Tag Archives: Washington

Paris Peace Talks Embolden Status Quo of Incremental Genocide in Palestine

The ill-fated peace talks denounced by both parties do little but provide a veneer of legitimacy to the rightward creep of Netanyahu’s apartheid regime.

Peace talks began in Paris on Friday, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, with an espoused aim to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that have repeatedly failed since the Jewish state was established in 1948, in the heart of ancient Arab lands.

The diplomats were joined by representatives from the Arab League, the European Union and several neighboring Arab states, but notably the meeting, designed to reestablish peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, included no representatives for either of the adversaries.

The Israeli Prime Minister publicly blasted the initiative as his country makes a hard shift toward more aggressive militarism against their Palestinian neighbors. In May, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed controversial far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister to replace the more moderate Moshe Ya’alon. Reacting to the appointment, UN Middle-East envoy Nikolay Maladenov said on Wednesday that Israeli ministers are “killing hope” for peace, following comments by the Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, that a Palestinian state will never be allowed.

“As long as we are in the government, there will be no Palestinian state, there will be no settlement evacuations and we will not give any land to our enemies,” Shaked said on Tuesday.

The situation for Palestinians has grown more desperate in recent years, with childhood poverty increasing at a near exponential rate, people repeatedly dispossessed of their land and under constant bombardment by Israeli defense forces. The climate of violence and fear has been repeatedly noted as closely resembling the South African regime of apartheid, including remarks by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The Palestinian people have been devastated by efforts by Israeli officials to co-opt their leadership, providing victims with few options to voice their dissent to a global audience about the daily tragedy they endure.

Mass killings of Palestinians by IDF forces have given way to a rash of stabbings in Israel by beleaguered Palestinians. More peaceful approaches, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) program advanced by Palestinian leadership have had limited effect on Israel, with the world refusing to cut trade ties with the country and leading to ever-higher levels of poverty in Gaza and the West Bank.

On Thursday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with peace activist Miko Peled and political analyst Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich to discuss whether the Paris peace talks are about peace or if they are a fig-leaf to justify the status quo of Palestinian displacement.

Do the Paris peace talks have any significance or hope of success?

“Frankly the answer is no,” said Sepahpour-Ulrich. “Israel has never been interested in a political solution and the fact that we continue to hold these peace talks, with the first one in 1949, the Lausanne Conference, and many more since 1979.”

“This whole thing reminds me of what Desmond Tutu said about the missionaries – ‘They had the bible and we had the land, they told us to close our eyes and then they had the land and we were holding the Bible,’ and the same thing is true now with these peace talks,” she said.

“Nothing ever comes out of these talks and it tends to buy Israel time to further occupy Palestinian land and engage in incremental genocide,” stated the analyst. “All of these rounds of talks are just buying more time while the Palestinian land is shrinking and so is the number of Palestinian people.”

“If somebody is serious about creating peace then we need more than talk, we need action,” she said.

Why is there no focus in these talks on holding Israel accountable for settlements?

“Let me reframe the conversation for a second if I may. I believe that the only way to move forward is to recognize the following: Palestine was occupied in 1948 and a racist, apartheid regime known as Israel was established in Palestine. In 1967, the state of Israel completed that occupation of Palestine by taking a few small parts that it left out in the West Bank and Gaza strip that then calling it Israel, even though we know it is Palestine,” said Peled detailing the history of Palestinian displacement.

“The establishment of a single state with exclusive rights for Jewish people has been in place ever since and that is it. This idea that there is a Palestine different from Israel and Israel different from Palestine and that somehow the state of Israel will negotiate with a Palestinian entity for some sort of compromise within this framework is hallucination, it is science fiction,” he said.

“The only way to move forward is a complete condemnation of the racist, colonialist project that is called the state of Israel and to get rid of it just like apartheid was done away with in South Africa, with a democracy of equal rights, where Palestinians have all of their rights, the right of return is materialized, and this whole racist, colonialist project is done away with. That is the only way to move forward,” stated the activist.

Peled commented that hope for Palestinians will come not through talks, but through resistance, likening their situation to the South African apartheid. The activist praised Palestinian leadership for modeling their Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) effort on the successful struggle for liberation in South Africa, but considers the situation in the Middle East to be more perilous, with countries around the world refusing to join in solidarity by cutting off trade with Israel.

Sepahpour-Ulrich agreed that the commonplace notion of a two-state solution has always been a false cry for peace, and criticized Europe and the United States for allowing the oppression to continue.

“There is no question in my mind that there is no will to change the status quo, the Europeans and the Israelis and their trade has grown over the years. If you are under the belief that there needs to be a two-state solution or you think that this occupation needs to end, then you freeze your trade, you don’t allow it to grow,” she said. “The United States has been funding this occupation, so, what they are doing is giving lip service, and it is just propaganda, they are selling a false truth.”

“There is no reality to these peace talks. The world is being lied to,” said the analyst. “They are just biding their time to wipe Palestine off the map, which Google incidentally did in one instance.”

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US asks Russia not to target Al-Qaeda branch in Syria – Russian FM Lavrov

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Washington has asked Moscow not to conduct airstrikes against al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, for fear that members of the “moderate opposition” could also be hit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reported.

“They [the US] are telling us not to hit it [al-Nusra Front], because there are also ‘normal’ opposition groups [on those territories],” Lavrov said in an interview with local Russian media that was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

The minister also stressed that “such opposition groups should leave terrorist positions,” adding that “we have long agreed on that.” Russia first set a deadline for the “moderate” opposition to leave territories occupied by al-Nusra Front extremists, but then agreed to give them more time to withdraw.

In the interview, Lavrov said that Russia believes that taking specific and more effective measures to fight the Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups should be the top priority for Russia and the US if the Syrian crisis is to be resolved.

“It is important to provide humanitarian access to the settlements blocked by one side or another, to secure the ceasefire and to prevent its violation, as well as to launch the political process… but, as important as these goals are, terrorism is our common threat, and there should be no doubt about that,” he said, adding that, in the meantime, al-Nusra Front has been attempting to merge with other armed opposition groups.

Lavrov also said that the political process in Syria is being held back by radical opposition groups that refuse to come to the negotiating table and set preconditions for peace talks. He added that it is important to set aside these demands and focus on the fight against terrorism.

The minister also emphasized that Russia and the US are involved in a close and intensive dialog on Syria that includes regular telephone calls between Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, and a video-conference channel set up between the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria located at the Khmeimim airbase in Latakia and the US base in the Jordanian capital of Amman, as well as a joint US-Russian center in Geneva.

Lavrov had held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the initiative of the US side earlier the same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement

The two ministers discussed “the fight against ISIS and the need to urgently distance the moderate opposition from the Jabhat al-Nusra group, as well as efforts to cut off the flow of weapons and militants coming from abroad to beef up terrorist organizations,” the statement said.

In the meantime, Kerry, who is in Paris, told journalists that he had discussed the upsurge in violence in Syria during the phone call with Lavrov, explaining that the two had worked specifically on “ways to try to strengthen the enforcement and accountability for this cessation,” AP reported.

In the meantime, the US State Department said that Washington has asked Russia to be “more careful” in targeting its airstrikes against al-Nusra Front, as hitting civilians or opposition groups while attacking the jihadists could eventually give more support to the terrorist groups.

“[The US State] Secretary conveyed to Russia and the Assad regime that they need to carefully distinguish between these terrorist groups operating on the ground and those parties to the cessation of hostilities,” US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said during a briefing on Friday, adding that the US agrees that IS and al-Nusra Front “pose a real threat to the security on the ground in Syria.”

Chomsky: Obama ‘Dangerously Escalating Tensions Along the Russian Border’

In a new interview, linguist Noam Chomsky warns that US President Barack Obama’s military buildup in Eastern Europe is threatening to destabilize the region.

“He has been more reluctant to engage troops on the ground than some of his predecessors and advisers, and instead has rapidly escalated special operations and his global assassination (drone campaign), a moral disaster and arguably illegal as well,” Chomsky said during a recent interview with Truthout, referring to Obama’s foreign policy.

“On other fronts, it is a mixed story,” he adds. “Obama has continued to bar a nuclear weapons-free (technically, WMD-free) zone in the Middle East, evidently motivated by the need to protect Israeli nuclear weapons from scrutiny.”

“By so doing, he is endangering the Nonproliferation Treaty, the most important disarmament treaty, which is contingent on establishing such a zone.”

But the biggest problem may be Washington’s actions in Eastern Europe.

“He is dangerously escalating tensions along the Russian border, extending earlier policies,” Chomsky said.

The United States has spearheaded NATO’s gradual buildup in Poland and the Baltic states, citing “Russian aggression.” Upcoming military drills have been criticized by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov.

“We are convinced that these exercises carry a serious destabilizing component,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Their main goal is to continue the aggravation of tensions along the Russian borders.”

Obama’s policy on nuclear weapons is also worrying to Chomsky.

“His trillion-dollar program for modernizing the nuclear weapons system is the opposite of what should be done,” he said.

While treaties forbid the United States from expanding its nuclear arsenal, the upgrades include improved targeting systems, as well as adjustable yields, which could, in theory, make the weapons easier to use.

“These and other moves amount to a mixed story, ranging from criminal to moderate improvement,” Chomsky said.

While a new President will take office after the November elections, the philosopher doesn’t have much hope that things will change.

“Financialization has of course exploded during the neoliberal period, and the general policies, pretty much global in character, are designed to enhance private and corporate power,” he said. “That sets off a vicious cycle in which concentration of wealth leads to concentration of political power, which in turn yields legislation and administrative practices that carry the process forward.”

Putin calls for non-aligned international security system in face of global terror threat

May 9, 2016. Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 WWII, on Moscow's Red Square.

May 9, 2016. Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 WWII, on Moscow’s Red Square.

Vladimir Putin said Russia is all for creating a non-aligned system of international security to counter global terror. The president, speaking at the V-Day parade in Moscow, called on all nations to learn the lessons of WWII.

“Today our civilization has faced brutality and violence – terrorism has become a global threat,” the Russian president said, addressing the crowds on Moscow’s Red Square ahead of a parade dedicated to the 71st anniversary of victory in WWII. “We must defeat this evil, and Russia is open to join forces with all countries and is ready to work on the creation of a modern, non-aligned system of international security.”

According to the Russian leader, the lessons of the World War II showed that “double standards” and “short-sighted indulgence to those who are nurturing new criminal plans” are unacceptable.

“The lessons of history show that peace on our planet doesn’t establish itself, that you need to be on high alert,” he said.

The Great Patriotic War (the term used in Russia and former Soviet republics to describe the conflict on the Eastern Front from 1941-45) will always remain “an outstanding, sacred heroic deed of our people, a call to live according to conscience, to keep the height of the truth and justice, to transfer these values from generation to generation,” the president added.

“Our fathers and grandfathers defeated the powerful, merciless enemy, in front of whom many countries folded,” Putin said.

“It was our servicemen who gave the Nazis and their accomplices full retaliation for millions of victims, for all the barbarities and excesses on our land.”

Putin added that Russian soldiers have proven that they are “worthy successors to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War who are defending the country’s interests with honor.”

“I’m sure the veterans today are proud of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren – they are not letting [the veterans] down and will always remember the great victory, the heroic deeds of the glorious generation of victors,” he said.

Seventy-one years ago, Nazi Germany was defeated. Almost 80 percent of the world’s population was caught up in the war, including all of the great powers, and a total of 55 million people were killed in the conflict.

The Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The following four years of fighting saw 27 million Soviet people killed.

In Europe, V-Day commemorations started on Sunday, as the Nazi Germany’s Instrument of Surrender came into force at 22:43 CET on May 8, 1945. In Moscow it was already 00:43, on May 9.

 

Combat Missiles Heading to US Found in Passenger Aircraft in Serbia

Serbian authorities have started an investigation into reports that two air-to-surface missiles, presumably destined for the US, were found in a passenger aircraft.

According to Serbian news agency Tanjug, Air Serbia, the largest air Serbian carrier, has confirmed that an undisclosed “package” was discovered by a sniffer dog aboard a passenger aircraft, “thanks to the strict measures of security control”.

“We confirm that a package that headed towards a remote destination was found earlier this day in Belgrade airport, thanks to the strict measures of security control… The air carried assists investigation, security and reliability — are Air Serbia’s top priorities,” Tanjug cites.

Earlier in the day, Serbian media reported two combat missiles, each 1.5m long were discovered aboard the aircraft in Belgrade Nikola Tesla airport. The missiles were reportedly packaged in a wooden case and provided with documents that listed Portland, Oregon as its destination.

The missiles are presumably AGM-114 Hellfire, a universal precision missile that can be fired from ground, maritime or air platform, including predator strike drones. Each missile costs $110,000 and is capable of covering up to 8 kilometers at a speed of 1.3 Mach.

 

 

‘Dirty Bargain’: Turkey, EU Forge Deal With Syrian Blood on Their Hands

As the Turkish government continues its crackdown on the free press, columnist Kemal Okuyan speaks to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear to expose how this relates to Ankara’s deal with the European Union to stem the flow of refugees.

“I have to say that this is a real dirty bargain,” Okuyan, a leading columnist with Turkish newspaper SoL, tells Loud & Clear host Brian Becker. “The refugee crisis, I think, is an outcome of the terrorist acts of NATO, Turkey, and other reactionary forces in the region.”

 https://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=7958257

According to Okuyan, Ankara is manipulating the crisis in order to achieve its own ends with the European Union.”This was on purpose, by the Turkish government,” he says. “And we know that Turkey encouraged people to go by boat through the sea to the Greek islands.

“Now they are using this to blackmail the European Union.”

As part of negotiations with the EU, Ankara wants over 3 billion euros, visa exceptions, Western ground forces in Syria, as well as the enforcement of a terrorist-free zone in neighboring Syria.

While Turkey may be taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis for its own gains, the European Union isn’t entirely innocent, either.

“The European Union is also one of the actors in the Syrian [conflict],” Okuyan says. “Especially Germany, France, Britain. They have their hands in Syria, so they are also responsible for this big human tragedy.”

While the Erdogan government may have sights on joining the EU, it could face problems due to its harsh press laws.

“Nearly three-fourths of the daily newspapers printed in Turkey are in the hands of Erdogan,” Okuyan says.

“There are a lot of journalists in prison in Turkey,” he adds. “There is also blackmailing, [where] you are not arrested, directly, but they say if you have another problem, then you will be put into prison.”

Still, as all sides use the refugee crisis for their own political gain, millions of people are suffering.

“In Turkey, the refugees are in terrible conditions,” Okuyan says. “When you see photos of people [who have] died when crossing to the Greek islands, these are not only accidents, they are killed on purpose for their money.

“They sabotage the boats.”

North Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles Off Country’s East Coast – Reports

Following the implementation of harsh new sanctions, North Korea has reportedly launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea for a second time, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The missiles were fired from the city of Wonsan, where similar launches have occurred, and sources indicate that the projectiles flew a distance of approximately 300 miles.

“The military is keeping close tabs on the situation and prepared to deal with any North Korean provocations,” South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed that Pyongyang is in possession of miniaturized nuclear warheads.

“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” Kim said, according to KCNA, adding “this can be called a true nuclear deterrent.”

This week, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a strong condemnation of North Korea’s threat to use preventive strikes.

“In particular, we consider public statements with threats of carrying out some ‘preventive nuclear attacks’ against one’s opponents completely unacceptable,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry reads. “Pyongyang must understand that North Korea completely sets itself against the international community, provides the international legal basis for the use of military force against it.”

Pyongyang has also expressed outrage over joint military drills between Washington and Seoul. The largest ever conducted, the exercises are meant to mimic a hypothetical invasion of North Korea

The UN imposed new sanctions — the harshest in 20 years — against Pyongyang last week over nuclear tests conducted earlier this year. The DPRK also launched a satellite in February which the UN deemed a veiled attempt to demonstrate its ballistic missile capabilities.

Hours after those new penalties were put in place, North Korea fired short-range missiles into the ocean.

Hacker ‘Guccifer,’ who uncovered Clinton’s private emails, to be extradited to US

Marcel Lazar Lehel, aka Guccifer, is escorted by masked policemen in Bucharest after his arrest in 2014.

Guccifer, the infamous Romanian hacker who accessed emails of celebrities and top US officials, will be extradited to the United States, after losing a case in his home country’s top court.

Reuters reports that Lehel will come to the US under an 18-month extradition order, following a request made by the US authorities. Details of the extradition have not been made public, however.

Marcel Lehel, a 42-year-old hacker better known by his pseudonym “Guccifer,” achieved notoriety when he released an email with images of paintings by former President George W. Bush, including a self-portrait in a bathtub. He also hacked and published emails from celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Steve Martin and Mariel Hemingway.

Also released were emails between former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Corina Cretu, a Romanian member of European Parliament, prompting Powell to deny that the two had had an affair.

Perhaps most notably, Lehel was also the first source to uncover Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a private email account while she was Secretary of State, which the FBI is investigating as a potential danger to national security.

In March 2013, the hacker released to RT and several other news outlets the four memos that had been sent to Clinton from her former political adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The memos contain information regarding the September 11, 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the January 2013 hostage crisis in In Amenas, Algeria.

Lehel was indicted by the Department of Justice in 2014 on charges of wire fraud, unauthorized access to a protected computer, cyberstalking, aggravated identity theft and obstruction of justice.

In 2014 a Romanian court sentenced to four years in jail for hacking into the accounts of the country’s public figures “with the aim of getting… confidential data” as well as violating his parole. He is serving three years on top of that for other hacking-related offenses. After his extradition to the US, Lehel will return to Romania to serve out his sentences there.

The Romanian national, who goes by the pseudonym “Small Fume” in addition to Guccifer, is an unemployed taxi driver and paint salesman, and he says that he accessed the emails by using social engineering methods that included guessing the answers to security questions to access various accounts.

“I don’t oppose. I go there to United States to fight. I know what I did and this is okay with me,” Guccifer said in February to The Smoking Gun, where he published many of the documents he found.

Prosecutors have said that Lehel has a “compulsive need to be famous,” according to The Register.

 

North Korea’s Kim says country has miniaturized nuclear warhead

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country has miniaturized nuclear warheads to be mounted on ballistic missiles and ordered improvements in the power and precision of its arsenal, its state media reported on Wednesday.

Kim has called for his military to be prepared to mount pre-emptive attacks against the United States and South Korea and stand ready to use nuclear weapons, stepping up belligerent rhetoric after coming under new U.N. and bilateral sanctions.

U.S. and South Korean troops began large-scale military drills this week, which the North calls “nuclear war moves” and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive.

Kim’s comments released on Wednesday were his first direct mention of the claim, previously made repeatedly in state media, to have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to be mounted on a ballistic missile, which is widely questioned.

“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” KCNA quoted him as saying as he inspected the work of nuclear workers, adding “this can be called true nuclear deterrent.”

“He stressed the importance of building ever more powerful, precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and their delivery means,” KCNA said.

Kim also inspected the nuclear warheads designed for thermo-nuclear reaction, KCNA said, referring to a hydrogen bomb that the country claimed to have tested in January.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 claiming to have set off a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, which was disputed by many experts and the governments of South Korea and the United States. The blast detected from the test was simply too small to back up the claim, experts said at the time.

The U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the isolated state last week for the nuclear test. It launched a long-range rocket in February drawing international criticism and sanctions from its rival, South Korea.

On Tuesday South Korea announced further measures aimed at isolating the North by blacklisting individuals and entities that it said were linked to Pyongyang’s weapons program.

China also stepped up pressure on the North by barring one of the 31 ships on its transport ministry’s blacklist.

But a U.N. panel set up to monitor sanctions under an earlier Security Council resolution adopted in 2009 said in a report released on Tuesday that it had “serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime.”

North Korea has been “effective in evading sanctions” by continuing to engage in banned trade, “facilitated by the low level of implementation of Security Council resolutions by Member States,” the Panel of Experts said.

“The reasons are diverse, but include lack of political will, inadequate enabling legislation, lack of understanding of the resolutions and low prioritization,” it said, referring to the incomplete enforcement of sanctions.

 

 

‘Unusual event’: Oconee nuclear reactor shut down after transformer explosion & fire

One of the reactors at the Oconee Nuclear Station has been shut down after a series of explosions and a fire damaged a transformed on site. The operator declared the incident “unusual” but emphasized there was no threat of radiation release.

Emergency crews deployed at the scene have managed to contain the fire, and will remain at the scene to assist crews. Oconee Nuclear Station is a nuclear power plant located on Lake Keowee near Seneca, South Carolina.

“Unit #1 was shut down as a precaution,” Oconee County Emergency Management said in a statement. “There is NO POTENTIAL FOR RELEASE.”

The plant operator Duke Energy said that while “Unit 1 has been safely shutdown” the remaining “Units 2 and 3 continue to operate safely.”

Officials blamed the “unusual event” on electrical equipment failure inside a transformer they say was located outside the building.

Authorities urged the public stay away from the area as emergency personnel and Duke Energy staff work around the area. However they emphasized that there was no security risk that would require evacuations or traffic detours.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

he transformer malfunctioned and caught fire at 3:20pm local time, and the “unusual event” was upgraded to an “alert” – a second level of emergency – at 4:58pm, according to the company.

Incidents falling to “alert” classification require outside interference from emergency services but pose “no threat to public safety,” the company explained.

The 15-by-12 foot transformer had been burning for approximately 30 minutes before fire crews and Oconee County Fire units responded, WYFF4 reports.

The intense flames and thick black smoke coming out of the transformer which was seen by many witnesses was reportedly due to the oil that was inside.

The blaze was completely extinguished with the help of local fire brigades, and had “no impact” on plant employees or the facility’s neighbors, while customers are not expected to suffer any power outages.

The operator announced it will be conducting a thorough investigation of the cause of the incident at an aging plant located on Lake Keowee that began operations in 1973.

Oconee is one of the largest nuclear power plants in the US with a capacity of some 2,600 megawatts and is the second to have its operating license extended for an additional twenty years.