rubin, Obama had Gary Gensler, …]

Donna Brazile: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC (Politico)
George Ochenski: Hillary Clinton and the DNC: The Fish Rots From the Head (CounterPunch)

Citizens have been swamped by the tidal wave of corruption associated with or emanating from the Trump campaign and presidency, but late last week brought affirmation of a long-held belief that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary campaign against populist Bernie Sanders. The revelations emanated from none other than Donna Brazile, the woman who sat in as the DNC’s chair after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was deposed for exactly the corruption Brazile now exposes. As the old saying goes, “the fish rots from the head” — and there’s a tremendous stench coming from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign that undeniably smells of rot.

Aidan O’Brien: Ever Hear of a Place Called Azawad? How About Timbuktu? (CounterPunch)

It may not be the heart of Africa but it is the key to Africa. Forget about “Niger” and think of Azawad. Think of the bigger and older picture: a region that encompasses northern Mali, southern Algeria, southern Libya, western Niger and northern Burkina Faso.
It’s here – Azawad – where the four US Green Berets were recently killed. And it’s here where the French Foreign Legion has positioned itself in the latest scramble for Africa. The cover story is the “War on Terror”. But don’t be fooled: “white guy rule” has returned to the Sahara.
Timbuktu is the capital of Azawad. The Tuareg are it’s people. And the “white guy” the invader. Located in the center of the Sahara – all roads pass through Azawad. It’s the bridge between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. And so it’s a geopolitical prize that’s attracting every born again Western thug.

Hannah Beech: U.S. Stood By as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show (New York Times)

It was an anti-Communist blood bath of at least half a million Indonesians. And American officials watched it happen without raising any public objections, at times even applauding the forces behind the killing, according to newly declassified State Department files that show diplomats meticulously documenting the purge in 1965-66.

Vincent Bevings: What the United States Did in Indonesia (Atlantic)

As the documents show, U.S. officials knew most of his victims were entirely innocent. U.S. embassy officials even received updates on the executions and offered help to suppress media coverage…
[A] major problem with framing the events of 1965 is that it’s often claimed the United States simply “stood by,” as the bloodbath occurred, which is incorrect. “It’s easy for American commentators to fall into that approach, but the U.S. was part and parcel of the operation, strategizing with the Indonesian army and encouraging them to go after the PKI.” …
In 1965, when General Suharto blamed the military purge on a PKI coup plot, the CIA supplied communications equipment to help him spread his false reports before moving into power and overseeing the industrial-scale slaughter, as previously released government documents showed…
It has long been known that the United States provided Suharto with active support: In 1990, a U.S. embassy staff member admitted he handed over a list of communists to the Indonesian military as the terror was underway. “It really was a big help to the army,” Robert J. Martens, a former member of the embassy’s political section, told The Washington Post. “They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad.”
Much of the American press at the time did not take a radically different view. In a June 1966 column in The New York Times, entitled “A Gleam of Light in Asia,” James Reston wrote that “The savage transformation of Indonesia from a pro-Chinese policy under Sukarno to a defiantly anti-communist policy under General Suharto is the most important of these [hopeful] developments. Washington is being careful not to claim any credit … but this does not mean Washington had nothing to do with it.”

Bethan McKernan: Five children who got longer sentences for throwing stones than Israeli soldier who shot incapacitated Palestinian dead (Independent)

Canada | USA | Venezuela

1. Celebrated Canadian soldier William Grant Stairs helped King Leopold II of Belgium conquer the resource-rich Katanga region of the Congo. And yes, the cutting of hands, business…
(Great article except they don’t mention his (or the) “Canadian experience” in committing genocide against the (original) people in Canada…)
Yves Engler: The Canadian who helped conquer 150,000 sq. km for King Léopold II (Pambazuka / Black Agenda Report)

2. Keith Brooks: Would Slavery Have Ended Sooner if the British Had Defeated the Colonists’ Bid for Independence? (OpEdNews / Black Agenda Report)
(Again the issue not discussed is whether the issue of the English prohibiting expansion west of the Appalachians was due to raising land prices? much as abolition was due to raising slave prices or promoting a local slave breeding industry? The other interesting issue is the Irish…who fought on the side of the slave south? but later on that…)

4. This is the month targeted to try to divide the Venezuelan army…
Sergio Alejandro Gómez: The script for plans to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution was written in Washington (Granma / Black Agenda Report)

6. U.S. leftists in search of a leader and political model could do worse than Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party leader who is pulling the party back to its social democratic roots. “Corbyn has spoken out not only for a more egalitarian, communitarian Britain, but also for a world governed by international law, not by the U.S. with all its weapons and NATO allies.”
Ann Garrison: Ending the “Austerity” that Affords Endless War and Little Else (Black Agenda Report)

7. Asians and the US
Danny Haiphong: Their System, Our Lives: A Political Obituary in Service of Revolutionary Emancipation (Black Agenda Report)

3. “Color Revolution” Comes Home? Are Americans Also the Victims of “Regime Change”?
Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers: Color Revolution Comes Home? (Popular Resistance / Black Agenda Report)

5. W.E.B. Du Bois did not formally join the Communist Party until 1961, at age 93, but he had long proposed “meaningful socialist solutions to tackle contemporary, systemic problems of racial terror and economic disaster.” The author maintains that Du Bois, a founding Pan-Africanist, “did more to educate African-Americans and people of the African diaspora about Africa than any other person in U. S. history.” He met Mao Ze Dong, and he died in exile in Ghana. He is also the link person between Frederick Douglas, Paul Robeson…and George Jackson…
Phillip Luke Sinitiere: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Revolutions (Public Books / Portside / Black Agenda Report)

(Thanks, K.!)

France | Syria | Indonesia | Israel/Palestine

Jack Rasmus: France Elects Its Banker (CounterPunch)

On May 7, 2016, France elected Emmanuel Macron, the former banker, as its next president. The voting result was 65% for Macron, a newcomer in the election cycle who didn’t even have a political party, but who did have the massive business backing and traditional political elites united behind him, providing unlimited media and financial assistance to his campaign.
Approximately 25% of all voters in France, the most in nearly fifty years (since 1969), abstained from voting, however. It is also estimated that 25% of Macron’s 65% vote margin were voters who voted ‘against Le Pen’ and the far right national front party, and did not vote ‘for’ Macron. How solid is Macron’s support, and whether the French people support what will be his continuation of European neoliberalism, remains to be seen…
Macron has promised to pick up the baton of ‘labor reform’ in France introduced by Socialist Party Holland. That means laws that will weaken unions, collective bargaining, allow firing of workers, eliminate strikes, cut social benefits, privatize the healthcare and education systems in France. So now the conflict in France moves from the electoral arena to the workplace.

‘Israeli strikes’ hit arms depot in Damascus (AlJazeera)

Arms depot near Damascus International airport goes up in flames after series of overnight strikes blamed on Israel…
In May 2013 Israel struck three areas in Damascus suburbs, allegedly to destroy Iranian rockets being delivered to Hezbollah. Damascus airport was also hit by Israel in May 2013.
The Syrian army said on January 13, 2016 that Israel had targeted the Mezze military airbase. Mezze airbase is just a few kilometers from the presidential palace.
Israel has in the past targeted Hezbollah positions inside Syria where Iranian backed groups are heavily involved in the fighting.

Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen: Syria Confirms Israeli Strike Hit Military Compound Near Damascus Airport (Haaretz)

Explosions hit in the area of Damascus International Airport in Syria early Thursday morning. Syria’s official news agency confirmed that Israel struck a military compound outside the capital’s airport…
Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio on Thursday morning that the attack in Syria was “entirely consistent with our policy to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.” Katz however did not confirm Israel was behind it.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military, asked if Israel had been involved in carrying out air strikes targeting Damascus airport, said: “We can’t comment on such reports.”

Norman Solomon: Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump to Attack Syria—and Increases the Risk of Nuclear Annihilation (Monthly Review)

The anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe.
Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia’s close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.

Justin Podur: The Much-Maligned Views of Rania Khalek on Syria (Bullet)

I am not a fan of the Syrian government. I’m not out here to support the Syrian government.
What I oppose is the dismantling of the Syrian state which is what several powers have done in the past six years. I oppose that because we’ve seen what it looks like in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and I don’t want to see that happen to Syria.
I also oppose the current alternative to the Syrian government which is a patchwork of Salafi Jihadist groups that want to impose strict religious law, kill minorities, and stone women for adultery…
I would love to see a democratic Syria. I would love to see a Syria where parties other than the Ba’ath could flourish and run in elections. The fact now is that there’s a right-wing, far-right insurgency funded by some of the biggest powers in the world trying to destroy the country. Under current conditions it’s impossible for people to demand and get reforms.

Allan Nairn: Trump’s Indonesian Allies In Bed With ISIS-Backed Militia Seeking to Oust Elected President (Intercept)

An army front group linked to ISIS wants to oust Indonesia’s president — and prominent associates of President Donald Trump are supporting them.

Jack Khoury: Palestinian Hunger Strikers Seek World’s Intervention Three Weeks Into Strike (Haaretz via Google News)

Some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners ask World Health Organization to stop Israel from force-feeding them as international sympathy for the strike steadily grows

Israel Mulls Bringing in Foreign Doctors to Force-feed Palestinian Hunger Strikers (Haaretz)

The Israel Prisons Service is considering bringing foreign doctors to help force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners because the Israel Medical Association has refused to allow its members to participate in such actions, …

Gideon Levy: Doctors From India, Guards From Chechnya (Haaretz via Google News)

Not far from our home, hundreds of people are starving; thousands can’t sleep at night as they worry over their starving loved ones. They have no idea how they are doing; no one is allowed to visit them. For 21 days now, no food has passed their lips, only salt water.
The Israel Prison Service is abusing them. At first they took away the salt, then they isolated them, fined them and increased the weight of the already cruel load. The Israeli media hardly reports their strike. It knows the heart of its consumers: Most Israelis don’t care about the strike, while some are happy over it; let them die.
Soon they’ll start trying to force-feed them.

A Cornerstone of Apartheid (Haaretz Editorial)

The only explanation for why Israel is advancing this bill is the millions of Palestinians whom it keeps under its control in territories that it fantasizes about annexing. Because Israel is interested in applying its sovereignty to the land but isn’t interested in annexing the Palestinians who live there as equal citizens in a single state, it is forced to create the legal infrastructure for segregating Jews from Arabs and preserving the Jews’ legal supremacy. The nation-state law is the constitutional cornerstone for apartheid in the entire Land of Israel.

Jonathan Lis: Israeli Ministers Greenlight Nation-state Bill: Arabic Isn’t an Official State Language (Haaretz)

A cabinet committee on Sunday gave its support to a new version of the nation-state bill, which revokes Arabic’s “official language” status, holds that the State of Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people,” and that “the right to realize self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Jack Khoury, Jonathan Lis: Israeli Opposition Slams Nation-state Bill as ‘Declaration of War Against Israel’s Arab’ (Haaretz)
B. Michael: The Legend of Israel’s Enlightened Declaration of Independence (Haaretz via Google News)
This Is How Israel Inflates Its Jewish Majority (Haaretz Editorial)

Israeli stats bureau’s annual population report is a ludicrous piece of propaganda that includes settlers but not all Palestinians under Israeli control.

Ofer Aderet, Barak Ravid: Netanyahu Cancels Meeting After German FM Refuses to Snub Israeli Leftist NGOs (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday after the latter refused Netanyahu's demand that he not meet with two leftwing NGOs, Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.
According to Der Spiegel, the meeting was canceled by Netanyahu because the German minister wanted "to meet with critics of the Israeli government."

With Ultimatum to German FM, Netanyahu Gives World a Simple Choice (Haaretz)

The choice Netanyahu has given the world and above all Israelis is simple: maintaining control of the territories, probably through an apartheid regime, or accepting an Israel in its 1967 borders

Anshel Pfeffer: Netanyahu’s Spat With Germany Shows Israel Won’t Be Treated as a Regular Democracy (Haaretz via Google News)

Netanyahu’s anger is understandable. Rarely do foreign leaders meet with representatives of NGOs of functioning democracies, like the German FM did. But Israel is not regular

South Africa’s apartheid economy was based on indigenous cheap labour. Israel since Oslo has managed to replace cheap Palestinian labour with migrants from poor countries in Asia and Europe.
A Chinese Lesson (Haaretz)

“We’re eager to work with you” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the heads of Chinese corporations, during his visit to China last month. This week Netanyahu had an opportunity to demonstrate just how eager we are. On Sunday the cabinet formally yielded to a condition placed by China before signing an agreement on recruiting Chinese workers to Israel’s labor market. This condition stipulates that Chinese construction workers who come here to work will not be employed in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. By ratifying this agreement the cabinet gave its de facto acquiescence to a boycott of the settlements…
Negotiations between Israel and China have been going on for two years, due to China’s insistence that these workers not be sent to settlements and due to Israel’s unwillingness to sign an agreement in which it expressly upholds a boycott of settlements…
Israel’s quiet and unreported surrender to the Chinese demand provides an important lesson: When our friends around the world insist on matching their actions with their declarations Israel adapts to the exigencies of reality.

Μάρτα Χάρνεκερ, Τάσος Τσακίρογλου: Ο κοινωνικός κατακερματισμός έχει διχάσει την εργατική τάξη (Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών)
Marta Harnecker, Tassos Tsakiroglou: ‘A New Revolutionary Subject’ (Monthly Review)

Ενα από τα πράγματα που έχουν όντως αλλάξει από την εποχή του Μαρξ μέχρι σήμερα είναι η κατάσταση της παγκόσμιας βιομηχανικής εργατικής τάξης και, κυρίως, στη Λατινική Αμερική.
Δεν έχουμε πια μεγάλη συγκέντρωση εργατών σε μεγάλες εργατικές γειτονιές.
Σε μεγάλο βαθμό αυτό οφείλεται στην εφαρμογή νεοφιλελεύθερων οικονομικών μέτρων, όπως οι επισφαλείς εργασιακές συνθήκες και οι υπεργολαβίες, αλλά και στη στρατηγική του κοινωνικού κατακερματισμού, ο οποίος έχει διχάσει εσωτερικά την εργατική τάξη.
One of the things that has really changed from Marx’s time to now is the situation of the industrial working class in the world, and in Latin America especially. We don’t find big concentrations of workers in big working-class neighborhoods. This is due in great measure to the implementation of neoliberal economic measures such as precarious labor conditions and subcontracting, and its strategy of social fragmentation that has divided the working class internally.

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.

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)

Refugees | Venezuela | Palestine/Israel | France

Vijay Prashad: Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe (CounterPunch) / Avrupa’nın kıyılarında (BirGün)

The West believes that it is acceptable for it to intervene to influence the political economy of the Third World – to force IMF-driven “reforms” on these states. Capital is allowed be borderless. That freedom does not apply to labour – to people. Migration is forbidden. It is hateful. Racist ideas allow fortresses to be built against the natural movement of people. Barbed wire fences and concentration camp towers outline the US-Mexico border, just as such fences and the Mediterranean Moat block the passage into Europe. If Capital destroys the society here, its people cannot be allowed to migrate there.
The West believes that it is acceptable for it to overthrow governments and bomb its enemies in the lands of the Third World. It sees this as the limit of its humanitarianism. It calls this humanitarian interventionism or, in the language of the UN, “responsibility to protect” (R2P). When it breaks states, as it did in Libya, the West takes no responsibility for the broken lives of the people in those zones. Bombs are borderless. But war refugees must stand in queues and be held in concentration camps. They are not allowed freedom of movement…
There is also the people’s ethics – banners in Germany unfurled at football games to welcome refugees, convoys of ordinary British nations to Calais (France) to help feed and clothe the refugees, demonstrations of radical internationalists in Eastern Europe against the neo-fascists and the racists. There are also, in the United States, the Dream Defenders and United We Dream who fight for undocumented residents, who formed part of the massive pro-immigrant rallies that have now adopted May Day as their day.

Dan Williams: Amid Migrant Crisis, Europeans Interested in Israeli Border Barriers (Haaretz)

Hungary, Bulgaria make inquiries to Israel about the design of its border barriers with Egypt.

Roberto Lovato: The Making of Leopoldo López (Foreign Policy)

A closer look at the democratic bona fides of the rock star of Venezuela’s opposition.

Roberto Lovato, Juan González, Amy Goodman: The Making of Leopoldo López: An Investigation into Venezuela’s Most Prominent Opposition Figure (Democracy Now)
Joe Emersberger: The Unmaking of Leopoldo Lopez (TeleSur)

A Foreign Policy article by Roberto Lovato represents a crack in a huge propaganda edifice.

Max Fisher: Is this disturbing video Israel’s Eric Garner moment? (Vox)

For a few years now, Palestinians in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh have held a weekly demonstration to protest the Israeli occupation that has confiscated village land for a nearby Israeli settlement. These protests don’t usually make international news.
But last week’s was different. Friday’s demonstration in Nabi Saleh escalated into a violent confrontation between an Israeli soldier and a young child — all caught on camera by the press who had attended the protest. The result was a video of an IDF soldier placing an 11-year-old child in a chokehold, holding a gun near his head, and then sitting on him as he screamed in fear and pain.

Asher Schechter: Israel’s ‘Eric Garner Moment’ Entrenches Its Habit of Victim-blaming (Haaretz)

Even when arresting children, Israel insists it has the moral upper hand: In the Nabi Saleh incident, Israel’s ‘Eric Garner moment’ cast the soldier, not the kids, as the innocent victim…
Judging from the responses in Israeli media, politics and social networks, the true culprit in Nabi Saleh was not (as the brainwashed world media would have you believe) the soldier using excessive force against a 12 year-old with a broken arm. It was the boy himself (who may or may not have thrown rocks at the soldiers, depending on who you ask) and his slightly-older sister who, as right-wing bloggers were quick to point out, were known “troublemakers.” Meaning: they had attended other demonstrations in the past, and were therefore more enemy combatants than preteens.
Channel 2 News, Israel’s premier TV news broadcast, cast the event as “Palestinians documented beating IDF soldier in Nabi Saleh.” Ynet, Israel’s most popular news site, proclaimed in the headline, “Little girl bites soldier.” … Culture Minister Miri Regev suggested that in the future, soldiers should be “permitted to return fire” during similar events.

Amira Hass: Armed Robbery: The Israeli Army’s Policy in the West Bank (Haaretz; also via Google News)

The soldier who choked 12-year-old Mohammad Tamimi last week belongs to the organization that carries out and ensures the continued armed robbery of land in Nabi Saleh, employing various methods to terrorize the residents. He is not the first and not the last; the armed robbery is not conducted solely on the lands of this village, and the spring at Nabi Saleh is not the only one in the West Bank taken over by Jewish settlers.

Amy Goodman, Peter Willcox,: Rainbow Warrior: 30 Years Later, Will France Ever Apologize for Fatal Bombing of Greenpeace Ship? (Democracy Now)
Kim Willsher: French spy who sank Greenpeace ship apologises for lethal bombing (Guardian)

Binoy Kampmark: Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange (CounterPunch)

It is, we are told, an age of bitter austerity, where belts are being tightened with dedication, and services cut with thrifty diligence. There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. The surveillance state needs succour; the intelligence services need their daily bread from the bakers in Downing Street. The dogs of war similarly need to be fed. And then, there is Julian Assange.
Assange would be pleased to know that he is an exception to the rules of austerity. He figures in a singular category in the book keeping of Her Majesty’s Government. The British security establishment continue monitoring him with eagle-eyes. There are three Scotland Yard officers on the task at any one time. One is stationed at the steps to the Ecuadorean embassy, just to make sure no daredevilry is entertained. As they do so, the bill mounts.
The site govwaste.co.uk lists the costs in live time – as at this writing, the amount is 12,173,575 million pounds…
The site also lists what the equivalent amount might have funded: 60,868 vaccinations for children; 47,740 hospital beds for one night; the salaries for 558 teachers for a full year. As for food, the figure comes to over 10 million meals for the needy. If one is to lose a sense of priorities, join government.

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)

Ukraine | Egypt | Israel/Palestine | Turkey | Korea | South Africa | Venezuela

Andrew Manchuk: On the situation in Ukraine (Borotba)

After some violent and bloody clashes in the centre of Kiev the power in our country was seized by the coalition of ultra-right and neoliberal political forces. The newly established regime immediately started the close cooperation with the richest oligarchs – with those who (along with the representatives of the EU and US) provided the financial aid and international support to Euromaidan. Some of these oligarchs were recently appointed as governors in the key industrial regions (that are the least loyal to new rightwing government) – with the expectation that they would suppress the anger of indignant protesters there.

Gerfried Sperl: OSZE in der Ostukraine: Aufklärungsbedarf (Standard)

Patrick Kingsley: Egyptian judge sentences 720 men to death (Guardian)

A judge in Egypt has sentenced to death 720 men, including the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a pair of mass-trials that were both completed after just two brief court sessions.

Eric Walberg: The Economics of Egypt’s Coup (CounterPunch)

As Egypt inches towards the first anniversary of the July 3 coup, the economy continues to flounder. The military-backed reverting to Mubarak-era policies has been buttressed only by lavish handouts from the Gulf Security Council (GCC) states and vague promises of future investment by western business, namely Coca Cola.

Desmond Tutu: Israel guilty of apartheid in treatment of Palestinians (Jerusalem Post)
Apartheid in planning rights / אפרטהייד תכנוני (Haaretz)

Israel’s discriminatory planning policy in the West Bank violates its most basic obligations.

Ali Abunimah: Tutu condemns US efforts to curb free speech on Palestine (Electronic Intifada)
Josh Rogin: Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State’ (Daily Beast)

Ömer Taşpinar: The Islamic roots of the conflict in Turkey (Today Zaman)

The conflict between the Gülen movement and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has now taken on a very public dimension. For many in Turkey and in the West, this conflict is nothing but a power struggle. Yet, focusing solely on politics and the quest for power would be reductionist. The current conflict has deep historical, ideological and even doctrinal roots.

Christine Hong: War by Other Means: The Violence of North Korean Human Rights (Japan Focus)

This essay offers a historicized overview of the consolidation of contemporary human rights as the dominant lingua franca for social justice projects today and applies it to the debate over human rights in North Korea. Highlighting what the rights framework renders legible as well as what it consigns to unintelligibility, it examines the antinomies of contemporary human rights as an ethico-political discourse that strives to reassert the dominance of the global North over the global South. Relentlessly presentist in its assignment of blame and politically harnessed to a regime-change agenda, the human rights framing of North Korea has enabled human rights advocates, typically “beneficiaries of past injustice,” to assume a moralizing, implicitly violent posture toward a “regime” commonsensically understood to be “evil.” Cordoning off North Korea’s alleged crimes for discrete consideration while turning a willfully blind eye to the violence of sanctions, “humanitarian” intervention, and the withholding of humanitarian and developmental aid, the North Korean human rights project has allowed a spectrum of political actors—U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of both neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora, and North Korean defectors—to join together in common cause.

John Pilger: South Africa Today: Apartheid by Another Name (CounterPunch)

In 1985, apartheid had suffered two disasters: the Johannesburg stock market crashed and the regime defaulted on its mounting foreign debt. In September that year, a group led by Gavin Relly, chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, met Oliver Tambo, the ANC president, and other liberation officials in Mfuwe, Zambia.
The Relly message was that a “transition” from apartheid to a black-governed electoral democracy was possible only if “order” and “stability” were guaranteed. These was liberal code for a capitalist state in which social and economic democracy would never be a priority. The aim was to split the ANC between the “moderates” they could “do business with” (Tambo, Mandela and Thabo Mbeki) and the majority who made up the United Democratic Front and were fighting in the streets.
The betrayal of the UDF and its most effective components, such as the National Civic Organisation, is today poignant, secret history…
The transition was, in a sense, seamless. “You can put any label on it you like,” President Mandela told me at Groote Schur. “You can call it Thatcherite, but for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy.”
“That’s the opposite of what you said before the first elections, in 1994,” I said.
“There is a process,” was his uncertain reply, “and every process incorporates change.”

Eva Golinger: The Dirty Hand of the National Endowment for Democracy in Venezuela (CounterPunch)

Carol Rosenberg: 9/11 competency hearing puts focus on Guantánamo’s secret prison (Miami Herald)
Carol Rosenberg: 9/11 trial lawyer: CIA had its finger on Guantánamo’s mute button (Miami Herald)

Mystery solved, if there was any doubt: It was the CIA that hit the mute button in the war court earlier this year when a defense lawyer for the accused 9/11 mastermind began talking about the CIA’s secret overseas prisons, the lawyer said Monday…
Pentagon officials at the time refused to confirm that the CIA controlled the audio from the court to the spectator’s gallery and several closed-circuit TV sites.

David Swanson: Torture is Mainstream Now (CounterPunch)

In May 2009, former vice president Dick Cheney forced into the news the fact that, even though Obama had “banned torture” by executive order (torture being a felony and a treaty violation before and after the “banning”) Obama maintained the power to use torture as needed. Cheney saidthat Obama’s continued claim of the power to torture vindicated his own (Cheney’s) authorization of torture. David Axelrod, White House Senior Advisor, refused repeatedly, to dispute Cheney’s assertion — also supported by Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing for CIA director, at which he said the president had the power to torture and noted that rendition would continue. In fact, it did. The New York Times quickly reportedthat the U.S. was now outsourcing more torture to other countries. The Obama administration announced a new policy on renditions that kept them in place, and a new policy on lawless permanent imprisonment that kept it in place but formalized it, mainstreamed it. Before long Obama-era rendition victims were alleging torture…
And secret CIA torture prisons have continued to pop into the news even though the CIA was falsely said to have abandoned that practice. While the Obama administration has claimed unprecedented powers to block civil suits against torturers, it has also used, in court, testimony produced by torture, something that used to be illegal (and still is if you go by written laws).

Ukraine | Scotland | Venezuela

David sent these links:
Ewen MacAskill: Ukraine crisis: bugged call reveals conspiracy theory about Kiev snipers (Guardian)
Umberto Bacchi: Ukraine Protests: Leaked EU Phone Call Suggests Kiev Snipers Were Hired by Opposition Coalition (International Business Times)

A phone conversation suggesting snipers who shot protesters in Kiev might have acted on the orders delivered by the opposition coalition – not former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich – has been leaked online.
The phone conversation features Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet telling EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton his suspicions regarding sniper attacks on protestors that took place in Kiev in February…
Paet is heard telling Ashton that there was evidence both protesters and security forces came under sniper fire during the deadly protests in the Ukrainian capital last month.

Susann Witt-Stahl: Jagd auf Linke (junge Welt)

Ukraine: Demonstrationen gegen neue Machthaber unmöglich. Kommunisten angegriffen und mißhandelt. Faschisten patrouillieren mit der Polizei

Ulla Jelpke: Tragödie statt Revolution (junge Welt)

More on Ukraine:
Harriet Salem, Ludmila Makarova: Are oligarch appointments at odds with new sense of fairness? (Guardian)

After losing control of Crimea, the embattled new Ukrainian government in Kiev has turned to the nation’s oligarchs in a bid to calm secessionist sentiment in the pro-Russian east. But the appointment of oligarchs to positions of political power has not been welcomed in all quarters, and certainly not by the protesters who hoped last month’s ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych heralded a new era.

Julie Hyland: What the Western-backed regime is planning for Ukrainian workers (World Socialist Web Site)

Behind incessant rhetorical invocations of a “democratic revolution,” Ukraine’s newly-installed government of former bankers, fascists and oligarchs is preparing draconian austerity measures.
The plans being drawn up are openly described as the “Greek model,” i.e., the programme of savage cuts imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU) that has caused Greece’s economy to collapse by nearly 25 percent in five years and produced a massive growth in unemployment and poverty.
In the case of Ukraine, however, this social devastation is to be unleashed against a country that has already been subjected to the scorched earth economics of capitalist restoration. Even before the latest events, Ukraine was the 80th poorest country in the world based on gross domestic product per capita, behind Iraq, Tonga and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Conn Hallinan: The Dark Side of the Ukraine Revolt (CounterPunch)

[L]est one think that Svoboda, and parties even further to the right, will strike their tents and disappear, Ukrainian News reported Feb. 26 that Svoboda Party members have temporarily been appointed to the posts of Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Supplies, and Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources.

Marina Lewycka: Ukraine and the west: hot air and hypocrisy (Guardian)
US-Söldner: Blackwater angeblich in der Ost-Ukraine im Einsatz (Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten [sic])
Damien Gayle: Has Blackwater been deployed to Ukraine? (Daily Mail)

Speculation was growing last night that American mercenaries had been deployed to Donetsk after videos emerged of unidentified armed men in the streets of the eastern Ukrainian city.
At least two videos published on YouTube earlier this week show burly, heavily armed soldiers with no insignia in the city, which has been gripped by pro-Moscow protests.
In one of the videos onlookers can be heard shouting ‘Blackwater! Blackwater!’ as the armed men, who wear no insignia, jog through the streets.

Josh Rogin: Russian ‘Blackwater’ Takes Over Ukraine Airport (Daily Beast)

The troops who have taken over two airports in Crimea are not Russian military, but they could be security contractors working for the Russian military, and they are there to stay.
Private security contractors working for the Russian military are the unmarked troops who have now seized control over two airports in the Ukrainian province of Crimea, according to informed sources in the region. And those contractors could be setting the stage for ousted President Viktor Yanukovich to come to the breakaway region.

Peter Schwarz: What is behind the warmongering of the German media? / Was steht hinter der Kriegshetze der deutschen Medien? (World Socialist Web Site)

Veteran left-winger Tariq Ali announces his support for Scottish independence (Daily Record)

The combination of the end of the British Empire and the utter degeneration of the Labour Party means Scotland has absolutely nothing to gain from staying within the Union.
My hope is that independence will create spaces of critical thought in England as well as in Scotland because people down here are very depressed and demoralised too.

Mark Weisbrot: Venezuela is not Ukraine (Guardian)

Venezuela’s struggle is widely misrepresented in western media. This is a classic conflict between right and left, rich and poor.
The current protests in Venezuela are reminiscent of another historical moment when street protests were used by right-wing politicians as part of an attempt to overthrow the elected government. From December of 2002 through February 2003, there was strike of mostly white-collar workers at the national oil industry, along with some business owners. The US media made it look like most of the country was on strike against the government, when, in fact, it was less than one percent of the labor force.

Mark Weisbrot: US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake (Guardian)

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week’s demonstrations in Venezuela. They described “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela as “attempts to destabilize the democratic order”. They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

Mia Lindeque: Marikana miners shot ‘execution style’ (Eye Witness News)

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday heard some striking Marikana miners were shot execution style.
President Jacob Zuma set up the hearing to determine whether police were justified in using lethal force on the day 34 miners were gunned down during a confrontation with police in the North West mining town.
The shooting at the Lonmin mine took place in August 2012.
The commission on Tuesday heard some of the striking workers were shot dead while they were surrendering with their hands raised in the air.

Patrick Martin: White House withholding documents from CIA torture probe (World Socialist Web Site)

White House officials admitted Thursday that the Obama administration is blocking the release of thousands of documents relating to the torture of prisoners at secret CIA prisons during the Bush administration. These documents apparently include the initial presidential authorization for torture and other illegal acts by US military/intelligence agencies.

Syria | Venezuela | Sudan | Colombia | Myanmar | Pete Seeger

Syria army, rebels agree new Damascus truce (Daily Star)

Syria’s army and rebels have agreed local truces in key flashpoints around Damascus, despite regime and opposition representatives failing to make any progress in Geneva peace talks.

Maria Paez Victor: Venezuela Under Attack Again (CounterPunch)

Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week riots on the streets that have left 3 dead and 66 injured.

Chris Gilbert: What’s Really Happening in Venezuela? (CounterPunch)

If the term fascism is abstracted from the accidental features of its historical manifestations and used more broadly to identify a movement that captures sectors of the middle and working class for a pro-imperialist project – a movement that is often racist and always willing to disregard democratic results – then President Maduro is correct in calling the key actors on Wednesday fascists.

Hubert Sauper, Amy Goodman: South Sudan Reaches Ceasefire, But Will Nascent State Survive Oil-Fueled Neocolonialism? (Democracy Now)

After more than a month of violence that left thousands dead, rivals in South Sudan have reached a ceasefire agreement. The clashes began as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, but quickly escalated into ethnic clashes that raised fears of a civil war. We turn to a new documentary that shows how South Sudan has become ground zero for contemporary colonialism in Africa. Director Hubert Sauper’s “We Come as Friends” provides an aerial view of the conflict in Sudan from a shaky, handmade two-seater plane. The film depicts American investors, Chinese oilmen, U.N. officials and Christian missionaries struggling to shape Sudan according to their own visions, while simultaneously applauding the alleged “independence” of the world’s newest state. What emerges is a devastating critique of the consequences of cultural and economic imperialism.

Dana Priest: Covert action in Colombia (Washington Post)
Amy Goodman, Dana Priest: Covert CIA Program Reveals Critical U.S. Role in Killings of Rebel Leaders (Democracy Now)

[A] shocking new report has exposed how a secret CIA program in Colombia helped kill at least two dozen rebel leaders. The Washington Post reports the program relies on key help from the National Security Agency and is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. The program began under President George W. Bush and continued under Obama. It has crippled the FARC rebel group by targeting its leaders using bombs equipped with GPS guidance. Up until 2010, the CIA controlled the encryption keys that allowed the bombs to read GPS data. In one case in 2008, the U.S. and Colombia discovered a FARC leader Raúl Reyes hiding in Ecuador. According to the report, quote, “To conduct an airstrike meant a Colombian pilot flying a Colombian plane would hit the camp using a US-made bomb with a CIA-controlled brain.” The attack killed the rebel leader and sparked a major flareup of tensions with Ecuador and Venezuela.

Amy Goodman, Mario Murillo: Did Covert U.S. Program Targeting Rebel Leaders Help Undermine Colombia’s Peace Process? (Democracy Now)
Jack L. Laun: What Dana Priest Left Out (CounterPunch)
John I Laun: Who is Really in Charge of Colombia? (CounterPunch)

Nancy Hudson-Rodd: Silence as Myanmar ‘genocide’ unfolds (Asia Times)

Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher: Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters (Intercept)

Pete Seeger on Democracy Now (Democracy Now)

The legendary folk singer, banjo player, storyteller and activist Pete Seeger has died at the age of 94.

Dave Marsh: What It Means to Lose Pete Seeger (CounterPunch)
David Yearsley: For Pete’s Sake! The Shameless Descent of Bob Dylan (CounterPunch)