Monday, July 4, 2016

News, Views and Opinions, all from the Alternative Media ... week ending July 3

Geraldine Malone at VICE
Citing Trudeau’s Plan to Legalize,
Judge Refuses to Give Convicted Marijuana Trafficker Jail Time

To say that Seamus John Neary, a convicted marijuana trafficker, was relieved to find out he'd be spending the next two years going to school instead of going to jail, is an understatement.

The former University of Saskatchewan football linebacker's future had been in the hands of a judge with court precedent and the former Conservative government's justice policies signalled there was a significant chance he'd end up behind bars.

But on Thursday afternoon in Saskatoon, Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Smith cited the change in federal power and impending marijuana legislation as a reason to let the 25-year-old walk out of court without cuffs.

"It's a weird feeling. I'm grateful that it's coming to an end," Neary told VICE....

Oh look ... over and above the 3 jihadis responsible for the deaths of 40+ innocent people at the Istanbul airport, there are 6 more names to take into consideration. Will they be arrested?  Will they lose their positions? Will they feel the twinge of even a minor little pang of guilt? 
From the Saker blog
Akhmed Chataev: An inconvenient “fighter against Russia”

....May it please the High Court,
We, the members of the Independent International Human Rights Group, are petitioning the Bulgarian government to release a Chechen refugee, the father of four children, Akhmed Chataev, who is being persecuted by Russia for his political beliefs. According to available information, Akhmed Chataev had his hand cut off in a Russian concentration camp, where he was also tortured with electricity which was applied to the stump.
Given all the facts of the case, Akhmed Chataev was given the status of refugee in Austria in 2003, and is therefore under the protection of the Austrian state.
In 2010, Akhmed Chataev was arrested in Ukraine and was threatened with extradition to Russia, but the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg used Rule 39 to instruct Ukraine’s government that, due to his Austrian refugee status he could not be extradited to Russia....

...Given all the facts of the case, we petition the Appeals Court of the Republic of Bulgaria to free Akhmed Chataev.
Respectfully, the members of the Independent International Human Rights Group

Viktoria Pupko–President, Anna Politkovskaya Foundation, USA
Mairbek Taramov–Director, Chechen Human Rights Center, Sweden
Nadezhda Banchik–journalist, member of Amnesty International USA
Said-Emin Ibragimov–President, World and Human Rights International Association, France
David Kudykov–journalist and writer, PEN-Club, UK
Maio Plado–human rights movement activist, Estonia....

From Dissident Voice. Source Alessandro Bianchi
“China will react if provoked again: you risk the war”
Interview with Andre Vltchek
The AntiDiplomatico (Italy) interviews philosopher, Andre Vltchek: “Russia and China are forming an incredible defensive wall to protect humanity from Western terrorism.”

Andre Vltchek has become renowned in Italy for being the co-author, along with Noam Chomsky, of the famous book Western Terrorism (Ponte alle Grazie).....

....AB: Will the growing US expansionism come to a breaking point and collision with China?

AV: Yes, it will. I have no doubt about it. China is one of the greatest cultures on Earth, and it is one of those countries that suffered immensely from colonialist horrors and humiliation. Chinese people are indignant. Indignant! For decades, despite everything, they tried to make peace with the West. They are, in fact, the most peaceful big nation on Earth and what do they get in return? They get insults, provocations and intimidation.

The Western public should learn and remember one essential thing about China: no matter what European and North American propaganda barks about the People’s Republic, China is much more “democratic” than the West. It is democratic in its own way. For thousands of years, it developed its own political system. Its rulers, no matter who they are, are given a conditional right to govern by the people. In the past, but even now it is called a “Heavenly Mandate”. If the rulers fail to respect the will of the people, they get deposed. And the Communist Party of China is greatly respectful of the desires of the majority of the Chinese people. When they want liberal reforms, they are delivered. When they want more Communism and an epic fight against corruption, like now, China’s government immediately reacts. It is powerful and democratic, although a very specific and complex arrangement.

And now, the Chinese people are outraged and they are sending clear signals to Beijing: “do not succumb to the West.” “If you do, our nation will suffer immensely, and the rest of the world will turn to ashes.”

Do understand: Chinese people are brilliant; the West cannot fool them. And they are thoroughly sick of Western imperialism. This time, if confronted and provoked, the Chinese government would yield to the pressure from its people: it would be forced to give orders to fight – to defend its motherland!....

Mark Chapman at Off-Guardian
Putin is Weaponizing Popularity: Newsweek is not Amused
“The mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children.” – André Breton

How appropriate, to say nothing of au courant,  to kick off this post with a quote from André Breton; a French poet, writer, and author of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, he is best remembered as the founder of Surrealism.  And oh, Mama; surreal is what we have for you today. Yes, having weaponized everything from refugees to referendums, Putin has finally rolled out his magnum opus: he has weaponized his own popularity. Except it is somehow a secret.  What a good thing that we have Newsweek to brief us on how that works, because at the outset I confess I am puzzled as to how secret popularity could function as a weapon.

I hate to give away right at the beginning how numbingly idiotic the piece is, but I am afraid most of you would guess as soon as you learned that the primary source upon which Newsweek relied for its breathtaking Kremlin insights was that old ‘Kremlin insider’ himself – Gleb Pavlovsky.

Epiphany Number One: the overriding reason the west has Russia so wrong is that it keeps tapping the same sources for instruction and inspiration – Fiona Hill, Clifford Gaddy, Gleb Pavlovsky, Yulia Latynina, Stanislav Belkovsky, Edward Lucas, Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, Garry Kasparov, the late and mostly unlamented Boris Nemtsov…a phalanx of sycophancy that always tells it what it wants to hear. Thou, O Queen, art fairest still. Gleb Pavlovsky affects to know everything that goes on in Russia as if it were all unfolding to his own plan, and nobody ever seems to notice when he is catastrophically wrong or that he has been predicting Putin’s collapse for a decade. Here he is, running his mouth in The Guardian, four years ago: “[Putin] thinks man is a sinful being and it is pointless to try to improve him. He believes the Bolsheviks who tried to create fair people were simply idiots, and we wasted a lot money and energy on it … So Putin’s model is that you need to be bigger and better capitalists than the western capitalists. And more consolidated as a state: there must be a full, maximum unity of state and business.”

For Pavlovsky, United Russia’s collapse in the polls in December was obvious. “It was nothing more than a telephone ....

Yves Engler at CounterPunch
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism

Twenty-first century “Canadian” corporate capitalism is quite the racket.

Built with public subsidies, a Montréal firm can shift its ‘head office’ to a tax haven and workforce abroad, but Ottawa will continue to use its diplomatic, economic and military might to advance the company’s reactionary international interests.

As part of its coverage of the Panama Papers, the Toronto Star recently reported that Gildan Activewear paid only a 2.8% tax rate on more than $1.3 billion US in declared income the last five years and it’s unclear if any of the apparel company’s measly $38 million in tax was paid in Canada.

After benefiting from government subsidies and financial backing from Quebec’s Fonds de solidarité labour investment fund, Gildan opened a subsidiary in Barbados sixteen years ago to sidestep Canadian tax. The firm took advantage of a tax treaty that permits companies to repatriate profits from the small Caribbean nation, which has a 1.5% corporate tax rate, without being taxed in Canada.

Concurrently, “free” trade agreements have enabled Gildan to shift its (unionized) Canadian and US production to Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti where it’s pursued an aggressive anti-union “sweatshop” policies. Without a high-profile brand name (until recently) Gildan has focused on producing T-shirts and socks at the lowest cost possible. Any increase in the dismally low wages it pays in these countries is a threat to their ultra-low-cost production model, which competes with even lower wage jurisdictions in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Despite Gildan moving its production to low-wage jurisdictions and its headquarters to a tax haven, Ottawa has continued to advance the company’s interests. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and backed a military coup in Honduras five years later partly to protect Gildan’s ultra-low-wage production model.

At the start of 2003 Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government .........
James Risen talks to Abby Martin

Fred Reed at Unz Review
Jewish Decline and the Rise of China: In the US

Years ago, when I was tech writer for weird magazines such as Signal and for other more-normal techish pubs, Jews littered the intellectual landscape. They were all over high-end research, such as Bell Labs. The big names were often Jewish, Einstein, von Neumann, Feynman, Gell-Mann, Minsky. The staff list for the Manhattan Project read like a Yeshiva yearbook. The same happened in the arts. Bernstein, Landowska, Rubinstein, Stoppard (“Maidens in search of Godhead…and vice versa.”)

Jews were smart, most people figured, not necessarily liking it. I wondered why without great interest. Genetic determinists of course cooked up evolutionary explanations involving undiscovered genes acted upon by unquantifiable selective pressures to produce assumed results not correlatable with the pressures. Business as usual.

Later I began to notice without thinking about it that the Jewish names were growing thin on the ground. These were not systematic observations. But Asian names were becoming prominent almost everywhere. The Feinsteins seemed to be in recession, if only anecdotally.

Something odd was happening, I barely noticed.....

Peter Van Buren at AntiWar
Teen Sues US Over Cavity Drug Search for Which She Was Billed $575
Ashley Cervantes, a then 18-year-old American citizen, was stopped at the Mexico border and, for some unspecified reason, perhaps related to her being young and of Hispanic ethnicity, accused by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of smuggling drugs.

What Drugs?
A search of her person and belongings proved fruitless, which often is a strong indicator that there are no drugs. The process involved being locked into a detention room for several hours, handcuffed to a chair, while several dogs were brought in to sniff at her. A request to call her mother was denied.

But bullying is the best law enforcement tactic, so they gave her a body cavity search, which means a CBP agent put on some rubber gloves and shoved a finger up her vagina and butt. She was also made to squat pantless so female investigators could visually inspect her privates. Still no drugs.

So Customs and Border Protection took her to a local hospital against her will, in handcuffs. No warrant, no consent. Instead, a Customs and Border Protection agent signed a “Treatment Authorization Request” as she was considered an alleged “potential internal carrier of foreign substance.” That form requested an X-ray....

David Bacon at TheNation
Why Are Mexican Teachers Being Jailed for Protesting Education Reform?
They’re peacefully resisting US-style neoliberal measures intended to crush the unions—a backbone of Mexico’s social-justice movements.
Update: On Sunday, June 19, federal police in Oaxaca fired on teachers and supporters in the Mixteca town of Nochixtlán, killing at least four and wounding 30 more.  Another was killed in Hacienda Blanca, near Oaxaca City, according to the press service AIPIN, which also reported that people were refused care at the hospital in Nochixtlán.  The federal government continues to refuse to talk with the CNTE.

On Sunday night, June 12, as Ruben Nuñez, head of Oaxaca’s teachers union, was leaving a meeting in Mexico City, his car was overtaken and stopped by several large king-cab pickup trucks. Heavily armed men in civilian clothes exited and pulled him, another teacher, and a taxi driver from their cab, and then drove them at high speed to the airport. Nuñez was immediately flown over a thousand miles north to Hermosillo, Sonora, and dumped into a high-security federal lockup.

Just hours earlier, unidentified armed agents did the same thing in Oaxaca itself, taking prisoner Francisco Villalobos, the union’s second-highest officer, and flying him to the Hermosillo prison as well. Villalobos was charged with having stolen textbooks a year ago. Nuñez’s charges are still unknown.

Both joined Aciel Sibaja, who’s been sitting in the same penitentiary since April 14. Sibaja’s crime? Accepting dues given voluntarily by teachers across Oaxaca. Sección 22, the state teachers union, has had to collect dues in cash since last July, when state authorities froze not only the union’s bank accounts but even the personal ones of its officers. Sibaja was responsible for keeping track of the money teachers paid voluntarily, which the government called “funds from illicit sources.” ......

Clarice Palmer at AntiMedia
An amendment added to Congress’ annual intelligence  spending bill may help the public gain a better idea of the U.S. government’s relationship with Hollywood.

According to VICE News, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), included an amendment to S. 3017 that would require the Director of National Intelligence to submit reports detailing the relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agencies and Hollywood. It would also require 15 other agencies to disclose the nature of their relationships with the film industry. These reports would have to be presented annually to congressional oversight committees.

Between 2006 and 2011, VICE reported, the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) had a role in at least 22 of the U.S. entertainment industry’s projects. Some of the productions listed by VICE included the films Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, television shows like Top Chef and Covert Affairs, and documentaries such as the History channel’s Air America and the BBC’s The Secret War on Terror. The book, The Devil’s Light, also had the help of the CIA.

Some of the most controversial findings regarding the relationship between OPA officials and Hollywood insiders were tied to the blockbuster, Zero Dark Thirty.

According to the redacted and previously classified December 2012 CIA report released by Judicial Watch, the CIA granted “‘secret level’ access to the makers of the movie Zero Dark Thirty.” According to VICE, “filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal showered CIA officers involved in the operation with gifts and received unprecedented access, which included the disclosure of classified information to Bigelow and Boal by CIA director Leon Panetta.”.....

The ongoing  Labor Protests in France

Aron Lund at JoshuaLandis' SyriaComment
“Why the Islamic State Is Losing, and Why It Still Hopes to Win”
The Sunni extremist group known as Islamic State (IS, also known by an earlier acronym, ISIS) is taking a terrible beating. In the past few days, it has lost territory in both Syria and Iraq. Syrian Kurds have attacked it east of Aleppo and north of Raqqa City, while it is battling Sunni Arab rivals north of Aleppo. The Syrian army of President Bashar al-Assad is pressing into the Raqqa Governorate and taking ground in the deserts east of Palmyra. In Iraq, other Kurdish groups have struck east of Mosul, while an alliance of Shia militias and the Iraqi army is moving into its stronghold in Fallujah. Further afield, the jihadis are being purged from the Libyan city of Sirte.

Islamic State’s self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is nowhere to be seen or heard as his fighters face attacks on all fronts. According to the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition, the jihadi group has now lost half of the area it controlled in Iraq at its peak in late 2014 and a fifth of its territory in Syria. Revenues from oil and other assets are reportedly down by a third and a U.S. government official recently claimed the coalition has “cut off entirely their revenue that’s coming from the outside.” The coalition also says that the total number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria has dropped from a peak of around 31,000 in December 2014 to between 19,000 and 25,000 today, and the influx of foreign jihadis has allegedly been reduced by three-quarters....

Gabriel Hetland at TheNation
How Severe Is Venezuela’s Crisis?

It’s deep but not cataclysmic, and mainstream US media have consistently exaggerated the extent of it.

According to The New York Times, Venezuela is “a country that is in a state of total collapse,” with shuttered government offices, widespread hunger, and failing hospitals that resemble “hell on earth.” There is reportedly “often little traffic in Caracas simply because so few people, either for lack of money or work, are going out.” The Washington Post, which has repeatedly called for foreign intervention against Venezuela, describes the country using similar, at times identical, language of “collapse,” “catastrophe,” “complete disaster,” and “failed state.” A recent Post article describes a “McDonald’s, empty of customers because runaway inflation means a Happy Meal costs nearly a third of an average monthly wage.” NPR reports “Venezuela is Running Out of Beer Amid Severe Economic Crisis”. When Coca-Cola announced plans to halt production due to a lack of sugar, Forbes dubbed Venezuela “the Country With No Coke.” The Wall Street Journal reports on fears that people will “die of hunger.”

Is Venezuela descending into a nightmarish scenario, as these stories suggest? To answer this question I’ve spent the last three weeks talking to dozens of people—rich and poor, Chavista and opposition, urban and rural—across Venezuela. My investigation leaves little doubt that Venezuela is in the midst of a severe crisis, characterized by triple-digit inflation, scarcities of basic goods, widespread changes in food-consumption patterns, and mounting social and political discontent. Yet mainstream media have consistently misrepresented and significantly exaggerated the severity of the crisis. It’s real and should by no means be minimized, but Venezuela is not in a state of cataclysmic collapse.

Accounts suggesting otherwise are not only inaccurate but also dangerous, insofar as they prepare the ground for ....

....When I asked Gimenez why she continues to support the government, she replied, “Because it’s not a lie that 3 million senior-age Venezuelans are receiving a pension that’s worth minimum wage. When Chávez got to power, not even 300,000 seniors received a pension, and the pension wasn’t even a fifth of the minimum wage. It’s not a lie that schools opened to all children with a meal every day.… It’s not a lie that they opened more opportunities for studying at the university level. And it’s not a lie that education at all levels is free, totally free. Oh, but this education has errors, we don’t doubt it. It’s part of a [process in] construction.… It’s not a lie that healthcare, with all the problems we have right now with the dollar, and the import of medicines…that they’ve provided a space for healthcare in all of our communities. It’s not a lie that our citizens with disabilities, who were rendered totally invisible before, they didn’t have machines to treat their disabilities, now we have physical therapy centers, and today [people with disabilities] are prioritized in terms of jobs, and for many things. It’s not a lie, and I’ve lived it, that people in our rural zones lived in straw houses with mud roofs…and now there are real houses in our rural zones, and not just in our rural zones, but in the urban zones, the million and some houses that have been constructed are a reality.… There’s still much to do, but this is a reality…. And it’s not a lie that in any street corner you go to, people will talk to you about politics, about what’s happening, about the international situation, if they participated or not, if the communal council stole the money or didn’t steal the money. There’s a political participation that can’t be hidden.” ....

From TodayInIraqAndAfghanistan blog
Update for Sunday, July 3, 2016

As usual, reported casualty tolls and other details differ, but according to the Washington Post account, which seems the most recent and complete I can find, 83 people have died in a car bomb attack on the Karada shopping district in Baghdad. IS claimed responsibility on the attack in a Shiite neighborhood, saying Shiites were the target because of their faith. Prime Minister Abadi visited the scene and was met by an angry mob. There are conflicting reports as to whether a second explosion in eastern Baghdad, which killed 5 people, was a terrorist attack or an accident.

The corporate media in the U.S. usually ignore bombings in Baghdad, but this one got some attention, with coverage from the New York Times, CBS, and CNN among others.

Hundreds of families have fled from fighting around Sharqat in Salahuddin province. More than 350,000 people are said to remain trapped in the city.....

From CaribFlame
Israeli Firm Helping S. Arabia in Yemen War

Newly-leaked documents have uncovered close ties between the Israeli and Saudi regimes in the latter’s war against Yemen.

Based on the documents, the Saudi defense minister has recently written a letter to the commander of border guards in the southern parts of the kingdom decreeing that security in the region should be handled by an Israeli company. The Israeli company has been mandated to deal with cross border retaliatory attacks carried out by Yemen’s Ansarullah, al-Waght news website reported.

A report by Yemeni Najm al-Thaqeb website revealed that, following the failure of Saudi-backed forces in their attack on Yemen and after it became apparent that some Saudi frontier regions might fall into Yemeni forces and Ansarullah fighters’ hands, the Saudi regime contracted an Israeli company known as Al Majal Group to oversee security in the Southern region. The Israeli company has already obtained 45 million US dollars to plant landmines and put barriers in the border region.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia is using services of the Israeli top security company.

Since 2010, the Israeli Al Majal Group has taken charge of security during the mandatory Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj. It was under the watch of the Israeli security company that over 4,000 Muslim pilgrims were killed during last year’s Hajj following a deadly stampede in Mina, the worst in history....

Marisa Franco and Carlos Garcia at TheNation
The Deportation Machine Obama Built for President Trump
When Barack Obama took office after his 2008 election, he inherited a budding deportation apparatus with its roots in the imagination of the “War on Terror” reactionaries who created the Office of Homeland Security in 2001 (later the Department of Homeland Security). When he leaves office he will leave behind to his successor the most sophisticated and well-funded human-expulsion machine in the history of the country.

In his first two years, newly appointed Director of the Office of Homeland Security Tom Ridge expanded the purview of his department to include an immigration enforcement plan that sought to achieve a “100% removal rate” of the undocumented population in the United States by seeing to the drafting of a document that came to shape the next 15 years, “ENDGAME Office of Detention and Removal Strategic Plan.” At the time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (later broken up into the Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection) had approximately 26,000 agents and $4.9 billion. It was an enormous leap from when ICE was previously housed within Department of Justice but nothing like what it grew to be today.

Instead of reversing that architecture and disavowing that plan, President Obama turbocharged it. ....

From 21stCenturyWire
‘Major Defence Partner’: American Military Industrial Complex Infects India
Is a new theatre of conflict about to open?

India has been recognised as a ‘Major Defense Partner‘ of the United States, which is essentially a euphemism for the fact that it has been granted approval for access to the American military industrial complex.

A senior Whitehouse official said:

“India now enjoys access to defense technologies that is on a par with US treaty allies. That is a very unique status. India is the only other country that enjoys that status outside US formal treaty allies.”

“In reality, less than one per cent of all exports requests are denied to India. They are not denied because of India. They are denied because of global U.S. licensing policies. We do not share certain technologies with anybody in the world,”

This means that India does have access to 99% of everything that American military corporations have to offer.....

From CaribFlame
US Imperialism Threatens Peace in Central America: Nicaragua

Nicaraguan President Ortega says more collaboration needed to thwart US intervention in the region

Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua said Central America is living at a time of interventionist and imperialist policies from the US, which threatens peace in the region.

Ortega was unable to attend the presidential summit of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Roatan, Honduras, where he was named the organization´s president. But through his adviser for international affairs, Denis Moncada, he delivered a strongly-worded message to his counterparts in SICA, which seeks to coordinate economic and political development in the region.

 “In Central America, our SICA lives in difficult times, similar to those lived throughout the continent. Times in which understanding is difficult. Times when other voices, that are not their own, intend to prevail at the expense of the interests of our people,” said Ortega.

Imperialist forces in the US, Ortega said, has set its sights on Brazil, Paraguay, and crucially at the moment, Venezuela....

Ellen Brown at GlobalResearch
n April, Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize I medical cannabis, a form of the plant popularly known as marijuana. That makes nearly half of US states. A major barrier to broader legalization has been the federal law under which all cannabis – even the very useful form known as industrial hemp – is classed as a Schedule I controlled substance that cannot legally be grown in the US. But that classification could change soon. In a letter sent to federal lawmakers in April, the US Drug Enforcement Administration said it plans to release a decision on rescheduling marijuana in the first half of 2016.

The presidential candidates are generally in favor of relaxing the law. In November 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would repeal all federal penalties for possessing and growing the plant, allowing states to establish their own marijuana laws. Hillary Clinton would not go that far but would drop cannabis from a Schedule I drug (a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse) to Schedule II (a deadly dangerous drug with medical use and high potential for abuse). Republican candidate Donald Trump says we are losing badly in the war on drugs, and that to win that war all drugs need to be legalized.

But it is Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein who has been called “weed’s biggest fan.” Speaking from the perspective of a physician and public health advocate,Stein notes that hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from chronic pain and cancers are benefiting from the availability of medical marijuana under state laws. State economies are benefiting as well. She cites Colorado, where retail marijuana stores first opened in January 2014. Since then, Colorado’s crime rates and traffic fatalities have dropped; and tax revenue, economic output from retail marijuana sales, and jobs have increased.

Among other arguments for changing federal law is that the marijuana business currently lacks access to banking facilities. Most banks, fearful of FDIC sanctions, won’t work with the $6.7 billion marijuana industry, leaving 70% of cannabis companies without bank accounts. That means billions of dollars are sitting around in cash, encouraging tax evasion and inviting theft, ....

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