Daily Archives: March 22, 2014

Coups for export : US has history of supporting anti-govt upheavals

US Assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (2ndL) distributing cakes to protesters on the Independence Square in Kiev on December 10, 2013.

US Assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (2ndL) distributing cakes to protesters on the Independence Square in Kiev on December 10, 2013.

The US has been selective in supporting the self-determination of nations. It continues to dismiss Crimea’s choice to reunite with Russia, while at the same time backs the coup in Kiev. And the idea is hardly new for Washington.

The current situation in Ukraine has something in common with the one in Colombia, James Petras, a political analyst and Professor (Emeritus) at Binghamton University, New York, believes. The common part is the US role in what’s going on in both countries, he suggests in his op-ed, recently published at the website of Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization.

“The two paths to 21st century empire-building-via-proxies are illustrated through the violent seizure of power in the Ukraine by a US-backed junta and the electoral gains of the US-backed Colombian war lord, Alvaro Uribe,” Petras says. “By rendering democratic processes and peaceful popular reforms impossible and by overthrowing independent, democratically elected governments, Washington is making wars and violent upheavals inevitable.”

The US has quite a history of meddling in Colombia since encouraging the breakaway of Panama, in the early 20th century. The US was then able to negotiate favorable conditions for the creation of the Panama Canal. The most recent example comes from 2013, when The Washington Post published an article revealing that the CIA actively helped the Colombian government to locate and kill guerrilla leaders.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to people at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev on March 4, 2014.

While preaching non-interference to Russia, Washington has been very active in showing its support for, first, protesters in Kiev and then to the coup-appointed government. The US participation in events in Ukraine did not confine itself to distributing snacks to rally participants, or friendly gestures of support.

We’ve invested over 5 billion dollars to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure, prosperous, and democratic Ukraine,” Victoria Nuland, Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia said in December, 2013.

The announcement has drawn criticism.

The West spent 5 billion dollars destabilizing Ukraine. This is something that is a mess that’s put on Russia’s doorstep by the West,” a US writer and activist, Daniel Patrick Welch, believes.

International law professor at Georgetown University, Daoud Khairallah, says there are many more examples of the US meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

The Middle East is an example,” he told RT. “What is known as the Arab Spring is method of self-destruction, achieving political goals through having societies destroy themselves.”

US Senator John McCain (2nd L) signs a military helmet for a protester at Independence Square in Kiev on December 15, 2013.

Quite a number of post WWII coups are believed to have been US-assisted, like the one in Iran in 1953. Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who sought to turn Iran into a full democracy was ousted with the help of the US and replaced by the Shah, who then ruled as absolute monarch for the next 26 years.

It was the potential… to leave Iran open to Soviet aggression – at a time when the Cold War was at its height and when the United States was involved in an undeclared war in Korea against forces supported by the USSR and China – that compelled the United States [REDACTED] in planning and executing TPAJAX [the code name of the coup operation],” reads the CIA document, declassified in 2013 and cited by the Foreign Policy.

Similarly the US’s hand is seen in the 1954 coup in Guatemala, the in the Congo 1960, in South Vietnam 1963, in Brazil 1964, and Chile in 1973.

Latin Americans have always believed themselves to be a major target of the US over the years. A popular joke there says: “Why will there never be a coup in the US? Because there’s no US Embassy in Washington.”

We have examples of outside intrusion in the internal politics of states like Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Grenada,” the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, said in one of his RT interviews. “Repeated attempts of a coup in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia. There was no coup in the 150-year-old history of Latin America, that the US government did not apply its hand to.”

For more opinions on the role of the US in “regime changes” throughout the world watch RT’s Anastasia Churkina’s report.

 RT News.

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88 injured, 29 arrested in Madrid as anti-austerity march turns violent

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Protesters clashed with police in Madrid as thousands of people trekked across Spain to protest austerity which they claim is destroying their country. Under the banner “no more cuts!” the protesters called for an end to the government’s “empty promises.”

Police arrested at least 29 protesters following the clashes which took place after the march. According to emergency service, 88 people were injured – 55 of them police, El Mundo newspaper reports.

Protesters were seen throwing stones and firecrackers at police. According to witnesses, officers used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

Clashes broke out during a final speech at the demonstration when protesters tried to break through a police barrier. Riot police took charge by beating protesters with batons, AP reported.

“The mass rally was coming to an an end when reportedly a group of younger protesters, who had masks on their faces, started throwing rocks at the police. Police tried to push them away from the parameter that they organized around this area,” RT’s Egor Piskunov reported from Madrid.

“They (police) tried to push them (protesters) away from these police fences and then we started seeing firecrackers being thrown at police and reportedly authorities started firing rubber bullets at the protesters. As a result, there are injuries on both sides and several people have been arrested as well.”

“I can confirm that there is very heavy police presence in this whole district. Since it is the center of Madrid, there are lots of luxury hotels in this part of town and security here is very tight,” he added.

Six “columns” of trains, cars and buses, as well as bands of pedestrians have travelled from Extremadura, Andalusia, Valencia, Murcia, Asturias, Galicia and Aragon, among other Spanish regions, to converge on Madrid in mass protest this Saturday. The demonstration itself has been dubbed 22-M, Marches for dignity.

Eight groups of activists are expected to move into the Spanish capital at different points throughout the course of the day. As a precautionary measure, the Madrid authorities have closed roads in the center of the city and asked people to use public transport whenever possible on Saturday. In addition, the Spanish authorities have deployed 1,650 riot police to keep the situation under control in Madrid.

The protest movement is demanding an end to the so-called Troika-style cuts in Spain, more jobs and affordable housing.

“Why am I here? I’m sick of this government. With all the promises they never fulfill. They said they were going to create more jobs and lower the taxes but it’s a lie! Instead, unemployment rose from 4 to 6 million. This is the only way we can fight back,” one of the protestors, who had been on the road since March 9, told RT correspondent Egor Piskunov.

A large proportion of the protesters who have made their way on foot to the Spanish capital are unemployed and plan to camp in Madrid until their demands are met.

“There are too many reasons: my sons have to work every day from 8 in the morning to five of the next morning only for 400 euros per month! Also I’m a teacher and I know what cuts in the public sector mean,” said another activist. “All these evictions – this is insane. I’m marching to Madrid because I can’t walk to Berlin or Brussels. We must stop them and the Troika!”

Hundreds of people are evicted from their homes every day in Spain. The General Council of the Judiciary reported that 49,984 forced evictions had been carried out across the country last year, which averages about 185 a day.

The number of evictions reached an all-time high in Spain in 2012 with over 500 a day, according to a report by the BBC. This combined with an unemployment rate of 26 percent, the second highest in Europe after Greece, has left many Spanish citizens with nowhere to turn. This is reflected in the growing number of suicides in the country, with the country’s National Institute of Statistics estimating that at least 8 people take their lives every day in the country.

Pepe Caballero, one of the organizers of the protests said the Spanish government is trying to return Spain to the Franco era.

“What the government wants is to go back to the Franco years and keep the working class from demonstrating in the streets and saying what our main problems are. We won’t allow that to happen and they know it,” Caballero told RT, adding that the protest movement will change Spain from the “bottom to the top.”

At the beginning of this month, the Spanish Minister of Employment Fatima Banez said that Spain had finally pulled itself out of the recession and registered economic growth. However, the Spanish Union of Workers dismissed Banez’s announcements as “government propaganda.”

Anti-austerity demonstrators crowd into Colon square as they take part in a demonstration which organisers have labeled the "Marches of Dignity" in Madrid, March 22, 2014

Anti-austerity demonstrators crowd into Colon square as they take part in a demonstration which organisers have labeled the “Marches of Dignity” in Madrid, March 22, 2014

via 88 injured, 29 arrested in Madrid as anti-austerity march turns violent — RT News.

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Crimean self-defense squads enter Belbek airbase

Civilians are led by members of Crimea’s self-defence units as they run outside a military base during an assault in the Crimean town of Belbek near Sevastopol March 22, 2014

Crimean self-defense forces have surrounded Belbek airbase near Sevastopol after Ukrainian troops inside refused to lay arms and leave the base in accordance to the Crimean prime minister’s order.

The self-defense squads are now in control of the airbase while the Ukrainian troops have been given an opportunity to leave, Dmitry Osipenko, a journalist for Sevastopol news website ForPost who was present at the scene, told RT.

The commander of the airbase, Yuliy Mamchur, has been escorted to negotiations with Crimean authorities.

“After they refused [to leave the base] the Sevastopol self-defense troops tried to enter the territory of the base,” while gunfire was heard at the scene. “According to my information nobody was injured, but I’m not sure,” said Osipenko.

Osipenko claimed the gunfire was coming from the side of the Ukrainian troops. However, it is unclear who was shooting. “The self-defense forces hid behind cars and then a car rammed the gate [of the airbase],” he said.

Members of Crimea’s self-defense forces and residents outside a military base in the Crimean town of Belbek near Sevastopol March 22, 2014

He stated that apart from the self-defense squads, Sevastopol Cossaks were present.

The move follows the March 16 all-Crimean referendum which resulted in over 96 percent of voters opting for the autonomous republic to join Russia. Eight-three percent of the Crimeans took part in the vote. The decision was sparked by bloody protests in Kiev that resulted in the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich and fears that the unrest might spread to Crimea.

Russia finalized the legal process of taking Crimea under its sovereignty on Friday, with President Vladimir Putin signing a law amending the Russian constitution to reflect the transition.

‘We are being abandoned’

Though Crimea is no longer part of Ukraine, Kiev authorities have not yet officially ordered Ukrainian troops to leave their bases in Crimea.

Ukrainian military troops stationed at Belbek criticized their leadership for abandoning them in a post on the airbase’s blog.

We are being abandoned – most sadly by our own government,” it reads. “The most dangerous enemy appeared to be our leadership and our government.”

“Today I’ve found an interview with Acting Minister of Defense [Igor] Tenyukh where he says he maintains contact with all troops on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, that all relevant orders were given and the situation is under control. There were only two orders – ‘remain in place’ and ‘[you are ] allowed to use weapons.’ That’s it!”

Members of Crimea’s self-defense forces and residents outside a military base in the Crimean town of Belbek near Sevastopol March 22, 2014

What is expected [of us] in case of an assault?” the military asked. ”There were no clear answers given to us.”

Meanwhile, most US financial assistance to Ukraine will focus on the formation and maintenance of the new military – the National Guard, said a source from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, as cited by Itar-Tass.

Kiev is not planning to fund the army or navy which are in a deplorable state,” the source said.

The National Guard, the custodian of the coup-imposed government, is already in formation and will be comprised of 60,000 men and women from former and current Ukrainian troops and volunteers from Maidan self-defense squads. It will be appointed by the parliament upon the recommendation of the acting president.

Members of Crimea’s self-defense units take cover behind cars outside a military base in the Crimean town of Belbek near Sevastopol March 22, 2014

 

 

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MADRID : Big protest in Spain against government austerity

People gather during a protest against the Government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Thousands from different parts of Spain marched towards the Capital to join a large anti-austerity demonstration, demanding the resignation of the Government and to express their anger at government financial cuts, its housing rights policies, and the high unemployment rates

MADRID — Tens of thousands of demonstrators from across Spain have marched in central Madrid to protest government measures they claim have eroded civil rights in the country.

Six columns of protesters — each from a different region of Spain — arrived at the outskirts of the city early Saturday before heading for Colon square, carrying banners bearing the slogan “Marching for Dignity.”

By late afternoon, Madrid’s principal boulevard, Paseo del Prado, was packed with people chanting against government’s austerity policies and the cuts they have entailed.

The protest includes trade unions, civil servants and organizations representing people evicted from their homes for not being able to make mortgage payments after losing their jobs.

One woman carried a banner saying, “My daughter can’t be here because she’s had to emigrate.”

The Olympian.

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Chinese satellite spots possible MH370 flight debris

Australian Flight Lieutenant Jason Nichols (L), on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, looks ahead towards the HMAS Success as they search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 debris or wreckage in the southern Indian Ocean on March 22, 2014.

Chinese satellites have discovered a new object in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean that may be wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing with 239 people on board.

The Chinese finding was first announced by Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who was handed a note with details during his press conference in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

“The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received satellite images of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify,” he said. “Beijing is expected to make an announcement in a few hours.”

The discovered object is around 22 meters long and 13 meters wide, the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said on its website.

It was spotted on March 18 in a remote area off the western Australian coast by China’s high-definition earth observation satellite, Gaofen-1, SASTIND.

According to the Chinese side, the new finding has been spotted about 120 kilometers from the location where possible wreckage was sighted by another satellite on March 16, and south by west of the possible debris, which was announced by Australia on Thursday.

A satellite image of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite CNSA

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 239, people left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 destined for Beijing, but mysteriously disappeared from radar screens around an hour after takeoff.

For the last two weeks, over 20 countries have been making efforts to establish what happened to the Boeing 777 plane, but their efforts have so far proved fruitless.

In recent days, the international search has switched to the southern Indian Ocean far off Australia’s western coast, after floating objects were photographed by the satellites in the area, described by Australian PM, Tony Abbott, as “the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth.”

Six planes and two ships are currently taking part in the operation, with two Chinese aircrafts arriving in Perth on Saturday and two more planes from Japan expected on Sunday.

“This search is an intensive operation,” Warren Truss, Australian deputy prime minister, is cited as saying by the Guardian newspaper. “While these aircraft are equipped with very advanced technology, much of this search is actually visual.”

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up a note that he has just received on a new lead in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 22, 2014. (Reuters / Edgar Su)

The search will go on as long as necessary because “it is important from the perspective of those who have families… and indeed for the future of the aviation,” Warren promised.

Several people familiar with the matter told Reuters that India has informed Malaysian investigators that it hadn’t any evidence of the missing plane flying through its airspace, which makes the satellite debris lead more solid.

Meanwhile, the hunt has also resumed in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand (areas already exhaustively swept), to be re checked for possible leads.

The plane ordeal has reportedly sparked tensions between China and Malaysia, with Beijing slamming Kuala Lumpur for not treating the relatives of the flight MH370 passengers well enough, and demanding a step-up in the search.

The Beijing families of those on board the plane issued a statement on Saturday, accusing the Malaysian delegation of “concealing the truth” and “making fools” of the relatives, after they failed to get all the answers during a meeting.

“This kind of conduct neglects the lives of all the passengers, shows contempt for all their families, and even more, tramples on the dignity of Chinese people and the Chinese government,” the statement is cited by Reuters.

Investigators suspect flight MH370 was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path, and are focusing on hijacking or sabotage, adding that technical problems aren’t also ruled out as well.

 RT News.

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Turkish people strike back, tweeting against Twitter ban

Demonstrators, members of the Turkish Youth Union, shout anti-government slogans during a protest against a Twitter ban, in Ankara yesterday.

Ankara has found the internet difficult to silence over allegations of corruption. Hours after Turkey’s government moved to block access to Twitter, Turkish citizens struck back – on the social media network itself.

Some circulated a manipulated picture of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister, sinking his teeth into the blue bird that serves as the network’s mascot. They were not alone: the number of tweets sent after the midnight ban rose 140 per cent over normal levels, according to data provided by analytics firm Brandwatch.

Dodging the ban
Twitter sent out mobile numbers that allowed Turkish consumers to keep using its service. In another technical fix against the ban, Turkish downloads of Hotspot Shield, the world’s most popular virtual private network service, rose to 270,000 on Friday – from a daily average of 7,000.

The Turkish users’ defiance and the sheer scale of their activity suggest no immediate end to the battering Mr Erdogan has suffered in cyberspace.

Seeking to silence allegations of corruption against him and his government in the run-up to local elections on March 30th, he has removed some 7,000 policemen from their posts and boosted Ankara’s powers over judges and prosecutors.

But the internet has proved harder to handle. A formal corruption investigation has stalled, Twitter and YouTube have been used to circulate apparently incriminating voice recordings of Mr Erdogan and his circle – including some he has acknowledged as authentic.

Yet more explosive leaks are expected ahead of this month’s elections – according to one rumour, more revelations will come on March 25th.

But if Turkey’s Twitter ban was intended to thwart the dissemination of such allegations, it has backfired spectacularly.

“Erdogan is constantly on the run now. I don’t think he has time to think,” said Soli Ozel at Kadir Has university in Istanbul. “He is trying to keep the scandal as muted as possible at all costs, but he can’t control the technology. Instead, he is fuelling the fire of suspicion and making everyone anticipate what, if anything, will come out on the 25th.”

Mr Erdogan took aim at Twitter, saying he would “root out” the microblogging service for national security reasons. But he failed to account for Turkey’s predilection for social networks – a response, many say, to a cowed media – which means Twitter has greater penetration among web users here than in any other country.

Even President Abdullah Gul, who signed a Bill increasing government control over the internet, tweeted his opposition to the measure.

Free speech
Before long, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the UK government, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many other non-governmental and international bodies had sent tweets deploring what they depicted as an attack on free speech. Celebrities such as Russell Crowe, Richard Branson, Mia Farrow and Elijah Wood piled in.

The Turkish bar association filed a criminal complaint against the ban, which it said was illegal. As sporadic Twitter service returned, mystery surrounded who had formally imposed the measure, supposedly in response to court complaints about invasion of privacy.

The government says it was done as Twitter had failed to respect such court complaints; a lawyer for Twitter was in Ankara for meetings yesterday.

“These steps are very crucial for the Turkish legal system,” said Selin Erciyas, at Mehmet Gun & Partners, an Istanbul law firm. “We will see if there is a true objective legal system or whether it is just Erdogan that decides things in court.”

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NSA hacks system administrators, new leak reveals

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

The Intercept has published a handful of leaked screenshots taken from an internal NSA message board where one spy agency specialist spoke extensively about compromising not the computers of specific targets, but rather the machines of the system administrators who control entire networks.

Journalist Ryan Gallagher reported that Edward Snowden, a former sys admin for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided The Intercept with the internal documents, including one from 2012 that’s bluntly titled “I hunt sys admins.”

According to the posts — some labeled “top secret” — NSA staffers should not shy away from hacking sys admins: a successful offensive mission waged against an IT professional with extensive access to a privileged network could provide the NSA with unfettered capabilities, the analyst acknowledged.

“Who better to target than the person that already has the ‘keys to the kingdom’?” one of the posts reads.

“They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency’s effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet,” Gallagher wrote for the article published late Thursday. “By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks.”

Since last June, classified NSA materials taken by Snowden and provided to certain journalists have exposed an increasing number of previously-secret surveillance operations that range from purposely degrading international encryption standards and implanting malware in targeted machines, to tapping into fiber-optic cables that transfer internet traffic and even vacuuming up data as its moved into servers in a decrypted state.

The latest leak suggests that some NSA analysts took a much different approach when tasked with trying to collect signals intelligence that otherwise might not be easily available. According to the posts, the author advocated for a technique that involves identifying the IP address used by the network’s sys admin, then scouring other NSA tools to see what online accounts used those addresses to log-in. Then by using a previously-disclosed NSA tool that tricks targets into installing malware by being misdirected to fake Facebook servers, the intelligence analyst can hope that the sys admin’s computer is sufficiently compromised and exploited.

Once the NSA has access to the same machine a sys admin does, American spies can mine for a trove of possibly invaluable information, including maps of entire networks, log-in credentials, lists of customers and other details about how systems are wired. In turn, the NSA has found yet another way to, in theory, watch over all traffic on a targeted network.

“Up front, sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of,” the NSA employee says in the documents.

When reached for comment by The Intercept, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said that, “A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights.”

Coincidentally, outgoing-NSA Director Keith Alexander said last year that he was working on drastically cutting the number of sys admins at that agency by upwards of 90 percent — but didn’t say it was because they could be exploited by similar tactics waged by adversarial intelligence groups. Gen. Alexander’s decision came just weeks after Snowden — previously one of around 1,000 sys admins working on the NSA’s networks, according to Reuters — walked away from his role managing those networks with a trove of classified information.

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