Mint Press News

Don’t Let His New Book Fool You, Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare

George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, has announced he is releasing a new book called “Out of Many, One” which will celebrate America’s diversity and immigrant populations. “Our immigrant heritage has enriched America’s history. It continues to shape our society. Each generation of Americans — of immigrants — brings a renewal to our national character and adds vitality to our culture. Newcomers have a special way of appreciating the opportunities of America, and when they seize those opportunities, our whole nation benefits,” the former president said.

The book, scheduled for release in March 2021 will feature 43 images of immigrants, painted by Bush himself, and will retail at $38, although avid fans will be able to purchase an oversized deluxe signed edition for $250. “While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” he said in a press release. “My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.”

Man this George Bush rebranding is amazing. It's almost like he wasn't the Donald Trump of his days https://t.co/aAucRzDJeA

— Maximilien Robespierre (@Imperator_Faora) August 7, 2020

With immigration becoming an increasingly hot partisan issue, the move celebrating the practice is the latest in a series of actions that Bush has taken to distance himself from the current Republican president. Both Bush and his father claimed they did not vote for Trump in 2016, leading to delight from many Democrats. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example, yearned for a by-gone age, admitting to wishing Bush were still president, even though at the time she described him as a “total failure” in every aspect of governing. So complete was the rehabilitation of the figurehead of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that he was embraced and praised by liberal talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Yet those with long memories will remember that, despite claiming to love immigrants, both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were created under his auspices. The DHS, often described as the United States’ “new standing army,” has been at the forefront of crushing protests against racist police brutality in Portland, with anonymous, masked and armed agents abducting individuals off the street, throwing them into unmarked vehicles. The DHS’s actions have been condemned by Democrats representing Portland at the local, state, and national levels. The department’s chief Ken Cuccinelli has tried to justify his agents’ presence by pointing to “weapons” like shields and gas masks confiscated at protests. 

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the pandemic, ICE launched a huge drive to “flood the streets” of sanctuary cities with officers to arrest as many undocumented immigrants as possible. “I have gotten frantic texts from people that they are spotting ICE in their New York City buildings knocking on doors. They are terrified. This is happening today. Right now. People [are] being hunted down,” wrote journalist Maria Hinojosa in March.

After the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border that began after the North American Free Trade Agreement decimated the Mexican working-class, ICE became the main weapon used to pacify the immigrant population, lest they or their loved ones be taken away to one of many detention camps the group operates. In April, it was reported that ICE was knowingly deporting COVID-19 positive detainees to countries that could not deal with the influx.

Bush takes his new high-tech border security software for a spin at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga, May 29, 2007. Photo | AP

The Bush administration also drastically increased the militarization of the Mexican border. Between 2001 and 2007 border security funding more than doubled from $4.6 billion to $10.4 billion, with the number of Border Patrol agents employed also doubling during his time in office, also sending 6,000 national guardsmen to the southern border.

Bush bragged about greatly increasing the U.S.’ detention capacity for immigrants, using drones to patrol the area, and building 700 hundred miles of fencing and wall, which served as a stepping stone to Trump’s border plans. The increasingly militarized border mirrored the increasingly hostile rhetoric towards immigrants that dominated the Republican Party today.

Bush is no stranger to covering controversial topics in his art. In 2017, he released a similar bestselling book called “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.” In it, he painted dozens of fallen American servicemen, all of whom died fighting in wars he started under false pretenses and has expressed no remorse for doing so. Neither Bush nor the great number of outlets who praised the book appeared at all interested in Middle Eastern victims of his policy. Now, as then, it appears few see the irony of a former commander-in-chief extolling the virtues he helped take away from so many.

Feature photo | President Bush, second right, stands with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff after his speech about border security and immigration reform at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, N.M., June 6, 2006. Charles Dharapak | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Disbelief as Trump Appoints Disgraced Iran-Contra Criminal Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy

The Trump administration has appointed disgraced neoconservative hawk Elliott Abrams to the new position of chief advisor on Iran after former insider Brian Hook handed in his resignation earlier this week. “Special Representative Hook has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, “Following a transition period with Brian Hook, Elliott Abrams will assume the position of Special Representative for Iran, in addition to his responsibilities as Special Representative for Venezuela.”

Anger and disbelief appeared to be the chief emotions stirred by the decision. “Elliott Abrams appointment as Special Representative for Iran is as ludicrous as his failed career as Venezuela envoy,” reacted United Nations Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas. “Convicted war criminal Elliott Abrams gets to try and destroy Venezuela and Iran at the same time. He certainly does have a great track record in dealing with Iran and Latin America all at once,” wrote journalist Anya Parampil, referencing his participation in the Iran-Contra scandal. Activist group CODEPINK was equally condemnatory, claiming the appointment was “another low point for the Trump administration’s disastrous policy towards Iran.” “The dangerous conflict resulting from Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will be exacerbated by a man committed to Washington’s failed policies of regime change, including in his present-day position as Trump’s representative for Venezuela,” they added. Even mainstream, corporate-funded outlets could not hide their skepticism at the decision. “Elliott Abrams, convicted of lying about Iran-Contra, named special representative for Iran,” read CBS News’ headline.

 

Killy Elliott

Abrams’ first day on the job in the Reagan administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs could hardly have been more conspicuous. The previous day, a U.S.-backed and trained death squad in El Salvador had conducted a massacre in the village of El Mozote, killing at least 800 people and raping girls as young as 10. Survivors testify that the soldiers threw a three-year-old boy in the air and impaled him on their bayonets. Abrams immediately led a cover-up, telling the Senate that eyewitness reports were “not credible” and the massacre was being “significantly misused as propaganda against their side. In total, around 75,000 people were killed in what is misleadingly described as a “civil war,” but was, in reality, a campaign of extermination directed at anyone who dissented against the U.S.-backed dictatorship. Abrams lauded what happened in El Salvador as a “fabulous achievement” for democracy. Investigative journalist Jon Schwarz described Abrams as “supporting Latin American democracy pretty much like [serial killer] Jeffrey Dahmer supported all the people that he brought to his apartment.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, right, poses with Abrams in the Oval Office, May 2, 2007. Charles Dharapak | AP

Throughout the 1980s, Abrams was a chief architect of the genocides and dirty wars plaguing the region. In Guatemala, he pushed for arms sales to the dictatorship of General Efrain Rios Montt, claiming he had “brought considerable progress” to human rights in the region. “We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged,” he said. While General Rios Montt was later convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, Abrams faced no consequences for his role in the killing over 200,000 people, nor did he suffer serious repercussions for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, where government organizations sold weapons to Iran in order to fund far-right death squads in Nicaragua. Abrams pled guilty to lying to Congress about the affair but was quickly pardoned by George H.W. Bush.

 

New regime change opportunities

“The failure of Trump’s obscure government hawk character, Elliott Abrams, was evident in the U.S. Senate today. His criminal record and his arrogant vision of the Cold War has caused him to crush the dignity and courage of a free people time and again,” wrote Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, on hearing the news about Abrams’ new position. Since January 2019, Abrams has been tasked with overthrowing the Venezuelan government, constantly encouraging the country to rise up, and placing crippling sanctions on others who trade with the Caribbean nation. Yesterday, he confirmed that he has been attempting to bribe military generals to rebel and overthrow the country’s elected leader.

The appointment of perhaps the most hardline neoconservative hawk to the new position of Special Representative for Iran is the latest in a long line of escalatory measures the Trump administration has taken. In the last two years, the president has abandoned the nuclear deal, greatly increased sanctions on the country, supported anti-government protests in Tehran, assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and prevented the importation of COVID-19 medicines and supplies. Given his record, it is doubtful whether many in Iran will be celebrating the return of Elliott Abrams.

Feature photo | Elliot Abrams, the U.S. special adviser for Venezuela and now Iran, listens to questions from reporters at the US embassy in Lisbon, April 9, 2019. Armando Franca | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Disbelief as Trump Appoints Disgraced Iran-Contra Criminal Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy appeared first on MintPress News.

With an Eye on Balkanization, Israel throws Support Behind Separatist Militants in Southern Yemen

ADEN, YEMEN — As the war in Yemen nears its sixth year, the situation in the war-torn nation is escalating as Israel enters the fray, throwing its support behind the Emirati-backed separatist militant group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The STC has already effectively captured Aden and more recently seized Socotra Island. Israel’s entrance into the already convoluted and crowded theater is likely to open the door for further escalation, particularly in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Amid the ever-growing normalization of relations between Tel Aviv and wealthy Gulf Aab states, the Emirati-backed STC, now the de facto authorities in the south of the country, have already established a secret relationship with Israel encouraged by the United Arabic Emirates (UAE) according to informed sources in Aden. Despite strong opposition from leaders inside the STC and from Southern Yemen’s public, the UAE-backed group receives various forms of support from Israel, including weapons and training facilitated by the UAE following secret talks between STC officials and Tel Aviv sponsored by the UAE.

Prior to that, the Deputy Head of the STC Hani bin Breik announced that the group has a willingness to establish relations with Israel, saying “the peace with Israel is “coveted and aspiring” for them. However, he claimed that any relationship with Israel should be within the framework of the Arab peace initiative made by the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, but he stressed their willingness to establish relations with any country that helps them to “restore their state.”

The development comes after the Warsaw Conference held in February 2019 that ostensibly focused on security in the Middle East. There, Khaled al-Yamani, Yemen’s former foreign minister, executed a very public warming of relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In its wake, U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who also served as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and advisor on Israel, remarked that the friendly incident could be the first step in establishing cooperation between Yemen and Israel.

In a related development, Israel’s most widely-read newspaper, Israel Today, claimed that Tel Aviv has been conducting secret meetings with the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), reporting that the STC are “secret friends” to Israel. In fact, that positive attitude towards Israel has been confirmed by the Deputy Head of the STC himself in a video posted on YouTube.

Superficially, Tel Aviv’s support aims to help the STC against the local forces that oppose them, but the fact is that Israel is trying to establish a foothold on the Yemeni Islands in the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait. The Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab are vital interests to Tel Aviv. For their part, the STC needs not only to tighten its control over Yemen’s southern districts and pursue its long-time goal of declaring secession from the north of the country, but they need a gateway to the United States and to the world. Like many Gulf Arab states, the STC has long believed the road to American validation runs through Israel.

Militants stand guard outside of STC headquarters in Aden, Yemen, November 05, 2019. Fawaz Salman | Reuters

However, southern political leaders who spoke to MintPress realize that relations with Israel will not bring about “an independent state” and that that relationship will be an obstacle in getting public support. Moreover, southerners consider the Palestinian cause to be the cause for all, a situation that STC will not succeed in changing. They say that the Palestine issue is one that concerns Muslims as a whole, something that any local force could never hope to change.

 

Houthi resistance

Of all Yemen’s myriad political forces, tribes, and military powers, the Ansar Allah-led military, is best prepared, and likely the most willing, to take retaliatory action against both the STC and Israel. Ansar Allah, the political wing of Yemen’s Houthis, are committed to the territorial integrity of Yemen and announced that that they would not hesitate to “deal a stinging blow” to Israel in the case that Tel Aviv decides to involve itself in Yemen.

A high-ranking official quoted the words of Ansar Allah leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi when he threatened Israel in November 2011.” Our people will not hesitate to declare jihad (holy war) against the Israeli enemy, and to launch the most severe strikes against sensitive targets in the occupied territories if the enemy engages in any folly against our people.” In 1956, 1967, and 1973 war with Israel, Yemen successfully closed off the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and prevented Israeli ships from crossing through it.

The National Salvation Government in Houthi-controlled Sana’a accused the United Arab Emirates of providing cover for Israel’s efforts in southern Yemen. “The Israeli enemy sees Yemen as a threat to it,” said Information Minister Dhaifalla Al-Shami, “especially in its strategic location, so it has worked to find a foothold in Yemen through the UAE’s role.” Recently, UAE ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, said in an article for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that his country “pushed for initiatives that would have granted Israel privileges.”

Given the fact that the fragmentation of the Middle East is consistent with Israel’s strategy in Yemen, the STC’s, and by extension the UAE’s, relationship with Israel not only violates the Yemeni religious and national constants held firm by nearly all Yemenis, but it is also a threat to the prospect of a unified Yemen. Yemeni political forces, including Ansar Allah, see Israel’s efforts to back the emergence of a break-away separation state in the south as a dangerous game.

In fact, unconfirmed reports allege that Israel participated in the war against Yemen on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition as a part of a series of covert interventions involving mercenary forces, the reported launching of dozens of airstrikes in the country and even the dropping of a neutron bomb on Nuqm Mountain in the middle of the capital city of Sana’a in May of 2015. But any Israeli presence in the south will lead to an inevitable clash with Israel, according to decision-makers in Yemen.

Feature photo | An emblem of the STC at the headquarters of the separatist Southern Transitional Council in Ataq, Yemen August 27, 2019. Ali Owidha | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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Susan Abulhawa Embodies the Spirit of Palestinian Resistance in Her New Book: Against the Loveless World

Book Review — “I don’t care to be accommodating,” Nahr, the lead character in Susan Abulhawa’s new novel, “Against the Loveless World,” tells us. Perhaps she says this to prepare us or even warn us of what lies ahead. Either way, the statement runs like a thread throughout the entire book.

As the pages of the novel turn and the story of Nahr’s life unfolds, we go through the ups and downs of this Palestinian woman’s unpredictable life. Slowly, as we are gripped by the power of her story, we come to realize that Nahr’s unwillingness to be accommodating is admirable but comes at a heavy price.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestseller, “Mornings in Jenin,” among other important works of prose and poetry. Personally, I found her newest novel to be daring, honest, and totally unaccommodating. Abulhawa is also a friend of mine, and reading her novel felt a lot like listening to her talk.

 

A cube

Nahr is an inmate held in solitary confinement at an Israeli prison and she tells us the story from her tiny cell. This is no ordinary cell, the Israeli authorities placed Nahr in a highly sophisticated cell where everything is automated: the light and the shower turn on and off on their own; the toilet flushes at set times and Nahr the inmate needs to accommodate herself to their schedule. She lives in this cell and is unable to tell if it is day or night or what time of day it is.

For reasons that she lays out in the story, Nahr is not permitted to have visitors of her choice but from time to time an international observer, a journalist, or a prison guard come into the cell. It is during these random visits that we see Nahr expressing her unwillingness to be accommodating for the first time.

 

Tatreez

I can’t decide which metaphor better describes Nahr’s story, so I will use two. The first is a piece of Tatreez, or Palestinian embroidery. The characters in the story are the colors and designs that represent the various towns, villages, and regions of Palestine. It is embroidered over a black cloth, which is Palestine, thus displaying both the immense beauty and unspeakable tragedy of Palestine.

The other metaphor is a cluster of vines that twist and grow around the trunk of a large tree. In Palestine, one sees this often. They are particularly beautiful when they are in full bloom, wrapped around large trunks of tall trees. The stories of Nahr and the people around her are the vines wrapping around Palestine.

Nahr is surrounded by several strong characters, many of whom represent the breadth of the Palestinian experience. Their stories are told through Nahr’s story and together they evoke the powerful emotions that we experience together with her:  innocence, passion, love, and hate, sadness and anger as well as delicately threaded tenderness, yearning, and even compassion. Abulhawa seamlessly weaves Nahr’s personal story and the stories of the other characters into the greater story of Palestine.

The story takes us into two of the largest Palestinian refugee communities in the world, Kuwait and Jordan. We come face to face with Palestinians who became refugees in 1948, and then again in 1967, and then brutally kicked out of Kuwait and turned into refugees again as a result of the first Gulf War. Each time they think they can finally rest, something happens and they are forced to move again. Yet throughout this painful and seemingly endless odyssey their anchor continues to be Palestine.

 

A story of love

Nahr experiences the full scope of cruelty meted out to women by men, by the patriarchy. Since men’s brutality towards women is not unique to a particular race, nationality, or culture, her experience is universal. And yet, although she suffers greatly at the hands of men, she is capable of feeling and expressing a deep, sincere love for a man.

Though she speaks to us from a cold, lonely cell in which she is held by Israel, Nahr is able to relay her feelings to one man who she truly loves and who loves her completely. She admits to “a sexual yearning made insatiable by love so vast, as if a sky.”

In one scene Nahr watches the man she loves and describes what she sees, “the guilt, the impotence of seeing those settlements, the anguish over his brother, his mother, the years in prison, the torture, the inability to move.” Then, reflecting on her own sense of helplessness she says, “I wanted to take him in my arms and fix everything,” but, Nahr sums it up “all I could do was help carry the tea glasses.”

Palestine, for those who were torn away from her and for those who care for her, is like a loved one dying of terminal cancer. Hard as we may try, all we can do is watch as she is being eaten away by the cancer of Zionist brutality, and make her as comfortable as possible as she slips away.

Nahr’s pain is deep and real and reading this novel one often forgets that it is, in fact, fiction. She experiences pain as a woman, as a Palestinian, and as a human being. In Nahr’s own words, it is “a cloistered, unreachable, immutable ache.”

 

The spirit of resistance

Nahr tells us about “the epic fabrication of a Jewish nation returning to its homeland.” She goes on to say that the deceit, “had grown into a living, breathing narrative that shaped lives as if it were truth.”

She describes the Jewish-only settlements that she sees spreading all over Palestine. Entire cities, neighborhoods, and homes of people she knows and loves who were forced to flee their homeland, taken over by Jewish settlers. She describes the silences of older Palestinians who cannot bear to talk about their loss.

But the spirit of resistance is alive in Palestine and Nahr will not stand idly by as others prepare to act. Nahr is enraged by the ruthlessness of settlers and soldiers, tucked away safely in their exclusive, Arab-free colonies. They live on stolen Palestinian land and come out periodically to attack Palestinians with impunity.

Once she realizes that people around her are engaged in acts of resistance, she wants in on the action. Here, once again, we see Nahr unaccommodating, fierce, and willing to face the consequences.

From her solitary cell in an Israeli prison, Nahr recalls Ghassan Kanafani and James Baldwin, two great writers, who, like her, were unwilling to be accommodating. They suffered greatly because of who they were, one a Palestinian, the other a Black American. They both wrote and spoke with unmatched courage and clarity, and although dead for decades, (Kanafani was murdered by Israel in 1972, Baldwin died of cancer in 1987), they remain icons of the struggle against racism, oppression, and colonialism.

 

Feeling the pulse

Along with Ghassan Kanafani and Ibrahim Nasrallah, Susan Abulhawa’s writing has the rare quality of allowing us to taste the flavor, to smell the fragrance, and to feel the pulse of Palestine. A  true understanding of the Palestinian experience is not possible without reading the work of these three writers.

Feature photo | A Palestinian woman enjoys the Mediterranean during the Eid al-Adha holiday, Aug. 2, 2020. Oded Balilty | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

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Apocalyptic Scenes from the Site of the Deadly Beirut Blast

A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 100 people are feared dead and thousands injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

It was not clear what caused the blast, which struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences center GFZ, and was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s interior minister said it appeared that a large cache of ammonium nitrate in the port had detonated.

The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and a severe economic and financial crisis.

The Associated Press captured the following images of the unfolding tragedy:

A survivor is taken out of the rubble after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Citizens ride their scooters and motorcycles pass in front of a house that was destroyed in Tuesday’s massive explosion in the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Rescue workers and security officers work at the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

People walk by storages destroyed by an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

A Lebanese army helicopter flies over the scene where an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

A Lebanese army helicopter throw water at the scene where an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

People evacuate wounded after of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

A couple drives past destruction after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

People stand in front of a destroyed building near the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Wounded people are evacuated after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Civilians carry a victim at the explosion scene that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Smoke rises from a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

An injured man walks at the explosion scene that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanese man helps an injured man who was wounded by an explosion that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

People help a man who was wounded in a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

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Study: Billionaires That Donated to Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge Now Richer Than Ever

A study released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) through its Program on Inequality and the Common Good, titled “Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy” examines the reality behind the ostensible charitableness of the billionaire donor class and the disturbing trend of charitable organizations and foundations relying more and more on fewer and fewer wealthy donors; funds which “end up in family foundations and donor-advised funds that could legally exist in perpetuity,” while donations from lower and middle-income sources are disappearing.

In particular, the paper looks at The Giving Pledge initiative started in 2010 by a few dozen U.S. billionaires and led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. The professed goal of the initiative was to have the wealthiest people in the world pledge to give at least half of their fortunes away to charitable causes before their death. The study found that contrary to the stated purpose of the philanthropic commitment of the organization, a full 75 percent of participants have actually increased their net worth in the ten years since they made their charitable vow.

More concerning is the finding that a growing share of “high-end” donations never ends up in organizations that do any kind of altruistic work. Rather, they go to tax-privileged private foundations designed to serve as tax shelters for the very wealthy, which then only disburse a small percentage of their assets to charitable non-profits; a particularly galling fact considering how much more wealthy the one-percenters have gotten over the course of the pandemic in contrast to the 54 million Americans who’ve filed for unemployment in that same span of time.

 

Top-heavy risk

Among its key findings, the study notes that giving intermediaries like donor-advised funds (DAFs) like Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (the largest in the country), and private foundations have grown dramatically over the last few years, with assets ballooning 118 percent between 2005 and 2019. The number of private foundations has multiplied as well by a whopping 68 percent over the same period.

In addition, IPS found that there has been a “marked increase in mega-gifting,” or donations of $50 million or more. The trend highlights one of the main risks identified by the study, characterized in the paper as “Top-Heavy Philanthropy,” which “poses significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society.”

These risks associated with top-heavy philanthropy are clearly illustrated in their case study of the Gates/Buffet Giving Pledge, exposing it as a vehicle for the “concentration of taxpayer-subsidized private charitable power.” In other words, the majority of donations given to the organization end up “sequestered” in private foundations and DAFs, guaranteeing that donors and their heirs will retain control over the very assets they ostensibly donated to the greater good.

Remarkably, the study found that a vast majority of the foundation’s 62 billionaire pledgers substantially increased their wealth in the span of the ten years since their initial donations. Only 11 saw their fortunes dwindle due to “aggressive charitable giving” or market conditions. Nine of the mega-wealthy donors saw their collective riches swell by an average of 200 percent. Among the charmed list, Mark Zuckerberg saw the largest surge by an outlandish 1,783 percent.

 

Hardly charity

The significance for U.S. taxpayers of these and other factors analyzed are revealed by a hypothetical calculation made by researchers regarding the tax-subsidy, which DAF-parked donations represent for the average American. According to July survey by Forbes magazine, U.S. billionaires currently hold $971.9 billion in assets; if the top 100 gave away half their wealth to foundations like these, the U.S. Treasury would lose roughly $360 billion in tax revenue.

While researchers admit that it is difficult to determine the “exact amount of taxpayer subsidies for these donations,” the reality is that the wealthiest among us are using these foundations to reduce their “taxable estates” by millions and even billions of dollars, while the resources that actually make it to organizations doing charitable work dwindles. Such a state of affairs combined with the economic recession unfolding as a result of the pandemic and tax-breaks for the rich poses serious challenges to charities, in general.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in 2018 drastically reduced income tax rates for top earners and doubled the standard deduction, both of which reduced incentives for charitable giving. Meanwhile, non-profit charitable organizations whose mission does not fall into the sectors related to the pandemic, itself, are suffering financially resulting in program cutbacks for 64 percent of these, according to an April survey by Charity Navigator and Reuters.

In February 2020, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published a list of the top 50 philanthropists in the United States. 42 percent of those contributions, which totaled $15.8 billion, went to DAFs. Most of these were to the donors’ own private funds and nearly 30 percent went to colleges and universities, leaving actual charitable causes very low in the philanthropic totem pole.

Feature photo | American investor Warren Buffett, left, and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, right, talk during their visit to a Dairy Queen in Beijing, China, Sept. 30, 2010. Alexander F. Yuan | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Study: Billionaires That Donated to Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge Now Richer Than Ever appeared first on MintPress News.

Do Hundreds of UN Resolutions Prove the United Nations has an Anti-Israel Bias?

The U.S. government is in a love affair with Israel, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the halls of the United Nations. Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley once asserted, “Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than its bias against our close ally Israel.”

Indeed, since 1949, that state has been the subject of many hundreds of United Nations General Assembly (General Assembly) resolutions – nearly every one of them critical of Israel, “the Occupying Power.” Each year the General Assembly agenda includes a dozen or more discussions about Israeli injustice toward Palestinians, but rarely the reverse.

Many Israel supporters agree with Haley that this indicates an anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic tendency in the UN. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) suggests that “Arab member states of the UN have used the General Assembly (GA) as a forum for isolating and chastising Israel.” The ADL speculates that “third-world nations” add their votes to those of hostile Arab states to pass measures against Israel.

This analysis is both implausible and ahistorical.

 

The UN agenda

Subjects matter in the General Assembly emerge not from personal animus, but the priorities of the UN and geopolitical facts. The UN strives to promote economic growth, maintain peace, support developing countries, and promote human rights, justice, and international law. The items on the General Assembly agenda involve complex issues. Most topics are automatically revisited every year until they are resolved; occasionally, a new one is added, or one is dropped or merged with another.

Resolutions grow not from hearsay or opinion, but from fact-based eyewitness reports, many of them UN-commissioned. Experts and members of UN committees regularly contribute carefully researched reports. Starting in the late 1960s, for example, the UN passed resolutions concerning South Africa, calling for an end to apartheid and encouraging all justice-loving countries to boycott, sanction, and isolate the country. UN member states overwhelmingly supported the efforts to end apartheid – not from an anti-South-African bias, but from a passion for justice. The topic: Policies of Apartheid of the Government of South Africa, came up year after year until 1994 when the issue was resolved.

Israel, on the other hand, has not made any of the changes the international community has called for. While it’s not surprising that Arab countries support Palestine in the UN, they are not numerous enough to accomplish anything on their own. Member States from all over the world vote in favor of resolutions that censure Israel – delegates look at facts and recommendations and decide whether they are compelling.

The fact that General Assembly passes a dozen or more resolutions addressing the Palestinian issue each year owes not to a bias against Israel (or Jews), but to the enormous scale and long history of the problem. The Palestinian plight has been before the organization for decades and has grown in scope – not just because the number of Palestinians has grown, but because Israel’s brutality has intensified.

It is worth taking time to trace the roots of the General Assembly’s supposed preoccupation with Palestine and determine whether it is malicious or constructive.

 

1948 refugees and UNRWA

At least 750,000 Palestinians fled or were exiled from their homes and villages as the state of Israel emerged in 1948 on 78 percent of historic Palestine. The UN passed a resolution expressing its expectation that the refugees would be allowed to return. Israel refused to comply.

In 1949, the UN created UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and gave it the mandate to care for those refugees and help them return home. And because the Palestinian refugees from 1948 are still in exile, UNRWA is still at work, providing health care, education, and social services to the refugee population of the Palestinian territories.

Every year since 1952, UNRWA has reported to General Assembly on its work, and has been commissioned via resolution to continue its efforts – that’s 67 resolutions in 67 years while waiting for Israel to grant the refugees their right of return. Every year, some Palestinians leave the refugee camps and emigrate to countries around the world, but the majority stay, either because they can’t afford to leave, or in hopes of returning home. The number of refugees has grown from 750,000 to around 3 million – and the costs to UNRWA have increased exponentially.

In 1970, the General Assembly created the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA to address the Agency’s financial crisis. Every year since, the Working Group has pursued new ways to finance UNRWA’s work, and produced a report on its efforts; every year, the UN passes a resolution for the continuation of those efforts – 49 years, 49 resolutions.

 

1967 refugees

About 200,000 Palestinians were displaced during the so-called Six-Day War in June of 1967 (some of these had already been displaced in 1948) when Israel occupied what was left of Palestine. Again, Israel refuses to let them return.

In 1983, General Assembly began addressing this issue individually, demanding that not just the refugees from 1948, but also those from 1967, be allowed to return. Because Israel has steadfastly refused to give them this right, the topic: Persons Displaced as a Result of the June 1967 and Subsequent Hostilities, has prompted resolutions every year since 1975 – 44 years in a row.

Displaced by the Six Day War, Refugees wait for food rations from UNRWA in an almost deserted refugee camp near Jericho, Feb. 6, 1968. Photo | AP

 

Settlements: land theft

As soon as Israel began its occupation in 1967, it began to build settlements – pockets of Israeli citizens living illegally on Palestinian land. In yet another affront to justice and international law, settlement construction includes the demolition of entire Palestinian villages, the confiscation of Palestinian property, and the expulsion of Palestinians.

By 1972, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories had brought this to the attention of the General Assembly, which began tracking Israel’s settlement-building and passing resolutions condemning the practice, asking the Special Committee to follow up – 47 resolutions in 47 years. (Until 2019, the United States agreed with the rest of the world that these settlements are illegal.)

Because Israel has persistently ignored the UN’s demands, at least 600,000 Israelis now live illegally in the Palestinian territories, including in East Jerusalem.

 

Human rights abuses

The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People is also fighting for Palestinian rights. The committee was formed in 1968 to specifically address Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law that arose in the wake of the occupation.

Every year, the Committee conducts a fact-finding mission in the region, and every year, the Israeli government refuses to participate or even allow the members to enter the occupied Palestinian territories. Through investigation, independent research, and interviews with members of relevant UN committees and reputable NGOs, the Committee puts together a report in keeping with their mandate. Various groups use these reports to carry on advocacy work.

Every year since 1971, General Assembly has passed a resolution directing the Committee to continue its valuable work. That’s 48 resolutions in 48 years. (Here is the 2019 report.)

 

Inalienable rights

By 1975, the General Assembly was “gravely concerned” that Palestinian refugees still lacked their inalienable rights to self-determination, sovereignty, and the ability to return home. The body stated:

the United Nations has a permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects in a satisfactory manner in accordance with international legitimacy.

The General Assembly created the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in hopes of finding a solution.

Starting in 1976, and every year since, the Committee has worked with other organizations around the world that are advocating for a just solution. They have reported every year, and every year General Assembly has passed a resolution – 43 in total – recognizing the work and authorizing it to continue.

Reem Hassan holds items that belonged to a child killed by an Israeli landmine during a 2002 U.N. Children’s summit in New York. Stephen Chernin | AP

 

Self-determination

The UN Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee has also taken on the Palestinian issue, with an emphasis on “the development of friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” This Committee has been working and reporting since 1995; each year, the General Assembly passes a resolution reaffirming these efforts: 24 resolutions in 24 years.

 

Stealing natural resources

Beginning in July 1996, General Assembly joined with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia to highlight (among other things) Israeli settlements’ devastating impact on Palestinians’ access to their own natural resources.

For years, Israel’s government and illegal settlers have been confiscating or destroying agricultural land and orchards, water pipelines and sewage networks, and diverting water resources from Palestinian towns to illegal settlements.

The Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources Committee tracks and reports these actions in an effort to hold Israel accountable for its exploitation and destruction of Palestinian natural resources.

Israel has refused to take appropriate action. The General Assembly has, therefore, continued to pass resolutions to keep the Committee on the job – 23 resolutions in 23 years.

 

The Holy City of Jerusalem

Ever since 1947, before the State of Israel was created on Palestinian land, Jerusalem has been a focal point of the United Nations. Resolution 181 declared,

The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.

In support of Israel’s application for UN membership, the Israeli delegate Abba Eban assured the General Assembly that the Jewish state agreed with Resolution 181.

In the more than seventy years since, Israel never put the UN plan into motion. Israel controlled much of the city beginning in 1948 and officially – illegally – annexed the rest in 1980 – an act which the United Nations has deemed “null and void” (but which the current U.S. administration supports).

The topic of Jerusalem has come up in 38 General Assembly sessions and resolutions as the body has attempted again and again to pressure Israel to submit to international law and the UN’s own declarations – as well as Israel’s own promises.

 

Israel created an economic crisis

The Economic and Social Council of United Nations works with various UN bodies to identify “economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people,” and has been working for over four decades to coordinate and deliver needed assistance. Consequently, the topic of “Assistance to the Palestinian People” has spawned 40 resolutions.

 

United Nations as a myth-buster

As General Assembly saw, year after year, Israel’s impunity for egregious human rights violations, the body turned to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) to ramp up the pressure. The DPI had been established in 1946, “to promote global awareness and understanding of the work of the United Nations …[to build] support for peace, development and human rights for all.

The General Assembly instructed DPI to build close contact with the media, organize conferences and meetings with NGOs, publish newsletters and articles, and organize trips for journalists “in order to heighten awareness of the facts relating to the question of Palestine.” Each year since 1996, General Assembly has passed resolutions renewing DPI’s mandate – 23 years in a row.

The effort may be paying off in the one country that stands most resolutely by the side of Israel: polls are beginning to indicate that Americans are becoming less supportive of Israel and of U.S. government policies that favor the “Jewish State.”

UNRWA’s Peter Hansen speaks to the media during a tour of Nablus following Israeli helicopter and tank attacks in 2002. Greg Baker | AP

 

Numbers speak volumes

Palestine has been a prominent UN topic since 1949 and has been the subject of at least seven hundred resolutions – only a fraction of which are discussed here.

The list of committees and working groups toiling over the Palestinian issue is long. General Assembly indeed spends a great deal of time discussing and debating this topic. Their work attests, not to an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic culture in the United Nations, but to the tenacity of this global body – and the shameless belligerence of Israel.

It also speaks volumes that the United States remains one of only a handful of allies of this rogue state. Until this changes, there is no reason to expect that Israel’s behavior will improve.

Feature photo | A United Nations aid agency car lies destroyed by shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza, July 29, 2014. Lefteris Pitarakis | AP

Kathryn Shihadah writes for MintPress News and If Americans Knew. She speaks regularly about the injustice and demonization Palestinians face at the hands of Israel with complicity from the United States, especially to Christian audiences. Kathryn has lived in the Middle East for ten years and has traveled extensively. She blogs at PalestineHome.org

The post Do Hundreds of UN Resolutions Prove the United Nations has an Anti-Israel Bias? appeared first on MintPress News.

Shadowy US Firm Run by Former Diplomat Cinches Syria Oil Deal with Kurds

In November of last year, the Pentagon’s assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs assured reporters during a press briefing that “the revenue from [Syrian oil fields] is not going to the U.S. [It] is going to the SDF”, adding that the purpose of the mission was “to defeat ISIS” and that “securing of the oil fields [was] a subordinate task to that mission”, which was “to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure.”

At that time, however, a recently incorporated company in the Delaware jurisdiction named Delta Crescent Energy LLC had already been communicating with members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northeastern region of Syria for several months about developing and exporting crude oil from the Kurdish-occupied territory.

Already in April 2019, the new oil concern had received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to carry on with the work; the same Treasury department that in 2018 had levied sanctions against the Syrian government’s “Petroleum Procurement Network,” targeting companies in Lebanon and the UAE which deliver fuel and natural gas to Syria.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday declaring the deal to be illegal and designed to steal Syrian crude. “This agreement is null and void and has no legal basis,” read the statement from Damascus, which condemned “in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company.”

The loose band of Kurdish rebels now known as the SDF was formed after U.S. airstrikes allowed them to take the Syrian city of Kobani in 2015. Subsequent military assistance and training by U.S. forces helped consolidate the 60,000-man army, which has been pivotal in American destabilization efforts in Syria.

 

Shell company

Delta Crescent Energy LLC was formed in February 2019 in the tax haven jurisdiction of Delaware and lists its address as 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, DE; a “tiny brick building,” which is also home to more than 300,000 business entities. Among its neighbors at the cramped address are companies like Apple, eBay, and Walmart, just to name a few.

The company’s officers include George W. Bush’s ambassador to Denmark, James P. Cain – a sports franchise owner who once called for the execution of Chelsea Manning for leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks; former Delta Force commander and TigerSwan CEO, James Reese and John P. Dorrier Jr. founder of UK-based, Houston, TX-located, GulfSands Petroleum, which has carried out business in Syria before.

Reese, whose private mercenary company TigerSwan infiltrated and surveilled Dakota Access Pipeline protestors at Standing Rock in 2016, told Fox News in 2018 that “the whole eastern part of Syria” belonged to the U.S. “That’s ours,” he continued, “We can’t give that up.”

The secretive oil deal was a topic of conversation during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 30. When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo if he was supportive of the agreement, he testified that “We are,” adding that it had taken “longer” than anticipated, but it “was now in implementation, and it can be very powerful.”

 

Oil market viability

Graham praised the blatantly illegal arrangement, saying that it would “improve the viability of the northern oil fields to make them more productive.” Syrian oil fields were producing approximately 380,000 barrels a day until U.S.-backed rebels took over the oil-rich northeastern region of the country after “ousting” ISIS forces – themselves spawned from the EU, the U.S., and the UK  – reducing production to less than 60,000 barrels a day.

The negotiations were brokered by U.S. government officials from the State Department. James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and his deputy, Joel Rayburn were charged with cementing the contract, which the Trump administration still cynically claims was done on behalf of the “Syrian people” and that the U.S. “government does not own, control, or manage the oil resources in Syria. The populations in areas liberated from ISIS make their own decisions on local governance.”

The Pentagon’s spokesperson, Jessica McNulty added that the DoD “does not have an affiliation with any private companies in regard to the oil fields in northeast Syria” and in the same breath expressed how the American military was there to literally protect the interests of the oil company by “securing [the] critical petroleum infrastructure in northeast Syria to deny ISIS access to critical resources and revenue.” McNulty, however, did not mention that the Delaware-based company has plans to sell the oil to “various customers in the region,” including Assad, himself.

Feature photo | U.S. military forces patrol Syrian oil fields, Oct. 28, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Backed by Millions from Pro-Israel Interests, Antone Melton-Meaux Takes Aim at Ilhan Omar

Some of the most committed pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian groups are flooding the Democratic primaries in an attempt to unseat Rep. Ilhan Omar.

On the surface, there are five candidates Democrats vying to be the congressional representative for Minnesota’s 5th district. But, in reality, it is a two-horse race, with two candidates raising millions, mostly from out of state, in this unusually hotly contested primary. One’s presence is perfectly understandable; in two short years, Ilhan Omar has risen to be a highly visible (and controversial) progressive champion. According to polls, she is more known to the American public than prominent Democrats like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine and presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

The other is more surprising: Antone Melton-Meaux, a lawyer by trade and a political neophyte has been the unlikely recipient of millions of campaign dollars. If you live in Minneapolis and turn on the television or radio, you will very likely hear a well-produced ad extolling Melton-Meaux or criticizing Omar. The challenger has raised over $4 million in his quest to unseat the Somali-born politician, a huge sum for a congressional primary. And while Omar has now closed the funding gap, their monies come from very different sources. The majority of Omar’s funds come from small donations, with under two percent from political action committees (PACs). In contrast, Melton-Meaux has received huge sums from pro-Israel groups and from wealthy individuals eager to see Omar unseated. The number one zip code for donations to his campaign is in Beverly Hills, CA. And according to Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, his average donation on Democratic fundraising website ActBlue is $650 (Omar’s is $18).

Much of his money comes from pro-Israel PACs. America PAC, for instance, has given around $382,000. Strongly conservative group NORPAC raised over $100,000 for Melton-Meaux in fundraisers in May and June, with AIPAC generating three times that amount for him. “Together, we have the privilege of accomplishing a dual objective. Supporting a deserving candidate, Antone Melton-Meaux, who has communicated a genuine desire to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and bring honor to his country and party while at the same time replacing Ilhan Omar, a highly divisive member of Congress who has proven to be unfairly and repeatedly critical of Israel,” explained NORPAC.

Omar speaks at a rally at the U.S. Capitol during a house vote to limit Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran, Jan. 9, Jose Luis Magana | AP

Omar has been a vocal critic of Israel and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against it. One of the only Muslims in Congress, she has also criticized the $3.8 billion in yearly aid the U.S. gives Israel, arguing that Washington should be leveraging the aid to stop the illegal settlements and ensure full rights for Palestinians. “We must end [the occupation of Palestine],” she said. Last year the Netanyahu government denied her entry into Israel or Palestine, where she was to meet with members of the Knesset and the United Nations. Pro-Israel critics have constantly described her criticism of the state as anti-semitic.

Some in Minnesota have worried about the implications of such an influx of money to the race. “[We] need to ask where is this mountain of money coming from and why are they doing it and what do they expect for it,” said Keith Ellison, Omar’s predecessor as Congressional Representative for the 5th district.

Melton-Meaux himself has been rather vague with his campaign, running primarily on a message of unity and of being an alternative to Omar. There are zero policies mentioned in the “why I am running” section of his website, promising only to end hyper-partisanship in Washington and work with others — presumably Republicans — to get things done.

On key issues, he has serious disagreements with Omar. He opposes Medicare-For-All, calling only for better “access” to “affordable” healthcare, and has been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. While Omar supported Minneapolis’ decision to dismantle their police force and start from scratch, Melton-Meaux has condemned the idea, presenting police as peacekeepers. “We’ve seen what happens when the police aren’t present and there’s been a lot more violence since then in Minneapolis, separate and apart from the civil unrest,” he said.

The Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform.

It’s time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis.

Thank you to @MplsWard3 for your leadership on this! https://t.co/AQfHM5M6eR

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 5, 2020

For all his talk of ending divisiveness, Melton-Meaux has certainly had a divisive career as a partner in Jackson Lewis, a law firm that specializes in union-busting. As the Huffington Post noted, in at least three cases, he represented large corporations that were fighting lawsuits from workers who claimed they were discriminated against or had their wages stolen by their employers. “It’s troubling to see somebody who’s running as a Democrat have that sort of record,” said Chris Shields, a spokesperson for the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

In many respects, the Minnesota primary resembles the Democratic presidential nomination, with a fierce but silent struggle between more radical grassroots figures and well-sponsored “moderate” opponents. Residents of the 5th district will have the opportunity to choose between the candidates on August 11 and decide whether the Minnesotan Pete Buttigieg will get further than just the primaries.

Feature photo | Fifth Congressional District candidate, Democrat Antone Melton-Meaux, answers questions during an interview in his Minneapolis office, July 22, 2020. Jim Mone | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Beirut Blast a Deadly Blow to Lebanon’s Already Shattered Economy

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab today called for a day of national mourning after a massive explosion ripped through the capital Beirut yesterday, killing at least 100 people and injuring at least 4,000 others. The extent of the damage is immense; the city’s governor Marwan Abboud estimated that up to 300,000 have immediately been made homeless and that the blast has caused $5 billion worth of damage. Last night Diab addressed the nation: “What happened today will not pass without accountability,” he said, “those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.”

What the hell is this? Extensive explosions with an unmatched impact, you can see.
May Allah protect people of #Beirut pic.twitter.com/Hk0Axdifxo

— Shahbaz Ali (@Shahbaz35403) August 5, 2020

While some, including President Trump, have suggested foul play, the most likely explanation was a fire and explosion at the city’s port, where some 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate was being stored. A cheap fertilizer, when kept in large quantities, it can generate enough heat on its own to spark a fire or explode on its own accord. The intense heat of the Lebanese summer no doubt contributed to the danger. Diab claimed that the explosive material had been improperly stored at the port “for years.” Port officials have been put under house arrest pending an investigation.

The port of #Beirut before and after today’s catastrophic explosion. #Lebanon pic.twitter.com/La5G2zQ3c2

— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) August 5, 2020

Survivors immediately began sharing images of the destruction on social media. The blast destroyed the crowded city center, with buildings as far as two kilometers away from the epicenter collapsing. Hospitals were inundated, with arrivals being treated by overwhelmed staff in blood-covered hallways. Medical centers are appealing for blood donors to come forward to meet the unusual demand. Cars across the city were upended by the blast that was heard as far away as Cyprus. Aid teams from Russia, the E.U. and Turkey have announced they will travel to the Middle Eastern nation to help.

“It hit the economic center, all major hotels, every single building in the city. Nothing was left untouched. I went around Beirut today after the blast. The damage is shocking. Every single residential building, every shop, every hotel, every restaurant, almost nothing left untouched,” wrote Lebanese-American journalist Rania Khalek. Meanwhile, Ghada Alsharif of the Daily Star, the country’s largest English-language newspaper, shared images of her outlet’s offices. The windows were all completely smashed, the floors covered in glass and dirt, and the ceiling appeared to be buckling.

BREAKING: Massive explosion in Beirut. Footage from the daily star office now in Lebanon pic.twitter.com/2uBsKP5wCH

— Ghada Alsharif (@GhadaaSharif) August 4, 2020

The explosion may prove to be a fatal blow to the already floundering economy. The country is in the midst of a devastating economic meltdown as the Lebanese lira collapsed. While official rates peg the lira at 1,500 to the U.S. dollar, black market rates put the price at around 9,000 per dollar. The country had kept the currency stable with large reserves which they kept by offering extraordinarily high interest rates for wealthy savers. But after they realized there was nothing backing it up, the results were bank runs and galloping inflation.

Food prices, along with shortages and hunger, have increased over the past weeks, with bread both difficult to find and expensive to buy. The total destruction of the port’s silos, where tens of thousands of tons of wheat was stored, has left Lebanon with less than a month’s reserves of grain, according to Economic Minister Raoul Nehme. Worse still, the port was responsible for receiving and storing around 80 percent of Lebanon’s imports (including most of its food), with other port cities like Tyre and Tripoli unable to shoulder the increased load.

Added to the food crisis and fallout from the explosion is the increasing bite of U.S. sanctions, mostly targeted at Syria, but also hitting its Lebanese neighbor. Due in part to sanctions, Lebanon has been unable to buy electricity from its Eastern neighbor, leading to near-constant power outages this summer. Last year, the Trump administration also sanctioned a Lebanese bank for its supposed cooperation with Hezbollah, an act that further drained the economy. 

Beirut!!!!!! Yah Allah . Prayers for Beirut! pic.twitter.com/gfEvFakuiW

— Salman Iqbal ARY (@Salman_ARY) August 5, 2020

Beirut’s hospitals, already battling a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, are also unable to cope with the sudden influx of patients. Two-thirds of confirmed coronavirus cases have occurred in the past month. With the country’s economy in freefall and hundreds of thousands of newly homeless people, it appears unlikely that the situation will improve in the short term.

“There are no words to describe the scope of destruction in Beirut. I’ve seen the damage from war in Syria and Iraq. But that happened gradually, one neighborhood or street at a time. This was an entire city destroyed in a few minutes. The suffering and misery is unfathomable,” Khalek added.

Feature photo | A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 5, 2020. Hussein Malla | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Beirut Blast a Deadly Blow to Lebanon’s Already Shattered Economy appeared first on MintPress News.

Apartheid or One State: Has Jordan Broken a Political Taboo?

What will it take for the idea of a two-state solution, which was hardly practical to begin with, to be completely abandoned?

Every realistic assessment of the situation on the ground indicates, with palpable clarity, that there can never be a viable Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

Politically, the idea is also untenable. Those who are still marketing the ‘two-state solution’, less enthusiastically now as compared with the euphoria of twenty years ago, are paralyzed in the face of the Israeli-American onslaught on any attempt at making ‘Palestine’ a tangible reality.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas is still busy compiling more symbolic recognition of a state that, at best, exists in the dusty files of the United Nations. Arabs and Europeans, too, still speak of a two-state, rhetoric that is never followed with practical steps that may enforce international law and hold Israel accountable to it.

The fate of Palestine seems to be entirely dependent on the aggressive and violent actions of Israel alone – not only through the policies of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but all previous Israeli governments.

This trajectory of aggression and violence is likely to continue for as long as Israel is held hostage to the ideology of Zionism which remains committed to territorial, colonial expansion and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

These two factors – colonialism and ethnic cleansing – can never coexist with the principles of justice and peace. For Zionism to remain relevant, Israel and Palestine must remain in the throes of a protracted, interminable war.

Therefore, it was encouraging to read comments made by Jordanian Prime Minister, Omar Razzaz, in an interview with the British Guardian newspaper on July 21.

“You close the door to the two-state solution, I could very well look at this positively, if we’re clearly opening the door to a one-state democratic solution,” Razzaz said.

Razzaz was referring specifically in the context of Netanyahu’s decision to annex nearly a third of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The senior Jordanian official referred to Israel’s annexation policies as the “ushering in (of) a new apartheid state.”

An apartheid state was, practically, ushered in a long time ago. Israel’s so-called Nation-State Law of 2018 merely confirmed an existing reality.

The Law left no doubt regarding Israel’s exclusionist ‘Jewish identity’, formulated at the expense of the Palestinian people, their historic rights in Palestine, and the internationally-enshrined Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

On July 29, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) callously rejected a draft amendment to make the unmistakably racist Nation-State Law slightly less racist. The amendment had called for the inclusion of a clause that guarantees equality for all of Israel’s citizens, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.

In its current form, Israel represents the very essence of apartheid.

Razzaz knows this, as do many politicians and leaders throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and across the world. Unlike his counterparts elsewhere, however, the Jordanian Prime Minister had the courage to imagine a future in Palestine and Israel that is not inundated by empty clichés of ‘solutions’ that were never fair, to begin with.

Razzaz’s positive and upbeat tone of words is notable.

“I challenge anybody from Israel to say yes, let’s end the two-state solution, it’s not viable,” he said. “But let’s work together on a one-state democratic solution. That, I think, we will look at very favorably. But closing one and wishful thinking about the other is just self-deception.”

Other Arab officials, prior to Razzaz, alluded to the one-state possibility, but largely in a negative context. Palestinian Authority officials, in particular, have waved this card before, often threatening Israel that, if illegal settlement expansion was not frozen, for example, Palestinians would have no alternative but to demand one state.

What Razzaz is saying is quite different, if not radical, as Jordan, which signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994, has remained the most visible Arab advocate for the two-state solution for many years. Razzaz’s words bring that ‘self-deception’ to an end.

Of course, political necessity will compel Jordan, and others, to continue to pay lip service to a political ‘solution’ that will, unlikely, ever materialize. Israelis and Palestinians are now conjoined in such a way that physical separation between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews is impossible. Additionally, speaking of a two-state solution while Israel is cementing a one apartheid state reality is a waste of precious time that should be used to foster equality, accountability, and just peace.

Ordinary Palestinians, too are beginning to realize the futility of the two-state paradigm. According to a February poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 61 percent of all Palestinians no longer believe that ‘a two-state solution’ is viable. The same poll suggests that 37 percent support the idea of a single state solution. Judging by previous poll numbers, it seems that, before long, the majority of Palestinians will embrace the latter as the most rational and achievable objective.

It will take time because the establishment of an independent Palestinian state has been the only rallying cry by the Palestinian leadership for nearly three decades.

However, even prior to the 1960s, the Palestinian national movement adopted a political strategy that was predicated on the establishment of one democratic state for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Alas, political expediency impelled late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to shift tactics, settling for a Palestinian state that would, in theory, be incrementally established in disconnected parts of the occupied territories – Gaza, Jericho, Area A, B, and so on.

Even the latter idea, which was most unfair to Palestinians, was still rejected by Israel, and Netanyahu’s latest annexation scheme is proving to be the final nail of the two-state coffin.

Since the two-state solution is no longer workable, Palestine and Israel are now left with one of two options: a protracted, racist, and violent apartheid or coexistence in a modern, democratic, and secular state, for all of its people.

The democratic and sustainable choice should be obvious, even to politicians.

Feature photo | Jordanians yell slogans during a protest against Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century in the center of Amman, Jordan, Jan. 31, 2020. Raad Adayleh | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

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Shadow Wars: Leaks by Mossad Point to Israeli Involvement in Deadly Attacks on Iran

Israel is believed to be behind several recent acts of sabotage against Iranian civilian and military infrastructure, including a hospital, that have taken the lives of at least 19 people and has further disrupted an economy already in the throes of a devastating downturn brought on by a global pandemic and crippling economic sanctions.

Read more about the attacks:

Feature photo | Rescue workers search for survivors at the scene of a mysterious explosion at the Sina At’har Health Center in the north of Iran’s capital Tehran on June 30, 2020. Amir Kholousi | ISNA

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John Pilger: Another Hiroshima is Coming, Unless We Stop It Now

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open.

At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite.

I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then I walked down to the river where the survivors still lived in shanties.

I met a man called Yukio, whose chest was etched with the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic bomb was dropped.

He described a huge flash over the city, “a bluish light, something like an electrical short”, after which wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell. “I was thrown on the ground and noticed only the stalks of my flowers were left. Everything was still and quiet, and when I got up, there were people naked, not saying anything. Some of them had no skin or hair. I was certain I was dead.”

Nine years later, I returned to look for him and he was dead from leukaemia.

“No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin” said The New York Times front page on 13 September, 1945, a classic of planted disinformation. “General Farrell,” reported William H. Lawrence, “denied categorically that [the atomic bomb] produced a dangerous, lingering radioactivity.”

Only one reporter, Wilfred Burchett, an Australian, had braved the perilous journey to Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing, in defiance of the Allied occupation authorities, which controlled the “press pack”.

“I write this as a warning to the world,” reported Burchett in the London Daily Express of September 5,1945. Sitting in the rubble with his Baby Hermes typewriter, he described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries who were dying from what he called “an atomic plague”.

For this, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared. His witness to the truth was never forgiven.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an act of premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. It was justified by lies that form the bedrock of America’s war propaganda in the 21st century, casting a new enemy, and target – China.

During the 75 years since Hiroshima, the most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and to save lives.

“Even without the atomic bombing attacks,” concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, “air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that … Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war [against Japan] and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

The National Archives in Washington contains documented Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US made clear the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including “capitulation even if the terms were hard”. Nothing was done.

The US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was “fearful” that the US Air Force would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon would not be able “to show its strength”. Stimson later admitted that “no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the [atomic] bomb”.

Stimson’s foreign policy colleagues — looking ahead to the post-war era they were then shaping “in our image”, as Cold War planner George Kennan famously put it — made clear they were eager “to browbeat the Russians with the [atomic] bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip”. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the atomic bomb, testified: “There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis.”

The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Harry Truman voiced his satisfaction with the “overwhelming success” of “the experiment”.

The “experiment” continued long after the war was over. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States exploded 67 nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific: the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for 12 years.

The human and environmental consequences were catastrophic. During the filming of my documentary, The Coming War on China, I chartered a small aircraft and flew to Bikini Atoll in the Marshalls. It was here that the United States exploded the world’s first Hydrogen Bomb. It remains poisoned earth. My shoes registered “unsafe” on my Geiger counter. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.

I trekked through the jungle to the concrete bunker where, at 6.45 on the morning of March 1, 1954, the button was pushed. The sun, which had risen, rose again and vaporised an entire island in the lagoon, leaving a vast black hole, which from the air is a menacing spectacle: a deathly void in a place of beauty.

The radioactive fall-out spread quickly and “unexpectedly”. The official history claims “the wind changed suddenly”. It was the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony reveal.

Gene Curbow, a meteorologist assigned to monitor the test site, said, “They knew where the radioactive fall-out was going to go. Even on the day of the shot, they still had an opportunity to evacuate people, but [people] were not evacuated; I was not evacuated… The United States needed some guinea pigs to study what the effects of radiation would do.”

Like Hiroshima, the secret of the Marshall Islands was a calculated experiment on the lives of large numbers of people. This was Project 4.1, which began as a scientific study of mice and became an experiment on “human beings exposed to the radiation of a nuclear weapon”.

The Marshall Islanders I met in 2015 — like the survivors of Hiroshima I interviewed in the 1960s and 70s — suffered from a range of cancers, commonly thyroid cancer; thousands had already died. Miscarriages and stillbirths were common; those babies who lived were often deformed horribly.

Unlike Bikini, nearby Rongelap atoll had not been evacuated during the H-Bomb test. Directly downwind of Bikini, Rongelap’s skies darkened and it rained what first appeared to be snowflakes.  Food and water were contaminated; and the population fell victim to cancers. That is still true today.

Marshall Islander Nerje Joseph with a photograph of her as a child soon after the H-Bomb exploded on March 1, 1954

I met Nerje Joseph, who showed me a photograph of herself as a child on Rongelap. She had terrible facial burns and much of her was hair missing. “We were bathing at the well on the day the bomb exploded,” she said. “White dust started falling from the sky. I reached to catch the powder. We used it as soap to wash our hair. A few days later, my hair started falling out.”

Lemoyo Abon said, “Some of us were in agony. Others had diarrhoea. We were terrified. We thought it must be the end of the world.”

US official archive film I included in my film refers to the islanders as “amenable savages”. In the wake of the explosion, a US Atomic Energy Agency official is seen boasting that Rongelap “is by far the most contaminated place on earth”, adding, “it will be interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment.”

American scientists, including medical doctors, built distinguished careers studying the “human uptake’. There they are in flickering film, in their white coats, attentive with their clipboards. When an islander died in his teens, his family received a sympathy card from the scientist who studied him.

I have reported from five nuclear “ground zeros” throughout the world — in Japan, the Marshall Islands, Nevada, Polynesia and Maralinga in Australia. Even more than my experience as a war correspondent, this has taught me about the ruthlessness and immorality of great power: that is, imperial power, whose cynicism is the true enemy of humanity.

This struck me forcibly when I filmed at Taranaki Ground Zero at Maralinga in the Australian desert. In a dish-like crater was an obelisk on which was inscribed: “A British atomic weapon was test exploded here on 9 October 1957”. On the rim of the crater was this sign:

WARNING: RADIATION HAZARD

Radiation levels for a few hundred metres

around this point may be above those considered

safe for permanent occupation.

For as far as the eye could see, and beyond, the ground was irradiated. Raw plutonium lay about, scattered like talcum powder: plutonium is so dangerous to humans that a third of a milligram gives a 50 per cent chance of cancer.

The only people who might have seen the sign were Indigenous Australians, for whom there was no warning. According to an official account, if they were lucky “they were shooed off like rabbits”.

Today, an unprecedented campaign of propaganda is shooing us all off like rabbits. We are not meant to question the daily torrent of anti-Chinese rhetoric, which is rapidly overtaking the torrent of anti-Russia rhetoric. Anything Chinese is bad, anathema, a threat: Wuhan …. Huawei. How confusing it is when “our” most reviled leader says so.

The current phase of this campaign began not with Trump but with Barack Obama, who in 2011 flew to Australia to declare the greatest build-up of US naval forces in the Asia-Pacific region since World War Two. Suddenly, China was a “threat”. This was nonsense, of course. What was threatened was America’s unchallenged psychopathic view of itself as the richest, the most successful, the most “indispensable” nation.

What was never in dispute was its prowess as a bully — with more than 30 members of the United Nations suffering American sanctions of some kind and a trail of the blood running through defenceless countries bombed, their governments overthrown, their  elections interfered with, their resources plundered.

Obama’s declaration became known as the “pivot to Asia”. One of its principal advocates was his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who, as WikiLeaks revealed, wanted to rename the Pacific Ocean “the American Sea”.

Whereas Clinton never concealed her warmongering, Obama was a maestro of marketing.”I state clearly and with conviction,” said the new president in 2009, “that America’s commitment is to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Obama increased spending on nuclear warheads faster than any president since the end of the Cold War. A “usable” nuclear weapon was developed. Known as the B61 Model 12, it means, according to General James Cartwright, former vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that “going smaller [makes its use] more thinkable”.

The target is China. Today, more than 400 American military bases almost encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. From Australia north through the Pacific to South-East Asia, Japan and Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India, the bases form, as one US strategist told me, “the perfect noose”.

A study by the RAND Corporation – which, since Vietnam, has planned America’s wars – is entitled War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable. Commissioned by the US Army, the authors evoke the infamous catch cry of its chief Cold War strategist, Herman Kahn – “thinking the unthinkable”. Kahn’s book, On Thermonuclear War, elaborated a plan for a “winnable” nuclear war.

A survivor of the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare, Jinpe Teravama retains scars after healing of burns from the bomb explosion, Hiroshima, in June 1947. Photo | AP

Kahn’s apocalyptic view is shared by Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical fanatic who believes in the “rapture of the End”. He is perhaps the most dangerous man alive. “I was CIA director,” he boasted, “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we had entire training courses.”  Pompeo’s obsession is China.

The endgame of Pompeo’s extremism is rarely if ever discussed in the Anglo-American media, where the myths and fabrications about China are standard fare, as were the lies about Iraq. A virulent racism is the sub-text of this propaganda. Classified “yellow” even though they were white, the Chinese are the only ethnic group to have been banned by an “exclusion act” from entering the United States, because they were Chinese. Popular culture declared them sinister, untrustworthy, “sneaky”, depraved, diseased, immoral.

An Australian magazine, The Bulletin, was devoted to promoting fear of the “yellow peril” as if all of Asia was about to fall down on the whites-only colony by the force of gravity.

‘The Chinese Octopus’, The Bulletin, Sydney 1886, an early promoter of the “Yellow Peril” and other stereotypes.

As the historian Martin Powers writes, acknowledging China’s  modernism, its secular morality and “contributions to liberal thought threatened European face, so it became necessary to suppress China’s role in the Enlightenment debate …. For centuries, China’s threat to the myth of Western superiority has made it an easy target for race-baiting.”

In the Sydney Morning Herald, tireless China-basher Peter Hartcher described those who spread Chinese influence in Australia as “rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows”. Hartcher, who favourably quotes the American demagogue Steve Bannon, likes to interpret the “dreams” of the current Chinese elite, to which he is apparently privy. These are inspired by yearnings for the “Mandate of Heaven” of 2,000 years ago. Ad nausea.

To combat this “mandate”, the Australian government of Scott Morrison has committed one of the most secure countries on earth, whose major trading partner is China, to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles that can be fired at China.

The trickledown is already evident. In a country historically scarred by violent racism towards Asians, Australians of Chinese descent have formed a vigilante group to protect delivery riders. Phone videos show a delivery rider punched in the face and a Chinese couple racially abused in a supermarket. Between April and June, there were almost 400 racist attacks on Asian-Australians.  

“We are not your enemy,” a high-ranking strategist in China told me, “but if you [in the West] decide we are, we must prepare without delay.” China’s arsenal is small compared with America’s, but it is growing fast, especially the development of maritime missiles designed to destroy fleets of ships.

“For the first time,” wrote Gregory Kulacki of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “China is discussing putting its nuclear missiles on high alert so that they can be launched quickly on warning of an attack… This would be a significant and dangerous change in Chinese policy…”

In Washington, I met Amitai Etzioni, distinguished professor of international affairs at George Washington University, who wrote that a “blinding attack on China” was planned, “with strikes that could be mistakenly perceived [by the Chinese] as pre-emptive attempts to take out its nuclear weapons, thus cornering them into a terrible use-it-or-lose-it dilemma [that would] lead to nuclear war.”

In 2019, the US staged its biggest single military exercise since the Cold War, much of it in high secrecy. An armada of ships and long-range bombers rehearsed an “Air-Sea Battle Concept for China” – ASB – blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca and cutting off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

It is fear of such a blockade that has seen China develop its Belt and Road Initiative along the old Silk Road to Europe and urgently build strategic airstrips on disputed reefs and islets in the Spratly Islands.

In Shanghai, I met Lijia Zhang, a Beijing journalist and novelist, typical of a new class of outspoken mavericks. Her best-selling book has the ironic title Socialism Is Great! Having grown up in the chaotic, brutal Cultural Revolution, she has travelled and lived in the US and Europe. “Many Americans imagine,” she said, “that Chinese people live a miserable, repressed life with no freedom whatsoever. The [idea of] the yellow peril has never left them… They have no idea there are some 500 million people being lifted out of poverty, and some would say it’s 600 million.”

Modern China’s epic achievements, its defeat of mass poverty, and the pride and contentment of its people (measured forensically by American pollsters such as Pew) are wilfully unknown or misunderstood in the West. This alone is a commentary on the lamentable state of Western journalism and the abandonment of honest reporting.

China’s repressive dark side and what we like to call its “authoritarianism” are the facade we are allowed to see almost exclusively. It is as if we are fed unending tales of the evil super-villain Dr. Fu Manchu. And it is time we asked why: before it is too late to stop the next Hiroshima.

Feature photo | In this Aug. 6, 1945 photo released by the U.S. Army, a mushroom cloud billows about one hour after a nuclear bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan. U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum via AP

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist. His articles appear worldwide in newspapers such as the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Il Manifesto (Italy). Visit his website at www.johnpilger.com.

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Lee Camp: A Dozen Reasons Now is the Time for Housing as a Human Right

Congress’s inability to actually represent the real-live human beings of America, combined with an economic system that rewards lack of empathy and an excess of greed, has brought us to a dark time when an oncoming tsunami of financial ruin, destitution and evictions towers over our heads, blocking out the sunlight.

The impending evictions may soon kick 28 million people/families out of their homes. To put that in perspective, only ten million people lost their homes during the 2008 economic crisis, and that was considered by anyone paying attention to be the craziest thing to ever happen.

What we’re facing now could be three times crazier, getting to Charlie Sheen levels. (I almost wrote “Kanye West levels” but everything he does is in hopes of being mentioned in the media, and I’m not falling for it. …Shit. This parenthetical has betrayed me!)

To talk about the impending homelessness tsunami, we have to first get past the fact that our government could totally bail people out and keep them in their homes. Not only have they already bailed out big banks and Wall Street to the tune of $4.25 trillion but on top of that the Pentagon has over $21 Trillion of unaccounted-for adjustments on their books over the past 20 years. This is to say – there’s plenty of money.

Money is an idea, a concept, an imaginary metaphysical belief, and it’s high time we faced the fact that the U.S. government has an unlimited imagination. As philosopher Alan Watts once put it: Money is not a thing, it’s a measurement. Saying there’s not enough money to do something is like a builder saying there are not enough inches to build a house. He has the wood, nails, and hammers. He’s just out of inches.

The U.S. government could easily give every American $2,000 a month for the foreseeable future, which would keep almost everybody in their homes and apartments. In fact, Canada has opted to give $2,000 a month to those who lost work because of the pandemic.

But ignore the fact that there’s enough money. That’s not what we’re here to discuss.

There are also enough empty homes. As of 2018, there were nearly 1.5 million vacant homes in the country. Compare that to the estimated 553,742 people homeless on any given night. So even before the pandemic, there were three empty houses for every homeless person. Three. That’s not even accounting for empty apartments, yachts, sheds, extra bedrooms, garages, condos, cubbyholes, attic spaces, basements, barns, pool houses, and walk-in refrigerators.

If those vacant locations were used to house the houseless, those of us lucky enough to have our own abodes wouldn’t hardly notice a difference except that homelessness would have vanished. It would be something we talk about in a “remember when” fashion like VHS tapes, game shows about grocery shopping, and dating that didn’t involve blood tests and an Instagram audit.

No more people on the street, no more fear that a little bad luck would result in you or your family under a bridge giving a guy your underwear in exchange for a sandwich. All that utter madness would cease to exist.

And the impending number of evictions—28 million—isn’t even accounting for how many people stay in horrible relationships because they can’t afford a place of their own, both horrible marriages and other living arrangements. (Like a 25-year-old who has to live with his mom who cleans her feet on the couch every night while watching Wheel of Fortune and eating soup that smells of rotting raccoon carcass. Call me crazy, but in our post-scarcity world, that 25-year-old should be given an apartment.)

But let’s back up even further and question the brain parasites we were given from our social engineering. Why should someone be homeless just because they don’t have enough money? Some would say indignantly, “Because they didn’t work hard enough, so they deserve to be homeless. That’s called ‘work ethic’ – and it’s what this country’s founded on! George Washington something something Ford Motor Company. Meh!”

Okay, that’s a great point except—No, it’s not. How hard someone works hardly matters in our society. Think for a moment about all the filthy rich trust-fund kids who sit around on their asses all day smoking weed out of the skull of an exotic lemur. Yet they’re still rich. How many trophy wives or trophy husbands lounge by the pool eternally caressing their junk in the sunshine? They don’t work hard. How many superfluous “board members” get paid hundreds of thousands to sit on a board and attend one conference call a month?

Plus, consider people that actually do work for their fortunes—like a CEO—do you honestly believe they work a thousand times harder than a janitor or a dishwasher or a coal miner? Of course not. What’s the hardest job in the world? Probably ripping asbestos out of a dilapidated sewage treatment plant in Phoenix, Arizona in 110-degree heat with improper safety equipment.

Do you think those guys get paid the highest salary in the world because they work the hardest? No! They’re lucky if they get dental. They’re lucky if their lunch break is long enough for a sandwich and a piss.

America is not based on hard work. Get it out of your head that this society is at all set up to be fair. Fair would be everyone with a roof over their head. Fair would be every kid getting a solid education. Fair would be every person drinking delicious clean water. Fair is the opposite of whatever the hell we’re doing here.

But very little of this discussion exists in our culture. Instead, the banks and landlords are preparing to kick 28 million families out. And it’s not like the bank will resell all those homes during the impending depression lathered in a pandemic. Nope. Those homes will sit empty, just like the 10 million foreclosed homes during the 2008 Great Recession sat empty for months if not years. So the reason for kicking people out is simply to… um… make sure they’re homeless? How can that make sense?

If the goal is to have a good, functioning society, it’s completely illogical to kick people out of their shelters. The families will be devastated. The kids will be traumatized. Divorces will occur. Suicides. Addiction. Overdoses. None of that is good for society. None of that helps America even slightly. So the truly patriotic thing to do is demand housing for all.

What’s good for society is to have people comfortable in their homes, able to get educated and grow as humans. Whatever happened to the pursuit of human growth for every individual?

Some may argue, “We can’t let people stay in their homes because we need to teach them personal responsibility.” That’s the argument every vomit-brained Fox News guest spits out reflexively. Yet it’s impossible to be responsible for something no one saw coming. Did anyone see this pandemic coming? Did anyone including the government prepare for it?

No. In fact, we’ve bailed out whole industries, the airline industry for one. Billions of dollars just handed to them. How are the heads of the airlines any different from a homeowner who lost her job in the pandemic? There’s no difference. Shouldn’t the airline CEOs be the ones evicted—left out on the street sleeping in a box?

On top of all this—and this point is really going to blow a hole through your pants—it’s cheaper to keep people in their homes. For example, according to The Washington Post, “Utah was spending on average $20,000 on each chronically homeless person. So, to in part cut those costs — but also to ‘save lives,’ …the state started setting up each chronically homeless person with his or her own house.”

It worked. By 2015, they cut homelessness by 91 percent and saved the state money. However, since then, homelessness has gone back up. It’s tough to say why, but one director of a Utah food pantry said, “The mistake we made was stopping [the program].”

Yeah, that may have been the reason. Utah lawmakers found out how to end homelessness…. and then they stopped doing that! (Why in this country do we run screaming from every great idea like it’s a hive of angry bees that all want to talk to us about life insurance??)

So here, alas, are the solutions. Housing should be a human right. We have enough homes. We have enough materials. We have enough dollars and enough inches. It doesn’t need to be a goddamn mansion, but everyone should have a roof over their heads and four good walls. Hell, I’ll even compromise—two and a half good walls.

Even if we didn’t have enough homes, which we do, we can now 3D print a house in a matter of hours. (Although it must suck when the printer jams. All those houses stuck together in the tray.)

Point is, don’t tell me we don’t have enough houses and apartments for everyone. Paris Hilton’s dogs have a fucking $325,000 mansion! I’m not kidding. Just for the dogs. That’s, shall we say, mildly upsetting. (Let me guess – those dogs worked hard to get where they are.)

The next solution is to fight the impending evictions. Don’t let the authorities kick your friends and neighbors onto the street. We have a strong (suppressed) history in this country of fighting against landlords and the cruelty of evictions, such as the great Rent Strike War of 1932 in the Bronx, and the Chicago Eviction Riots of 1931.

Fighting back is not just an option, it’s an obligation. If you’re strong enough to resist the profit-centered social engineering we are fed every day of our lives, then you will soon realize housing should be a human right.

Feature photo | This Sept. 25, 2019 photo shows an eviction notice on the front door of Apartment 17, the home of Ed Buck in West Hollywood, Calif. Brian Melley | AP

Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his stand-up comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Consortium News.

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Big Pharma Giants GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Receive $2.1 Billion to Develop COVID Vaccine

The Trump administration’s “Manhattan project” for a COVID-19 vaccine has topped its biggest award given only two weeks ago to Novavax, Inc with its latest grant of $2.1 billion to pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline, and partner Sanofi Pasteur to “speed up clinical development and manufacturing” of its recombinant vaccine candidate for the novel coronavirus.

The deal clocks in at over $400 million more than the program’s previous investment of $1.6 billion earlier this month. Most of the GSK/Sanofi grant will be used for clinical trials and the rest to “scale-up and delivery” of 100 million vaccine doses destined for the U.S. population. The deal also offers the USG an option to buy a “supply of 500 million doses over the long term.”

https://www.mintpressnews.com/robert-kadlec-linked-emergent-biosolutions-exclusive-manufacture-covid-19-vaccines/269266/

This latest infusion of tax-payer money into Big Pharma’s hands by the Trump administration comes on the heels of the rumored failure of an early vaccine candidate. Moderna’s SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-1273 vaccine has received nearly a billion in federal funds, but recent reports of the company’s CMO, Tal Zaks, selling almost all of his shares as the vaccine is set to begin late-stage trials have sparked speculation that the “pre-fusion stabilized Spike protein” vaccine is dead in the water.

Neither Novavax or Moderna, however, have ever had a single product go to market despite years in the business. GSK and Sanofi, in contrast, have plenty. Sanofi produces an FDA-approved flu shot and GSK, producer of some of the most recognizable pharmaceutical brand names like Binaca and Paxil, also produced a flu vaccine for the H1N1 “bird flu” called Pandermix.

Nevertheless, the fact that these large pharmaceutical firms have had some market success doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of the safety of their vaccines. GSK’s Pandermix turned out to induce narcolepsy and after studies confirmed the association between the drug and the chronic sleeping disorder, it has not been used since.

 

Long-standing ties

The $2.1 billion is the second award given to the GSK/Sanofi vaccine project. The first came in April via BARDA and preceded the formation of Operation Warp Speed, itself. Trump’s pick to lead the White House’s vaccine-development task force used to run R&D for GlaxoSmithKline and, until recently, was on the board of directors of the Human Vaccines Project – a vaccine acceleration project that has virtually all the vaccine developers in Operation Warp Speed as partners, including Astra-Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.

Sanofi was one of the first pharmaceutical firms to work with HHS on a COVID-19 vaccine and counts on a “long-standing” relationship with its funding arm, BARDA. Prior to its partnership with GSK, Sanofi had struck a $30 million deal with the agency to “quickly advance a potential vaccine candidate.” Then BARDA director, Rick Bright, endorsed Sanofi’s “licensed recombinant vaccine platform.”

In early December of 2019, Bright’s BARDA awarded Sanofi $226 million to expand its “pandemic influenza vaccine production capabilities” in the company’s Swiftwater, Pennsylvania facilities. In a prophetic statement, Bright praised the deal with Sanofi Pasteur by asserting that “the question is not if, but when the next influenza pandemic will occur,” and went on to further warn of the “potentially devastating consequences for public health and the U.S. economy” that such a pandemic might bring.

 

The profit motive

Rick Bright would eventually be ousted as BARDA director in April after filing a whistleblower complaint against HHS, in which he accused ASPR Robert Kadlec of “inviting violations of federal procurement law” over the awarding of a $21 million contract for a COVID-19 “Pepcid” treatment trial to an associate of one of his advisors, Dr. Michael Callahan. Bright’s struggle with HHS has continued to deepen and has since amended his complaint to include allegations that secretary Alex Azar has continued to retaliate and is “on the war path” against him and trying to sabotage his now diminished role at NIH.

The signs of rampant cronyism coming out of the COVID-19 vaccine development projects like Operation Warp Speed and similar efforts at HHS should be concerning, with situations like Bright’s ouster and firms like Emergent Biosolutions with deep links to the ASPR coming up again and again on vaccine manufacturing contracts.

Sanofi CEO, Paul Hudson, said the quiet part out loud in May when he told Bloomberg that the “U.S. would have initial access to Sanofi’s COVID-19 vaccine—if it works—because the country was the first to invest in the program.” The statement had to be walked back by Sanofi Chairman, Serge Weinberg for obvious reasons. But, given that the U.S. government has decided to trust for-profit corporations to look after our health, no one should really be surprised.

Feature photo | Protesters display placards during a rally at the Sanofi Pasteur office in suburban Taguig city to protest the drug company’s deal with the Government on the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, March 5, 2018, east of Manila, Philippines. Bullit Marquez | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Federal Government Releases Bipartisan Anti-China Plan for Artificial Intelligence

A bipartisan plan for artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to national security has just been released by U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX). The report was put together by the D.C.-based think tank Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) of Georgetown University, in addition to industry representatives and academics, as well as other government officials.

The proposal comes as anti-China rhetoric begins to coalesce in the policy-forming circles of the U.S. government. “American leadership and advanced technology has been critical to our success since World War II, and we are in a race with the government of China,” Hurd stated. “It’s time for Congress to play its role.” Most of the document, however, focuses on China and Russia as threats to American hegemony, with AI being just the latest excuse to assert its power over aligned nations and launch threats of economic warfare and tease military action against non-aligned countries.

Recent headlines about the possible acquisition of the Chinese video platform TikTok by Microsoft and Trump’s threats to ban the social media company from operating in the U.S. underscore the aggressive tactics now being employed by the government and American tech firms, in tandem, to assert U.S. hegemony over AI systems worldwide.

The tussle over mobile software applications is occurring as the U.S. Department of Justice brings hacking charges against Chinese nationals and the FBI lobs accusations against the Chinese consulate in San Francisco of harboring fugitives. Meanwhile, a Congressional inquiry into the alleged disappearance of a Chinese Catholic Bishop adds to the strong signals that the U.S. is moving into cold war footing against the Asian nation.

 

Principles and takeaways

The AI plan is based on three reports issued by the National Security Commission on AI; established in 2018 by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 115-232).

The Commission, co-chaired by former Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt and former deputy secretary of defense Robert O. Work, recently created an advisory committee to steer policy in regards to applications of AI.

The Commission has come under fire for holding closed-door meetings and for failing to publicly disclose their recommendations. A decision handed down by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in June held that the Commission must abide by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and must “hold open meetings and proactively provide records and other materials to the public.” The Commission is set to expire in one year, by October 2021.

The bipartisan plan on AI offers five “Key Principles” the first of which involves the implementation of the DoD’s “Ethical Principles for AI,” a set of broad rules meant to guide “both combat and non-combat functions” of AI, which are to be enforced by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC); an agency established in 2018 within the Pentagon. The JAIC is currently led by acting director, Nand Mulchandani of DoD enterprise software contractor, Citrix, and former Chief of the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit, Stephen T. Homeyer.

The second “principle” alludes to cooperating “selectively and pragmatically” with China and Russia. The third implies surveillance of other countries’ AI capabilities and “perspectives,” while the fourth calls for greater investment in R&D for artificial intelligence and promoting “standardization” to achieve more “trustworthy” AI systems. The fifth brings it full circle back to the confrontational stance of the U.S. government by recommending “export and investment controls” to prevent the transfer of sensitive AI technologies to China.

The plan then offers several takeaways, such as the “operational advantage against adversaries,” AI-enabled command and control “as envisioned by programs such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Mosaic Warfare and the Air Force’s Multi-Domain Command and Control.” In addition, it adds two recommendations regarding the use of AI for logistical aspects of the U.S. military “including troop rotations,” counseling the “implementation of enterprise AI applications” to these ends.

 

Curbside Constitution

Other parts of the plan revolve around autonomous vehicles and weapons systems. The former, in particular, has important implications for the private sector as ride-sharing companies like Uber and car-makers alike push for policies to shape the burgeoning autonomous vehicle market. But, due to the technology’s requirements to “perceive and map the environment, fuse sensor data, identify obstacles, plan navigation, and communicate with other vehicles,” it has the potential to bleed into many other sectors of the economy and local levels of government, down to zoning laws.

In an interview earlier this month, JAIC acting director Nand Mulchandani advanced this narrative when he claimed China had “the world’s most advanced [AI] capabilities, such as unregulated facial recognition for universal surveillance and control of their domestic population, trained on Chinese video gathered from their systems.” Mulchandani, nevertheless, conceded that the “U.S. is capable of doing similar things,” but offered only the U.S. Constitution as the barrier that would prevent America from building “such universal surveillance and censorship systems.” A less than comforting thought, to say the least.

Feature photo | Chinese students work on the Ares, a humanoid bipedal robot run on artificial intelligence and designed by them with funding from a Shanghai investment company, displayed during the World Robot Conference in Beijing. Ng Han Guan | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Report: “Woke” Corporations Supporting Black Lives Matter Quietly Funding Police

In the wake of worldwide public outrage over racist police violence, many of the United States’ largest corporations rushed to publicly align themselves with the growing movement for black lives. Yet a new report from the Public Accountability Initiative exposes how corporate America is actually bankrolling police departments across the country, including many of the same ones facing scrutiny over racist practices.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jaime Dimon very publicly took a knee outside a New York branch of his bank in early June, also circulating a memo declaring the financial institution’s supposed dedication to struggling against injustice. “Let us be clear — we are watching, listening and want every single one of you to know we are committed to fighting against racism and discrimination wherever and however it exists,” he and the company’s diversity chief wrote together.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon takes a knee with employees in front of a bank vault. Photo | JPMorgan

Marathon Petroleum, the country’s 22nd largest business according to Fortune magazine, celebrated Juneteenth on its public Facebook page, declaring itself to “stand firmly against racism, intolerance and hate of any kind.” “Commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S. is one way we’re encouraging learning and empathetic dialogue among our employees, as we work together to identify meaningful ways we can make progress,” it wrote.

Chevron was even more emphatic. “Black lives matter,” it said via Twitter, sharing words from its CEO Mike Wirth, who claimed he, “shared the anger and pain felt by so many Americans at the recent killings of unarmed black men and women.” “Racism and brutality,” he added, “have no place in America.” While many were quick to point out that black lives in Ecuador did not seem to matter much to Chevron, where it has refused to pay for an accident that dumped over 80 times the amount of oil BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, the company continued to associate itself with the growing public discontent against racism.

 

Backed by corporate power

But the Public Accountability Initiative’s new study found that these companies were responsible for bankrolling some of the country’s most notorious police departments. By giving money to police foundations, corporations essentially buy weapons, equipment, and surveillance technology for law enforcement, helping them to avoid public scrutiny of questionable purchases and adding to their already bloated budgets.

“These companies, which rely on extraction and exploitation to secure their profits, have an incentive to form tight bonds with police forces, which function to uphold and protect their interests in the face of community opposition. In many states, these companies go so far as to back laws to criminalize protests of dirty energy projects such as pipelines, openly weaponizing the police and criminal justice system to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry and the banks that fund them,” they write.

JP Morgan Chase, for instance, is an official “corporate partner of police.” In the wake of the Occupy Wall Street Protests — a movement directly aimed at the power and wealth of corporations like JP Morgan Chase and suppressed by the NYPD — the bank donated $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The NYPD has been among the most brutal in its opposition to the George Floyd Protests, with officers choking black men unconscious, ramming patrol cars into crowds of protesters, beating up medical workers, and using fake taxis to arrest demonstrators.

Marathon, a company synonymous in Michigan with polluting communities of color, also has a close relationship with the police, its Security Director sitting on the board of Detroit’s police foundation. Meanwhile, Chevron is a top corporate sponsor of police departments all over the country, including in New Orleans, Houston, and Salt Lake City. Together, these companies not only donate huge sums to law enforcement but also sponsor events and galas celebrating the institution, reminding the public, in the report’s words, “that police power is backed up by corporate power.”

 

Public anger

The protests — and the heavy-handed response to them — has hardened the public’s attitude to law enforcement. A June survey found that three-quarters of Americans supported the movement against racist policing. Perhaps more surprisingly, one Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 39 percent of the country agreed that police departments should be “completely dismantled” and the money given to address homelessness, mental health and domestic violence, a number not altogether inconsistent with similar polls on the issue.

While “woke” corporations like JPMorgan Chase, Chevron and Marathon claim to be supporting the movement for black lives, their donations to police, the report notes, help to “tyrannize the very communities” these corporate entities are now claiming to stand with against injustice.

Feature Photo | A demonstrator holds a Black Lives Matter sign during a protest, July 30, 2020, in Albuquerque, N.M. Russell Contreras | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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How Joeseph Goebbel’s Nazi Propaganda Gave Birth to Today’s Western Media

All six children were dressed in pristine, finely pressed white clothes. Their hair was combed and styled. Aged between four and twelve, they had been assembled below by house aides. The stage was now set. Pedigree, ideological sacred cows, convictions as indefensible as the Oder River had set it. With or without cause, all final preparations were complete.

Pleas by women and staff to usher the young ones free from harm’s way were ignored. Time was running thin. No such ideas, however, would be entertained by their much sought after father, Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. With allied forces lagging behind on the western front, the Red Army invasion, stocked to the brim with Katyushas, Ilyushin II fighter jets, tanks, and hardened infantry bulldozed their way into the heart of Berlin from the east. Childhood nor innocence would escape the treacherous affairs that had unwittingly led Helga Susanne, Hildegard Traudel, Helmut Christian, Holdine Kathrin, Hedwig Johanna, and Heidrun Elisabeth to the Reich Chancellery bunker in April 1945. Above ground, the ill-prepared Volkssturm, boys and seniors anywhere between 16 and 60, give or take a few years, were fulfilling duties mandated by the Führer. Fuming amid fresh heaps of rubble, Berlin, as ordered by high-ranking officials now engaged in orgies and sordid acts inside the Chancellery, was to be defended against all odds and at all costs. Just then, Rochus Misch, the bunker’s telephonist, recalled that the six beautiful children simply “went away.”

How that cocktail of morphine and cyanide was fed to Goebbels’ kids remains shrouded in speculation. Bruises were found on 12-years-old Helga’s face. Braveheart was she, daddy’s girl resisting to swallow the ampule’s content before it was forcibly smashed between her teeth? Still, whether it was shortly before or after the kids went away, Goebbels took to the Chancellery garden and did likewise. Prior to the final act, he ordered his guards to show patience, wait until he lay lifeless and, for added posterity, hit his body with a volley of rounds and incinerate the remains. As good S.S. soldiers do, they complied. So did the bulk of French, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Flemish and other Wehrmacht foreigners who upheld their oath to the Nazi state to the end. Like a house of cards, their creationist myth of racial superiority and exceptionalism was now crumbling before their eyes and drenching in their Aryan blood.

The Soviet advance was as relentless as it was implacable. “It took a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army,” Joseph Stalin was quoted. Indeed. If the siege of Leningrad was not enough to keep soldiers on the battlefield, then deserters were met by the firing squad. With victory waiting in the wing, credit would also be paid to the hundreds of Soviet female snipers who had fought on the frontline. Awarded the Medal of Courage in 1944, Roza Shanina disposed of 59 Nazi combatants before she, at just 20 years of age, was killed in battle. Partisans across Europe also risked life and limb while engaging in sabotage and assassinations deep behind enemy lines. In Denmark, 23-year-old Bent Faurschou Hviid (codename Flammen) and concierge and music stage manager Jørgen Haagen Schmith (codename Citronen) formed an assassination duo, eliminating Nazi officials and collaborators, one by one, across Copenhagen. Killed, yet undefeated, the Danes honored the freedom fighters when their coffins stood in unison inside the historic Holmen Church.

Roza Shanina was one of hundreds of female snipers fighting in the Red Army against Nazi Germany.

Circumstances compounded abroad and now in the German heartland, Brandenburg Gates nor the Reichstag could no longer hold its own. Berlin lay in ruins. The Volkssturm and Wehrmacht scoured civilian neighborhoods as they retreated. German civilians with white flags hoisted out front were frowned upon if lucky. Homes of the unlucky were invaded and its occupants executed. Chickens had come home to roost. World War II was nearing its fanatic conclusion, and with it, an end to Nazi Germany’s propaganda mastermind, his wife and children. Goebbels himself couldn’t have summarized the moment better when he stated years back: “Faith moves mountains, but only knowledge moves them to the right place.”

Whether that knowledge is acquired, scrambled and obscured, or hidden altogether depends, in large part, on that crème de la crème communication service—the media.

Wernher von Braun posing in his office as Director of the NAS Marshall Space Flight Center in 1964. Before being spirited to the US under the State Department’s clandestine Operation Paperclip and its V-2 program, von Braun served as an S.S. soldier and headed of Nazi Germany’s rocket program. Photo | Public Domain

 

The fifth estate pendulum

What is the media? What purpose does it, and other means of mass communication, serve?

Is it a deluge of hip entertainment news outlets and its offspring of color following suit as they curry favor among viewers with bright lights and pizzazz, sensationalism with a pinch of headlines, and nonstop celebrity opinions? Is it fact or fiction, or a warped combination of the two? Who determines what is and isn’t suitable content and commentary?

With the communication trans-nationalists of our time broadcasting on-air and streaming online every second of the day, each day of the week, it can’t be, in the words of Goebbels, “a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners.” To be clear, he was referring to propaganda, not the media per se.

Global perspectives and staying informed, however, need not be relegated to the communication trans-nationalists of our time, their soundbites or cacophony of pundits and experts. One glance at the corporate interests behind media moguls and the demographic makeup of their editorial boards is a constant reminder that the maw of this 24-hour news cycle is feverishly biased. Sizable no doubt, western mass media continues to be atomized by a malnutrition of context.

While technological advancements have leveled the playing field in terms of accessing the tools to produce and disseminate media across the globe, how have journalists reacted or had to adjust to the online world of algorithms, click-baiting, SEO, keywords, ad revenue, bots, and social media? “Data shows (Pew Research – 2019) that 55 percent of adults in the United States get their news from social media either often or sometimes. Now that’s scary,” says a media web-team director to his writers and editorial staff. A bedrock for any people, community, or nation, how are we to distinguish between informative news coverage, propaganda and biased noise without falling prey to cynicism regarding media producers across the board? Moreover, to what degree can the recent past inform us about the present?

Mountain climbing requires skills. Any skilled mountain climber knows that uninterrupted ascents are virtually impossible, especially when facing a dangerous path. At this juncture, one must descend before resuming an upward trajectory at a safer locale. So let us too take a few steps back. Back some eighty years to the Führer. Dare the imagination, or empirical mind-, conjure the memory of Joseph Goebbels in seeking some of the answers to questions about media in the year the demands clearer vision, 2020.

 

Goebbels 2020 homecoming

While that we will always, and I repeat always, respect everyone’s first amendment rights, those rights stop when a molotov cocktail is thrown into an open business. Those rights stop at the point that you loot the liquor store in the neighborhood. Those rights stop when you loot the gas station, the little mom and pop gas station in the neighborhood.” — John Harrington, head of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, speaking at a press conference in the wake of George Floyd’s public lynching by Minnesota policemen

Abhorrence to Nazi crimes has stood the test of time. “Never forget,” say holocaust survivors and their descendants. Credit mainstream media for doing a remarkable job in making sure that doesn’t happen. What has been forgotten, however, is that the Nazi party did not emerge from vacuity. Forever were they indebted in their perversions by white settler colonialism in the so-called New World. “Hitler’s American Model,” written by James Q. Whitman, draws chilling parallels between the evolution of the Nazi party and how their wackadoo concepts on race biology, their political agenda that prompted genocide, their sordid contraptions of human experimentation and death, their very raison d’être were nothing more than a prerecorded rerun. In this regard, mainstream media has done an exceptionally poor job and public disservice in not detailing the ideological pendulum as it swinging between Washington and Berlin before, during, and after WWII.

“I have studied with interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock-,” Hitler was quoted as saying. His words were not a far echo from sentiments expressed by U.S. General George Patton who chided Jewish supporters who “believe that the Displaced person is a human being, which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews who are lower than animals.”

Philanthropist Mary Williamson Averell Harriman, heiress to US railroad executive E. H. Harriman, donated large sums of money to German race biologists. Contributions continued to pour in even during the height of the Great Depression.

In 1924, nine years before the Nazis even came to power, Gee Jon (picture), a Chinese man, became the first person to be executed in a gas chamber made in the USA. It was performed in Nevada’s State Prison’s butcher shop. A few year later, a modernized version of the state death contraption was developed and patented by Earl C. Liston, superintendent at the Eaton Metal Products Company Denver plant. The new design, which was incorporated at Auschwitz to help relieve stress on S.S. executioners, incorporated a slideway where potassium cyanide pellets were inserted and released into a bucket of sulfuric acid and water. In a matter of seconds, the chamber would fill with poisonous hydrocyanic acid. “Pulling a lever to kill a man is hard work. Pouring acid down a tube is easier on the nerves, more like watering flowers,” Liston commented.

Named Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in 1933, it was Joseph Goebbels’ responsibility to convey all messaging associated with Nazi Germany via radio, TV, film, posters, books, newspapers, and other means of mass communication. His skills in public relations and marketing were exacting, so much so that many WWII researchers insist that German society as a whole—discounting a failed assassination attempt to take out Hitler by Germans officials Claus von Stauffenberg, Werner von Haeften, Albrecht, Mertz von Quirnheim, and Friedrich Olbricht—had been hoodwinked. Be this a fair assumption or convenient oversight, one thing is certain: More than seven decades have elapsed since the capitulation of the Nazi state. Still, a cursory glance at succinct propaganda ideas espoused by Goebbels compared and contrasted to soundbites relayed time and again by western media and recurring themes in their coverage, begs a simple question: Do ideas, unlike flesh and bones, live on? Is there an unbroken thread of basic concepts extending from the Third Reich’s media genius and western media trans-nationalists of our time? As the song goes: “Who the cap fit?”

The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” — Joseph Goebbels

This poster is in protest against wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo | Twitter

Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.” — Joseph Goebbels

Mainstream western media and institutions have clung to the narrative that press freedoms have been abruptly undermined since the rise of Donald Trump as the president of the United States. Goebbels, however, professed a more collaborative relationship between the holders of power and the fifth estate.

Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” — Joseph Goebbels

In a recent DemocracyNow interview addressing U.S. immigrant jails and the separation of children from their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, reporter Jacob Soboroff, said “this is the first time since — this is the first time ever that children have been separated on a systematic basis — look at those photos right there — from their parents. And that is because of the Trump administration.“ Whether by conscious omission or otherwise, at no point did Soboroff discuss the systematic separation of African or Indigenous children from their parents not too long ago when chattel slavery and colonialism swept through what would become the United States, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, or other parts of the modern-day western hemisphere. This talking point, in fact, has become a mainstay on progressive and left-wing news outlets, that the current practice of separating Latino and Hispanic children from their parents by U.S. state agencies is an unprecedented phenomenon initiated by the Trump administration.

The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” — Joseph Goebbels

Joseph Goebbels smiles for the cameras whilst holding a well-arranged bouquet of flowers circa 1934.

Subtle or overt, the media is a weapon for better or worse and it’s no secret that western corporate news outlets churn and refry their coverage 24-hours a day, 7-days per week. Dismissing, ignoring or underestimating its role in upholding New World creationist myths, its political and corporate legacy borne through settler terrorism, appropriation of land, labor, and human beings without blinking an eye would be a grave folly. Goebbels reminds us:

Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. I speak differently in the provinces than I do in Berlin, and when I speak in Bayreuth, I say different things than I say in the Pharus Hall. That is a matter of practice, not of theory. We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.”

 

The war creeps back – neutralize communications

By 1940, France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Belgium were all draped under the red, white and black swastika. Europe’s most recent dark days were not exclusively consummated through the barrel of guns. Conspirators, collaborators, and appeasers at the highest level of government, such as British and French prime ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, signees to Hitler’s Munich Pact in 1938, and business leaders, such as Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, a British MP and head of the British Union of Fascists, all lent their support, thus paving the way for annexation. Mosley’s connection to Nazi leaders ran so deep that he married his mistress, Diana Guinness, at Goebbels’ home in 1936. His guest of honor was none other than Adolf Hitler, a man with whom he was able to negotiate a private radio station that broadcast German programs in Sark. Expanding westward, the Nazi military high command now made plans, as Napoleon had done over a century ago, to take Britain. Having gobbled Western Europe, Hitler surely must’ve deduced that the land of her majesty would be an easy pick. It was, after all, the empire where the sun never sets, burning the midnight oil far and thin to prolong its colonial rule.

The invasion strategy was divided into three phases. If executed properly, the offensive would culminate in the seizure of the Union Jack. To illustrate the importance of media and effective communication, phase one included surprise air-bombings, pulverizing Britain’s Royal Air-force and their bases, as well as all communication services and transport lines. The campaign, however, lasted for a year without ever getting past phase one. Extending from Britain’s eastern shoreline all the way to the heart of London, more than 40,000 people lost their lives during the air raids. It was thanks to the tally-ho of Royal Air-force pilots at the helms of those sturdy spitfire planes, 24 of which were purchased and donated to Britain by the generosity of the Basotho people of Lesotho, that Hitler never set one boot on British soil.

Communications remained alive and well, despite Nazi planes dropping a million pounds of bombs on London just on the night of November 14th, 1940. News radio broadcasts continued informing people of air raids, which underground tube stations to seek shelter, victories compiled by the spitfire pilots thus keeping morale high, and other vital details concerning the attempted invasion and ways of providing solidarity during a time of crisis.

Almost four years later, after Britain’s resounding halt to the Nazi advance, it would be Goebbels turn to resort to radio broadcast. “We would rather work until our hands are bloody and fight until our last breath before we let the enemy occupy German territory and impose his will on us.”

Goebbels again took to the airwaves on April 21s1t,  1945. With Red Army mortars exploding in the garden above the Chancellery compound, the Third Reich’s propaganda expert addressed his listeners one last time. Staff member, Wilfred von Oven, recalled that Goebbels, in one instance, had to wipe away pane and glass as exploding bombs shattered all of the bunker windows. Still, he didn’t fray during his speech. “Berlin is now on the frontline. At the walls of our city, the Mongolian hordes will and must be stopped. Agitators or insurgent foreigners are to be arrested or, better still, neutralized. Naturally, I shall stay on in Berlin with my staff. My wife and my children are also here and will stay here.”

Do not fear the enemy for they can take only your life. Fear the media far more, for they will destroy your honor.” — Vo Nguyen Giap – General of Vietnam’s People Army

On the western front, European-American soldiers afforded Nazi prisoners greater respect than classified negro soldiers fighting under the red, white, and blue. Again, and not that taking on Nazi Germany was inconsiderable, the latter group had succumbed to what Robert Williams would later call a “honky trick.”

To the east, Red Army soldiers took no qualms in pummeling Berlin to smithereens. For Georgy Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union, Houdini was not a rank-and-file member within the Third Reich nor had he ordered the siege of Leningrad. With that established, the Soviet general would speak the only language spoken by the Nazis. Neither by political function, birth, or tradition would Jewish people be integrated into Nazi Germany and, in the struggle against Hitler’s own version of Manifest Destiny, more than 26 million Soviet men, women, and children lost their lives. Preferring the British and European-Americans enter Berlin before the Red Army, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler put their own communication skills to the test, secretly negotiating an unconditional surrender with the allied forces’ western camp. Their efforts proved futile. Both would resort to their cyanide ampules by war’s end.

“Death to fascism, freedom to the people!” shouted partisan leader Stjepan Filipović moments before his execution by Nazi collaborates in Valjevo, Yugoslavia.”

 

Media – A weapon for better or worse during times of crisis

As World War II and its antecedents prove, media and other forms of mass communication are critical during times of conflict and uncertainty. For example, in March 1789, Abdel Kader Kane, leader of the Futa Toro region in northern Senegal, sent an official letter to French authorities in which he stated: “We are warning you that all those who will come to our land to trade in slaves will be killed and massacred if you do not send our children back.” In an apparent response to Kader Kane’s warning, Jean-Baptiste Durand of the Compaigne du Sénégal attested that Europeans required armed protection “from the Negroes living in the country.”

In an attempt to stall communications during Indonesia’s struggle for independence, the Dutch East Indies naval blockade cut mail service between the republican forces based in Java and Sumatra in 1947. Meanwhile, an official visit to Vietnam by Robert and Mabel Williams in the late 1960s, Ho Chi Minh told the exiled freedom fighters that leaders of the People’s Army were inspired to launch the Tet Offensive after reading reports of the 1967 Detroit Riots in their Crusader newsletter. In her memoir, “Re-living the Second Chimurenga,” Fay Chung recalled that in the 1970s, Rhodesia’s white minority government “made a great effort to woo spirit mediums (vana sekuru) to support their rule, on one occasion even showering pamphlets (over guerrilla held territories) purporting to come from the ancestors from aeroplanes.”

Robert Franklin Williams and Mao Tse-Tung in Peking, China circa 1964

More recently, between May 2007 and December 2011, Bell Pottinger, a British-based public relations firm, received  $540 million dollars to produce and disseminate fake terrorist videos with the aim of portraying insurgent groups negatively. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that the PR firm cooperated with top U.S. military officials based at Camp Victory in Baghdad and viewers of the videos could be tracked by U.S. forces. It was an ignoble reminder of the Lincoln Group. This Washington-based PR firm wrote news articles denouncing insurgent groups while praising U.S.-led efforts in Iraq. The reports were subsequently published in Iraqi newspapers.

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. — Malcolm X

Meanwhile, Rwanda

In 1994, Tutsi leaders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) pleaded with top U.S. officials of the Bill Clinton administration to cut Radio Télevision Libre des Milles Collines (One Thousand Hills Free Radio) broadcasts. This privately-run radio station, which began airing in April 1993, not only incite hatred and killings against the Tutsis, but also stressed the political imperative of seizing control of the narrative. When French military forces intervened in Rwanda under Operation Turquoise following the airplane downing and death of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, they established a control zone where Radio Télevision Libre des Milles Collines was allowed to continue operating. A broadcast from Gisenyi encouraged all “Hutu girls to wash yourselves and put on a good dress to welcome our French allies. The Tutsi girls are all dead, so you have your chance.”

Explaining why French forces had seemingly recused themselves from detaining government officials they knew were involved in coordinating massacres against the Tutsis, the French foreign ministry argued that the UN mandate provided no authorization to detain war criminals. Meanwhile, requests to jam Radio Télevision Libre des Milles Collines signal were repeatedly met by cold explanations that such a measure would be in violation of the U.S. commitment to freedom of speech, as well as international broadcasting agreements. When Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Prudence Bushnell raised the issue of radio jamming for a second time at the Pentagon, one official responded, “Pru, radios don’t kill people. People kill people!” It was, however, an incomplete sentence by any measure for the same people who kill others are also the makers of radios to incite and order the killings.

Ultimately, but not before almost a million people were slaughtered over a span of just three months would the RPF singlehandedly defeat the interim government forces, thus bringing an end to the genocide. “Kwibuka” the annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide, means “remember” in Kinyarwanda. It’s also a time to recall past events that stoked divisiveness and hatred, review ongoing efforts at reconciliation, trauma counseling, and nation-building. However, the shadow and scars of 1994 are never too far away. Félicien Kabuga, a chief financier of the Radio Télevision Libre des Milles Collines, was arrested in France in May of this year. Having remained on the lam for 23 years, his previous indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1997 marked the first time a media executive was tried for crimes of genocide since the Nuremberg tribunal.

Having produced translations and subtitles on issues related to the Rwandan genocide and the social and economic progress made since, someone sent me a message stating that when they return to the country and resume power they will “cut down them trees,” in reference to Tutsi government leaders.

That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.” — Joseph Goebbels

 

Officialdom voices, right to left

Mass media, regardless of its political persuasion, doesn’t live in a vacuum. An extension of public education, that which is presented as the news doesn’t operate at the base of the social pyramid. Up a few stones, but never too far away, it propels creationists myths, as did the Nazis, such as the notion of a master race (i.e. exceptionalism) that thrusts legacies and the status quo into the future. Generation after generation the baton is passed. The mainstream media’s relationship to this process goes, for the most part, unnoticed. This is where Joseph Goebbels’s body of work as head of the Third Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda is so crucial. It’s 2020 and western media continues to pride itself on maxims that mirror his ruminations on matters related to the media, propaganda, and western psychology.

As in times of conflict, media remains an essential public service, especially during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. This is true despite the wave of layoffs and furloughs in the industry. The fifth estate is not any less important during times of peace. An extension of pedagogic work, this vehicle is meant to keep a well-informed global citizenry, educate, as well as provide culturally-inspired entertainment.

The media of tomorrow remains in gestation. While it now has the tools to produce and disseminate news coverage across the globe, their resources and reach are infinitely less than the corporate media conglomerates dominating the field. At times, essential tools of the trade such as paid writers, editors and other staff members; researchers; on-the-ground and investigative reporting; and travel accommodation are hard to come by. Still, alternative media is by no means a novelty. This torpid concept, however, persists precisely because of resource disparities and reach. And here I’m not referring to catching up in speed to the 24/7 news wire where quantity trumps quality. Nor am I referring to the bulk of mainstream or independent left-wing or progressive media outlets that, in their editorial boards and staff, replicate levels of exclusion practiced by right-wing conservatives. According to How Diverse Are U.S. Newsrooms (American Society of News Editors – 2019), just seven percent of The Intercept’s total journalistic team is comprised of Black people. Another seven percent are Hispanic. ProPublica, a media outlet that prides itself on being an independent, nonprofit newsroom that exposes abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform, has a staff comprised of six percent Black people. Another six percent are Hispanic. The New York Times’ very own 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Report shows that nine percent of its staff are Black or African-American and seven percent are Hispanic or Latino. Even more surprising is its <1%, which I presume to mean negative one percent, Indigenous people, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders on its overall staff. Another <1% of Indigenous people hold leadership roles.

What these numbers say without uttering a single word, is that non-whites lack the wherewithal to report on the affairs of a world in which they are the majority. Honest brokers or not, qualified or otherwise, the window in which we view the world is minimized to the narrative of a self-entitled few.

Over half a century ago the U.S. federal government, lagging far behind Robert and Mabel William’s Crusader newsletter, assigned a committee to outline the causes of the 1967 Detroit Riots and make recommendations to avoid future outbreaks. Published in 1968 and popularly known as the Kerner Commission (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders) the 426-page report dedicated an entire chapter to the media. It stated, in part, that: “Important segments of the media failed to report adequately on the causes and consequences of civil disorders and on the underlying problems of race relations. They have not communicated to the majority of their audience–which is white—a sense of the degradation, misery, and hopelessness of life in the ghetto.” In an effort to correct these “failings” the report suggested that “improvement must come from within the industry.” Remedies included:

  • Expand coverage of the Negro community and of race problems through permanent assignment of reporters familiar with urban and racial affairs, and through establishment of more and better links with the Negro community.
  • Integrate Negroes and Negro activities into all aspects of coverage and content, including newspaper articles and television programming. The news media must publish newspapers and produce programs that recognize the existence and activities of Negroes as a group within the community and as a part of the larger community.
  • Recruit more Negroes into journalism and broadcasting and promote those who are qualified to positions of significant responsibility. Recruitment should begin in high schools and continue through college; where necessary, aid for training should be provided.
  • Improve coordination with police in reporting riot news through advance planning, and cooperate with the police in the designation of police information officers, establishment of information centers, and development of mutually acceptable guidelines for riot reporting and the conduct of media personnel.

Recommendations and remedies put forth by the Kerner Commission have remained “decades behind” writes Paul Delaney.

Integration, moreover, speaks to the problem of blackness in a despicable way. As a goal, it has been based on complete acceptance of the fact that in order to have a decent house or education, blacks must move into a white neighborhood or send their children to a white school. This reinforces, among both black and white, the idea that “white” is automatically better and “black” is by definition inferior. This is why integration is a subterfuge for the maintenance of white supremacy. — Kwame Ture

 

Links untold: WWII – Israel – Occupied Palestine – George Floyd

I was struck by the recent media uproar over what is and what isn’t antisemitism. I reiterate—what is and what isn’t antisemitism—for western media’s portrayal of those who make such remarks lies the suggestion that vast populations of Semitic people are nonexistent in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, or anywhere else except Israel and among the Ashkenazi Jewish diaspora. Like the majority of global issues with deep historical roots, media coverage of this matter barely scratched the surface, if at all and as quickly as it had appeared, suddenly vanished beneath breaking stories. However, in these times of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s public lynching by Minnesota policemen and other filmed or unregistered police killings of Black people in western metropolises from Louisville, USA to Lausanne, Switzerland, coupled with the link between the end of WWII and the emergence of Israel in 1947, it’s worth noting that recent debates on antisemitism were discussed without the slightest mention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Few, if any, spoke of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Apart from a few alternative news outlets, nobody recalled the hundreds of officers from U.S. police departments in California, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and other states who had flown to Israeli for training over the past two decades.

In 2012, no less than 100 Minnesota police officers attended a conference hosted by the Israeli consulate in Chicago and FBI, which showcased some of the methods employed by Israeli forces in occupied Palestine. Shahr Aieli, Israel’s deputy consul, said that the counter-terrorism training session was intended to share information and techniques employed by “top-notch professionals from the Israeli police.”

“When I saw the picture of killer cop Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd by leaning in on his neck with his knee as he cried for help and other cops watched, I remembered noticing when many Israeli soldiers began using this technique of leaning in on our chest and necks when we were protesting in the West Bank sometime in 2006,” said Neta Golan, co-founder of International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She added that “They (Israeli security forces) started twisting and breaking fingers in a particular way around the same time. It was clear they had undergone training for this. They continue to use these tactics — two of my friends have had their necks broken but luckily survived — and it is clear that they share these methods when they train police forces abroad in ‘crowd control’ in the U.S. and other countries including Sudan and Brazil.”

Europe’s killing fields of the 1940s not only culminated in the demise of Nazi Germany, but it also gave birth to Israel. Though the Palestinians have no responsibility in the rise of Nazism, they continue to suffer the consequences of those cataclysmic events seven decades later. With the full backing of U.S. foreign policy and the biases of western corporate media, their land, like that of the Gullah-Geechee of the eastern U.S. seaboard, Black farmers throughout Uncle Sam, or the Garifuna of Honduras, has been consistently confiscated by settler colonialism.

Recently, four Garifuna land-defenders—Snider Centeno, Milton Martínez, Suany Álvarez, and a fourth unidentified— were abducted from their homes by heavily armed men in Honduras’ northern coastal town of Triunfo de la Cruz. Community leaders referred to the kidnapping as the latest attack against their indigenous and African-Indigenous homeland as they continue to struggle against Canadian tourist speculators as well as mining and other extractive industries.

 

Communication Beyond Borders

Mainstream and, increasingly, not so mainstream western media is a blunt enterprise. It tells us, point-blank, what happens on a day-to-day basis. Rarely does it delve into the context, historical or otherwise, as to why things happen. Surface story in hand, journalists, spin doctors, experts and people with little to no knowledge of the events can weave whatever narrative they so please. In this regard, public education cannot be left out of this equation. However, with the basis of its focus on upholding creationist myths and forcing students to prepare for standardized tests, the western education system lags behind by design in this marriage between what is taught at school and how adults interact or respond to the news. Disconnected from one another, the follies of the past play out like a rat running on a toy wheel. Games aside, today’s western media portrayal of the South China Seas or Iran as representing a terrorist threat may very well be yesterday’s Gulf of Tonkin.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Joseph Goebbels pondered openly and without fear. “We shall go down in history as the greatest statesmen of all time, or as the greatest criminals.” It’s a menacing dichotomy that possibly mass media and other forms of communication are only capable of producing. But despite the perils, communication, verbal, physical or otherwise, remains a quintessential tool of the ages. It’s the means by which we develop mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and interpersonally. It’s how the king of the jungle coordinates with others to prepare her next meal and how a herd of gazelles escape from becoming that next meal. Elephants employ a series of sophisticated non-verbal communication techniques to exchange present and past information, as well as detect vibrations in the earth, unfamiliar noises, and odors. Communication is how dolphins and whales navigate the high seas, a rattlesnake warns us off from encroaching on its homeland, and ants build their intricate kingdoms.

A single, microscopic spermatozoon thrust among untold numbers finds an egg via communication. From this point of inception, the world as we know it goes round. A few years later, hegemonic gang leaders order the bombing and invasion of a country far away. Faith then moves mountains, resistance abounds, and a sparrow sings its song of a new tomorrow.

Feature photo | President Donald Trump arrives and speaks with Fox News Channel Anchor Bill Hemmer, as Vice President Mike Pence looks on, during a Fox News Channel virtual town hall, at the White House, March 24, 2020, in Washington. Evan Vucci | AP

Additional photos | Unless otherwise noted, all photos featured in this article are in the public domain.

Julian Cola is a translator (Brazilian-Portuguese to English). A former staff writer at the pan-Latin American news outlet, teleSUR, his articles and essays also appear in Africa is a Country, Black Agenda Report, Truthout, Counterpunch and elsewhere.

The post How Joeseph Goebbel’s Nazi Propaganda Gave Birth to Today’s Western Media appeared first on MintPress News.

With Microsoft Purchase of TikTok, US Tightens Grip Over International Media

Following Donald Trump’s Friday announcement that he would ban the popular Chinese-owned video platform, Microsoft has today swooped in to hoover up TikTok after it received “personal assurances” from the president himself that he would back such a move. Trump has given the two parties up to 45 days to hash out a deal. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, values its U.S. operations at $50 billion, but it is not at all certain they will receive fair compensation, given their predicament. The platform is by far the most downloaded app in Apple’s app store, with over 800 million active users worldwide, including over 100 million in the United States, primarily members of Generation Z.

The move comes amid growing American aggression towards Beijing, ostensibly over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and demonstrators in Hong Kong, and, above all, its uneasiness at its growing economic power. Early last month the Trump administration began floating the idea of a TikTok ban, citing potential national security issues. When asked by Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham if Americans should use the app, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded: “only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” TikTok has strenuously denied that it works with the Chinese government, noting that American users’ data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access.

What's next, T-Mobile gets to sell Huawei phones to the US market?

The State Department is slipping a $50 billion company into Microsoft's back pocket, all while acting tough about "protecting" Americans' data

(P.S. Microsoft works with ICE) https://t.co/lregSKuILk

— Qiao Collective (@qiaocollective) August 3, 2020

News of the imminent purchase excited the stock market, with Microsoft shares surging by five percent on their Friday totals. Given that the company is worth over $1 trillion, the news added $77 billion to Bill Gates’ company’s value, suggesting that traders believe they are receiving the deal of a lifetime. “Microsoft appreciates the U.S. Government’s and President Trump’s personal involvement as it continues to develop strong security protections for the country,” the tech giant said in a statement today.

The company is already a preferred partner of the administration and has a lot to be thankful to Trump for. In November it received a lucrative $10 billion contract to partner with the Pentagon to develop a cloud computing network that sees it instantly become one of the world’s largest military contractors. The decision to award Microsoft (and not Amazon) the deal was allegedly made on the behest of Trump himself, who disliked how he was being treated by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post. Microsoft also has a long history of intimate collusion with government agencies, enabling them to spy on U.S. citizens. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that it worked with the FBI and NSA to allow them to circumvent their own encryption methods to gather information on hundreds of millions of worldwide users of its platforms, such as Skype and Outlook. Today, Microsoft said it is “committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”

I'm a US congressman and I care about precisely two things when it comes to tech: banning tiktok so an authoritarian government can't get a hold of your personal information, and making encryption illegal so the FBI can read every text message you've ever sent

— Corn Purist (@onlineman420) August 3, 2020

 

The Internet is the new battlefield

“What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first,” wrote Google executives Eric Schmidt and Larry Cohen, suggesting that the Internet is the new battlefield and offering their company’s services to the White House.

Although giant new social media companies are thought of as transnational entities, most are, in fact, very much American corporations. While billions of people around the world rely on them for their news and entertainment, they are subject to strict American laws. In January, for instance, Facebook and its subsidiary platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp banned all positive mentions of General Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian leader assassinated in a U.S. drone strike. This was because the Trump administration deemed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an official extension of Iran’s military,  a terrorist organization. “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” Facebook explained. This is particularly problematic as Soleimani was Iran’s most popular living figure, with an over 80 percent approval rating, meaning that Iranians were banned from sharing a majority opinion online with other Iranians in Iran, speaking in Farsi, because what Trump had decided from the other side of the planet.

In its drive against fake news, Facebook also partnered with the Atlantic Council to decide what news to promote and what to censor and remove. The Atlantic Council was born out of NATO and has a board of directors including high government officials like Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, ex-Generals like Wesley Clark and David Petraeus, and CIA chiefs like Leon Panetta, Michael Hayden, and Robert Gates. Similarly, Reddit’s Director of Policy is a former Atlantic Council deputy director, ensuring the popular website aligns with Western foreign policy goals. Meanwhile, a senior Twitter executive is an officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to information warfare and online psychological operations. U.S. government-funded think tanks also advise Twitter and other platforms on which websites to blacklist and which accounts to delete, leading to a huge reduction in traffic for alternative media and hundreds of thousands of critical voices silenced. Effectively then, the U.S. government is in control over much of what America — and the rest of the world — see online, creating something coming to resemble a global state-controlled media apparatus.

i love that the political establishment has come together to make inaccessible everything that gen z seems to care about: college education, a healthy and clean planet, and tiktok

— kellen heniford (@hellenkeniford) August 3, 2020

Even as the government attempts to frame the debate over the banning of Chinese companies like TikTok and Huawei over privacy concerns, it continues to try to ban the encryption of data and communications at home. This would essentially end even the pretense of online privacy, giving state agencies virtually unfettered access to any data it wished to see. Thus, it is possible that the forced transfer of TikTok to Microsoft may have far more to do with control over the means of world communication than genuine worries about our own civil liberties.

Feature photo | Microsoft founder Bill Gates gets in an elevator at Trump Tower in New York, Dec. 13, 2016. Seth Wenig | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post With Microsoft Purchase of TikTok, US Tightens Grip Over International Media appeared first on MintPress News.

New Report Reveals Israel Demolishes Over 2,000 Palestinian Bedouin Homes per Year

A report published in June of 2020 states that in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the state of Israel demolished over two thousand homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel per year in the Naqab region alone. The report was put together by an Israeli Non-Governmental agency called, “The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.”

 

History

The Naqab, called the Negev in Hebrew, makes up the entire southern half of Palestine, and while it is a desert, it is considered to be a fertile desert. The indigenous people of the Naqab, the Palestinian Bedouin, are a semi-nomadic people and historically cultivated these lands. Zionist mythology that claims the land was barren until the Zionist colonization “made the desert bloom,” is, in fact, a lie.

The British government, which occupied Palestine from 1917-1948, and the Ottoman Empire before that, recognized the rights of the Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab to their lands. However, from the very beginning of the Zionist colonization of Palestine, the Naqab was targeted and once the State of Israel was established, Bedouin lands were taken.

According to Palestinian professor, Dr. Mansour Nasasra, when the British withdrew from the city of Bi’r Al-Saba in May of 1948, the Palestinian mayor of the city, Shafiq Mustafa raised the Palestinian flag, signaling what was expected to be the start of Palestinian rule over the city. However, the city fell to the Zionist forces on October 21, 1948, a day the Bedouin Palestinians refer to as “Kasret Al-Saba,” or the disaster of Bi’r Al-Saba. According to Dr. Nasasra, the fall of the city, which was considered the capital of the Naqab Bedouin, “meant the end of their economic, cultural and administrative center, as well as of their freedom.” (The Naqab Bedouins, Mansour Nasasra).

Prior to the Zionist conquest of Palestine, close to one hundred thousand Palestinian Bedouin lived in the Naqab. During 1948 all of Palestine was subjected to a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing and the Naqab was no exception. Once the Naqab was overtaken by Zionist forces the region was subjected to a fierce campaign of ethnic cleansing allowing less than 10 percent of the native population to remain. The ones who did remain were herded into the northern part of the Naqab called the “Siage” area or fenced area, and the state invested heavily in building modern Jewish-only colonies that provided an excellent lifestyle for the colonizers while depriving the Bedouin of their land and resources.

A Palestinian Bedouin family is pictured in the Bi’r Al-Saba area circa 1945. Photo | Zochrot

 

Unrecognized towns

The Bedouin communities in the Naqab today make up about 250,000 people, which is about one-third of the total population of the region. They are only permitted to live in 12 percent of the towns in the Naqab, in other words, only 12 percent of the towns in the Naqab are designated for the Palestinian Bedouin citizens. And while the standard of living in the Israeli settlements and cities in the Naqab is among the highest in the country, the Bedouin live mostly in townships and impoverished villages denied the basic most services the state offers Jewish citizens.

Half of the Bedouin Palestinians live in towns that are called “unrecognized.” This means that the state of Israel does not recognize them and provides them with no services. Some of these towns predate the state and others were created by the state. In both cases, the state arbitrarily decided that the areas where these people live are no longer designated for people to live but have been designated for military or other uses by the State.

The state demands from the population that they vacate to other areas designated for them and they either refuse or are unable to do so. Since the state of Israel does not recognize the community’s right to their lands, it often relocates families onto land that belongs to other families, something the Bedouin quite often refuse to do. Furthermore, the state will often relocate several families to the same plot creating an impossible situation for them.

This lack of recognition is a violation of the rights of these communities. The unrecognized towns and villages receive no services like water, electricity, healthcare, or even roads, and they are constantly under threat of forced displacement, home demolition and land confiscation. When the state does relocate them, it is never to the highly developed wealthy Jewish-only towns but into impoverished overcrowded townships. It is also worth noting that although many of Jewish colonies in the Naqab are agricultural communities, land cultivation is not permitted for the Bedouins.

 

Relocation

The life of the Palestinian Bedouin is administered not like other citizens of the state of Israel but rather by governmental agencies like the Bedouin Administration Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture, which are run by Israeli Jews and in which the Bedouin Palestinians have no voice. The state wants to confiscate all the Bedouin lands in the Naqab and to relocate them into townships and uses the demolition of homes and other methods as a means to force these communities, which suffer from severe lack of housing and poverty already, into crowded townships where levels of poverty and unemployment are high.

One example is the Palestinian Bedouin village of Ras Jabara, which sits within the municipal boundaries of the city of Dimona. The city was built on lands that historically belonged to this village. Today, there are only 600 people who live in the village and even though they are within the municipal boundaries of the city, they are denied basic rights and services that the Jewish residents of the city receive. They are not even allowed to vote in the municipal elections. In March of 2018, the residents of Ras Jabara received evacuation notices because the city wanted to build a neighborhood for Jews – once again Palestinians are removed because the state wants to build for Jews only. It is likely that this community too will be relocated to one of the nearby townships.

 

Self demolition

The Bedouin Administration Authority has its own enforcement apparatus which includes a militarized police unit called “Yoav.” They invade the towns in the early morning hours to demolish, destroy, detain, and generally intimidate the residents. When they come to enforce a demolition order the owner of the building is given the option of self-demolition.

Israeli security forces arrive at night to demolish homes in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Sept. 13, 2018. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Self-demolition is often the preferred option because it allows the owners of the property to salvage whatever equipment they may have inside the property and reuse whatever scrap material they have leftover. Because these communities are by and large impoverished, most of the homes and other structures are rudimentary.

 

Apartheid in the time of COVID

Even with COVID-19 hitting poor communities hard, the Israeli authorities have not let up on harassment of the Bedouin Palestinians. Throughout the Naqab Israeli “enforcing” agencies continue to harass, demolish, arrest and impose outrageous fines. Israel claims that the Palestinian Bedouin of the Naqab are its citizens – a “privilege” that they never sought but was imposed on them – yet they receive none of the privileges the Jewish citizens of the state enjoy.

Feature photo | Palestinian Bedouin children stand on the rubble of two classrooms destroyed by the Israeli army in the village of Abu Nuwar, West Bank. Israel demolished the school saying the EU-funded structure was built without proper permits. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

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